“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17).
God, our Father, pours out on us, His children, lavish spiritual and supernatural gifts.
Spiritual gifts are not talents or abilities or something we like to do. What are they, and what is their purpose?
It is so that through us, His children, Christ’s Church will be edified and glory brought to God, because God is a supernatural God. All spiritual gifts have been provided to equip us to glorify God. This is explained by Paul, who wrote that the gifts of the spirit are given:
“to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13)
Let’s break this down a bit further:
Gifts are given to manifest God’s presence in the body of Christ on earth
Jesus is our perfect example. He exemplified all the spiritual gifts through His words and the actions He carried out. Since Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father, the Holy Spirit is the primary manifestation of the presence of God on the earth. Thus our heavenly Father distributes the gifts of the Spirit among the members of His Body in various ways, so that believers and none believers may see and know the presence of God.
Gifts are given to remind us of our dependence upon one another
Rather than giving each believer all of the gifts, God gives each of His children specific gifts. He did this so that no one would, in the words of Paul in Romans 12 think of themselves…
“more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
Our walk of faith is a journey, a journey not completed until we get to heaven. On this journey God knows that we need to mature in all areas of our faith. So it is with spiritual gifts: they need to mature in us. When this happens our appreciation for all the members of the Body is magnified.
For example, if you have the gift of mercy, God has given you a heightened sensitivity to the hurts of others (so that HE might express HIS compassion to them through you). Until you understand that everyone else is NOT supposed to be as sensitive to others’ hurts (to the degree that you discern them and want to respond to them), you will probably be tempted to condemn others as callous and heartless.
This is an immature attitude because our personal human nature, which naturally operates pridefully,
assumes that “my perspective” is always right — and usually the “only” perspective.
If you think that way, you are deceiving yourself. Yes, your perspective is valid and essential, but it is not the only perspective. Others are not being callous; they simply do not “see” as you see.
In fact, others will be sensitive to needs to which you are totally oblivious, such as:
- the suffering person’s financial needs or
- the need to be shown the truth about the situation that is causing the suffering or
- the need to mow the sufferer’s overgrown lawn, which is frustrating his wife and his neighbours
So as different members of the Body of Christ discern each of these areas of need, all of the suffering person’s needs can be addressed and God will be glorified.
Therefore, we need each other desperately.
Thankfully, God has not given “the whole picture” to any individual, but through His grace and mercy, He has given each of us a “window” through which we are to perceive one another’s needs by using our spiritual gifts. Therefore, all the needs cannot be met unless the Body of Christ is thriving and practicing its gifts in love.
Gifts are given to build unity in the church
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts believers to endeavour, to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. (Ephesians 4:3). He also explains that God gave the ministry gifts (i.e. apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers):
“… to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. (Ephesians 4:12–13).
The truth is our differing gifts, empowered to us by the same Spirit, draw us together, because God wants us to depend on each other.
That’s why, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”” (1 Cor. 12:21).
Therefore, when the Holy Spirit is working strongly in a church to manifest God’s presence, one evidence will be a beautiful harmony in the church community and an overflowing love for one another.
Gifts are given to bring glory to God
God has given gifts to the Body of Christ,
- to manifest His presence among us,
- to remind us of our dependence upon one another
- and thus to build unity in the Church.
As this happens Christ’s Church individually and corporately is edified, so that we are better equipped to reach the lost. So through the gifts of the Holy Spirit as believers we are humbled, fulfilled, encouraged, and made useful in the hands of our Master, to whom all glory is due.
How do I identify my spiritual gifts?
Well there is no magic formula or definitive test that can tell us exactly what our spiritual gifts are.
The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
A common problem for Christians is the temptation to get so caught up in “our spiritual gift” that we only seek to serve God in the area in which we feel we have been gifted. That is not how God’s spiritual gifts work. God calls us to obediently serve Him in all things. As we learn to do this on our walk of faith He will equip us with whatever gift or gifts we need to accomplish the task He has called us to.
Identifying our spiritual giftedness can be accomplished in various ways.
We can use resources like Spiritual gift tests or inventories. They are helpful as they can help us understand where our gifting might be, but should not to be fully relied upon.
Confirmation from others, as others who see us serving the Lord can often identify a spiritual gift in us that we might take for granted. It’s too easy for us to assume that all Christians do such and such,
so we don’t readily recognise it as a gift from the Holy Spirit.
However, PRAYER is most important in discerning your spiritual gifts. The truth is the one person who knows exactly how we are spiritually gifted is the gift-giver Himself – the Holy Spirit. We are to ask God to show us how He has gifted us in order to better use our spiritual gifts for His glory.
Yes, God calls some to be teachers and gives them the gift of teaching. God also calls some to be servants and blesses them with the gift of “helps”. However, specifically knowing our spiritual gift does not excuse us from serving God in areas outside our gifting.
