Gifts of the Spirit
Bible Versus that list the different Gifts.
Romans 12:6-8 tells us about these gifts: exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service and teaching.
1 Corinthians 12:8,9,10 and 28: tells us about these gifts: administration, discernment, faith, healing, helps, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, teaching, tongues, tongues interpretation.
Ephesians 4:11 tells us about these gifts: apostle, evangelism, pastor, prophecy and teaching.
Gifts of the Spirit - The Definitions
There is probably going to be some controversy as to the precise nature of each of the gifts of the Spirit, but here is a list of most of the spiritual gifts and their basic definitions.
(1) The gift of wisdom is described as the “word” or “message” of wisdom which indicates
that it is one of the speaking gifts. This gift describes someone who can understand and
speak forth biblical truth in such a way as to skillfully apply it to life situations with all
discernment. The ability to make decisions and give guidance that is according to God's will.
(2) The gift of knowledge is the ability to have an in-depth understanding of a spiritual issue or
situation. This is another speaking gift that is also referred to as the “word” or “message” of
knowledge that involves understanding truth with an insight that only comes by revelation
from God. Those with the gift of knowledge understand the deep things of God and the
mysteries of His Word.
(3) The gift of faith is being able to trust God and encourage others to trust God, no matter the
circumstances. All believers possess faith in some measure because it is one of the gifts of the
Spirit bestowed on all who come to Christ in faith (Romans 12:3). The spiritual gift of faith is
exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, His promises,
and the power of prayer to expect and see results.
(4) The gift of healing is the ability to use God's healing power to restore a person completely who
is sick, injured, or suffering. A man with the gift of healing could heal at will. He could heal
anyone at any time he chose to do so. The gift of healing was designed to focus attention on
the message of the apostles. Although God does still heal today, some believe that the gift of
healing belonged only to the apostles of the first century church to affirm that their message
was from God. They believe that Christians today do not have the power to heal the sick or
resurrect the dead as the apostles did. If they did, the hospitals and morgues would be full of
these “gifted” people emptying beds and coffins everywhere. However we do know that God
heals today. Jas 5:14 says: Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the
church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
(5) The gift of miracles is being able to perform signs and wonders that give authenticity to God's
Word and the Gospel message. Also known as the working of miracles, this is another
temporary sign gift which involved performing supernatural events that could only be
attributed to the power of God (Acts 2:22). This gift was exhibited by Paul (Acts 19:11-12),
Peter (Acts 3:6), Stephen (Acts 6:8), and Phillip (Acts 8:6-7), among others.
(6) The gift of prophecy is being able to proclaim a message from God.
(7) The gift of discerning spirits is the ability to determine whether or not a message, person, or
event is truly from God.
(8) The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in a foreign language that you do not have knowledge
of, in order to communicate with someone who speaks that language.
(9) The gift of interpreting tongues is the ability to translate the tongues speaking and
communicate it back to others in your own language.
(10) The gift of administration is being able to keep things organized and in accordance with
(11) The gift of helps is always having the desire and ability to help others, to do whatever it takes
to get a task accomplished. Those with the gift of helps are those who can aid or render
assistance to others in the church with compassion and grace. This has a broad range of
possibilities for application. Most importantly, this is the unique ability to identify those who
are struggling with doubt, fears, and other spiritual battles; to move toward those in spiritual
need with a kind word, an understanding and compassionate demeanor; and to speak
scriptural truth that is both convicting and loving.
(12) The gift of encouraging - Also called “exhortation,” this gift is evident in those who
consistently call upon others to heed and follow God’s truth, which may involve correction or
building others up by strengthening weak faith or comforting in trials.
(13) The gift of mercy is closely linked with the gift of encouragement, the gift of mercy is
obvious in those who are compassionate toward others who are in distress, showing
sympathy and sensitivity coupled with a desire and the resources to lessen their suffering in a
kind and cheerful manner.
