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Bible Study: The Holy Spirit – Lesson 5: Spiritual Gifts Part 1 – The Purpose of the Gifts

Calvary Bible Church Bible Study

The Person and Ministry of The Holy Spirit

Lesson 5:  Spiritual Gifts  Part 1 – The Purpose of the Gifts  

The Holy Spirit is seemingly the least understood of the members of the Trinity.  Although many churches in the modern era TALK about the Spirit, the vast majority of them focus on the “power” and the “gifts”, rather than the Person and Ministry of the Spirit.  And even then, they produce a lot of unbiblical information on the “power” and “gifts” that leads to a very unbalanced understanding of what Christianity is really all about.

Hopefully, this study will help us gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Holy Spirit.


The New Testament is very clear as to the purpose of spiritual gifts.  They are given at the discretion of the Holy Spirit, to accomplish certain very specific goals or tasks within the Church as a whole.  You could consider them as a “toolbox” of abilities that are distributed to the “workmen” in order to get the job done.  They are NOT for personal exaltation or pride.  In fact, Paul states that unless the gifts are rooted and grounded in the FRUIT of the Spirit, the gifts are useless (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). 


Romans 12:4-8

4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

The human body has many members, yet each one has a unique role to play. The health and welfare of the body depend on the proper functioning of each member.  That is how it is in the body of Christ. There is unity (one body), diversity (many), and interdependency (members of one another). Any gifts we have are not for selfish use or display but for the good of the body. No gift is self-sufficient and none is unnecessary. When we realize all this, we are thinking soberly (12:3).

Our gifts differ according to the grace that is given to us. In other words, God’s grace deals out differing gifts to different people. And God gives the necessary strength or ability to use whatever gifts we have. So we are responsible to use these God-given abilities as good stewards.


1 Corinthians 12:1-7

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

Paul does not want the saints at Corinth to be ignorant in the matter of spiritual manifestations or gifts. The literal reading here is “Now concerning ’spirituals,’ brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” Most versions supply the word gifts to complete the sense. However, the next verse suggests that Paul might have been thinking not only of manifestations of the Holy Spirit but of evil spirits as well.

Before conversion the Corinthians had been idolaters, enslaved by evil spirits. They lived in fear of the spirits and were led about by these diabolical influences. They witnessed supernatural manifestations of the spirit world and heard spirit-inspired utterances. Under the influence of evil spirits, they sometimes surrendered self-control, and said and did things beyond their own conscious powers.

Now that they are saved, the believers must know how to judge all spirit-manifestations, that is, how to discern between the voice of evil spirits and the authentic voice of the Holy Spirit. The crucial test is the testimony that is given concerning the Lord Jesus. If a man says, “Jesus is accursed,” you can be sure that he is demon-inspired, because evil spirits characteristically blaspheme and curse the name of Jesus. The Spirit of God would never lead anyone to speak of the Savior in this way; His ministry is to exalt the Lord Jesus. He leads people to say that Jesus is Lord, not just with their lips, but with the warm, full confession of their hearts and lives.

Paul next shows that while there is a variety of gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church, there is a basic, threefold unity, involving the three Persons of the Godhead.

First of all, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. The Corinthians were acting as if there was only one gift—tongues. Paul says, “No, your unity is not found in the possession of one common gift, but rather in possession of the Holy Spirit who is the Source of all the gifts.”

Next the apostle points out that there are differences of ministries or services in the church. We don’t all have the same work. But what we have in common is that whatever we do is done for the same Lord and with a view to serving others (not self).

Then again, though there are diversities of activities as far as spiritual gifts are concerned, it is the same God who empowers each believer. If one gift seems more successful or spectacular or powerful than another, it is not because of any superiority in the person possessing it. It is God who supplies the power.

The Spirit manifests Himself in the life of each believer by imparting some gift. There is no believer who does not have a function to perform. And the gifts are given for the profit of the entire body. They are not given for self-display or even for self-gratification but in order to help others. This is a pivotal point in the entire discussion.


