In the letter to the Roman Christians, Paul challenges them to use their spiritual gifts (Romans 12:4-8), also known as functional gifts.

In this list, Paul specifically names seven spiritual gifts that the Lord has distributed to people. These gifts empower us for service in the body of Christ.

What Do We Call the Functional Gifts List in Romans Twelve

The functional gifts listed in Romans 12 are often categorized by several different names.

Some have called them “serving gifts” because of their nature.   

Others have called them motivational gifts because they are motivate our service to the body of Christ. They often describe the inner motivations that uniquely shape our internal drive to serve.

We refer to these as “functional gifts” as that is the actual word the Apostle Paul uses.  

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

The Greek word for function denotes action. Elsewhere, the same Greek word is also translated as deeds and works, thus functional gifts comes to life.

Paul connects our individual function to the body of Christ.  The mix of functions that each one of has is important and has a role to play in the body of Christ.

Each of us will have a different function but each is important to the whole.

It is the context of the transformation of our minds in Jesus Christ and in our interdependent relationship with the other members of the body of Jesus Christ that Paul now lists the different functional gifts.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

Romans 12:6 (NIV)

To use our functional gifts effectively, we have to realize that they come from God and understand that not everyone has the same combination of gifts we possess.  These gifts are not for building ourselves up, but for the body of Christ. 

We must be careful in giving too rigid a definition of these various expressions of the grace of God that will enable a person to function with others in the body of Christ.

These gifts are each qualified, by the phrase, “according to the grace given to us.” These are concrete expressions of God’s grace at work in the life of believers for the sake of others.

Hands holding a piece of cardboard as a functional gift that reads, according to the grace given to us.

In these verses Paul suggests that we have been created with certain natural talents and traits that, when used according to the grace given us by God, and directed by the Holy Spirit, contribute to the building of the body of Christ.

How to Discover Your Functional Gifts

The best way for you to discover your unique combination of the functional gifts listed here is to consider what you enjoy doing in service to the body of Christ.

You could also take a test easily available online, or use the gift inventory we use in Dunamis Project and make available in packets of 25 for sale in our store.

Maybe the best place to start is to answer the question: “What about your service in the body of Christ fills you with delight?” 

If you enjoy the preparation of giving a talk, and the reward of people telling you they understand, you might have a gift for teaching.

If you always seem to have financial means to give to missionaries, support Sustaining the Flame, or quietly give to any kind of need, you might have the gift of giving.

If the well of motivation seems infinite to do these types of activities, you might have this as a functional spiritual gift. Through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we make kingdom impact through the expression of these gifts.

A picture of under the water with a description of what Kingdom impact makes when the functional gifts are expressed.

1. Functional Gift of Prophecy in Proportion to Our Faith

Prophecy is the ability to declare truth which touches the heart and brings comfort, direction, or conviction.

The gift of prophecy is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His people through a divinely anointed spoken word.

In the Greek, the word prophecy is made by combining two words: pro – “forth” and femi – “to speak,” i.e. to speak forth.

Prophecy is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means.

Both the Hebrew and Greek define a prophet as: “one who speaks for another.”

Therefore, prophecy is the message that the prophet speaks.  If you express the gift of prophecy, be it stays within the 3 biblical guidelines of “strengthening, encouraging, and comfort.

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NIV)

2. Functional Gift of Service

Service in essence is the ability to show love by meeting the practical, tangible needs of others. This includes material things such as food, clothing, and transportation.

The gift of service is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ.

This ability is to identify the unmet needs in a task related to God’s work, then to make use of available resources to meet those needs and help accomplish the desired goals.

It is the capacity to serve the physical needs of the body of Christ in a way that strengthens others spiritually.

The Greek word is diakonos (diakonos) from which we get our English word deacon.

It is also translated servant and minister.

The root word meaning, “to run errands.”

One of the most familiar passages to us on the gift of service can be found in Acts 6.

In the early church there arose an internal problem between the Greek and Hebrew converts relative to the distribution of food. Seven people were appointed to meet this need and serve (diakonos) tables.

This passage revealed the character of those appointed in Acts 6:3 and the result had become the blessings of God upon this group of believers.

Brothers and sisters,  choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them… So the word of God spread.  The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:3, 7 (NIV)

3. Functional Gift of Teaching

The gift of teaching is the supernatural ability to explain clearly and effectively apply the truth of the scriptures after thorough study and research.

The Greek word for teaching is didasko” from which we get our English word “didactic.”

This is systematic impartation of practical or theoretical knowledge, thus appealing to both the mind and the will. Some have a talent for teaching, i.e., they are merely able to impart information and facts.

That talent can become a gift when it is Spirit-anointed and becomes a blessing to others and cause them to grow spiritually.

Teaching is part of the Great Commission and is to be done with joy.

How is teaching to be distinguished from preaching?

