1 Corinthians 12: Spiritual Gifts

I Corinthians 12: Spiritual Gifts

Now before we begin our study of spiritual gifts, let us look at the right approach and the right attitude regarding the Lords’ Supper, as Paul instructed in the last part of I Cor. 11.   For just as they had abuses of this tradition in Paul’s day in Corinth, we have abuses also today, mainly in our attitude as we approach the Lord’s Supper Table with unprepared hearts.


  1. Look back. Jesus said do this in remembrance of me. Jesus wants us to look back at his death.  The bread is His body broken for us. The cup reminds us of the blood, more precious than gold or silver shed for us and for the remission of our sins. He wants us to remember how he died for us. Why? Because everything we have in Christ centers on His death, burial and resurrection. Christ died for our sins. It is not His teachings which will save us, only His death, burial and resurrection. He died as our substitute, paying the debt we could not pay.
  2. Look ahead. Notice we are to do this until He comes again. The return of Jesus Christ is the blessed hope of the church and the individual Christian. He said He was going to prepare a place for us and that He would come to get us so where He was, we would be also. In addition, we are told, when we see Him, we will be like Him.
  3. Look within. To prepare to participate, we should examine our own hearts and judge our own sins, confess them to Lord and He will be faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

No one should come to the Lord’s Supper who is not a true believer. Nor should a true believer come to the Table if his or her heart is not right with God and fellow believers.


This teaching concerning spiritual gifts runs from chapter I Corinthians 12 through 15, as Paul is teaching about the positive force of the Spirit which helps us deal with our old nature’s carnality and correct those things which are hindering our spiritual maturity.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us when we are born again spiritually. Paul tells us in Ephesians the purpose of these gifts:  Christ gave gifts unto men for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for edifying (building up) of the body of Christ, until we all come in the unity of faith.

Spiritual gifts are given to each of us for the strengthening of others. How you enjoy your gift is by sharing it. You discover your gift by how you help others when they are hurting, when their faith is wavering and in jeopardy. Not knowing your specific gift is not the basic problem. The problem is not having a desire to strengthen other people’s faith. God’s grace is what enables us to do this.  “For it is God who works in you both to desire and will His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)

Does this mean I go around like a self-sacrificing martyr, doing all for others, sacrificing myself? No. I believe when it is your spiritual gift and is being done for the right motives; there is nothing which gives you greater joy than to share your spiritual gift with others. If this is not the case, you might be doing it in your own strength which is draining you not only of energy, but is a joyless task.  (A word of caution, this does not mean we only do what we enjoy all the time; there is always things which must be done out of necessity, which we might not be gifted to do, but are required to do at times.)

Your gift can be expressed in words or deeds, or a combination of both. Therefore we can conclude a spiritual gift is given to you by the Holy Spirit when you are born again to express your faith in order to strengthen another person. The gift is the Spirit’s enablement to do it more effectively, more frequently and more heartily.


To compile the list, we will reference primarily to Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12.  Here is I Corinthians 12 Paul writes: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There different kinds of service (ministries) but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working (activities) but the same God works all of them in all men. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. ”

There are three categories of Spiritual Gifts.

  1. Motivational. The motivation we have is simply the Grace of God as the Spirit works in us at salvation. “For it is God who works in you both to desire and to will His good pleasure.”  This is a gift of grace and therefore we cannot boast as it is an undeserved, unearned gift. It is also to be shared.  * It is your responsibility to develop your motivational gift. This is why Paul tells us to ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  Press on, discipline, strict training, making every effort, study, and diligence are some of the words and actions used to describe our activity.
  2. Ministries. These are the areas of service within the body of the Church. Paul uses the illustration of the human body, being one body with many parts, each with a different function which helps the body as a whole. Paul says the body is one unit, though it is made up of different parts. So it is with Christ. And like the body, what connects everything?  The blood. It brings life to each part of the body. Each part has a different, but necessary function. The foot should not say, because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body. The eye is different from the ear- but both serve the body and are interdependent upon one another.   *It is the responsibility of the church to confirm ministry gifts.
  3. Manifestations. When something is manifested, it is revealed, made clear, not hidden. It clearly communicates and demonstrates its agenda and purpose. A political platform is a manifesto of the political party’s agenda. It clearly reveals their purpose. The heavens declare the glory of God, they make known, reveal the power of the Creator. *It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to reward the use of these gifts for the benefit, the building up and profit of all. The Holy Spirit produces the results, so one plants, one waters, but it is the Spirit who produces the fruit, which is why it is called the fruit of the Spirit.

