What are spiritual gifts?

God has chosen people to do his work. He chose this course of action for reasons only he knows and understands. From a human perspective, we may wonder if this was the best decision. After all, the sky’s the limit concerning what God could have done. He could have chosen angels to speak to lost humanity. He certainly used them on many significant occasions throughout Scripture. Or God could have created a special category of messengers that would never fail him—a “sin-proof” instrument that would faithfully proclaim his Word. For that matter, God himself could have simply poked his face through the heavens and said, “Hello, world! I’m God, and you’re not!” But God has chosen men and women to do his work among humankind.

As we seek to follow and be used by Jesus Christ, we need to utilize all that he has made available to us. One of the great blessings Jesus has given to his church and to us as individuals is the gifts of the Spirit. Why has he given these gifts? The Bible has this to say about the vital role they play in the lives of believers:

Spiritual Gifts Enable Us to Grow in the Knowledge of Christ. Some people get sidetracked with spiritual gifts and become more obsessed with the gifts than with Jesus. Believers begin to follow signs and wonders, instead of signs and wonders following believers. This is a sign of spiritual immaturity. The Christian writer/preacher A. B. Simpson wrote these insightful words:

Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord.
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word.
Once his gifts I wanted, now the Giver own.
Once I sought for healing, now himself alone.

Attaining spiritual gifts is not the goal—they are the gateway. They are not a hobby to play with—they are tools to build with, weapons to fight with. We will be more effective as we put them to use for God’s glory and not our own.

Spiritual Gifts Are to Be Used. It is possible to let a gift go unused. In doing this, however, you disobey God and cheat the church of a blessing. For this reason, we must use those gifts he has given us. In fact, it must be insulting to God for us to demean some gift his Holy Spirit has instilled in our life by saying that it just isn’t important enough to use.

Each Spiritual Gift Has a Special Place in the Body of Christ. Every gift that God has placed in the body of Christ, the church, is important. Some gifts such as preaching, teaching, and prophesying may seem more important than others such as hospitality or service. But God has given all of these gifts to build up his church. None of these gifts should be looked down upon or treated lightly.

So, what are the spiritual gifts that God has given to his people? There are differing thoughts on some spiritual gifts and their usage today. Putting some of this aside for now, here is a list:

  1. Administration
  2. Being an apostle
  3. Discernment
  4. Evangelism
  5. Exhortation
  6. Faith
  7. Giving
  8. Healing
  9. Helps
  10. Hospitality
  11. Knowledge
  12. Leadership
  13. Mercy
  14. Prophecy
  15. Serving
  16. Speaking in tongues
  17. Teaching (sometimes known as shepherding)
  18. Wisdom


ADMINISTRATION: The ability to help steer the church, or a ministry, toward the successful completion of God-given goals, with skills in planning, organization, and supervision.

APOSTLE: A person sent to new places with the gospel. You may have heard of missionaries going to different countries to help spread the Word; they could be described as apostles. An apostle can also provide leadership to other churches or ministries and offer advice on spiritual matters.

DISCERNMENT: The wisdom to recognize truth from untruth by correctly evaluating whether a behavior or teaching is from God or another, ungodly source.

EVANGELISM: The ability to successfully communicate the message of the gospel, especially to nonbelievers.

EXHORTATION: Competence in offering encouragement, comfort, and support to help someone be all that God wants them to be.

FAITH: People with this gift have such great confidence in the power and promises of God that they can stand strong in their belief, no matter what may try to shake them. They can also stand up for the church and for their faith in such a way as  to defend and move it forward.

GIVING: Those who have this gift are particularly willing and able to share what resources they have with pleasure, and without the need to see them returned.

HEALING: A capability used by God to restore others, be that physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

HELPS: Someone with this gift is able to support or assist members of the body of Christ so that they may be free to minister to others.

HOSPITALITY: A natural ability to make people—even strangers—feel welcome in one’s own home or church as a means to disciple or serve them.

KNOWLEDGE: This is the gift of someone who actively pursues knowledge of the Bible. This person may also enjoy analyzing biblical data.

LEADERSHIP: This aptitude marks a person who is able to stand before a church, to direct the body with care and attention, and to motivate them toward achieving the church’s goals.

MERCY: This is the defining trait of a person with great sensitivity for those who are suffering. It manifests itself in offering compassion and encouragement, and in a love for giving practical help to someone in need.

PROPHECY: The ability to speak the message of God to others. This sometimes involves foresight or visions of what is to come. This skill should be used only to offer encouragement or warning.

SERVING:  A talent for identifying tasks needed for the body of Christ and using available resources to get the job done.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES: The supernatural ability to speak in another language (one that has not been learned).

TEACHING: The skill to teach from the Bible and communicate it effectively for the understanding and spiritual growth of others.

WISDOM: The gift of being able to sort through facts and data to discover what needs to be done for the church.

It should be noted that not every Christian believes all these spiritual gifts are still given by God. Some think that there were certain gifts, such as speaking in tongues, that were handed down only for a time when they were needed in biblical history and are no longer needed now.

How do we determine which gifts God has given us?

  • As you were reading through the descriptions listed above, did any resonate with you? Perhaps that could be the gift or gifts you have been given.
  • You can ask your Christian friends which gifts they identify in you—very often they can see what you cannot and can observe which skills God has divinely assigned to you.
  • You can pray about it; if we ask God to lead us toward whatever gifts He has given us, he can make it clearer to us.
  • Some churches offer spiritual gifts classes to help you discover yours. Ask a leader at your church if this is something they offer.
  • You can also take an online spiritual gifts test—simply search online and you’ll find one. But a word of caution here: These tests may not be reliable, so take the results with a pinch of salt and be sure to keep pursuing the answer in prayer. Below is one to get you started…


Please follow this link to the latest version of our Spiritual Gifts assessment: