I previously looked at How the Holy Spirit fills and equips us to live a fulfilled and vibrant Christian life. I hope you were able to experience this infilling whether you had received it before or not. If you are truly thirsty you won’t stop until your thirst is quenched.
Today I want to look at another aspect of what the Holy Spirit gives us: His ‘gifts.’ If you are using these blogs as a guide for discipleship (and I hope you are!), why not discuss what gifts you think you might have and even those that you desire, because the bible says “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit…(1 Corinthians 14:1).
There are three main passages in the New Testament where these gifts are listed, some of them overlap as you can see. I have set these out in the table below;
What a lot to choose from! As an appendix at the bottom I have listed them out again with an explanation against each one. If you want to go straight to a specific gift then click the name in the table above.
These passages and the context in which they were written give us a good idea about how we receive the gifts and how we use them
As the body of Christ we are joined together and we use our gifts to encourage and help each other and to build one another up. Each part of the body has something different to offer. In the Corinthians passage it says that they are for ‘the common good.’ They are all distributed by the same Holy Spirit and He is the one who determines who gets them (but that is not to stop us desiring certain ones and even asking for them) We should never be proud of what we have or envious of others. We can trust the one who made us and who knows all about us and has a specific purpose for our lives to know exactly what gifts we should need.
It is worth mentioning that some of these gifts are given to us as part of our character. We could be a natural born leader or someone who finds it easy to teach or encourage etc. Some of the gifts are given for a specific time, for instance we encounter someone who is sick and we receive a supernatural surge of faith to pray for them and see them healed.
But our main gifts are given to us as we continue to follow Christ, as we seek to please Him and see His glorious bride (the church) fulfil its potential. We discover these gifts as we see a need in the church or something lacking that needs to be accomplished.
As we continue in our Christian life, these gifts are developed and strengthened as we become mature and keep using them.
Do you know what gifts you have and if so are you using them? Have a prayerful look at the list below and seek God for guidance. Why not ask a friend or your church leader for their honest opinion? Sometimes others can see things clearer than we can.
The Greek word apostolos means “one sent forth” There is a lot of debate whether people can be called apostles today. It appears there were degrees of apostles even in the New Testament, with Christ’s original followers and then others such as Paul, Barnabas, Andronicus and others being called apostles. We would not of course place anyone today in the same category as the original apostles but I believe that all the original gifts of the spirit are still in use and are needed in the church today including the gift of apostle. It is vital that we have knowledgeable, wise and godly fathers who are able to oversee large groups of churches, the planting of new churches into new regions and the establishing of elders in the local church. If you want to know more I recommend the book “Fathering leaders, motivating mission” by Dave Devenish top
Distinguishing between spirits
The bible describes Satan as being an ‘angel of light’ and some of his deception can be hidden behind apparently ‘good deeds’. However, someone with this gifting will be able to discern what spirit is behind the ‘good deed’, whether it be from God, man, or demonic. This gifting can work well together with the pastoral gift in counselling situations, or in determining what spirit is influencing a person. It is also useful for discerning true biblical teaching from false doctrine, which can be very subtle. top
The gift of encouragement (also referred to as exhortation) involves motivating and encouraging those who are struggling in their Christian walk. People with this gift have a lot of compassion, sensitivity and time for others. Often called a ‘people person’ they tend to naturally gather needy people around them, who know they will be helped and not judged. top
The gift of evangelist is the ability and desire to clearly and boldly share the good news of Jesus Christ so that non-Christians can become Christians. They seem to have an innate ability when talking to non-Christians to turn any conversation around to talk about God.
Evangelists have a strong desire to see the lost meet Jesus, so much so that often they would prefer to be with non-Christians than spend time with other Christians. The evangelistic gift fits in well with a healing gift as the power of God demonstrated in peoples’ lives will often make them receptive to the gospel. Many Evangelists are ‘apologists’ (from the Greek word ‘apologia’ meaning to ‘give a defence’). This is where they will use reason and arguments to defend the Christian faith. top
As with a lot of these gifts, all Christians have them to one degree or another, the gift of faith being a prime example. You wouldn’t be a Christian if you didn’t have faith and the bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
This extra gift of faith though, is the ability to trust God in almost impossible circumstances and believe that God will accomplish things purely because He has said so. Those with the gift of faith can persuade others of biblical truths because they believe them so completely themselves. They are able to hold on to the promises of God when all else seems helpless and others are ready to give up. Doubters annoy them, although they would always believe they could overturn doubt anyway.