So using both the list from Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, let’s list the gifts with a brief description of them.

Motivational Gifts: Found in Romans 12: 6-8

  1. Prophecy or prophesying – proclaiming the truth and exposing sin; speaking forth to declare the Word of God and the will of God. Reveals motives and actions.
  2. Ministry/Serving-meeting the needs of others
  3. Teaching -analysis and proclamation of the Word of God; for application in believer’s life
  4. Encouraging/Exhortation-motive is to see Christians grow in their faith and comfort them in trials.
  5. Giving-joyfully sharing what they have with others
  6. Leadership-coordinates efforts and resources to meet needs and reach goals
  7. Mercy- compassion toward those in distress, showing sympathy and sensitivity combined with the desire to lessen their suffering

Ministry Gifts:  Found in I Cor. 12: 28

  1. Apostles- there were the original apostles- in early NT Church they referred to these as “The Twelve.” Here the Greek work for apostles means “one sent forth.” This is a missionary, as Paul was one sent forth to the Gentiles.
  2. Prophets -prophets are pastors who proclaim God’s truth from the pulpit.
  3. Teachers -also a ministry in the Church- teachers are the leaders of small groups who guide them in the study and application of God’s word.
  4. Miracles – God still performs miracles accomplishing them in either natural ways or supernatural ways in His precise timing. Miracles grow out of an active believing prayer life of the individual, or group. We each can participate in this ministry through being faithful to pray. Prayer moves God. And God moves mountains. Prayer uses leverage. When our prayer is placed on the fulcrum of God’s Word, His principles and power and pressed down with the lever of faith it can make the impossible, possible. And when we think of intercessory prayer, remember who is helping us press on- the Holy Spirit within and the Lord Jesus in heaven, our High Priest as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ. (Think of the see-saw on the playground. And also realize we have an opponent who wants to keep us from using this leverage.)
  5. Healings- spiritual, mental and physical healings. Healing was a part of Christ’s earthly ministry and of the apostles and even the 70 who were sent out. Healing of the spirit and soul is the greatest of miracles.
  6. Helps- a ministry such as the benevolent fund- RIFA, Salvation Army, A Night at the INN, meets the needs of the needy (Matthew 25) Takes care of widows and orphans.
  7. Administration- organization and overseeing the government of the church.
  8. Varieties of tongues- (more about this later) as we discuss the use of tongues early in the church as a ‘sign gift’; and how it was to be limited and what it signified. But there are those who are gifted in languages and are drawn to ministry such as Wycliffe which interprets the Bible into different language groups so they may hear the Gospel in their own language.  It is interesting on the day of Pentecost, Peter and the disciples did not speak in different languages, they were heard in each person’s native language. It was a miracle of hearing rather than a miracle of speaking in tongues.  Remember what God told Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 4?  Moses complained he was not an eloquent speaker stating he was slow of speech and tongue.  God said to Moses: “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not, I the Lord?  Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4: 10-12)

Manifestation Gifts:   Found in I Cor. 12: 7-10

  1. Word of wisdom- a speaking gift; someone who can understand and speak forth biblical truth in such a way as to skillfully apply it to life situations. Enabling others to see life from God’s perspective.
  2. Word of knowledge- another speaking gift which involves understanding truth with an insight that comes from revelation by Holy Spirit.
  3. Faith -all believers are given a measure of faith as it is a gift of God. This comes from hearing the Word of God, understanding it and believing it. Confidence in God, His Word, His Promises, and the power of believing prayer. Hebrews 11: 6 tells us how important it is.
  4. Healings- there are physical healings; but the diseases which need spiritual healing are: bitterness, greed, lust, worry, jealousy, and other destructive habits and attitudes. “Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all our iniquities and heals all your diseases.”
  5. Miracles- natural or supernatural events which reflect God’s precise timing.
  6. Prophecy- exposing the secret motives of the heart.
  7. Discerning of Spirits- recognizing the source: God, the flesh or the devil
  8. Various tongues- building up the believers through speaking and/or singing praises.

There is a difference between talent and spiritual gifts. Talent is a result of genetics.  When you were born the first time naturally, you inherited certain natural abilities. A gene which enabled you to have an increased ability in a specific area.  It might also have been nurtured by your family.  (For example:  a musically gifted family might encourage children to take music lessons and enjoy music together as a family.)

