There are three main passages that deal with gifting. 1 Corinthians 12 has been described as ‘spiritual or manifestation gifts’ as they relate to words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discernment of spirits, prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, gifts of healing, faith and miracles. Ephesians 4 has been described as ‘ministry gifts’ as they relate a sense of calling in the area of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.
The series that we are beginning today is on what has been described as ‘the redemptive gifts’ in Romans 12:6-8. It is my firm belief that we all have a primary gift that shapes us as a child of God. It is my heart’s desire that we better understand the way that God has designed and redeemed us and not just us, but our fellow believers in the body of Christ to grow in unity and diversity. The focus in this series is more about how we are designed, why we react and respond the way that we do.
“Don’t frustrate, appreciate!!” is what I tell my kids often in our home. Wisdom, understanding and discernment go a long way in the body of Christ. We are going to learn what makes us weak and what makes us strong when it comes to interpersonal relationships within a body of believers. I also want to unpack the ‘redemptive gifts’ in helping us move from a point of frustration to appreciation of others. Today is just an introduction and often, our greatest hindrance to harmony is our lack of recognition of how God has hard wired each one of us to respond to Him. Time and time again the greatest downfall in churches is being centered around uniformity instead of being distinct and seeing how beautiful diversity can be in making us a ‘whole church’!
More recent studies on the giftings in the Bible have brought clarity to our understanding of them. I also want to parallel what I see as the spiritual instincts that go along with our redemptive gits. Our spiritual instincts are basically the way that we send and receive ‘signals’ to God that we use when we are engaged in spiritual activity. Gary Thomas has done great work in this area so a lot of this comes from his studies as well.
Let’s dive in!
The Redemptive Gift of Prophecy
The word prophet literally means to ‘tell forth’. It is one who not only perceives, but proclaims as well.
A person with this gifting can assimilate new truth very quickly. They can accurately identify the good and hate the evil. They are able to see everything as black or white with no gray. They are eager to see their own blind spots and are quick to pick up on others as well which can lead to heavy introspection. They desire above all else to see God’s plan worked out in all situations. Their downside is that they are usually very hard on themselves and forget to celebrate the progress that is being made along the way. They can also struggle in the area of their sense of confidence.
A prophet type personality will get tired very quickly with being in maintenance mode. Their principle is design and they often bring to light what others fail to see. They have a strong role in bringing a sense of God’s light and revelation to the lives of others.
John the Baptist, a clear example of this, was a man who preaching repentance of sins, and courageous to challenge even the King as necessary. His main fervor was to prepare the way for the Messiah, helping people to understand its imminence.
A person today with this bent who visits someone in the hospital may looks like this. They will come to the person’s bed and with compassion and yet with a sense of firmness, proceed to quote scriptures of truth regarding healing. “You should not be here, this is not right!” They might ask the person about their blind spots and really challenge them to faith.
A prophet does not struggle with faith.
The CONTEMPLATIVE instinct
This person love to meet God in the quiet of their inner life. The key word for them is listening and they love to meditate and listen to the whispers of God who meets people in solitude..His still small voice. They wish that worship would be more quiet than noise and they appreciate the importance of the spiritual disciplines like fasting, meditation and prayer. They wish that others would understand this and often are guilty and critical of others when they don’t join them right away. ‘Where is everybody?’ they ask and this is probably the greatest weakness of our Western culture, we don’t like silence. Prayer for them is a two way conversation and often it is more listening than speaking. The worst insult to them is ‘you talk too much and never listen’. The warning to this person is the danger of withdrawing so much that they do not become useful in their community.
The Redemptive Gift of Servant
The word servant in the Greek means diakonia where we get our word deacon from, addressing physical needs
This person easily recognizes practical needs and is quick to meet them, especially enjoying hands on projects, jobs and functions. They are usually more interested in meeting the needs of another rather than long range goals, and may become pushy or interfering in eagerness to help. They also have a strong need to feel appreciated and yet they have an inability to accept praise. They have a hard time saying no and can also display a victim spirit as seen in the life of Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus.
When the servant gifted person enters the hospital room, they immediately start to fluff the pillows, tidy things up a bit, and ask, “Is there anything that I can do for you?” Their intent is to assist in this critical time of need. They will take a piece of paper out; ask for things that they can do at the ailing person’s home for them. They thrive on the fact there is clear need. They also can tend to be very competitive and unless they learn how to serve in a healthy way, they can become enablers. They must learn to empower others.
A servant has no struggle with obedience.
A kingdom instinct
This person cannot seem to catch their spiritual stride unless they are labouring in the fields of ministry. These people are the doers of the Word. They will regularly attend worship services, read their Bible and pray, yes, they do all these things. However, they will also tell you that they feel closest to God, most dialled in, joyful in Christ when they are ministering to others. They truly feel God when they are being used as a channel to accomplish His purposes. The danger here can be their own sense of self sacrifice to the point of neglecting their family as well. They also can be seen by others as pushy and frustrated with the lack of response of others. The desire in them to minister to the physical needs of others may seem as a lack of interest in spiritual things. Remember when someone is on the serving pathway, they will look at you as one of my former youth said to me, “I have never felt closer to Jesus’ as he was handing out hot chocolate to homeless people on Vancouver’s east end.
