What are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual gifts seem to be a bit of an enigma and are a significant matter of debate. Every major Christian group believes in the spiritual gifts, but most differ from each other on the particulars. The charismatic churches are probably most well known for their beliefs about the spiritual gifts. A few years ago a well known ministry in California hosted a conference focused on their disagreements with Charismatic theology. Why is the topic of spiritual gifts so difficult and contentious?

The Bible is not at all silent about spiritual gifts. The promise of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave the disciples before His death includes the reception of spiritual gifts. Peter says in Acts 2 that the miraculous things done by the apostles on the day of Pentecost were the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to do the work of the ministry. The spiritual gifts are supernatural gifts of God not skills developed by the person, but the Christian should exercise and improve his spiritual gift.

The spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. The largest section of teaching on the spiritual gifts in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In that passage Paul teaches the Corinthian believers about the gifts because they were desiring the most impressive gifts and were using the gifts for self-promotion. The spiritual gifts are given by God for the promotion of Christlikeness in the church.

1 Corinthians 12 teaches that all spiritual gifts come from God. God gives gifts to Christians for the benefit of the entire church. No one gift provides everything a church needs and every gift God gives is important to the church. Like the human body, each member of the church body exercises a specific and essential function for the good of all. If everyone had the same spiritual gift the church would be as deformed as a person comprised entirely of ears.

1 Corinthians 14 shows the church the orderly use of the gifts within the church. Gifts are not to be used against one another. Each Christian must show preference to other believers in the application of gifts. Those who have speaking gifts must not insist on their right to be heard but must speak in an orderly fashion, each in turn and only when it is proper to do so.

The Bible contains several other key passages about the spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10-11 puts the spiritual gifts into two broad categories, the speaking gifts and the serving gifts. Ephesians 4 mentions four specific leadership gifts given to the local church for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry. Romans 12:3-8 describes various kinds of gifts. In Romans 12 Christians are instructed to use the gifts humbly for the benefit of the entire church. Each person is to use his gift in the fullest possible way to the best of the ability given him by God. The gifts mentioned in these New Testament passage are: teaching, administration, mercy showing, giving, ruling, prophecy, ministry, exhortation, governments, helps, tongues, interpretation, healing, miracles, prophecy, apostle, evangelist and pastor.

The absence of a particular spiritual gift does not exclude the Christian from engaging in that kind of ministry. All Christians should be merciful, though only some have the gift of mercy-showing. Some Christians are given the gift of evangelism, but all are commanded by Jesus tell others the gospel. The spiritual gifts are given to aid the growth of the entire church not exclude Christians from areas of ministry. Every believer is given at least one spiritual gift. Some may be given more than one, but all believers are gifted by God for the edification of the church. The responsibility of the Christian is to use his gift for the glory of God and the growth of His church.