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Every Christian Is a Charismatic

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 12:6–8

God gives the spiritual gifts and the faith to exercise them effectively in His church. Our responsibility is to faithfully and humbly employ them in His service. This may not always bring thanks or praise, but it will bring glory to our God.


You may have heard the phrase “no child left behind.” That’s not just a political slogan. God came up with that long ago. According to Romans 12, no child of God was left behind when God distributed spiritual gifts to His children.

Throughout the New Testament, there are a total of nineteen or so gifts listed. That is probably not a comprehensive listing by the way. But as the church developed, it is interesting to note that the lists of gifts grew shorter. In fact, the last reference to spiritual gifts, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, has only two—the gift of serving and the gift of speaking. And that is something we ought to keep in mind.

We have already looked at Paul’s statement here in Romans 12:6 that all believers have “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Every Christian has received a gift by the grace of God.

The word Paul uses here for “gifts” is the Greek word charismata (the singular form is charisma[JKW1] ). It has been transliterated to give us our words charisma and charismatic. It is used as the title for the charismatic movement—for those who speak in tongues. But according to Paul, every Christian has been given a charisma. Now this might sound strange to you, but every Christian is a charismatic.

And that is in the true, biblical sense of the word—you actually became a charismatic, so to speak, at your conversion, because that’s when the Holy Spirit baptized you into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). You might not have done or felt or said anything unusual at all. But you became gifted at that moment of salvation.

So, the word has been distorted by the charismatic community to refer only to what we call the sensational sign-gifts—those temporary gifts that authenticated the early apostles as true messengers of God. But every spiritual gift is charismatic because every Christian has been given a special charisma—a gift—to use in serving the body of Christ.

And that service might not be sensational at all. It might be mopping the floor of a classroom. It might be taking a handicapped child to the park. It might be changing the oil in the church vehicle, or fixing a meal for someone who is ill, or writing a letter of encouragement, or teaching a Bible lesson to young people.

It is time we started using this word correctly. Every Christian is charismatic.

Now what Paul does here is give us a short list of these gifts; and the first one is “prophecy” (verse 6). When Paul wrote this, prophecy was still a means of receiving and communicating revelation from God. Because the Scriptures were not yet completed, God continued to give revelation through prophecy.

But later on, Paul will teach in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, “As for prophecies, they will pass away . . . we prophesy in part, but when the perfect [or the complete] comes, the partial will pass away.” What is this “perfect”? It is the same word used in James 1:25 to describe the Scriptures, the “perfect law . . . of liberty.” It is a description of the Bible.

New revelation from God—and the gift of prophecy—became unnecessary with the completion of the Bible. We are blessed to have today the completed Word from God. The great need today is not to hear some new revelation but for preachers and teachers to expound on the finished revelation of God.

Paul solemnly charged Pastor Timothy to “preach the word” (2 timothy 4:2), not come up with some new word. Beloved, we are not waiting to be given new revelation, as the biblical prophets did; we are to proclaim God’s Word that has been given. The book of Revelation does not end with a comma but a period. If any religions or so-called prophets today tell you they have new revelation from God, you need to lace up your shoes and run. They are a danger to you. We are not waiting for God to speak; we have been told to teach what God has already said.

Verse 7 gives us the next gifts. Paul writes, “If service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching.”

The Greek word translated “service” is diakonia. We get our word deacon from this word. It simply means “servant.” And believe me, people willing to serve in many different ways are the heartbeat—the muscle—of ministry today.  

And what about the gift of teaching? A gifted teacher has the ability to make God’s Word understandable.[1] And that means a teacher has to learn what God’s Word means. So, a teacher is a lifelong learner. As I tell my seminary students who are preparing for the ministry, the office of pastor/teacher demands many hours studying in private, before they get up to preach for an hour in public. The call to pastor is a call to obscurity and hours of study in the Word of God.

Now this gift of teaching can be one on one. Teaching truth from God’s Word can take place in your office or shop with coworkers. When someone wants your opinion on some current event and you interpret that event in light of biblical truth, you have just become a teacher!

Teaching is the mandate of Christ to the church. We are to go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them! (Matthew 28:19-20). Teaching is not an option, and teachers who teach God’s Word should not be the exception! But I am afraid they are in many churches today.

Next, Paul introduces the spiritual gift of exhortation in verse 8: “The one who exhorts, in his exhortation.” The Greek word for “exhorts” (parakaleō) means “to call alongside,” or come alongside someone. This word is used of the Holy Spirit—the paraklētos, who comes alongside to encourage us along the way.

If you have made a campfire, you know the importance of that poker—a stick or a steel rod. From time to time, you use that poker to stir up the embers, and what happens? They burst back into flame.[2] That is the ministry of exhortation.

In verse 8, the final three gifts immediately stand out because Paul describes how they should be exercised. He writes that “the one who contributes” is to do so “in generosity.”

This is the gift of giving. While we are all to give, people with the gift of giving are quick to offer anything that might be useful to the Lord. I remember one Sunday morning when my younger brother Timothy was about five years old. As the offering plate came by us, Timothy took off his little necktie and put it in the plate. We whispered, “What are you doing?” He whispered back, “The pastor said we’re to give our ties and offerings.” Well, Timothy actually grew up to become an eager contributor to the Lord.

Next here in verse 8 is the gift of leadership. Paul writes, “The one who leads” should do so “with zeal.” People with this gift are not talked into taking a leadership role in the church—they are ready to serve in this way. The word here translated “leads” can be rendered “manages.” It appears in 1 Timothy 3:5 as one of the qualifications for elders and deacons, who are to manage, or lead, their households well, and the local church also.

Finally, Paul lists the spiritual gift of mercy, writing, “The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” One Bible scholar defined mercy simply as the gift of sympathy, a gift that opens the heart of the one who is suffering.[3]  

Isn’t it interesting that Paul urges the one who does acts of mercy to do so with cheerfulness? And that is because showing mercy is not always going to get you a thank-you card. You might be tempted to lose your cheerful spirit. Remember, you are serving Christ above all.

[1] Alva J. McClain, Romans: The Gospel of God’s Grace (BMH Books, 1973), 211.

[3] Kenneth Gangel, You and Your Spiritual Gifts (Moody Press, 1975), 50.

 [JKW1]I have maintained the distinction between singular and plural, so that charisma is used for “gift” and charismata for “gifts.”

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