1 Corinthians 12:11

11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

All the gifts mentioned in verses 8–10 are produced and controlled by the same Spirit. Here again we see that He does not give the same gift to everyone. He distributes to each one individually as He wills. This is another important point—the Spirit sovereignly apportions the gifts. If we really grasp this, it will eliminate pride on the one hand, because we don’t have anything that we didn’t receive. And it will eliminate discontent on the other hand, because Infinite Wisdom and Love decided what gift we should have, and His choice is perfect. It is wrong for everyone to desire the same gift. If everyone played the same instrument, you could never have a symphony orchestra. And if a body consisted only of tongue, it would be a monstrosity.


1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

13     Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are the body of Christ. Individually each one is a member of that great cooperative society. As such he should fulfill his function without any feeling of pride, independence, envy, or worthlessness.

The apostle now gives us another list of gifts. None of these lists is to be considered as complete. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles. The word first indicates that not all are apostles. The twelve were men who had been commissioned by the Lord as His messengers. They were with Him during His earthly ministry (Acts 1:21, 22) and, with the exception of Judas, saw Him after His resurrection (Acts 1:2, 3, 22). But others besides the twelve were apostles. The most notable was Paul. There were also Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14); James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19); Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6). Together with the New Testament  prophets, the apostles laid the doctrinal foundation of the church in what they taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20). In the strictest meaning of the word, we no longer have apostles, since the doctrine of the New Testament is complete. In a wider sense, we still have messengers and church-planters sent forth by the Lord. By calling them missionaries instead of apostles, we avoid creating the impression that they have the extraordinary authority and power of the early apostles.

Next are the prophets. We have already mentioned that prophets were spokesmen of God, men who uttered the very word of God.  Teachers are those who take the word of God and explain it to the people in an understandable way. Miracles might refer to raising the dead, casting out demons, etc. Healings have to do with the instantaneous cure of bodily diseases, as mentioned previously. Helps are commonly associated with the work of deacons, those entrusted with the material affairs of the church. The gift of administrations, on the other hand, is usually applied to elders or bishops. These are the men who have the godly, spiritual care of the local church. Last is the gift of tongues. We believe that there is a significance in the order. Paul mentions apostles first and tongues last. The Corinthians were putting tongues first and disparaging the apostle!

When the apostle asks if every believer has the same gift —whether apostle, prophet, teacher, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues, interpretations of tongues—the grammar in the original shows that he expects and requires a “No” answer.  Therefore any suggestion, expressed or implied, that everyone should have the gift of tongues, is contrary to the word of God and is foreign to the whole concept of the body with its many different members, each with its own function.  If, as stated here, not everyone has the gift of tongues, then it is wrong to teach that tongues are the sign of the baptism of the Spirit. For, in that case, not everyone could expect that baptism. But the truth is that every believer has already been baptized by the Spirit (v. 13).

When Paul says: “But earnestly desire the best gifts,” he is speaking to the Corinthians as a local church, not as individuals. We know this because the verb is plural in the original. He is saying that as an assembly they should desire to have in their midst a good selection of gifts that edify. The best gifts are those that are most useful rather than those that are spectacular. All gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and none should be despised. Yet the fact is that some are of greater benefit to the body than others. These are the ones that every local fellowship should ask the Lord to raise up in the assembly.

“And yet I show you a more excellent way.”  With these words Paul introduces the Love Chapter (1 Cor. 13). What he is saying is that the mere possession of gifts is not as important as the exercise of these gifts in love. Love thinks of others, not of self. It is wonderful to see a man who is unusually gifted by the Holy Spirit, but it is still more wonderful when that man uses that gift to build up others in the faith rather than to attract attention to himself.  People tend to divorce chapter 13 from its context. They think it is a parenthesis, designed to relieve the tension over tongues in chapters 12 and 14. But that is not the case. It is a vital and continuing part of Paul’s argument.

The abuse of tongues had apparently caused strife in the assembly. Using their gifts for self-display, self-edification, and self-gratification, the “charismatics” of their day were not acting in love. They received satisfaction out of speaking publicly in a language they had never learned, but it was a real hardship on others to have to sit and listen to something they did not understand. Paul insists that all gifts must be exercised in a spirit of love. The aim of love is to help others and not to please self.

