Spiritual Gifts


At Adventures in Missions, we believe in the active work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

Like any good parent, God loves to give gifts to his children. Of course, the Father gave us the ultimate gift in his Son, Jesus. But he also gives us gifts that we can't see -- gifts that are spiritual in nature.

All Christians have access to these gifts; it's just a matter of recognizing and activating them.

Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to Christ-followers to spread the Gospel, fulfill the Great Commission, and extend the kingdom of God in the world.

These are supernatural empowerments that are not earned or learned. They are gifts, given to believers for the sake of ministering to the body of Christ in ways that are otherwise impossible.

In Acts, the apostles performed miracles and healings, preached the Good News, spoke in tongues, and prophesied -- and they did all this by the power of God.

In other words, spiritual gifts are how God does his supernatural work through us.

The purpose of a spiritual gift is for the edification of the body of Christ. God gives us gifts for three reasons: to unify us (1 Cor. 12:12-13), for the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:7), and to supplement our weaknesses (1 Cor. 12:22-23).

Paul tells the Corinthian church about the importance of spiritual gifts and emphasizes the fact that they are intended to build up other believers:

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort.

(1 Corinthians 14:3)

...try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

(1 Corinthians 14:12)

...All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church

(1 Corinthians 14:26)

There is also an evangelistic importance to spiritual gifts:

But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!

(1 Corinthians 14:24–25)

All spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit. God is the owner and giver of all gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:7,11); as believers, we are merely caretakers of these gifts.

These gifts are not reserved only for an elite class of clergy or special group of people. Every believer can expect gifts from God.

We see this promised in Scripture:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good...

(1 Corinthians 12:7)

Spiritual gifts can be experienced immediately following conversion (as we see in some instances in the Book of Acts), but they can also be received at various moments after someone comes to faith.

Paul encourages Timothy, "Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you" (1 Timothy 4:14). Scripture doesn't say when exactly this happened, but it was probably when the church commissioned him to start his ministry.

The above passage also suggests that gifts can come by impartation through spiritual leadership. This doesn't mean someone has some kind of "magic touch"; rather, it means that gifts sometimes come through a relationship of accountability.

It is also clear from Scripture that spiritual gifts can be received when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44–48; 19:6).

Spiritual gifts were a part of the New Testament church. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles speak in tongues. Later on in Acts, we see them performing healings and miracles.

We also see Jesus using spiritual gifts as part of his earthly ministry: he performed miracles, healings, and prophesied. He performed these deeds in his humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38) and asked his followers to do the things he had been doing (Luke 9:1). Since his ministry was a demonstration of spiritual gifts on earth, we can conclude he expected the disciples to continue this work.

Various passages in the New Testament mention a variety of gifts. It is not easy to define or describe each of these gifts; some seem obvious, while others are not.

Moreover, the Bible does not indicate that any list of spiritual gifts is exhaustive. There are four main lists of spiritual gifts (some of which repeat certain gifts):

Romans 12:5-8
  • Prophecy
  • Service
  • Teaching
  • Encouragement
  • Giving
  • Leadership
  • Mercy

1 Corinthians 12:8-10
  • Word of wisdom
  • Word of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues
Ephesians 4:11-12
  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelists
  • Pastors
  • Teachers

1 Corinthians 12:28
  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Teachers
  • Miracle workers
  • Healing
  • Helps
  • Administration
  • Tongues

The number of spiritual gifts is not important; rather, the understanding of what they are and how they are to be used is what matters.

The goal of a spiritual gift is to help build the church; it's perfectly acceptable for Christians to seek out spiritual gifts. In fact, Paul encourages the Corinthian church to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1).

This does not mean spiritual gifts should be used to exalt an individual or feed the ego. Nor are they meant to support an immature desire for attention. Instead, we should strive to excel in gifts that build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).

One absolute non-negotiable is that spiritual gifts must be used in love (1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12:9; Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 4:8). Using a spiritual gift for any other reason than love is abuse of the gift and will ultimately cause trouble.

All spiritual gifts are needed, and all are equally valid. Some are more evident than others, but all are necessary to building up the body. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–26, we are told that no one should despise a certain gift or compare it to another. Unfortunately, this is human nature, and entire denominational rifts are based on placing a higher importance on a certain gift over another.

Some people -- even some denominations -- believe the gift of tongues is evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. We affirm that the gift of tongues is a valid gift for today, but we do not believe Scripture supports tongues as the only evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes to the Ephesians, commanding this group of believers to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This is an expression that shows up often in the Book of Acts and describes someone being under the control of the Holy Spirit. According to this command, every believer should seek to be filled by the Holy Spirit, but that does not necessarily mean speaking in tongues.

Though there is a record of people receiving spiritual gifts when they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44–48; 19:6), there are other instances of people being filled with the Holy Spirit where there is no mention of spiritual gifts (Acts 4:8, 31; 8:15–17; 9:17–18; 13:9, 52). Some speak in tongues, and others do not.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22–23 is the primary evidence of the Spirit-filled life. These qualities are produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The fruit of the Spirit shows that the Holy Spirit is in control of the believer’s life.

In general, we evaluate the presence of the Spirit by the presence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in a person’s life and ministry.

You can neglect a spiritual gift. Paul warns Timothy not to do this very thing (1 Timothy 4:14) and encourages him to "fan into flame” the gift God as given him (2 Timothy 1:6).

In order for a person to live out their full, God-given purpose, we believe it is essential for believers to discover and exercise their spiritual gifts.

We live in a spiritual, kingdom-of-God reality, in which the Holy Spirit distributes gifts for the work to which he’s called us. Therefore, our discovery of these gifts must be a spiritual experience itself.

Furthermore, just as God equips believers with spiritual gifts as they are needed to serve him, and not only at the time of conversion, the gifts themselves are dynamic. You may receive different gifts as the Holy Spirit calls you to serve in different ways throughout your lifetime.

That said, there are some ways to help you identify and hone your spiritual gifts. What do you enjoy doing? What needs or burdens has God laid on your heart? Do the leaders of your local church affirm certain gifts or abilities? How do these observations line up with what the Bible says? All of these are helpful guidelines to discovering your spiritual gifts, but of course, the Word of God is the ultimate measurement.

We, Adventures in Missions, believe in spiritual gifts as supernatural empowerments given by God to Christ-followers for the sake of the church and kingdom of God.

Our approach is, as Paul instructs us, that we eagerly seek the gifts without agenda. We do not try to force them or emotionally contrive a manifestation of a gift. We do, however, expect God to be true to his Word and empower each believer with certain gifts for the sake of edification of the church.

In all things, our sole focus is Jesus, not self or a particular gift, but to bring glory to God in all we do. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to serve his purposes on earth and to edify the church, and we embrace the use of them for those purposes. Naturally, all experiences are subject to discernment and must fully align with God’s Word, as revealed in Scripture.

References:
  • "Spiritual Gifts." The Christian and Missionary Alliance. October 2012.
  • Spiritual Gifts in the Local Church by David Pytches
  • Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere