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What are spiritual gifts?

Spiritual gifts are a little like natural talents, but they are special gifts granted by the Holy Spirit. God gives all human beings a natural talent, such as a musical or artistic ability or an aptitude for fixing things or academics. God does not require belief in Him to bestow natural talents. For believers though, the Holy Spirit gives special spiritual talents, according to God's good purposes.

"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." — 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

(NOTE: Spiritual gifts are not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit, which is something else entirely.)

What are the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible?

The Bible provides three lists that define spiritual gifts. These are as follows:

  • Romans 12:6-8: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28: healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues

What do all these spiritual gifts mean and what do they look like in a believer's life? Are all the gifts still given to believers today? Well, let's break them down...

Spiritual Gifts Most Agree are for Believers Today

The Gift of Serving: Serving (a.k.a. "ministering") refers to providing of any kind of practical help to those who may need it. Christians who desire to do the work that often goes unrecognized may have the gift of service.

The Gift of Teaching: Spiritual teachers can easily analyze and explain God's Word in a way that is understandable and relatable to a wide audience. They comprehend contextual meaning, deep biblical doctrine, and can convey its practical application. Pastors and small group leaders may have the gift of teaching.

The Gift of Encouraging: This gift is also referred to "exhortation" and is evident in those who lovingly desire to guide others toward godliness and stronger faith in God's truth. They may use gentle correction, build others up with kindness, or comfort those suffering trials. Believers with a strong desire to nurture other believers may have the gift of encouraging.

The Gift of Giving: This gift is all about fulfilling the needs of others and looking for opportunities to share any personal resources with others in need. Christians who give joyfully and share what they have with others—whether time, talent, or treasure—may have the gift of giving.

The Gift of Leadership: Spiritually-gifted leaders guide other believers in the same way that a captain steers a ship. They help keep fellow Christians on track in their faith with wisdom and grace. These kinds of leaders will show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives as they lead by example.

The Gift of Mercy: Compassion, encouragement, and empathy are hallmarks of this gift. Those with this gift can sympathize with others in pain or distress and show great sensitivity. Believers who have a deep desire to lessen others' suffering through practical resources, kindness, and positive interaction may have the gift of mercy.

The Gift of Faith: Unlike saving faith (Galatians 5:22-23), the gift of faith is a special sort of extraordinary faith which is exhibited by an uncommon confidence and trust in God and His promises, power, and presence. Those with the gift of faith inspire, encourage, and motivate other believers toward a deeper personal faith. Believers with fearless faith, profound hope in God's promises and protection, humility, and godliness may have the gift of faith.

The Gift of Distinguishing of Spirits: Some believers have the unique ability to discern whether a message is truly from God or if it stems from the deceiver. Satan often uses deceptive or false doctrine to lead Christians off the path of righteousness. Jesus warned about how many would proclaim His name yet have intentions of deceit alone (Matthew 24:4-5), but the gift of discerning spirits is given to certain believers to protect the Church from these lies and false teachers.

The Gift of Helps: This gift is very closely related to the gifts of mercy and service. Believers with the gift of helps have the unique ability to identify any needs within the church and others' lives. They deeply desire to provide aid and assistance to those in need—whether the need is physical, emotional, or spiritual—and will do so with compassion, kindness, understanding and grace. Christians with the gift of helps can speak the truth of God's Word in a way that is both convicting and loving.

Controversial Spiritual Gifts

While the Bible proves that the following spiritual gifts were given by the Holy Spirit at one time, many believers disagree on whether or not these gifts are still granted to Christians today. For more info on why that is, please see the GotQuestions.org article, "Are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit for today?"

The Gift of Word of Wisdom: Discernment is key in this gift, as well as an ability to understand and speak biblical truth into the lives of others. They can help fellow Christians apply God's Word to their individual situations in life. Believers who love to listen and can discern how the Bible can help may have the gift of Word of Wisdom.

The Gift of Word of Knowledge: Word of Knowledge is like Word of Wisdom, but it's more specialized in a way. This gift involves receiving specific revelations from God, understanding the truth in them, and having the ability to convey the deep meanings and mysteries of God. Believers with a strong faith and connection with God may have the gift of Word of Knowledge.

The Gift of Prophecy: To prophecy is to speak the truth of God's will, to interpret God's purposes in someone's life, or to reveal the truth of God in a way that influences others to God's glory. Christians led to become counselors, spiritual mentors, or small group leaders may have the gift of prophecy.

The Gift of Healing: As far as we know, the ability to provide miraculous healings through a human being ended with the apostles of the first century church. This gift was specifically used to affirm to the watching world that their message was from God. God can and does still heal people in miraculous ways, but Christians today are unlikely to heal the sick or resurrect the dead through supernatural means.

The Gift of Miraculous Powers: As far as we know, the practice of human beings performing miracles ended in biblical times. Like the gift of healing, the gift of miraculous powers was limited to a time when proof was needed to show God's power (Acts 2:22). The Bible shows Paul (Acts 19:11-12), Peter (Acts 3:6), Stephen (Acts 6:8), and Phillip (Acts 8:6-7), among others, using this gift.

The Gift of Speaking in Tongues: The gift of tongues was another gift given to the early Church to help share the gospel around the world to all nations and all languages. Believers with this gift had the ability to speak in languages they had no way of knowing prior to speaking it. This miraculous communication proved that the message of the gospel was coming from God. (Learn More)

The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues Going along with Speaking in Tongues, there had to be a person there to translate for anyone who didn't know the language that was being spoken. This person would then communicate to anyone else present who did not understand the language, telling them what the tongues-speaker was saying.


One thing to remember about spiritual gifts is that they are GIFTS of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts cannot be learned or earned. Just as natural talent is not necessarily "learned," spiritual gifts already exist within a believer, but they CAN be honed, strengthened, and sharpened. All who believe have the Holy Spirit, but not all who believe are given every gift. We are only granted gifts the Holy Spirit deems best for us individually.

TL;DR

Spiritual gifts are a little like natural talents, but they are special gifts granted by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). God gives all human beings a natural talent, such as an artistic or academic ability. God does not require belief in Him to bestow natural talents. But for believers, the Holy Spirit gives special spiritual talents, according to God's good purposes. The Bible provides three lists that define spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). All who believe have the Holy Spirit, but not all who believe are given every gift. We are only granted gifts the Holy Spirit deems best for us individually.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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