Spiritual Gifts For The Missio Dei

This past week we studied 1 Corinthians 12 and Paul’s teaching on the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts in the life of the church. The main point of this passage of Scripture is that a spiritual gift is where our individuality lives out our interdependence in a local church. Since all Christians have at least one spiritual gift, and since those gifts are designed to build up the church for the good of others (1 Cor. 12:7), it is essential for our church to be filled with Believers who use their gift(s) for the glory of God and the good of the Body.

Unfortunately many of us remain uninformed (1 Cor. 12:1) on what our gift(s) might be and how to best use it in our church. To help us all become better equipped in this area we have put together a list* of the gifts Scripture identifies, though most commentators agree that the sample lists that are given are not exhaustive (it is quite likely there are additional gifts not enumerated in the following list). As you read through the list take some time to pray about how the Holy Spirit may have gifted you, and how your use or failure to use your gift(s) might bless or harm the church. Additionally, remember that no gift comes to us fully-developed. We should earnestly pray that we would grow in effectiveness with our gifts, as well as that the Spirit would bless us with additional gifts (1 Cor. 14:1)!

  • Wisdom: The Spirit-empowered ability to give guidance based on biblical truth (1 Cor. 12:8).
    • The church needs wisdom in order to apply the truth of God’s Word to our decisions and lifestyles, without this gift in operation we will lose the distinctiveness of a community that has been given the revelation of the Word of God.
  • Knowledge: The Spirit-empowered ability to understand biblical truth (1 Cor. 12:8).
    • The church needs knowledge in order to properly understand the truth of God’s Word, without this gift in operation we will miss out on the depth and beauty of the Bible.
  • Faith: The Spirit-empowered ability to see God working in mundane and extraordinary ways (1 Cor. 12:9).
    • The church needs faith in order to be reminded God is always working, without this gift in operation we will become discouraged and feel that God has left us on our own. 
  • Healing: The Spirit-empowered ability to be the channel through which God heals the sick (1 Cor. 12:9).
  • Miracles: The Spirit-empowered ability to be the channel through which God shows His power (1 Cor. 12:9).
    • The church needs gifts of healings and miracles in order to see that God is sovereign and powerful, without this gift in operation we will come to believe in a deistic religion that believes God is unable to work in our world.
  • Apostleship: The Spirit-empowered ability to start new churches and bring the Gospel to new places (1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs apostleship in order to see the mission of God (the missio Dei) advance to new places, without this gift in operation we will not see the Kingdom advance with the power of the Gospel.
  • Teaching: The Spirit-empowered ability to impart biblical truth (Rom. 12:7, 1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs teaching in order to see the blessing of God’s Word applied in our lives, without this gift in operation we will miss out on the feast that Scripture offers.  
  • Service: The Spirit-empowered ability to come alongside others, lifting their burdens (Rom. 12:7, 1 Cor. 12:28, 1 Pet. 4:11).
    • The church needs service in order to lift the cares and burdens we all experience, without this gift in operation we will find ourselves buried under the weight of our burdens.
  • Administration: The Spirit-empowered ability to know what to do or direction to lead (1 Cor. 12:28).
    • The church needs administration in order to know which decisions will lead to the greatest health of our church, without this gift in operation we will find ourselves directionless or handicapped by bad decisions.
  • Evangelism: The Spirit-empowered ability to see non-Christians come to faith (Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs evangelism in order to see people far from Jesus come to faith in Him, without this gift in operation we will become a group of families who only baptize those who were born into Christian homes.
  • Shepherding: The Spirit-empowered ability to help, care for, and invest in God’s people (Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs shepherding in order to be cared for as Jesus desires His people to be, without this gift in operation we will stray from His Body or fall prey to wolves.
  • Encouragement: The Spirit-empowered ability to strengthen the discouraged (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs encouragement in order to find the strength to endure amidst the hardship of life, without this gift in operation we will drift towards passivity or cowardice.
  • Generosity: The Spirit-empowered ability to meet needs (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs generosity in order to accomplish the ministry God has called us to, without this gift in operation we will see ministry opportunities pass by due to a lack of resources.
  • Leadership: The Spirit-empowered ability to mobilize people for a cause (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs leadership in order to gather and motivate people to do the work of ministry, without this gift in operation we will not see the mission advance.
  • Mercy: The Spirit-empowered ability to come alongside hurting people (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs mercy in order to demonstrate the compassion of Christ, without this gift in operation we will not fulfill our call to comfort those who mourn.
  • Hospitality: The Spirit-empowered ability to welcome and love strangers (Rom. 12:13).
    • The church needs hospitality in order to be a place that is welcoming to those who are in search of a community, without this gift in operation we will become increasingly cold and distant towards outsiders.  
  • Tongues**: The Spirit-empowered ability to speak to God in unlearned human languages (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 29-30).
  • Interpretation: The Spirit-empowered ability to translate gift of tongues in corporate worship (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 29-30). 
  • Prophecy: The Spirit-empowered ability to impart truth from God in specific situations (Rom. 12:6, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, Eph. 4:11).
  • Discernment: The Spirit-empowered ability to evaluate origin and authenticity of prophetic messages (1 Cor. 12:10).

One thing to note about these gifts is that the lines of distinction, in some cases, are blurry. For example, when a gift is that of mercy and when it is a gift of encouragement can be difficult to tell! The important question, however, is not which gift is being used as much as what is the result of the gift in operation. Is the Spirit more tangibly visible because of this action? Is the Body of Christ built up through the use of this gift, or is it merely drawing attention to the gifted one? Ultimately none of us will have all the gifts, therefore we are dependent on the Spirit to empower and the other members of our church to be faithful in the utilization of their gifts!

But perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind regarding spiritual gifts is seen in the actual Greek word Paul uses: Charisma. One scholar believes the best translation of this word is not “spiritual gifts,” but rather “grace-gifts.” This concept is helpful because it reminds us gifting is not the result of our merit or natural abilities, rather, it is (like our salvation itself) a gracious act of God on our behalf! Just as you cannot earn your way to redemption, you cannot earn your own gifting! Gifts are not about ranking which Believer is more important than another but rather reminding us that we are all dependent on the grace of Jesus in all that we do.

*This list is heavily reliant on the commentaries of Gordon Fee, Thomas Schreiner, Roy Ciampa, and a sermon by Mark Driscoll.
**Tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and discernment will be discussed in greater detail in our study of 1 Corinthians 14 in a few weeks.