Having then gifts according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Rom.12:6-8.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” 1 Cor.12:4-6.

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Pet.4:10-11.

Understanding The Spiritual Gifts. Part 1

Instead of the sign gifts as stated in the last letter, the focus of this letter would be the service gifts. The change is necessitated due to the controversial nature and varying opinions held even among the Pentecostal/Charismatics about the sign gifts. This would require a lengthy discussion, so it was thought more appropriate to save it for later.

The service gifts and the sign gifts are variously listed and in no stated order and some repeated in various forms in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 and 1 Peter 4:10-11. Likewise, in the same manner, the discussion will randomly select each gift from the mentioned passages.  It is also of note to state that the list of gifts mentioned in the above passages, including 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 and Ephesians 4:11 should by no means be considered exhaustive. They are only representative of the large pool from which the Holy Spirit chooses. 1 Cor.12:4-6,11.

Some of the serving gifts fall within the category of what some describe as verbal and non-verbal gifts. Each gift will be identified in its category when it comes up for discussion.


Serving-Both KJV and NKJV used the archaic translation, ministry, for the Greek word diakonos, which is better translated serving or service. It is the word from which the English word deacon is derived. It has the sense of serving. It is the same word used in Acts 6:1-2 for the daily distribution of food and by the apostles for “serve” or “wait on” tables. It is used also by Jesus of Himself. Mk.10:45. Some think that this is identical with helps 1 Cor.12:28. It is true that every believer can offer help to some degree to anyone in need, but this gift is a special ability or disposition given by the Holy Spirit to some believers to help in extra ordinary ways or circumstances. Possessors of this gift would go “extra miles” to help others without noticing it. To them it seems normal and natural. They will never be satisfied until it done to their satisfaction. This gift is one of those to be classified as non-verbal, and quite often exercised by those who are not in the limelight. Those who possess this gift take off heavy burden from those who occupy visible leadership roles in the church and organizations.

Exhortation– This is a verbal gift. The Greek word parakalon, translated exhort, has the same root with Parakleton/Paraklesis, (the Counselor/Comforter) which Jesus promised His disciples in the Upper room Discourse. Jn.14:16,25; 15:26;16:7. The word means one who is called alongside to help. The root of the word, parakalon, given the context in which Jesus used it, suggests that this gift has something to do with encouragement, comfort, or admonition. It may also include the idea of counseling and moral support. This is to be distinguished from the gift of teaching. Dr. Theodore Epp states that “It is the God-given ability to urge people on toward a goal and to help them consider a new course of conduct.” Dr. John MacArthur adds,” The gift enables a believer to effectively call others to obey and follow God’s truth. It may be used negatively to admonish and correct regarding sin(2Tim.4:2) or positively to encourage, comfort and strengthen struggling believers (2 Cor.1:3-5; Heb.10:24-25).” In His parting words, Jesus used it when He promised His fearful disciples the Counselor who will replace His physical presence, both teach and remind them what they had been taught.Jn.14:15,25-26.

It is undoubted that an early Christian named Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, nicknamed Barnabas by the apostles (Son of Encouragement) possessed this gift. (Acts 4:36). Besides the generous donation, which is recorded for him, Acts 4:37, he was the same person who not only welcomed Saul as a Christian convert, but allayed the fears of the apostles and other believers about him. (Acts 9:26-28). He was the one whom the church at Jerusalem sent to go and encourage the new believers in Antioch. (Acts 11:22-24). Later he went to Tarsus to look for Saul and brought the new and fervent apostle to join him in the growing work in Antioch. (Acts 11:25-26). He and Saul travelled together to Jerusalem to deliver humanitarian relief to the church. (Acts 11:27-30). He accompanied Saul (now Paul) along with Mark during the first Missionary journey. (Acts 13:2-5; 12:25). He went with Paul to the first Church Council in Jerusalem to argue the case for Gentile Christianity. (Acts 15). During the second missionary journey when Paul rejected John Mark because of past failure, Barnabas took him and trained him. (Acts 15:36-40). Years later, Paul acknowledged that Barnabas was right. 2 Tim.4:11. A mindset that governs those who possess this gift is expressed by the Servant of Jehovah. “The LORD God has given me the tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning; He awakens my ear to hear as the learned.” Isa.50:4.

