Discerning and Using Your Spiritual Gift

Discerning and Using Your Spiritual Gift 

If each Christian properly understood his or her spiritual gift, it would not only motivate him or her to greater commitment and service, but it would also bring a whole new excitement to the Body of Christ. 

  1. Spiritual Gifts in Ministry. 
    1. Each Christian has a Spiritual Gift: 1 Peter 4:10 – “Accordingly as each one has received a charisma-grace gift, be ministering to each other with it, as good steward’s of the multifaceted grace of God.” We are born with physical natural abilities; however, when we are born again, we receive some spiritual ability in the form of a spiritual gift. Romans 12:5-6 – “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another, having then charisma-gifts.” 
    2. Grace passed on to others comes in exercising our Spiritual Gift: Charisma, comes from the Greek word, charis, which is often translated “grace” (unmerited favor) and means a “grace-thing” – a Christian’s spiritual gift will become a main avenue that he or she will find through which God’s grace will pass and minister to others. Whatever gives you the greatest sense of being a channel of God’s grace to others can point you to your spiritual gift. 
    3. Joy comes in exercising our Spiritual Gift: Charisma comes from charis which comes from the Greek word, charathat is most often translated “joy.” Whatever gives you the greatest joy in your Christian life can point you to your spiritual gift. 
    4. Finding personal fulfillment in the Christian Life comes through finding and developing our Spiritual Gift. This is a part of how the manifold wisdom of God is made known to people and angels through the Church (Eph. 3:10-11). 
    5. Each Gift is designed to Perfect and Unify the Body of Christ. “Spiritual gifts are not toys but tools, not for your enjoyment but for your employment.” (Adrian Rogers) However, God will not give spiritual gifts that would disrupt or alienate or segregate us (1 Cor. 12:14-27). 
    6. God wants each of us believers to understand our Spiritual Gift. Paul in Rom. 12:6b-8 tells us to concentrate on our gift to use it. A beautiful harmony comes from our understanding of each other’s spiritual gift and serving one another with it. Agape-love will be a sign of all of this (John 13:35). Note 1 Cor. 13 is placed between 1 Cor. 12 and 14! 
    7. There are Three Distinct Categories under Spiritual Gifts listed in Scripture: 
      1. Gifts of Motivation (Charisma –1 Cor. 12:4) – The basic inward motivation which God places in each of us, as Christians – These seven gifts are specifically listed in Romans 12:3-9. 
      2. Ministries (Diakonia– 1 Cor. 12:5) – The opportunities of Christian service through which we exercise our spiritual gift – These are specifically listed in 1 Cor. 12:28-31 and Eph. 4:11.
      3. Manifestations (Energēma and Phanerōsis – 1 Cor. 12:6-7) –The actual results in the lives of those to whom we minister.
      4. When a Christian exercises his or her Spiritual Gift (Rom. 12:3-9) through his or her Ministry (1 Cor. 12:27-31; Eph. 4:11), the Holy Spirit determines what Manifestations (1 Cor. 12:7-11) will benefit the receiver the most. For example:
        1. Mercy > Teaching > Faith and/or Word of Knowledge and/or Word of Wisdom.
        2. One with the gift of Mercy may be a teacher in a Bible Study Class where those who are listening may receive a new insight from God’s viewpoint (wisdom) or a strengthening of faith.
          1. The goal of this operation of ministry is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14).
          2. The Christian is not to seek after Manifestations but to focus on his or her Motivational Gift.
          3. Each of us is commanded to carry out all seven of these activities:
            1. Prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1ff), Service (Heb. 6:10; Mat. 20:27; 1 Pet. 4:10), Teaching (Col. 3:16; Mat. 28:19), Exhortation (Heb. 3:13; 10:25), Giving (Luke 6:38), Administration (Tit. 3:8, 14), and Mercy (Luke 10:37).
        3. There is a minimum of weariness and a maximum of effectiveness and joy in all seven activities, as we approach them through our basic motivational gift. However, the reverse is also true.
        4. The goal of focusing on our Motivational Gift is to free up other Christians to carry it on, as an activity.
        5. There are some basic hindrances to discovering our spiritual Motivational Gift: unconfessed sin, lack of involvement in ministry with others with a servant heart (see Heb. 10:24-25), and attempts to imitate others. 



