What Are Spiritual Gifts? Understanding the Types and Discovering Yours

Spiritual gifts are something every believer is given when they receive the gift of salvation. Just as the gift of salvation is by grace through faith, so are the spiritual gifts. Our God is so generous. He is constantly giving us things.

What Are Spiritual Gifts? Understanding the Types and Discovering Yours

Spiritual gifts are something every believer is given when they receive the gift of salvation. Just as the gift of salvation is by grace through faith, so are the spiritual gifts. Our God is so generous. He is constantly giving us things.

“Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us.” (Ephesians 4:7 CEV)

It’s His grace at work in our lives.

3 Kinds of Spiritual Gifts

There are three kinds of spiritual gifts. These gifts are not something we possess; they are God’s supernatural ability showing up in our lives in various ways. The Bible calls it a manifestation.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NIV)

There are ministry gifts, manifestation gifts, and motivational gifts. All believers take part in these gifts in various ways.

Let’s look at each of them separately.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Ministry

The ministry gifts are the way God works with what believers do to serve others and meet their needs. It’s how we minister or ad-minister the love, grace, and truth of God to others. To administer is to apply and bring into use.

“And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:5 KJV)

The Bible provides a list of these ministering gifts and their purpose.

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11-13, emphasis mine)

Many refer to them as the 5-fold ministry. Not everyone is called to the ministry but 1 Corinthians 12:28 adds a gift for helping.

God graciously empowers us all to help one another by His Spirit.

Beyond the 5-Fold Ministry Gifts

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelists
  • Pastors
  • Teachers
  • Helpers

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Manifestation

Manifestation gifts are the ones people tend to sensationalize and therefore disqualify themselves from enjoying. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, it says God gives to each of us, not just some. This means everyone.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to others gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to others miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”(1 Corinthians 12:7-11, emphasis mine)

This supernatural demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power is to serve others as well as minister to ourselves. It’s commonly thought these gifts are only to minister to others but that’s limiting the grace of God. The Spirit can give you a message of wisdom when you ask for one in your life just as easily as He can give one to you to deliver to someone else. Let the Holy Spirit minister to you also.

These manifestation gifts are how God works through us bringing joy and fruitfulness in every one of our lives.

9 Manifestations of the Holy Spirit

  • A message of wisdom
  • A message of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Gifts of healing 
  • Miraculous powers
  • Prophecy
  • Distinguishing between spirits
  • Speaking in different kinds of tongues
  • The interpretation of tongues

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Motivational

The motivational gifts are how the Spirit of Grace moves through us motivating our words and actions. It’s a filter we’re given for our perspective shaping how we relate to and serve others.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8, emphasis mine)

7 Motivational Gifts

  • Prophesying
  • Serving
  • Teaching
  • Encouraging
  • Giving
  • Leading
  • Showing Mercy

Discovering Your Motivation

If you look at the things you do, examine the why behind them. This is how you’ll identify which one you are motivated by.

All these gifts are wonderful and have a place. Some may sound more important than others, but that is not true. It’s just our ego getting in the way.

The Bible says to desire the best gifts, and the best gift is the one you need at the time.

What is the best spiritual gift?

“So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31 NLT, emphasis mine)

Gifts are great, but it’s more important to know how to love. God has given us His love as a gift. We love because He loved us first. Without love all the actions supposed to be gifts are empty.

There’s a reason the following portion of Scripture is so widely known. Love is the best gift. Love is what matters most.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-10 NLT)

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT, emphasis mine)

Seek to love above all else, and the gifts will find their place because God is love.

Download our free PDF for Living By the Holy Spirit Power - A Prayer and Scripture Guide

Bible Verses about Spiritual Gifts

Romans 12:6-8

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Peter 4:10-11

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 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.

Ephesians 4:11-16

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Danielle Bernock is an international award-winning author. Her works include: Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals, A Bird Named Payn, and Love’s Manifesto. Her new book Because You Matter: How to Take Ownership of Your Life so You Can Really Live will be released fall 2019. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/

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