AskDefine | Define charismata

Extensive Definition

According to Christianity the spiritual gifts (or charismata) are gifts that are bestowed on Christians, each having his or her own proper gift (or gifts) to strengthen the church. They are described in the New Testament, primarily in First Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4.
Some believe their operation was limited to early Christianity. According to some Protestant denominations, certain of the spiritual gifts, for example speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, were enjoyed only for a short time and were suited to the Church's infancy, not to later times. This view is known as cessationism. This opinion is held by John F. MacArthur, Jr., Robert L. Thomas and many other conservative main line Christian denominations. In contrast, some Christian scholars such as Zola Levitt maintain that the number of gifts cannot be determined, because, as Levitt puts it, "A spiritual gift is anything that a person can do supernaturally well."
Other groups, including Pentecostal, Apostolic, and other Holiness denominations of Christianity, take an opposing view, believing that the spiritual gifts are still given by the Holy Spirit today, and Pentecostal meetings often involve ordinary parishioners displaying the use of these gifts (1 Cor 14). In addition, sections of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many other Protestant denominations also continue to believe in and make use of spiritual gifts.
Emphasis on teaching about the nine gifts of the Spirit originated from Howard Carter, an early Pentecostal evangelist. This is based on the text from 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 giving the gifts and listing them as the "gifts of the Spirit". They were later taught and popularized by Lester Sumrall, who accompanied Carter on many missionary journeys in his youth. Modern Bible teachers and scholars have came to the conclusion that there are other gifts of the Spirit listed in Scripture, as seen in the chart below.

Biblical lists of the gifts

List of Spiritual Gifts

There are various opinions as to the number of spiritual gifts. There are also different ways of categorizing the gifts proposed.
Many items appearing as spiritual gifts are also required by the Bible of all Christians, such as faith, prayer, evangelism and so on. One explanation is that the spiritual gift of faith means faith despite the circumstances, or a particularly strong faith in God. The spiritual gift of prayer could mean a supernatural confidence in prayer, or a special ability to pray. All believers are encouraged to share Jesus with other people, but the gift of evangelism could mean a particular gift to reach others.
Note: Links are sometimes to a general context, not a specific context as a spiritual gift per se. For example, "faith" links not to the spiritual gift of faith per se, but to faith in a more general context.

Charismatic Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)

Also known as the "manifestation gifts" or "miraculous gifts". Some limit the term "spiritual gifts" to just the charismatic gifts. Cessationism claims that these gifts ceased to operate (through individuals) early in Christian history. Its counterpart continuationism claims that they still operate today. They are believed by some to be transmitted through the laying on of hands.
"Speaking in tongues" and "interpretation of tongues" are sometimes viewed as one gift, "tongues". The TNIV footnote has "languages" as a possible translation for "tongues", since this is clearly (based on Acts 2) what the word refers to. Also, the nine gifts in 1 Cor 12 are sometimes divided into three categories, "gifts of knowledge" (wisdom, knowledge, discernment), "gifts of speech" (tongues, interpretation, prophecy), and "gifts of power" (faith, healing, miracles).

Other commonly listed gifts

  • apostles, 1 Cor 12:28, Eph 4:11. Some believe that the gift of apostleship was for the first apostles (Christian leaders/disciples) only.
  • teachers / teaching, 1 Cor 12:28, Rom 12:7, Eph 4:11
  • helps / helping, 1 Cor 12:28
  • administrations / guidance, 1 Cor 12:28
  • ministry / serving, Rom 12:7
  • encouragement / exhortation, Rom 12:8
  • giving, Rom 12:8
  • leading, Rom 12:8
  • showing mercy, Rom 12:8
  • evangelists, Eph 4:11
  • pastors, Eph 4:11
  • teachers Eph 4:11. Some take "pastors and teachers" to be combined.

