Spiritual Gifts

In His infinite grace, God has not only adopted those who believe in Jesus Christ into His family but has chosen to bestow us with spiritual gifts so we may serve Him, His spiritual community, and His purposes in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church of the first century are available today, manifested as God sovereignly determines, and are to be pursued and practiced in an orderly manner.

These spiritual gifts are given to equip the Church to carry out its ministry until Christ returns1 and to provide a foretaste of the fuller working of the Spirit that will be ours in the age to come.2 In order to experience His grace and effectively share His gospel with others, we must discover and develop our grace-given gifts, which are both an evidence to us and a witness to the world that He is powerfully present and at work. As each of us exercises our gift(s), we edify the Body, building its strength, health, and vitality, while providing a powerful and compelling image of the living Christ to the hungry and hurting world around us.

Application Points


Defining Spiritual Gifts

The New Testament describes a spiritual gift as an act of God’s Spirit, a concrete manifestation in word or deed, of God’s grace through a believer for the benefit of others. Christians can only experience and exercise their gift(s) as they depend on Him and allow His grace to manifest itself through them. A spiritual gift is not an ability that a Christian commands but a grace of God expressed through them for the good of His Body, for His glory, and for reaching His world with the Gospel.

The Spirit’s gifts are seen in the living movements of the Body of Christ. As our physical bodies have many different members functioning together as one, so the unity and effectiveness of the Church grows out of the diverse functions of its members. These gifts are given for the common good.3 Any believer’s focus on using a gift for their own benefit is both unscriptural and unfruitful.4 At the same time, every individual is personally blessed as the spiritual community benefits.

The scriptures use several Greek words as either a noun or modifying adjective when referring to spiritual gifts:

  • Charisma5 – meaning “grace gift,” emphasizing that it is a grace of God bestowed on an individual or to the Church through an individual
  • Pneumatikos6 – meaning “things pertaining to the Spirit,” stressing the nature and origin of the gift
  • Diakonia7 – meaning “to serve,” focusing the believer on the purpose of the gift, which is for spiritual ministry
  • Energema8 – meaning “to grant the ability to do,” recognizing the gift as a literal empowering

The four terms taken together reinforce that spiritual gifts come from God as manifestations of His grace to empower the believer for ministry. They are from God, to us, and for others.


The Specific Gifts Recorded in Scripture

There are several lists of spiritual gifts found in the New Testament. While there is some similarity within these lists, there are at least twenty unique gifts identified, and there is no doubt there are more as they express this “varied grace of God”.9

1 Corinthians 12: Apostleship, teaching, miracles, healing, helps, administration, tongues/interpretation, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, prophecy, distinguishing spirits

Romans 12:6-8: Prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy

Ephesians 4:11: Apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, shepherding

1 Peter 4:11: Speaking gifts, serving gifts

While a person is given a gift or gifts when they come to faith, the Scripture indicates that other gifts may be granted over time. All gifts are given based on God’s sovereign plan10, our desire for them11, our commitment to use them12, and our spiritual walk, which keeps us from quenching the work of the Spirit in our lives.13 It is important that every Christian discover and develop the spiritual gifts God has given them. These gifts enrich both the believer and the Body because through their use the believer is satisfied14; the Body of Christ is edified15, and the Lord is glorified.16

A Simple Definition of Each Gift

While there is not a consensus definition of each gift, the following descriptions are generally accepted by evangelicals:

  • Prophecy – the ability to receive and proclaim a message from God in order to strengthen, encourage, or console a person or group.
  • Teaching – the ability to clearly explain and effectively apply the truths of God’s words of counsel, encouragement, and consolation.
  • Leadership – the ability to discern God’s purpose for a group, set and communicate appropriate goals, and motivate others to work together to fulfill them in service to God.
  • Wisdom – the ability to apply the principles of the Word of God in a practical way to specific situations and to recommend the best course of action at the best time.
  • Knowledge – the ability to discover, analyze, and systematize truth for the benefit of others.
  • Evangelism – the ability to be an unusually effective instrument in leading unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ.
  • Pastor – the ability to personally lead, nourish, protect, and care for the needs of a flock of believers.
  • Service – the ability to identify and care for the physical needs of the Body through a variety of means.
  • Giving – the ability to contribute material resources with generosity and cheerfulness for the benefit of others and the glory of God.
  • Mercy – the ability to deeply empathize and engage in compassionate acts on behalf of people who are suffering physical, mental, or emotional distress.
  • Faith – the ability to have a vision for what God wants to be done and to confidently believe that it will be accomplished in spite of circumstances and appearances to the contrary.
  • Distinguishing of Spirits – the ability to clearly discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
  • Helps – the ability to enhance the effectiveness of the ministry of other members of the Body.
  • Administration – the ability to steer a church or Christian organization toward the fulfillment of its goals by managing its affairs and implementing necessary plans.
  • Apostleship – a New Testament office requiring that the recipient had seen the resurrected Christ.17 Some believe it continues today as the ability to begin and oversee new churches and Christian ministries with a spontaneously recognized authority.
  • Exhortation – the ability to come alongside someone with words of encouragement, comfort, consolation, and counsel to help them mature in Christ.

