What Are Spiritual Gifts?

This article identifies the various gifts of the Holy Spirit which are temporary and permanent and how they should be exercised in the church.

What Are Spiritual Gifts?
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The Christian Basics series covers the basics of Christianity. This article summarizes the basic truths of spiritual gifts. We will look at various spiritual gifts and how they should be used in the body of Christ.

Article Content

  1. The Nature of Spiritual Gifts
  2. The Provision of Spiritual Gifts
  3. The Exercise of Spiritual Gifts
  4. The Application of Spiritual Gifts

1. The Nature of Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are given by God the Spirit

“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11)

God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Spiritual gifts are given to believers for the purpose of ministry within the church for the glory of God.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7)

“So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12)

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10–11)

2. The Provision of Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual Gifts are described by the apostle Paul.

“For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:8–10)

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6–8)

Temporary Gifts

Temporary gifts were given by the Holy Spirit for confirming the testimony of the apostles and prophets. They were prevalent in the early church, but seated to be evident as the church was established.


The ability to do “wonders” and “signs.” Christ performed many miracles as recorded in Scripture. Paul used this gift to affirm his apostleship as described in 2 Corinthians 12:12.


Peter had this gift (Acts 3:6-8; 5:15-16) which affirmed his message and helped establish the foundation for the church.

Tongues and interpretation of tongues

Manifested by the speaking of a language unknown to the speaker (Acts 2:1-11). This gift had to be accompanied by the gift of interpretation. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

Permanent Gifts

Permanent gifts were given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the church. These were prevalent in the early church and still are in the church today.


Preaching or “to tell forth or declare the Scripture.” Prophecy does not necessarily mean to foretell the future.


The ability to teach the Word of God and bless the hearers with the understand of the Scriptures that the author intended.


A consistent, enabling faith that truly believes God in the face of overwhelming obstacles and human impossibilities, and for great things. This gift is primarily expressed toward God through prayer.


The ability to apply wisdom, gained from spiritual insight, to believers; knowing what is right and what is wrong; applied knowledge.


An understanding of the facts of Scripture. From the human perspective, it is scholarship or the ability to know the truths of Scripture in a way that is both broad and deep.


The ability to tell which things are from the Spirit and which are not; distinguishes truth from error. This gift serves as protection for the church.


The ability to show deep compassion to those who have spiritual, physical or emotional needs.


The ability to encourage and motivate. A person with this gift can come alongside another to comfort him with love, to encourage him to a deeper spiritual commitment and growth, or to exhort him to action. This is a gift that qualifies people to exercise a counseling ministry in the body.


This gift is a direct reference to the material ministry of giving: food clothes, money, houses, etc. in response to the needs of the church.


The ability to oversee the flock. This may be seen in pastors and elders; also those in leadership of missionary societies, youth work, evangelistic associations, etc.


Aiding in a time of need, or bearing one another’s burdens, as the situation arises.


Working for the body of Christ in areas of physical ministries such as serving food, maintenance, etc.

3. The Exercise of Spiritual Gifts

  • Spiritual gifts were intended to be used and applied. (Romans 12:6-8)
  • Spiritual gifts must be used with love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
  • Spiritual gifts should not cause division. (1 Corinthians 12:25)
  • Spiritual gifts should promote the growth of the entire body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

4. The Application of Spiritual Gifts

Each member of the body is commanded to minister in many of the gifted areas, whether he possesses that particular gift or not.

  • Faith: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
  • Wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
  • Knowledge: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Encouragement: “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)
  • Giving: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • Care for one another (Helps): “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25)

The Bible does not explicitly explain how someone is to determine his spiritual giftedness. Being obedient and praying for opportunities to serve, you can begin to discover your giftedness. Seek the counsel of other believers because they may be more aware of your gifts than you are.