Your response to the following may indicate to you what your spiritual gift might be: 

“If you were asked to organize “An Ideal Church” with the following ministries but built especially around one, which would it be?” 

  • ( ) Well-prepared sermons exposing sin, proclaiming righteousness and warning of judgment to come.
  • ( ) Practical assistance to each member of the church to encourage them and to help them fulfill their responsibility.
  • ( ) In-depth Bible studies with special emphasis on the precise meanings of the words in the passages under study. 
  • ( ) Personal counseling and encouragement for each member to assist him or her in applying scriptural principles to his daily living. 
  • ( ) Generous programs of financial assistance to missionaries and other ministries. 
  • ( ) Smoothing-running organization throughout the church, so that every phase will be carried out decently and in order. 
  • ( ) Special outreach and concern for the precise and varying feelings of individuals with a readiness to meet their needs.
    A = 1. B = 2. C = 3. D = 4. E = 5. F = 6. G = 7. 
  • The Characteristics of the Seven Motivational Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12:6-8 
  • PROPHECY – one who loves to proclaim truth and reveals wrong actions and motives by persuasively convincing others – one who brings to light things concealed, while despising the evil and grasping the good. Paul explained that this to be done according to the standard of the faith (Christian beliefs of the church). 
  • SERVICE – one who loves to demonstrate love by meeting practical needs with an innate ability to see and determine needs in other people’s lives and meeting them. Paul explained that this is to be done in the Christian service and ministry of the church. 
  • TEACHING – one who loves to clarify Biblical truth from searching out God’s Word and breaking in into understandable pieces, so others can receive it – one who loves to do this by engaging in research and detailed study of the Bible to find the truth and knowledge of God and to share it with others with diligence and fervor. Paul explained that this is to be done in the Christian teaching of the doctrines of our faith. 
  • EXHORTATION – one who loves to counsel others and stimulate their faith into action; one who enjoys being called to encourage their spiritual growth, especially in specific ways of doing this. Paul explained that this is to be done in the exhortation or encouragement of our Christian belief. 
  • GIVING – one who loves to impart and entrust personal assets to others for the furtherance of their ministry with a pure and generous motive and “no strings attached” – one who can organize personal business in order to gain these assets and wisely knows where and how to give by using godly business sense, even in charity to strangers. Paul explained that this is to be done in simplicity of heart, a sincere singleness of purpose with no partiality but with liberality. 
  • ADMINISTRATION – one who loves to lead others by organizing the activities needed for their common goals – one who with zeal does this job effectively by being a good leader and by discerning the major objectives and by helping others around him or her to visualize these objectives in their efforts together. Paul explained that this is to be done with enthusiastic eagerness and diligence. 
  • MERCY – one who loves to identify with others and comfort others in distress and to help them out of it, especially with a concern for their hurt feelings – one who emotionally and mentally feels the hurt with others in their misfortune and misery, while giving them the aid that they need but in a sensitive way. Paul explained that this is to be done with a joyful cheerfulness eager to help.
  • Motivations and Ministries and Manifestations are the Distributions of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Hebrews 2:4 – Various Manifestations result from one Spiritual Motivational Gift working through a Ministry – see 1 Cor. 12:4-7 -Motivational Gifts
    Romans 12:6-8
  • Prophecy
  • Service 
  • Teaching 
  • Exhortation 
  • Giving 
  • Administration 
  • Mercy 

Ministry Gifts


1 Cor. 12:28-30;

Eph. 4:11 

  • Apostle
  • Prophet 
  • Evangelist
  • Pastor-Teacher 
  • Teacher 
  • Abilities 
  • Gifts of Healings 
  • Helps 
  • Governments 
  • Kinds of Tongues 
  • Translation of Tongues

Manifestation Gifts


1 Cor. 12:7-11 

  • Word of Wisdom 
  • Word of Knowledge 
  • Faith 
  • Gifts of Healings 
  • Actions of Abilities 
  • Prophecy 
  • Discerning of Spirits 
  • Kinds of Tongues 
  • Translation of Tongues 

 An example: Exhortation >> Helps >> Word of Wisdom or Faith

One with the Gift of Exhortation May have an area of Assisting and Those receiving this ministry may find an insight into God’s wisdom or a strengthening of their Faith. 

4. Ministry Gifts – Diakonia in 1 Cor. 12:28-30 and Eph. 4:11 – 

  • Apostle: a foundational, first-century ministry of the Church (Eph. 2:20) of some 15 men (the original 11 in Acts 1:21-22 plus Paul [see 1 Cor. 15:8-9], James [the physical brother of Jesus – see 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19], Barnabas [see Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Cor. 9:5-7], and Apollos [see 1 Cor. 9:5-7]) with first century authority commissioned by the resurrected Lord (Luke 6:13; 1 Cor.8:23). 
  • Prophet: both a foundational ministry in the Church (Eph. 2:20) of those inspired of God in both “fore-telling” and “forth-telling” of God’s Word, before it was committed to writing in the form of the New Testament canon; andan on-going, practical ministry (Eph. 4:11) in a forth-telling of God’s word, especially to believers (1 Cor. 14:3-5, 22b). 
  • Evangelist: one who proclaims God’s message primarily to unbelievers, especially in mission areas, as “pioneer missionaries,” even in frontier missions (Acts 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:50. 
  • Pastor-Teacher: a combination ministry listed in Eph. 4:11 – “pastor” which is the same Greek word (poimēn), as “shepherd,” one who tends, feed, cares for, and watches over a flock (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:20, 28; 1 Tim. 3:20; 6:2) plus“teacher,” one who clarifies and preserves God’s truth and instructs and trains believers (Mat. 29:20). 
  • Teacher: one who clarifies God’s truth and instructs and trains believers, but not necessarily, as a pastor (Mat. 4:23; Col. 1:28; 3:16). 
  • Abilities: ministries in which God is able to do works that are supernatural in origin and character, rather than by natural means – they focus on God and His glory and not on the person and his or her ministry (Acts 1:8; Heb. 2:4; Mat. 7:22; 11:20ff; Gal. 3:5). This operates in connection with the following ministry. 
  • Gifts of Healings – Charismata iamatōn: ministries of bestowing health in every area of human need – Physical, Psychological, and Spiritual (that is, body, soul, and spirit) – Note that these charisma-gifts are in the plural, as free, grace gifts of healings, as understood in 2 Cor. 4:16-18, a priority of spirit, then soul, then body, where God, if necessary, will sacrifice the latter for the former. The plural form without a “the” in front focuses on the results, as being general, and on not the person doing them. 
  • Helps or Helpful Deeds (literally, “taking something in hand”): ministries of helping and assisting others in needs – opportunities of supportive ministries – often under the supervision of the following ministry. 
  • Leaderships or Governments (literally, “piloting a boat”): ministries of leadership in giving guidance, direction, management, and administration – often leading those involved in the ministry above. 
  • Kinds of Tongues: specialized “sign-ministries” to “this people” in 1 Cor. 14:21 where Paul was quoting Isa. 28:11-12 in reference to the people of Israel, specifically unbelieving Jews, to whom “speaking in tongues” (technically called glossalalia) is to be a sign of the Messiah having come and the coming of the Church (1 Cor. 14:21-23). 
  • Translation of Tongues: a specialized ministry connected with “kinds of tongues” with a focus on those that do not know the language of the one speaking in tongues to the Jewish unbelievers in their group (1 Cor. 14:5-19, 26-28).