Giving– This is a non-verbal gift. Giving to humanitarian causes and support of God’s work is a trait that is common to humans throughout history. Both in the Old and New Testaments, commandments are given to help and support the poor and needy. In the New Testament in particular, every believer is urged to give generously in proportion to their ability. 1 Cor.16:2. But the Scripture indicates that there are those who are endowed with this ability as a special gift. This ability may have nothing to do with whether the individual is rich or poor. But it has everything to do with the grace that has been divinely bestowed on them. David gave generously from his large wealth for the building of the Temple.1 Chron.29:2-5. But there is also a record of a widow who gave only a mite, which was all that she had.Lu.21:1-4. This giving is not limited to directly supporting God’s work, but other worthy charitable and humanitarian causes.

A typical example of an individual who demonstrated this gift was an American businessman, Robert G. Le Tourneau. Contrary to what some people think, Mr. Le Tourneau started his business with a modest income. But at outset, he made a commitment to donate a large portion of his proceeds to God’s work because, “God owns my business. “He said. Mr. Le Tourneau proportionately increased his giving as his business prospered until it reached a point where he was asking, “God, how much of Your money do You want me to keep?” Mr. Le Tourneau further did something very unusual. While so many believers have much reluctance giving their tithes, Mr. Le Tourneau did the opposite. He decided to keep the tithes and give 9/10th to God. God in turn blessed Mr. Le Tourneau, so much that a man who began his career as a sixth-grade dropout grew a business, manufacturing earth-moving equipment that sprawled four continents. Mr. Letourneau’s accomplishments included establishing the first private evangelical non-denominational Polytechnic University.

Mr. Le Tourneau’s attitude reflects the meaning of the Greek word haplotes (generosity, liberality, sincerity, single-hearted devotion). Mac Arthur adds, “The believer who gives with a proper attitude does not do so for thanks and personal recognition, but to glorify God.” (Mt.6:2; Act.2:44-45; 4:37-5:11;2 Co 8:2-5) (sic).

Dr. Charles C. Ryrie summarizes, “The gift of giving concerns distributing one’s own money to others. It is to be done with generosity and with no thought of return or gain for self in anyway.”

Leadership– This is a non-verbal gift.  Whenever a talk is about leadership, the ancient question comes up.   “Are leaders born or made?” Let the experts and philosophers continue to wrestle for the answer. But listing leadership as a gift indicates that there are individuals who are specially endowed with this ability. This gift is not necessarily acquired by education. It is similar to the one that Paul called administration (Kubernesis) in 1 Corinthians 12:28. The Greek word is used of a person who guides or directs a ship, captain or the navigator. The Greek Philosopher, Plato, advocated for a philosopher king, however, while his viewpoint has its merits, no academy can impart the skills that can match the one deposited by the Holy Spirit. The gift extends beyond church leadership or Christian organizations, it includes other areas of governance of human social and political domains. It is not to be assumed that every pastor or Bible teacher is equipped with this gift. The Greek word, spoudazo(diligence) describes the mindset and manner in which this gift is to be exercised. The Greek word carries the broad sense of doing one’s best, being purposeful and intentional, sparing no effort, work hard, eager, earnestness and with a sense of urgency. This elaborate definition would be helpful to identify any individual who possesses this gift.

Mercy– This is a non-verbal giftThe fifth Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” The reflexive mercy which the Beatitude refers to is not what is meant here. This is rather a service rendered to those who might be incapacitated by illness and other physical inhibitions that may limit their movement or ability to take care of their personal needs. This may include volunteer work in Rehab homes, Nursing facilities and refugee camps. Dr. Walvoord offers this insight. “While the gift of giving had in view the poor and needy in respect to temporal needs, this gift is related to the sick and the afflicted and any other who might fall within the sphere of needing succor.”

Those who possess this gift, like those who serve, would go to any length or level of condescension to meet the needs of those who need their help. They will render their help with cheerfulness. Rather than feeling burdened, they would feel like they have not done enough. Even when they are exhausted, they would feel like they are just getting started. Mac Arthur describes the possessor of this gift as “one who actively shows sympathy and sensitivity to those in suffering and sorrow and who has the willingness and resources to help lessen their afflictions.”

