There’s Something About Spiritual Gifts

Spent the bulk of this morning working on another chapter of my book. This chapter is about evangelism being a spiritual gift as well as a personal responsibility. As I was writing, I felt like I needed to give a broad, simple, overview of spiritual gifts. Below is what I came up with. It’s a little long for a blog post, but I thought I would throw it out here any way. Let me know what you think.


The Apostle Paul knew the importance of spiritual gifts.  That is why he wrote; “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1). The Christians in Corinth had become divided over the place and use of certain spiritual gifts in the church. By using the word “ignorant” Paul was not accusing them of being dumb or stupid, rather, he was pointing out they had erred in their understanding about spiritual gifts.

The words “spiritual gifts” in v. 1 are one word in the Greek, and that word is pneumatikon, literally meaning “spiritualities,” or “spiritual things.”[1] The more general word Paul uses for “spiritual gifts” (or simply “gifts,” v. 4) is charisma or charismata, coming from the root charis, meaning “grace.” Thus, a spiritual gift could be described as a “grace-gift;”  gift given to an individual by the sheer grace of God.

What is the significance of both of these words? By using pneumatikon Paul was making the point that spiritual manifestations do not necessarily mean spiritual people. The presence, or absence, of any of the spiritual gifts in the life of a believer does not indicate that believer’s level of spiritual maturity. The word charisma points to the fact that spiritual gifts are gifts of God’s grace. Charisma emphasizes there is nothing we can do to earn spiritual gifts; they are generously bestowed on us by the grace of God.

What is a spiritual gift?  A spiritual gift is a gift of grace given by God, through the Holy Spirit, to each believer to build God’s kingdom through acts of service. To put it more simply, spiritual gifts enable and empower the body of Christ to continue the work of Christ bringing God’s kingdom into present reality. These gifts are given, not on the basis of natural talent or worth of the individual, but according to the sovereign will of God, as He determines (see 1 Corinthians 12:11).

Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents.  While natural talents are God-given, they have nothing to do with a person being a Christian, or being a member of the body of Christ.  There is no such thing as the spiritual gift of fixing automobiles, gourmet cooking, telling jokes, painting pictures, or playing basketball. However, while spiritual gifts and natural talents are different, they can be used together. For example, a person who has the spiritual gift of mercy, could minister to the body of Christ by repairing a single parent’s automobile, cooking for someone in need, using humor to encourage a believer going through a difficult time, painting and selling pictures, giving proceeds to missions, or using their platform of sports to tell others about the love of Christ.

Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit.[2]  The fruits of the Spirit build your character. The gifts of the Spirit, build God’s kingdom. Fruits are developed as you grow and mature in your faith. Gifts are discovered as you walk by faith. Spiritual gifts are about what you do for Christ. Spiritual fruits are about who you are in Christ. Fruits are the result of the Holy Spirit transforming you into the image of Christ. Gifts are given for service and ministry. Fruits are evidence you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit.  Gifts are evidence you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Puporse of Spiritual Gifts

In 1 Corinthians 12:2-6, Paul mentions four purposes.  To help us remember these purposes we will use the word G.I.F.T.

G – Grace.  Spiritual gifts are a sign that God has redeemed you (1 Corinthians 12:2).

Paul doesn’t want the Christians in Corinth to be “ignorant,” so he reminds them from where God had brought them. He writes, “You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols” (1 Corinthians 12:2). Before the Corinthians became Christians, they were like prisoners being taken by armed guards to their execution—the meaning behind the phrase “led astray.” Their captors were dead, useless, soundless idols.  But through God’s grace, Paul says “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

God has given us the Holy Spirit as proof of His presence in our lives.  We say when a person accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Savior that Jesus comes into their lives and lives in their heart.  Technically, however, it is not Jesus who indwells us, but the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the seal of our relationship with God, and the source of our spiritual gifts.  It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that produces fruit; but it is the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit that ministers through spiritual gifts.  In other words, when you use your spiritual gifts to serve others and build up the church, you are giving evidence that God’s grace as changed you and redeemed you.

I – Identification.  Spiritual gifts identify you with Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Paul continues, “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). A person’s spiritual gift identifies them with Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that believers are the body of Christ. We are to be doing what Christ was doing when He was on earth.

What did Christ do while on earth? He performed miracles. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He gave life to the dead. He fed the hungry. He took in the down and out. He served the lowest of the low. He proclaimed the good news of God. He called people to repentance. He taught the truths about God. He gave people hope. In other words, He evangelized.

Then, incredibly, before He left this world, He told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Here is an interesting question: How would you compare your spiritual life to Christ’s? How would you compare your ministry, and the ministry of your church, to that of Jesus’?  Would you say we are doing more than Jesus did, or less than He did? If we are doing less, either Jesus lied in John 14:12, or we are not living in obedience to Him! Which one do you think it is?

How do we do what Jesus did, and even more than He did? By allowing the Holy Spirit to not only indwell us, but empower us for ministry through spiritual gifts!  Spiritual gifts identify us with Jesus Christ.

F – Function. Spiritual gifts are given to us for service in the body of Christ (12:4-6).

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 is the key to our whole understanding of spiritual gifts.  Paul says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” The first thing you need to notice about these verses is the mention of the Trinity. The subject of v. 4 is God the Holy Spirit. The subject of v. 5 is God the Son. The subject of v. 6 is God the Father. Each plays a significant role in spiritual gifts.

A key word in all three verses (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) is the word “different.”  Synonyms of this word include “variety,” and “diversity.” The idea is one of “different selections.” Thus, a better word would be “distributions:” “There are distributions of gifts…distributions of service…distributions of working…” The word “gifts”[3] means “grace-gift; another word for “service”[4] is ministry; and the idea behind “working”[5] is “that which is accomplished.”

All this leads me to believe spiritual gifts can be categorized in three areas, with each Person of the Trinity being fundamental to each area.[6] Spiritual gifts cannot be forced into these categories, but as a tool to better understand the purpose and function of them, they are helpful.  The three categories are as follows: motivational gifts;[7] ministry gifts; and manifestational gifts.

God the Father is the key Person in distributing motivational gifts; God the Son is the key Person in distributing ministry gifts; and God the Holy Spirit is the key person in distributing manifestational gifts. There seven motivational gifts recorded in Romans 12:6-8; there are numerous ministry gifts, but five basic ones are recorded in Ephesians 4:11; and numerous manifestational gifts are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12.

Your motivational gift never changes and is why you do what you do. Your ministry changes, and is what you do. Manifestational gifts vary as well and are the way God chooses to reveal Himself. Manifestational gifts are totally up to God. It could be said this way: Motivational gifts are why you do what you do; ministry gifts are what it is you are doing; and manifestational gifts are the result—which are always left up to God.

Here is the point: Every believer has been given a motivational gift that is to be used in ministry so God can reveal Himself through the Holy Spirit. Your spiritual gifts tells you how you are to function in the body of Christ.

T – Teamwork.  Spiritual gifts demonstrate unity in diversity.

Did you notice the word “same” in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6? In spite of the different distributions, and variety of functions, we are all on the same team, playing for the same Coach. Unity does not mean uniformity. Unity is using our diversities to work together as a team to accomplish a common goal. We are all different, but we are all the same. Spiritual gifts were given so we could advance the kingdom of God together. They show unity in the middle of diversity.

[1] In 1 Corinthians 2:15; 3:1; and 14:37, the word is used in reference to “spiritual people.”  The context here (12:1ff) points to “spiritual gifts.”

[2] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

[3] The Greek word is charisma, from where we get our English word “charismatic.”

[4] The Greek word is diakona, from where we get our English word “deacon.”

[5] The Greek word is energeema, from where we get our English word “energy.”

[6] These suggested categories are simply for our benefit, to help our understanding, and should not be taken as anything other than that.  Many of the gifts, like prophecy, could be placed in all three categories.

[7] Many writers use the words “primary” or “creational” to describe what I call Motivational Gifts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s