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Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Frequently Asked Questions

How are spiritual gifts different from natural gifts?

Natural gifts are traits we are born with and are typically passed down through our parents and ancestors. It is up to us to fully develop and use our natural gifts. We can use them for our own benefit or for the benefit of others and the glory of God, or we can neglect our natural gifts and lose them. But even though anointed, they are no substitute for the ministry of gifts given in the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual gifts are a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and are distributed as He wills or determines. They do not become our possession to use as we choose. We must stay in touch with the Spirit and receive from Him as our source. We can expect Him to give whatever gift is needed for the particular situation. But it is up to Him whom He uses.

In doing so He will use our personalities and our vocabularies to express what He wants.

Today many spiritual leaders are calling on believers to discover spiritual gifts for appropriate use in the local assembly. Is it proper for Christians to search for spiritual gifts?

First Corinthians 14:1 says, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” Love will see the need and cause us to desire eagerly the gift that will meet the need. But it is still up to the Holy Spirit to determine whom He will use. He will see the desire, however, and may use those who have the desire.

Some of the discovery questionnaires people fill out to try to determine their spiritual gifts are really dealing with natural gifts. The Holy Spirit is able to give us spiritual gifts that we have no natural talent for.

How should believers pursue spiritual gifts?

The Holy Spirit is the one who chooses and determines whom He will use. It is wrong to think we
can automatically possess them by our own choice. On the other hand, as we look to the Holy Spirit, He may stir a desire in us to express a particular gift, for He knows what the need really is.

Are the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 the only “gifts”?

These seem to be examples of the richness that the Holy Spirit has to meet the needs of the assembly. Romans 12:6–8 adds serving, teaching, encouraging, giving generous gifts to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy. First Corinthians 12:28 adds those able to help others and those with gifts of administration.

Actually, the gifts are interrelated, and each one involves a variety of manifestations or ways in which it can be expressed. The variety in the lists of gifts indicates also that these are examples of the variety of gifts. It is quite possible for the Holy Spirit in His sovereignty to give additional gifts, but we can be sure they will be the same kind as the gifts mentioned in the Bible. He will not give strange gifts or gifts that do not glorify God and edify the assembly of believers.

What are miracles? What is the purpose of miracles, signs, and wonders?

The word “miracles” translates three different words in the Hebrew and Greek. These basically mean “signs,” “wonders,” and “powers” (or “deeds of power”). “Powers” emphasize the supernatural source—God’s divine power. “Wonders” emphasize that they are beyond our human abilities and resources and that they draw attention to the awesome nature of our God. “Signs” point to some aspect of God’s character. Thus the purpose of miracles is to glorify God, not just to satisfy our desires—though God in His goodness and grace will often do that.