Spiritual Gifts: What Are They & How to Identify Yours

gift wrapped in blue paper

When I was younger, I thought spiritual gifts were a form of God-given superpower. Would I be able to know things before they happened? Would I be able to lay hands on someone and heal them of their ailments?

For some persons, that may be how their spiritual gifts manifest themselves. But for the majority of us, it might be a lot less superhero movie and a bit more like enhanced ability.

When we become members of the Church, God gives us spiritual gifts. If you’ve been a member of the church for some time you may be wondering what spiritual gifts are and if you even have any.

God gave spiritual gifts to the church, but how many of us are actually using our gifts for God?

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual gifts are a supernatural endowment from the Holy Spirit. They are abilities given after an individual accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

In the New Testament, the word translated as gifts is the Greek word charisma. If you think charisma sounds like a familiar English word, you’d be correct.

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Typically, we define charisma as the ability to attract (devotion) in others. But there’s a secondary meaning of our English word charisma that we hardly use. Charisma can also be defined as divinely conferred power or talent. Interestingly, the secondary meaning ties back to its Greek roots where charisma means a divine gratuity or special (spiritual) endowment.

Charisma is a gift of grace–an undeserved benefit. In the New Testament, charisma is used only to describe the gifts and graces endowed by God.

What are spiritual gifts?
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What Does the Bible Say About Spiritual Gifts?

There’s quite a bit of Scripture on spiritual gifts and if we are going to fully understand what spiritual gifts are, we will need to look at at least the main passages on spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts Bible verses serve to unwrap the purpose and use of our spiritual gifts, and so we will put them in the appropriate context as we look at each verse.

Purpose of Spiritual Gifts in the Church

Before we dig into this topic, you may want to know, “Are there are still spiritual gifts in the church today?” The best way to answer that question is to find out why these gifts were given in the first place. The apostle Paul teaches:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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 (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV).

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV

We learn from Paul that spiritual gifts are for the edification of the church. We get our gifts so that we can build up the body of Christ. The ultimate aim is the spiritual maturity of all believers. In the process of serving the church, the individual with the gift grows in the knowledge of God and increases in unity with his fellow brethren.

This idea of spiritual gifts being used for service is also supported by Peter:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV

Every person receives a gift and the main purpose of this gift is to bring glory to God.

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, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV

We have a responsibility to take care of our spiritual gifts. Not only do we need to take care of them, but we also need to “fan our gifts into a flame” by taking steps to learn how to use them effectively and for God’s glory.

But you may be wondering if this endowment from the Holy Spirit is a New Testament thing since all the Scriptures about spiritual gifts so far have been after the ascension of Christ. So let’s look at what the Old Testament teaches us about spiritual gifts.

Do you remember when God delivered the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt? If you’re not familiar with the story you can read it in Exodus 3-12. Well, after they left Egypt, they spent some time in the wilderness learning about what God expected from His people. During that wilderness training session, God also commissioned the Israelites to build an ark for them to keep the Covenant (or the Ten Commandments).

God had a really defined idea of what He wanted and so He did three things:

1. He commissioned people to give generously to supply the material He needed:

‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate (Exodus 35:5-9 NKJV).

2. He called gifted persons with the ability to do the intricate artwork needed.

‘All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the Lord has commanded (Exodus 35:10 NKJV).

3. He chose men to be in charge of the work to be done.

“See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

“And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works (Exodus 35:30-35 NKJV).

As you read these verses (and I encourage you to read the entire chapter to have the proper context), you’ll identify a number of spiritual gifts, including:

• Giving
• Leadership
• Creativity
• Wisdom
• Teaching

The idea of spiritual gifts is woven throughout the Bible and I hope the next time you’re in the Word, you’ll try to identify more of what God has to say about spiritual gifts.

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How Many Spiritual Gifts Are There?

You’re probably wondering if there’s a spiritual gifts list and how many there are. The short answer is: as many as there needs to be.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to let them know that there were many different gifts but they all had the same source. The spiritual gifts given to the body of Christ were evidence of the Holy Spirit working among them (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

The thing we must remember is that the spiritual gifts are given to meet the need of the local church: whatever skills the local church needs, the Holy Spirit provides.

There are three major lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible. They are found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-30, Romans 12:4-8, and Ephesians 4:11. Some of the spiritual gifts listed are:

  • wisdom
  • knowledge
  • faith
  • healing
  • power to do miracles
  • discernment
  • speaking new languages
  • ability to understand different languages
  • administration
  • helps
  • acts of mercy

Some roles in the church are also listed as spiritual gifts:

  • apostles,
  • prophets,
  • evangelists,
  • shepherds, and
  • teachers

Please read the entire passages referenced above for a more detailed inventory. Is this a complete list? No, there are other gifts hinted at in Scripture:

• Celibacy—1 Corinthians 7:7
• Voluntary poverty—1 Corinthians 13:3
• Hospitality—1 Peter 4:9
• Exorcism—Acts 8:5-8
• Intercessory prayer—Acts 12:12
• Missionary—Romans 11:13
• Martyrdom—1 Corinthians 13:3

I believe there are spiritual gifts not mentioned in the Bible for the simple reason that the some of the gifts needed for today’s church would have been unnecessary (and unknown) in the early church.

