How many spiritual gifts are there?
When teaching on this subject I sometimes get people to give me a guesstimate. There is usually a huge variation; some say nine (probably reflecting 1 Cor 12:8-10), others fifteen (adding another six from Rom 12:7-8). But what about the fivefold gifts of Eph 4:11 which would take us to twenty? We could go on referencing other passages (and will do so later) but it is hard to put a definitive answer to the question about ‘how many?’. Quite simply, some passages, such as those cited above, explicitly or implicitly refer to the Spirit giving gifts e.g. ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ (1 Cor 12:7), ‘Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…’ (Rom 12:6) and ‘…he gave gifts to men’ (Eph 4:8).
However, other gifts are mentioned in the scriptures which many would also include in a list of spiritual gifts though, not being specifically stated as such, there must be some room for conjecture. What about craftsmanship; ‘and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship’ (Ex 35:31)? We have a wonderful woman in our church who over decades has produced amazing banners and wall hangings that have focused ones eyes on Jesus and been the vehicle to draw us out in worship. Surely she has a spiritual gift?
So what is the answer to my original question? On this course I usually refer to 29 gifts. However, this is not to be prescriptive or dogmatic but it represents a list of ‘gifts’ that I think can be justified; pragmatically, people have found the list useful in identifying ways in which they can bring their gifting to the church.
The Bible does not categorise gifts other than by implication in such passages as 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 where the gifts Paul refers to could perhaps be categorised as being somewhat supernatural (1 Cor 12) and practical (Rom 12). For the purposes of the Discover and Serve Course, Valerie Gillam and I group these gifts into five categories:
Ministry gifts: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher.
Manifestation gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.
Sacrificial gifts: celibacy, voluntary poverty, martyrdom.
Service gifts: helps, administration, craftsmanship, serving, giving.
People-intensive gifts: encouragement, hospitality, mercy, teaching, pastoring, leadership, evangelism.
Over the next few postings I will seek to put some definition to each of these gifts.