And perhaps the “non-charismatics” had overreacted in acts of unlove. They might even have gone so far as to say that all tongues are of the devil. Their Greek tongues might have been worse than the “charismatic” tongues! Their lovelessness might have been worse than the abuse of tongues itself.

So Paul wisely reminds them all that love is needed on both sides. If they would act in love toward one another, the problem would be largely solved. It is not a problem that calls for excommunication or division; it calls for love.

Even if a person could speak in all languages, human and angelic, but didn’t use this ability for the good of others, it would be no more profitable or pleasant than the clanging, jangling sound of metals crashing against each other. Where the spoken word is not understood, there is no profit. It is just a nerve-racking din contributing nothing to the common good. For tongues to be beneficial, they must be interpreted. Even then, what is said must be edifying.

Likewise one might receive marvelous revelations from God. He might understand the great mysteries of God, tremendous truths hitherto unrevealed but now made known to him. He might receive a great inflow of divine knowledge, supernaturally imparted. He might be given that heroic faith which is able to remove mountains. Yet if these wonderful gifts are used only for his own benefit and not for the edifying of other members of the Body of Christ, they are of no value, and the holder is nothing, that is, he is of no help to others.

If the apostle gave all his goods to feed the poor, or even gave his body to be burned, these valiant acts would not profit him unless they were done in a spirit of love. If he were merely trying to attract attention to himself and seek a name for himself, then his display of virtue would be valueless.


Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Apostles were men who were directly commissioned by the Lord to preach the word and to plant churches. They were men who had seen Christ in resurrection (Acts 1:22). They had power to perform miracles, most particularly raising the dead, (2 Cor. 12:12) as a means of confirming the message they preached (Heb. 2:4). Together with New Testament prophets, their ministry was primarily concerned with the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20).

Prophets were spokesmen or mouthpieces of God. They received direct revelations from the Lord and passed them on to the church. What they spoke by the Holy Spirit was the word of God.

Evangelists are those who preach the good news of salvation. They are divinely equipped to win the lost to Christ. They have special ability to diagnose a sinner’s condition, probe the conscience, answer objections, encourage decisions for Christ, and help the convert find assurance through the word. Evangelists should go out from a local church, preach to the world, then lead their converts to a local church where they will be fed and encouraged.

Pastors are men who serve as under-shepherds of the sheep of Christ. They guide and feed the flock. Theirs is a ministry of wise counsel, correction, encouragement, and consolation.

The work of pastors is closely related to that of elders in a local church, the principal difference being that a pastor is a gift whereas the elder is an office. The NT pictures a number of pastors in a local church (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2) rather than one pastor or presiding elder.

Teachers are men who are divinely empowered to explain what the Bible says, interpret what it means, and apply it to the hearts and consciences of the saints. Whereas an evangelist may preach the gospel from a passage out of context, the teacher seeks to show how the passage fits into the context.

Because pastors and teachers are linked in this verse, some conclude only one gift is intended, that it should read “pastor-teachers.” But this is not necessarily so. A man may be a teacher without having the heart of a shepherd. And a pastor may be able to use the word without having the distinctive gift of teaching. If pastors and teachers are the same persons here in verse 11, then, by the same rule of grammar, so are apostles and prophets in 2:20.

One final word. We should be careful to distinguish between divine gifts and natural talents. No unsaved person, however talented, could be an evangelist, pastor, or teacher in the NT sense. Neither could a Christian, for that matter, unless he has received that particular gift. The gifts of the Spirit are supernatural. They enable a man to do what would be humanly impossible for him.

We come now to the function or purpose of the gifts. It is for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The process is this:

1. The gifts equip the saints.

2. The saints then serve.

3. The body is then built up.

The ministry is not a specialized occupation limited to men with professional training. The word simply means service. It includes every form of spiritual service. And what this verse teaches is that every believer should be “in the ministry.”

The gifts are given to perfect or equip all Christians to serve the Lord, and thus to build up the body of Christ.  Every Christian is commissioned, for every Christian is a missionary. It has been said that the Gospel is not merely something to come to church to hear but something to go from the church to tell—and we are all appointed to tell it. It has also been said, ‘Christianity began as a company of lay witnesses; it has become a professional pulpitism, financed by lay spectators!’ Nowadays we hire a church staff to do ‘full-time Christian work,’ and we sit in church on Sunday to watch them do it. Every Christian is meant to be in full-time Christian service … There is indeed a special ministry of pastors, teachers and evangelists—but for what? … For the perfecting of the saints for their ministry.