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Acts 5:42 (NIV)

To preach is to proclaim, to teach is to explain. It is often challenging to separate the two because preaching can contain teaching and teaching can involve proclaiming.

A pull out quote, to preach is to proclaim and to teach is to explain, this is one of the many functional gifts.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

Acts 28:30-31 (NIV)

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

4. Functional Gift of Exhortation

Exhortation is the ability to encourage others to grow emotionally and spiritually, even in the face of hardship and suffering.

The gift of exhortation is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement, and counsel to other members of the body in such a way that they are helped and healed.

Public or private exhortation that brings comfort, sympathy, compassion and edification to believers. The motive is agape-love, and the objective is to strengthen Christians for the task of effective service. It is not so much a sharp admonition as a soft word of counsel.

The Greek word isparakaleo,’ which is made up of two words “para” (to the side) and “kaleo” (to call). Thus, the gift of exhortation is being called to the side of someone in their time of need.

Parakaleo is often translated “to comfort, console, entreat, beg, implore, counsel, challenge, etc.”

Parakeleo is used to describe the Holy Spirit. The word “counselor” is another translation of parakaleo.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

John 14:16 (NIV)

The word advocate is also a translation of parakaleo. To help another by motivating them to action.

The gift of exhortation involves patience as well as giving instruction.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

5. Functional Gift of Generosity

The willingness to contribute freely of financial and other material resources for God’s work.

The Greek word normally translated “give” is “didomi.”

It has a wide variety of meanings based on the context where it is found. However, in Romans 12:8, the gift of “giving” is a translation of the Greek word “metadidomi” which is a compounding of “didomi” [to give] and “meta” [with]. There it takes on a meaning of to give a share of.”

Commentaries on this particular gift place a strong emphasis on the giving of money, but a study of the word places an emphasis on the “giver” rather than the type of gift.

Paul is focusing on “giving or sharing of ourselves” as we give.

The giving Paul is speaking of refers to giving in response to a specific need and in giving we share of ourselves. If the gift involves the giving of money it goes beyond the placing of a check in the offering plate on Sunday.

The gift of giving, whatever form it takes, celebrates the sensitivity and compassion of the giver.

The Greek word goes back to a root word “without folds.”

In other words, a few questions to consider:

  • What is my motive in giving?
  • Do I have an ulterior motive?
  • How does God answer prayers as we give to others?
  • Am I giving in order to get something in return?
  • Is my motive to be seen by others?
  • Is the source a pure heart rooted and grounded in God’s love?

6. Functional Gift of Leadership also known as Governing with Diligence

The ability to coordinate people, resources, and activities to achieve goals.

The gift of leadership is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to set goals in accordance with God’s purpose for the future.

To communicate these goals and use discernment alongside others in such a way that they voluntarily and harmoniously work together to accomplish those goals for the glory of God.

The Greek word is “proistemi:” to stand before, manage, superintend, lead, direct.

Of the eight times the word prosistemi is used in the New Testament, it is used six times in Paul’s instruction to Timothy and Titus to take seriously what is being done or said.

Romans 12:8 states that the one who leads must do so with “diligence” means “do one’s best, excel one’s self and indicates intense effort and determination.”

Administration is just one facet within the gift of leadership. People with the gift of administration are concerned about the welfare of all God’s people.

  • To thoroughly inspect what is being done
  • To have confidence in people and inspire them to work
  • To have a plan meant to execute in a timely manner
  • To remain organized and delegate authority
View of the mountains with a pull out quote from the article about the functional gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Peter obeyed the guidance by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in visions and pioneered the Gospel to the Gentiles.

7. Functional Gifts of Showing Mercy with Cheerfulness

The ability to identify with and comfort those who are hurting, especially with emotional distress.

The gift of mercy is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals (both Christian and non-Christian).

These people often suffer from distressing, physical, mental, or emotional problems and need healing ministry.

This translates into compassion found in cheerfully-done deeds which reflect Christ’s love and alleviate the suffering of the individual, often referred to as a Kairos moment.

The Greek word is “eleos,” and has the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of the person who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of the person who shares it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

The gift of mercy involves not only caring for others but sharing with others.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

James 2:15-16 (NIV)

Mercy leads to concrete acts which help others. According to Jesus our acts of mercy may be our best witness, see Matthew 25:35-45 (NIV).

All Functional Gifts are Part of God’s Design

Each of these seven functions have strengths and weaknesses.

Because of your gift “mix”, you are more effective in certain areas of service. But also, you have weaknesses. We find this is by God’s design.

We need to strengthen these weak areas through the complementary gifts of others, and by receiving additional training, such as in listening, assertiveness skills.

Both spiritual giftedness and training are blessed by God.

God wants the Christian community, not individuals, to be the “Body of Christ” here on earth.

We need to work together in harmony for the work of Christ to be accomplished most effectively.

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Blueprints with a banner of the functional gifts for building the Church.

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