They are often visionaries who dream big dreams, pray big prayers, and attempt big things for God. They tend to be optimistic and hopeful, persevering and positive. They are vital people to have around when things are going wrong. top
Giving is something that again every Christian should be doing, after all “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) but as with the gift of faith, the gift of giving is on a different level. Someone with this gift really enjoys blessing people and ministries with money or material possessions; they do it generously, joyfully and sacrificially and they view their possessions as ‘on loan’ from God. Where He points out a need they respond. They can often be people who are well off because God continuously blesses them as He sees them steward well His provision, but they are not always so. Jesus was poor but was the most generous man who ever lived! top
Also known as Shepherding. Shepherds nurture others in the Christian faith and provide a mentoring relationship to new Christians. This gift is closely linked to the gifts of teaching and pastoring, and combines well with both. Shepherds are usually mature Christians with a wealth of experience, able to pastor with patience and wisdom. This is one of the key gifts of an elder. top
The gift of healing is the ability to believe God that the sick will be healed when they are prayed for. A person with this gift will see many healed as he/she prays for them. Not everyone is healed (which is in the mystery of God) but it would seem that more are healed the more this gift is exercised and faith is increased. Those with this gift have a deep compassion for people who are sick or infirm, and delight to see them restored and God glorified. This gift can often accompany the evangelistic gifting with the proclamation of the gospel. top
Also called serving, it is the ability to joyfully work alongside others to help and serve them. This gift is normally performed behind the scenes, the person not looking for the limelight but simply happy that the task gets completed. People with this gift derive much joy from helping others, from volunteering without being asked and seeing a need and getting on with it. This gift would normally be associated with humility and someone willing to give sacrificially without reward. top
There are a few ways of interpreting what a ‘word of knowledge’ is, some would say it is simply the ability to study deeply and research a subject to more than just a surface understanding. I don’t think this is what a ‘word’ of knowledge is. My understanding is this: a ‘word of knowledge’ is knowledge revealed by God that otherwise would not be known by observation or human resource; it is a supernatural insight or understanding of a certain situation or circumstance. An example would be in Acts 5 where Peter ‘knew’ the deceit of Ananias and Saphira which appears to have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. However, it wouldn’t only be used to reveal hidden sins, it could also be used to bring encouragement to someone who is faltering to know that God is in control and he ‘knows’ them and their struggles. top
The gift of leadership involves the ability to lead and motivate a team with diligence and care. By definition a leader will have followers; if no-one is following, you’re probably not a leader! Leaders have a clear vision from God which they communicate to others, inspiring them to work towards a common purpose. top
Someone who has the gift of miraculous powers is able to call on God to carry out supernatural acts that reveal God’s power. These are not always extravagant acts (for example, seeing fire come down from heaven) but could be situations such as seeing food increased and distributed to more than would naturally be possible. We see in the bible a wide variety of miracles performed by Jesus and others, demonstrating that God does things for certain reasons at certain times according to His will. By nature they would need to be operated with a large degree of Faith. They are uncommon and do not happen regularly (or they would not be called miraculous) top
A pastor is someone who protects, guides, counsels and disciples other people. It is one of the main functions of an elder but not exclusively so. The pastor (or shepherd) has a care and love for people and a desire for them to mature into all God has for them. Someone with this gift will be sought out by people and will instinctively look to help those who are hurting or need counselling. top
A huge subject, to which I will not do justice here. One could talk about the office of a prophet but I’m just going to concentrate on the gift as mentioned in these passages.
Prophecy is the ability to speak forth the message of God to his people. Those prophesying are not speaking their own words but those given to them by God, however no prophecy will be 100% accurate and will naturally reflect the speaker’s theological views, sensitivities etc. For this reason prophecy should always be ‘weighed’ by the elders and other prophets. Prophecy will never contradict scripture.
Prophecy is designed to strengthen, encourage and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3) and if it leaves one feeling condemned it is most likely false. top
See Helping top
The gift of mercy is the capacity to feel and express great compassion and sympathy for those who are suffering physically, mentally or emotionally and to provide them with the necessary help and support to see them through tough times. They desire to make a difference in the lives of hurting people, without being judgmental, and will do it joyfully through deeds of love and self-sacrifice to help in any way they can. top
The gift of teaching is the ability to teach, instruct and communicate biblical truth clearly so that those being taught gain a full understanding of the truth, see the relevance to them on a personal level and are then able to apply it to their own lives. Those with this gift enjoy studying scripture and love to expound God’s truth to others, so that lives are changed. top
Tongues (speaking and Interpretation)
The gift of tongues is a very emotive and misunderstood subject in the church today. If you have strong views either way, please remember that 1 Corinthians chapter 13 on ‘love’ over-arches all this teaching on spiritual gifts!
Tongues is also interpreted as ‘languages’. We see it first demonstrated at Pentecost when the believers were first filled with the Holy Spirit and praised God in the various languages of their onlookers, so in this context it would not need interpretation as it is a gift given to communicate with someone in their own language.
The passage in Corinthians however points to another aspect of the gift of tongues, that of speaking in a heavenly language that edifies our spirits. In a church service, someone would pray out in a tongue and someone would then interpret that tongue. The tongue would be directed towards God.
The gift of tongues is also useful when interceding or praying to God. We can be sure that we are praying in the will of God, which is a great help when we do not know what to pray. In a wonderful way our spirit is communicating with God’s spirit. top
The gift of wisdom is the ability to have Godly insight into people’s hearts, lives and situations that is not obvious. Wisdom is associated with the word of knowledge and is exercised through the understanding and application of that knowledge. It is useful for those looking to apply biblical truth to their lives and is especially useful in counselling situations. top