Notes on Spiritual Gifts

Definition -- a divine gift of a special ability for service unto the body of Christ. A God-given ability to perform certain functions in the body of Christ.

or, an enablement by God in the power of the Holy Spirit to do or say something beyond one's natural ability in order to fulfill a specific purpose of God.

Not The Same As Talent. Lost and saved people have talent. Talent operates on a social or physical level, while spiritual gifts work on a spiritual level. Talents are obtained through physical birth, while spiritual gifts are obtained through the rebirth.

Not The Same As The Fruit Of The Spirit. As we mature in Christ, the Holy Spirit will grow the same fruit in all of us. The fruit are an inward manifestation of the work of the Spirit in us, while the gifts are an outward manifestation. [Galatians 5:22-23]

Key Facts About Spiritual Gifts

Knowing Your Spiritual Gift Is Important Because

II Corinthians  3:5-6 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant...

How Can You Determine Your Spiritual Gift


We'll have to account for our stewardship of our spiritual gifts. By presenting our bodies a living sacrifice, we are able to "prove" God's will. That is, we will know we are serving God as He intended. Other people will affirm to us what our gifts are.

We must become servants and (figuratively) wear a towel around our waist (as Jesus did in John 13). Christianity is not a spectator sport -- we are not to be mere pew-warmers -- we each have a spiritual gift that we are commanded to use in service to God and to the body.

The Purpose Of Spiritual Gifts--

Our Priority

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

Now Let's Look At The Individual Gifts

I Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.
I Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects [results], but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

See I Corinthians 12:8ff

How many spiritual gifts are there? Some people see 19-21; others see 9 with the other 10-12 being manifestations of the primary 9.

Categories Of Spiritual Gifts

There are two broad categories of spiritual gifts, speaking and service.

Speaking Gifts

  1. Apostles -- literally, sent ones. In a narrow sense, this gift ended when the last of the 12 apostles died. But in a broader sense, missionaries who cross cultures and plant churches demonstrate the same urgency of mission. They feel at ease with people of different cultures, races, or languages, and are willing to go wherever God chooses. Ephesians 4:11
  2. Prophecy -- proclaiming with authority the intention of God. This gift strengthens, comforts, and encourages (I Corinthians 14:3), and is demonstrated by Holy Spirit-inspired preachers who boldly proclaim biblical principles and truths. Ephesians 4:11
  3. Pastor-teacher -- shepherd, one who cares for, watches over, spiritually feeds, and tends their sheep. They assume a long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers. Ephesians 4:11
  4. Teaching -- the ability to explain what Scripture says, what it means, and what you ought to do about it. They inspire their listeners to apply Bible truths to their own lives. They speak the Word of God clearly and are conscientious to be accurate. They like to study God's Word and share the results of their study with others in an interesting way. Romans 12:6-7, I Corinthians 12:28-29
  5. Evangelists -- a special ability to share the good news with lost people, and to lead them to Christ. They are burdened for the lost and have an urgent desire to share their faith. The existence of this gift (estimated to fall on about 10 percent of Christians) does not relieve the rest of us of our responsibility to witness as best we can, and leave the results to God. Ephesians 4:11
  6. Exhortation -- the special ability God gives to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement and counsel. They entreat, admonish, encourage, and listen. The Holy Spirit is called the PARAKLETE (one who comes alongside to help). This is the same root word. This gift is normally exercised one-to-one. Romans 12:8
  7. Word of Knowledge -- the gift stresses the importance of intellect; they are able to understand and organize the truths of the Word of God. These people like to search the Scripture, analyze ideas, and gather and summarize facts. Could also be when a person receives "a word of knowledge" from God about some situation. I Corinthians 12:8
  8. Word of Wisdom -- the gift of applying knowledge to daily experiences; they are able to take God's truth and relate it to daily living. These people see clear answers to complex problems, and have the ability to make wise decisions, often by thinking of a relevant Scripture that clarifies the issue. I Corinthians 12:8 plus James 3:15-18

Serving Gifts

  1. Helps/Service -- these people have the God-given ability to invest the talents they have in the life and ministry of other members of the body, thus enabling the person helped to increase the effectiveness of his or her spiritual gifts. They generally make themselves useful, and try to meet needs as they are able to. I Corinthians 12:28 also Acts 9:36.
  2. Hospitality -- people who enjoy sharing their homes with those in need of food or lodging have this gift. The need may be overnight accommodations for members of a traveling youth choir or a dinner invitation to a lonely friend. Romans 12:13
  3. Giving -- a special generosity to contribute their material resources to the work of the Lord with liberality and cheerfulness. They share what they have whether a little or a lot with such cheerfulness that others are blessed. Romans 12:8 [plus II Corinthians  8:2-5 "they first gave themselves to the Lord"]
  4. Leadership -- the special ability from God to set goals in accordance with God's purpose for the future and to communicate these goals to others in such a way that they voluntarily and harmoniously work together to accomplish those goals for the glory of God. Romans 12:8
  5. Administration -- the ability to understand clearly the immediate and long-range goals of a particular congregation and to devise and execute plans for the accomplishment of those goals. An extroverted personality or the ability to speak publicly are not prerequisites. They express their spiritual authority with tact and humility. They should be able to recognize spiritual gifts in others and recruit people to various jobs in the church. I Corinthians 12:28
  6. Mercy -- people with the gift of mercy feel genuine empathy and compassion for the loneliness, despair, and burdens of people like those described in  Matthew 25:34-46: the hungry, strangers, the sick, prisoners, the naked. They translate their compassion into cheerfully done deeds which reflect Christ's love and help alleviate the suffering. Romans 12:8
  7. Gift of Faith -- an unusual ability to trust God for great things. Every Christian has been allotted a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) but people with this gift are able to discern with confidence the will and purpose of God for the future of His work. I Corinthians 12:9
  8. Discerning of spirits -- the ability to detect deficiency in the truth of a sermon, a book, a speech, or a conversation. They have the ability to spot a phony. Their gift enables them to discriminate between the divine, the human, or the satanic in behavior or in a speech that claims to be from God. I Corinthians 12:10

Others -- Are They Valid For Today?

  1. Gifts of Healing -- there may be individuals whom God has chosen as intermediaries through whom it pleases Him to cure illness and restore health. Most often these gifts come directly from God to the sick person through prayer. I Corinthians 12:28 James 5:14-15
  2. Miracles -- works of supernatural origin. There is no explanation in the natural realm for these events. I Corinthians 12:10
  3. Diverse kinds of tongues -- languages, never unknown languages. Not for everyone. Most evangelicals believe this gift has no relevance for today, while Pentecostals believe they are relevant today. I Corinthians 12:10,28,30 I Corinthians 14:4ff
  4. The interpretation of tongues -- since there is no edification in hearing gibberish, there must be an interpreter present to receive from God the meaning of a message in tongues. Paul wrote of tongues only in I Corinthians and then because of its abuse. I Corinthians 12:10

This list should be taken as representative of the ways God endows His people for service, rather than an exhaustive listing.


  1. "Uniquely Gifted - Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts", Stuart Calvert, 1993.
  2. "Spiritual Gifts and Church Growth", Fuller Evangelistic Association, 1978.
  3. Personal notes from a tape series by Kay Arthur, 1978.
  4. Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, Zodhiates, 1990.
  5. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Richards, 1985.