Temperament, Character, and Spiritual Gifts: Part 1


People were created by God according to His purposeful, eternal plan (Eph. 1:9-10). They were created (Gen. 1:26) in God’s image (an extension of His presence), in God’s likeness (an expression of God’s character, being like Him in morals and motives), and were empowered by authority delegated from God.

  • They fell into sin, acquired a sin nature, distorting their image and character. They became dominated by self, became an expression of their own ego, and an exhibit of their own weakness. Their fallen condition was transmitted to all their descendants.
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to redeem fallen mankind. He came as the perfect extension of God’s presence (Jn. 14:9), the perfect expression of God’s character (Jn. 10:30), and having God’s full authority and power (Mt. 28:18). 
  • The result is people encountered in life are either in the fallen state or are redeemed and being transformed into a likeness of Christ. 

Why Study Temperament and Character?

Every person has a personality. Personality can be thought of as an interaction of two different components: temperament and character. Understanding personalities is essential to obedience. Scripture tells us to love everyone (even enemies) with a love like God’s love. In so far as it depends on us, we are to strive to live at peace with everyone. But people differ from one another. That which is helpful to one may be meaningless to another. Yet, though differences are real, there are useful similarities in normal behavior styles, similarities fairly easy to identify, and useful in establishing categories of behavior.

  • People with different preferences, likes, and dislikes need different inputs to succeed in life. How can we understand how to live and work in harmony with different people? It is helpful to pay attention to people’s words, reactions in different situations, and how they approach tasks helps. 
  • Jesus said, “by their fruit you will know them.” That concept is the basis for personality studies through observing or otherwise determining the words people use and the way they use tools.

Useful Methods

“Informal Type Watching” is common practice. We all do it. We say things like: “I knew that’s what you would say.” “That boy acts just like his father.” “You always think by talking.” “You take forever to make a decision.” “You want everything to be perfect.”

  • Formal personality inventories like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are very useful.  
  • Informal and formal methods are Tools useful, not for judging behavior, but for understanding a person’s preferred way of thinking, communicating, making decisions, and accomplishing tasks. 
  • Tools do nothing in and of themselves. People use tools to accomplish tasks.  Tools can be used for good or for evil, but tools of themselves are morally neutral.

Angels and Humans

God is the creator of persons. He created persons in His image, after His likeness. Some creatures, like angels, were created as nonmaterial, spiritual beings. Humans are formed as an integrated spiritual/material body or as we usually say body and soul. God, the Creator, exists as an eternal spirit, of one essence, but three persons.

  • Meaning of One Essence but 3 Persons: (Westminster Shorter Catechism -WSC) There is one living and true God, a most pure Spirit, self-existing, self-sustaining, invisible, of one divine essence, immaterial, without body, parts, or passions, infinite and immutable (unchanging) in being and perfection.
  • God is 3 Persons of one divine essence. God is holy, personal, and relational. He has 2 types of attributes – noncommunicable and communicable. Noncommunicable attributes belong only to God. They include God’s self-existence, omnipotence, and omniscience. 
  • Communicable attributes are shared with created beings and include personhood, spirituality, self-consciousness, memory, ability to understand, inventiveness, creativeness, authority, strength, ability to plan ahead, and a capacity for love and fellowship. 

Definition of a Nature

All things and beings which exist have qualities, some essential, some not. The combination of all essential qualities of a thing or being defines its nature.

  • Example: A 2-inch diameter iron pipe, 3-feet long, painted white. Essential qualities are the material iron plus length and hollowness. Specific dimensions, cross-section shape, weight, and color are nonessentials. Change them and it remains an iron pipe.
  • The nature of an iron pipe, or of anything else, is all its essential qualities. Change an essential quality, it becomes something else. A pipe flattened, eliminating the hollow, becomes an iron bar. 
  • Compressed to a disk, it would become an iron washer.

Nature and Person

“Nature” and “person” have precise meanings. “Nature” is all essential qualities of a being or thing. “Nature” makes a being (or thing) what it is. A person is a nature plus a center of self-awareness, an “I” to the “You” of other persons. Persons may be spiritual (like God and angels) or material/spiritual (like humans), but each person has a nature and a center of self-awareness.

