Categorizing Spiritual Gifts

I’m not a big one for categorizing spiritual gifts.

1) Scripture does not categorize them.
2) Categorizing could merely be based on one’s beliefs about spiritual gifts.
3) Categorizing them could put spiritual gifts into neat little boxes whereas God might use them in a much more diverse way.

1 Peter 4:10-11 comes the closest to categorizing spiritual gifts but even then I would be careful because all the gifts do not fit neatly into these two categories — that of speaking and that of serving.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The essence of this passage isn’t so much to categorize gifts but to say that whether your gifts have you speaking or doing something, you are to make it all about God … His word … His strength … for His glory.

Consequently, I can see the possibility of grouping spiritual gifts together into categories based on the function of spiritual gifts, or the practical side of how the gifts help the Church be and do what God wants. But, even in doing this, we must still remember that these are man-made categories that we must hold loosely. 

Click on the links below to learn more about those types of spiritual gifts.

Spiritual Gifts Listcommunication/speaking types of gifts: exhortation, prophecy, teaching (due to how much communication is used)

serving types of gifts: giving, helps, hospitality, mercy, service (due to how much hands-on ministry is involved)

leading types of gifts: administration, leadership, pastor (due to how much oversight they provide)

outreach types of gifts: apostle, evangelism, tongues, missionary (due to how much they advance the Gospel)

spiritual insight types of gifts: discernment, knowledge, wisdom (due to how much they help prevent or deal with issues or problems)

intercessory types of gifts: faith, healings, miracles (due to how much prayer is involved)

In this type of grouping we are merely acknowledging that God provides the spiritual gifts needed to accomplish different types of ministry.

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 Cor. 12:4-7)

Never should we categorize spiritual gifts together in a way that establishes a hierarchy or means of comparing the value of one to the other. — “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.”

For Help Defining the Above Mentioned Gifts:  Spiritual Gifts Lists & Definitions

4 Replies to “Categorizing Spiritual Gifts”

    • Hello, Elijah Kajoba. If you look at the key passages on spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4) where spiritual gifts are clearly listed, we do not find mention of interpretation of dreams, celibacy, or singing. We do find examples in the Bible where God gave certain people in specific situations the ability to interpret dreams (Joseph, Daniel) but there is no passage that says it is a spiritual gift. Some will suggest celibacy as a possible spiritual gift because of 1 Corinthians 7:7, 8 where the word “charisma” appears in the context, which is the same word used for spiritual gifts. Natural abilities, like singing, certainly are a gift from God but there is no passage about it where we find the word used for spiritual gifts. Sometimes God uses our natural abilities as vehicles through which we express our spiritual gifts. Singing, for example, could be a way of using the spiritual gift of exhortation. Whether a spiritual gift, or natural ability, all we do should be to the glory of God.

      • I know this is a late reply, but regarding interpreting dreams, you should look again at 1 Cor. 12:8, word of wisdom, particularly the definition of the Greek word sophia (G4678).

        • Thanks for your input, Phillip. Yes, if you look at the Strong’s definition (G4678) for sophia (wisdom), it gives a definition as “wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters” and then goes on to suggest what some of those “diverse matters” might be and there lists “the act of interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice.” Interpretation of dreams is given as one of seven possible applications or uses of wisdom (sophia).

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