Before we start explaining the spiritual gifts, let us distinguish between talents, spiritual fruit, ministry gifts and spiritual gifts.
A talent is a great natural ability that God gives everyone at birth. It is often considered a gift or a gifting. It is something one can do well or easily without much effort or training. Scientist would tell you that it is in your genes or genetic make-up.
Some examples of talents are a naturally good singing voice; a special ability in learning music or a language; an ability to learn math quickly and do well in this subject without any great effort; a special ability in using ones hands, a handyman, an exceptional ability in organizing or administration. These are some of the many talents people have.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit are characteristics of the Holy Spirit that God has developed in you as you yield to the working of the Holy Spirit in your life. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
A ministry gift is a supernatural ability given to us by the Holy Spirit for the service or work of the church of God.
Romans 12:6-8 – “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.”
Prophesy is a ministry gifts as well as a spiritual gift. All who prophecy are not prophets, but all prophets are able to prophecy. The ministry of a prophet is to be able to see the future as well as call the believers back to God when they go astray. A prophet (seer) is one of the spiritual eyes of the church. The other gifts we see here are: serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy.
I Corinthians 12:28 – “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 – “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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
In these two passages, we see what some call the fivefold ministry gifts: apostles, prophets, pastor, and teachers. Other ministry gifts we see here are the gift of helps and the gift of guidance (wisdom), while tongues are a spiritual gift. In Ephesians, we see that they are given to equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ might be built up that we may all become mature in Christ.
A spiritual gift is a gift that God gives you when you are saved and/or when you are baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is given for the purpose of building up God’s church and empowerment to do God’s will. A person can have one or more talents or spiritual gifts.
We find a list of these spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12:7-11.
“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 another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another 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.”
We see here the gifts of the Spirit are: the message of wisdom; the message of knowledge; faith; healing; miracles; prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. These gifts are given for the common good. In other words, these gifts are for the help of others and for the building up of the body of Christ.
Let us look at some foundational principles or general principles concerning spiritual gifts. First of all the gifts are not earned or produced, but are free gifts given to God’s saints. It is the Holy Spirit who decides which gift you receive. (I Corinthians 12:11) This does not mean that we should not seek the gifts. Paul says we are to seek the greater gifts. (I Corinthians 12:31; 14:1) You are able to have more than one gift at a time. To function in the gift(s) God gives us, we must recognize them and use them according to our faith. (Romans 12:6) Finally, it is those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit who are able to use one or more of these gifts. The reason that I say this is that I Corinthians 12:7 says, “to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit”. He does not say, the manifestations of the Spirit, but it is singular in form. The spiritual gifts are not manifestations of the Spirit, but rather the manifestation (singular) of the Spirit. What is this manifestation that the apostle is referring to? I believe it is “the gift of the Spirit” or rather “the baptism of the Spirit”. In other word, it is those who have received “the gift” or “the baptism” of the Spirit who will function in these spiritual gifts.
I want to conclude this part on the spiritual gifts with a word of caution. Satan is able to imitate the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 7:21-23; 24:11 & 24; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10) The scripture tells us to test the spirits or spiritual manifestations to see if they are from God or just the working of man or Satan. (I John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)