These divinely given men should not serve in such a way as to make people perpetually dependent on them. Instead, they should work toward the day when the saints will be able to carry on by themselves.

Limitation of Christian service to a select class of men hinders the development of God’s people, stifles the cause of world evangelism, and stunts the growth of the church. The distinction between clergy and laity is unscriptural and perhaps the greatest single hindrance to the spread of the gospel.

Verse 13 answers the question, “How long will this growth process continue?” The answer is till we all come to a state of unity, maturity, and conformity.

Unity. When the Lord takes His church home to heaven, we will all arrive at the unity of the faith. “Now we see in a mirror dimly” with regard to many matters. We have differences of opinion on a host of subjects. Then we will all be fully agreed. And we will reach the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. Here we have individual views of the Lord, of what He is like, of the implications of His teachings. Then we will see Him as He is, and know as we are known.

Maturity. At the Rapture we will also reach full growth or maturity. Both as individuals and as the Body of Christ, we will achieve perfection of spiritual development.

Conformity. And we will be conformed to Him. Everyone will be morally like Christ. And the universal church will be a full-grown Body, perfectly suited to its glorious Head. “The fulness of Christ is the Church itself, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all”.  The measure of the stature of the church means its complete development, the fulfillment of God’s plan for its growth.

When the gifts operate in their God-appointed manner, and the saints are active in service for the Lord, three dangers are avoided—immaturity, instability, and gullibility.

Immaturity. Believers who never become involved in aggressive service for Christ never emerge from being spiritual children. They are undeveloped through lack of exercise. It was to such that the writer to the Hebrews said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again—.” (Heb. 5:12).

Instability. Another danger is spiritual fickleness. Immature Christians are susceptible to the grotesque novelties and fads of professional quacks. They become religious gypsies, moving to and fro from one appealing fantasy to another.

Gullibility. Most serious of all is the danger of deception. Those who are babes are unskillful in the word of righteousness, their senses are not exercised to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:13-14). They inevitably meet some false cultist who impresses them by his zeal and apparent sincerity. Because he uses religious words, they think he must be a true Christian. If they had studied the Bible for themselves, they would be able to see through his deceitful juggling of words. But now they are carried about by his wind of doctrine and led by unprincipled cunning into a form of systematized error.

The last two verses in the paragraph describe the proper process of growth in the Body of Christ. First, there is the necessity of doctrinal adherence: “but, speaking the truth.” There can be no compromise as to the fundamentals of the faith. Second, there must be a right spirit: “but, speaking the truth in love”. If it is spoken in any other way, the result is a one-sided testimony.

Then as the gifts equip the saints, and as the saints engage in active service, they grow up in all things into Christ. Christ is the aim and object of their growth, and the sphere of growth is in all things. In every area of their lives they become more like Him. As the Head has His way in the church, His Body will give an ever more accurate representation of Him to the world!

The Lord Jesus is not only the goal of growth, He is the source of growth as well. From Him the whole body is involved in the growth process. The marvelous integration of the members of the Body is described by the phrase, joined and knit together. This means that every member is exactly designed for his own place and function, and perfectly joined to every other member so as to make a complete, living organism. The importance, yes, the indispensability of every member is next indicated: joined and knit together by what every joint supplies. The human body consists primarily of bones, organs, and flesh. The bones are bound together by joints and ligaments, and the organs also are attached by ligaments. Each joint and ligament fulfills a role in the growth and usefulness of the body. So it is in the body of Christ. No member is superficial; even the most humble believer is necessary.

As each believer fulfills his proper role, the body grows as a harmonious, well-articulated unit. In a very real sense, the body causes growth of the body, paradoxical as it sounds. This simply means that growth is stimulated by the body itself as the members feed on the Bible, pray, worship, and witness for Christ.  In addition to growth in size, there is a building up of itself in love. This speaks of the mutual concern of the members for one another. As Christians abide in Christ and fulfill their proper function in the church, they grow closer to one another in love and unity.