What Are the Spiritual Gifts in the Bible?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
What are the spiritual gifts in the Bible, and how can you use them? Today you will find a list of spiritual gifts and learn how to use them in your day-to-day life. Use this spiritual gift list to asses what your spiritual gifts are, and what it will look like to use them.


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I went to a small Christian school for most of my life, so a lot of things that would never be allowed at public school were totally acceptable at my school. Taking time to discover our spiritual gifts was one of those things.

I think I was in 7th or 8th grade when we took our first spiritual gifts quiz (but don't quote me on that). I don't remember the grade I was in for sure, but what I do remember is the result: Encouragement. That was what I scored highest on. And to this day, I smile when I think of that.

It's not so much that the quiz was perfect, nor do I think you have to take a quiz in order to find your spiritual gift. But I love that first result because it's so accurate of who I was then, and how I want to use my blog now. I have since taken a few variations of that first quiz, and encouragement is always near the top of the list-- along with hospitality, which is also something I love.

But despite the fact that these quizzes were accurate for me, I do believe that there's a whole lot more to learning about spiritual gifts than taking a quiz and finding what we are good at. And really, I believe that even though we may be naturally adept in certain gifts, that doesn't mean we can't grow in and learn to utilize other gifts, even if we will always be better at certain ones.

What are spiritual gifts and how do you use them?

Related Post: How to Find and Use Your Spiritual Gifts

And that's why this post is showing up on The Peculiar Treasure. I think that it is beneficial for Christians to learn about all the spiritual gifts. Learning about them will help you discern which ones you are prone to, yes, but it can also help us understand our weakness, and see where we need to improve. No, you can't force your way into a certain spiritual gift, but you can certainly ask God to grow you in your weaker areas.

*Note: This post is focused on the more practical side of spiritual gifts. There are certain gifts listed in the Bible that I don't really understand as well. Those will be marked with an asterisk (*) and I will list scripture references where you can study it for yourself instead of me trying to explain a gift that I struggle with myself. No point in pretending I understand everything, because we all know that's not true 😉

First of All, let's take a look at a list of the main spiritual gifts.

  • Leadership
  • Exhortation/Encouragement
  • Mercy
  • Knowledge* 
  • Prophecy
  • Faith
  • Service
  • Healing*
  • Tongues/Tongues Interpretation*
  • Discernment/Wisdom
  • Hospitality
  • Teaching/Evangelism

Now that you know what the spiritual gifts are, let's dive in to each one to better understand what using those gifts and living them out actually looks like.

Leadership: How Can I Be a Leader?

Leadership is listed as a spiritual gift in Romans 12:8, but the bible has plenty more to say about leadership than that. In Exodus 18:21, we learn that God desires that those who lead be people who fear the Lord and hate dishonest gain. They need to be trustworthy. Psalm 37:3-4 shows that the Christian leader should trust in the Lord and take delight in Him. A Christian who is leading others needs to speak with wisdom (Psalm 37:30–31) and also needs to be following the Lord's leading (Psalm 32:8).

Leadership that comes naturally is a gift from God and it is listed as a spiritual gift for a reason. But I would urge you to remember that the qualities listed for a good spiritual leader are qualities that all Christians need to posses. You may never be in a leadership position, and you may never be naturally gifted in that area, but that doesn't mean that you are excused from honesty, following the Lord's leading, or delighting in Him. So even if large-scale leadership isn't your natural gifting, be aware that all Christians are leaders (in a sense), since we are called to be a light to the world for Jesus (Matthew 5:13-15).

Encouragement: How Can I Encourage Others?

Encouragement (or exhortation) as a spiritual gift is also found in Romans 12:8. To be an encourager in the Christian context means to build people up in the Lord (Eph. 4:29). It's one thing to say nice words to people, but that's not what this spiritual gift is focused on.

Encouragement as a spiritual gift means that we are nudging people towards growth in Christ. It means that we desire to see people grow, learn, and thrive in their walk with the Lord, and in the "working out" of their faith (Phil. 2:12-13). According to Dr. Charles Stanley, a person with the gift of exhortation will naturally be interested in/concerned for the welfare of others, and desire to see them find their God-given potential.

Want to know more about becoming a more encouraging person? I have a FREE, three-day email devotional dedicated to just that. If you would like to get the devotional, just sign up for my newsletter here. By signing up you are agreeing to receive a weekly newsletter from me, which includes special devotionals that only those who are signed up will receive.

Mercy: What Does It Mean to Be Merciful?

Mercy means to give unmerited or undeserved favor and grace (Titus 3:5). Mercy is what God offers us through Jesus, and it is how He calls us to live towards others, too (Luke 6:36). In Exodus 34:6-7, we see that God's mercy is gracious, patient, and forgiving. That's what mercy looks like, and we are all called to be merciful.

But again, just because we are all called to something, doesn't mean we are all gifted in the same way. For some, mercy is hard to practice. It can feel so much more natural to be vengeful and hold grudges. Other people, however, have so much patience and are so naturally forgiving that mercy comes more easily to them.

So, if you are a person who lets things go, readily forgives, and isn't prone to holding grudges, then mercy is most likely one of your spiritual gifts. But if this is not you, just take it day by day. Remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord (not you), and be intentional about extending mercy each day.

Faith: What Is the Gift of Faith?

As Christians, we obviously have some measure of faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without faith, we are not Christians (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But since Faith is also considered a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:9), and not all Christians have the same spiritual gift (Romans 12:6-8), then it stands to reason that saving faith and the gift of faith are two separate things.

In an article written about the gift of faith, Adam Mabry said:
"According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:9, this special gift [of faith] isn’t saving faith, but a special endowment of faith to accomplish a task—a task like planting a church in a hard place, for instance."
While all believers have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, not all believers have a naturally strong faith that the things they have been called to and the mission that God has set them on will actually be accomplished. Some people have this gift, and when they set out to do something that God has called them to do, they have very few doubts, because the gift of faith has made it much more natural to trust and have faith.

Want to know more about the gift of faith? I recommend the full article from Adam Mabry.

Wisdom: What Is the Gift of Discernment?

The gift of discernment (wisdom) is the spiritual gift that allows believers to be more discerning about whether or not something is of God or pleasing to God. It is also sometimes referred to as "the discerning of the spirits". This means that if a false message is being preached that may be able to deceive some believers, it is far less likely to deceive the Christian with the gift of discernment.

Having the gift of discernment also means that a Christian may also be able to tell more quickly when someone is trying to put on a false persona in their spiritual life. The spiritually discerning person will be able to tell more readily when a message, thought, or feeling is not in accordance with scripture/not from God.
Verses about the gift of discernment/wisdom:
1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 John 4:1, Philippians 1:9-10

Did you know that I wrote a book about wisdom? You can find "Refined by Wisdom: How to Make Wise Decisions in Everyday Life" on Amazon. It's a 31-day devotion book designed to help you learn how to face daily struggles with biblical wisdom.

Service: How Do I Serve Others?

A Christian who has the spiritual gift of service is much more likely to see a need and go ahead and meet it. They recognize that behind-the-scenes work is just as needed, and they naturally gravitate towards jumping into a task that they see is needed, serving the Lord and others through it.
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." -Galatians 5:13
From the verse above, we know that all believers are called to serve one another in love, but again, that is different than being naturally gifted through the Holy Spirit towards acts of service. And in my experience, those of us who do not have the gift of service have to work pretty hard to remain humble and not expect praise for our acts of service.

Hospitality: How Can I Be More Hospitable?

The spiritual gift of hospitality causes the believer who posses it to be naturally gifted at welcoming people into both their heart and home, and making others feel welcomed and cared for. Hospitality doesn't always require having a home to welcome people into. A person can posses the gift of hospitality and not have any space in their home to welcome others into, and yet they practice hospitality by making people feel welcomed, wanted, and loved in their lives.

Hospitality is yet another principle that all Christians are called to practice (see Isaiah 58:7, Romans 12:13-16), but it is also a spiritual gift that God gives in greater measure to some believers (1 Peter 4:8-11). I was hesitant to include hospitality in this list because it isn't a gift that is mentioned in the "main" spiritual gift passages (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4). However, I believe that the passage in 1 Peter is evidence of hospitality being a gift of the spirit, at least at some level.

If you would like to learn more about hospitality, check out these books:

Teaching: What Is the Gift of Teaching?

Teaching as a spiritual gift (Romans 12:6-8) is the ability to teach the truths of scripture to other people. Teaching is a form of leadership, and comes with great responsibility.

