What Adventists Believe About Spiritual Gifts in the Bible
Seventh-day Adventists believe that spiritual gifts are talents that the Holy Spirit gives to believers and followers of Jesus Christ. These gifts are different but complementary, and they often equip followers of Christ with the ability to spread the good news about Jesus and encourage its members.
These gifts come up throughout the New Testament, but the Bible also assures us that they’re relevant to us today.
Here are four things you’ll learn about these gifts in this post:
First, here is the Adventist Church’s official statement found in our fundamental beliefs:
“God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts that each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity. Given by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfill its divinely ordained functions.
According to the Scriptures, these gifts include such ministries as faith, healing, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, and self-sacrificing service and charity for the help and encouragement of people.
Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God.
When members employ these spiritual gifts as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace, the church is protected from the destructive influence of false doctrine, grows with a growth that is from God, and is built up in faith and love.”
- Interpretation of tongues
We’ll learn about some key ones and give examples of them in the Bible:
- The interpretation of tongues
Apostleship refers to the key leadership and guidance provided by the apostles in the early Christian church.
The word apostle is apostolos in Greek, which means “a person sent.” The word generally referred to the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus (Luke 6:13; Mark 6:30) as well as others who were eyewitnesses of Jesus, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna (Luke 8:1-3), and Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21–26). Paul also referred to himself as an apostle (Galatians 1:1).
Prophecy is a spiritual gift of receiving a message from God and relaying that message on His behalf. A person who gives a prophecy is called a prophet.
We often think of prophets as foretelling the future, but they also gave guidance and support to God’s people (Deuteronomy 1; 1 Samuel 15:10).
In the New Testament, we encounter John the Baptist who called people to repentance and pointed them to Jesus (Matthew 11:11). The apostolic church had prophets like Agabus and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 11:28; 21:9).
In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul tells the Corinthians to desire spiritual gifts but especially the prophetic gift. He considered it a valuable gift, necessary for the healthy nurture of the church.
Teaching is the gift of explaining the principles of God’s Word to others.
A good example is Priscilla and Aquila, two Christians who worked together with the apostle Paul. They met a young man, Apollos, who needed a more complete understanding of the Scriptures, so they took time to teach and mentor him (Acts 18:26).
Those with the gift of miracles are able to do supernatural things through the power of God, just like Jesus did.
In Acts 9, Peter resurrected a woman named Tabitha in Joppa (Acts 9:36–42).
Though miracles aren’t God’s primary method of communication with us, they do still occur. Small miracles happen that we don’t even notice, like the way that God answers our prayers.
In the Bible, people who had the gift of healing would pray for those with physical illnesses, and they would get well. This scenario occurred when John and Peter healed a beggar at the temple gate (Acts 3:2–3).
Today, we may not see miraculous healings like this as often, but God has given many individuals the knowledge and ability to care for those who are sick and help restore them to health.
The Adventist Church advocates for healthy living and holistic healthcare through its hospitals, clinics, and lifestyle centers. In these places, many dedicated medical professionals and lifestyle counselors live out the healing ministry of Jesus.
The spiritual gift of helps is the gift of hospitality and caring for the poor and those in need.
In the New Testament, a woman named Tabitha had this gift; she was known for making clothing for widows (Acts 9:39).
And still today, God has given many amazing people the gift of opening their homes and hearts to people and providing for those who have need of food and other supplies.
The gift of administration involves the ability to lead and make wise decisions in management.
We find many examples of this gift in the Bible. Peter revealed it by acting as the spokesperson for the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:14–41).
And James led the Jerusalem council, guiding the church in coming to a resolution on a theological disagreement (Acts 15:13–21).
The gift of tongues is the ability to speak and understand a language that an individual may not have previously known.
This gift was extravagantly showcased on the day of Pentecost when the disciples were heard speaking other languages, different from their own:
“And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another: ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God’” (Acts 2:6–11, NKJV).
Notice all those languages that were spoken?
Though the disciples were mostly Jews who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, they were able to speak these new languages.
The purpose was so that the visitors could hear them declare “the wonderful works of God.”
So tongues are languages that can be understood by others.
And sometimes, to be understood, an interpreter is necessary, which leads us to the next gift.
The interpretation of tongues
The apostle Paul instructed that whenever someone speaks in tongues in church, it should be one at a time (and not everybody all at once), and there must be an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27).
While some people have the gift of speaking different languages, others have the incredible ability of understanding multiple languages and being able to help others communicate with one another.
Evangelism is the act of presenting the good news of salvation, especially in different places. The New Testament mentions a man who was called “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8, NKJV). Individuals with the gift of evangelism may travel from place to place rather than staying at one church or location.
The gift of pastoring is the ability to spiritually lead and nurture a group of believers—typically a church. Pastors often take up the work after evangelists have started a new church.
Paul refers to them as elders or shepherds:
“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1–5, NKJV).
God has given many gifts to the people in His church. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to find their place and collaborate in serving one another and making a difference in the world.
Now, let’s talk about the purpose of spiritual gifts.
