Biblical Teaching from a Reformed Perspective

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hast magnified thy word above all thy name. Ps. 138:2

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the gifts of the Holy Spirit by Mike Aldridge

There are four NT passages that deal directly with the topic of spiritual gifts:

  • Romans 12:3-8
  • 1 Cor. 12:1-14:40
  • Ephesians 4:7-16
  • 1 Peter 4:7-11

The NT cites all members of the Godhead as being involved in providing the Church with gifted believers:

  • (1 Cor 12:28 NKJV) And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
  • (Eph 4:11 NKJV) And He Himself (Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
  • (1 Cor 12:11 NKJV) But one and the same Spirit works all these things , distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Though the Godhead is involved, specifically the source of these spiritual gifts is the Holy Spirit and are divine enablements and capacities for specific spiritual works:

  • (1 Cor 12:11 NKJV) But one and the same Spirit works all these things , distributing to each one individually as He wills.
  • (Heb 2:4 NKJV) God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit , according to His own will?

Every believer has at least one gift from the Holy Spirit to be used not for personal benefit but for the benefit of the Church:

  • (1 Cor 12:7 NKJV) But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all :
  • (1 Cor 12:11 NKJV) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
  • (Eph 4:7 NKJV) But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
  • (1 Pet 4:10 NKJV) As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another , as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Spiritual gifts are differentiated from natural talents in that they have been given for the purpose of the spiritual edification of the Church and come to a believer only after he has received the gift (singular) of the Spirit through faith in Christ. (Acts 2.38; Acts 10.45)

The NT does not make clear whether or not the bestowal of spiritual gifts comes simultaneously with salvation or subsequent to it. However, in the case of the Corinthians it seems that spiritual gifts can (but not necessarily must) follow after salvation. (1 Cor. 13.31)

There is a difference in value of some of the gifts:

  • (1 Cor 12:28 NKJV) And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
  • (1 Cor 14:5 NKJV) I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
  • (1 Cor 14:19 NKJV) yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

A Listing and Description of NT Spiritual Gifts

The following is a list of NT spiritual gifts that were operational in the Church during the first century:

(Bold face represents first-time mention)

Romans 12:3-8

  • Prophecy (Rom. 12.6/1 Cor. 12.10/Eph. 4.11) - the ability to declare future events before they occurred (Acts 11.28/21.10)
  • Ministry/Serving (Rom. 12.7/1 Peter 4.11) - the ability to serve the Lord by serving others in an effective way
  • Teaching (Rom. 12.7/Eph. 4.11/1 Peter 4.11) - the ability to clearly explain the doctrines of the Word of God
  • Exhortation (Rom. 12.8) - the ability to motivate God's people to action
  • Giving (Rom. 12.8) - the exceptional desire to give financially to the work of the Lord
  • Leadership(Ruling)/Administrations/ (Rom. 12.8/1 Cor. 12:28) - the ability to administrate, lead and organize in Church-related matters
  • Mercy (Rom. 12.8) - the ability to empathize and respond to the needs of others

1 Cor. 12:4-11/28-31

  • Word of Wisdom (1 Cor. 12.8) - the ability from the Lord to discern truth from error
  • Word of Knowledge (1 Cor. 12.8) - God-given revelation of scriptural knowledge
  • Faith (1 Cor. 12.9) - the unusual ability to trust or rely upon the Lord
  • Healings (1 Cor. 12.9) - the ability to heal people of verifiable, organic diseases
  • Miracles (1 Cor. 12.10) - the ability to perform unusual works contrary to the laws of nature
  • Discernment of Spirits ( 1 Cor. 12.10) - the ability to discern what is of God and what is not
  • Tongues (1 Cor. 12.10) - the ability to speak in foreign languages not previously learned
  • Interpretation of Tongues ( 1 Cor. 12.10) - the ability to interpret the known languages spoken by those who spoke in tongues
  • Apostle (1 Cor. 12:28/Eph. 4.11) one who is equipped by God to perform miracles and wonders and signs (2 Cor. 12.12)
  • Helps (1 Cor. 12.28) - the ability and desire to help others in the ministry of the Church