(14) The gift of teaching is a gift that involves the analysis and proclamation of the Word of God,
explaining the meaning, context and application to the hearer’s life. The gifted teacher is one
who has the unique ability to clearly instruct and communicate knowledge, specifically the
doctrines of the faith.
(15) The gift of giving is a gift to joyfully share with others, whether it is financial, material, or the
giving of personal time and attention. The giver is concerned for the needs of others and
seeks opportunities to share goods, money and time with them as needs arise.
The Nine Temporary Spiritual Gifts
Some of the gifts of the Spirit were temporary because they were necessary to establish the early church in the absence of the New Testament. They were given to the Church in order to confirm God's message, messengers and mission (healing, miracles, tongues & interpretation of tongues, etc.) and were needed until the completion of the New Testament. There will probably be different viewpoints on the subject of some of the Spiritual Gifts only being temporary but let’s take a look at them and then decide.
First Requirement of an Apostle--An Eye Witness to the Resurrection
The first requirement of an apostle is that he must have had a firsthand experience of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "One of these (apostles) must become a witness with us of His resurrection" (Acts 1:22). Paul defends his apostleship with proof that he, too, had seen the resurrected Christ. "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1).
Some have said that Paul was not really an eye witness of Christ's resurrection just as the Corinthians were doubting Paul's right as an apostle. In answer to that doubt, Paul reviews Christ's order of appearances, "and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve" (1 Cor. 15:5). "After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time . . . then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles" (1 Cor. 15:6,7). Then Christ appeared to Paul! "and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also" (1 Cor. 15:8).
Second Requirement--Apostles Possessed Miracle Gifts (Signs, Wonders and Miracles)
The second qualification of an apostle carries us into some of the other gifts. Paul's second evidence that he is a true apostle is that God has given him supernatural power in the form of miracle gifts. "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Cor. 12:12). Now if there were all kinds of Christians running around Corinth doing miracles, Paul's statement would lose any validity, for then miracles cease to be a sign of a true apostle.
It is consistent throughout the book of Acts that every time the miracles happens, it is always in connection with the ministry of one of the apostles. "At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people" (Acts 5:12). Romans 15 is speaking about Christ's accomplishments through Paul by use of the miracles. "In the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit" (Rom. 15:19). Is Paul saying miracles were being done by all the Christians? No! He is talking about particular miracles being done by Paul as an apostle.
Summary of the Gift of Apostleship
The gift of apostleship is the most important gift given, but it was a temporary gift (one that has not continued down to our present day). There were two qualifications for an apostle. First, he had to have been an eye witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (He had to have seen Jesus Christ bodily after the resurrection.) The second qualification was that miracles had to accompany an apostle's ministry to validate or confirm his position as an apostle. Paul met both qualifications as an apostle.
The gift of prophecy is only necessary when God wants to give additional revelation (when He wants to reveal more of Himself than He has revealed up to that point in time). A person who says the gift of prophecy is present today is in the same breath saying the Bible is not complete and that we need more material revealed from God. However, God says the Bible is complete and there is no additional revelation. Rev 22:18 says "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book".
Summary of the Gift of Prophecy
We have noted that the gift of prophecy was temporary. When the New Testament was completed, there was no reason for additional revelation and the gift of prophecy is always connected with receiving new material from God. You do not find prophets getting material from God just to remind us what God has already done or said.
The apostles and prophets were the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20). When the foundation
was laid, the material for the foundation was given. When the foundation was complete, there was no longer any need for apostles or prophets.
Since there is no longer a need for prophecy, the gift of prophecy came to an end with the
completion of the New Testament. "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away" (1 Cor. 13:8).
The gift of miracles was a special ability to exercise divine power. The book of Acts displays this gift functioning either by an apostle or the one directly commissioned by an apostle. Examples of this general ability to do miracles can be found throughout the book of Acts (Acts 3:1-9; 5:8-11; 13:8-11). According to 2 Corinthians 12:12, miracles functioned as authenticating signs of true apostles.
