Spiritual Gifts Defined

We believe that spiritual gifts are supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit in believers. Many people only think of spiritual gifts as the “sign gifts,” which include tongues, healing, and prophecy, but there are several other spiritual gifts defined in Scripture.

Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 give us a thorough explanation of the New Testament gifts, although respected biblical scholars disagree on the meaning and distribution of these gifts. Many believe that signs and wonders were used in the New Testament to help people recognize and believe in Christ, while also authenticating the authority of the apostles at the time, but that they are now not available to believers. Others argue that the “sign gifts” should be sought and performed today for God’s glory and others’ good.

However, both views at the extreme hold their own inconsistencies. On one end of defining spiritual gifts, some maintain the view that nothing has changed between the day of Pentecost in Acts and the present.

However, we know from examples in Scripture that some things are dramatically different, such as the apostles ability to heal changing over the course of the New Testament (Acts 5:12-16, Acts 20:7-12, 2 Timothy 4:20) and the admonition to the elders in James to pray for healing of the sick rather than directly performing the miracle of healing (James 5:14-15). The other end of the spectrum includes people who believe the “sign gifts” have completely ceased, which is not explicitly stated in Scripture.

We believe that it is possible to find unity over these differences, although we do not believe that the “sign gifts” can be considered a mark of spiritual maturity. Past this belief, we recognize that there are some differences in thoughts, opinions, and experiences in defining spiritual gifts. The one true Source we can return to without fault is Scripture. The following chart helps us define each gift through the information that the Bible gives to us.

GIFT DEFINITION SCRIPTURE REFERENCE(S) NOTES
Administration To plan, organize and execute procedures that accomplish the goals of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:28
Discernment To clearly distinguish truth from error by judging whether the behavior or teaching is from God or Satan. 1 Corinthians 12:10
Encouragement To come alongside someone with words of exhortation, comfort and counsel. Romans 12:8
Faith To be confidently convinced of God’s power and promises to accomplish His will and purpose. 1 Corinthians 12:9
Giving To share the resources you have with cheerfulness. Romans 12:8
Healings A means through which God makes people whole physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30 In Greek, this is in the plural and
implies different people have
different healing gifts. Someone
with a healing gift will not be able
to heal at will, but when God wills.
Paul was able to heal many people
(Acts 14:10, 16:18, 19:12, 20:9-10),
but was seemingly unable to heal
at other times (Philippians 2:26-27,
1 Timothy 5:23, 2 Timothy 4:20).
Interpretation of unknown languages To translate the message of
someone speaking in an unknown
language.
1 Corinthians 12:10 It is necessary if the body of
believers is to benefit.
(1 Corinthians 12:7, 13:1, 14:1-25)
Mercy To be sensitive toward those
who are suffering, feel genuine
sympathy, speak words of
compassion.
Romans 12:8
Leadership To give direction and motivate
others to accomplish goals.
Romans 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:28
Miracles To be enabled by God to
perform actions which witnesses
acknowledge are of supernatural
origin and means.
1 Corinthians 12:10, 28
Prophecy Speech reporting something that
God reveals to the speaker
Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:10,
14:1-5, 29-33a
Spoken in human words, so
there could be mistakes and
therefore should be evaluated
(1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
Should be used to build up the
church (1 Corinthians 14:3) or
evangelistically (1 Corinthians
14:24-25). Prophecy is not in the
same category as Scripture, but is
under (and tested by) Scripture.
Service To identify needs and use available
resources to meet those needs.
Romans 12:7
Speak in unknown languages To speak in a language not
previously learned so people can
hear God’s truth in their language,
for the benefit of others.
1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:1-33a
Teaching The ability to understand and
instruct people in truths of the
Bible.
Romans 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:8, 28
Wisdom To apply knowledge to life in such
a way as to make spiritual truths
relevant and practical.
1 Corinthians 12:8