Many well-meaning Christians love to ask the question “what is my spiritual gift?” While this is not a bad question, it is important to first answer the question “what is a spiritual gift?” There are actually quite a few components of spiritual gifts that can easily be overlooked. First, we will look to Scripture to understand the purpose of spiritual gifts. Second, we will look to Scripture to see who appoints them. Third, we will look to Scripture to see how many gifts each person should strive for. After those three aspects of spiritual gifts have been examined from a biblical perspective, then we will tackle the question of how to discover our own gifts.
1 Peter 4 is where the purpose of spiritual gifts is most clearly defined. The first half of 1 Peter 4 focuses on what it looks to live for God. 1 Peter 4:10, specifically, states that “Each of you should use whatever [spiritual] gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV). In other words, the reason that we receive spiritual gifts is to serve the body of Christ.
There is another small passage in the Bible that quite clearly explains the purpose of spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4 discusses the importance of building up the body of Christ, His church. Verses 11 and 12 explain “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.” Again, this passage reiterates that the reason we receive spiritual gifts is to serve the body of Christ, specifically to build it up.
Now that the purpose of spiritual gifts has been clearly defined, we must next address the question of who gives the spiritual gifts? 1 Corinthians 12 mentions a large variety of spiritual gifts, however, it is interesting to note that in this passage Paul places a great emphasis on who it is that gives these gifts: the Holy Spirit. After each gift, he mentions that it is given “by the same spirit.” At the conclusion of his massive list, he very clearly states in verse 11 that “All these [spiritual gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” People are not randomly assigned gifts, but the Holy Spirit distributes gifts uniquely to each person. Everyone is wonderfully different!
Now that we have an understanding of the purpose of spiritual gifts and who gives them, it is important to mention that we are called to desire all of the gifts. Later on in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he states that Christians ought to “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). It is out of love for others that we serve others through spiritual gifts, so we ought to be desiring all of them, since they are all good. It is interesting to note, however, that some gifts are considered greater than others, such as prophecy. 1 Corinthians 12:31, for example, actually commands people to “…eagerly desire the greater gifts…”
Since we have talked in great detail about the gifts and have a fairly good understanding of them, it may be beneficial to list some of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible. While there are a few other various gifts, some of the most well-known ones are found in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Romans 12:6-8 lists the gifts of prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy. 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 lists the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
Now that we have defined the purpose of spiritual gifts, know that they are given by the Holy Spirit, understand that we should strive for all of them, and have looked at all of the examples of gifts in the Bible, let’s create a definition for spiritual gifts based off of what we learned so that we can address the initial question: “what is my spiritual gift?” In short, a spiritual gift is a unique and divine empowerment bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon believers to serve others so that the body of Christ may be built up. Since the purpose of spiritual gifts is to serve others, it would make sense that the way in which we would discover our gifts is through service, as we will quickly discover our strong giftings as well as our weaknesses. Therefore, rather than asking “what is my spiritual gift?” let us instead ask “how can I discover my spiritual giftings?” The best way to discover our spiritual gifts is to start serving, or if you are completely unaware of your giftings, it may be beneficial for you to find a mentor who can speak into your life and identify what your gifts may be.
Author: Francie Swanson, Intern at the River Alliance Church