Spiritual gifts (or charismata), according to some Christian denominations such as Pentecostal, are gifts that are bestowed on Christians, each having his or her own proper gift (or gifts) to strengthen the church. They are described in the New Testament, primarily in First Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4.
Some believe their operation was limited to early Christianity. According to some Protestant denominations some of the spiritual gifts, for example speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, were enjoyed only for a short time and were suited to the Church's infancy, not to later times. This view is known as cessationism. This opinion is held by John F. MacArthur, Jr., Robert L. Thomas and many other conservative mainline Christian denominations. In contrast, some Christian scholars such as Zola Levitt maintain that the number of gifts cannot be determined, because, as Levitt puts it, "A spiritual gift is anything that a person can do supernaturally well."
Other groups, including Pentecostal, and other Holiness denominations of Christianity, take an opposing view, believing that the spiritual gifts are still given by the Holy Spirit today, and Pentecostal meetings often involve ordinary parishioners displaying the use of these gifts (1 Cor 14). In addition, sections of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many other Protestant denominations also continue to believe in and make use of spiritual gifts.
Emphasis on teaching about the nine gifts of the Spirit originated from Howard Carter, an early Pentecostal evangelist. This is based on the text from 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 giving the gifts and listing them as the "gifts of the Spirit". They were later taught and popularized by Lester Sumrall, who accompanied Carter on many missionary journeys in his youth. Modern Bible teachers and scholars have come to the conclusion that there are other gifts of the Spirit listed in Scripture, as seen in the chart below.
A list based on 1 Corinthians (12:4-6)
These three verses in I Corinthians 12 seem to suggest that what is commonly termed as "Spiritual Gifts" may more accurately be described as "The Trinity Gifts" or "Gifts from the Godhead" although these terms are not specifically used in the Bible. However a closer look at each one of the 3 verses above will show that there are three distinct categories identified as Gifts, Operations, Administrations and Manifestation that are given by God, the Lord and the Spirit.This distinction is important as each set of Gifts are different in their usage, purpose and origin.
Taking into account that the Godhead, the Trinity, is said to be involved in all areas of their Creation, Redemption of man and End Time Revelation it would seem plausible to some that the Trinity would also be involved in the area of giving gifts to men.
|The Father (operative gifts)||The Son (administrative gifts)||The Holy Spirit (charismatic gifts)|
|Romans 12:6-8||Ephesians 4:11||1 Corinthians 12:1-14|
Certain individuals hold that the short list of Gifts identified in I Cor (12:27-30) is a list drawn from the top three and is more a summary or "recap" as the Apostle's discourse concludes and he speaks in general terms to all members of the Body of Christ who share in the variety of the three sets of Gifts.
Trying to distinguish one Gift from another or one Category of Gifts from the other is not an easy task. In trying to make this distinction it must be born in mind that Paul uses the same Greek word (charismata) to describe them so one has to ask the question as to whether he meant them to be differentiated in this way. The Scriptures do, however, lend a hand at sorting these out when referencing 1 Cor (12:4-6), Eph (4:12-13) and Rom(12:1-6). Each category of Gifts having a different number of Gifts and are directed by one of the Members of the Trinity.
The Corinthians category has the distinction of being Gifts as opposed to Administrations and Operations (verses 4-6). Verse 7, however, identifies and clarifies them precisely as Manifestations that are available to all in the Body of Christ without reservation and at the will of the Spirit. The Spirit chooses one or another to exhibit a particular Gift for the profit of all. One may be given the Gifts of Healing because of a hospital visit that day while the following day is given the Gift of Prophecy in order to communicate God's will and love to a local congregation. These Gifts are understood to be manifestations given at the time of need for the purpose at hand. Each individual if open and willing to be used by the Spirit will eventually be used at the discretion of the Spirit.
The Ephesians Category is somewhat different in its application and its nature. The gifts of this category are identified as Gifts given by the Son, the Lord, to the Body of Christ. Verse 8 implies that these Gifts are part of the benefits of the resurrection which are directly associated with the works of the Son. Verses 12 and 13 state that they are given for the body and its edification. A review of 1 Cor (12:5) tells us that the gifts are gifts of Administrations. In light of the above these gifts can be termed as administrative or ministry positions within the body of Christ that are instituted by Jesus by a particular calling. This view being supported by Rom(11:29) "The Gifts and Callings of the Lord are without repentance". Jesus, the Son, therefore calls individuals to take on administrative positions or roles (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers) within the body of Christ for the edification of all.