A spiritual gift comes from the Holy Spirit who is the owner and dispenser of spiritual gifts and it comes when we are born again spiritually.

Jesus although he was God in flesh, lived his life as a man wholly dependent upon the Holy Spirit, thus demonstrating for us how we ought to live.  This is why He said, the things I do- you can do also and do even greater things because I am going to my Father.

Both talents and spiritual gifts are developed through practice and use and effort. They require an investment of time and effort. Paul said you must go into strict training like an athlete. You must not neglect your gift.

God can and usually does use your natural talents to go with your spiritual gift. And when combined and invested in with practice, training, and effort- they become stronger and more effective. Talent + Gift + Investment= Strength & Effectiveness.   Talents can be used for personal gain, enjoyment, an occupation or financial success. These talents can also be used in combination with your spiritual gift. For example:   In building the tabernacle, we are told there were artisans among the Israelites, male and female who had talents in skills which were utilized in equipping the tabernacle with the contents and articles used in worship. Workers in gold, silver, precious metals, carpenters, weavers, as well as manual labor who chopped wood, etc.


God formed you and knew you in your mother’s womb. So I am exactly what God intended me to be- He chose the time and place I would be born. He chose my parents and genetic makeup. God has been shaping me for service to Him and preparing me for the unique ministry and service that only I can provide in the time and place where He has placed me.

Let’s look at our SHAPE.

S.= Spiritual gift.

  1. = Heart.
  2. = Abilities
  3. = Personality
  4. = Experience.

When you try to serve God in ways you were not designed or shaped to serve Him, you are trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole. It is frustrating and produces limited results. In other words it is a waste of time and talents and energy.

S: Your Spiritual Gift is given by the Holy Spirit and since He indwells you, knit you together in your mother’s womb, He knows exactly what spiritual gift He wants to give you.  You will discover your spiritual gift by working in different ministries. There are tests you can take also to help reveal your gift, but I believe as we feel called to different ministries, we can try those and see what our success is. Learning by doing is always a part of the process.   As you are serving, it is easier for God to move you to where HE wants to get you.  You are to run with patience the race God has set before you. When you discover the gift-do not compare to others , this can create envy as some might have larger ministries or seem to be more talented in areas. John Bunyan summed it up this way:  “If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me; and it my life is fruitful, it does not matter who criticizes me.”  In other words, you are to do it unto the Lord with all your heart and not unto man.

H: Heart- the Holy Spirit will give you a Heart for your spiritual gift. This is a desire, a passion for sharing this gift with others for the glory of the Lord.  May the passion of your heart be the glory of the Lord. Passion, emotions, desires all come from the heart- and God will give you the desires of your heart.

A: Abilities- all our abilities and talents come from the Lord. He is the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow or turning and all good gifts come from Him. He has given each of us the ability to do something well.  Natural athletes, an ear for music, mechanically minded, an eye for art and drawing, good at math these can be talents you are born with. This is what Paul is saying when he writes: “There are different kinds of working, but the same God works in all men.”

P: Personality.  There are two major divisions: introvert and extrovert. Which fall into for other division and a variety of combinations. None are right or wrong, better or worse. Each have strengths and weakness. The four types are:  choleric; melancholy; phlegmatic; and sanguine.

  1. Experience- family, education, occupation, pains, trials etc.

Now let me show you how these gifts can respond in a situation. If you have seven Christians with the seven motivational gifts watch how they respond to the same situation:

SITUATION:  A group eating in a cafeteria when one of their party drops their dessert on the floor.

  1. Prophet- “That’s what happens when you’re not careful.” Motivation: To correct the problem.
  2. Server- “Oh, let me help you clean that up.” Motivation:  To fulfill a need.
  3. Teacher- “The reason that it fell is that it was too heavy on one side.” Motivation: To discover why this happened.
  4. Exhorter/Encourager: “Next time, let’s serve the dessert after the meal.” Motivation: To correct the future.
  5. Giver- “I’ll go buy you a new dessert.” Motivation:  To give to meet a tangible need.
  6. Organizer- “Jim, would you please get a mop. Sue picks up her plate and George goes get her a new dessert. Motivation:  To achieve the immediate goal of the group.
  7. Mercy- “Don’t feel bad. It could have happened to anyone. I once spilled a whole pitcher of tea on table and soaked everyone!” Motivation:  To relieve embarrassment.

Most conflicts we have as Christians are simply a result of our misunderstanding each other’s gift or the misuse of our gift

More about gifts and what is important next week….

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