Q.

Recently I came across some material that seems to state that one cannot exercise his or her spiritual gift properly unless he has learned to exercise all seven of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12:6‒8. Is this Scriptural?

Also, unrelated to my first question, someone told me that in Titus 2:11 the apostle Paul meant that salvation has appeared to all “Christian” men, not to men in general. Please comment.

A.
Let us consider the question about spiritual gifts first. I have a problem with this teaching you describe if that is what it means. We need to base our thinking on Scripture. First, the Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit gives us our spiritual gift(s) and enables us to use them. We should regard spiritual gifts as just that—gifts, not things we ourselves manufacture. First Corinthians 12:11 reads, “But all these [gifts] worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

As you state in a part of your letter that I didn’t include above, the Holy Spirit isn’t going to enable a believer to exercise gifts that He has not given to him. Of course, I’m not referring to some routine situation where, for example, a person without the gift of teaching takes a Sunday School class for a Sunday. Also, I’m not saying that God does not allow us to discover and develop the spiritual gift(s) He has given to us. Certainly He wants us to do just that. Paul wrote Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Tim. 1:6). We can discover our spiritual gift(s) through a close walk with the Lord. Through studying the Word of God and praying, genuinely desiring to do God’s will and acknowledging other believers’ recognition of our gift(s), we can ascertain the gift(s) given to us to aid and build up the Body of Christ. In all of this, we may find out in a practical way through experience just what our spiritual gifts are.

If we thoroughly understand the principle that it is the Spirit Who gives the spiritual gifts as He wills, we won’t need to beg, plead or even pray for those gifts we admire in other believers. We also won’t need to think we must have those gift(s) that aren’t even meant for us before we can use the one(s) He “really” wants for us. Some people misunderstand verse 31 of 1 Corinthians 12: “But covet earnestly the best gifts.” This verse doesn’t mean that we should desire merely to receive them so much as it means we should desire to exercise them because we received them from God.

Now there is a sense in which we should have certain character qualities that are also spiritual gifts. Often people excuse themselves from these qualities by saying that they do not have a certain spiritual gift. That excuse is wrong.

For example, one of the gifts is the gift of service. Regardless of whether or not we have that particular gift, we all should be characterized by serving and having a servant’s attitude and heart. When Paul said, “By love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), he didn’t have in mind only those Christians with the “gift of serving.” He was stating that all believers should have a servant’s heart.

A second principle that should come into play here is that possessing a spiritual gift and spirituality are not the same. Perhaps the materials you refer to contain a great emphasis on spiritual gifts that isn’t good. It is something like putting an undue emphasis on the Third Person of the Trinity when the Bible says the Holy Spirit came not to glorify and draw attention to Himself but to Jesus (John 16:13, 14). People can become unbalanced in the doctrine of spiritual gifts as they can in other doctrines. They can get their attention so focused on spiritual gifts that they fail to see the importance of spirituality, which results from the filling of the Holy Spirit, which in turn results from taking in the Word of God and having a heart free from sin through confession (1 John 1:9).

We will never exercise our spiritual gif(s) aright if we lack spirituality. A good example of that truth is the Corinthian church, a carnal church lacking in spirituality. They were believers, and thus they each had at least one spiritual gift. But they had the wrong focus; as a result, the benefits of the spiritual gifts were not what they should have been. Instead, abuse and disorder characterized this church. They had their eyes on the showy, spectacular gifts, such as tongues. This focus showed an emphasis on gifts beyond what it should be and a neglect of spirituality through growth in the Word of God. We must always remember, then, that possessing a spiritual gift, as every believer does, does not guarantee spirituality.

Third, the material you refer to might fail to point out that a believer doesn’t even have to recognize his spiritual gift in order to exercise it. This probably doesn’t happen often. Most mature believers sooner or later recognize their spiritual gift(s). But occasionally one will find a believer who is exercising his spiritual gift but doesn’t know much, if anything, about the doctrine of spiritual gifts.

This situation again shows that the importance of spiritual gifts goes back to the Giver. It also shows that a believer in right relationship with God will be productive regardless of his level of knowledge of spiritual gifts. Awareness of the matter of spiritual gifts is fine, but perhaps we should be even more concerned about teaching and demonstrating the joys and power of a close walk with the Lord. When we find a person developing in this walk, his spiritual gifts can take their proper role.

Is the fact that we often don’t see spiritual gifts being exercised in local churches as much as we should due to a lack of mastery of all of the gifts, as your material seems to imply? No, I believe it is due to other factors relating to the matter of spirituality. Ignorance may play a part. But many believers don’t exercise their spiritual gifts as God would want them to because they’re living by feelings. They are waiting for the right feelings. Or perhaps they are discouraged or lazy or harboring ill-will and other attitude sins and thus refusing that which would edify and help the Body of Christ. Whatever it is, it usually can be boiled down to pride and selfishness, not to the idea that they haven’t mastered all of the spiritual gifts listed in the Scriptures.

The Titus 2:11 passage reads, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” The following two verses give instruction to the believer. Should we insert the word “Christian” before the word “men”? It would be inaccurate to do so, based upon the original. This verse declares the great evangelistic message that salvation is offered to all. When it says that the grace of God appeared, it is referring to the Lord Jesus’ coming to earth to die for our sins. His substitutionary work is sufficient for the redemption of all, and pardon is offered to all. The verse does not teach universalism, the belief that all people will somehow arrive in Heaven. No, only those individuals who experience the new birth and thus become members of God’s family are saved.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (February 1992).
© 1992 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.