Spiritual Gifts

Is you have a basket of apples, oranges, and bananas - what do you have? A basket of apples? No. You have a basket of fruit. So it is with the three categories of gifts enumerated in the New Testament. All three groups are composed of gifts but, like the fruit in the basket, each group is unique and distinct from the others

One of these groups of God-given gifts holds holds the key to understanding many things about yourself-why you think and act the way you do, how you relate to other people and circumstances around you, and what makes you the special individual you are. This group of gifts will be the focus of this pages, the gifts we feel are primarily spoken of in this verse from 1 Peter:

As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ if for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace-faithful stewards of the extremely divers [powers and gifts granted to the extremely divers [powers and gifts granted to Christians by] unmerited favor. 1 Peter 4:10, TAB    

Here, unmistakably, is a statement that every believer has been given a gift. Here, also, is a command to employ it for the benefit of others. We can be confident that God would not command us to use something we do not possess-but how do we get it?

The Greek word for “gift” in this verse is charisma, defined in my Greek dictionary as “ a divine gratuity … a spiritual endowment … a free gif.” So this is not something we can earn; in fact, the command is not to try to deserve it, but to use it. This kind of gift is a possession, something already given to each one of us by God at our creation.

And as I mentioned, this is true of only one of the groups of gifts found in the New Testament. Let’s look briefly at each listing to see which one falls into this category of special gifts that reveal so  much about the way God made us.

The Manifestation Gifts

The first group of gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 12:  

But to each one is given the manifestation of the (Holy) Spirit - that is, the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit-for good and profit. To one os given in and through the (Holy) Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the some (Holy) Spirit; To another (wonder-working) faith by the same (Holy) Spirit, to another the extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit; To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight-that is the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose; to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterance of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kind of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such] tongues.  Verses 7-10, TAB

There are nine gifts listed here:

  1. The word of wisdom, a revelation of wisdom beyond natural human wisdom that enables a person to know what to do or say.  

  2. The word of knowledge, a revelation of information for a person, group, or situation that could not have been known by any natural means.

  3. Faith, the kind of wonder-working faith that moves mountains and waits expectantly for results.

  4. Gifts of healing, the many different ways and varieties of degrees in which God manifests healing.

  5. Working of miracles, the demonstration of the power and action of God that goes beyond natural laws.

  6. Prophecy, and anointed proclamation of God through an individual to encourage, exhort, or comfort.

  7. Discerning of spirits, a person’s ability to perceive what type of spirit is in operation in a given situation.     

  8. Various kinds of tongues, the languages given to the believers by the Holy Spirit but not learned or understood by the speaker.  

  9. Interpretation of tongues, the supernatural ability to express the content of what has been spoken in tongues.

Some call these the manifestation gifts because Paul used the Greek word phanerosis, meaning “an exhibition, expression, or manifestation.” In other words, Paul defined these as supernatural manifestations of Holy Spirit at work through a believer.   

This listing of gifts is not the object of our study. The first reason is the Bible shows that it is the person being ministered to who actually receives the gift (such as when Jesus heals the blind or lame). The second reason is no one can dictate when the gift is to be used; the Holy Spirit is the One in charge of the gift working through an available and expectant vessel. These, then, are not the primary possessions indicted in 1 Peter.

The Ministry Gifts    

The second listing of gifts is found in Ephesians 4. In this instance, the word for gift in verse 8-”... He ascended up on high … and gave gifts [doma] unto me” (KJV)- means literally “a present.” Looking at this verse in context we see that after Jesus ascended to the Father He presented gifts of people who were called and gifted to lead and train the rest of the Body of Christ.   

While many versions do not repeat the implied word “gift” in verse 11, the Amplified Bible does:

And His gifts were [varied; He Himself a appointed and gave men to us,] some to be apostle (special messenger), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock), and teachers.

               Ephesians 4:11

It is important to note that in this verse the words “men” and “some” are used in the sense of “mankind”-men and women. Therefore, both can be domas to minister to the Body of Christ.

The are five ministry gifts listed in this passage:

  1. The apostle, one who establishes and strengthens churches.  

  2. The prophet, one who speaks forth the message of God.

  3. The evangelist, one who is called to preach the Gospel.

  4. The pastor, one who feeds and shepherds the believers.

  5. The teacher, one who instructs believers in the Word of God.

We purposely list these gifts in lower-case type to emphasize the fact that these are not titles, but functions. A person does not become a prophet by being given the name. Rather, he becomes a prophet as he develops his God-given ability to function in prophet-like ways, responding to God’s specific call with a willing heart.

The purpose of these ministry gifts is clear. The New American Standard Bible states it this way:

And He gave some as apostle, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teacher, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God…

Ephesians 4:11-13

These five ministry gifts might equally well be called “equipping” gifts, enabling the saints (believers) to do the work of the ministry so that Christ’s Body on earth (the Church) can function as His true representative.

