Spiritual Gifts - What the Bible has to say

Key Scriptures on Spiritual Gifts
Their Nature - what are "spiritual gifts"? (see also "Purpose" and "Duration")
Their Purpose - what do they do if correctly used?
Their Use - what does "correctly" mean?
Our Attitude � how should we regard spiritual gifts? (see also "Their Use")
Their Duration � how long will God be giving gifts?
Final Conclusions
A List Of Gifts

Key Scriptures on Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12-14

Romans 12:3-10 and context

Ephesians 4:11-13 and context

1 Peter 4:10-11 and context

1 Corinthians 7:7

Hebrews 2:4


Their Nature - what are "spiritual gifts"? (see also "Purpose" and "Duration")


  1. They are given by God - 1 Pet 4:10, Eph 4:10, 1 Cor 12:7,11,28, Heb 2:4 ("according to His own will")
  2. They glorify God - 1 Pet 4:11
  3. There are various types - see "Lists". Also 1 Pet 4:10 ("manifold" grace), Rom 12:6 ("differing"), 1 Cor 12:4-6,12-28, 14:26, 7:7
  4. They are supernatural - 1 Cor 12:7,11, also 1 Pet 4:11 ("God may be glorified" - therefore they are a manifestation of God's work)


  1. Currently "in part" (see also "Duration") - 1 Cor 13:9
  2. Must be tested - 1 Cor 12:2-3, 14:29
  3. Understandable, edifying words - 1 Cor 14:3-6,19
  4. Prophesier can control whether to speak or not, and can make the decision based on his or her awareness of the surroundings - 1 Cor 14:31-32
  5. Appears to be linked to baptism in the Holy Spirit - Some Old Testament Examples


  1. Speaker is speaking to God, not to man - 1 Cor 14:2
  2. Generally, nobody understands (unless it is interpreted) - 1 Cor 14:2,4-6,13-14,19,21-22
  3. Sometimes understood, even if uninterpreted - Acts 2:?
  4. Speaker is speaking "with the spirit" - 1 Cor 14:15-17 and context
  5. It is a good gift (Paul gave thanks that he had it) - 1 Cor 14:18
  6. Speaker can control whether to speak or not, and can make the decision based on his or her awareness of the surroundings - 1 Cor 14:27,31-32
  7. Appears to be linked to baptism in the Holy Spirit - Some New Testament Examples


Their Purpose - what do they do if correctly used?


  1. They glorify and bear witness to God - 1 Pet 4:11, Heb 2:4
  2. They profit everyone - 1 Cor 12:7
  3. They build up the church - 1 Cor 14:12, Eph 4:12,16
  4. They equip believers for ministry - Eph 4:12
  5. They bring unity (of faith and knowledge) to the Body of Christ - Eph 4:12


  1. They build up (and exhort and comfort) individuals - 1 Cor 14:3, Acts 15:32
  2. They are a "sign" for believers - 1 Cor 14:22
  3. They lead to the conversion of unbelievers - 1 Cor 14:24-25
  4. ? They warn believers of danger - Acts 11:28-30, 20:23, 21:10-14
  5. ? They direct the details of God's work - Acts 13:2


  1. They edify the speaker - 1 Cor 14:4
  2. If not interpreted, they do not edify others - Throughout 1 Cor 14
  3. They are a "sign" for unbelievers - 1 Cor 14:22


Their Use - what does "correctly" mean?


  1. With love - 1 Cor 12:31-13:3, Rom 12:9-10
  2. For "building up" (edification) - 1 Cor 14:12,26 (2 Cor 12:19 ?)
  3. Decently and in order - 1 Cor 14:40,33
  4. According to what gift(s) are given each individual - Rom 12:6, 1 Pet 4:10
  5. To do God's work - Rom 12:7-8, 1 Pet 4:10-11
    1. So that God may be glorified (not us) - 1 Pet 4:11
    2. So that we may be good stewards of God's grace - 1 Pet 4:10
  6. By everyone - Eph 4:16, (1 Pet 4:10), 1 Cor 12:11
  7. Being aware of the diversity and unity of the Body � Eph 4:15-16,Rom 12:4, 1 Cor 11,12:12


  1. Each speaker speaks in turn � 1 Cor 14:31
  2. Prophecies should be "judged" by other prophets � 1 Cor 14:29
  3. Gift should be used in proportion to the users faith � Rom 12:6


  1. If in a gathering of believers, should be one by one � 1 Cor 14:27
  2. If in a gathering of believers, there must be a person to interpret � 1 Cor 14:12,13
  3. Private use is hinted at � 1 Cor 14:18,19,28


Our Attitude � how should we regard spiritual gifts? (see also "Their Use")


  1. We should not be ignorant about spiritual gifts � 1 Cor 12:1,14:20
  2. We should earnestly desire them, to edify the body, particularly the "greater" gifts, particularly prophecy � 1 Cor 12:31, 14:1,12-13,19,39
  3. Everyone has gifts to use � Eph 4:16 "Each part does its share" (1 Pet 4:10 ? "as each one") 1 Cor 12:11
  4. Having particular gifts does not make one a better or worse Christian than others � 1 Cor 12
  5. If we have a gift or gifts, we should be a good steward of it � 1 Cor 14:26
  6. We should serve God diligently and fervently (with our gifts?) � Rom 12:11


  1. Mentioned as a gift that we should especially desire � 1 Cor 14:1,39


  1. A good gift (Paul gave thanks that he had it) but not the best � 1 Cor 14:5
  2. Its use should not be forbidden � 1 Cor 14:39


  1. To be specifically prayed for, if one speaks in tongues in a gathering of believers � 1 Cor 14:13


Their Duration � How long will God be giving gifts?

