By Jeffrey Hagan
I have written, preached, and taught on the topic of spiritual gifts many times. The primary focus almost always turns to whether or not the “miracle” or “sign” gifts are still active today or if they slowly ceased functioning with the decline of the original apostles and the very earliest of church fathers. Another favorite is if tongues operates today and if they are the so-called “initial physical evidence” of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In between all of this there is a large amount of intricate details that are discussed, debated, and disagreed over.
This article is not going to focus on any of that. I want to provide a refresher as to what exactly the gifts of the Spirit are and what are their functions. Just recently I was in a discussion with someone who refused to believe or accept that there were more than seven spiritual gifts. She insisted there were only seven regardless of the biblical evidence that was presented to her. This led me to believe that perhaps an article simply identifying and briefly defining them might be in order.
What Are They?
In 1 Corinthians 12, we are informed that spiritual gifts are given to God’s elect by the Holy Spirit for “the common good.” Verse 11 tells us the gifts are given according to how God wants them distributed (“as he determines”). Ephesians 4:12 lets us know these gifts are given to equip God’s people to serve and for edifying, or building up, the body of Christ. We are also told elsewhere that at certain times particular gifts are given as a sign to those who do not believe.
The term itself, “spiritual gifts,” is derived from two Greek words: charismata (meaning gifts) and pneumatika (spirits). You might be able to tell these are plural forms of “charisma” (meaning expression of grace), and “pneumatikon” (meaning expression of Spirit). While it is true there are a variety of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4), generally speaking, spiritual gifts are God-supplied graces (unique abilities, some are offices, some are manifestations) designed for works of service for the building up of the body of Christ as a whole. Some of which, we are told were for the purposes of laying the foundation of the church.
Are There Actual Lists Of The Gifts?
General consensus is that there are three biblical lists recording the gifts of the Spirit. Some sprinkle in a few gifts from another passage or two as well, but the three main passages dealing with spiritual gifts are Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31 and Ephesians 7:7-10.
Before looking at each gift individually let’s pause here and look at some important issues regarding the spiritual gifts in general.
-To start, every single Christian has, at the absolute minimum, at least one gift (1 Peter 4:10).
-No Christian possesses all of the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).
-We cannot pick and choose our gifts, that is the job of God alone (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
-There is no one gift that is meant for all believers to possess (with the exception of faith to differing degrees) (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).
-Believers will give an account to the Lord for how they used their gifts (1 Peter 4:10).
-Spiritual gifts are an indication, or confirmation, of God’s call for a believer’s life (Romans 12:2-8).
-Any gift used without love is worthless and does not accomplish what God desires (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
-Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the Body and are to be used to build up, or edify, the Body (1 Corinthians 12:27).
SOME BIBLICAL GUIDELINES FOR THE USE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS:
-The use of the gifts must align with biblical protocol and teaching (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12 14; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4).
-The use of the gifts result in affirmation and positive feedback from the Body (1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:16).
-There is unity in the Body that it is indeed the Holy Spirit who is at work (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
-The Holy Spirit fills us with peace as we exercise our gifts for the body of Christ (John 15:26; Romans 8:16).
-Godly fruit is a result of the use of gifts in the Body (John 15:8; Matthew 7:16-20).
-Fellow Christ-followers use their gifts for the common good to meet the needs of others (Acts 2:44-45; 1 Corinthians 12:7).
-A spiritual gift not offered in love is of no value (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
-We should make every effort to live our lives worthy of the calling we are given (Ephesians 4:1).
The List Of Gifts:
PROPHECY: Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; Eph. 4:11 to speak forth the message of God to His people. Greek word is “prophetes,” which is the forth-telling of the will of God; ‘pro’ = forth; ‘phemi’ = to speak. Extra-biblical future telling aspects of prophecy are in direct contradiction to other passages that condemn fortune-telling and predictions of the future (Acts 16:16-18).
SERVICE: Rom. 12:7 to recognize things that are not being done in God’s work, regardless of how menial they may seem, and then using whatever is available to complete the work. Greek word is “diakonia,” which we get deacon, attendant, server; ‘diako’ = to run errands. This is actually also referred to as simply ministering to others. It is giving practical help to those in need.
TEACHING: Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11 the ability to instruct others regarding the Bible in a logical, systematic fashion so as to inform others of essential information for proper understanding and personal growth. It is the analysis and proclamation of God’s Word in a way that explains the meaning, context, and application to one’s life.
ENCOURAGING/EXHORTATION: Rom. 12:8 to come along the side of another with encouragement, counsel, and comfort to help them live and be as God desires. Greek word is “paraklesis” = coming along one’s side. This also carries with it the ability to strengthen those weaker in the faith and comforting those who are facing tribulation.
