Descriptions of Spiritual Gifts

Picture of Thomas Luke

Thomas Luke

Descriptions of Spiritual Gifts

The following is an endeavor to depict the profound blessings recorded in the New Testament. They are recorded in English sequential request with no endeavor to give further design to the rundown. The rundown incorporates blessings that would be insisted by the wide reach religious conventions spoke to in the TEDS understudy body while additionally recognizing that a portion of the endowments are contested with respect to their continuous presence in the congregation. No archive of this nature can satisfy all, yet there has been a fair endeavor not to distort positions and to express the idea of each blessing in a positive light. SELECT 3-5 OF THESE GIFTS MOST ACTIVE AND MOTIVATING IN YOUR MINISTRY TO PUT IN YOUR PERSONAL PROFILE.


The gift of administration is the God-given ability to organize and manage people and resources in the accomplishment of ministry tasks.

Those with the gift of administration love to plan and organize for efficient use of resources in ministry. They are able to break vision into workable plans and are able to keep a team of people moving forward towards the
ministry goal. They can be sticklers on details and procedures. At times they can become so focused on the goal to be attained that they lose sight of the condition of the people they are directing.

APOSTLESHIP (Eph. 4:111 Cor. 12:28)

The gift of Apostleship is the God–given ability to initiate and give oversight to church planting movements in peoples, places, and cultures relatively untouched by the Gospel.

This is a controversial gift because the word “apostle” is used in a more restrictive, technical sense and in a broader, non-technical sense in the New Testament. In its more technical and restricted sense it refers to the Twelve who were unique witnesses to the life and resurrection of Jesus. When replacing Judas Iscariot the remaining eleven apostles articulated requirements for inclusion in the Twelve to be; 1) they had been with Jesus since the beginning of his public ministry, 2) they had been personally called by Jesus, and 3) they were eyewitnesses to the resurrection (Acts 1:21,22).

The Twelve play a unique and foundational (Eph. 2:20) role in the establishment of the church and many interpreters believe that the gift of apostleship ceased with the Twelve and the Apostle Paul. However, there are other referred to as “apostles” in the NT who are not a part of the Twelve or the Apostle Paul, most notably Barnabas (Acts 14:414), James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19), and Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy (1 Thess. 1:12:6). Many interpret this to mean that there is an ongoing gift of apostleship beyond the Twelve and the Apostle Paul, but it is not clear what such a gift of apostleship would entail. Some note that the people listed above were all sent by the church as missionaries/messengers and church planters in unevangelized regions and were later overseers of the resulting networks of churches. Because of their foundational role in planting the movement they are often accorded great authority in church matters.


The gift of distinguishing spirits is a God–given ability to discern the spiritual origins of actions and teaching.

Not all that claims to have its power or insight from God comes from God. There are powerful spirit beings that are not aligned with God and oppose God’s rule in human life. They can perform acts of power (Matt. 7:21-23) and can energize deceptive doctrine (1 Jn. 4:1-6). Those gifted to distinguish spirits are particularly discerning of the deceptive actions and teaching of Satan and his minions. They may see through the deceptive ploys of those willfully obscuring the truth.


The gift of Evangelism is a God-given motivation and ability to communicate the Gospel clearly to unbelievers often with uncommon impact.

The office of evangelist is clearly recognized in Eph. 4:11 and Philip is referred to as an evangelist in Acts 21:8. We see Philip the evangelist in action in Acts 8. Those with the gift of evangelism desire to train others in evangelism but are often disappointed that those not gifted like themselves might not be as motivated or effective in evangelism as they are.


The gift of Exhortation is a God-given ability to come alongside another person to prod them forward in their spiritual development through challenge and encouragement.

The Greek word (parakaleo) used for the gift of exhortation is from the same Greek root used to describe the Holy
Spirit whom Christ would send in his stead (Jn. 14:26). It emphasizes coming alongside another person as a helper, consoler, encourager, or counselor to stimulate God-honoring action. Those with the gift of exhortation can both
afflict the comfortable with challenge and comfort the afflicted with encouragement. Unlike those with the gift of mercy the exhorter can be quite skilled in confrontation and can help a person to see the steps they need to take to live a more God-honoring life. Barnabas in the NT is such an example of this kind of gifting and ministry that he is called the “Son of Encouragement” in Acts 4:36. This gift can be quite effective for those doing counseling ministries and discipleship. Preachers who consistently prod to action often have this gift.

FAITH (1 Cor. 12:9)

The gift of Faith is the God-given ability trust God to fulfill his promises.