The Romans Category of Gifts are given by the Father, identified as God in verse 6 of Corinthians 12. The passage in Romans 12 is a little more obscure in its identification of the Giver yet the context of the passage and, once again the verse 1 Cor (12:6) will support the Giver as being God the Father.
Rom (12:1-4)" -1- I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. -2- And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. -3- For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
Contrary to Ephesians 4 these Gifts are not administrative nor are they callings (Rom 12). They are meted out to all for Service in the Body and considered Operational in their application. (1 Cor 12:6) These particular Gifts have not been restricted to the Body of Christ like the other two categories but have been given to all people ever born. As per (1 Cor 12:6)"And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." The word "all" being the same as the "all" in "All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God" and Jesus died for "all".
Another thought("Discover your God given Gifts", Don & Katie Fortune, Chosen Books-Baker Book House, 1987, page 17)on these Operational Gifts is that they are "innate" or given to everyone in one degree or another. Everybody being able to Teach, Serve, Rule, etc. in various capacities and with varied effectiveness according the measure attributed to each individual. One may be very comfortable and effective at Teaching while not so effective at Exhortation. God being "no respecter of persons" metes out the seven gifts to all individuals so that everyone can function equally serving one another for the benefit of all. (Love your neighbour as yourself)
List of spiritual gifts
There are various opinions as to the number of spiritual gifts. There are also different ways of categorizing the gifts proposed.
Many items appearing as spiritual gifts are also required by the Bible of all Christians, such as faith, prayer, evangelism and so on. One explanation is that the spiritual gift of faith means faith despite the circumstances, or a particularly strong faith in God. The spiritual gift of prayer could mean a supernatural confidence in prayer, or a special ability to pray. All believers are encouraged to share Jesus with other people, but the gift of evangelism could mean a particular gift to reach others.
Note: Links are sometimes to a general context, not a specific context as a spiritual gift per se. For example, "faith" links not to the spiritual gift of faith per se, but to faith in a more general context.
Charismatic gifts (1 Corinthians 12)
Also known as the "manifestation gifts" or "miraculous gifts". Some[who?]limit the term "spiritual gifts" to just the charismatic gifts. Cessationism claims that these gifts ceased to operate (through individuals) early in Christian history. Its counterpart continuationism claims that they still operate today. They are believed by some to be transmitted through the laying on of hands.
- word of wisdom / message of wisdom, 1Cor 12:8
- word of knowledge / message of knowledge, 1 Cor 12:8
- faith, 1 Cor 12:9
- gifts of healing, 1 Cor 12:9, 12:28
- miracles / miraculous powers, 1 Cor 12:10, 12:28
- prophecy / prophesying / prophets, 1 Cor 12:10, 1 Cor 12:28, Rom 12:6, Eph 4:11
- discernment of spirits / distinguishing of spirits, 1 Cor 12:10
- speaking in tongues / varieties of tongues / speaking in different kinds of tongues, 1 Cor 12:10
- interpretation of tongues, 1 Cor 12:10
"Speaking in tongues" and "interpretation of tongues" are sometimes viewed as one gift, "tongues." The TNIV footnote has "languages" as a possible translation for "tongues", since this is clearly (based on Acts 2) what the word refers to. Also, the nine gifts in 1 Cor 12 are sometimes divided into three categories, "gifts of knowledge" (wisdom, knowledge, discernment), "gifts of speech" (tongues, interpretation, prophecy), and "gifts of power" (faith, healing, miracles).
Other commonly listed gifts
- apostles, 1 Cor 12:28, Eph 4:11. Some believe that the gift of apostleship was for the first apostles (Christian leaders/disciples) only.
