The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit, part 2—the Gifts of the Spirit

The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit, part 2—the Gifts of the Spirit

A study of what it means to walk in the Spirit would hardly be complete without considering what the Bible says about spiritual gifts. The evidence of the Spirit-filled, sanctified life is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. The evidence is not, as some claim, the gifts of the Spirit. The fruit is shared by and expected from all Christians alike, while the gifts are parceled out to various members of the body of Christ as the Holy Spirit wills (1 Cor 12:8–11). No matter what gift a person has, his exercise of that gift should be in keeping with the fruit. In other words, the Christian should use whatever gift or gifts he may have been given lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, and in keeping with the other fruit of the Spirit.[1]

With this in mind, let’s look at some facts about the gifts of the Spirit. Read 1 Cor 12:4-11.


  1. Words associated with spiritual gifts

There are several NT words used to denote the gifts of the Spirit. Each may emphasize some aspect of the gift or the Spirit’s work. They all refer to essentially the same thing—the gifts.

  1. spiritual” (l Cor 12:1): This word means literally “a spiritual thing” and describes the gift as proceeding from the Holy Spirit and to be exercised in the realm and power of the Spirit.
  2. gifts” ( l Cor 12:4; l Pet 4:10): This term (charismata) means “a grace gift” and refers to an unmerited, gracious endowment from God. This word denotes extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit.
  3. service” (KJV “ministries” l Cor 12:5; 1 Pet 4:10): This word emphasizes the usefulness of the gifts. The gifts are employed in serving one another.
  4. energy/activity” (KJV “operations” l Cor 12:6): This word emphasizes the power operating in the gifts; the power, activity, and energy of God and the Holy Spirit.
  5. Definition:  A spiritual gift is a visible, God-given, Holy Spirit-energized ability, whether naturally inherited or miraculously endowed, whether temporary or permanent, given to each believer for the edification of one’s local church for the glory of God.
    1. A spiritual gift is an ability, a capacity for service. In the case of the non-miraculous gifts, they need training, development, and nurture. E.g., the gift of teaching required that one learn and develop communication skills.
    2. A spiritual gift may be natural or supernatural, i.e., miraculous or non-miraculous in bestowal and function. In some sense, any gift must be supernaturally energized for its function, but this does not make it miraculous.
      1. A natural spiritual gift is one that is inherited naturally but made useful for spiritual service in the local church at salvation.
      2. A miraculous or supernatural spiritual gift is one that is imparted in a direct manner from God and it produces an ability that the person never possessed before. Its function is a special work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be explained in a natural or ordinary manner. The ability to speak in a language you never studied (e.g., tongues) was such a gift.
    3. The distribution of spiritual gifts
      1. Spiritual gifts are sovereignly distributed (l Cor 12:11, 18, 23; Rom 12:6; Heb 2:4). One may desire a gift (1 Cor 12:31), but God determines who receives which gift(s).
      2. Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts (l Cor 12:7; l Pet 4:10). There are no useless members in the Body of Christ. Each believer has a function to serve in the local church, and God has gifted him accordingly. Your gift “finds you” as you serve in the local church. Failure to use your gift for the benefit of the church is a simple violation of NT commands (cf. 1 Pet 4:10).
      3. No believer has all the gifts, and the gifts vary among the believers (l Cor 12:8 ff). Everyone contributes something to the body. Ideally, if everyone serves, all the gifts will be present. However, certain local churches may not have all the available gifts due to such factors as the maturity of its people, its state of growth, its spiritual condition, its population, etc.
      4. Gifts also differ in value, although all gifts are important and necessary for the healthy function of the local church. See l Cor 12:28 (“first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then …”) and 12:31 (“the greater gifts”), and l Cor 14:5, 19 (prophecy is greater than tongues).
  6. The gifts

Gifts can be categorized as sign, service, revelatory, leadership, and proclamation gifts. Gifts probably overlap to some degree. Further, a precise definition of each gift is almost impossible to give because the NT often does not define the gifts or explain how they were used. The lists of the NT gifts are probably to be considered exhaustive in the sense that all the gifts are either so named or would be subsets of some of the named gifts.

