Understanding Spiritual Gifts
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Pastor Dan Jongsma
When it comes to constructing a new home, we all know that using the right set of power tools is an essential part of the process. The same is true when it comes to constructing the Church, the House of God. Now the amazing thing is that God has called each person who belongs to Him to be a special power tool in His hands. He empowers us with divine capacities, special abilities called “spiritual gifts.” We are to use these gifts to bless others and to build His Church.
The Apostle Paul speaks about this in Romans 12:6-7.
“We have different [spiritual] gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach.”
Spiritual gifts may at times overlap with the natural talents and abilities we have been given. But the difference is that when a person becomes a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit provides a special anointing upon these gifts.
There is a divine infusion of power that takes place so that our efforts have significant, spiritual impact. In summary, every believer has been divinely empowered and equipped to make a unique contribution to the work of God in this world.
There are no gift-less Christians, no useless tools, no benchwarmers in God’s Kingdom. Everyone has at least one spiritual gift and most have several. This means that every believer has a calling to fulfill and a role to play.
There are four listings of spiritual gifts found in the New Testament – I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4 – with a total of 21 different gifts mentioned. These lists are illustrative, rather than exhaustive. In other words, there are probably more spiritual gifts than simply the ones listed in the New Testament. We might mention the creative gifts of music, art, and dance. Or the gifts of writing and craftsmanship.
Of the 21 spiritual gifts specifically mentioned, we can classify them into 4 categories:
The speaking gifts include prophecy, teaching, encouragement, evangelism, and shepherding.
The focus here is on communicating God’s truth in a way that helps others grow spiritually. The speaking gifts may be utilized in a large group setting, in a small group setting, or in a one-on-one encounter.
A second category are the sage or perceiving gifts. This set of gifts focuses not so much on speech but on understanding, and includes the spiritual gifts of knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and leadership.
Here the mind is the power tool that is engaged for the building up of the body of Christ.
A third category of gifts focuses more on concrete action. We can call these the service gifts.The hands, rather than the mouth or mind, become
These include the gifts of helps, mercy, giving, and hospitality. In very physical, tangible ways, God's grace is shared with other people.
The final categories can be called the sign gifts -- as in miraculous signs and wonders.
These include tongue-speaking, interpretation of tongues, miracles, and healing. These gifts are by definition “miraculous.” That is, they are deviations from the natural, normal way God works in this world.
From a careful read of I Corinthians 12 &14, we discover that the Apostle Paul doesn't discount these sign gifts as irrelevant or inoperative in our world today. Instead he recognizes that they have their place -- most often appearing when the Gospel is going out for the first time into a new region and breaking new ground. But neither does Paul raise these miraculous sign gifts up as being more prominent than the rest.
When it comes to the spiritual gifts God has given us, there are three things we need to do with them.
Deploy them in God’s service
Just like a birthday or Christmas present, these gifts need to be opened, appreciated, and then put to use.
At Faith Church, we have something called a Growth Track. It’s a five-step process we take people through to help them become all that God has meant them to be. One of the steps in that process is a class called “Discovering Your Design.” This class helps people identify their spiritual gifts and guides them in how to use them to bless others. If you are interested in taking the class, just let me know. Nothing feels as fulfilling as doing exactly what you have been designed