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Christian Living

What Are Spiritual Gifts?

God Equips Us to Grow His Kingdom

The Bible talks about “gifts of the Spirit,” which we commonly call spiritual gifts (not to be confused with spiritual disciplines). Paul teaches about spiritual gifts extensively in his first letter to the church in Corinth. But what are spiritual gifts? Here’s what we can learn from him.

They Come from the Holy Spirit

God’s Holy Spirit supernaturally endows us with special abilities. This includes different types of service and work, but they’re all the result of God at work in us and through us (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

The gifts of the Spirit that God gives us are intended to benefit others, not ourselves. Click To Tweet

They Are for the Common Good of Jesus’s Followers

The gifts of the Spirit that God gives us are intended to benefit others, not ourselves. They help the church community, or they serve others outside the church. Sometimes they do both. When used properly, our spiritual gifts advance the kingdom of God, for his glory (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Sovereign Allocation

God doesn’t equip us with the same supernatural abilities. He gives each of us the spiritual gift or gifts needed to accomplish his divine purpose. Though we may wish to be gifted like someone else, we would be wrong to desire that person’s gift or begrudge them.

God gave them the gift he did and us with our gift because he is sovereign (a good sovereign), able to do whatever he wishes (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

One Body with Different Parts

Paul gives the Corinthians—and us—an example to help us understand how and why God allocates spiritual gifts the way he does. Think of a person with different body parts: a head, ears, eyes, hands, feet, and so forth.

Each part has a key purpose, and without one or more of our body parts, we would struggle to fully function.

The same is true with the church—that is, the body of Christ. For the church body to function as it should, all parts must be present and work together, each doing what it is designed to do. Just as the human body has diversity in its components, so does the church.

Through a diversity of people with various spiritual gifts, our church can become a unified whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).

A Pursuit Higher than Spiritual Gifts

Now that we know what are spiritual gifts, it’s exciting that God gives us special abilities (spiritual gifts) to equip us to serve and to work. Yet we should not overemphasize or become proud of the gifts he gave us.

Something is more important than any type of spiritual gift. And this is something for all of us. It’s something we can all do. Paul calls this the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).

What is it? Love (1 Corinthians 13).

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

God Gives Us Special Abilities to Advance His Kingdom

The topic of spiritual gifts confuses many people and perplexes others. It’s easy to understand a physical present, something we can put in a box, wrap, and put a bow on. Giving tangible objects as gifts is easy to comprehend—and to receive.

The disconnect comes as we move from the physical to the spiritual. God gives us spiritual gifts. These are significantly more important than a physical present anyone could ever offer. But these presents don’t come in a nicely gift-wrapped package, presented to us on a special occasion.

In the post What Are Spiritual Gifts? I offer a basic framework. God provides us with special abilities to grow his kingdom. These come from the Holy Spirit and are for our common good, divinely allocated as needed.

In each local church, we are one body made up of various parts. God equips each of us to do our part for his church. One way he does this is by supernaturally giving us special abilities.

To assist us in comprehending these spiritual presents, some examples will help us better understand. Bible scholars list spiritual gifts. Based on Scripture, they come up with between nine and twenty-three divine gifts, sometimes more.

Though this finite catalog of spiritual gifts is a smart place to begin, I don’t view any list as absolute. If it were, Paul would certainly have given them all in one place. He records thirteen for the church in Corinth and them tacks on four more.

He adds another quartet of gifts in his letter to the church in Rome and two more to the church in Ephesus. We can also find additional gifts in other New Testament books, as well as in the Old Testament.

We should view any list, regardless of its length, as the starting point and not the end. The basic truth about spiritual gifts is that the Holy Spirit will provide Jesus’s followers with special abilities to advance the kingdom of God.

May God lead you into discovering and using your spiritual gifts. Click To Tweet

How to Learn Your God-Given Gifts

If you want to discover what your gifts are, one option is to do a spiritual gifts assessment. There are both online resources and books that can help you determine your special abilities. One such book is Discover Your Spiritual Gifts by C. Peter Wagner, as well as many others.

Another discovery option is to ask close friends what areas of giftedness they see in you. Even better, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal this to you.

Whichever path you take, may God lead you into discovering and using the gifts God has given you.

Regardless of what our spiritual gifts are, our job becomes to receive these divine presents and use them for their intended purpose.

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. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How Many Spiritual Gifts Are There?

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.

Other Considerations

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).

20. Celibacy to not marry and abstain from sex (Matthew 19:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:7).

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.

When we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us special abilities, called spiritual gifts, to help advance the kingdom of God. Click To Tweet

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. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

Identify and Understand Your Unique God-Given Spiritual Gifts

By C. Peter Wagner (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Having read many books on spiritual gifts, Discover Your Spiritual Gifts is clearly one of the best. In a simple and easy-to-understand manner, Wagner succinctly explains what spiritual gifts are.

He teaches on their proper use and exposes ways in which they are sometimes misused. He also discloses danger signs and addresses common areas of confusion.

He wraps up Discover Your Spiritual Gifts with practical and helpful steps to discover, test, and verify one’s own spiritual gifts—which are provided to all who follow Jesus. As an added bonus a spiritual gifts assessment is included. A helpful glossary lists and explains each of the spiritual gifts.

Aside from Wagner’s straightforward presentation on the topic of spiritual gifts is that his list of gifts is extensive, covering all that are mentioned in the Bible, plus a few additional ones that have been added as a result of his observations.

This list of gifts is not expected to be complete or absolute, a fact Wagner confirms using scriptural support.

The list of gifts he advances is largely reflected in the spiritual gifts assessment he provides in the book. Unfortunately, when using the assessment, the results were not what I expected and did not fully align with other assessments I’ve taken or my experience in using various gifts.

Even so, this book is highly recommended as an ideal primer on spiritual gifts.

(Discover Your Spiritual Gifts is a condensed version of his prior work, which he recommends for additional detail: Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow.)

[Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, by C. Peter Wagner. Published by Regal Books, 2002, ISBN: 0-8307-2955-0, 95 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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