- teachers / teaching, 1 Cor 12:28, Rom 12:7, Eph 4:11
- helps / helping, 1 Cor 12:28
- administrations / guidance, 1 Cor 12:28
- ministry / serving, Rom 12:7
- encouragement / exhortation, Rom 12:8
- giving, Rom 12:8
- leading, Rom 12:8
- showing mercy, Rom 12:8
- evangelists, Eph 4:11
- pastors, Eph 4:11
- teachers Eph 4:11. Some take "pastors and teachers" to be combined.
There is less consensus about other gifts not specifically mentioned in the usual lists of gifts, but that nonetheless seem to be hinted at in scripture. Some are found in the New Testament such as:
Others are found in the Old Testament such as:
- worship (gift of music)
- interpretation of dreams
Some of these lesser known gifts are explored in the book Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose & Power by Bryan Carraway.
Gifts of the spirit are clearly distinguished from the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Jesus predicted the occurrence of false gifts, particularly in the end time (Matthew 24:24, 7:22,23). Hence while spiritual gifts are very important for a Christian, the fruit of the spirit is a better test of the genuineness of a person.
Gifts of the Spirit Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12,13 & 14, Ephesians 4
Apostle: One sent by God with a holy mission to fulfill; and the supernatural power and spiritual gifts to fulfill the mission. Known by the fruit of the spirit overflowing. Apostolic ministry involves laying foundation. In the case of Paul and Barnabas, we see this expressed in 'church planting' by preaching the Gospel in new areas. Apostles in scripture worked in teams. An apostolic team shared a 'measure of rule' in churches started through their ministry in regions where they are the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. (II Corinthians 10.)
Prophet: One who speaks, or communicates a message, authoritatively, as moved by the Holy Ghost. Known by their good fruit.
Evangelist: Someone who desires that all should come to know the truth that God loves everyone so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for their redemption, or someone who is gifted to proclaim this message.
Pastor: A word that means 'shepherd.' Pastors are gifted to lead, guide, and set an example for other Christians.
Teacher: Someone able to understand the more difficult things of God and explain them in a way that is easy to understand and live by in daily life.
Service: Supernatural ability to do for others whatever needs to be done. Divine ability to carry another burden or task without notice or earthly reward.
Exhortation: the ability to motivate Christians to do the works of Christ.
Giving: being blessed by God with resources or time and being able to give them where and when they are needed with a cheerful heart.
Leadership: God-given insight into when something needs to be done, who can do it, how it can be completed, and how to lead those people to get it accomplished.
Mercy: A heart to care for and encourage those who are not able to care for themselves and whom no one else would care for. Knowing who to help and when to help.
Word of wisdom: A message, concept, or bit of wisdom that God reveals supernaturally to the recipient. It may or may not be shared with others.
Word of knowledge: A message, concept, or bit of knowledge that God reveals supernaturally to the recipient. It may or may not be shared with others.
Tongues: First use is a supernatural ability to speak another language not known by the believer speaking it. Second use is a supernatural ability to speak another language not known by the believer speaking it; to build up the body of Christ when the message is interpreted. It is the language of the Holy Spirit.
Interpretation of tongues: Supernatural ability to make tongues a clear message to all that are present to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ.
Prophecy: Supernatural ability to receive a message from God to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ or a believer. To speak as moved by the Holy Spirit. Not all prophecies contain predictions about the future.
Working of miracles: The ability to perform supernatural acts by the Spirit of God.
Gifts of healing: Supernatural ability to bring or release healing to a person in their body or soul.
Ability to distinguish between spirits: Supernatural ability to know what is from God and what is not from God. Divine ability to reveal a demonic spirit or influence and bring God's power (Jesus' blood) and God's love (Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection) in its place.
Faith: Knowing what you hope for, having a conviction about things you cannot see, trusting God, believing God’s Word, and obeying God. (See Hebrews 11)
Spiritual gifts testing
A recent practice in some Protestant churches has been the development of "tests" to determine what gifts a person is likely to possess. Typically, a spiritual gifts test consist of 90-130 statements to which the participant replies by indicating on a score sheet to what degree the statement is true (Usually something equivalent to "Always", "Frequently", "Occasionally", "Rarely", and "Never"). Depending on the designer of the test, scores are usually scaled from 0 (for "Never") to 4 (for "Always"). The statements are grouped around the specific gifts that they describe, scores are added, and the participant's gifts are ranked according to their score, usually choosing the three highest scores. The best known example of this test is the Wagner-Modified Houts Questionnaire.
