×

Definition

The gifts of the Spirit are gifts of grace granted by the Holy Spirit that are designed for the edification of the church, which can be divided up as gifts of speaking and gifts of serving.

Summary

The gifts of the Spirit are gifts of grace granted by the Holy Spirit to individual Christians. These gifts are to be exercised under the lordship of Christ for the edification of his body, the church. Christians are not to think too highly or lowly about the gifts that God has given them but are to remember that it is God who has sovereignly and wisely given them; each gift is needed. Each Christian is baptized in the Spirit at conversion, and thus each Christian is to be faithful to the gift that God has given them and, most importantly, seek to fulfill their gift in love for God and other Christians.

The gifts of the Spirit are gifts of grace granted by the Holy Spirit that are designed for the edification of the church. It is helpful to see a table of the various gifts in the NT.

Romans 12:6–8 1 Corinthians 12:7–10 1 Corinthians 12:28 Ephesians 4:11
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good And God has appointed in the church And he gave

 

Apostles Apostles
Prophecy Prophecy Prophets Prophets
Evangelists
Ability to distinguish between spirits
Teaching Word of wisdom and word of knowledge Teachers Pastors and teachers
Exhorting
Working of miracles Miracles
Gifts of healing Gifts of healing
Service Helping
Leading Administrating
Various kinds of tongues Various kinds of tongues
Interpretation of tongues
Giving
Faith
Mercy

The gifts listed above can be divided into two categories: gifts of speaking and gifts of serving (1 Pet. 4:11). The categories aren’t precise since those who speak also serve those whom they address, and those who speak serve as they minister. Gifts of speaking include apostleship, prophecy, teaching, evangelism, exhortation, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues. Gifts of service include leadership, helps, mercy, giving, faith, healing, and miracles. Several truths should be articulated about spiritual gifts.

  1. The gifts are to be exercised under the lordship of Christ (1 Cor. 12:1–3). Attention should not be centered on our gifts or our experiences but the supremacy of Christ in all things. People may claim wonderful experiences, but if they aren’t living under Christ’s lordship, their gifts mean very little.
  2. The gifts are given for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 14:1–40; Eph. 4:11–16). The gifts are not given for self-edification or self-esteem, but to build up and strengthen the church. The focus of the gifts is corporate and not individualistic. We see in Ephesians 4 is that the aim of the gifts is the maturation of the body of Christ. The Lord wants the church to be stable and strong, able to resist false and destructive teaching. The gifts are operating well when the church becomes more like Jesus Christ, when it is built up in truth and love.
  3. We see in Romans 12:3 that we are to think reasonably about our gifts. We need to beware of thinking too highly or too lowly about ourselves and our gifts. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 12 that one who has a flashier gift is not more godly or more spiritual. Conversely, those who have what they consider to be a lesser gift are not inferior. Every gift is needed to make up the body because bodies are made up of eyes and ears, hands and feet, arms and noses. Thus, no member of the church can be an isolationist. The whole body can’t be an eye or a head because then there is not a body at all. We are to think reasonably about how God has gifted us and avoid unrealistic and inflated conceptions of our gifts or notions that we are worthless and have nothing to offer.
  4. We recognize that the diversity of gifts comes from God himself (1 Cor. 12:4–6). We are not to worry about the gift we possess, because God has sovereignly ordained the gifts we possess (1 Cor. 12:11, 18, 28). We are tempted to think that the gifts we have stem from ourselves, but Paul reminds us that gifts are gifts! They are given to us and not earned by us. We trust that God has formed the body with great wisdom and love. The Corinthians were particularly entranced with the gift of tongues, and Paul warns them about exalting such a gift unduly.
  5. The baptism in the Spirit isn’t a second experience after conversion. In Acts, baptism in the Spirit occurs at the inauguration of the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1–11), at the conversion of Cornelius and his friends (Acts 10:44–48; 11:16), at the conversion of the Ephesian 12 (Acts 19:1–7). Paul also teaches that baptism in the Spirit occurs when every member of the church is inducted into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). Baptism by definition is an initiation event, and thus it is a misreading of the evidence to argue from Acts that the baptism in the Spirit must be accompanied by tongue-speaking. Tongue-speaking represents the inauguration of the new covenant at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4), and it demonstrates the salvation of Gentiles (Acts 10:44–48) and the followers of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1–7). We have no evidence elsewhere that initiation in the church of Jesus Christ must be accompanied by speaking in other languages. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 12:13 clarifies that every single believer is baptized in the Spirit at conversion.
  6. 1 Corinthians 14:1–19 is a most interesting text, and it shows that edification comes through understanding. Christians are tempted to think that amazing experiences are what edify, especially overwhelming emotional experiences. Certainly, emotions are a good thing and are not frowned upon, but Paul teaches us that emotions must be anchored to truth. God chooses to sanctify us by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2), as we test what pleases the Lord (Eph. 5:10), so that we become more discerning. In this way, we will live in a way that pleases the Lord (Phil. 1:9–11; Col. 1:9–11).
  7. We are to concentrate on the gifts God has given us (Rom. 12:6–8). It would be a mistake to claim to refuse to engage in evangelism or service or helping by claiming that we don’t have such gifts. In doing so we rationalize our selfishness. On the other hand, we are also reminded that we should concentrate our energies in life on the gift God has granted us. God has made us in a particular way, and thus we help other believers most when we pursue the gift or gifts God has given to us. It would be foolish if one has the gift of teaching to ignore that gift and to spend most one’s time pursuing the gift of encouragement.
  8. We see clearly in 1 Corinthians 13, which is placed in the middle of the discussion of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12–14) that gifts are worthless without love. The most important measure of our spirituality are not our gifts but our godliness.

Further Reading


This essay is part of the Concise Theology series. All views expressed in this essay are those of the author. This essay is freely available under Creative Commons License with Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA 3.0 US), allowing users to share it in other mediums/formats and adapt/translate the content as long as an attribution link, indication of changes, and the same Creative Commons License applies to that material. If you are interested in translating our content or are interested in joining our community of translators, please reach out to us.