What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts?
The Bible gives us two key purposes for the spiritual gifts: building up people within the church and equipping the church members to minister to others and spread the gospel as Jesus instructed (Mark 16:15).
We find both of these points in Ephesians 4:14–15:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” ( NKJV).
The spiritual gifts benefit people both within and without the church.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He instructed His disciples to wait “for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4, NKJV).
That promise was the promise of the Holy Spirit as Jesus clarified a few verses after:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).
In these words, Jesus connected the receiving of the Holy Spirit with having the power to witness. The spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit would help God’s people to fulfill the daunting task before them. The task of evangelizing the world.
And the Holy Spirit’s power and gifts are still available to help God’s people fulfill that mission today:
“The Holy Spirit gives a special ability to a member, enabling him to help the church fulfill its divine mission.”1
So, how does that look in a church?
How do spiritual gifts work in the church?
Different individuals in the church receive different spiritual gifts that are complementary to each other. But when those individuals work together, their gifts build on each other to carry out God’s work.
We have special insight into the operation of these gifts because of a specific problem the apostle Paul faced with the church at Corinth.
Though the members of the church had received spiritual gifts, they were not getting along with each other on a personal level (1 Corinthians 1:4, 7).
Paul stressed that though there were “diversities of gifts,” which lead to “differences of ministries” and “diversities of activities,” it was the “same God who works in us all” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6, NKJV).
The ultimate goal?
A unified group working together in harmony for the glory of God.
He asked them:
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29, NKJV).
Then he went on to use his famous metaphor of the different parts of the human body, each with a different function but all necessary for the proper function of the body.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would be hearing? Or if the whole body were like an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Corinthians 12:17, NKJV).
He emphasized the importance of unity among people with these varying gifts because all of them are needed:
“There should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25, NKJV).
Though the gifts are different, one is not more important than the other because they all come from the same Spirit:
“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 Corinthians 12:8–10, NKJV, emphasis added).
Instead of comparing themselves, Paul encouraged them to use their gifts as intended rather than wasting those opportunities (Romans 12:6–8).
And we too can take this encouragement as a reminder. God invites us to use our gifts to glorify Him and bless others.
What do Adventists teach about the existence of spiritual gifts today?
Adventists firmly believe that spiritual gifts still exist in the church today and that they’re key to helping God’s people fulfill their mission of sharing the good news of Jesus (Ephesians 4:14–16).
First, we find nothing in the Scriptures that indicate these gifts would end after the time of the early church or that they are going to end soon.
If the gifts ended with the death of the apostles, then for all those long centuries of church history, did the body of Christ function without any of the gifts in operation? Do none of those gifts exist in the church today?
That hardly sounds feasible.
In fact, Paul confirms that these gifts are to continue in the church until the second coming of Jesus. He writes:
“So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7–8, NKJV).
Next, if the spiritual gifts had ceased with the end of the Apostolic Age, it would mean that all those New Testament Bible texts dealing with the gifts are of no real value to the church today, which is contrary to what the Bible says about itself:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
Also, when you consider the purpose of the gifts—to give power to those witnessing for the gospel—then wouldn’t those gifts continue to be given as long as this work is not complete?
For this reason, the Adventist Church encourages its members to discover their spiritual gifts. The Adventist Youth Department provides a spiritual gifts assessment that allows individuals to figure out what their gifts are.
What about the gift of prophecy?
Just like the other spiritual gifts are still relevant to the church, Adventists believe that the gift of prophecy also remains and has a special role for God’s people at the end of time. It’s no doubt an important gift because it’s mentioned in nearly every Bible text that talks about spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10; 1 Corinthians 12:28).
So what is the special role of the gift of prophecy in the last days of earth’s history?
The book of Revelation, which depicts God’s final church, tells us that this church will have “the testimony of Jesus,” which is defined as the “spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 12:17; 19:10).
Of course, we must be cautious to test whether a gift is truly from the Holy Spirit. As with all the other gifts, just because someone claims to have the gift doesn’t mean they do.
Notice this warning in the New Testament:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, NKJV).
John gives a caution about testing the spirits in the context of prophecy and prophets. His warning against false prophets, if nothing else, implies the existence of true prophets as well.
Adventists believe that the true prophetic gift is seen through the ministry and writings of Ellen White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Through her God-given messages and biblical counsel, she has provided the Adventist Church with much-needed instruction and support for the times we’re living in.
To explore her writings for free, check out the free library at the Ellen White Estate website.
The foundation of spiritual gifts is love
God never gives His people a calling that He doesn’t empower them to fulfill. We see this with spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives the members of the church the power and special talents and skills they need to live out their mission in the world.
Though each gift is different, when followers of God come together in unity, their gifts complement each other and create a synergy in God’s work. They’re able to meet their common goal of spreading the gospel and blessing others.
And as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3, all these gifts are meaningful and effective. But the greatest of them all is love. With this love, all the other gifts can make the difference they were meant to make.
They become a means of sharing God’s love with those around us and the world at large.