Guidance in the Old Testament came directly from God through special revelation (cf. Gen 41, Ex 3-4). In particular, the work of The Holy Spirit was for leadership—gifting people for specific roles or tasks at a given time (cf. Ex 31:3; 35:21, 31; 1 Sam 10:6, 10; 16:13-14). Prophets spoke God’s words to direct His people (cf. 2 Chr 24:20) yet before Christ, Scripture anticipated The Spirit’s work in all of God’s people (Joel 2:28-29; cf. Num 11:29). Of course, the fulfillment of this grand design that personalized The Spirit’s work commenced in The Church (Acts 2).
Gifting for guidance in the New Testament was “apportioned to each individual as The Holy Spirit wills” (1 Co 12:11). Indeed, believers are “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Co 1:7). Spiritual gifts were given “for the common good” (1 Co 12:7), “by one and the same Spirit” (12:11), used for edification, building up The Church (14:12, 26). Lists in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 7, 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4 seem to overlap but not exhaust the possibilities of other Christian capabilities. Peter places ability into two classes: “whoever speaks” and “whoever serves” (4:11). Beyond this, the gifts are “varied” (4:10) or multi-colored. [In current culture the idea is “diverse”.]
Ultimately the local assembly for its work in the world equips a multi-faceted Church. Development of a person’s charisma (“spiritual gift”) depends on their attribution of faith (Rom 12:6), personal dedication to their God-given task (1 Tim 4:14), a renewal through exercise (2 Tim 1:6), and prayer that may lead to the further empowerment of a gift (1 Co 14:13). Edification of The Church is most often identified as crucial or the “higher gifts” (1 Co 12:31; 14:5, 12)—the benefit is always others-centered. Hence “love”—sacrificial, unconditional—is key in giftedness (1 Co 13). Desire for personal power or influence in spiritual talents is condemned (Acts 8:19-22). Poor motivations may “quench” (1 Thess 5:19) or “grieve” (Eph 4:30) The Spirit. Christians must not disregard or carelessly treat their ability that it might not lapse into disuse, while Christian leaders are responsible to identify a person’s gift (1 Tim 4:14, cf. Titus 1:5).
Guidance in Christian living is linked to The Spirit’s involvement. Spiritual giftedness produces the following guidelines for service in the Christian community:
(1) Affective goals in planning are directly shaped by The Spirit’s work which cannot be visibly seen or verbally well-expressed;
(2) Natural ability is God-given (1 Co 4:7) and augmented by The Spirit’s work in one’s teaching, leadership, or administration;
(3) Empowerment, enabling, and guiding of The Spirit will affect planning decisions creating a Christian view of people, resources, and vision;
(4) Stewardship of people and their gifts is a key component of administration (1 Pet 4:10);
(5) Abuse of power or position by elevation of some peoples’ gifts over others is wrong (1 Co 12:21-22); and
(6) Use of spiritual gifts should positively affect the unbelieving world in speech (Col 4:4-6) and service (Gal 6:9; cf. Titus 3:2, 8, 14).
Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D.C. This statement was originally written for “School Wide Biblical Integration,” an ACSI enabler in 2002, having been used in various venues since.