Gifts of the Holy Spirit

This is a huge subject and we could write volumes about each of these gifts. However, for the purposes of this study we will not go into great detail or theory, but look at these gifts from a practical point of view. To start off with this study, I want to look at some important verses in the Bible: concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

– 1 Corinthians 12:1. “Now concerning Spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” To be ignorant of Spiritual Gifts and to ignore them is disobedience to the Word of God!

1 Corinthians 14:1. “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts!” The word ‘desire’ means ‘to strongly desire.’ Love and the gifts of the Spirit are supposed to work together. Furthermore, we demonstrate our love through the gifts. For example, if someone was lying, critically ill in hospital and we came to visit him and said, “I just want to tell you that I love you, mamma also loves you and God loves you, die in peace!” That is not love! It would be better if we would demonstrate our love for him, by using the gift of healing and healing him!

– 1 Corinthians 1:7. “So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some people say that the gifts petered out when Peter petered out. That is not true; they are to increase more and more as we approach the return of the Lord. In fact, the gifts of the Holy Spirit should be taken into the market place and not be confined within church buildings!

Romans 15:19. “In mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” The preaching of the Gospel should be accompanied by the gifts of the Spirit. The Gospel is not good news unless we demonstrate its power through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in Mark 16:15-17, that “These signs shall follow those who believe…they shall cast out demons… they shall lay hands on the sick, etc.”

The list of the gifts of the Spirit:

1 Corinthians 12:6-8But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

1. Word of Wisdom:

The word of wisdom is:

(1) The ability to apply a revelation from the Lord.

(2) It is supernatural wisdom given to us in difficult situations to know what to do.

(3) It is wisdom that is greater than our maturity or our experience.

We also have the example of how Solomon used the word of wisdom to solve the dispute between the two prostitutes and the baby in 1 King 3:22. In Matthew 22:17 we read how the Pharisees tested Jesus when they told Him, “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not?” Jesus then used the word of wisdom and answered them and said in verse 21, “Render unto to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus used the word of wisdom to answer their question.

In Mark 13:11, Jesus told His disciples, “… when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” He was saying to them that the church will be given supernatural wisdom in times of persecution.

Many years ago there was a young Christian girl who lived in Russia during a time of severe persecution. On the way to church, she was stopped by a policeman who asked her where she was going. She received a word of wisdom and said to the policeman, “My Elder Brother has died and I am going to meet with my family to discuss the inheritance.” After the meeting, on her way home she was stopped by the same policeman who asked her, “what happened?” She answered and said to them, “I am so happy, I received everything.”

This gift will grow when we read the Bible a lot, especially when we read the Book of Proverbs. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15Moreover, you have known the holy scriptures from your childhood, which can make you wise for salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.” In Colossians 3:16 we read,Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” The more we read and meditate on the word of God, the more we will be able to operate in this gift.

2. Word of knowledge;

The word of knowledge is:

1. The supernatural knowledge given to us about a person or situation without receiving any prior information.

2. It is information that we receive that does not come from our natural senses.

We have the example of the woman at the well when Jesus said to her, “You have had five husbands and the man that you are living with now is not your husband.” (John 4:16). We also have the example of Jesus and Zaccheas, when Jesus passed under the tree and said, “Zaccheas, come down…” (Luke 19:5) In the Old Testament, we have the example of Elisha, who had a word of knowledge about the movements of the King of Syria. When the king of Syria asked, who gave information to the king of Israel, his servants said to him, “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”(2 Kings 6:12)

This gift is a powerful tool to help us preach the gospel and to stir up faith for people to believe for miracles. A number of years ago we were doing an outreach on the streets of Moscow. A young Russian girl approached me and began talking to me to practice her English. I tried to share the gospel with her but she was not open to what I had to say. Suddenly a thought came into my mind and I said to her, “Your boyfriend has just left you and your heart is very broken about it.” She stared at me with wide eyes and said, “How did you know?” I said to her, “God told me because He loves you so much, He wants to heal your broken heart.” After that she was wide open and asked Jesus into her heart to become her Lord and Savior.

We must also bear in mind that this gift is not to expose people and reveal all their ‘dirty linen.’ The Bible says that the “… manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:7) Therefore,this gift is often activated when we pray for people from a heart of compassion and love.

It can operate in a number of ways such as: (1) An impression or thought that comes in to our minds. (2) A feeling or sensation in our bodies, especially when it operates together with the gift of healings. (3) An inner voice or a vision.