The gift of teaching/evangelism might look different for each possessor of that gift. For example, my husband has the gift of teaching, and he uses that gift as a high school Bible teacher. He has never felt called to be a pastor, but many people who have the gift of teaching are pastors or evangelists.

Having the gift of teaching (especially as a pastor or evangelist) comes with extra responsibility though, because you are proclaiming truth to "the masses", which means you are held responsible for whether or not you are really teaching truth, and whether or not you are living those truths out (James 3:1). I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a pastor to lead an entire congregation while still having to deal with their own sinful nature. I admire the ones who handle all of that well.

Prophecy: What is the gift of Prophecy? 

I cannot do a better job of describing prophecy than John Piper did in this article about prophecy. I highly recommend reading that whole post, but this is how he described the gift of prophecy:
"Prophecy in this “third category” (the New Testament gift of prophecy) is a regulated message or report in human words usually made to the gathered believers based on a spontaneous, personal revelation from the Holy Spirit for the purpose of edification, encouragement, consolation, conviction or guidance but not necessarily free from a mixture of human error, and thus needing assessment on the basis of the apostolic (Biblical) teaching and mature spiritual wisdom."
In short, prophecy is a special message given to the believer by the Holy Spirit. It is there to be spoken to other believers for edification and instruction. But prophecy is not on par with scripture, and we must assess prophecy to make sure it is biblical, and actually a word from the Lord, since prophecy can contain human error.

Spiritual Gifts To Study More

In Hosea 4:6 it's clear that a lack of knowledge is a very bad thing. I believe this verse (and many others) are referring to the fact that in order to follow God, we must know the truth about Him (specifically, the gospel of Jesus). But what I don't know much about is what knowledge looks like as a spiritual gift, so I need to study more.
If you would like to study more for yourself, here are a few verses: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Hosea 6:6, Colossians 1:9, Proverbs 2:10-11, James 3:13-18.

Speaking in Tongues/ Tongues Interpretation
I do believe in the gifts of speaking in tongues and tongues interpretation, but I also believe that it is misused in the church today. I've seen respected family members use the gifts well, but for the most part, I've seen it abused by the masses. I also don't believe that you can learn to speak in tongues, but I am not sure why that gift is different than others that you can improve in (like encouragement or mercy). There is also much debate about what it even means to speak in tongues in the first place. With all of these factors combined, I do not believe that I am the one to teach you about tongues or tongues interpretation.
Verses about speaking in tongues and tongues interpretation: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 1 Corinthians 14 (the whole chapter)

Healing (as a spiritual gift) is another one that trips me up. The reason is this: I 100% believe in God's power to instantly heal someone of all of their physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual pain. I also believe that instantaneous healings do occur.

However, some people seem to think that certain Christians have the ability to lay their hands on a sick person, pray for them, and the person is instantly healed, while other Christians are unable to do that. But to me, it has always seemed more important to emphasize that God is the healer. He can heal through any prayer He chooses. So how are we supposed to know if we have "the gift of healing" or if God just chose to use one of our prayers to bring about healing, with that being the only time that "we" will ever heal someone? So again, I would highly recommend that you search the scriptures and learn about it for yourself.
Bible verses about healing:
1 Corinthians 12:9, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, 2 Chronicles 7:14, James 5:14-15


What If I Don't Know My Spiritual Gift?

Peculiar treasures, I think this might be the longest post I've ever written, but I really wanted to give you a solid overview of the gifts of the spirit. I think it's important that we understand what they are, and how to use them. But, I cannot stress enough that even in the gifts you don't posses, you can still improve. You can develop godly traits (even the ones that you struggle with) through God's power. No, you can't just decide what your spiritual giftings are, and yes, God gave you your particular gifts for a reason. You should use them well. But at the end of the day, we should always be striving to grow in godliness in all areas-- even in our weakest ones.

And if you don't know what your spiritual gift is after trying to determine it, that is totally okay. The point of learning about spiritual gifts is not to trip us up, but rather to make us more aware. If you aren't sure what your gift is, don't use that as an excuse. Get out there and serve the Lord. Encourage others. Be hospitable. Share the gospel. Show mercy. You get the picture.
Just get out there and live your life in a way that is pleasing to God, and ask Him to direct you each day.

More Resources About Spiritual Gifts:
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Stay Peculiar, Kristin

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