An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Gifts of the Spirit

Five NT texts form the basis for understanding the gifts of the Spirit, known as the charismata in Greek. These texts include 1 Cor 12:1-14:40, Rom 12:8, Eph 4:11-12, Rom 1:11, and 1 Cor 2:14. The lists of gifts in the NT passages are neither exhaustive nor entirely consistent. Apostles, prophets, and teachers are mentioned in 1 Cor 12:28-30. Those who exhort, give, preside, and show mercy are mentioned in Rom 12:6-8. Evangelists and pastors are mentioned in Eph 4:11. These gifts may be understood as charismatic ministries rather than offices. Some gifts, on the other hand, refer to functions or activities. Knowledge, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues are mentioned in 1 Cor 12:7-10. Some contemporary charismatics consider tongues to be the essential gift of the Spirit, despite Paul's statement in 1 Cor 14:18-19 that he would rather speak five words with his mind in church to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. Paul declares that he intends to share his gifts with the Christian church in Rome (Rom 1:11), indicating that gifts can be shared with others. In 1 Cor 12:7, each believer is said to have a gift, which suggests that there are many gifts. These points are prominent in contemporary discussion of the gifts of the Spirit.

At baptism, at the sanctifying of the water, the celebrant prays that by the power of the Holy Spirit "those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior" (BCP, p. 307). In a general sense, the life of faith-including forgiveness and renewal-can be understood as a gift of the Spirit. After the action of baptizing with water, the celebrant prays for specific gifts for the newly baptized from the Lord in the Spirit, including an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works (BCP, p. 308). The "sevenfold gifts" imparted to all by the Holy Spirit are mentioned by the hymns Veni Creator Spiritus (Hymns 503-504) and Veni Sancte Spiritus (Hymns 226-227), one of which is sung prior to the prayer of consecration at ordinations of bishops, priests, and deacons. See Charismata, or Charismatic Gifts; see Charismatic; see Charisms.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.