Spiritual Gifts

Paul writes about gifts -talents- the Holy Spirit gives to people. During church history you see the special gifts are first being reserved for the ministers and later on they almost completely disappear. With the coming of the pentecost movement there came a renewed interest for the Spiritual Gifts.


  • The enumeration in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 is restrictive

  • With the help of a gifts test you can find out what your special gift is.

  • You shouldn’t confuse Spiritual gifts with normal talents

  • We should strive to the highest or best gift (1 Corinthians 12:31)

How you can also look at it

The enumeration of gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12is in the context of the functioning in a body. Paul puts forward that a body has a lot of different functions and that all functions are necessary to let the body as a whole function properly. You could compare a church with a body. All kinds of people with all kinds of gifts work together and complete each other. The one isn’t worth more than the other, the one isn’t needed more than the other. Because in Rome the situation was different than in Corinth, Paul gives an enumeration of different gifts. In Corinth the people were very fixated with the spiritual, so the focal point is on spiritual gifts as word of wisdom, word of knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. In Rome the focal point was more at the serving, ministering, teaching, exhortation, liberality, diligence, cheerfulness (NKJV).

The Corinth version of the list of Spiritual gifts seems to be more likely from the Holy Spirit than the practical gifts from Romans. When we talk about Spiritual gifts we almost never talk about liberality or diligence. We talk about revelation knowledge, prophecy, tongues and those kinds of the more mystical gifts. Still Paul says: “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV).

For the more practical assignment you need Gods help just as much as for the more spiritual matters.

An extension of this is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). You should say these are just normal human qualifications, not very special, only difficult. There are those days you don’t recognize yourself in this enumeration. Still Paul says you can have this, even if your don’t feel like it. The entire letter to the Galatians is about not having to earn it, not having to obey the rules, not having to be a slave of bad habits, but you can receive the freedom God has for you and all Spiritual gifts you need to survive in this messed up world and help others do the same.

To be honest, I think you benefit more from the gift of cheerfulness than of the gift of revelation knowledge. The positive influence you have in your (non believing) surroundings is much bigger with cheerfulness than with revelation, I think. Would they react well in the office? And also in church something as cheerfulness or diligence is heavily underestimated when you look at the way people look up to someone with the gift of knowledge. Knowledge is wonderful. I love knowledge, but I also love to have people around me who are able to encourage, or help or share. If they are not there, we end up with a lot of knowledge in a cold world. This won’t bring us much further. That’s why Paul writes a passionate plea about love to the Corinthians, after he explained a few things about the Spiritual Gifts. The point he makes is you can do every good thing and you can have every spiritual gift, without love it is worth nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)

So you don’t get your gifts to be a better human yourself, but to minister to others in church and in your surroundings. It helps you to do what comes on your path. It is quite meaningless to only strive to the ‘highest gift’. Suppose you get it, what then? It is very useful to ask for a gift you really need now, that may be revelation or may be patience. You will see that the need of a gift always lays close to who you are and to what happens in your surroundings. You are a certain personality, you have certain talents and you are in a particular place. You see things you want to do something about like injustice, sorrow, poverty, unrest, lac of knowledge, a non functioning organisation. What strikes you is different for every person, in this we luckily complete each other. God doesn’t want you to be someone else, He wants to strengthen the things He has put in you in the first place, so you can add to the things that are missing.

This is why I don’t see very much use for Spiritual Gifts Tests. If you know a little bit who you are and what you like, you also know what place or role suits you. You also know where you fall short. This is the place you need Gods gifts the most. For example, if you are a leader, you have (gotten) leadership qualities. So you don’t need those any more, they are part of your personality. But what you do need is wisdom, discerning, diligence, patience, kindness, etc., to be a good leader.

“So that the body of Christ may be built up. We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:12, 15-16 NIV)