Grace and Your Spiritual Gift

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1Pe 4:10 NKJV).

Grace may not be the first word that comes to our minds when thinking of spiritual gifts – but it likely should be!

Before exploring the vibrant links between grace and gifts, we should briefly explain that in the New Testament, spiritual gifts are abilities given by God to believers for the upbuilding of the church. These are not to be confused with natural abilities, which a person can have without salvation. The Lord wants us to yield all our abilities to His will and for His glory, but spiritual gifts go beyond what we could ever do on our own. Three chapters contain lists of spiritual gifts: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. This article won’t cover many of the details in these and other passages about spiritual gifts, but one truth that should be stated is that some gifts had specific purposes unique to the beginning of the church age. Other spiritual gifts continue to be given to believers today, including helps, administration, serving, teaching, encouraging or exhorting, giving, leading, showing mercy, evangelizing, and shepherding (1Co 12:28; Rom 12:7-8; Eph 4:11). Peter tells us in our text that “each one has received a gift,” and Paul adds that we must be sure it is used and developed (1Ti 4:14; 2Ti 1:6). Now, what does grace have to do with our spiritual gift?

Grace Defined and Distributed

“As each one has received a gift …”

Grace, charis in Greek, sits beautifully at the beginning of the word used for spiritual gifts in the New Testament, charisma, and its plural form, charismata. Other Greek words, like doma and dōrea, are used for other types of gifts, but we are immediately reminded of grace each time we read of spiritual gifts.

Our verse begins, “As each one has received a charisma.” Charisma means “grace given” or “grace gift,” and the chapters that list spiritual gifts identify the givers: Romans 12 tells us that it is God who gives; in Ephesians 4 Christ gives; and in 1 Corinthians 12 the giver is the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are given by God singularly, charisma, and at the same time given by a plurality of three Persons, charismata.

In our text, the giving is emphasized with the words “received” and “gift.” Understanding that spiritual gifts are received out of God’s grace should eliminate all pride and envy. No gift, or degree of giftedness, is based on personal merit, devotion or spirituality. The sad state in Corinth showed this; they were “not lacking in any gift” (1Co 1:7), but clearly lacking morally and in maturity (1Co 5; 1Co 3:2). A gifted evangelist, teacher or shepherd could be full of pride and in a poor condition spiritually, while a believer with the gift of helps may be living in true Christlikeness. When we evaluate ourselves or other believers based on giftedness, we are forgetting that spiritual gifts are grace gifts.

You have charisma: a spiritual gift, chosen for you and given to you by the triune God, purely by His grace!

Grace Delegated and Displayed

“… minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

These gifts are given by grace, but just as wonderfully, it is grace that is given.

Trench, a 19th-century scholar of words, explains that charis and its various forms were used commonly in at least three ways when the New Testament was written. First, it was used to describe “that property in a thing which causes it to give joy to the hearers or beholders.” [1] It was the “grace” of a beautiful piece of art that the Greeks said filled them with wonder. Luke 4:22 uses a form of charis to describe our Lord’s words in that way. Trench then explains that charis was used to describe the blessing itself, and its enjoyment by the observers. Acts 15:3 speaks of the great chara (same root as charis, usually translated “joy”) that filled the saints when hearing of the conversion of the Gentiles. Third, Trench writes that charis described “the thankfulness which the favour calls out in return,” that sense of gratitude compelled by the beauty seen and the blessing experienced, as in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Charis be to God for his unspeakable gift.” Grace is: (1) beauty that incites wonder, (2) the blessing enjoyed, and (3) the thankfulness produced.

Seeing the varied meanings of charis should help us understand how our spiritual gift, charisma, involves a stewardship “of the manifold grace of God.” Stewardship is being entrusted with something that belongs to someone else and being delegated responsibility to use it in a specific way. Our charisma (“spiritual gift,” “grace given”) is the grace of God entrusted to us to use as He intends. He delegates the ways: helping, or teaching, or encouraging, or giving, or showing mercy, or evangelizing, or shepherding, etc. When His given grace is used as He intends, it blesses others (grace) in its manifold ways, results in wonder (grace) – not at me, but at the beauty (grace) of God as it is proclaimed in speaking gifts and displayed with Christlikeness in serving gifts – and prompts thankfulness (grace) and praise to God.

Are you putting your charisma, His grace given to you, to His intended use?

Between the bookends of charis in our verse, the central instruction also highlights grace: “minister it to one another.” Wuest, a 20th-century Greek scholar, adds to Trench’s definitions that charis always gives “freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver.”[2] Our text declares that selflessly serving with God’s grace, regardless of recognition or appreciation, is what makes a “good steward.” Do we use our spiritual gift to serve others with the bounty and free-heartedness of the One whose grace we are administering? Such stewards look forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant …. Enter into the joy [chara] of your lord” (Mat 25:21 NKJV).

Grace is in the Greek, the giving, the gift, the goal, and the great reward. What does grace have to do with spiritual gift? Everything!

[1] Trench, Richard C. Synonyms of the New Testament. 11th ed. (London: Macmillan, 1890), pp.167-168.

[2] Wuest, Kenneth S. Treasures from the Greek New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1941), p.17.