The temporary nature of the gift of miracles does not imply that God does not do miracles today.
We know that God does performs miracles today but God had a specific purpose for the gift of miracles within the apostolic age. The new birth is itself a miraculous work of God (Titus 3:5).
Summary of Gift of Miracles
The primary purpose of miracles was to validate the message of one of God's spokesmen (either apostle or prophet) or their ministry. That does not mean that others did not do miracles, but it means that the miracles were always the result of the ministry of an apostle or a prophet. For example, the Corinthian church had a gift of miracles, but they had that as a direct result of the Apostle Paul's ministry.
The gift of miracles is temporary because there are no longer prophets and apostles and no new revelation for God to validate. The Bible is the complete revelation of God and nothing more needs to be added for men to know the plan of salvation.
The gift of healings is usually referred to as plural but when we refer to the gift of healing it means the supernatural power to heal and restore the physical body back to health. (1 Cor. 12:9,28,30). The church at Corinth had the gift of healing, but they had that ability as a result of the ministry of the Apostle Paul in their midst. Healing is inseparably linked to the ministry of one of the apostles.
The miraculous gifts of healings, tongues and interpretation of tongues all belong to the apostolic age for the specific purpose of confirming God’s message and messengers (Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
Gift of Healing Began to Fade During Paul's Earthly Ministry
When Paul was writing to Timothy he advised him on his health. "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Tim. 5:23). Why didn't Paul just heal Timothy? Timothy had enough problems without having stomach problems. Why didn't Paul just use his gift of healing instead of giving him some advice on how to help the problem?
In 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul had to leave Trophimus behind at Miletus because Trophimus was so sick. Why didn't Paul, who had raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:10), just heal Trophimus? The only explanation seems to be that this ministry -- this particular gift of healing -- is being phased out, because in 2 Timothy, Paul is close to the end of his ministry. It was no longer necessary to validate Paul's ministry by the miracles -- Paul's writings were beginning to be recognized as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15 16).
Philippians 2:27 gives another example where Paul does not (cannot) heal a fellow Christian, "For indeed he (Epaphroditus) was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." That is strange as you think of Paul's power as a miracle worker in the earlier part of his ministry.
Summary of Gift of Healing
The main purpose of the gift of healing, just as the gift of miracles, was to validate God's message. Each time the gift of healing was administered, it was done in connection with one of the apostles. Since the apostles were primarily teachers of the Word and not healers, when the message they brought was authenticated and established, there was no longer a need for the gift of healing nor any of the other miraculous gifts.
This temporary purpose is consistent with Biblical history. The Apostle Paul exercised the gift of healing in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12); however, there were times when he did not use this gift (Philippians 2:27; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20). There is no question as to God’s ability to heal today. It is clearly evident that God still heals, but the gift of healing fulfilled a special divinely appointed purpose in the apostolic age. While we can still experience faith related healing (James 5:15), we should not look to faith healers for receiving God’s healing.
(5) Discerning Spirits
The gift of discerning spirits was the supernatural ability to discern what was true and what was false. This was a crucial gift when men did not have the New Testament. Believers needed men who had the ability and insight to discern what teaching and which men were really from God.
Discerning Today Takes Place in the Scriptures. Now that we have the completed revelation from God, discerning takes place in the Scriptures. We do not need a special gift. If I want to know if a teacher/preacher is genuine, listen to what he says and teaches and compare that with the Word. They could not do that when they did not have the entire Bible.
"If any one comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting" (2 John 10). What John is saying is simple, if someone does not bring the teaching the apostles have brought (the teaching that we now know as the New Testament), do not let him into your house or even greet him! Believers in the early church were to discern teachers in light of what the apostles had taught -- as we are to do today.