GIVING: Rom. 12:8 the sharing of one’s material goods with the utmost of generosity and cheerfulness with no expectation of being repaid.
LEADERSHIP: Rom. 12:8 to be at the forefront of a group in a way that attends to the direction of the body with extreme care and diligence motivating others to get involved in accomplishing the needed tasks. The word literally means “guide” and carries with it the idea of steering a ship.
MERCY: Rom. 12:8 an empathy and sensitivity for those who are suffering either physically, mentally, or emotionally and speaking and acting in compassion toward them in order to reduce the level of their distress.
WORD OF WISDOM: 1 Cor. 12:8 the application of knowledge to life in a way as to make spiritual truths “relevant and practical in proper decision-making and daily life situations.” The skillful application of biblical truth so it can be applied using great discernment.
WORD OF KNOWLEDGE: 1 Cor. 12:8 being driven to learn as much about the bible as one possibly can by gathering hordes of information, reading, studying, and then analyzing all of of that which is gathered. Another aspect is the understanding of truth in a way that can have only been gained by communication from God. The ability to grasp more difficult and so-called mysterious passages of the Bible with greater ease.
FAITH: 1 Cor. 12:8-10 to be completely convinced of God’s power and faithfulness to carry out His will and purpose and to radiate that confidence in Him and His Word in the midst of facing circumstances and situations that would normally cause others to doubt. Faith is a gift we all have to some degree or another. This is the one and only spiritual gift that all believers are given when regenerated (Galatians 5:22-23).
HEALING: 1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30 when God makes a person whole either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. It is important to remember it is God who does the healing, not man.
MIRACLES: 1 Cor. 12:10, 28 when God performs a mighty deed, or “signs and wonders”, in which those involved clearly acknowledge to be supernatural in origin. Again, this is an action of God, not man.
DISCERNMENT: 1 Cor. 12:10 to be able to recognize truth from error by determining if the source is from God, Satan/demons, or humans. It’s a gift given to the church for protection.
TONGUES: 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:27-28 the ability to speak in a language one has never learned in order that unbelievers can hear the message in their native tongue so that they may be edified.
INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES: 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:27-28 translating the message which was given by the individual who spoke in tongues.
HELPS: 1 Cor. 12:28 to give support or assistance to others in the body of Christ in order to free them up for other ministry activities. This gift is closely related to mercy. One with the gift of helps has compassion and empathy toward others.
HOSPITALITY: 1 Pet. 4:9-10 to genuinely welcome people, even strangers into one’s home or church with warmth, love, and acceptance. Desire and enjoyment in serving those in need of food and/or a place to stay. Greek word is “philoxenos” = love of strangers; ‘philos’ = love; ‘xenos’ = stranger.
POVERTY: 1 Cor. 13:3 deliberately living in poverty in order to focus on serving God and others. To cheerfully give up your material goods in order to better another.
CELIBACY: 1 Cor. 7:7-8 to purposefully remain single without any regret and having the ability to keep one’s sexual drive and impulses controlled and in check in order to give more time to God and serve Him with less distractions.
MARTYRDOM: 1 Cor. 13:3 giving one’s life to persecution, and even death, for the cause of Christ while maintaining peace within.
Gifts And Offices:
APOSTLE: Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28 to be sent out to new lands to share the Gospel, provide leadership for other church bodies, and maintain authority over spiritual issues that relate to the church. The Greek word is “apostolos,” ‘appo’ = from, ‘stello’ = send; one sent forth.
EVANGELIST: Eph. 4:11 a messenger who shares the Gospel with others. The Greek word is “euaggelistes” – preacher of the gospel; eu = well, angelos = message. Or, messenger of God.
MISSIONARY: Eph. 3:6-8 the ability and desire to minister in a different culture from your own.
PASTOR: Eph. 4:11 to be responsible for the spiritual care, protection, leading, guiding, and nurturing of a particular group of believers that have been entrusted to one’s care. Other biblical words related are elder and shepherd.
Well, that’s about it for our current purposes. Of course some of these gifts overlap. Also, some people might add a couple, some might remove a couple, some would include Teaching in the “Gifts and Offices” section, and there might be some other possible differences. However, for the most part, this information and list gives a good representation and brief description of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. May God equip you with the necessary gifts to serve your circle of influence in your personal ministry.
Rev. Jeff Hagan, DCE, DMin, (ThD)
Founder and President of True Grace Ministries and Theological Institute. http://www.truegraceinstitute.webs.com