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Spiritual Gifts 101

Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to those that have experienced the salvation of Christ (Acts 2:38). The purpose of the gifts is twofold: primarily, to edify (instruct and improve in moral and religious knowledge, improve the mind or morals of) the church and secondarily, to convict and convert the non-believer.

Their purpose is not to exalt one member of the church above another, or to be used as a tool of self-promotion. Paul is very clear on this matter when he writes in 1 Corinthians (12:12 – 31) that we are all members of one body, that not one member is more important than the others, but all must work together toward the health of the body (referring not to the human body, but the body of Christ, the Church).

What exactly are the Gifts of the Spirit? First, let me say what they are not. They are not the same as talents or skills. Talents by definition are special abilities, which sounds like gifts, but what differentiates them is that talents are present at birth and are not temporary. If one is a talented singer, the ability to sing has always existed. One can nurture and refine a talent, but the talent will be the foundation and will remain (barring outside effects such as illness or injury). One who goes from being tone deaf to having the ability to sing in perfect pitch has been gifted.

Skills are derived from practice, education and the development of expertise. They also generally have a permanent nature and something we can pursue of our own power and volition. A person may learn to speak Italian fluently with a perfect accent, but one who speaks in tongues has been gifted by the Holy Spirit.

Charismata are given only by the Holy Spirit, at the sovereign will of the Spirit and given to achieve the purpose of the Holy Spirit through special service. These gifts can be for a moment or for a lifetime. We may not know how long God will enable us for His purposes. Did I mention the sovereign will of the Spirit?

If you feel driven to do something within the church that seems alien to you, it’s quite possible you have been anointed (enabled) with a gift of the Spirit. They are not our natural abilities or desires, but things given supernaturally. That’s why they might feel uncomfortable at first.

We are no more in control of when, where, why or how the gifts are distributed than we are the wind. The Holy Spirit will bestow them according to the purpose of God. We are told to desire these gifts and request the “best” ones (1 Corinthians 12:31,14:1, 14:39). We are then to use them wisely, with humility and love (1 Corinthians 13:1). Paul’s definition of love in his first letter to the Corinthians gives us very clear guidelines for the use of gifts. They are to be used in the spirit of that love and in the pursuit of truth.

If you would like to see a (partial) list of charismata I suggest you read 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14.

Now that you know the basics, pray that through the Holy Spirit, God would bestow upon you the gifts He has in mind for you, that you can be used to glorify Him and further His Kingdom according to the purpose for which you were called (Romans 8:28).


Select Resources:
​I. Howard Marshall, A.R. Millard, J.I. Packer, ​and ​D.J. Wiseman​, editors, The New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity Press, 1996).
Gordon J. Wenham, J. Alec Motyer, Donald A. Carson, and R. T. France, editors, ​​The New Bible Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 1994)
Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook (Zondervan).
Pneuma Review (various articles)


Copyright 2003 Tracy Close.

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About the Author: Tracy Close is an aspiring writer most interested in sharing practical ways of living in God's kingdom.

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