  1. Not forever � 1 Cor 13:8
  2. Until "That which is perfect has come", that is, when I "know, just as I am [now] known" � 1 Cor 13:12
  3. During the "last days" � Acts 2:17 (Joel 2:28)
  4. Until we (the Body of Christ) all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Jesus � Eph 4:13



Spiritual gifts are different supernatural manifestations or abilities that God gives to individual believers. They are given for the believers to use in their ministry, for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ and its individual members (through their effects), and for the purpose of glorifying God (through their supernatural nature). Every believer is given gifts, and is expected to use them, and must therefore be given opportunity to do so. A gift is under the conscious control of the user, whose motive must be one of love.

We should desire gifts, eagerly desiring those which have greater capacity to edify. In particular, although tongues is a good gift (and therefore, like all good things, to be sought after), it is not to be so greatly esteemed or sought after as others (for example prophecy) since if not interpreted, it can only edify the speaker - evidently the Body still profits thereby, but much less than if more than one had been edified, for example through the speaking of understandable words.

Some claim that spiritual gifts ceased after the time of the apostles. The main argument to support this claim is based on two assertions. The first is that the phrase "That which is perfect" in 1 Cor 13:12 refers to the New Testament scriptures. This is based on the second, which is that the "supernatural" gifts all relate directly or indirectly to the production of these scriptures, either through inspired teaching or by confirming the apostles for who they are.

Neither of these assertions can be logically and clearly derived from the relevant scriptures. A study of the gift of prophecy, for example, reveals that its purpose was to edify the believers, to bring unity to the Body, to convert unbelievers, and (apparently) to warn of coming danger and to direct the specific details of God's work. Although the New Testament canon is now "in full", all these effects of the gift of prophecy remain "in part" to this day. The "perfect" edification and unity has not yet been accomplished in the body of Christ, and will not be accomplished before His return.

The idea that "supernatural" gifts ceased with the apostles (but presumably "natural" ones like administrations and mercy continue) also does not sit easily with the other passages relating to the duration of spiritual gifts (that they appear during the "last days", and that Jesus gives "some to be� prophets� until we all come to unity of the faith and the knowledge of God"), nor with the teaching that all spiritual gifts, including the "natural" ones, are in fact manifestations of the Spirit, and glorify God through being supernatural.


Final Conclusions

  1. Spiritual Gifts are supernatural abilities from God (including those that seem natural)
  2. The Spirit gives gifts to every believer.
  3. We must use our gifts, as good stewards of them, to build up our brothers.
  4. When doing the work of God, we should use our spiritual gifts (our supernatural abilities) rather than our natural ones, because the former glorify God.
  5. We should desire gifts, especially those that build others up.


A List Of Gifts

This list is in alphabetical order. Some argue that there are additional gifts not mentioned in scripture. The Bible does not specifically exclude this possibility, but rather commands "test all things, hold fast to that which is good", and gives a number of tests to apply, which I have not listed here. Any supposed spiritual gift must fulfill the description and purpose of spiritual gifts in general as given in the scriptures (and outlined above). Also, many spiritual gifts listed as one type here are referred to in the plural in the scripture (eg "Different kinds of tongues", or "Gifts of healings") and in some cases, some of the different manifestations of the gift are outlined (eg "Everyone has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation" - 1 Cor 14:26) Such distinctions are not reflected below. In addition, there may be some overlap between the various gifts. Our focus should not so much be on identifying what gift any particular manifestation is, but rather to use this list as a starting point to help identify what supernatural abilities God has given for us to use.

Administration (1 Cor 12:28); Apostlehood (1 Cor 12:28,29, Eph 4:11); Distinguishing between spirits (1 Cor 12:10); Dreams (Acts 2:17); Encouraging (Rom 12:8); Evangelism (Eph 4:11); Faith (1 Cor 12:9); Giving (Rom 12:8); Healing (1 Cor 12:9,28,29); Helping Others (1 Cor 12:28); Interpretation of Tongues (1 Cor 12:10,29); Knowledge (1 Cor 12:8); Leadership (Rom 12:8); Mercy (Rom 12:8); Miracles (1 Cor 12:10,28,29); Not Marrying (1 Cor 7:7); Pastoring (Eph 4:11); Prophecy (Acts 2:17, Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:10,28,29, Eph 4:11); Service (Rom 12:7, 1 Pet 4:11); Speaking (1 Pet 4:11); Teaching (Rom 12:7, 1 Cor 12:28,29, Eph 4:11); Tongues (1 Cor 12:10,28,29); Visions (Acts 2:17); Wisdom (1 Cor 12:8)