Spiritual Gifts: A List?

Scot McKnight asked a question this week about the Pauline lists of spiritual gifts. For context, I’ll quote his whole post:

I have a question for you today about the various lists of spiritual gifts in the NT. I will give here the list in Romans, but we can then look to 1 Cor 12, Eph 4 and 1 Peter, and can ask this question: Are these substances (specific, discernible gifts) or are they various manifestations of what the Spirit does when at work in the community of faith?

Romans 12:6-8:

Prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, compassion.

Does one, then, find each of the lists, add them all up for a comprehensive listing of gifts (numbers vary a bit), and then figure out which one each person has? And then train folks to identify which gift they “have� (or excercise).
Or, alternatively, do we see what God has gifted persons to do and see whatever that is as the sorts of gifts God gives to the Church? Do we plug “singer� into one of the gifts in the list or do we see singing as another gift to the Church?

There is a good string of comments following. Some unease is voiced about questionnaires which tell you which spiritual gift you have as though it were a simple matter of 18 multiple-choice questions to arrive at certainty on the matter. Hardly sounds like charismata to me.

I’ve written about this previously — it was in the context of considering leadership gifts and the Ephesians 4 list, but in the article I cover the three different lists and offer what I see as the differences between the listings of gifts. Of course, this very statement implies the fact that I don’t think you can stack up the lists and have an exhaustive set. I see each of the three lists as slightly different, and none as exhaustive.

In all the consideration of spiritual gifts, it’s imperative that we not forget the less “hooky-pooky” gifts, the ones that otherwise look quite natural, like gifts of leadership or helps. Or in Exodus when the tabernacle was being constructed, we find that certain people were “gifted” with the necessary skills to construct the tabernacle with the requisite ornate details. While the gift-lists may often have been majored on by the charismatic set, it’s important not to miss the spiritual or supernatual to be found in the “ordinary” which comes equally from God.


  1. We’ve tended to see the important gifts as one exercised up front in an assembly. I’ve long felt that the most important gifts are ones that build community.. which has little to do with what happens up front on Sundays.

  2. A gift is a gift is a gift.

    We must learn that in order for the body to be knit together we need um all.

  3. Hmmm. I guess it’s hard to say which is most “important.” Some days, the most important part of the car is the lug nuts… you’re not going anywhere without them. And that’s good, because some days, I feel like a lug nut. I suppose in this analogy, if it holds to the church, the “important” gifts are not always the same, but are the ones being exercised in the right way at the right time… whether it’s prophesying, teaching, or setting out chairs or encouraging people in the foyer or working alone in the kitchen. We do need them all. otoh Len, if I understand you correctly, we could interpret “important” as “valued by us” and suggest there are some gifts we undervalue, and in this context, we certainly could stand to place more value on building community than on the up-front ones.

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