What kinds of Gifts Have Been Given?
Having come to an understanding of the nature of spiritual gifts, it is good to find exactly what gifts have been given. In the New Testament, only the apostle Paul mentions them by name. He gives us five such lists. All the lists are different, so it is necessary to look at them all together. The gifts are found in Romans 12:6-8 (listing seven gifts), I Corinthians 12:8-10 (nine), I Corinthians 12:28 (eight), I Corinthians 12:29-30 (seven), and Ephesians 4:11 (four). Subtracting those repeated brings the total to nineteen. The following chart shows them all as they are listed in these New Testament passages.
|Romans 12:6-8||I Cor. 12:29-30||I.Corinthians 12:8-10||Ephesians 4:||I.Corinthians 12:28|
|prophecy||apostles||word of wisdom||apostles||apostles|
|ministry||prophecy||word of knowledge||prophets||prophets|
|showing mercy||interpreting tongues||discerning of spirits||governing|
|kinds of tongues||diverse tongues|
Drawing from these lists of spiritual gifts, an almost endless number of observations can be made. It is helpful, for example, to notice which gifts appear more than once and in more than one of Paul's epistles. For instance, prophecy is mentioned in each of the five lists, and it is Paul's argument in I Corinthians 14 that prophecy is most important to the church. The gift of teaching is mentioned in four of the five lists and in all three epistles. When apostleship appears, it is always listed first. In the three lists in which the gift of tongues is mentioned (I Corinthians 12), tongues always appear last (along with its accompanying gift, the gift of interpretation of tongues). Further, the miraculous gifts, such as tongues, healing, and miracles, are mentioned only in First Corinthians and are found nowhere else in the epistles.
The Key List
It should also be noted that I Corinthians 12:28 is the key list in that it mentions the gifts in order of importance. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." Since it is obvious that some of the gifts toward the bottom of the list (such as healing and miracles) were in operation before the gifts higher in the list (such as apostles), the "first ... secondarily ... thirdly" must indicate order of importance and not the order in which they were given to the church. This was of greatest significance for the church at Corinth, for a large part of their problem was that they afforded tongues such a high place of importance while prophecy and teaching were lost in its shadow -- which problem Paul addresses at length throughout chapter 14. Virtually the same problem exists today, but it is corrected by this verse alone which shows teaching to be superior to tongues.
A close examination of these lists also reveals some overlap in the gifts. It may be that no two gifts listed are perfectly identical, but it would be difficult to find any real difference between some. For example, it would be difficult to demonstrate the difference between the gift of helps and the gift of showing mercy. Both have the same focus: ministry (service) for others. Again, the difference between ruling and governing is very difficult to determine. Even if exact identity is not intended, there is still much overlap. This is the case with the gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge and the gifts of exhortation and teaching and the gifts of helps and service. Likewise, the gifts of healing may not be as broad as the gift of miracles, but the similarity is obvious. Care should be taken not to make sharp distinction where it is not intended.
Finally, it is helpful to notice that these lists are not exhaustive. We know that none of the lists by itself is completely exhaustive because no one list mentions all the gifts. For example, the longest list, I Corinthians 12:8-10, does not mention apostles, pastor-teacher, ruling, etc. So it is not complete. Now if no one list is complete, should we insist that all the lists together are complete?
There may be other spiritual gifts not so named in the New Testament: hospitality, preaching, prayer, music, and counseling could all be examples of this. However, it would seem that any spiritual gift not specifically named in the New Testament would generally overlap with some of those mentioned, only with a different focus or emphasis. The gifts specified in the New Testament could be considered as general headings under which any number of specific services could be found. The point is this: you may have a gift not mentioned by name in the New Testament. Don't let anyone frustrate you by restricting you to these lists. God may have an area of service for you in His church in another area. If you are wanting to know your spiritual gift, it surely is good to study these lists at least as general guidelines for areas of service; your gift just may be one that is specifically named by the apostle.
But beyond that simply look for an opportunity of service which you are capable of filling effectively. Having found that, you will have found your spiritual gift -- whether or not it is so named by the New Testament writers.