Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Posted: March 2, 2009 in Uncategorized

All this week we will be discussing the gifts of the holy spirit as outlined in chapters 52-53 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

Grudem defines a spiritual gift as follows: “a spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.”

Grudem includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (teaching, mercy, administration, etc.) and those that seem be more “miraculous” (prophecy, healing, etc.) because “Paul includes both kinds of gifts” (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:7; 12:8-10, 28; and Eph. 4:11).

Grudem points out that while spiritual gifts are certainly present in the Old Testament, the prophet Joel spoke of a time in the future when gifts would be freely poured out upon both men and women from every corner of the globe (Joel 2:28-29).  We clearly see this prophecy fulfilled on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts.  We then see the apostles use these gifts throughout their ministries.

But why does God grant such gifts? The purpose of spiritual gifts “are to equip the church to carry out its ministry until Christ returns (1 Cor. 1:7).”  They serve to build up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12) and to give all a foretaste of the age to come (2 Cor. 1:22).

How many gifts are there? There are various lists contained in six different passages in the New Testament.  For example, in the Pauline corpus we find the following:

Romans 12







Showing mercy (Compassion)

Ephesians 4






1 Corinthians 12



Discerning of spirits (Human, Angelic, Demonic)

Speaking in tongues

Interpretation of tongues



Working of miracles


The fact that the various lists differ demonstrate that Paul was at no time attempting to construct an exhaustive list.
A close study of pertinent texts show that “spiritual gifts may vary in strength” (see Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 14:18, etc.)  As Grudem points out, this begs the question, “how strong does an ability have to be before it can be called a spiritual gift?” Grudem believes the answer is “strong enough to function for the benefit of the church, whehter for the assembled congregation…or for individuals at various times in the congregation…”
If someone possess a spiritual gift is it given temporarily or permanently? Grudem argues that, “in most cases, it seems that the New Testament pictures a permanent possession of spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor. 12:12-26). However, Grudem points to a number of notable exceptions whether it be Samson’s strength or awaiting revelation in order to prophesy.   It is always important to remember that “the Holy Spirit is still sovereign in distributing gifts” (1 Cor. 12:11).

Are gifts miraculous or non-miraculous? If we follow Grudem’s definition of a miracle as “a less common activity of God in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” then only some gifts are “miraculous.”  However, if we define a miracle broadly as “a direct activity of God in the world” then all spiritual gifts are miraculous because they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  While Grudem prefers the former definition of miracle he is quick to caution that all gifts are given to build up the church (1 Cor. 14:12) and, thus, all gifts are equal in worth.

How does one discover their gift? Grudem’s practical answer is that the leadership of each local congregation needs to make sure that each person is given a chance to participate in ministry so they can discover their gift for themselves!  However, again, he offers the prudent advice that we need to urge the members to be content with whatever God chooses to give them (our sinful natures always crave the spotlight).

Also, each person needs to remember that a gift is a “tool for ministry and not necessarily related to Christian maturity.” One may retard their spiritual growth if they simply wallow in their gift!

But haven’t some spiritual gifts ceased altogether?  That conversation will have to wait until tomorrow.

  1. Hampers says:

    Thanks for sharing the information on gifts of holy spirit. It was nice going through it. He will bless you for this. Happy Blogging

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