3. Faith

There is a difference between faith and the gift of faith. The gift of faith is defined as a supernatural surge of confidence in God’s ability to do something supernatural or impossible. In other words, it is a sudden increase in the level of our faith. It can be likened to a hospital monitor. The normal fluctuation of the waves on the monitor is like our normal level of faith. But from time to time there is a sudden peak, which is like the gift of faith.

We have examples from the book of Acts. For example, when Peter healed the lame man in Acts 3:6, he said to him, “Silver and gold have I none but such that I have I give unto you, in the name of Jesus, rise up and walk.” As they walked past the lame man, there was a sudden surge of faith to heal him. We also have the example of Paul in Acts 14:9-10, when he healed a lame man. We read, “Paul observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed said with a loud voice, ‘stand up straight on your feet.”

Years ago, when I was at university, I held a house meeting in the city of Durban. The room was full of people, and I did not know that there was a woman in the meeting who was practically crippled and had to be propped up in a chair. The meeting was fairly dull so I asked someone to close in prayer. As he prayed, I felt a presence of the Holy Spirit and said to the group, that God wanted to do miracles. One Baptist girl was immediately baptized with the Holy Spirit; she fell to the floor and began to speak in tongues. Then someone said, “Let’s pray for June” (the crippled lady). We held hands and just said, “Lord, heal June!” With that the crippled lady jumped out of her chair, ran around and began to hug everyone. That was a definite manifestation of the word of faith. Our faith level before then was ‘below zero!’

We stimulate this gift when we use our natural faith and take risks. This gift is often accompanied with a bold declaration of the word of God. For example, when Jesus stilled the storm, He spoke with authority, “Be still!”

4.  Gifts of healings

This gift is a special ability to release the anointing to heal the sick. This gift is plural which means there are various ways we can use this gift – we can lay hands on the sick, anoint them with oil, or declare a word of faith over the sick, etc. This gift is often called, ‘The dinner bell’ of the gospel. It calls people to believe in Jesus. It is a powerful tool to bring people to Christ when accompanied with the preaching of the gospel.

Jesus spent much of His time healing sick (Acts 10:38). This should also be the pattern of our lives. Jesus said in John 20:21, As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Healing the sick should be our lifestyle. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:7-8 “And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give.” Notice it says, “as you go!” It is the normal Christian life.

Although there are certain people who have a special anointing to heal the sick, it is open for all of us who believe. Jesus said in Mark 16:17, “These signs shall follow those who believe. … they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover.” This gift is to ‘all’ who believe! That includes all of us! Therefore, the more we use this gift, the stronger it will become. This gift can also be imparted when anointed people pray for us.

5. Working of miracles:

The working of miracles is the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power to change a natural situation. It is usually a great miracle of healing; (healing the blind, deaf and crippled) where something is created that was not there in the first place. For example, when we pray for a blind person, the Holy Spirit can create a new retina or optic nerve. This gift is not limited only to the healing of the body, but also the changing of natural circumstances. For example, when Jesus stilled the storm, walked on water and multiplied five loaves and two fishes, He was using the gift of the ‘working of miracles’. 

This gift is called the working of miracles. This implies that in order for this gift to operate, a step of faith or some form of action is often necessary. For example in Acts 3:7 Peter took the lame man by the “right hand and lifted him up.” Jesus often required some form of action before people received their miracles. He told the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam. He told the lepers to show themselves to the priests etc. People do not usually receive miracles if they just passively wait for something to happen!

It is one of the greatest keys to revival. Paul said in Romans 15:18-19In mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” We ‘fully’ preach the gospel when we perform signs, wonders and miracles. Jesus gave us an amazing promise in John 14:12. “Truly I say to you, the works I do you will do and greater works than these because I go to be with My Father.” This is the normal Christian life! Without miracles, the gospel is not good news. The disciples prayed for this gift in Acts 4:29-30. “… grant unto Your servants, that with all boldness they (I) may speak the word by stretching out Your hand to heal, that that signs and wonders may be done through Your Holy Servant Jesus.” May this also be our prayer and desire!

6. Discerning of spirits:

This gift is the ability to identify the motivating spirits behind a word, an action or an event. There are four spirits that we can discern:

(1) Human spirit. John 1:47Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said about him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”  Jesus discerned the heart and spirit of Nathanial. We can discern whether or not people are open to God or not. We can also discern the needs and attitudes of people.

(2) Angels: Act 27:23For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” Paul discerned an angel with him in the boat. The Bible says we can entertain angels without even knowing about it.

(3) The Holy Spirit: Acts 15:28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;” They discerned the mind of the Holy Spirit in the decision they took in this meeting. A number of years ago, a well-known preacher from Canada was preaching in our church in Pretoria. During the meeting, a young girl fell to the floor and began screaming. Those around her thought it was a demon and tried to drive it out of her. However, the preacher had discernment and said, “This is the Holy Spirit.” When he asked the girl, why she screamed, she said, that she saw a vision of Jesus dying for her on the cross, and she began to scream in horror.

