Learn About Spiritual Gifts: FAQ
When learning about spiritual gifts, you might have some questions that are not specifically answered in a study of the key Bible passages. Here are some of the more frequently asked questions. Click on a question for which you would like an answer. You will find more questions at bottom of this page.
- Why do different Bible scholars come up with varying numbers of spiritual gifts?
- How should the gifts be categorized?
- When does a person receive his/her spiritual gift(s)?
- Can I lose my spiritual gifts?
Why do different Bible scholars come up with varying numbers of spiritual gifts?
Some people look at the key passages on spiritual gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4) and limit the gifts to the ones listed therein. But even within that there is discrepancy. Some people say the gifts of administration (1 Cor. 12:28) and leadership (Rom. 12:8) are the same gift. They also say service (Rom. 12:7) and helps (1 Cor. 12:2) are the same gift. The problem with that is --if you look at the original Greek words, they are all different words with distinct meanings. For what gifts are in each passage, go to: List of Spiritual Gifts
Some people add in craftsmanship and music because of the skilled people that God brought in to help with the Old Testament tabernacle. In Exodus 31 it says God filled Bezalel "with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts..." From passages similar to that, people have concluded that craftsmanship and music are spiritual gifts. Others stick with the gifts listed in the New Testament. Some see craftsmanship as a vehicle to exercise the gift of service. Music may be seen as a vehicle to exercise the gift of exhortation.
Yet other people will add the possibility of a few other gifts -- celibacy, hospitality, martyrdom, missionary, voluntary poverty, and intercession. If you look at the context of the verses where they are found, you will see the Greek word "charisma" which is the same word used in other passages interpreted as 'spiritual gift' used in all but intercession. One person who labels intercession as a spiritual gift does so because he can't imagine it isn't since prayer is so important. Or, could it be that prayer is a vehicle through which those with the gifts of faith, healing, and miracles operate? You'll find Scripture references and definitions for celibacy, hospitality, martyrdom, missionary, and voluntary poverty on the spiritual gifts list.
Be careful about getting dogmatic on the number of gifts. God leaves it a little open. If you look at the list of gifts in the three main passages, no list is the same. There is some overlap but each list has some gifts not listed in the others. No one list is comprehensive. This could indicate that there could be other gifts as well. No one passage is complete in itself.
How should the gifts be categorized?
While the Bible does provide three different lists of spiritual gifts and the lists are not identical, Scripture does not provide the reason. We should be careful in claiming they represent certain categories of gifting. There does not appear to be any one Biblically ordained way of classifying the gifts. Names for categories of gifts are given by people based on similarities they find among the gifts or types of ministry the gifts lead to.
When does a person receive his/her spiritual gift(s)?
Some believe we have our spiritual gifts from physical birth and tie them in with our personality traits. Others believe we receive our spiritual gifts at our new birth in Christ. Factors to keep in mind are that the Bible clearly teaches that spiritual gifts are a work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-11). A person does not receive the Spirit until salvation. Personality traits are linked to genetics, tempered by our environment. Spiritual gifting is a manifestation of the Spirit, tempered by our walk with God. If a gift lies dormant within us until salvation or such a time as it becomes manifested, does that mean an unbeliever has spiritual gifts within? How does that reconcile with Scripture about the condition of the unregenerate man?
Can I lose my spiritual gifts?
While there is plenty of Scripture to support the loss of effectiveness and fruitfulness, the Bible does not indicate the actual loss of gifts. Some may use parables like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 to conclude that you can lose your gifts if you don't do anything with them because the master tells them to take the lazy servant's talent away from him. Understand that it would be pure interpretation to say that the talents represent spiritual gifts. Read on to see what happens to the lazy servant's talent. It is not only taken from him but given to the one who had ten. You are going to run into some serious logistical problems with that. Plus, it implies that gifts are merit-based in saying that the faithful are rewarded with the gifts neglected by others. Scripture is clear that gifts are given because of grace (Romans 12:6a) ... nothing earned or merited. One of the main Greek words used for spiritual gifts, 'charisma,' means grace. Perhaps the question of whether we can lose our spiritual gifts must be answered with a deeper question -- whether you can lose the Spirit who bestowed your gift(s) on you at salvation when He indwelt you.