Definition: A spiritual gift is the special ability given by God to each believer for ministry within the body of Christ. We can classify them in at least three ways: permanent or continuing spiritual gifts and temporary signifying spiritual gifts; speaking gifts and serving gifts; public communication gifts and serving gifts and individual ministry gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11-19; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11).
Spiritual gifts were instituted by Christ at His ascension (Ephesians 4:8, 11) and given to individual believers according to the Father’s plan through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-11; Romans 12:3).
Every believer has a spiritual gift, and every believer is anatomically and functionally a part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:16; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
There are different gifts. They work together harmoniously and efficiently. The idea of different gifts does not imply superiority or inferiority among believers (Romans 12.6; 1 Corinthians 12:4, 14-25).
Gifts are given to benefit the body of Christ, the church, which is composed of believer-priests whose purpose is to serve God (1 Corinthians 12:7, 17, 25; Ephesians 4:16; 1 Peter 2:5; 4:10).
Spiritual gifts are grace gifts that are to be responsibly and faithfully managed and used as any other responsibility assigned to a person (Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Peter 4:10).
A believer ought to serve God based upon what his spiritual gift is; his spiritual gift determines the direction of his ministry and production (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Peter 4:10).
Spiritual gifts are vital in the Christian way of life, but they should be balanced with godly love identified in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; gifts are to be used in love. God is able to accomplish everything He desires quite easily, but He wants believers to respond to His love and to manifest His love to others more than He wants them to do “things” apart from love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8).
There are three dimensions to the operation of spiritual gifts in the Christian way of life (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
The gifts refer to the specific ability. This ability is given by the Holy Spirit.
The ministries refer to the areas of service appropriate to that gift. The ministries are directed by Christ as Head of the church.
The activity and effects refer to the production in the ministries accomplished through the gift. The Father has planned the production.
The communication gifts have been given special importance (1 Corinthians 12:28-31; 14:3-5, 19; Ephesians 4:11-12). This is because the communication of the Word of God prepares the believer to live the Christian way of life. Believers should therefore make listening to the communication of the Word of God a priority in life.
Temporary signifying spiritual gifts are those spiritual gifts given to the church founders (apostles) in order to authenticate the apostles’ ministry and message, to help found the church, and to carry the church through its infancy. They were operational only during the transitional first century. Hebrews 2:3-4, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Romans 15:18-19, and 1 Corinthians 13:8-11 document that these gifts demonstrated the apostles’ ministry and authority. See also Acts 2.42, Ephesians 2.20, and 1 Corinthians 3.10.
The following are the temporary spiritual gifts: apostles, prophets-prophecy, miracles, gifts of healings, kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, differentiating spirits, faith.
Permanent spiritual gifts are those gifts that are consistently given throughout the church age. For ease of learning and application we can say that there are ten permanent spiritual gifts making up three categories. The categories and the gifts are public communication (pastor and teacher, evangelist, and teacher), operations (leadership, administrations, and service), individual (helping, showing mercy, encouragement, giving).
Summary definition for each of the permanent spiritual gifts.
Pastor and teacher: The man gifted with the ability to authoritatively care for, lead, and communicate the Word of God for understanding and application (spiritual growth) to people making up the flock or the local church body (Acts 20:17-28; Ephesians 4:11-12; Hebrews 13:17).
Teacher: The ability to communicate the Word of God to believers so that they may understand its content and grow spiritually (Romans 12:7).
Evangelist: The person gifted with the ability to communicate the gospel of Christ to the unbeliever so that the unbeliever will understand and believe in Jesus Christ and then be integrated into the church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Leadership: The ability to lead, direct, and motivate, people, areas of thought, and activity for the orderly, efficient, and harmonious attainment of objectives (Romans 12:8).
Administration: The ability to steer, to guide, to implement, and manage the accomplishment of a policy so that the best, most efficient method, route, and procedure is used to secure the objective (1 Corinthians 12:28).
Service: This support gift is the ability to effectively carry out a task, do a job, and engage in an activity for another person or group as a part of the body of Christ. The person with the gift of service functions under authority, with loyalty to that authority, and with an objective or objectives to accomplish (Romans 12:7).
Help: This is the ability to help, give assistance, and give aid to those within the church. Helping is often spontaneous, independent, varied, and short term (1 Corinthians 12:28).
Mercy: This is the ability to express sympathy, kindness, and help to the person experiencing earthly, human need (Romans 12:8).
Encouragement: The ability to express the content of the Word of God to another believer so that the Holy Spirit can bring about biblical mental attitudes and actions in that believer (Romans 12:8).
Giving: This is the ability to share with other believers from your material resources over and above the normal giving of believers (Romans 12:8).
In order to help identify your spiritual gift, prayerfully think through the following questions.
What do you find yourself doing? What kind of effects or production do you have or what specific blessings are you to others? If you are growing in Christ and living the Christian way of life, you will find that your spiritual gift is operating even if you have not identified your gift.
Do the effects and blessings fall into one kind of ministry or similar kinds of ministries that are especially dependent upon a particular spiritual gift?
Can you recognize a special ability that relates to one of the spiritual gifts? What is your desire in ministering? You should have a desire to serve in the area of your gift.
Your gift will benefit other believers and they will recognize that benefit.
Apply the three dimensions of the Christian way of life that pertain to spiritual gifts—gift, ministry, effects—to yourself (2 Corinthians 12:4-6).
Allow God to work through you. You have a gift and ministries and production.