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What Are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual gifts are talents and abilities that God bestows upon individual believers at the time of their salvation. These gifts enable believers to perform God's work, and every believer has at least one spiritual gift. In order to recognize our own spiritual gifts, we must know what types of gifts exist. The following discussion addresses several categories of spiritual gifts, although other categorizations might be valid as well.

Evangelism

The spiritual gift of evangelism is noted in Ephesians 4:11 by the Greek word "euggelistes" which literally means "messenger of good," and the person possessing this gift has an uncanny ability to give out the good news about salvation. This person has an exceptional ability to reach the lost for Christ. The evangelist has a particular knack for explaining the gospel message in such a way that unbelievers understand it, and are converted into believers and brought into Christ's church. Although some evangelists reach large numbers of unbelievers who believe, such as Billy Graham, most people with this gift operate on a much smaller scale, according to God's will, but with similar effectiveness.

Pastor / Teacher

The pastor / teacher spiritual gift is also noted in Ephesians 4:11. As one might expect, these two Greek words mean "pastor" and "teacher", respectively. The pastor is a shepherd for the sheep of the congregation. His role including caring for the members of the local church as a shepherd cares for his sheep. He leads the sheep, provides for them, and protects them. Last, but not least, he feeds the sheep through his other gift of teacher, or instructor, by teaching them Bible doctrine. While Christ uses the evangelist to bring unbelievers into the church, He uses the pastor / teacher to build up the believers in the church.

Exhortation

Exhortation, in Romans 12:8, means to call to one's side for aid. The person with this spiritual gift has the ability to encourage people and move them to action. The exhorter is able to make pertinent application of the Bible doctrine principals taught by the pastor teacher, and to help others to recognize and exercise those applications.

Ministry

The spiritual gift of ministry encompasses a broad range of talents. Romans 12:7 uses the word "diakonia" which means service, and 1 Corinthians 12:28 uses the word "antilepsis" which means helps, or to lay hold of so as to give support. This gift includes services of a general nature which are performed in the local church, so this person is a help to the local congregation. This gift may incorporate one's natural abilities which the Holy Spirit sanctifies for spiritual productivity, by applying them to practical and essential services in the church.

Administration

Administration is a spiritual gift described in Romans 12:8 by the word "proistemi", which means to "rule", or "to stand before", and the word "kubernao" in 1 Corinthians 12:28, which means "governments." This person is a leader in the local church, and this gift could be called the gift of leadership, although it is separate and distinct from the pastor / teacher gift. The person with the gift of administration is able to create a sense of confidence, diligence, zeal, and urgency in order to urge the church members to take action and make things happen.

Giving

The spiritual gift of giving in Romans 12:8 describes an ability to give a share of one's resources to the Lord's work in a mighty way. This person can make big things happen in the church, but he/she isn't necessarily a rich person. He/she might find ways to give large sums of money, or maybe to give a large percentage of his/her money and possessions. This person might also be able to give in such a way that the returns are tremendous. This implies a sense of where to invest one's resources for the greatest gain for Christ.

Mercy

The spiritual gift of mercy in Romans 12:8 is a gift that enables the believer to enter sympathetically into the misery of others, so as to take the appropriate required. This person can sense needs, such as the sick and afflicted, and he/she is able to secure the resources required to help and comfort the needy.

Teaching

Teaching can be a spiritual gift, as is described in Romans 12:7 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The person with the gift of teaching is able to present Bible doctrine in such a way that it is clearly understood by believers. According to 1 Corinthians 12:28, this may well be the most important spiritual gift, because it is by this gift that believers receive a clear understanding of Bible doctrine. This person may not have a superior knowledge of Bible doctrine, but he/she is able to effectively explain it to others, and provide the instruction they need for their transition from salvation to spiritual maturity.

Faith

The spiritual gift of faith in 1 Corinthians 12:9 describes faith in the sense of a firm persuasion or conviction. This is more than the saving faith that brings each of us into God's family. The person with the gift of faith has an uncanny ability to trust God for large needs. An example is George Mueller, who repeatedly trusted God to provide for food for the children in his orphanage. The person with this gift is willing and able to step out on faith, even when others might say it's not the logical thing to do. This implies a sense of discernment from God as to what will work and what won't. If a person without this gift steps out on faith without the accompanying discernment from God, his/her plans might well fail. Therefore, confirmation of this gift is revealed when such plans repeatedly succeed.

What Are Your Spiritual Gifts?

Which ones of these spiritual gifts do you have, and how do you know? Here are three good guidelines:
  1. Desire - The person with a particular spiritual gift will have a definite desire to exercise that gift. However, if our attitude is earthly rather than heavenly, we might have the desire when we don't really have the gift.
  2. Confirmation by others - One of the best ways to recognize our own gifts is through the confirmation of others. If someone comes to you and says they think you have a particular gift, you should probably consider it.
  3. Fruit - If you truly have a particular gift, there will be recognizable evidence when you exercise that gift. You will be able to see the fruitful blessings coming from your efforts.
There is considerable debate concerning whether or not some of the spiritual gifts of the New Testament are no longer in use today. For details on this controversy, please see Were Some Spiritual Gifts Only Temporary?

Owen Weber 2008