This is not the saving faith that is foundational to being Christian but rather the trust of God to fulfill his promises in everyday life. Of course all Christians are called to trust God to fulfill His promises, but those with the gift of faith do this in concrete ways that challenge others to trust God more. Often the gift of faith is expressed in ways that seem risky, foolhardy, or potentially embarrassing if God does not meet His promise. Those with the gift of faith are unusually devoted to prayer, clearly seeing the connection between prayer and God’s action in the world. The gift of faith and the gift of leadership are often combined in those who do start-up and pioneering ministry.

GIVING (Rom. 12:8)

The gift of giving is the God-given ability to dispense one’s resources to an unusual degree for the advancement of ministry.

While all Christians are called to be generous with their time, gifts and wealth, those with the gift of giving give of themselves and their resources to an unusual degree, often living a quite modest lifestyle in comparison to their resources. Some with this gift also are quite proficient in generating resources as well as dispensing them, but we should also note that it is not the amount of the gift but the amount of sacrifice that is crucial to God (Luke 21:1-3).
Those with the gift of giving tend not to see their giving as sacrificial because they derive such joy from the act of giving.

HEALING (1 Cor. 12:9)

The gift of healing is the God-given ability to serve as a human intermediary through whom it pleases God to cure illness and restore health in ways not attributable to other sources.

This gift is in the plural (lit. “gifts of healings”) perhaps showing the scope of the gift (many kinds of infirmities healed) or perhaps showing that there were different healing gifts exercised by multiple people so that there was no one person used to cure all infirmities. Even a cursory reading of Scripture makes it clear that healings and other miracles accompanied the ministry of Jesus, the Apostles, and their associates in the early church. Some believe that once the Scriptures were completed that this gift was no longer given to the church. Any practice of the gift of healing needs to be imbedded in a sound theology of both healing and suffering. The Christian with a healing gift is a conduit of God’s power and do not possess the power to heal within his or her person. Healings in Scripture were most often instantaneous and complete. Praying over the sick was a regular practice of the early church leadership and could be an arena for this gift to be practiced now in local churches (James 5:13-18).

LEADERSHIP (Rom. 12:8)

The gift of leadership is a God-given ability to give direction and structure to a ministry in accordance with God’s purposes.

The Greek word for this gift conveys the idea of “being put before” or “set over” a ministry to give direction. Those with the gift of leadership tend to be big-picture oriented, visionary, and able to recruit people to join them in God-honoring ministry endeavors. Often those with the gift of leadership are better at getting projects started and gaining forward momentum but may need those with more administrative gifts to execute and maintain ministry initiatives.

MERCY (Rom. 12:8)

The gift of mercy is a God-given ability to alleviate suffering and pain (physical, emotional and spiritual) through empathy and compassion.

Those with the gift of mercy have Spirit-given instincts about how to make people more comfortable and supported in their time of trouble, pain and anxiety Mercy-gifted persons like to put their arm around the suffering person and help them limp to the finish line. Because they are so oriented towards alleviating pain they often have trouble with confrontation because it can at the very least cause temporary pain. They may have
trouble setting boundaries with those who take advantage of their merciful disposition.

PASTOR (Eph. 4:11)

The gift of pastor is a God-given ability to be responsible for the long-term care for the spiritual condition of a group of believers.

Many of the gifts listed in Ephesians 4 are also offices in the church. Not all who hold the office of pastor in churches would necessarily have this gift and those in pastoral ministry come with a variety of gift mixes. Those having the gift of pastor are unusually persevering and effective in laboring for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers. Because of the construction of the Greek sentence in Eph. 4:11 some believe that it necessitates this gift being inseparable with the one that follows so that the gift actually is the gift of Pastor-Teacher. While respecting that position, in this document we are splitting them into two gifts.

PROPHECY (Eph. 4:111 Cor. 12:1028Rom. 12:6)

The gift of prophecy is a God-given ability to receive and convey an immediate message from God to His people through a divinely anointed utterance.

The gift of prophecy is the only gift to be mentioned in all four of the major gift passages. Some believe that this gift, like apostleship, was foundational to the development of the church but was rendered unnecessary with the completion of the NT canon (Eph. 2:20) and thus is no longer given by God or they equate prophesying with proclaiming/preaching Scripture. Others believe that it is part of the fulfillment of Joel 2 as articulated by the Apostle Peter in his sermon in Act 2 and thus an ongoing gift given by God to the church. Those who believe this is an ongoing gift usually distinguish NT prophecy from OT prophecy and would not place these NT prophecies in the same category as Scripture. NT prophecies are focused more on edifying and exhorting a local body of believers or particular individuals (Acts 21:9-11) rather than having the universal significance of Scripture.

Prophetic utterances are to be evaluated by church leaders for their fidelity to Scripture (1 Cor. 14: 37-38), for their Christ-exalting nature (1 Cor. 12:1-3Rev. 19:10) and for the moral condition of the prophet (Matt.7:15-20). Authentic prophets can control the delivery of their message and limits should be placed as to the number of prophecies allowed in a church gathering (1 Cor. 14:29-33). Some believe that the gift of distinguishing spirits can be particularly helpful in evaluating prophetic utterances and prophets.