Other Gifts

There is less consensus about other gifts not specifically mentioned in the usual lists of gifts, but that nonetheless seem to be hinted at in scripture. Some are found in the New Testament such as:
Others are found in the Old Testament such as:
  • craftsmanship
  • worship (gift of music)
  • interpretation of dreams
Some of these lesser known gifts are explored in the book Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose & Power by Bryan Carraway.
Gifts of the spirit are clearly distinguished from the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Jesus predicted the occurrence of false gifts, particularly in the end time (Matthew 24:24, 7:22,23). Hence while spiritual gifts are very important for a Christian, the fruit of the spirit is a better test of the genuineness of a person.
Gifts of the Spirit Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12,13 & 14, Ephesians 4
Apostle: One sent by God with a holy mission to fulfill; and the supernatural power and spiritual gifts to fulfill the mission. Known by the fruit of the spirit overflowing. Apostolic ministry involves laying foundation. In the case of Paul and Barnabas, we see this expressed in 'church planting' by preaching the Gospel in new areas. Apostles in scripture worked in teams. An apostolic team shared a 'measure of rule' in churches started through their ministry in regions where they are the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. (II Corinthians 10.)
Prophet: One who speaks, or communicates a message, authoratively, as moved by the Holy Ghost. Known by their good fruit.
Evangelist: Someone who desires that all should come to know the truth that God loves everyone so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for their redemption, or someone who is gifted to proclaim this message.
Pastor: A word that means 'shepherd.' Pastors are gifted to lead, guide, and set an example for other Christians.
Teacher: Someone able to understand the more difficult things of God and explain them in a way that is easy to understand and live by in daily life.
Service: Supernatural ability to do for others whatever needs to be done. Divine ability to carry another burden or task without notice or earthly reward.
Exhortation: the ability to motivate Christians to do the works of Christ.
Giving: being blessed by God with resources or time and being able to give them where and when they are needed with a cheerful heart.
Leadership: God-given insight into when something needs to be done, who can do it, how it can be completed, and how to lead those people to get it accomplished.
Mercy: A heart to care for and encourage those who are not able to care for themselves and whom no one else would care for. Knowing who to help and when to help.
Word of wisdom: A message, concept, or bit of wisdom that God reveals supernaturally to the recipient. It may or may not be shared with others. Word of knowledge: A message, concept, or bit of knowledge that God reveals supernaturally to the recipient. It may or may not be shared with others. Tongues: First use is a supernatural ability to speak another language not known by the believer speaking it. Second use is a supernatural ability to speak another language not known by the believer speaking it; to build up the body of Christ when the message is interpreted. It is the language of the Holy Spirit. Interpretation of tongues: Supernatural ability to make tongues a clear message to all that are present to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ.
Prophecy: Supernatural ability to receive a message from God to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ or a believer. To speak as moved by the Holy Spirit. Not all prophecies contain predictions about the future.
Working of miracles: The ability to perform supernatural acts by the Spirit of God.
Gifts of healing: Supernatural ability to bring or release healing to a person in their body or soul.
Ability to distinguish between spirits: Supernatural ability to know what is from God and what is not from God. Divine ability to reveal a demonic spirit or influence and bring God's power (Jesus' blood) and God's love (Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection) in its place.
Faith: Knowing what you hope for, having a conviction about things you cannot see, trusting God, believing God’s Word, and obeying God. (See Hebrews 11)

Spiritual Gifts Testing

A recent practice in some Protestant churches has been the development of "tests" to determine what gifts a person is likely to possess. Typically, a spiritual gifts test consist of 90-130 statements to which the participant replies by indicating on a score sheet to what degree the statement is true (Usually something equivalent to "Always", "Frequently", "Occasionally", "Rarely", and "Never"). Depending on the designer of the test, scores are usually scaled from 0 (for "Never") to 4 (for "Always"). The statements are grouped around the specific gifts that they describe, scores are added, and the participant's gifts are ranked according to their score, usually choosing the three highest scores. The best known example of this test is the Wagner-Modified Houts Questionnaire.

See also


  • Jon Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles Deo Press, 1993, rev. 2007. (Often identified as the definitive study, it examines the historical, philosophical and exegetical issues, focusing on Warfield.). Gary Greig and Kevin Springer (eds.)
  • The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used By Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today? Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 1993 (thorough and practical).
  • Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993
  • Surprised by the Voice of God Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
charismata in German: Gaben des Heiligen Geistes
charismata in Modern Greek (1453-): Χαρίσματα του Αγίου Πνεύματος
charismata in Indonesian: Karunia-karunia Roh Kudus
charismata in Latin: Dona Spiritus Sancti
charismata in Portuguese: Dons do Espírito Santo
charismata in Simple English: Spiritual gift
charismata in Finnish: Armolahja
charismata in Swedish: Andegåva
charismata in Ukrainian: Дари Святого Духа
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