We are to test the spirits by God's Word. 1 John 4:1 says “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world”. The spirit here refers to the speaker, the teacher, the pastor. There are false teachers, and we are to discern them by comparing what they say with the Word of God. John gives the standard, but he does not say to use the gift of discernment. Instead he says to measure what they say against what John is going to teach them. That is the same standard we are to use today -- the Bible. John taught the Bible verbally; we have it in written form.
Summary of Gift of Discerning Spirits
The main purpose of the gift of discerning spirits was to separate the phonies from the real messengers of God until the complete revelation of the Word was finished. Once the Word was completed and available to men as the truth, the gift of discerning spirits was no longer needed.
(6) Word of Wisdom
The gift of wisdom is the supernatural ability to discern and apply the Word of God. It was used for the specific and temporary purpose of giving wisdom before and during the time the New Testament was being revealed. In 1 Corinthians 2:7, Paul connects wisdom with his ministry and he connects it with special revelation (which indicates that this gift is in the context of special revelation). They did not have the written Word for obtaining wisdom as we do.
Summary of Gift of Wisdom
Since wisdom is connected with discernment in the revelation of God's Word, it must be classified as temporary. Some limit wisdom to applying Bible truths to the specific needs of others, and as such, classify it as permanent. It is preferred to classify the gift of wisdom as a temporary gift as there appears to be more evidence that the wisdom was directly related to the revealing of God's Word in laying the foundation of the Bible.
(7) Word of Knowledge
"And to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:8). The knowledge referred to here is a supernatural knowledge. In 1 Corinthians 13:8, we are told that knowledge shall pass away. The knowledge has to mean supernatural or special knowledge from God because knowledge in a general sense will never cease to exist. Throughout all eternity we are going to have knowledge of God and grow in that knowledge.
Before men had the New Testament, they needed those who had special knowledge from God so they would know about God and know what they were to do and not to do. Today we can examine the Word to know what God has to say.
Relationship to the Gift of Wisdom
The message of knowledge seems closely related to the gift of wisdom. Knowledge may deal with the ability to understand the wisdom of God correctly. While it is true that all believers are to grow in knowledge (Colossians 1:9), the message of knowledge would have had a special function for a time when the written Word was not completed. This gift would also have been related to the gifts of apostleship and prophesying. All knowledge of God’s revealed truth now comes from the Bible.
Summary of Gift of Word of Knowledge
The gift of word of knowledge was a temporary gift to establish the truth of God and mankind. This was accomplished with the New Testament. The word of knowledge was a special supernatural knowledge, not the knowledge that comes as a result of studying the Bible.
(8) Gift of Tongues
Tongues (as a gift) appear to be a God-given ability to speak in a known language that was never learned by the one speaking. Scripture indicates that the gift of tongues was related to known languages (Acts 2:4-6; Acts 10:45-47; 11:15). It is most fitting with the context of Scripture to view the gift of tongues as a supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages.
This gift has been the focus of considerable confusion and conflict. Most of the confusion is the result of elevating experience over Scripture. The prominence the gift of tongues receives in some churches and denominations is a direct violation of Scripture. Much of the wrong approach to this gift is based on careless approaches to the first book of Corinthians. The gift of tongues was Spirit-motivated speech in a particular language as we have already established. Now it would be hard to believe that the Spirit today is motivating believers to speak in babblings or ecstatic speech, because that is contrary to what God did when He first gave this ability.
The Corinthian church was known for their abuse of this gift. We must be cautious about using examples from the Church at Corinth to form a doctrine about tongues because the tone of Corinthians regarding tongues is one of rebuke.
The Corinthian Church was guilty of counterfeiting the real gift of tongues under the influence of commonly used ecstatic utterances in heathen worship. The Apostle Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for mixing pagan practices with Christian worship.
The gift of tongues, as all other spiritual gifts, was given according to the will of God and it’s very clear that God did not intend for everyone to have the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).
The purpose of the gift of tongues was identical to all the miraculous gifts. Hebrews 2:3-4 reveals that the purpose was to confirm God’s message and messengers. The gift of tongues was also given as a sign to unbelievers, especially to unbelieving Jews (1 Corinthians 14:21-22). This gift was limited to the apostolic age according to its purpose and is unnecessary today because we have the completed written Word of God.
