Every follower of Jesus Christ has at least one spiritual gift.   

These spiritual gifts are common ways the Holy Spirit has expressed His power and presence through born-again people.

Spiritual gifts are also tools that we, as human beings, need to work on God’s spiritual and supernatural building project— the Kingdom of God.   

All of the spiritual gifts are necessary for the building of the Church of Jesus Christ. 

These spiritual gifts also help in the fulfillment of the Great Commission on earth in the “between the times” (between the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God with the coming of Christ, and the fulfillment of that reality at the Second Coming).

Through these diverse manifestations, talents and vocations, Jesus continues to work in the Church and the world through us as prophet, priest and king. 

We learn about these spiritual gifts first and foremost throughout the Bible.

But, we also learn about spiritual gifts through our experiences of obedience to Jesus Christ.  

Any vital information concerning the gifts of the Spirit, the pneumatic charismata, presupposes a participation in them.

Without such participation, whatever is said about the gifts may only result in confusion and error.

J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), Vol. 2, p. 326

Three Types of Spiritual Gifts 

In the Bible, we can see three types of spiritual gifts: 

  1. Manifestational: Supernatural gifts that demonstrate the presence and power of God. 
  2. Functional/Motivational: Gifts that lead us towards a “style” while serving others. 
  3. Ministry/Vocational: Leadership gifts to equip the Church for service.
Three types of spiritual gifts with a bible open on a table and a list of the three types of gifts
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Manifestational Gifts 

Manifestational gifts, found in First Corinthians 12:8-11, make the presence of the living God visible and tangible.    

They are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. God gives these when the Lord invites you into a Kairos moment to advance God’s kingdom.   

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 

1 Corinthians 12:8-11 (NIV) 

The MS Encarta Dictionary defines “manifestation” as follows:  

Man·i·fes·ta·tion [mànnə fes táysh’n] (plural man·i·fes·ta·tions) noun:  

  1. Act of showing something: an act of showing or demonstrating something 
  2. State of being manifested: the state or condition of being shown or perceptible 
  3. Sign: an indication that something is present, real, or exists • one of the first manifestations of the disease 
  4. Public demonstration: a public demonstration, usually over a political issue  
  5. Materialization: a supposed appearance in visible form by a spiritual being 
  6. Visible form of divine being: a visible form in which a divine being, idea, or person is believed to be revealed or expressed  

All this leads us to the name “manifestational gifts of the Holy Spirit” as the term that best grasps Paul’s meaning.   

While manifestations of the Holy Spirit may include experiences such as shaking, laughter or falling on the floor, Paul limits the discussion in 1 Corinthians 12 to the forms that serve as tools for building Kingdom of God.

A list of the particular gifts given as tools by the Holy Spirit.
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These are not only gifts.

They are “manifestations” or expressions of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the midst of the people of God.  

Functional/Motivational Gifts 

Functional or motivational gifts are listed in Romans 12. 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

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.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 

Romans 12:3-8, (NIV) 

These spiritual gifts are concrete expressions of God’s grace at work in the life of believers for the sake of others.

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.

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

  • Functional gifts: “All members do not have the same functions,” Romans 12:4. 
  • Serving gifts: Because of their nature to serve others. 
  • Adhesive gifts: They build up and hold together the body of Christ, (Williams, Michael, Charisma and Christian Life, Strang Publications:  1992).  
  • Motivational gifts: Gifts that motivate our service to the body of Christ. 

J. Rodman Williams, the Presbyterian charismatic theologian, refers to this list as the functional gifts, (J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology III, p. 126).

We prefer this term and believe it is more biblical: 

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)
Decorative layout of the text from Romans 12:4-5. The entirety of the passage written out in NIV format.
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Every Christian has a mix of all seven functional gifts.

This gift mix enables the variety of motivations necessary in the Body of Christ.

All seven are of equal importance in serving Christ. 

Ministry / Vocational Gift 

These “gifts” are offices, or callings, or vocations that Jesus Christ has established in the church. Their purpose is to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
List of vocational gifts, picture of plants, cross/dove logo.
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Summary reflection on Ephesians 4:11-13 by J. Rodman Williams:  

First, these ministries are sovereign grants from the ascended and reigning Christ for the equipping of His Church. They are not the result of individual choices but come about through divine action. 

Second, the gifts are persons– apostles, prophets, etc. (and not activities such as prophesying, evangelizing, teaching) – who are given by Christ to the church for the equipping of the body of believers. The personal, exalted Christ provides persons for this critical task. 

Third, these gifts are limited in number: not every Christian will share in them. Unlike charismata [manifestational] gifts, in which all believers participate, these domata gifts are of the few, (note the recurring word “some.”) 

Fourth, these equipping ministries are necessary to the continuing life of the church. The fact that Christ “gave” cannot refer only to the past, because the gifts are for the ongoing work of equipping the saints of all times and places for their work of ministry. 

Fifth, pastors and teachers are more closely linked than the other gifts. 

J. Rodman Williams, Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

People are called and chosen by the Holy Spirit to fulfill these offices. 

Ideally, the human processes of selecting people to these offices will be led by the Holy Spirit working through the church structures.

Those in these offices will have functional, as well as manifestational gifts to help facilitate their fulfillment of their office. 

The Great Diversity of Spiritual Gifts 

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV) 

The mixture of vocational, functional and manifestational gifts is the actual reality of the Church.   

We may experience different kinds of giftings. We might be used in various ministries. We might receive callings that do not fit neatly into the five vocational categories.  

But we can expect that kind of diversity in the Church.   

It is through a huge diversity of manifestations, ministries, and gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Church will be alive, growing in fellowship and fulfilling her mission given by Jesus Christ.  

Without the Holy Spirit it is not possible to be the Church, much less to take part in fulfilling the Great Commission.   

As we have been called to take part in the worldwide move of the Holy Spirit we have found that it is only as we have welcomed the Holy Spirit to move in a diversity of gifts that we are equipped to take part in the work of Jesus Christ.  

Wherever the Church is growing and fulfilling the Great Commission, then the Holy Spirit is also being welcomed to move creatively and freely in building the church.   

It should not surprise us that it is often on the mission field that we discover how important the Holy Spirit really is to doing the work of the gospel.

Journal, computer, pen and pencil laying out on a table
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How has God gifted you to be a participant in the work of His Kingdom?

Discover your gift by taking a fully in depth online self-paced video course: Dunamis Project Two: “In the Power of the Holy Spirit”

Whether you are on the mission field abroad or connecting with your neighbor we all need these gifts as we seek to serve Jesus.

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