What are the Spiritual Gifts? Part 1: Teaching Gifts

What are the spiritual gifts? How does a person get one or more spiritual gifts? How do spiritual gifts work? Over the next few weeks we're going to look closer at some of these spiritual gifts.

What are spiritual gifts?

When one turns away from sin and trusts Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior (learn more here), the Holy Spirit gives that person at least one spiritual gift. This gift (or these gifts) are to be used to work with other Christ-followers (committed Christians) to continue God's work here on earth (1 Corinthians 12:1-7). Scripture (the Bible) lists quite a few spiritual gifts. Lists of gifts may be found in 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Peter 4:11., 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, possibly Acts 13:1-4, possibly James 5:14-16., and possibly Acts 8:5-8. There are a lot of gifts. In order to look closer at these gifts, we are going to break them into three categories and three blog posts.
  1. Gifts of Teaching (today's post)
  2. Gifts of Service (read more here)
  3. Miraculous Gifts (coming soon)

Gifts of Teaching

The gifts which we'll categorize as "teaching gifts" include the gifts which are used to teach or speak the things of God to believers and/or non-believers. Let's look a little closer at each of these gifts. Please note that we're saving speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues for our discussion of miraculous gifts.

Knowledge, Wisdom, and Teaching

People with the gift of knowledge are great at studying and learning, especially about the Bible, testimonies (people's stories), and related topics. They love to learn, process information, and work to understand it. This is something all Christians (Christ-followers) are supposed to do. Those with the gift of knowledge just find it easier. Here are some Scriptures about the gift of knowledge: Luke 1:1-4; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 12:8; 2 Corinthians 11:6; Colossians 1:10; 2:2-3; 1 Timothy 2:15. Wisdom is knowing how to live a life that is pleasing to God. This person doesn't just know and understand the Bible, they also know how to live for Jesus, how to put what the Bible says into practice. This is something all Christians (Christ-followers) should do. Those with the gift of wisdom just find it easier to understand how to put the Bible into practice. The rest of us have to pray a lot and work for it (James 1:4-5, 22). Here are some more Scriptures about wisdom: Proverbs 4:5-8; Acts 6:3, 10; 15:13-20; 20:20-21; Romans 12:17; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-14; Colossians 1:28. The gift of teaching is the ability to explain the things of God (as found in God's Word, the Bible) in a way other people understand. These people like to study the Bible so they can explain it to others in the best way possible. Here are some Scriptures about teaching: Matthew 7:28-29; 28:19-20; Acts 15:32; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; Ephesians 4:11-14.

Prophecy and Encouragement (sometimes called Exhortation)

A prophet is one like those in the Old Testament who had something specific from the Lord to say to a specific person in a specific situation. Their job is to call people back to God. It is very important to remember to test the words of a prophet.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (NIV) But there were also false prophets among the people. In the same way there will be false teachers among you. In secret they will bring in teachings that will destroy you. They will even turn against the Lord and Master who died to pay for their sins. So they will quickly destroy themselves. Many people will follow their lead. These people will do the same evil things the false teachers do. They will cause people to think badly about the way of truth. 2 Peter 2:1-2 (NIRV) See also 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 14:29-38; 1 John 4:1-6; and Deuteronomy 13:1-4.
Here are some more verses about prophecy: Luke 7:26; Acts 15:32; 21:9-11; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; 14:3, 24-25, 29, 36-38; Ephesians 4:11-14. Some people call the gift of encouragement "exhortation" because of the modern thinking about the word "encouragement." People often think encouragement just means saying nice things. That is only a small part of what the Bible means by "encouragement." The word actually means to build up. This can by done through genuine complements, yes, but also by pointing out errors in love and working with someone to plan action steps to correct it. As encouragers do this, they breathe hope into situations. This is something all Christians (Christ-followers) are called to do (Hebrews 10:25). Those with the gift of encouragement just find it easier.
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Acts 14:22 (NIV)
Here are some more Scriptures about encouragement (or exhortation): Luke 3:16-18; Acts 11:23; Romans 12:8; 1 Timothy 4:12; 5:1; Hebrews 10:25.

Evangelism, Missionaries, and Apostles/Overseers

The word evangelism comes from the Koine Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as "euangelion"). It means "bringing good news." What is that good news? (Learn more here.)
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (NIV)
God wants all Christ-followers (committed Christians) to tell others the good news of the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15; 1 Peter 3:15). Those with the gift of evangelism just see more fruit (more people they tell turning from their sin and trusting Jesus as their Lord and Savior). If you want to know how to better share the Gospel, find someone with the gift of evangelism and ask them to teach you and mentor you. Here are some Scriptures about evangelism: Acts 8:5-6, 26-40; Ephesians 4:11-14; 2 Timothy 4:5. Missionaries are people who go to a group of people not like themselves to serve and share the Gospel. This does not have to mean going to a different country. It could be a Hispanic American who goes to serve and share the Gospel with Asian Americans. Here are some Bible verses about missionaries: Acts 8:4; 13:1-4; 22:21; Romans 10:15; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. The definition of an apostle may change, depending on what church you attend. Some use the term "apostle" to mean "missionary." Some say that an apostle is anyone who is a leader over several churches (like denominational leaders or regional leaders). Other Christians claim that the title "apostle" is only for the disciples in Bible times that Jesus set apart. Those who believe this would call this gift "overseer." Here are some verses about apostles or overseers: 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; 4:11.

Leadership and Shepherding (sometimes called Pastor)

When you set goals, step out and start a project which will serve God, do other people tend to follow you? If so, you may have the gift of leadership. Andrew K. Pulp from BuildingChurch.com (which is where we got most of the additional Scriptures to read for each gifts) defines leadership as, "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 and to communicate these goals to others in such a way that they voluntarily and harmoniously work together to accomplish those goals for the glory of God." Here are some more verses about leadership: Luke 9:51; Acts 6:1-7; 15:7-11; Romans 12:8; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17. A shepherd, on the other hand, may not be the point person or the one in charge. Still, this person has a knack for taking care of the people in their group over a long period of time, much like shepherds care for their sheep. This person could be a pastor, small-group leader, Sunday school teacher, disciple group leader, or just a very caring person. The Holy Spirit used Peter to describe the job of a pastor. Why do you think "pastor" might be another word for the gift of "shepherd"?
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)
Here are some more verses about the gift of shepherding: John 10:1-18; Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4.

What about you?

Do you think you might have one of these teaching gifts? If so, how are you using it? Spiritual gifts are given to be used. Be sure to pray and ask God how you can begin using your spiritual gift(s). (Click here for 5 Steps to Discovering Your Spiritual Gift.)
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)
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