The Redemptive Gift of Teaching
The word teacher comes from didasko and is the person who a strong ability to explain truth to others.
The person with this quality doesn’t just accept teaching at face value, but will painstakingly work through the process to bring greater understanding. They want truth in a logical, systematic manner and enjoy word studies and reading. They are concerned that truth be established in every situation. They have strong convictions of facts, and can tend to neglect the practical application. They are self-disciplined, and usually only has a close circle of friends. They can lean towards being dogmatic in their beliefs and come across as legalistic. They aren’t too keen on incarnational truth or intuitive impulses as much as seeking the evidence from Scriptures.
Biblical examples of this trait are Aquilla and Priscilla who taught the great scholar Apollos (Acts 18:1-4; 24-26) a more full understanding of the gospel of Jesus, and Thomas (John 20:24-28) who needed empirical data to believe that it truly was Jesus standing in front of him – he must touch His side.
When the teacher-natured person visits the ill person in the hospital, they walk up to the bed and begin to ask questions like: “What did the doctor say was wrong? Did you get a second opinion on the diagnosis?” What they desire is information, so that they can add their assessment. They love good conversation, and find it all fascinating.
The STUDENT instinct
This person is the deep thinker and the key word for them is truth. They are the ones who ask the question, but why and prove it from Scripture. Their greatest quest is truth and they want to see it on paper! To them beauty is a carefully crafted document that states beliefs, doctrines, you name it. They see great theology coming from the study of creeds and doctrines. They feel that those who have their theology most correct are the closest to God. They would love to be in endless Bible studies and prayer to them is an expression of correct theology. They are easily given to analyzing worship songs to make sure they are saying the ‘right things’ about God. The worst insult to them would be to hear, ‘that’s heresy!’ The warning to them is the danger of becoming arrogant and unloving and being more concerned with being right than giving honor to others.
The Redemptive Gift of Encouragement (Exhortation)
The word exhortation comes from the word parakaleo, one who comes alongside, who comes near, the name is also used of the Holy Spirit
This person loves to encourage others to live victoriously. They look for a visible response when they are speaking, teaching or preaching to others. They far prefer to apply truth rather than research it. For them, truth is God’s source of true encouragement, and we must get it into the hands of everyone. They are very quick to accept other people as they are without judging them. They want to clear up problems with others quickly. They often interrupt others in an eagerness to give opinions or advice. They tend to be “cut and dried” in prescribing steps of action.
Barnabas is a clear picture, since his name even means “encouragement”. This he demonstrates by the show of his passion to stand by and under gird young John –Mark when he failed Paul and Barnabas in their first missionary journey. He even allowed the Paul-Barnabas team to split up over his insistence upon encouraging Mark. As a result, he took Mark down to Jerusalem and introduced him to Peter and some of the other leaders. Over the years, his encouragement paid off. Mark went on to write Peter’s account of the life of Jesus, and even Paul later specifically asked for Mark’s assistance. Barnabas’ ministry of exhortation to Mark bore fruit.
When the exhorter visits the hospital patient, they begin by telling stories that might cheer the person up. Everything that the patient says, reminds the exhorter of another story, and both laugh the time away. The exhorter will come equipped with scripture and often messages from other people. He has tendency to insist that the person feels better right away, not wants this problem to persist and let’s move on!
The EXERIENTIAL instinct.
This person wants to ‘feel’ the presence of God and to respond with the full range of emotion and physical expression. The key word for this person is joy. They love spontaneity, emotion and conversational prayer. They would like to have very little leadership in worship and let God lead worship and everyone participate. It is the most responsive instinct to the Holy Spirit and the energy that He gives. This person is also best suited to cross cultural contexts. They are big hearted and generous and very nice to be around. Their prayer is praise and the worst insult they could hear is ‘This is boring.’ The warning for this person is possibly lacking in doctrinal grounding.
They can come across as being shallow and time alone with God in the major battlefield for the exhorter.
The Redemptive Gift of Giving
A person with this temperament freely gives of money, possessions, time, energy and love. They love to give without other people knowing about it. They want to feel they are a part of the ministry to which they are contributing, and see that the finances are being handled with wisdom and with good sense. They have a very strong work ethic and are often successful. Hospitality is one of their strong areas as well. On a downside, they may try to control how contributions are being used and focus more on the They may upset family and friends with unpredictable patterns of giving.
We find a number of good examples of giving in Acts and one in particular is Lydia in Acts 16:14,15 as she persuaded Paul to stay with them in their home.
