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Spiritual Gifts
What are They?   

Q. I understand that we are supposed to do our jobs as if we were working for the Lord. There is no such thing as sacred versus secular or regular work. But, how do we know what our gifts are in the church? How do we find and use our gifts?


Babbling, Overdressed T.V. Preachers

Thanks for the questions. Our conservative churches tend to ignore these because spiritual gifts are frequently associated with babbling, overly dressed and made-up T.V. preachers who have given spiritual gifts a terrible reputation.

Broad Sweep

There are nine gifts listed in chapter 12 of First Corinthians and seven others mentioned in Romans 12. Ephesians 4 lists another five. This is a broad discussion of gifts from the New Testament showing its sweep across the church body in several locales.

No Expiration Dates

There appear to be no "expiration date" on these gifts with only one exception, and each person receives at least one gift:

"A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other" (1 Cor. 12:7, NLT).

Imperfect made Perfect

Furthermore, an honest look at 1 Corinthians 13:10 seems to describe the Second Coming when our imperfect understanding of God's Plan will then be made "perfect." Let's read this verse in context:

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away. As for tongues, they will cease. As for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part - then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:8-12, ESV).

This verse cannot definitively be interpreted to suggest that gifts no longer exist in our time frame - no matter how much we disdain the bad behavior of erring Christians.

The view that this "perfection" means the completion of the bible cannon cannot be found before 1906 when those against the Pentecostal movement tried to discredit any manifestation of gifts (Kelly, p. 1). As distasteful as charismatic gifts are to some, we cannot violate good rules for interpreting Scripture to fit our own biases.

Listing of Gifts

The gifts are:

First Corinthians 12:

1. Giving wise advice
2. Giving a message of special knowledge.

A "word of wisdom" which we call "advice" in modern times, or special "knowledge" is useful when information is needed to take proper action or to make difficult decisions.

3. Great faith.

This does not refer to "saving faith" but special faith to meet special needs within the church.

4. Gift of healing - different or various ways God may heal illnesses.

5. The power to perform miracles - doing things that cannot be explained by natural laws or means.

6. Ability to prophesy.

This can be a prediction such as that of Agabus in Acts 11:28 or 21:10-11:

"One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world" (Acts 11:28, NLT).

"Saveral days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea."Then he said, 'The Holy Spirit declares, 'So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 21:10-11, NLT).

Or it can be a communication of the will of God pertaining to a particular situation - revealing and explaining God's Word from the Scriptures.

Office of Prophet or Gift of Prophecy

Remember that we must differentiate between the Old Testament office of prophet and the New Testament gift of prophecy. The Old Testament office of prophet ended with John. Jesus said,

"The Law and the Prophets were until John. Since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached…" (Luke 16:16, ESV).

7. Discerning whether a message is from God or from another spirit - this is a necessary adjunct to the gift of prophecy.

8. The ability to speak in foreign languages - as the apostles did on the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2:4-6.

It may also describe both foreign and heavenly languages of prayer or praise such as that found in First Corinthians 13:1 or 14:2, 10. (There is nothing here that says believers must speak in the tongues of angels to demonstrate their salvation)!

9. Speaking and Interpreting a foreign language, (like Italian) - a requirement that should put to rest the idea of babbling without clear interpretation from someone with the gift of interpreting tongues in order to edify the church.

Romans 12:

1. Ability to prophesy
2. Serving others
3. Teacher
4. Encouraging others
5. Giving
6. Leadership ability
7. Showing kindness to others


Ephesians 4:

1. The apostles

These were the apostles who established the church as mentioned in Ephesians 2:20. So it doesn't appear there can be any "apostles" today. This is probably the only gift that has a true expiration date applied to it.

2. The prophets - not the "office" of Old Testament prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah, but the "gift" of prophecy (see Luke 16:16).

3. The evangelists

These are the people who add numbers to the church and who probably helped other Christians in their testimony (Zondervan 2002, 2413). However, for a church to over emphasize salvation and to neglect discipling members is a grave mistake. Churches who focus upon growth and neglect the spiritual development of their own members suffer over the long term. These churches are filled with immature believers (and it shows).

4. Pastors
5. Teachers

Paul notes, "This (these gifts) will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13, NLT).


The Lord has invested a gift or gifts within us so that we can each make a valuable contribution to the church. No one is left out. We can find our gifts by working actively within our churches doing various things until we find our God given special talents. Note that gifts are not always "singing" talents, instrumentalist or things emphasized by men. Gifts are clearly spelled out in the Bible. We need to read about them for ourselves.


Find your unique gift by exploring various things in your church. You can do this by becoming an active participant in teaching Sunday school or bible studies, by studying your Bibles and seeing how you fare with special knowledge, by praying for and visiting the sick, by helping widows or orphans in need, by giving to missions or embarking upon writing to missionaries and church members, and so forth.


Listen to yourself and your feelings about various assignments.

- Do you really love teaching?

- Do you love working around children or the elderly?

- Do you find yourself gravitating toward helping sick church members?

- Are you fascinated by the tales spoken by visiting missionaries?

- Do you fervently desire to be one of the "doctors without walls" who help heal poor Christians in Third World countries?

- Are you gifted at raising funds?

- Are you an activist who inspires and motivates others to become involved in charitable works?

- Do you gravitate toward helping the homeless?

- Are you able to encourage others in their Christian walk?

Be Like Christ

If you want to know how to explore your gifts look at how Jesus performed His gifts. "Be ye imitators of Christ." What gifts did the Messiah perform? He healed the sick, He fed the hungry, but mostly He understood and taught God's word. He explained the plan of God to others.

Read 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 for yourself to see the descriptions of various gifts.

Most of all remember that God loves YOU and wants your unique contribution to His church.


Holy Bible, English Standard Version. 2004. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation. 2007. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.

Grudem, Wayne A. and Stanley N. Gundry. 1996. Are miraculous gifts for today? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Kelly, Jack. Spiritual gifts: Part 1. Available from: www.gracethrufaith.com.

Zondervan KJV Study Bible. 2002. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan

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