The gifts of the Spirit are God-given abilities distributed as God knows is best for different aspects of Christian service. Not every Christian has the same gift, just as not every part of the human body performs the function of seeing, hearing or walking (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). Through a division of labor, God encourages us to work with one another to be more efficient. As we work together, Christ gives his church growth (Ephesians 4:15-16).
What are the various gifts? Paul lists some in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30: Church leadership positions such as apostle, prophet and teacher, or gifts of miracles and healings, or less spectacular but equally necessary abilities such as helping others and administration.
Another list is in verses 7-10: messages of wisdom or knowledge, faith and healing and miracles, inspired messages of prophecy, tongues or interpretations, or a special gift for distinguishing between spirits. (The Greek word for "distinguishing" is also used in 14:29. This gift was probably used to tell which prophecies or tongue-interpretations were genuine and which were false.) The precise difference between wisdom and knowledge, or faith and healing and miracles may not be important in this list; Paul is simply making the point that spiritual gifts come in many varieties, although they are all "for the common good."
Romans 12:6-8 gives yet another list of gifts (none of the lists is exhaustive): prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving to others, leading others or showing mercy. Some of these service gifts should be found in all Christians, but some people are distinctly better at certain activities than other people are. None of the lists in the Bible is complete, and various other abilities may also be spiritual gifts, such as the ability to write psalms (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19).
As God gives us these abilities, we should apply them as best we can for the common good of the Body of Christ.
The gifts in these lists come in three major categories: church leadership, speaking, and serving others. Peter summarizes "gifts" under the categories of speaking and serving (1 Peter 4:11). "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (verse 10).
Paul said that God had given (the Greek verb is similar to the noun for "gift") the Philippian Christians the ability to believe in Christ and also the opportunity to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29-30).
Suffering patiently and faithfully can also be a useful spiritual gift. Paul described a "thorn in my flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7), which served by emphasizing Paul's weaknesses, therefore showing that the power of his message came not from himself but from God (verses 8-10).
Paul referred to marital status, whether married or not, as a gift (1 Corinthians 7:7). Any of life's circumstances can be considered a gift of God if we are able to use it to glorify Christ and serve others. It does not matter how spectacular or seemingly ordinary the gift is — what matters is how it is used (1 Corinthians 13:1-4). Love, a fruit of the Spirit that all Christians must have, is the test of whether an ability or gift is good.
All gifts should be used to glorify Christ and to benefit others.
Fruit of the Holy Spirit
"Live by the Spirit," Paul tells us in Galatians 5:16, not by the "desires of the sinful nature." These phrases represent opposite approaches to life (verse 17). In verses 19-21, Paul describes some of the acts of the sinful nature, and in verses 22-23 he describes some of the fruit or results of the Holy Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
In Ephesians 5:9, Paul describes more "fruit" of the Christian life: "goodness, righteousness and truth." The Holy Spirit also produces life and peace (Romans 8:6), hope (Romans 15:13) and spiritual wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6-15). All Christians should have all these qualities.
As we yield to God's Spirit (Romans 8:13-14), and as we are led by the Spirit of Christ (verse 9), we will have Jesus Christ's mercy and compassion for others and his love for God's way of life.
"By their fruit you will recognize them," said Jesus (Matthew 7:20). Many people will call Jesus "Lord," and they will prophesy and perform miracles in his name (verses 21-22), but unless they do the will of the Father, they are false prophets (verses 21, 15). "By their fruit [by the way they live] you will recognize them" (verse 16). All Christians should have the fruit of God's Spirit.