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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Are Spiritual Gifts?

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Don Stewart

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Before we examine the subject of spiritual gifts, we need to have an understanding of what they are. Though the Bible does not give a definition of spiritual gifts, it does tell us much regarding their nature and function. The word normally translated "gift" in the New Testament is the Greek word charismata. The word means "gifts of grace" and refers to the gifts or special abilities God has given believers through the Holy Spirit.

Not the Holy Spirit

Spiritual gifts, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are not the same as the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are many gifts of the Spirit, but there is only one Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is received the moment a person trusts Christ as Savior. Simon Peter said to the multitude on the Day of Pentecost:

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Not Human Talents

Spiritual gifts are abilities God gives the believer for the purpose of service. They are not human talents. Human talents are inadequate to do the work of God.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3,4).

Spiritual gifts are either supernatural abilities that God has bestowed on individuals, or God-given natural abilities that function through the direction of the Holy Spirit. Gifts such as miracles, tongues, healing, and prophecy are supernatural in origin. Other spiritual gifts, such as teaching, administration, and helps, are God-given abilities to perform a particular role in Gods program. Though nonbelievers may have the same abilities, they do not function under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes these God-given abilities and uses them for His purposes in the lives of believers. Therefore, the gifts of the Spirit are abilities, either natural or supernatural, given by God for the work of the ministry.

The Bible says that all gifts ultimately have their source in God.

Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).

Not the Fruit of the Spirit

The gifts of the Spirit are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit have to do with service while the fruit of the Spirit has to do with character.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22,23).

Spiritual gifts are the means; spiritual fruit is the end. Gifts are what the believer possesses, but the fruit of the Spirit is what the believer becomes. Spiritual gifts will someday cease, while spiritual fruits are permanent.

Gifts Are Not Offices

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not the same as the various offices mentioned in the New Testament: the office of apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, elder, and deacon. Those who occupy such offices should possess the spiritual gift that goes with it. Yet a person can have the gift - of prophecy or teaching, for example - without occupying the office of a prophet or teacher.

Classification of Gifts

The Bible lists the gifts of the Spirit in four different portions of Scripture: Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11. They have been classified in many different ways, but we will examine them in three groups:

1. Ministering Gifts: The gifts of an apostle, evangelist, pastor, teacher, exhorter, and discerner of spirits; the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge.

2. Serving Gifts: The gifts of ministering, giving, ruling, showing mercy, and displaying faith.

Sign Gifts: The gifts of prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, and interpreting tongues.
These gifts are not necessarily in order from the greater to the lesser. Some of the gifts overlap, and this list is not meant to be taken as complete. There may be many more spiritual gifts than these listed here.

Summary to Spiritual Gifts

We conclude concerning spiritual gifts:

1. A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by God to the believer for the purpose of serving.

2. A spiritual gift may be a God-given talent that is directed by the Holy Spirit. It is not a mere human talent.

3. A spiritual gift is not the same as the gift of the Spirit.

4 . Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit.

5. The Bible teaches that the offices of the Holy Spirit are different from the gifts of the Spirit. A person may possess a gift without holding the corresponding office.

6. The Bible lists about twenty spiritual gifts but there may be many more. Every believer has a spiritual gift.

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