DEFINITION:  The word “spiritual” means “characterized or controlled by the Holy Spirit.”  A “gift” is something freely given from one person to another.  A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to a believer for the purpose of service in the Body of Christ.


There is a difference between the “gift” and “gifts” of the Holy Spirit.  The “gift” was given at Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Holy Spirit was given in answer to the promise of Jesus: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter…Even the Spirit of truth…”(John 14:16-17a).  “Gifts”  are supernatural abilities given by the Holy Spirit to enable effective ministry, and are distributed to each believer as the Holy Spirit wills.

There is a difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents.  A talent is a natural ability inherited at birth or developed through training.   A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to be used for specific spiritual purposes.

The purposes of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in Ephesians 4:12-15.  The purposes are to perfect the saints, promote the work of the ministry, and edify Christ and the Church.   The goals of these spiritual gifts are that we will  become united in the faith, develop our knowledge of Christ, develop in perfection, with Christ as our model, become stable, not be deceived by false doctrines, and mature spiritually in Christ.

There are many gifts which come from one source. The source of spiritual gifts is the Holy Spirit who gives and operates these gifts in the lives of believers (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

Each believer has at least one spiritual gift.  “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms”  (1 Peter 4:10).  See also 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11.

You are only a steward of your spiritual gifts.  A steward does not own that with which he works.  He uses something given to him in behalf of the person who gave it to him.  You are a steward of your spiritual gifts to be used for the advancement of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 4:1).

The key to using spirit gifts is love.  See 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

A spiritual gift can be abused.  You abuse spiritual gifts by not using the gifts given to you  (1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6); attempting to use gifts not given to you (Acts 8:20-21; 19:15-16); and not using gifts properly (1 Corinthians 14:33,40).

The main passages identifying spiritual gifts are  Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; Ephesians 4:1-16; and 1 Peter 4:7-11.

Spiritual gifts include the following.

-Leadership gifts.

Apostle.  An apostle is one who has a special ability to develop new churches in different places and cultures and to oversee a number of churches as a supervisor.  Apostle means “a delegate, one sent with full power and authority to act for another.”

Prophet.  Prophecy is the ability to receive and communicate an immediate message from God to His people through a divinely-anointed utterance. A prophet is one who is in a leadership position in addition to his gift of prophesying.

Evangelist.  An evangelist has a special ability to share the Gospel with non-believers in a way that men and women respond and become responsible members of the Body of Christ.

Pastor.  Pastors are leaders who assume long-term responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers.

Teachers are believers who have the  ability to communicate the Word of God effectively in such a way that others learn and apply what is taught.  As a leadership gift, they also assume a leadership role in addition to teaching.

-Speaking gifts.

Prophecy is speaking  by the special inspiration of God to communicate an immediate message to His people.

Teaching communicates the Word of God in a way that others can learn and apply what is taught.

Exhortation is the ability to draw close to individuals in time of need, counseling them correctly with the Word of God.  To “exhort” means to call a person aside, to advise, recommend, admonish, encourage, or comfort.

Word of knowledge is the ability to understand things which others cannot comprehend and to share this knowledge with them under the inspiration of the Spirit.

Word of wisdom is the ability to receive insight as to how knowledge may be applied to specific needs.

-Serving gifts.

Discerning of spirits is the ability to evaluate people, doctrines, and situations as to whether they are of God or of Satan.

Leadership is  the ability to make plans in accord with God’s purpose and to communicate these goals to others.  A person with this gift motivates others to accomplish these goals for the glory of God.

Administration.  A person with the gift of administration has the ability to give direction, organize, and make decisions on behalf of others.

Faith is a special ability to believe with supernatural confidence and trust God in difficult circumstances.

Giving.  A person with the gift of giving has a special ability to give material goods and financial resources to the work of the Lord.   The gift of giving also includes giving time, strength, and talents to the work of the Lord.  All Christians are to give to the work of the Lord, but the gift of giving is a special ability given to give above and beyond the average believer.

Helps.  A person with the gift of helps assists others in their work for the Lord.

Serving is an ability to assume routine but necessary duties to free others to fulfill their giftedness.

Mercy is the ability to show special compassion on those suffering and  help them

Hospitality is a special ability to provide food, lodging, and care for those in need.

-Sign gifts.

Miracles.  Through a person with the gift of miracles God performs powerful acts which are beyond the possibility of occurring naturally.

Healing.  A believer with the gifts of healing has the ability to let God’s power flow through him to restore health apart from the use of natural methods.  All believers can pray for the sick, but a believer with a healing gift is used specifically and consistently by God in this area of ministry.

Tongues is the ability to receive and communicate a message of God to His people through a  language unknown to listeners, a message which is subsequently interpreted by someone with the gift of interpretation.

Interpretation of tongues is the ability to make known in a language understood by listeners a message from God given through one with the gifts of tongues.


Become a believer.  You must be a believer in order to receive a spiritual gift.  If you do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, confess your sins, repent, and accept Him into your life.

Receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  See “Baptisms” in this database for guidelines to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Pray for spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul said to desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31).  Ask the Holy Spirit to manifest in your life the gifts necessary for you to minister effectively in the realm of your spiritual calling.

Have church elders lay hands on you to bestow and confirm your gifts.  They did this for Timothy, a young minister in New Testament times (2 Timothy 1:6).

Use your spiritual gifts.  God  has given you spiritual gifts and expects you to use what you have been given.  Read the parable of the talents in  Matthew 25:14-30.



I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. (Romans 1:11-12)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.  (Romans 12:1-8)

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.  (1 Corinthians 1:7-9)

Read 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

Read  1 Corinthians chapter 14.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”    (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into 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 4:7-16)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6)

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)

(See also the verses in the  topic “Baptisms” in this database.  For a detailed study of the gifts of the Spirit obtain the Harvestime International Network publication entitled “The Ministry Of The Holy Spirit” available at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email