Therefore, neither are these gifts the possessions-the things that belong to us-spoken of in 1 Peter 4:10. Rather they are people who are gifted to be equippers of the rest of the Body of Christ.

The Motivational Gifts

Now turn to the listing of gifts in the New Testament found in the book of Romans.

Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is ] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; [He who exhorts, encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.

Romans 12:6-8 TAB

    Charisma is the Greek word here, the same word used in 1 Peter 4:10. We believe this is the category of gifts that Peter was referring to when he said we were to employ them to benefit one another. Notice the Romans passage urges us to use them. This verse is like a repetition, an echo of Peter’s statement.

    This is the list of gifts that is the focus of this pages. These are the gifts we possess. These are the gifts that God has built into us, made part of us, to be used for the benefit of others and for His glory. Like all the others, they are grace gifts. We do not deserve them. But because God loves us He gives them to us. Since they provide the motivating force for our lives, they have been called motivational gifts. They are the gifts that shape our personalities.

    Because God has created us with free will we can choose to use our motivational gifts appropriately, or we can choose to neglect them, or even to abuse them. To be able to choose to use these gifts according to the will of God, it is important to have some understanding of what they are and how they function. That will be our goal in the following pages. Here we will just touch on the seven gifts briefly by presenting the seven key words we have chosen to identify the various recipients.

  1. Perceiver, one who clearly perceives the will of God. We have purposely chosen this word rather than the word “prophet” to avoid confusion, since the same root word is also used in the two other categories of gifts.   

  1. Serve, one who loves to serve others. ANother appropriate word is “doer.”

  1. Teacher, one who loves to research and communicate truth. We almost selected the word “researcher” since that motivation is so strong.  

  1. Exhorter, one who loves to encourage others to live a victorious life. These are extremely positive people who can equally well be called “encouragers.”

  1. Giver, one who loves to give time, talent, energy, and means to benefit others and advance the Gospel. Another word could be “contributor.”

  1. Administrator, one who loves to organize, lead, or direct. Other words could be “facilitator” and leader.”

  2. Compassion person, one who shows compassion, love, and care to those in need. We say “compassion” instead or “mercy” since this word is more comprehensive in today’s usage.

The Gifts in Context

It is always important to look at any verse you plan to study in the context of the entire passage. In this case, we should focus briefly on the first five verses o in the context of the entire of the twelfth chapter tudy It is always important to look at any verses you plan to s of Romans, the verses preceding the list of motivational gifts.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies—presenting all your members and faculties- as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

Do not be conformed to this world—this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs. But be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind—by its new ideals and its new attitude—so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn a every one among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought—not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance; but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.

For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use,

So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ, the Messiah, and individually we are parts one of another—mutually dependent on one another.

Romans 12:1-5, TAB

Three Categories of Gifts

In the first verse Paul, writing the Christians in Rome, states that all believers are to pre-sent themselves to God as living sacrifices. It is only by this wholehearted dedication that our motivational gifts can be used as they were intended.

In the second verse we learn that we need to have our minds renewed. How do we do this? By the Word of God. As we prayerfully read and study the Bible, it becomes a living, personalized revelation of God to each believer, and our minds are cleansed and renewed.

In the third verse we learn, first, that we are to have a right attitude about ourselves—gratefulness and humility rather than conceit, and an objective sense of value rather than self-abasement. And we learn, second, that each of us has been given a degree of faith that will allow us to operate effectively in our motivational gifts: The perceiver has faith that God will answer petitions; the server has faith that enables him to complete whatever task is started; the teacher has faith that he can ferret out the facts of any matter; the exhorter has faith that there is a solution to every problem; the giver has faith that God will supply all needs; the administrator has faith that any project can be accomplished if the right people are brought together to do it; and the compassion person has faith that he can help people work together in love.

In the fourth and fifth verses we learn that we need to discern the various gifts in the Body of Christ and work together in mutual interdependence.

In this context we can see the importance of using our motivational gifts for the glory of God for this is the only way we will find fulfillment. These gifts—of which we have mostly been unaware—are the motivating forces of our lives, and unless they are channeled properly we cannot help but feel frustrated. But once we discover them, we discover a tremendous potential for happiness.

This pages will show you not only how to identify your gifts but also how to release these gifts more effectively. You will see how your particular gifts have been evident in your actions even from early childhood. You will understand that the gifts give you your basic motivation for what you like to do and they affect the way you do it. You will also find that when you use your special gifts only for your own selfish ends, they will tend to become polluted. But, when you use your gifts for the benefit of others, cooperating with God's plan for your life, they will produce the greatest joy you can experience.

There is one more list of gifts in the Bible. It is not a new list, but rather a composite of the three lists already mentioned. It is found in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, (NAS):

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?"


 Helps (serving)

    This passage is immediately followed by the famous "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13. Paul is making an important point, that whether or not you are operating in the motivational gifts, the ministry gifts, or the manifestation gifts, if you don't do it in love-God's agape love-you are doing nothing! An apt admonition to remember at all times.