Whatever the church needs to make it a vibrant part of society—actively carrying out the Great Commission—those are the gifts God will provide. So if your church needs to use technology to equip the saints, then someone in the church will have that gift.

Don’t believe that because your gift is not mentioned by name that you don’t have one. That would make God a liar and He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

What Are Your Spiritual Gifts?

Now that you understand the importance of spiritual gifts in the church you may want to know what your gifts are. Before we get to that, please remember that it’s a process. There are a number of things you can do to find out what your gifts are.

How to Identify Your Gift

“But Ami,” you shout, “I don’t have a gift.” The Bible teaches that once we are members of the body of Christ we receive at least one spiritual gift.

I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that (1 Corinthians 7:7 NIV).

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (1 Peter 4:10 ESV).

Since we know that God has given each of us at least one gift, a better question may be, “how do I identify my spiritual gifts?” There are several steps we can take.

Pray—the first thing you need to do is pray about it. Ask God to reveal your gifts and to guide you as you begin the search to uncover what your spiritual gifts are.

Survey—do a spiritual gifts survey. There are a number of resources available online. Here are three you can try:

  1. Spiritual Gifts Inventory—this survey has 45 questions and relates each gift to a body part.
  2. Spiritual Gifts: Key to Ministry—this questionnaire has 90 questions and includes a key for you to identify your dominant gifts. It also contains a brief explanation of the gifts and the scriptural references of the various spiritual gifts.
  3. Team Ministry Survey—this survey has 108 questions and requires you to create an account to view your results. This spiritual gifts survey focuses on team gifts and how you fit into the body of Christ.

The key to doing a spiritual gifts survey is to answer as honestly as possible. Don’t try to skew the results. Simply answer the questions as truthfully (and quickly) as you can.

Confirm—get confirmation from those who know you. Ask members of your church if they have seen the manifestation of the gifts hinted at in your survey results. Ask trusted members for feedback and be sure to ask multiple persons.

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How Many Gifts Can You Have?

The Bible doesn’t give a limit on the number of gifts you can have. But we do know that every believer has at least one gift. What you need to remember is that God gives you gifts as it suits Him and as is needed for your local church. You don’t get to choose your gifts. Every gift has a function and role in the church

Each gift supports the others much as one part of the body supports the other parts. The number of spiritual gifts you may have varies and is dependent on your ability and how well you have used the gifts you have been given to this point. Remember the parable of the talents? The man who had used his gifts faithfully was given more.

Please remember that our gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit. He decides which gifts you receive and how many. Okay, so now you have recognized your spiritual gifts, what should you do with them?

What Should You Do With Your Spiritual Gifts?

You may be asking, “How do I use my spiritual gifts?” Paul told Timothy to fan into flames the spiritual gift God had given him (2 Timothy 1:6); I give the same advice to you. Before you start to use your gifts in the church, you have to develop your spiritual gifts.

Learn how to use your gifts. Identify someone in your congregation who has the same gift. Ask them to mentor you (you may need several mentors as there may not be one person with all the gifts you have).

Conduct some form of research to figure out how to use your spiritual gifts. Thank God for the internet which we can use to learn more about using the gifts He has given us.

Take classes or webinars. Attend seminars that teach about your area of giftedness. Now you may ask, “Why doesn’t the church teach me how to develop my gifts?” That’s a good question and one I used to ask. I have since learned that not every congregation has the resources to equip its members.

Maybe you are not part of a congregation that helps its members to develop their gifts, but guess what? Timothy wasn’t told to have someone fan his gift into a flame. He was instructed to do it for himself.

Even if the church doesn’t provide resources for us to use our gifts, God still holds us accountable for them. It is our responsibility to develop and use our spiritual gifts as good and faithful stewards.

Serve. The church has a number of ministries in which you can practice using your gifts for God. Volunteer in various departments to see how your gifts fit into the body of Christ.

Using Your Gifts for God’s Glory

I hope by now you know why we should we serve God. We serve Him because He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them (Nehemiah 9:6).

We serve God because He alone is worthy to receive honor and glory and praise (Revelation 4:11).

We serve God with our spiritual gifts because He redeemed us from sin (Isaiah 44:24) bring us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

As we remember why we serve Him, we should get excited to use our gifts for God’s glory. What are your spiritual gifts and how are you using them for God?

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