Examples of online spiritual gifts testing
- Team Ministry Spiritual Gifts Analysis
- Church Growth Institute Spiritual Gifts Resources
- Spiritual Gifts Test Integrated With Other Assessments
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The necessity of spiritual gifts for today
1. The spiritual gifts as defined in 1 Cor 12, enable a witness to others as to the validity of Christ by means of supernatural workings in ways that could only by done by Him. Christ commands us to continue witnessing for Him; spiritual gifts are God given means to do so. This is one thing we see with Christ as he ministered here on earth (Acts 2:22). All throughout Christ’s ministry he went about performing miracles, healings, demonstrating faith, prophesying, and discerning spirits. This in turn was a great testament and authentication of the validity of His ministry. Furthermore, many gifts followed the apostles with their ministry as well. These too were a sign to both believers and unbelievers. So following that same thought pattern, we too have gifts to testify, glorify and validate Christ as authentic and personal.
2: With spiritual gifts comes edification of the person, and the body of Christ. This is something that Christ still asks us to do for both his bride and ourselves. First is that of personal edification. What better way to develop into all Christ has for you than to use the gifts that he has given you? They are unique, un-quantitative, and God given. So following, growing in, and using the gifts he has given you build you up in body, mind, and spirit. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?” Second is that of edification of the body (the church). We see once more in 1 Corinthians 12 that the gifts are described as “many parts”. As in your body, when all the parts come together and work accordingly, the body functions and operates normally as it should, this is a command. So with the church. As each person’s gift is used appropriately and in conjunction with the word and will of God, there is communal edification.
3: Gifts bring unity and stability to the Church. Once again we see that in 1 Cor 12, Eph 4:3-5, and Phil 2:2 is this call and command for unity as one body. What can the body truly accomplish if in fact they are missing parts? It is only with the inclusion and exercise of each part that Christ can truly build his church. This is done by the “...Spirit through the bond of peace...” This is the same spirit who wills gifts accordingly to each member of Christ’s body. As those gifts come together as one, the purpose, mission, and prerogative of the church can be fully accomplished in accordance with Christ’s commands.
4: Spiritual gifts are for today in order to carry out the mission of the church which is seen in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8. The mission of the church has not ceased; neither have the gifts that Christ so freely bestows in accordance to his will and sovereignty. As stated earlier, the church exists for personal edification, Christ-o-centric worship, and worldwide evangelism. How better to accomplish these than by the means of the gifts of the Spirit. If Christ still calls us to carry out His mission, would not he continue to give us the gifts and power we need to carry that mission out?
This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.
- Assemblies of God. "The Assemblies of God - Our Sixteen Doctrines." Springfield, MO: Assemblies of God Office of Public Relations, 1996. Used truth number 10
- Dusing, Michael L. Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, MI: Logion P, 2007. 525-66. Section was used for discussing the post-Acts church
- Grudem, Wayne. Electronic Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Whitefish, MT, Bits & Bytes Computer Resources, 2000. Used for the questions on initial physical evidence and Christ’s return
- Horton, Stanley M., ed. Systematic Theology, A Pentecostal Perspective, rev. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1994. Used in for the question of Christ’s immanent return
- Klaus, Byron D. Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, MI: Logion P, 2007. 567-96. Used for the question of the governmental structure of the church
- Limm, David. Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, MI: Logion P, 2007. 457-88. Used on the question of spiritual gifts
- Marino, Bruce R. A Theology 3 Enchiridion. Phoenixville, PA: VFCC, 19460. Used for the questions of spiritual gifts
- McLean, Mark D. Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, MI: Logion P, 2007. 375-96. Used as further reference and guidance when talking about gifts and tongues
- Wyckoff, John W. Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, MI: Logion P, 2007. 423-56. Used for discussion on regeneration
- Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993
- Surprised by the Voice of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
- Gary Greig and Kevin Springer (eds.)The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used By Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today? Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 1993 (thorough and practical).
-  Jon Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles ] Deo Press, 1993, rev. 2007. (Often identified as the definitive study, it examines the historical, philosophical and exegetical issues, focusing on Warfield.).