Eph. 4:7-16

  • Apostles (Eph. 4.11)
  • Prophets (Eph. 4.11)
  • Evangelist (Eph. 4.11) - the ability to clearly explain to the unsaved the need to repent and believe the Gospel
  • Pastor (Eph. 4.11) - the ability to care and nurture the Lord's people in a special way
  • Teacher (Eph. 4.11)

1 Peter 4:10-11

  • Speak/Teaching (1 Peter 4.11)
  • Ministry/Serving (1 Peter 4.11)

NT gifts may be divided into two broad groups: sign gifts and service gifts. (The gifts with a + signifies the individuals with the specific abilities cited)

Sign Gifts (temporary)

  • Healings
  • Miracles
  • Discernment of Spirits
  • Tongues
  • Interpretation of Tongues
  • Apostle+

The following gifts are considered temporary by some and permanent by others in a more general sense.

  • Prophet+
  • Word of Wisdom
  • Word of Knowledge
  • Faith

These gifts were foundational to the early Church in order for it to be established and to authenticate it's message and messengers.

  • (Eph 2:20 NKJV) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone,
  • (Acts 2:43 NKJV) Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
  • (Acts 8:13 NKJV) Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.
  • (Acts 19:11 NKJV) Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul...
  • (2 Cor 12:12 NKJV) Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

See also Acts 2:22, 2:43, 5:12; Hebrews 2:3-4

Service Gifts (permanent)

The remaining gifts are service-related gifts and have been operational throughout the entire dispensation:


  • Teacher+
  • Exhortation
  • Evangelist+
  • Pastor+

  • Ministry/Serving
  • Giving
  • Leadership(Ruling)/Administrations
  • Mercy
  • Helps

Keys Points Related to Spiritual Gifts

Romans 12:3-8

1. The believer is not to think that he/she has received gift through personal merit or favor (v. 3) but to "think soberly".

2. The use of spiritual gifts are not with an attitude of independence, but rather interdependence. (vv.4-5)

3. These gifts are to be put to use for the Lord to the full extent of our ability. (vv. 6-8)

1 Cor. 12-14

Chapter 12 deals with diversity of gifts but unity in purpose by the Church. Chapter 13 deals with the use of these gifts in an attitude of love. Chapter 14 deals with the controversy that existed in the Corinthian assembly: the use and misuse of the gift of prophecy and tongues.

1. The Spirit gives the gifts (11:4); the Lord gives the sphere of service (v. 5); and God gives the opportunities within that sphere of service. (v.6)

2. Those that have less prominent gifts should not think they are less valuable to the body (vv. 15-20)

3. Those that have more prominent gifts should not think any less of those who possess less prominent gifts (vv. 21-26) since as with the human body, all members are important in the functioning of the whole. (vv. 25/27)

4. Prophesying in the Corinthian assembly was especially upheld as a desirable gift, more than tongues (vv. 14:1-3, 19,39); was to the edification of the Church (v. 3) is to be orderly and in accord with the Scriptures (vv. 32-33), and not to be performed in the public meeting by women. (v.34)

Eph. 4:7-16

1. Christ has given the Church gifted individuals who have been gifted by the Spirit (v. 11)

2. The purpose of the use of gifts is to equip the saints for the ministry of edifying other believers (v. 12) to bring about maturity in Christ (vv. 13-14) and to knit together believers in love for spiritual growth through the use of everyone's spiritual gift. (vv. 15-16)

1 Peter 4:10-11

1. The use of spiritual gifts should be put to use (v. 10) with the ability that the Lord gives. (v. 11)

2. The ultimate purpose of spiritual gifts is the glory of the Lord. (v. 11)

The manifestation of spiritual gifts in others does not negate my responsibility to obey the Lord in the same areas in which others do exceptionally well through the Holy Spirit. I am also responsible to evangelize, teach, help, proclaim the Word etc. when called upon by the Lord to do so.

"But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist , fulfill your ministry." (2 Tim 4:5)

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 4:11 NKJV)

5 "E's" in Discerning our Gift(s)

  • Explore the Gifts
  • Experiment with as many as possible
  • Examine your feelings
  • Evaluate your effectiveness
  • Expect confirmation from the Body
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