What Are the Spiritual Gifts?

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We’ve been going deeper into the categories of the gifts of the Spirit in our Seek the Gifts series. We talked about the leadership gifts and the service gifts. But now we will talk about what most people see as the most fantastical gifts.

These are gifts the Holy Spirit Himself gives to us. They don’t have a background in our abilities were talents like the service gifts. They are not people the Spirit gives to the Church as gifts. These are gifts the Holy Spirit apportions to people to lead the Church and speak to us as He wills.

But before we get to the subcategories of these gifts we see often in church services and gatherings, we must first deal with how people have handled these gifts today. Let’s dive in and talk about the spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

The Most Misunderstood Gifts

Throughout my pastoral ministry, people ask me more about these nine spiritual gifts than any of the other gifts. It seems most of the time, I must defend these gifts more than all others. Because they seem so unique to the Spirit’s ministry, people want to know more about them.

It is for gifts like speaking in tongues and prophecy that cessationists reject that the gifts operate today. They may not be fond of many of these nine spiritual gifts. They point to arguments that they have not been utilized throughout Church history.

But just because the Church has not historically continued in the gifts of the Spirit does not mean we should not seek them today. If they are in the Bible, God meant for them to happen today. The Bible does not tell us they were only meant for Bible times.

These gifts happen in the church service, when we gather to worship the Lord and hear from the Spirit. If God spoke to people in the Bible, He speaks to people today. As we seek to hear His voice, the Spirit uses the gifts to speak to us and lead us.

People see these as unusual gifts. They don’t understand how they work or why the Holy Spirit uses them among us. I don’t profess to know everything about why God does what he does and how He chooses to do it. But thinking the spiritual gifts are strange does not mean He does not work through them and through us.

The Baby and the Bath Water

Just because we don’t completely understand these gifts does not mean we should stop using them. Groups like the cessationists think operating in the gifts is too messy, so they elect not to try. But that’s not what the Scriptures tell us to do.

So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39, ESV)

This verse specifically addresses prophecy and speaking in tongues. But the principle of desiring and operating in the gifts we should maintain for all the gifts. Besides, like many Christians and Christian groups, cessationists would not say the gifts of administration, service, leadership, hospitality, and other gifts are not still in use.

Many want to pick and choose which gifts they say are still in use today and which ones are not. But like reading, practicing, and teaching all the Scriptures, you cannot pick and choose which gifts you still believe are in use.

When churches and organizations decide whether to pick and choose gifts or to not use any of the gifts, they threw the baby (all gifts) out with the bathwater (gifts they don’t like). Either the gifts are in use today and were put in the Scriptures for our guidance or they are not in use at all. And that means all the gifts either way.

Three Categories

The nine spiritual gifts listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 can be categorized into three types of spiritual gifts. This is based on their effects in the body of Christ. How we use them shows how they fit into these three categories.

Several of the spiritual gifts work together within the congregation and service of the Church. After I introduce these categories and the lists of the nine spiritual gifts, I will go into detail in the next three posts on the individual categories. This is where we will see descriptions and examples of each of the gifts in action.

Each of these categories reveals a different facet of the nine spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit uses each gift, but works powerfully in the ways these categories layout. Let’s look at these three gifts in more detail.

Revelation Gifts

The three spiritual gifts in the list we refer to as the revelation gifts are the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. Each of these gifts reveals a word from the Lord or the players on the battlefield of spiritual warfare.

The word of wisdom gives its hearer God’s wisdom on a matter weighing on their heart. The word of knowledge gives divine information to a person who needs it right at that moment. And the discerning of spirits helps us to understand what spirits are involved in the situations we face.

The word of wisdom and word of knowledge can work together. I will give more detailed descriptions and examples of each of these in the next post. We will focus on how each of these works in a service or situation the Christian given these gifts deals with.

Power Gifts

The power gifts contain the gifts of faith, healings, and miracles. We call them the power gifts because the Holy Spirit uses them to change the lives and situations of those people who receive the results of these gifts.

God has done incredible miracles throughout the Scriptures, and He wants to continue doing those things today. He has not changed and what he can and will do in the lives of those who serve Him. He also works powerfully in those who have the gift of faith to see Him do marvelous things.

And because God has not changed, He still heals the sick and those with infirmities of all kinds. His divine power works mightily against all the sicknesses of the body that go against His design for how the body works. And He receives all the glory from these three spiritual gifts today.

Utterance Gifts

The three utterance gifts have to do with speech in the local church service as the Spirit moves in powerful ways. When His presence is with us in the service, He wants to speak to His people. And he uses the utterance gifts to do this.

The utterance gifts are prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation. Perhaps these three are the most controversial of all the nine spiritual gifts Paul mentions here. But the Holy Spirit uses each gift for different reasons and different effects.

The gift of prophecy guides the Church, gives direction against worldliness and sin, corrects, and encourages the body. Speaking in tongues has a couple of uses, as we will see, but speaks a powerful word to the Church that demands attention.

Speaking in tongues must work in conjunction with the gift of interpretation. As Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 14, speaking in tongues must not stand alone. It must be an intelligible message, which requires the corresponding gift of interpretation.

Wrapping Up

This quick introduction serves to give us the lay of the land as we dive deeper in the next three posts on the details and examples of how we use these gifts in the body of Christ. If you have questions as we continue through these gifts, leave a comment at the bottom of the posts and I will be happy to answer your questions.

Up Next

We’ve just scratched the surface of the spiritual gifts. Next, we take a deep dive on each of the categories of the spiritual gifts. Let’s begin with the revelation gifts, what they are, and how they work.

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