The Apostle Paul speaks of the variety of spiritual gifts: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (I Corinthians 12:4–11).
In a study of spiritual gifts, it is helpful to recognize three types, or categories, of spiritual gifts that are described in Scripture:
- Motivational Gifts: “ . . . Diversities of gifts . . .” (I Corinthians 12:4).
How God works in a believer to shape his perspective on life and motivate his words and actions. (See Romans 12:3–8.)
- Ministry Gifts: “ . . . Differences of administrations . . .” (I Corinthians 12:5).
How God works with what a believer does to serve and meet the needs of others. (See Ephesians 4:11–13 and I Corinthians 12:27–31.)
- Manifestation Gifts: “ . . . Diversities of operations . . .” (I Corinthians 12:6).
How God works through a believer in a given situation to demonstrate His supernatural power. (See I Corinthians 12:7–11.)
God uses all of the gifts in each of these three categories to minister to His Church and to accomplish His work in the world.
At the moment of salvation, a believer receives one of seven motivational gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, organizing, or mercy. This gift of God’s grace shapes how the believer views life, relates to others, and impacts the Body of Christ. A motivational gift can be compared to a set of eyeglasses from God, given so that the believer can see people and circumstances through that particular set of “lenses.”
Following are simple descriptions of the seven motivational gifts, explaining how a person with each gift would “see” his or her role in the Body of Christ:
- Prophecy: Reveals truth by exposing sin, so that fellowship with God can be restored and/or maintained
- Serving: Demonstrates love by meeting practical needs, usually through tangible work
- Teaching: Discovers and validates truth so that the Church maintains accuracy
- Exhorting: Encourages Christians to grow spiritually by discipling, teaching, and counseling others
- Giving: Conserves and shares resources in order to meet needs
- Organizing: Carries out projects by recruiting workers, organizing tasks, or delegating responsibilities
- Mercy: Demonstrates God’s love and compassion by responding to hurt
God works through the spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ to help the Church grow and remain healthy. By God’s grace, prophets warn believers of sin. Servers guard against slothfulness. Teachers steer us clear of heresy. Exhorters watch out for hopelessness. Givers stand against selfishness. Organizers ward off chaos. Mercy-givers demonstrate God’s tender love.
Although each person’s behavior will vary according to factors such as temperament, background, age, gender, culture, and circumstances, it is not unusual for those who share the same motivational gift to demonstrate common characteristics. Also, especially as believers mature, they may act in ways commonly associated with other motivational gifts, but this does not mean that their motivational drive has changed. For example, if a teacher-motivated person demonstrates the characteristics of a mercy or giver, he is still motivated by a desire to affirm truth even in his mercy-like or giver-like actions. His inner motivation has not changed; he is simply developing other God-honoring qualities.
Ministry gifts are the tools God uses to build up the Church. They are practical, essential, can-do types of gifts such as those described in Ephesians 4:11-13: “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (See also I Corinthians 12:27–31.)
Ministry gifts are often confirmed by ordination. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (I Timothy 4:14).
Manifestation gifts are supernatural demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. The Spirit of God is the Source of these gifts, and they are manifested for the benefit of others and to bring God glory.
“The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (I Corinthians 12:7–11).
The Value of Understanding Spiritual Gifts
Knowing that each Christian has gift sets that are unique, valuable, and needed in the Body of Christ gives believers purpose in God’s kingdom.
“If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. . . . There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (I Corinthians 12:17–25).
As you demonstrate the love of God through gifts that He gives you, you will experience fulfillment and great joy. As you mature in your understanding of spiritual gifts and learn to be available as a channel of God’s power as He works through your gifts, you can be much more fruitful and you can more effectively avoid spiritual exhaustion.