The Holy Spirit Gives Jesus’s Followers Special Abilities
In the Bible, Paul talks about spiritual gifts, special abilities given to us by the Holy Spirit. These aren’t for our personal use but for the common good of Jesus’s followers, that is, his church. Some of these supernatural abilities enhance our existing capabilities, while others are new skills we didn’t have before.
Here are the main spiritual gifts we find in the Bible.
First Corinthians Lists Nine Spiritual Gifts
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul talks about spiritual gifts. He says they’re given through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). They are:
1. Wisdom: ability to apply spiritual truth to meet specific needs or situations.
2. Knowledge: provide truth by revealing critical information, biblical understanding, or supernatural insight.
3. Faith: confidence in God that he will provide, protect, and answer prayers.
4. Healing: ability to pray, touch, or speak words that produce spiritual, physical, or emotional healing. (See “3 Unusual Examples of God’s Healing Power.”)
5. Miracles: show God’s power through supernatural action.
6. Prophecy: guide others by speaking truth to cause correction or repentance.
7. Discernment: able to distinguish between truth and error, fact and fiction.
8. Tongues: talk in a language unknown to the speaker for the purpose of prayer, worship, or for others.
9. Interpretation: tell others what someone said in tongues.
Paul Adds Four More Gifts
A bit later in his letter Paul adds four additional items to the list (1 Corinthians 12:28). Though he doesn’t specifically call them gifts, God does assign them. In this list, Paul repeats miracles, healing, and speaking in tongues. But he also includes four more items:
10. Apostleship: oversee and lead a ministry or missionary effort.
11. Teaching: understand and explain biblical truth to help others apply it to their lives and grow in faith.
12. Helps/Service: assist a ministry or person to meet needs and accomplish objectives.
13. Administration: organize and execute ministry goals.
Romans Lists Four More Spiritual Gifts
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he talks about God giving us different abilities, that is, spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8). God does this by his grace, granting us what we don’t deserve. Again we see some repetition with prophecy, faith, serving (helps), and teaching.
In addition, Paul lists another four spiritual gifts:
14. Exhortation/Encouragement: encourage people through words of comfort, inspiration, and reassurance.
15. Giving: generously provide money and resources for ministry.
16. Leadership: cast vision, motivate, and build teams to advance God’s kingdom.
17. Mercy: provide compassion to the poor and hurting.
18. Evangelism: build relationships and engage in spiritual conversations to tell people about Jesus (Ephesians 4:11).
19. Shepherd: nurture, care for, and guide people in their spiritual journey (Ephesians 4:11).
21. Hospitality: offer food, housing, or relationship to provide a comfortable environment (1 Peter 4:9-10).
22. Craftsmanship: creativity to design or build items for ministry (Exodus 31:3).
23. Intercession: pray for others in response to Holy Spirit prompting (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
In listing how many spiritual gifts there are, some people add counseling, exorcism, martyrdom, and voluntary poverty to the list.
Scholars like to debate how many spiritual gifts there are, but since Paul doesn’t provide the same list each time he talks about them, this suggests there isn’t a finite list of these special God-given abilities. Instead there are some common gifts that recur among a much wider array of possibilities.
Regardless of how many spiritual gifts are on the list, the key point is that when we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us special abilities for us to use to advance the kingdom of God. We must learn what spiritual gifts he gave us and then use them for his glory.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.