  1. Teaching (Rom 12:6-8; l Cor 12:7-11, 28; Eph 4:11-12): the ability to explain clearly the meaning of the Word of God. Teachers are individuals that God gives to His church, and teaching is an ability that these people have. Teachers help believers mature by instructing them in the faith.
  2. Ministry (Rom 12:7 “serving”; 1 Cor 12:28 “helps”): aid, especially to the weak and needy.
  3. Administration (Rom 12:8 “to lead, rule”; 1 Cor 12:28 “governments”): an ability to organize and administer with efficiency and harmony; the ability to give leadership and direction. One with this gift can probably see issues, discern the real factors involved, and provide direction.
  4. Evangelist (Eph 4:11): an itinerant announcer of the gospel’s good news who often also worked to organize local churches (much like a missionary does today). All pastors are to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5).
  5. Pastor (Eph 4:11): both a responsibility and an office. It requires shepherding abilities (including ruling, administering, exhorting, etc.) and a place or office in which to act as shepherd. A pastor must meet the qualifications (1 Tim 3;Titus 1) and be duly elected and authorized by the local church to function in that capacity.
  6. Exhortation (Rom 12:8 “exhort, comfort, encourage”): The word has two senses:

1.         to comfort, strengthen, or encourage

2.         to exhort or appeal to action

  1. Giving (Rom 12:8 “to give, share”): the ability to give to the work of the Lord consistently, liberally, sacrificially, with wisdom and cheer.
  2. Mercy (Rom 12:8): to give aid to those in misery of some kind, including the sick and afflicted.
  3. Faith (1 Cor 12:9): the ability to believe and trust God beyond the ordinary.
  4. Apostle (Eph 4:11; l Cor 12:28): a position of authority in the early churches. The basic idea of apostle is a representative, a “sent one.” An apostle had a special ministry of preaching the gospel, founding local churches, and writing Scripture.
  5. Prophecy (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 28; 14:1-40; Eph 4:11): the ability to receive revelation from God and proclaim it to others (cf. 1 Cor 14:29-32). A prophet had a part in founding local churches (Eph 2:20) and in bringing revelation when needed, especially before the NT was finished.
  6. Miracles (1 Cor 12:28): signs to certify a messenger with a divine message.
  7. Healing (1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30): the miraculous ability to heal diseases and deformities as a sign to authorize a messenger with a divine message.
  8. Tongues (1 Cor 12:10): the miraculous ability to speak a language not previously known to the speaker. It was a sign gift primarily, although an element of revelation may have been involved in the content of the tongues-speaking. The content of tongues was praise, giving of thanks, extolling God, etc. (Acts 2:11; 10:46; 1 Cor 14:16).
  9. Interpretation of Tongues (1 Cor 12:10): the miraculous ability to interpret or translate a language not previously known to the interpreter.
  10. Discerning of Spirits (1 Cor 12:10): the supernatural ability to discern a true prophecy from a false one, when direct revelation was being employed (cf. 1 Thess 5:20-21).
  11. Wisdom (1 Cor 12:8): the capability of receiving revealed truth and presenting it to others. The wisdom of God is the whole system of revealed truth (1 Cor 2:6-12).
  12. Knowledge (1 Cor 12:8): receiving and communicating divine revelation; the ability to understand and exhibit clearly the wisdom of God.
  13. The purpose of the spiritual gifts

A spiritual gift is to be exercised within the ministry and outreach of one’s local church. While the larger Body of Christ may benefit from the gifts, the exercise of spiritual gifts is properly to be done under the ministry of one’s local church. Spiritual gifts are always for the benefit of others. For one to have a gift and not use it within the church is a great shame.



In the third part of this lesson, we’ll consider the permanency of the spiritual gifts.

[1] Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

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