Waiting Tables: An Introduction to the Spiritual Gifts

This is a guest post by one of our elders here at Red Door Church, Russell Rohloff.  “Russ” has served in many capacities at Red Door over the years and has an extensive and broad church background. In this post he draws attention to gifts of the Spirit that were emphasized in historic Christianity, stemming from passages like Isaiah 11:1-3.


We assume that spiritual gifts are intended for some great work to reconcile the world to Jesus, but being filled with the Holy Spirit and His gifts is the ordinary condition of being a Christian.  It is as required for waiting tables as it is for standing before the Jewish Sanhedrin or disputing with the Greeks on Mars Hill.  Lewis Sperry Chafer puts it in this way, “…the child of God, facing what seems like an impossible responsibility in his heavenly walk and service, is directed to the Spirit as the source of all sufficiency.  Every moment in a spiritual life is one of unmeasured need and superhuman demands, and the supply of enabling power of grace must be constantly received and employed.  To be filled with the Spirit is to have the Spirit fulfilling in us all that God intended Him to do when God placed Him there.  To be filled is not the problem of getting more of the Spirit, it is rather the problem of the Spirit getting more of Christians.”

Whenever spiritual gifts are discussed, we turn to familiar New Testament epistle passages like 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and 28 or Romans 12:6-8.  But for centuries the Church started at Isaiah 11:1-3a “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord…”

These are what might be referred to as the primary gifts.  As the Holy Spirit enters the heart of a regenerated person He brings these gifts with Him.  We all recognize that even in unregenerate men there are natural virtues present that reflect the image and likeness of God.  Even the worst of criminals can truly love someone; the most atheistic of soldiers can show courage under enemy fire; the most worldly person can exhibit generosity.  Virtues perfect the natural part of man and move him to good works in life.  But there is a higher calling that touches his spiritual part and the perfection to do not only good works but God-works requires the infilling and inspiration of God Himself.  The gifts in Isaiah equip us for that task.

Wisdom places within us the holy fear of God by which we recognize the emptiness of the world and see the value of God’s purposes and will.

Understanding equips us to lay hold of truth.  Before truth was made relative, to recognize and live in the world as it really is, was considered sanity; to live otherwise was fantasy.  Understanding equips us to recognize the truth and to detect error.

Counsel is called the gift of prudence, the ability to govern and discipline ourselves by the use of reason.  We would call it good judgment, a practical gift helping us not only to form a plan, but more importantly to carry it out in accordance with the will of God.

Might is also called the gift of fortitude.  It is spiritual backbone, the strength of mind and will that enables us to encounter danger or bear pain with courage and assurance in God’s faithfulness.

Knowledge enables us to respond to the teaching of God’s truth, to know God as He truly is, and to judge everything else in relationship to the work of grace and salvation.

Fear of the Lord is mentioned twice.  The first time is a positive love that moves us towards God, and the second a negative love that makes us dread to be separated from Him.  This first is also called piety, a true reverence towards God marked by visible loyalty to Him and His kingdom, and quickness to do all that He requires.

Quick Understanding in the Fear of the Lord (KJV) is difficult to translate exactly.  The NKJV translated it as “His delight is in the fear of the Lord.”  The Jerusalem Bible translates it as “The fear of Yahweh is his breath.”  This gift fills us with a fresh and living delight to serve the Lord.  It makes us dread sin which separates us from His grace and cling to Him.

In summary, these gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to every believer as the Spirit of God comes to dwell within us at salvation.  They are the very gifts that are necessary for growth in godliness and are ours as a second-birth right.  They make us attentive to the voice of God, tender [not hardened] to the works of God’s grace to transform us, and ultimately move us God-ward making us obedient to the presence and direction of the Spirit of God.  All other New Testament gifts flow out from these.

Photo Credit: Thomas Leth-Olsen via photopin cc