Is it beneficial to know what spiritual gift(s) God has given us? Of course it is. Is it wrong to focus so much on spiritual gifts that we miss other opportunities to serve God? YES.
If we are dedicated to being used by God, He will equip us with the spiritual gifts we need.
A Biblical Spiritual Gifts List
There are three Biblical lists of the “gifts of the Spirit,” also known as spiritual gifts. The three main passages describing these spiritual gifts are Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28.
The spiritual gifts identified in Romans 12 are:
prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy.
The list in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 includes:
the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.
The list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 includes:
healings, helps, administration/governments, diversities of tongues.
I invite you to read through the list below prayerfully, asking God to show you if He has given you a particular gift or gifts. Remember, spiritual gifts are not natural talents or abilities or something you like to do. They are to help you serve God and glorify his holy name.
A brief description of each spiritual gift follows:
Prophecy – Is “a speaking forth” from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden. This includes foretelling future events. To prophesy is to declare the divine will, to interpret the purposes of God, & to make known in any way the truth of God that is designed to influence people. This involves speaking by divine revelation God’s message with power and authority.
Serving – Also referred to as ministering. This is service of any kind. i.e. the broad application of practical help to those in need. They are known for their faithfulness and loyalty.
Teaching – This gift involves the analysis and proclamation of the Word of God, explaining the meaning, context and application to the hearer’s life, specifically the doctrines of the faith.
Encouraging – Also called exhortation, this gift is evident in those who consistently call upon others to heed and follow God’s truth, which may involve correction or building others up by strengthening weak faith or comforting in trials.
Giving – Gifted givers are those who joyfully share what they have with others, whether it is financial, material, or the giving of personal time and attention. The giver is concerned for the needs of others and seeks opportunities to share goods, money and time with them as needs arise.
Leadership – The gifted leader is one who rules, presides over or has the management of other people in the church. The word literally means “guide” and carries with it the idea of one who steers a ship. One with the gift of leadership rules with wisdom and grace and exhibits the fruit of the Spirit in his life as he leads by example.
Mercy – Closely linked with the gift of encouragement, the gift of mercy is obvious in those who are compassionate toward others who are in distress, showing sympathy and sensitivity coupled with a desire and the resources to lessen their suffering in a kind and cheerful manner.
Word of wisdom – This is one of the speaking gifts and describes someone who can understand and speak forth biblical truth in such a way as to skilfully apply it to life situations with all discernment.
Word of knowledge – This is another speaking gift that involves understanding truth with an insight that only comes by revelation from God. Those with the gift of knowledge understand the deep things of God and the mysteries of His Word.
Faith – All believers possess faith in some measure because it is one of the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on all who come to Christ in faith (Galatians 5:22-23). The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, His promises, and the power of prayer to effect miracles.
Healing – God does still heal today so miraculous healings affirm that God is present for He is a God of life.
Miraculous powers – Also known as the working of miracles, this is a sign gift which involves performing supernatural events that could only be attributed to the power of God (Acts 2:22). This gift was exhibited by Paul (Acts 19:11-12), Peter (Acts 3:6), Stephen (Acts 6:8), and Phillip (Acts 8:6-7), among others.
Distinguishing (discerning) of spirits – This is the unique ability to determine the true message of God from that of the deceiver, Satan, whose methods include purveying deceptive and erroneous doctrine. Jesus said many would come in His name and would deceive many (Matthew 24:4-5), but the gift of discerning spirits is given to individuals and the Church to protect it from such as these.
Speaking in tongues – The gift of tongues is a “sign gift” and is the divine ability to speak in languages previously unknown to the speaker. See interpretation of tongues below.
Sometimes speaking in tongues is for the benefit of those who only know another language who otherwise would not hear the Word of God being proclaimed. (Note this is different from praying in tongues).
Interpretation of tongues – A person with the gift of interpreting tongues could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he did not know the language that was being spoken. The tongues interpreter would then communicate the message of the tongues speaker to everyone else, so all could understand.
Helps – Closely related to the gift of mercy is the gift of helps. Those with the gift of helps are those who can aid or render assistance to others with compassion and grace. This has a broad range of possibilities for application. Most importantly, this is the unique ability to identify those who are struggling with doubt, fears, and other spiritual battles; to move toward those in spiritual need with a kind word, an understanding and compassionate demeanour; and to speak scriptural truth that is both convicting and loving.
Administration/governments – A gift that takes the form of being able to offer sound advice and judgement in directing church affairs.
Apostleship – The gift of fulfilling the ministry of the Word of God, and to be exercised among nonbelievers. Paul went to the Gentiles; Peter went to the Jews.
When you identify your own gifts (and this list is far from complete) ask God how He wants you to use them to build up His family. At the same time, realise your gifts can’t do the work of the church all alone. So be thankful for people whose gifts are completely different from yours. Let your strengths balance their weaknesses, and be grateful that their abilities make up for your deficiencies. Together we can build Christ’s Church.