Coloring God…

November 03, 2009

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. I Corinthians 12:7

When I was in elementary school it was kind of a big deal how big your box of crayons was.  They had little boxes of 8, bigger boxes of 24, large boxes of 48 and then they had the super duper extra large box of 64.  That last one was the one you wanted.  It was important.  You just never knew when you might need those odd colors like goldenrod or periwinkle.  You wanted options.  You didn’t want to find yourself limited to just a few simple colors, especially if you had a project that demanded a broader spectrum.  You didn’t just want “red”.  You wanted every imaginable shade and phase of red.  It was frustrating trying to color pictures with a few colors when an entire palette of colors was required in order to get it right.

In that same vein, I’ve always been troubled by interpretations of “Spiritual gifts” which purport to limit the “gifts” to a list of 5 or 9 or 14 gifts.  I know there are several New Testament passages which discuss spiritual gifts and which do list specific examples of them, but I see those lists as just that: examples or illustrations of the larger concept.  After all, Spiritual gifts are a “manifestation of the Spirit”.  So, how many ways is the Spirit capable of manifesting Himself through a believer?  Does anybody really want to limit God to a number?  It is  like someone handing you a box of 8 crayons and saying, “Now, go and color a picture of God.”  If ever there were a time when you would want the absolute largest box of crayons imaginable, this would be it.

I have also always been a little troubled (not a lot, just a little) by those “Spiritual gift inventories” which try to pigeon-hole my gift, slap a label on it, and send me on my way.  I tend to think about spiritual gifts more in terms of a “package” of ways in which God manifests Himself through a believer.  It is a blend of gifts, maybe a little bit teacher and a little bit encourager in one person but a whole bunch of evangelist with just a touch of teacher in another person.  It’s more like a combination of ingredients in different proportions than any one ingredient.  I just don’t think trying to describe how the Spirit of God manifests Himself through a believer with a single label or descriptor is a concept big enough to encompass our God.  It seems terribly limiting and I do not believe it captures the essence of the scriptures’ teaching on the subject.

The concept of Spiritual gifts is not complicated.  A Spiritual gift is simply how the Spirit of God shows Himself through a believer.  The gift is not just an ability or a talent; the gift is the Spirit of God Himself.  Moreover, your “gift” (i.e., how God shows Himself through you) is not for your benefit at all…it is for the benefit of the body of Christ.  Specifically, the purpose of your Spiritual gift is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13. So, if you ask me how many different ways God is capable of doing that, I am more than a little uncomfortable trying to put a number or labels on it.

When it comes to trying to describe God as He is manifested through a brother or sister in Christ, I’m going to need a bigger box of crayons…

© Blake Coffee

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