There is also a group of gifts often referred to as sign gifts. While all gifts are a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit, these gifts defy human explanation or replication and graphically remind people that God is powerfully present and at work:

  • Miracles – the ability to serve as an instrument through whom God accomplishes acts that manifest supernatural power.
  • Healing – the ability to serve as a human instrument through whom God supernaturally cures illness and restores health.
  • Tongues – the ability to receive and impart a spiritual message in a language the recipient has never learned.
  • Interpretation of Tongues – the ability to translate into the vernacular a message publicly uttered in a tongue.

There are three views concerning the viability of these sign gifts in our day:

  • The first view asserts that all of the gifts experienced in the New Testament are not only present in our day but normal manifestations of the Spirit in churches everywhere in the world. Some churches and denominations attribute these experiences to a “second baptism” of the Spirit, marking the beginning of an even more fruitful Christian life.
  • The second view’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 concludes that the sign gifts ceased at the end of the Apostolic age and the closing of scripture.
  • The third view, and the one we hold as a church, affirms that while all of the gifts are available to the Church today, their manifestations18 are determined by our sovereign God for our good and His purposes. The sign gifts, while available and desirable, are not normative for every church today.

These gifts are more often seen in parts of the world where the Word of God and His authority have not yet been established. They are often displayed to attest to the Gospel that is being shared. These gifts often have scriptural qualifiers to ensure that they are from the Lord and are used in a way that gives Him the glory.

(All definitions provided by www.Bible.org)


Speaking / Praying in Tongues

As the gift of tongues is described in scripture, there are clear guidelines laid out that help to ensure this gift is used for the edification of the Body.19 When in a public setting, we believe the Apostle Paul teaches that speaking in tongues is to be followed with interpretation.20 Some Christians believe one manifestation of tongues is that of a personal prayer language that can be used when they cannot find words to express their needs or they are interceding for others. Some congregations believe this prayer language is evidence of a “second blessing” or “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Scripture states and gives examples of how tongues is a sign to unbelievers21; and that not everyone possesses the gift of tongues.22 Paul states that he prayed in tongues and does not deny that one can pray in another tongue without interpretation23 as they pray in the Spirit. Based on is full instructions though, we believe speaking or praying in tongues while in the presence of others without interpretation can cause confusion24 and tends to build up the individual over the Body.25


Clarifying Principles Concerning the Spirit and His Gifts

The scriptures provide several clarifying statements about the Spirit and His gifts to help us differentiate terms that are often confused:

  • Spiritual gifts are not the same as the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit has been bestowed on all believers at the moment of spiritual birth26 where the gifts of the Spirit are distributed to each person as He decides.27
  • Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit.28 Fruit relates to Christ-like character whereas gifts relate to Christian service.
  • Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents, although His gifts can coincide with a person’s natural talents and empower them for Kingdom purposes. Both are given by God.29
  • Spiritual gifts are not a substitute for the clear commands in scripture. Some have the gift of evangelism, but we are all called to be witnesses of the Good News to those around us.30 We may not all have the gift of giving, but we are called to be cheerful givers.31 You may not have the gift of teaching, but we are all commanded in the Great Commission to teach as we make disciples.32
  • Spiritual gifts determine the types of Kingdom ministries in which a person will be most effective. They spiritually equip him to edify the Body, be an example and train others, and glorify God as they walk in the power of the Spirit.33
  • Spiritual gifts, when mobilized, are a key to multiplication of the Church.34


Discovering Your Spiritual Gift(s)

In order to become the spiritual catalyst God intends for every believer to be, we must be proactive in discovering and developing our spiritual gifts. In order to do that:

  • Ask God to show you your gift.
  • Aspire to minister for His Kingdom.
  • Experiment using a gift you believe He has given you.
  • A tool to help you determine your spiritual gifting can be found at www.uniquelyyou.org. (profile of 9 spiritual gifts only)
  • Seek the evaluation of mature Christians and their confirmation of the gift.
  • Enjoy the spiritual influence and the blessings you and others experience as you use your gift.

God intends for our Christian life to be dynamic and has gifted each of us to be a unique expression of Him in the Body of Christ and in the world.

Footnotes: 1 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1:72 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:14, 1 Corinthians 13:8-103 1 Corinthians 12:74 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Romans 12:3-45 1 Corinthians 12:4; 61 Corinthians 12:17 1 Peter 4:108 1 Corinthians 12:69 1 Peter 4:1210 1 Corinthians 12:1111 1 Corinthians 14:112 2 Timothy 1:613 1 Thessalonians 5:19-2214 Romans 12:415 Ephesians 4:12-1616 1 Peter 4:10-1117 1 Corinthians 9:118 1 Corinthians 12:719 1 Corinthians 12:720 1 Corinthians 14:13-1721 1 Corinthians 14:22, Acts 2:422 1 Corinthians 12:11, 28-3023 1 Corinthians 14:2, 13-1924 1 Corinthians 14:1625 1 Corinthians 14:4, 2826 1 Corinthians 12:1327 1 Corinthians 12:1128 Galatians 5:22-2329 James 1:730 Acts 1:831 2 Corinthians 9:732 Matthew 28:2033 1 Peter 1:1134 Ephesians 4:12