People frequently want to know how many gifts there are when learning about spiritual gifts. After researching it, they still may not be sure because different Bible scholars list varying numbers. Why?
How many spiritual gifts listed depends on the criteria being used.
1) Many look at the key passages on spiritual gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4) and limit the gifts to the ones listed therein — 20 gifts. Go to: List of Spiritual Gifts
However, you’ll find discrepancy even within that listing. Some people say the gifts of administration (1 Cor. 12:28) and leadership (Rom. 12:8) are the same gift. And, some claim service (Rom. 12:7) and helps (1 Cor. 12:28) are the same gift. That would then change the total number of gifts.
Consider this: If you look at the original Greek words used for the gifts listed in the key passages, each has distinct meanings. Why would different words be used if God didn’t intend for them to be unique gifts?
2) Some people add in craftsmanship and music because of the skilled people God brought in to help with the Old Testament tabernacle. Exodus 31 says God filled Bezalel “with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts …” From passages similar to that one, people have concluded that craftsmanship and music are spiritual gifts. Others stick with the gifts listed in the New Testament.
Consider this: We do not find actual references to spiritual gifts in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit is not said to indwell people during that time like He does believers today. Yes, the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11) but just because the Spirit came upon the workers on the tabernacle doesn’t mean their skill should be considered a spiritual gift such as God gives to the Church today. Is it possible that those using craftsmanship to God’s glory are actually exercising the gift of service? Is it possible music is a vehicle for exercising the gift of exhortation?
3) Others will include intercession as a spiritual gift. One person who labels intercession as a spiritual gift does so because he can’t imagine it wouldn’t be since prayer is so important.
Consider this: God’s Word never identifies intercession as a spiritual gift. Could it be that prayer is a vehicle through which those with the gifts of faith, healing, or miracles operate?
4) And, some people add the possibility of a few other gifts — celibacy, hospitality, martyrdom, missionary, voluntary poverty — because the Greek word for spiritual gifts, charisma, can be found within the context of passages pertaining to them.
Consider this: Though not found in the primary passages about spiritual gifting, could the context of passages where these possible gifts are found open the door to them being gifts? Or, could it be that the word charisma appears in those passages for other reasons?
The exact number of spiritual gifts may not be known.
We must be careful about getting dogmatic on the number of gifts. God leaves it a little open-ended. 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. Since no one passage is complete in itself, could it suggest that there are other gifts as well?
Rather than get consumed with the exact number of gifts, let’s make sure that whatever we do, whether using a spiritual gift or natural talent, that we do it through the strength and wisdom God provides and for His glory.