When the give visits the infirmed in the hospital, they always come bearing a gift to encourage. It is usually something thoughtful, showing time has gone into its planning, presentation and timing of delivery. They desire for the patient to be reminded in a tangible way that they are loved.
The AESTHETIC instinct
This person comes most alive when worship is done in an environment of beauty, order, tradition and and artistic integrity. The key word for them is majesty. They think that the way things look and how they sound are very, very important. They really can appreciate architecture that is designed specifically for worship. They love symbolism, color, art, poetry and great music. They are most at ease when there is dignity and order in all that takes place. They are uncomfortable with a lot of repetition or songs that might seem fluffy. Their prayer is beautiful expressions of faith, the worst insult to them would be to say this is ugly and the warning for this instinct is to become rigid and inflexible.
The Redemptive Gift of Leadership
This temperament, or gift, is highly motivated to organize that for which he is responsible. They can express ideas and organization in ways that are easily understood. They prefer to be under authority, in order to have authority. They love to work on long-range goals and projects – they are visionary with a broad perspective. In time, they can develop callousness due to being the target for criticism. They tend to drive themselves that can easily lead to neglect of personal and family needs.
Biblical examples of this gift in people are Joseph (Genesis 30-40); Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1-7); and King David (1 Samuel 16-31). We see David early in his life caring for his father’s sheep, protecting them well. When opportunity came for him to see another predator attacking God’s sheep, Israel, in the form of Goliath, he naturally moved to protect and deal with the giant. He organized the outcasts together into an army, and eventually, he organized a nation, both militarily and in worship.
When the leader trait visits the hospital, they take out a pad of paper and proceed to inquire of what may need done at the patient’s home and family life. They will say, “I will get some people to take over your responsibilities while you are here in the hospital.” They will check on the insurance of the patient, the doctor’s advice, and how all the pieces must fit together in the next weeks of the person’s life. By the time the leader leaves, there is a clear plan for the next season of the patient’s life.
The RELATIONAL instinct
Finally, this person feels that God is most present when people experience bonding together for fellowship or worship or encouraged through mutual support. They are heartbroken when there is conflict. They love meeting in small groups where people honestly share their personal stories and don’t mind tears, hugs or late night prayer meetings. They appreciate how Christ was so people conscious. They feel that people are the business and introduce people to others and build them up as well. They feel that when interaction is happening, God is present and the heavens are rejoicing. Their prayer is that a small group would really care and pray more for each other. The worst insult to them is to hear ‘you just don’t care’. The warning for them is losing their focus on Christ and valuing more their own relationship with God
The Redemptive Gift of Mercy
This temperament had tremendous capacity to show love, always looking for the good in other people. They are attracted to people who are hurting or in distress. They take care with words and actions to avoid hurting others. They try to avoid conflicts and confrontations. They tend to be indecisive, and are often prone to take up another person’s offence.
Biblical examples of this are John the disciple of Jesus; Ruth (book of Ruth); Rachel (Genesis 29-31); and Joseph, the father of Jesus (Matthew 1:16-24; 2:13). In the case of Joseph, you see great compassion toward Mary, when she was pregnant with the Son of God. This is extravagant grace on the part of Joseph to continue to embrace her, and not shame her or hurt her in any way.
When the person with this dominant trait walks into the hospital, they begin to softly weep with compassion, seeing their loved one in such a state. They will come close and comfort them, wiping their forehead and speaking soft words of sympathy. They will stay endless hours to keep the patient company, supporting in any way possible.
The ACTIVIST instinct
This person sees all of Christ following as an activity of service. Their key word is involved. They love to take action with God and commune with Him about what is so needed in our world. They have great compassion for the disadvantaged and poor. They are angry about oppression and have a sense of urgency to introduce Christ to others. They are committed to changing His world and love to connect with other activists, to plan, to think globally. Prayer for this person is a tool or weapon to advance the kingdom of God. The worst insult they could hear is ‘you are lazy or a hypocrite’. They feel best when they are engaged and really don’t like to take time off. The warning for this person is that they rarely relax and can experience burnout. They are also susceptible to becoming shallow with others, being disillusioned and their own marriage could easily be in trouble. It is a real balancing act.
We all possess a natural inclination for two or three spiritual instincts, we might have a curiosity about a few and what’s left over...well, we have a hard time believing that they have any value at all. However, maturity in faith comes as we become conversant in all the languages of worship and the redemptive gifts as Christ was! Jesus showed us the heart of the prophet, he wouldn’t mince words. Mark wrote of him that very early in the morning he would arise and meet with the Father and commune with Him, He was the servant who washed His disciples’ feet. He was the one who taught from His life and unpacked His teachings with His disciples. He was the one who gave the words of encouragement…I will send a comforter in my place. He showed us the greatest act of giving in showing no greater love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends, he led by his example and he had mercy to all who call on His name!
My thanks to Doug Heck for his work on the redemptive gifts www.totalchange.org and Arthur Burk.