The Journey View of spiritual gifts moves beyond the dominant 20th century emphasis that gifts are new abilities added to Christians at salvation. One result of that view has been that spiritual gifts are of little or no relevance for unbelievers, being instead a special privilege for believers only. The Journey View presents that being gifted by God is fundamental to being human, and thus forms common ground between Christians and non-Christians.
Spiritual Gifts Reimagined (SGR) presents the rationale for this Journey View, going into a lot of detail in doing so. But the most basic challenge you should throw at me for claiming that all people are gifted is “how can that be biblical?” After all, we learn about spiritual gifts from the Bible, and doesn’t it say—in black and white—that gifts are given to believers when they are given God’s Spirit?
I believe the Bible is God’s fully inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word, so I welcome that challenge. This monthly blog is not the place to go into all my arguments for using the idea of gifting beyond believers. The Journey View is explained and defended in SGR for you to study and consider. But here I’ll make three points to stimulate your thinking about all people being gifted.
First, I believe this is a valid conclusion based on a reasonable interpretation of Scripture. In other words, it is not unbiblical to say that all people are gifted. 20th century thinking said that gifting is a concrete addition of new abilities to believers at a point in time. But what if the giving and receiving of gifts taught in the New Testament letters is supposed to be understood metaphorically?
In SGR I explain that this metaphorical view leads to the conclusion that gifts are the potentials with which we’re all born. I balance that interpretation with the truth that Paul and Peter are focusing on gifted Christians relating and serving in the body of Christ. But that does not require us to believe that gifts are new abilities added to believers. Again, further details on this interpretation are found in the book.
Second, if gifts are the potentials with which we’re born, we share this significant area of common ground with non-Christians. “God just as lovingly and ingeniously designed and equipped my unbelieving friend as he did me. Sparks of God’s beauty and wisdom are in everyone around us” (SGR, 124). Do we see those sparks? And what might be the value in paying attention to them?
In SGR I teach we must integrate gifting with growing. Gifting involves journey, and both believers and unbelievers can be on that journey. Most of SGR is devoted to describing that journey.
It is true that coming to Christ and receiving his Spirit is the most significant event in that journey. But those who have experienced that event can connect as fellow journeyers with those who haven’t yet come to Christ. In these relationships we share mutual support in developing our potentials as human beings. And as Christians we can display how our journeys of growth and gifting are part of following Jesus. (SGR explains how carrying your cross, following Jesus, expresses the gifting journey.)
Third, this view of gifting focuses on people, not on gifts per se. Each unique person is an expression of God’s grace and wisdom. And there’s quite a diversity in the human race, isn’t there! So if we’re no longer limiting gifted diversity to only those in the body of Christ, we’re talking about the amazing spectrum of diverse humanity that God has created.
Of course, diversity has become a politically charged topic and is defined by the world in its own ways. We shouldn’t be surprised that Scripture’s description of diversity is different than the world’s. The Journey View of spiritual gifts is relevant to today’s diversity debates, presenting how God’s guidance for diverse gifted journeyers positions Christians to share loving connection with non-Christians.
This month’s blog likely raises many questions in your mind. SGR actually does “reimagine” spiritual gifts! I invite you to dive into its study of God’s truth from Scripture to find out how gifting forms common ground to build gospel relationships.