Quick Thoughts – How many Spiritual Gifts ARE there?


In all my reading about Charismatic Issues and Spiritual Gifts, I have seen many lists and definitions of Spiritual Gifts.  There’s one issue though that seems really strange to me, and that’s the question of whether or not the list of Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament is comprehensive.  At my count, the New Testament lists 18 Spiritual Gifts:

For to one is given through the Spirit the (1) utterance of wisdom, and to another the (2) utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another (3) faith by the same Spirit, to (4) another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the (5) working of miracles, to another (6) prophecy, to another the (7) ability to distinguish between spirits, to another (8) various kinds of tongues, to another (9) the interpretation of tongues.1 Corinthians 12:8-10

And God has appointed in the church first (10) apostles, second prophets, (11) third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, (12) helping, (13) administrating, and various kinds of tongues.1 Corinthians 12:28

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if (14) service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the (15) one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the (16) one who contributes, in generosity; the (17) one who leads, with zeal; the one who does (18) acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.Romans 12:6-8

Now, of course, there are possibly +/- 1 or 2 more (depending on whether you consider some of the gifts listed as synonyms), but the general NT listing is around 17 to 19.

Still, many churches have spiritual gift lists that include things not explicitly listed as spiritual gifts in the New Testament (and often aren’t even gifts found in the NT at all).  A good example of this would be the Willow Creek Spiritual Gifts handout that includes gifts like craftsmanship (based on Exodus 31:3, 35:31, 35 [passages that mention 2 people empowered by the Spirit of God in craftsmanship], as well as 2 Kings 22:5, 6 and Acts 9:36, 39;  two passages that don’t even mention the Spirit).

Now, I know that Exodus 31:1-5 says

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

That sure looks like a Spiritual Gift, right?

Well, for the record, Exodus 31:6 says that those gifts/empowerments were given to all the craftsmen for the specific purpose of making the tent of meeting and all it’s accoutrements.  It was a temporary gift that I would argue foreshadowed the coming of Spiritual Gifts when the Spirit was poured out, but the “craftsmanship” given to Bezalel and the every other craftsman is not available today.

Still, if a person thinks that “craftsmanship” is a valid gift, why doesn’t that same person look back in the Old Testament at when the Spirit of God was poured on other people and include whatever the Spirit empowered those people to do on their list of Spiritual Gifts?

Why isn’t there a Spiritual Gift of:

– Judgment? (Judges 3:10; Isaiah 42:1)

– Motivating Groups of People? (Judges 6:34)

– Traveling? (Judges 11:29)

– Decapitating Lions? (Judges 14:6)

– Slaying Philistines (and stealing their clothes)? (Judges 14:19)

– Physical Strength (and tearing ropes)? (Judges 15:14)

– Anger? (1 Samuel 11:6)

– Naked Prophesy? (1 Samuel 19:23-24)

– Prophetic Confusion? (Isaiah 29:10)

– Fertility? (Isaiah 44:3-4)

– Out of Body Travel? (Ezekiel 3:12-14, 37:1)

– The Interpretation of Dreams? (Daniel 4:8-9)

– Intelligence? (Daniel 5:14)

– Church Maintenance? (Hosea 1:14)

I don’t know about you, but having the fourth gift on that list would make for some pretty engaging public speaking engagements.  The second would be really helpful in evangelism…but, those gifts don’t appear on any spiritual gifts inventory that I’ve seen (cue that one reader to send me a Spiritual Gifts list of 97 gifts).  Why is that exactly?  All those passages include specific mention of the Spirit being placed on someone, and the actions in the verse are the specific outcomes.  If Exodus 3 has that and we do include “craftsmanship” on the list of Spiritual Gifts but we do not include “slaying Philistines”, there’s some rather rank inconsistency in our picking and choosing of what is/is not a Spiritual Gift.

I’d suggest something rather simple: either the passages that directly mention Spiritual Gifts make up a comprehensive list, or we must include “slaying Philistines” on our Spiritual Gifts tests.  Imagine taking a Spiritual Gifts test and running across the following question:

17.  Do you enjoy spending time nurturing and caring for others?
18.  Are you able to communicate God’s word effectively?
19.  Are you often compelled to murder the enemies of God and steal their clothing?
20.  Are you often sought out by others for advice about spiritual or personal matters?
21.  Are you careful, thorough, and skilled at managing details?

Just a Quick Thought.  Spiritual Gifts tests are made by men, and those men are often far less consistent in their approach to scripture than we would wish.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Dear Lord, please grant me, by your Spirit, the power to slay your foes and takes their clothes!” Unger


4 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts – How many Spiritual Gifts ARE there?

  1. Pingback: A Charismatic Primer Part 6 – The Outreach Top 50 (#21-25) | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

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