 Among these eleven ministries, one can see the following patterns that:

The Apostles (#1) involved only church leaders in the First Century.

The list of Prophets (#2) through Teachers (#5) involved Ministries of Addressing groups.

Abilities (#6) and Gifts of Healings (#7) involve Ministries in special, supernatural needs.

Helps (#8) and Leaderships (#9) involved Ministries in organizational needs.

Tongues (#10) and Translation of Tongues (#11) involved Ministries to Jewish unbelievers.

5. Manifestation Gift – Panerōsis in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 – 

  • Word of Wisdom (sophia): an insight form seeing a situation from God’s viewpoint – a broad and true understanding of life (see James 1:5; 1 Cor. 1:20; Luke 2:40).
  • Word of Knowledge (gnōsis): an insight from understanding a principle in God’s Word – a recognition of a key and important truth of Scripture, as one is listening to what is being explained. 
  • Faith: an encouragement to trust God and visualize what He is doing and will do and acting in harmony with it. 
  • Gifts of Healings: a manifestation of regaining health in spirit, soul, and body (in that order according to 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 2 John 2). 
  • Actions of Abilities: manifestations of various things supernaturally done by God. God is in the “people-changing business.” Changed lives through conversion and faith continue to change in these manifestations. (Note: Sensationalism is not a part of this but detracts from it – see Mat. 4:5-7). 
  • Prophecy: a manifestation that parallels the gift and ministry of prophecy, in that it is a realization that some areas of the listeners’ lives illuminated by God’s Word need some changing. 
  • Discerning of Spirits: a manifestation where certain believers distinguish between the spirit of error (Satanic and demonic in influence) and the spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit) before it becomes more apparent to the rest of the believers. 
  • Kinds of Tongues: a special manifestation of various languages spoken to Jewish unbelievers through the church about the coming of their Messiah. 
  • Translation of Tongues: a special manifestation together with “kinds of tongues” for those others in the church who do not know the language of the Jewish unbelievers, used in the church (see 1 Cor. 14:5-19, 27-28).

6. Specialized Gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

God used some gifts in a specialized way for a specific purpose during the revealing of the New Testament canon, the establishing of the Church, and the proclaiming of the Messiah to the Jewish people. Apostles were foundational in the first century, along with the specialty use of prophets who were given special revelations by God for the churches, as the New Testament was being written.

Through biblical history, a particular pattern of miracles can be seen, as signs and credentials, in three waves in the past and one prophesied in the future, specifically during the days of Moses with Joshua later and Elijah with Elisha later and Jesus with the Apostles later and The Two Witnesses in Rev. 11 in The Tribulation with The Millennium to follow. During the years before and between and after, God has performed miracles, as fulfilling some need but not as credential “signs and wonders,” as He has and will during these four periods. The third of these periods concern Jesus in the Gospels and the Apostles in Acts is described in Heb.2:4, “God bearing witness together with both signs and wonders, with various miracles, and distributions by the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.” – 

Persons ScripturesSigns and Wonders” mentioned in: 

  • Moses & Joshua Ex.-Josh. Acts 7:36
  • Elijah & Elisha 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 13 [Lk. 4:25-27; Jam. 5:18] 
  • Jesus & the Apostles Matthew – Acts Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8: 14:3;

    (even Rom. – 1 Tim.) 15:12; Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12 

  • The Tribulation Rev. 11-12 Acts 2:22 

During Jesus’ ministry and that of the apostles there was a cluster of specialized, credential miracles, as signs and wonders and prophecies and tongues, especially before the dispersion of Israel in 70 AD. The early Church experienced all of these for good reason during the 40 years of grace that God had given to Israel from Acts 2 in about 30-33 AD to the Fall of Jerusalem about 70-73 AD.