SERVICE/HELPS (1 Peter 4:111 Cor. 12:28)

The gift of service/helps is the God-given ability to identify needs and gladly volunteer abilities and resources to meet the needs.

Those with the gift of service or helps see needs, especially concrete and physical needs, and use whatever they have at their disposal to meet the needs. It is the sheer act of serving that brings them joy. Being good at the task they have undertaken is secondary to the act of serving itself. Many with these gifts have acquired skills and tools that have rendered them serviceable. Often believers with this gift will meet needs as soon as they are aware of them and often they like to serve in the background with little fanfare or recognition. Because they are somewhat compulsive volunteers they can sometimes be overworked by insensitive ministries.

TEACHING (Eph. 4:111 Cor. 12:28)

The gift of teaching is a God-given ability to comprehend, convey, and apply Scriptural truth in such a way that it increases the understanding and obedience of the church.

The gift of teaching and the teaching function of the church is mentioned regularly in the NT so much so that the only ministry skill required of Elders is that they be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). Those with the gift of teaching are willing to study hard to understand the Scripture and feel driven to convey the teachings of Scripture with precision and clarity. At their best they bring the teaching to application but at times they can get lost in the intricacies of the Scripture and short-change application. They typically do not bring the motivational force to communication as do those with the gift of exhortation but clarity for understanding is the forte of those with the gift of teaching.

TONGUES (1 Cor. 12:102830Acts 2:1-13)

The gift of tongues is the God-given ability to speak to God in a language a person has never learned or to receive and communicate an immediate message of God through a divinely anointed utterance in a language a person has never learned.

No gift has been more controversial and hotly debated than the gift of tongues. Classic Pentecostalism taught that speaking in tongues was the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit conceived as a second blessing subsequent to initial conversion. They would thus desire and require that all Sprit-filled Christians speak in tongues. Other believers taught that the gift of tongues ceased with the closing of the NT canon because its confirming and revelatory aspects were no longer necessary. Most Charismatics, Third Wave Churches, cautiously open Evangelicals, and a minority of Pentecostals would affirm the ongoing presence of the gift of tongues but would not connect it to the baptism of the Spirit nor require it of all believers (1 Cor. 12:30). Other debates revolve around whether there is a different function for the gift of tongues in the Book of Acts than in 1 Corinthians, and whether tongues is a discernible language or a kind of pre-cognitive speech. Those who advocate ongoing functions for the gift of tongues tend to emphasize two arenas; 1) private use of tongues in prayer for worshipping God and building up of the worshiper (1 Cor. 14:1-5), and 2) expressing tongues in the assembly of other believers. When tongues are expressed in the public assembly of the church there is a requirement that tongues be interpreted in the common language of the assembly so that all might be edified, among other requirements (1 Cor. 14:26-40).


The gift of interpreting tongues is the God-given ability to interpret utterance spoken in tongues into the vernacular of the hearers.

This gift is a correlate of the gift of tongues. This God-given ability is necessary for conveying the message of tongues utterances. This interpretation could be given either by the person who made the utterance in tongues (if they also possessed the interpreting tongues gift) or by another person with interpreting tongues gifting.


The gift of the word of knowledge is the God-given ability to discover, analyze, and clarify information and ideas in ways that are helpful in ministry.

There is little information in Scripture about the function of this gift. Some would say that the word of knowledge has come through more studied processes and the gifted person has the God-given knack of providing the right nugget of knowledge at the right time. Others would emphasize the more spontaneous, non-studied granting of knowledge that might not be available if not granted directly by God.

WORD OF WISDOM (1 Cor. 12:8)

The gift of the word of wisdom is the God-given ability to apply knowledge to vexing problems so that God-honoring pathways for moving forward become evident.

There is little information in Scripture about how this gift is practiced. Some would see this as a more studied practice where the person has a God-given knack for finding solutions to vexing problems of Christian living. It is a fusion of biblical knowledge, astute observation of life and experience in godly living. Others would emphasize the more spontaneous, non-studied granting of wisdom directly by God for immediate needs.

WORKERS OF MIRACLES (1 Corinthians 12:28,29)

The gift of working miracles is the God-given ability to be the human intermediary through which God demonstrates His power dramatically in ways not easily accredited to other sources.

There are multiple examples of God doing miraculous acts through human mediators to bring glory to God and advance His purposes. Some would see this gift restricted to the Apostles and the Apostolic Period of church history while others would see this as an ongoing gift. Literally they are “workers of power” and would cover the full range of God acting in dramatic, powerful and miraculous ways through human mediators. The mediators do not have this power in themselves, nor do they have the ability to dictate when the power will be demonstrated by God.

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