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Solid, Biblical definitions for Spiritual Gifts are hard to come by. I've heard a lot of theories out there, but most lack a Scriptural basis. In my mind, this brings a lot of so-called "revelation" into question. In a moment, I'm going to share with you the Biblical definitions to 31 Spiritual Gifts.
Before we go there, I want to set the stage with a very clear explanation in the Bible that brings light to every single spiritual gift. It came directly from the mouth of Christ when He taught His disciples about how the Holy Spirit works:
John 16:13-15—But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (NIV, emphasis mine)
The key is right there in the middle: Jesus said the way the Holy Spirit works is to, "
take from what is Mine and make it known to you." This is essential when it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit because it gives us a sound, Biblical foundation for all our definitions! The Holy Spirit takes something from Christ and reveals it to us!
One thing I like especially about this is that it distinguishes between Spiritual Gifts and natural talents. Natural talents reveal you, whereas Spiritual Gifts reveal Christ. For instance a talent for writing does not necessarily mean that writing is a spiritual gift for you. The talent for writing brings glory to you; but if the Holy Spirit empowers you to write what Christ wants you to write, then He gets the glory and you have a spiritual gift.
A second benefit to this definition is that it brings clarity to the difference between Spiritual Gifts and the virtues all Christians should have. Consider the Gift of Faith: all Christians are supposed to have faith because, "
Without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). But Paul taught that no individual has every spiritual gift (read 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 27-30). Obviously, there must be a difference between faith and the Gift of Faith. Faith is your own belief, trust, and confidence whereas the Gift of Faith is the ability to share in Christ's supernatural belief, trust, and confidence! When we define Spiritual Gifts in this way, we get a far clearer picture of what God intends for His Church.
The following is a list of clear definitions for 31 distinct Spiritual Gifts in the Bible, including some of the Scripture passages that pertain to them. You will notice that I have based every definition on the concept that Jesus Christ shared in John 16:13-15. Since Spiritual Gifts have to do with our roles in Christ's Body, it only makes sense that they reveal Jesus in this world.
When you're done reading, you might want to take the free Online Spiritual Gifts Assessment Test, which is the only one of its kind designed to match these 31 gifts of the Holy Spirit and their biblically-based definitions.
Takes place when the Holy Spirit enables you to participate in the unshakable faith of Jesus Christ and expect the impossible to become possible. (1 Cor. 12:9)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit allows you to share in Christ's authority over nature and work miracles. (Matt. 9:8; 1 Cor. 12:10 and 28; Gal. 3:5)
Signs and Wonders
Takes place when the Jesus confirms the message you preach by producing supernatural signs through the Holy Spirit. (Ps. 105:26-45; Mrk. 16:19-20; Acts 6:8; Acts 15:12; Heb. 2:4)
Raising the Dead
Takes place when the Holy Spirit makes the resurrection power of Christ known through a believer. (Jhn. 5:21; Jhn. 11:21-23; Jhn. 11:38-45; Acts 26:8; Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:35)
Gifts of Healing
Takes place when the Holy Spirit makes part of the healing power of Jesus Christ known through a believer. (Ps. 103:2-3; Is. 53:5; Matt. 4:23-24; Lk. 4:40; Acts 3:16; Acts 5:16; Acts 9:34; 1 Cor. 12:9 ,28)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit makes known to someone what Jesus is saying in order to encourage, edify, or exhort the Church. (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 14:32; 2 Pet. 1:21)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit demonstrates Christ's knowledge of all languages by speaking a message spontaneously through a believer. (Mark 16:17; 1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Cor. 13:1; 1 Cor. 14:13-19; 1 Cor. 14:39)
Interpretation of Tongues
Takes place when the Holy Spirit demonstrates Christ's understanding of all languages by enabling a believer to comprehend the meaning of a message delivered through the gift of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Cor. 14:5; 1 Cor. 14:13; 1 Cor. 14:26-28)
Knowledge and Understanding