The gift and ministry of Apostle was a specialized first century ministry fulfilled in the requirements of a special call by the resurrected Jesus Christ. The ministry of prophecy in regards to special revelation that eventually become the New Testament was also a specialized gift of the first century. Specialized gifts of healings and miracles were prevalent during the fourth wave of miracles listed above during the first century.

Paul described in detail the gifts of tongues and interpretation (or translation) of them in 1 Cor. 14. In verses 21-23 Paul particularly described their purpose: to fulfill Isaiah 28:11 – “For in stammering (barbarous, foreign) lips (or languages) and another tongue (or language) I will speak to this people (Israel).” In 1 Cor. 14:21-24, Paul wrote, “21In the law it has been [or stands] written that, “In other tongues and in other lips (Gentile languages) I will speak to this people (Israel), and neither thus will they listen to me,” says the Lord. 22Therefore tongues are for a sign not to the ones believing but to the unbelievers, but prophecy [is] not to the unbelievers but to the ones believing. 23Therefore, if the whole church might come together at the same [place] and all [the people] might speak in tongues, but outsiders or unbelievers, will they not say that you are crazy? 24But if all prophesy, and any unbeliever or outsider might enter, he will be convicted by all, he will be assessed by all.”

So then tongues are not a sign to believers but to unbelievers (verse 22) but not all unbelievers (verse 23), but to specifically Jewish unbelievers, as described in verse 21. Otherwise, verse 23 would contradict verse 22! The unbelievers in verse 22 are not the same unbelievers in verse 23. So Paul was describing two groups of unbelievers: Jewish unbelievers (in verse 22) and Gentile unbelievers (in verse 23). In 1 Cor. 10:31 Paul specifically did note that people are divided into three, not two, broad categories: “Jews, Greeks (a synecdoche for Gentiles), and the church of God (believers, both Jews and Gentiles).” For Gentile unbelievers the sign of tongues clouds the issue of the Gospel, but for Jewish unbelievers it has a dramatic impression.

This was first fulfilled at Pentecost in Acts 2. The beautiful Hebrew language was and is a very important part of Jewish life and religious worship. Even until today among Jews worshiping around the world in every culture and language group, the repeating of Deuteronomy 6:4, called the Shema, is done in Hebrew! Often prayers and the reading of the Torah (Law) are also done in Hebrew. Whole liturgical services are also conducted in Hebrew with parts spoken in the native language of the Jews in a given locale.

However, at Pentecost in Acts 2 these Jews from some 15 various nationalities heard “the wonderful works of God” (verse 11), that is, the proclamation of their Messiah’s coming, in their various Gentile dialects (verse 8) or languages instead of Hebrew. Very easily Peter could have stood up and spoken in Hebrew, as Paul did later in Acts 21:40-22:21, or even in Koine Greek which everyone knew at the time. But this was not the case. The tongues, as these Gentile languages, were for a sign to these Jewish unbelievers that their Messiah had come. It obviously left an impression. Along with “the sign of Jonan” regarding the resurrection according to Matthew 12:40, this was a particular sign to Israel. 

7. Ten Specific Guidelines are listed in 1 Corinthians and Acts for the Biblical Ministry and Manifestation of Gift of Tongues: 

  • Tongues were to be actual, distinct, and meaningful languages, as in Acts 2:4,6. This is the whole point that Paul was making in 1 Cor. 14:7-11 
  • Tongues were to be a sign to unbelievers, specifically Jewish unbelievers -1 Cor. 14:22 was fulfilled in each of the three places described in Acts:

    Acts 2:5 – Pentecost was a great Jewish holiday, “The Feast of Weeks” in Lev. 23:15, and Jerusalem had swelled in size with Jews from all over.

    Acts 10:45-46 – Cornelius had many Jewish friends with him present their, a group involving many Jewish unbelievers.

