What are Spiritual Gifts

QUESTION:  “What are ‘spiritual gifts’, what are they for and how do I get one?  Is having one something I should even be concerned about?”

ANSWER: Yes, we should be concerned about the matter of spiritual gifts since they are seen as important in the Bible both to the church as well as to the individual Christian.  The main scripture passages that discuss the issue of spiritual gifts are Ephesians 4:6-16, 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40, 1 Peter 4:10-11, and Romans 12:3-8;  In any biblical discussion, it is important to define what we are talking about.

A definition of a spiritual gift is that it is a God given ability (capacity) which enables a believer to serve Christ and His church effectively in some particular way. This definition emphasizes three important truths. (1) it is a capacity which means it can be developed and matured by using it, (2) it enables us to be “effective” indicating that we will see results when it is used, and (3) it enables us to minister with passion in that particular area.  There are three words used in the New Testament for spiritual gifts: (1) pneumatica from the word “spirit” (pneuma) which emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is the One who determines what gift(s) we get; (2) charismata from the word grace (charis) indicating that these are gifts to us, that we neither earn them or deserve them; and (3) phanerosis a word which is translated “manifestation” seems to show that spiritual gifts are externally manifested, for the benefit of others, not ourselves. It is important to observe that spiritual gifts are not natural abilities, places of service, offices in the church, an age group nor are they indications of how spiritual we are (the fruit of the Spirit reveals our spirituality not what gifts we have or have not).  Each and every believer who places their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation immediately receives at least one spiritual gift at that moment (Eph. 4:7). There is simply no “ungifted” believer. The general purpose of spiritual gifts is for the maturing of the Body of Christ (the church). Each gift is important and is used by Christ in maturing His people; so you and I really are important, not just the paid professionals on staff in a church.  Each gift has its own purpose but they will all contribute to the general purpose of bringing fellow believers to a higher level of spiritual maturity; or as the Apostle Paul puts it, gifts are “for the common good.”        It is important to carefully study the New Testament scriptures to see the definition, purpose and example of each gift in order to be able to understand its use and application in the church generally, and in your life specifically.

The source of spiritual gifts is the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:7-11), and it is the Spirit who decides what gift(s) you and I receive at the moment of our salvation (1 Cor. 12:4, 11, 18, 28). A believer is given at least one gift but may have been given more than one. Some gifts are of greater important than others (such as Apostle and Prophet), but all gifts have significance in the proper functioning of the Body. Spiritual gifts appear to be part of our anointing by the Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Cor. 1:21) which enable us all to serve effectively as believer-priests. (There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus who has not been anointed by the Spirit of God.)

There are many questions commonly asked about the matter of spiritual gifts.  Some of these can be seen in another section of “Ask Dr. B”.

  • Paul Benware