Do People Actually “Have” Spiritual Gifts?


1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (NIV)

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.


To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):

For several years now, I’ve wondered where we got the idea that we could give someone a multiple choice inventory (test) to determine their spiritual gifts. Have you taken one of those tests before? They are sort of like a Meyers-Briggs personality test. Something tells me they weren’t taking spiritual gifts tests in the first century church. Something tells me this whole approach didn’t even start until about 1981.

I don’t mean to knock the test and I certainly don’t mean to shake anyone’s confidence in their sense of giftings based on taking such tests. I just don’t think it works this way. Spiritual gifts are supernatural. They don’t necessarily match up with human “giftedness” or aptitudes or passions or things I like doing. It makes sense to us that it might work that way, but I’m just not sure this is what Scripture teaches on the subject.

Nor does it seem right that I would “possess” a spiritual gift in a kind of ownership way where it would be available “on-demand.” Here’s my question: What if we don’t actually have spiritual gifts, in the sense of possessing them? What if it’s the other way around; spiritual gifts having or possessing us? New Testament Christianity points to our being filled with the person of the Holy Spirit.

I remember a conversation I had years ago with one of the great Methodist preachers of the last fifty years, Dr. James Buskirk. We were talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I may have misunderstood him or I may be remembering him wrongly—and I certainly don’t want to mis-attribute something to him mistakenly. Here’s what I remember him saying. “The Holy Spirit does not give gifts to you or to me for ministry. The Holy Spirit gives gifts in ministry.” In other words, the Spirit gifts one person with the presence and power to minister to another person or persons according to their need in that moment. On one occasion the Spirit may give the gift of a miracle and on another occasion he may give the gift of prophecy.

It is my understanding and experience that the Holy Spirit works in power through all manner of gifts and manifestations where people are moving toward one another in love. Could it be that’s why 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Manifesto, is tucked between chapters 12 and 14 on gifts and the Body of Christ?


Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Thank you for the Holy Spirit and for the ways the Spirit gives gifts in ministry for the blessing of others and the building up of the Body of Christ. Help me discern the gifts of the Spirit. Come Holy Spirit and give me the boldness to launch out into the work of God in ways of faith that count on the gifts being given to fulfill the calling and assignment. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. What kind of love would you need to have for another person for you to move toward them in faith that the Holy Spirit would give a gift in the midst of your initiative to minister to them?
  2. How does this notion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit being given “in” ministry rather than being resident in a person “on-demand” resonate with you? or not?
  3. How do you see the connection between the kind of love identified in the upcoming chapter 13 and the gifts of the Holy Spirit?