What Are Spiritual Gifts and Where Are They in the Bible?

What are spiritual gifts? Are the lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible complete?

Spiritual gifts are a subset of the many gifts the Holy Spirit gives to his Church. The word spiritual, or as Paul puts it, “the spirituals” are the ones people usually focus on a 1 Corinthians 12. Paul doesn’t use the word “gifts” in that chapter. But there are other gifts mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. They are not “spiritual.”

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed upon people in the body of Christ to minister to others. There are several lists of gifts throughout the New Testament. Here is a sampling:

  • The Spirituals (1 Corinthians 12:8-12) – These are gifts that are usually used in spiritual service to God during a gathering of Christian saints.
  • Ministry Gifts (Ephesians 4:11) – These are leadership functions within the church equip the body to grow into unity in Christ.
  • Service Gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:9-11) – These gifts are essential to the body of Christ but not always noticeable or in the limelight.

Beyond these lists, throughout the Old Testament we see examples of gifts that the Holy Spirit enhances. One example is the chief artisan who builds the tabernacle with all of its implements inside. The Holy Spirit comes upon him to do this ministry.

I define gifts of the Spirit as any gift, talent, or ability that is empowered and infused by the Holy Spirit. He uses these gifts for his glory and other people. These lists give us a good start, but they are not the end of the matter. There are gifts that Paul and the other apostles do not mention in Scripture that the Holy Spirit uses to further his kingdom.

Although this is a wide category between gifts, talents, and abilities, we must be careful not to go too far. Personality traits, such as confidence, stubbornness, and others, are not gifts of the Spirit. They are how God wired us.

The spiritual gifts used in services tend to be the only thing talked about when we talk about gifts of the Spirit. But all of these gifts that the Holy Spirit empowers us with are just important as any of the other gifts. As Paul teaches, the body needs its many parts.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians because they thought these spiritual gifts for the most important things at the neglect of every other gift. And they had a thing for speaking in tongues. But Paul wrote to correct them in their understanding. That’s what 1 Corinthians 12-14 is all about.

Your gifts, whether you think they are important or not, are vital to God’s kingdom and work in this world. The Holy Spirit gave you your gifts to serve others. We must not look down on others or think that we are not helpful to the body of Christ.

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