Takes place when the Holy Spirit enables a believer to participate in Christ's supernatural ability to learn, understand, and retain information. (Ecc. 2:26; Dan. 1:17, Lk. 2:47; 1 Cor. 13:2)
Message of Knowledge
Takes place when the Holy Spirit takes something Jesus knows and makes it known to a believer. (1 Cor. 12:8)
Message of Wisdom
Takes place when the Holy Spirit takes a nugget of Christ's wisdom and makes it known to a believer. (1 Cor. 12:8)
Wisdom and Insight
Takes place when the Holy Spirit enables a believer to participate in Christ's ability to accumulate and apply supernatural wisdom. (1 Kng. 3:12; 1 Chr. 22:12; Dan. 1:20; Acts 6:10; Jam. 1:5; Jam. 3:13; Jam 3:17)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit allows a person to clearly understand what Jesus knows about the working of angels, demons, Himself, and humans in the spiritual realm. (Acts 16:16-18; 1 Cor. 12:10)
Visions and Dreams
Takes place when the Holy Spirit pictorially expresses revelation from Christ. (Ezk. 11:24; Daniel 10:1)
Interpreting Visions and Dreams
Takes place when the Holy Spirit makes known Jesus's understanding of what was meant in the symbolism He used when giving a dream or vision. (Dan. 1:17; Dan. 2:23; Dan. 2:27-28; Dan. 2:30)
Takes place when the creative nature of Jesus Christ is expressed through a believer by the power of the Holy Spirit to make something (physically or digitally). (Ex. 31:1-6; Ex. 35:30-35)
Takes place when a Christian reveals Christ's authority, power, love, and/or nature through singing or the playing of a musical instrument. (1 Sam. 16:14-16,23; 1 Chr. 25:1-7; Job 35:10)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a person to express a prophetic message from Christ by use of an artistic medium. (Gen. 30:29-43; Num. 21:4-8; Ezk. 4:1-3)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a person to express a prophetic message from Christ through written words. (Ex. 17:14; Ex. 34:27; Jer. 30:2; Hab. 2:2; Rom. 16:25-27; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Ju. 1:3; Rev. 1:11; Rev. 21:5)
Teaching / Public Speaking
Takes place when the Holy Spirit awakens a believer to a teachable moment and empowers them to speak or act as a direct representative of Christ in that situation. (Mk. 11:15-18; 1 Pet 4:10-11)
Encouragement and Exhortation
Takes place when Jesus Christ encourages a person or group of people through an individual who is empowered by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 15:32; Acts 20:2; Rom. 12:8)
Mercy / Compassion
Takes place when the Holy Spirit enables a believer to share in the compassion of Christ, which stirs the person to an action that demonstrates what Christ wants to do in that scenario. (Matt. 9:36; Matt. 14:14; Matt 20:34; Mk. 1:41; Rom. 12:8)
Giving / Generosity
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a person to reveal Christ's love and nature through the giving of a gift. (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:7)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit stirs a person to give more than what is reasonable and live in relative poverty (like Jesus did) simply so their finances can be used to support Spirit-filled ministries and spread the Gospel. (Matt. 8:20; 2 Cor. 8:1-9)
Success and Prosperity
Takes place when the Holy Spirit enables a person to enjoy success and prosperity from Christ so that they can bless others with their wealth. (Gen. 27:20; Deut. 8:18; 1 Sam. 2:7; 1 Kng. 3:13; 2 Chr. 32:29; Ecc. 5:18-6:2)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a believer to reveal Christ's love through hospitality. (Rom. 12:13; Rom. 16:23; 1 Tim. 5:10)
Service / Helping Others
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a believer to serve in such a way that reveals Christ's love and nature. (1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a person to abstain from sexuality for the sake of being more effective in ministry, just like Christ. (Mt. 19:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:7-9)
Leadership / Governing
Takes place when Jesus grants a person a place of authority and the Holy Spirit gives the abilities necessary to carry out that role. (2 Chr. 13:5; Dan. 2:37-38; Lk. 1:32-33; Acts 13:21; Rom. 12:8; Rom. 13:1)
Control over Wild Animals
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a person to share in the authority Jesus has over wild animals. (Gen. 1:26-28; Gen. 8:17-19; Jer. 27:6; Jer. 28:14; Ezk. 39:17; Dan. 2:38; Mk. 1:13; Mk. 16:18; Acts 28:3-6)
Takes place when the Holy Spirit empowers a believer to administrate, organize, and direct people, projects, and/or programs just as Jesus intends. (1 Cor. 12:28)
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