The basis for spiritual gifts comes from Romans 12, verses 4 -8 “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
The 7 gifts listed in this verse are:
Prophecy – which I refer to as Perceiving, following the model of Don and Katie Fortune in their book Discover Your God-Given Gifts. As they explain it: “We have purposely chosen this word over prophet to avoid negative connotations and possible confusion, since the same root word is used in the other two categories of gifts, found in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and in Ephesians 4:11”
Compassion (or mercy)
As mentioned in the quote by the Fortunes, the giving of gifts to man, by the persons of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, are found in two other places in the bible:
1 Corinthians 12:10 “To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight ([a]the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such] tongues.” Amplified Bible.
Ephesians 4:11 “And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.” Amplified Bible.
It could be argued the gifts given by Jesus before He ascended into heaven, as listed in Ephesians 4, are given to some, not all, but some people, for the purpose of building up the body of Chris for the work of the ministry. I do not feel confident enough in the interpretation of this verse to claim those gifts were given to everyone.
In 1 Corinthians 12:10, the case could be made that those gifts, as given by the Holy Spirit are given to all, each gift available to each believer, as needed, according to the will of the Holy Spirit, and for His purposes at any given moment. So those gifts rise up as needed and leave us when they are not needed.
The gifts listed in Romans 12 are foundational gifts, given to each one, by God as He created us for the purpose of taking our place as a member of the body of Christ. Just as our toes, fingers, heart, lungs, and eyes were created right from conception to fulfill their specific duties as members of our body; we were created with specific foundational gifts meant for our use as we fulfill our jobs as members of Christ.
While the gifts from Christ and the Holy Spirit can flow and change within us as needed; the foundational gifts are those we are given at birth, they are part of who we are, our character, and our motivations. They do not change. They influence our behaviors and who we become.
Each of these gifts is given its own article here, describing it in detail. You can link to each one, by clicking on its name. Here is a quick overview of each:
- Perceiver: One who discerns truth readily and declares God’s will to others. Perceivers know what is right and long to see God’s people living in righteousness.
- Server: Does the work of the ministry and gives practical service wherever it is needed. Stays in the background, content to help
- Teacher: Researches and digs out the truth of God’s word and shares it, usually in creative, easily understood ways.
- Exhorter: An encourager and admonisher, cheering God’s people on to fulfill their call and to reach their highest potential.
- Giver: Shares whatever resources he has available to anyone in need. Usually very talented at making and keeping money.
- Administrator: A leader, organizer and director. Highly motivated to get things done.
- Compassion: The gift of mercy and empathy, a compassion person is very sensitive and loving. Slow to anger and quick to forgive.
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is working in us and our children to build us up into His inheritance (Ephesians 1:18 says “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”,) He wants us to be worthy of being His inheritance, giving us the equipping we need to be formed into His image. In order to make that happen, we have been given special gifts, unique gifts, which contribute to the building up of our character.
He wants to use those gifts for His purposes. He is working in us, to do what only He can do – “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete [it] until the day of Jesus Christ;” Philippians 1:6 He is building our children up, by instilling the gifts, abilities, interests and more, which they will need to become His chosen servants,
Referring to spiritual gifts of any sort, the Greek word we translated as gifts, is Charisma. If we break the word down, it looks like this:
Charis: which means grace and
Ma – a suffix intended for indicating movement
Spiritual gifts are the movement of God’s grace within us.
Grace is a verb, (implying action, energy or movement) to the idea of favor, pleasurable benefit, graciousness of manner (that is, God’s gracious manner toward us)
So the gifts of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are movements of His grace among us. Since God is fresh and new every day, He is constantly moving in our lives, drawing us every closer to Him, doing a new thing in our lives. That tells me that trying to pigeon- hole our children into one label or one type of gift is limiting their potential and God’s ability to give them different gifts at different times as the need arises.
Grace is divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life. – as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. What is in our heart determines how we think. How we think determines our actions. By putting His gifts within our children, God enables them to have the mind of Christ and to become more like Him, and to act in a godly manner. This doesn’t happen without some guidance and direction however. Those gifts need to be nurtured and encouraged. That is where the job of the parents come in. By understanding our children’s gifts, their personality, their inborn talents and abilities, we can help “train them up in the way they should go (according to their individual gifts or bent) so when they are old they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6