  • In the Trinity, the 3 Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are equal in power, glory, and eternity, each having the same attributes. Unlike 3 human persons, the 3 divine persons do not exist alongside one another. They exist in eternal mutual indwelling, sharing the same divine essence.
  • The attributes of each divine Person are the same. Each Person regards Himself as “I” and the other two as “you.” A person is a nature plus a source of “I.” 
  • A human person has a human nature plus a source of “I.” The “I” is owner, possessor, and master of the nature. The “I” is the subject who lives, thinks, wills, and acts through the nature. A person’s “I” directs the use of the attributes of their human nature.

A Human Nature is not a Person

Human nature” is the complete set of essential human attributes which include body, mind, will, and emotions, but one thing is missing. There is no source of “I.” A human person has a human nature, but a human nature is not a person.

  • This “nature/person” distinction is essential to understanding the incarnation.

How to Understand the Incarnate Christ (God-Man), One Person, 2 Natures:

  • In the incarnation the eternal Son united Himself with a human nature making possible Christ’s salvation work. No incarnation, no salvation.
  • The 2nd Person of the Trinity took to Himself a human nature (conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary), becoming the one person, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man.
  • The addition of a human nature (including body) did not in any way reduce the Son’s divine 

nature. There is no mixing, confusion, or combination of His two natures. Each nature retains its

own attributes. One Person, two complete natures. Christ is now and will remain the God-Man. 

  • The Son’s divine immaterial essence (and Person) were His from all eternity, eternally begotten by the Father. His human nature was acquired “in time,” derived from His mother Mary. Both His human and divine natures are directed by the “I” of His divine Person.
  • It is amazing but true that Christ’s human nature never existed as a human person. He has no human “I.” His human nature from conception was controlled by His divine personal “I.”

Christ Fully God and Fully Human

In acquiring a human nature, the Son retained His divine nature. His human nature is in every respect like ours except without sin. Both natures act under the direction of His divine “I.” Anything done through either nature is by the one person, Jesus.

  • With respect to His human nature, after the resurrection, when He ascended to heaven, He was no longer present in the world (Jn. 1:28; 17:11; Acts 1:9-11). With respect to His omnipresent divine nature He always was and continues to be everywhere present (Mt. 18:20; 28:20).
  • Christ’s human nature could be weak and tired. His divine nature could not. During His time on earth, His divine nature continued to uphold creation and to carry out the Father’s plan. His human nature (including body) developed and grew in the normal way in stature and wisdom.
  • Jesus’ human nature could learn, even though His divine nature knew all things.  
  • The Trinity is one nature, 3 Persons. The incarnate Son is 1 Person, 2 natures. The Trinity is pure divine spirit. The incarnate Son is divine spirit plus a human nature (including body). Human persons have a human nature (includes body) and a soul (includes a source of “I”).
  • Reference: Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994 chapter 26.

Insight into How People Take in Information, Make Decisions, and Accomplish Tasks

It is common to hear people say every individual is unique, each the product of their heredity and environment. In some ways this of course is true, but from a practical standpoint, the doctrine of uniqueness is not particularly useful.

  • From experience we know some people have behavior characteristics similar to others (you act just like your father). We see similarities and differences in their values, areas of interest, and how they take in information and make judgments. Can a model be devised to reveal such things? 
  • It turns out the answer is yes! The MBTI model is one such model. It is based on the principle that many variations in human behavior are the logical consequence of a few basic, observable differences in mental functioning. Key differences concern how people prefer to use their minds. Specifically, the focus is on the way people perceive and the way they make judgments.
  • Perceiving is the process of taking in information, becoming aware of things, people, occurrences, and ideas. Judging is the process of coming to conclusions.
  • Together, perception and judging make up a large portion of everyone’s mental activity and governsmuch of their outer behavior. Perception determines what a person sees in a situation. Judgment determines what they decide to do about it. 
  • Basic differences in the way individuals perceive and/or judge, lead to corresponding differences in behavior. People prefer activities which match their preferred ways of perceiving and judging. Repeated use of preferences reinforces them and leads to a well-defined Temperament “Type.” There is no best or worst, no good or bad in temperament type, just differences.
  • All types are necessary and useful. TYPES self-select into jobs and situations which provide the best opportunities to use their mind in their preferred manner.

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