    Acts 19:6-8 – Ephesus had many Jews living there. These twelve former disciples of John the Baptist were used to provide this very sign to those Jewish unbelievers in the synagogue nearby mentioned in verse 8.

    1 Cor. 12-14 – Corinth was a hub of trade in that part of the world in the first century and had many Jews. The ministry among them by Aquila and Priscilla and Paul was described in Acts 18:2-17. (In verse 4 is the last mention of “Sabbath” in the book of Acts.) 

  • Tongues were to be one at a time and not several at one time, each in his turn and not more then three – 1 Cor. 14:27-30. 
  • Tongues were under the control of the speaker and did not “just happen” – 1 Cor. 14:32. 
  • Tongues were to have an interpretation or translation, since some present may not know the particular language spoken – 1 Cor. 14:28. 
  • Tongues were practiced in an orderly way and did not bring confusion and disorder to the assembly – 1 Cor. 14:33, 40 
  • Tongues were manifested only among the brothers, the men of the church congregation, and the women were not involved in speaking in tongues, as it was in all the churches – 1 Cor. 14:33b-40. 
  • Tongues were not intended to be given to every Christian, but only to “some” – 1 Cor. 12:8, 10, 28, 30. So they should not be required, as a part of the normal Christian walk. 
  • Tongues were never to be predominate – 1 Cor. 14:5, 26, 28-30. 
  • Tongues were not to be forbidden but were to be used according to these regulations which were imperative commands from the Lord – 1 Cor. 14:37-39. 

 The Church began on Pentecost in Acts 2 about 30 AD. Jewish unbelievers were given a 40-year period of Grace. Then in 70 AD God brought judgment on the Jewish nation that was made-up then predominately of Jewish unbelievers, that is ones that had rejected their Messiah. After this fall of Jerusalem, God scattered the unbelieving Jewish people. Jewish believers had heeded Jesus’ warnings in Matthew 24 and were not a part of this judgment. It was especially during this 40-year period in the first century (30 AD to 70 AD) that the significance of tongues was important in Jewish evangelism. Nothing more is mentioned of them in the rest of the New Testament and in the Apostolic Fathers (the writings of the disciples of the original apostles in the second and third centuries).

Further, a Christian can pray in a foreign language to God, even if those around him or her do not know that language, after all the prayer is to God (1 Cor. 14:2). However, the others need to know what is being prayed, as to whether to agree or not with an “amen.” In Matthew 6:7 Jesus taught against meaningless, repetitious praying. [However, some have in this matter misinterpreted Romans 8:26, “But similarly even the Spirit helps with our weaknesses; for we do not know, accordingly as it is necessary, what we are praying, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with non-spoken groanings.” Paul is not referring here to spoken prayers but to “unspoken” prayers.] 

The strategic and pratical purpose of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is for believers to minister to other believers in the Body of Christ, that is, the Church, and to unbelievers who might become a part of the Church, that is, evangelism. To be effectively discerning and using of your spiritual gift, you will need to be: 

  • Christ-instilled – having eternal life through repentance and faith, where Christ is at home in your heart (Eph. 3:17). 
  • Spirit-filled – the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) through Prov. 1:23 and 1 John 1:9. 
  • Bible-drilled – a biblical understanding is critical – most people get confused and into trouble concerning spiritual gifts, as they get away from a careful, prayerful interpretation and understanding of the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15). 
  • People-skilled – the more we are involved with people in the using of our spiritual gift, the more we understand people and how to use our gift (Heb. 10:24). 
  • Vision-billed – every believer can find his or her part in the Church in using the spiritual gift that God provided in the big picture (Rom. 12:4-5). 
  • Victory-thrilled – the victorious Christian life results from our being involved in ministry, a fulfilling ministry, with our spiritual gift (Eph. 3:20-21). 
  • Heaven-fulfilled – whatever ministry we have on earth is preparing us for and will be ultimately rewarded in heaven (1 Cor. 9:25; 2:9).