The Gift of Tongues Is not Present Today
What about the ecstatic speech that is a common practice today? Speaking in tongues as it is practiced today is not Biblical tongues. (We have already established that Biblical tongues refers to foreign languages.) The babblings of today have their origin in the mystery cults of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, and it was practiced by unbelievers.
Not Every Believer Was Expected to Have Gift of Tongues
"All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they?" (1 Cor. 12:30). The gift of tongues was limited to a few, even back in the time of the apostles. How can people today say that to have the Holy Spirit a believer must speak in tongues? In light of 1 Cor. 12, that is clearly unbiblical.
First Corinthians 14:5 is often quoted to prove that the gift of tongues is still operative today: "Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying." Why do some put the emphasis on tongues when Paul said that he had a greater desire for the people to prophesy? I do not have anyone coming around to my door saying that I need to get the gift of prophecy, but I have people praying that I will get the gift of tongues. Paul is saying that he would like them to have all the gifts, but he would rather that they have the greater gifts. Paul is not saying that tongues is the gift they should have. If they should have any, it should be the greater gift of prophecy. The gift of tongues was the least important of all the spiritual gifts. It was last on the list (see 1 Cor. 12:28).
Summary of Gift of Tongues
According to the Bible, the gift of tongues ceased to exist with the passing of the apostles.
The Scripture teaches that tongues was a special ability to speak in an earthly foreign language without special training. The purpose of such a gift was to be used as a sign to validate the ministry of the apostles as they laid the foundation of the Church. Once the foundation was complete, there was no need for special signs to confirm the validity of God's work.
The present day phenomenon called "speaking in tongues" is characterized by indiscernible sounds. Since that could not be called a foreign language that is understandable by some group today and cannot be called Biblical tongues.
(9) Interpreting Tongues
The gift of interpreting tongues was the supernatural ability to understand a foreign language without special training, and then to communicate the message to other believers. Interpreting tongues was directly related to the gift of tongues. This gift eliminated confusion and accompanied the gift of tongues as one of the confirming sign gifts. The gift of interpretation took place in the gathering of the local church (1 Corinthians 14).
"But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?" (1 Cor. 14:6). Paul is saying that tongues is of no benefit unless there is some understandable message (interpretation). Paul compares speaking in tongues with musical instruments producing meaningful sounds -- "Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp?" (1 Cor. 14:7).
The message is clear. Anyone who speaks in tongues which no one understands is just talking into the air, signifying nothing: "So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air" (1 Cor. 14:9).
Summary of Gift of Interpreting Tongues
The combined purposes of the gift of tongues and interpreting tongues (you cannot Biblically separate the two gifts) were: (1) used as a sign to confirm the work of the apostles and (2) to edify the Church (never for personal edification).
Legitimate tongues and interpreting tongues are extinct today as their purposes have ended (see Heb. 2:3 4). Since those gifts have fulfilled their confirming purpose (which was their main reason for existing), tongues and interpretation have been withdrawn.
In using the title “temporary” regarding spiritual gifts is not implying that God no longer performs such miracles. We know that God still performs miracles, heals, answers prayers and much more. Instead, we are recognizing that the temporary gifts all took place in the apostolic age for the purpose of revealing and confirming God’s message and messengers.
Before we pursue any gifts, we should first desire what is most important and that is LOVE. Paul tells us in the 13th chapter of Corinthians the importance of love over everything else.
1Co 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a
resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Co 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I
have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1Co 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1Co 13:5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no
record of wrongs.
1Co 13:6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1Co 13:7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1Co 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are
tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1Co 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
1Co 13:10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
1Co 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I
know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1Co 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
In the New Testament love is mentioned 232 times. Do we get the point of what God is telling us?
The most important commandment is this:
Mar 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind and with all your strength.'