(4) Demon spirits:  We read in  Acts 16 verses 16-18,  “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, … cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. … But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out the same hour.” To those around Paul this must have sounded like this woman was spiritual and sent by God. But Paul discerned a demon and cast it out.

The gift of discerning of spirits is primarily used to set people free from demonic oppression. In my own experience, I have noticed that it is easier to cast out a demon once it has been discerned. It is important to realize that this gift is not given to embarrass people but to set them free.

This gift only works in an atmosphere of love, or else we will judge and hurt the people that we want to help.  We read in Philippians 1:9-10. “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment….” As our love abounds more and more, we will have more discernment. Furthermore, this gift operates in the atmosphere of purity and cleanliness. It will not operate if our minds are filled with unclean thoughts.

Finally, there are three ways we can discern demons. Firstly, we can sense the presence of a demon; we often feel a pressure or uneasiness on us.  Secondly, we can notice a demon through various facial expressions and manifestations in the body.  Thirdly, through the gift of discernment, the Holy Spirit gives us the name of the demon.

7. Prophecy

This gift is The Holy Spirit’s message to a person.  It is to build up, comfort and encourage people and not given for admonition and personal direction. (That is the responsibility of a prophet) In 1 Corinthians 14:3 we read, “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”  It is available to everyone in the church. We read 1 Corinthians 14:31For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” However, it should take place in a church where there are committed relationships.

1 Corinthians 14:32 we read, that”… the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”  We are in full control when we use this gift, therefore, we should be as natural as possible and avoid any super-spiritual tones of voice when we prophesy. It is also advisable to also avoid the words, “thus says the Lord.”  We need to give people the freedom to tell us whether or not the prophecy was from God or not.

This gift usually comes from an impression in our minds, a vision, or a certain thought pattern. As we take a step of faith and speak the words that we have received, then more words come to the mind and we speak them out. We can also use this gift when we counsel people. Sometimes we even prophesy without even realizing it.

8. Kind of tongues:

This gift is The Holy Spirit’s words given to us in a language we have never learnt, that do not come from our minds but from our human spirits. There are four uses of the gift of tongues:

(1) For personal edification: We read in 1 Corinthians 14:4He that speaks in a tongue, edifies himself.”

(2) If this gift is accompanied by the gift of interpretation in the church, then this gift acts as a gift of prophesy. We read in 1 Corinthians 14:27 “If any men speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.” 

(3) It enables us to speak in language you have never learnt before. In Acts 2:8 we read, And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born.” The people heard them speaking in known languages on the day of Pentecost.

(4)The gift of tongues also ​​helps us to pray according to the will of God. We read in 1 Corinthians 14:15 “What is the matter then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding.” We read in Romans 8:26, “And likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us with groaning that cannot be uttered.”

One of the controversies around this gift is that some say, it is not for everyone. They quote a verse in 1 Corinthians 12:30 where it says: “Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” The answer is obviously NO, but this is referring to the public use of tongues in the context of a church meeting. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:5, “I would that you all spoke with tongues…” He then goes on to say in verse 18, that he speaks in tongues more than all. This is referring to our private use of this gift, which is available to all of us! Furthermore, we read in 1 Corinthians 14:39, “… do not forbid the speaking in tongues.”  There is much more we can say about the gift of tongues. I have gone into more detail in the study called, “The importance of speaking in tongues.”

9. Interpretation of tongues.

This gift is the Holy Spirits revelation of the message behind an utterance given in tongues.  Tongues and interpretation together operate as the gift of prophecy. We must note that it is an interpretation and not a translation. A translation is done word for word, but an interpretation takes an idea and puts it into its own words. That is why there is often a difference in the amount of words given in tongues and the amount of words given in the interpretation.

In the context of a meeting, someone will give an utterance in tongues, and then it will be interpreted into a known language by someone else or by the same person. We read about this in 1 Corinthians 14:27 If any men speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.”  However, if we give a message in tongues and no one interprets, we are then responsible to interpret our own tongue. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:13, “Therefore, let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”


1 Corinthians 12:7. “… the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” The use of the gifts of the Spirit bring great benefit to the local church and will enhance our own spiritual lives. In Proverbs 18:16, we read, A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”  Wonderful opportunities will open for us when we become serious about using the gifts of the Spirit. Therefore, as we have read before in 1 Corinthians 12:1. “Now concerning Spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” Amen