Word of Wisdom– Wisdom, to a greater or lesser degree is inherent to all humans, and the Bible admonishes us to seek for wisdom.  Jas1:5. James distinguishes between earthly wisdom and that which is heavenly.Jas.3:13-17. This wisdom refers to the natural or intrinsic wisdom of which all humans are endowed. How this wisdom turns out depends on the spiritual walk or the lack thereof of the individual concerned. But there is wisdom that is bestowed as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Dr. J. Oswald Sanders views it as “the outcome of direct insight into spiritual truth, the knowledge of God and His ways which comes not so much from study as from communion.” The word of wisdom which is described as a spiritual gift is akin to exhortation. It suggests the ability to speak words that can restore calm to a tense situation. It is the ability to counsel even in a provocative circumstance. A person who possesses this gift would inevitably demonstrate the temperament described in the Proverbs 15:1-2.” A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” The word of wisdom should be characteristic of the Pauline admonition,” Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Col.4:6. This is one of the speaking or verbal gifts

Word of Knowledge This gift has nothing to do with the so-called mystical knowledge of a person’s disease, discomfort or identity as peddled by the Neo-Charismatic Movement. This novelty is a concept either unknown or rarely practiced by the early Pentecostal Movement and by many who still operate in the Old-line Pentecostal tradition. This gift also belongs to the category of speaking or verbal gifts. It is not one of the sign gifts as erroneously identified in a previous Letter 3/22. This error is regretted and is hereby corrected. It is speculated by some that this might have been revelatory in the first century, but today it is to be understood as the ability to understand and articulate the scriptures with an uncommon skill to the understanding of the unlearned. The speculation about its first century use should be disregarded. Although this gift seems to have a kinship with Word of Wisdom, they are to be distinguished.  Dr. Warren Wiersbe states, “the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom (the ability to understand and apply God’s truth to a definite situation), and exhortation, (encouragement, rebuke if necessary).

The word of knowledge is the ability to apply wisdom to knowledge in expounding and applying the word of God.

Faith– This is a non-verbal gift. There is a general consensus among scholars that the faith described as a spiritual gift is not the common salvific faith. Neither is it the faith that every believer is urged to exercise during prayer. Mk.11:22; Jas.1:5-7; 5:15. Rather this is a special endowment which enables someone to trust God to do some supernatural act especially with regards to provision. Those bestowed with this gift are often called to a special ministry. They may not be in the limelight, but they nevertheless carry out a gigantic ministry. A classic example is George Mueller who lived in Bristol, England, in the 19th century. He built many orphanages and did extensive evangelistic work. He depended upon God to supply all the money and resources needed for his expanding ministry. He never appealed to anyone or organization for financial help. Every day, he knelt down and asked God to provide for the needs and food for the orphanages. Once when Mr. Mueller was asked why he refrained from soliciting for financial help. His answer was simple. “I just want to prove that there is a God in heaven who answers prayers.”

Another giant of faith is Hudson Taylor. When he was getting ready to sail to China at the age of 21. Some people who were concerned about such a risky venture in the dreaded hostile pagan culture advised him to reconsider his decision. The determined young man, full of faith confidently responded, “the future is as bright as the promises of God.” Months later the China Inland Mission was born.

This is the kind of faith that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 17:20.

DISCERNING OF SPIRITS This is a gift that is needed as much in the first century as in contemporary time. It was crucial in the first century because of the absence of the complete Canon of Scripture, and in contemporary time, due to the upsurge of heretical doctrines and various occult practices that have invaded Christendom. A person bestowed with this gift easily discerns while listening to a preaching or participating in a worship service whether the preaching contains errors, or the service lacks the Divine presence. Although all believers are exhorted to “test every spirit,” 1 Jn.4:1, but the person who possesses the gift more immediately senses the absence of Divine inspiration or even mediate diabolical presence or activity in an utterance or environment. This is accomplished primarily judging by the Scripture and a special revelation of the Holy Spirit. This is a non-verbal gift.

CONCLUSION Peter exhorts that whatever gift, sign gifts or service gifts. Verbal gifts or non-verbal gifts, it should be exercised “with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong all glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Pet.4:11. Have you discovered your gift/s?

Rev. Joseph EzeigboAuthor:
Rev Joseph Ezeigbo studied at Grace Collage and Grace Theological Seminary, both in Winona Lake, IN, where he obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees respectively. He also did some Postgraduate studies at Liberty University and Liberty Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA. He is the coordinator, African Missionary Outreach. Rev Ezeigbo is the currently Vice Chairman and Prayer and Renewal Facilitator ECWA USA. He has also served as Secretary and Chairman of ECWA USA DCC. Rev Ezeigbo is an advocate for prayer for the Muslim World and International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a Bible teacher for ECWA MD and Researcher – Church History and Theology. 



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