Yesterday in Sunday School we talked about spiritual gifts. I don't have a huge amount of time, but I'll introduce a few of the questions. My own personal study will have to wait for a later date.
1. How are spiritual gifts different from natural talents/abilities? Are they?
2. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?
The answers taught are as follows, with my thoughts in italics.
1. Some spiritual gifts are obviously different from natural talents/abilities, ie: soccer. Otherwise, the test is in what the gift is used for. Also, spiritual gifts are only for the elect.
The test is in how the gift is used? More on that with the next question. . . .
As for being only for the elect, I need to study on that. I think it's a Calvinist v. Armenian question. I know I've been taught that some people may use their spiritual gifts for the wrong purposes. The major example given is Balaam, along with a couple in the NT (The NT examples are questionable, as most of them could be explained as satanic. The Balaam example is questionable; were spiritual gifts the same under the old covenant?) So, basically, I suppose it boils down to free will to use God's gifts as we choose or predestination that gives them only to the elect. Perhaps therein lies the difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents--God gives everyone natural talents, but only the elect receive spiritual gifts. I'm not sure.
2. Three purposes were named, with the stipulation that any gift not serving all 3 purposes is not a spiritual gift. The purposes are: to build the body/unify, to glorify God, to promote personal growth in faith.
There is first of all the question of whether teaching some "non-spiritual" subject can still be counted as the spiritual gift of teaching (or similar situation with another gift). Can a spiritual gift be used for a purpose that is not explicitly spiritual? Granted that there is really no distinction between sacred and secular, but does teaching math build the body? Does it promote personal growth? I'm not sure about this definition, but I can't completely deny its validity yet.
Secondly, some of the gifts (ie: prophecy, tongues, interpretation) are explicitly said to be for the body, not for individual growth.
That's a summary. I'll look at the verse references and record some study results when I have time.