I am who I am by the grace of God

Yesterday I started talking about how we view our innate characteristics, the things we were born with. In the church, it’s become popular to downplay our natural traits and build up what are considered to be our spiritual gifts.

Basically, the idea is this:

  • The talents we have to use in the church are things that were given to us by the Spirit when we became Christians.
  • These things, like speaking ability or worship leading skills, are seen as superior to things that are natural in us, specifically our gender. One is a spiritual gift; the other is an accident of birth.

I see several problems with this reasoning.

  • It misunderstands spiritual gifts, failing to see them as ministries instead of talents. Basically, we’ve conflated natural talents and spiritual gifts.
  • It stems out of neo-Platonic ideas that seek to separate the physical and the spiritual, disdaining all things physical.
  • This reasoning leaves God out of the birth process, reducing it to animal reproduction.

God made us. Some of us He made with innate leadership skills; go to the nursery school playground, and you’ll see that these things are in us from very young. Some He made with speaking skills, others with enhanced sensitivity and compassion. There are introverts and extroverts. And, since this is the hot button these days, some are male and female. I don’t think gender is a choice; I think God created us a specific way. None of us are superior to the others, but all of us different, according to the design of a loving God.

When we become Christians, God uses who we are in new ways, for His glory. Peter was a spokesman and a leader before receiving the Spirit. He was a spokesman and a leader after receiving the Spirit, but his ministry was channeled and led by the Spirit. Paul was an well-educated influencer before becoming a Christian; after becoming a Christian, Paul allowed the Spirit to use him in a ministry to the Gentiles. According to Paul, that was a gift from God (Romans 15:15-16)

We are who we are because God made us to be just who we are. There is no accident of birth involved. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by a loving God. That God has destined us for good works, done through His Spirit, by the ministries He gives us by His grace.

6 thoughts on “I am who I am by the grace of God

  1. Anthony Gill


    We are who we are because God made us to be just who we are. There is no accident of birth involved. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by a loving God.

    Cystic fibrosis? Other genetic disorders?
    Conjoined twins and other developmental disorders?
    Intersex folk (born with both genitalia)?

    Remember that it is not humanity that Paul says is groaning in futility, awaiting the revelation of the sons of God. It is all creation that groans under the curse of death, that has even corrupted the genome.

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    Nick, I have thought about birth defects in all of this. And I don’t have good answers. John 9 doesn’t provide perfect clarity on this issue, but it does seem to suggest some intentionality, doesn’t it?

    But if we’re going to say that it’s all open to chaos, well, that extends to our talents, doesn’t it? Someone’s “gifted” singing voice becomes a mere accident of birth. As does one’s ability to reason about Scripture and speak well. Those things are no more spiritual than gender is.

  3. Anthony Gill

    I don’t have clear answers that fit every situation, but I don’t think that leads to “it’s all open to chaos,” either. I think John 9 is intentionally ambiguous because Jesus is speaking as clearly as he can on the subject.

    I think about alcoholism, where we know that there is a complex mix of environmental and genetic components. And being born blind could be a combination of genetics and prenatal malnutrition, but I think Jesus is getting at a main reason for the continued existence of suffering, period – so that the work of God can be made manifest in the midst of the fallen world.

    I believe God is intimately involved in his creation, but I’m not sure that requires a causal link between him and everything about me, when I know there are other actors out there.

  4. Tim Archer Post author

    I’m not sure that requires a causal link between him and everything about me

    That’s fair. I’m reacting to people who act like gender can’t be part of discussions in faith situations because it’s nothing more than a coincidence of birth. Especially when the same people want to act like our talents are a supernatural gift that must be respected in a way that gender doesn’t have to be.

  5. Anthony Gill

    Oh okay – I totally get that. Like folks don’t have the same skillset before their new birth that they do after their new birth.

    This is also where the work Tom Wright does on 1 Cor 15 in Surprised by Hope can become relevant – psuchikos vs pneumatikos as describing the source of power and energy rather than a difference of types of skills or actions.

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