Understanding “Spiritual” Gifts

by Bert R. Hartmann

The Spiritual Gift (charisma in Greek) passages are commonly known as Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. Some portions of Scripture have been used to list even further gifts such as hospitality (philoxenia); however, it must be pointed out that practicing hospitality is something that all Christians should do (Matthew 25:35ff), so it should not be considered a specific gift. Listed below are these common passages with the Greek words identified. This makes it easy to specify each gift talked about. (If you study Spiritual Gifts, you will find different listings, names and definitions, so the Greek words provide a solid common ground for discussion!) I have broken the gifts down into four major groupings of supporting, speaking, serving, and sign gifts. Whether certain gifts are still active today remain as matters of personal interpretation. We must realize that our manifested natural talents/abilities and temperaments are not necessarily the same as the supernatural gifts/abilities all Christians receive. Feel free to email me with your comments/questions regarding this discussion paper's ending thesis.

Gifts can be divided into activities and offices (office - a position of authority that one is called to, consequently affirmed in, and supported in; note in the table how two offices exactly correlate with the two groups of people in the world today—unbelievers and believers):


“According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy (propheteia), use it according to the standard of faith; if service (diakonia), in service; if teaching (didasko), in teaching; if exhorting [encouraging] (parakaleo), in exhortation; giving [sharing] (metadidomi), with generosity; leading (proistemi), with diligence; showing mercy (eleeo), with cheerfulness”  (Romans 12:6-8 HCSB)

 “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

to one is given a message of wisdom (sophia) through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge (gnosis) by the same Spirit, 
to another, faith [vision] (pistis) by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing (iama) by the one Spirit,
to another, the performing of miracles (energema, dunamis), to another, prophecy (propheteia),
to another, distinguishing between spirits [discernment] (diakrisis),
to another, different kinds of languages (glossa),
to another, interpretation (hermeneia) of languages.” (1Cor 12:7-10 HCSB)

“And God has placed these in the church: first apostles (apostolos), second prophets (prophetes), third teachers (didaskalos), next, miracles (dunamis), then gifts of healing (iama), helping (antilempsis), managing [administration] (kubernesis), various kinds of languages (glossa). Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages? Do all interpret (diermeneuo)?” (1Corinthians 12:28-30 HCSB)


“And He [Christ] personally gave some to be apostles (apostolos), some prophets (prophetes), some evangelists (euaggelistes), some pastors (poimen) and teachers (didaskalos), for the training (preparing/equiping) of the saints in the work of ministry (diakonia), to build up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-12 HCSB)


Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve (diakoneo) others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks (laleo), his speech should be like the oracles of God; if anyone serves (diakoneo), his service should be from the strength God provides, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11 HCSB)


A Suggested Grouping of Spiritual Gifts

2-4 SUPPORTING Gifts =
(supporting/equipping = katartismos)
Dealing with unbelievers is the: 
Dealing with believers is the:
Apostle apostolos (may be the Apostles, we have the NT today...)
Prophet prophetes (may also be inoperative today, we have the OT...)
• Evangelist (perhaps a Missionary also) euaggelistes
• Pastor (Shepherd) and Teacher poimen kai didaskalos
5 SPEAKING (laleo) Gifts =
• Prophecy (Preaching) propheteia
• Teaching didasko
• Exhortation (Encouraging/Motivating) parakaleo
• Word of Knowledge logos gnosis
• Word of Wisdom logos sophia
7 SERVING (diakonia*) Gifts =
• Faith (Vision) pistis
• Discernment (spiritual or doctrinal truth or error) diakrisis
• Helps/Helping antilempsis
• Showing Mercy (Compassion) lovingkindness eleeo
• Management (Administration, Government) steering kubernesis
• Leadership proistemi
• Giving a part of, sharing metadidomi
4 SIGN Gifts =
(In Acts, we see that "miraculous
signs" were always used to prove
the authority of God's Word.)

Miracles dunamis
Tongues (simply Languages…) glossa
Interpretation of Tongues (simply Translation…) hermeneia/diermeneuo
Healings (can be spiritual, emotional, mental, physical) iama

* Note how service/serve diakonia (the root for deacon) is used in Rom 12:7, Eph 4:12 and 1Peter 4:10-11 (I did NOT list serving as a specific gift, but used it as a category—though all gifts are used in serving others.)


Understanding Spiritual Gifts in the New Covenant


“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5 HCSB)

“Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 HCSB)

The variety of gifts are from the Holy Spirit.
The diverse ministry opportunities are from the Lord.
The action and results are from God the Father to His glory.

Note the emphasis on the different kinds of gifts, ministries, and activities all from the one triune God. We all have the same equal honor before God as gift bearers, since each has received a gift. Believers have "spiritual" gifts because they are 100% filled with the Holy Spirit. The question always is: "How much of me/us (what percent) does the Spirit have of me/us?" The manifestation of the gifts, ministries, and workings are the real edible fruit that others can see and taste. The fruit grows as we hang out on the vine, resting in Him who is able to do all.

I am able to do all things through [in] Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 HCSB)


Thesis: In faith, when I rest in Christ, my power to choose centers not on using my spiritual ability/abilities (gift/gifts) but on my availability to allow Christ in me to manifest His life as me. Where is our focus—on Him or me? When our focus is on Him, He will focus on others through us. The nine-fold fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the gifts of the Spirit are made real to others as God empowers and implements His will working through Christ in me in leading, serving and speaking to others. Gifts simply describe or categorize His grace work through us in a fallen world. If saved (indwelt), we start with at least one Spiritual gift otherwise anything we would do, would be of the fallen flesh—of wood, hay, and stubble that will be burned up, and NOT of the Spirit—of Christ in us.

Bottom Line: We should focus on the Giver and not the gifts! Interesting to ask: Did not Christ demonstrate ALL the gifts?

Discussion Questions: Who are you in Christ? What do you have in Christ? How does Christ continue His earthly ministry today? How does Christ operate in His Body today? What is the truth of the New Covenant and Who is the Truth in the New Covenant? How does John 15:5 relate to God's life in us? How is God's love manifest in the world? What gifts, ministries, and Godly activities do you see around you?

Here is an excellent read, from Chapter 5 in the book Body Life by Ray Stedman: Discovering and Using Your Gift

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Jun12, 2006; Oct 20, 2007; Apr 9, 2011/brightsword@mac.com