Spiritual Gifts – definition

In this study a definition for the concept of ‘Spiritual Gifts’ is formulated.

What precedes this.

According to the OLB, ‘Spiritual Gifts’ is the translation of the Greek word ‘charisma’, which is derived from:

  • charizomai, which is derived from
  • charis, which, in turn, is derived from
  • chairo.

In order to understand the concept of ‘charisma/spiritual gift’ correctly it is necessary to study the previous concepts and to read the relevant studies first of all.

‘Chairo’ and ‘charis/grace/kindness’ are explained in the study ‘Grace – definition’.
‘Charizomai’ is explained in the study ‘Spiritual gifts – introduction’.

Summary of the concepts from which ‘charisma/spiritual gifts’ is derived:

‘Chairo’:  directs attention to the inner disposition of someone who ‘is glad’, ‘rejoices’.
‘Charis’:  directs attention to the kindly demeanour of someone who ‘is glad, ‘rejoices’
‘Charizomai’:  indicates that someone, out of his friendly disposition, directs himself to one or more persons.

Word study of ‘charisma’.

According to the OLB ‘charisma’ is a noun, derived from ‘charizomai’.
It is translated as:

  • a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own
  • the gift of divine grace
  • the gift of faith, knowledge, holiness, virtue
  • the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith
  • grace or gifts denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit

With the exception of the first translation in the above list, ‘a favour with which one receives’ is always supplemented by an explanation, in the other translations, of the concept of ‘charisma’ from a Christian background.
‘Charisma/Spiritual gifts’ is a general concept, however, and is limited to spiritual life as a result.

The Greek/Dutch dictionary only translates it as:

  • grace(gift)

Definition of ‘charisma’.

From the study of the words from which ‘charisma’ is derived, and the use in the Bible texts as discussed below, ‘charisma’ seems to indicate that someone receives something.

‘Charisma’ indicates that someone receives something as a result of someone else’s kindness being shown to him, out of a kind character.

Translation of ‘charisma’.

In view of the above-mentioned definition, ‘present out of kindness’ is a satisfactory translation that conveys the meaning of the concept of ‘charisma/spiritual gift’ well.

‘Charisma’ is found in 17 Bible texts, although it is only translated as ‘spiritual gift’ in 1 text in the NIV translation of the Bible.

Discussion of all the texts in which ‘charisma’ appears.

Romans 1:11
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift (charisma/present out of kindness) to make you strong

Interpretation: Paul sees the content of his preaching as a spiritual present to the Christians in Rome.

Romans 5:15
But the gift (charisma/present out of kindness) is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace/kindness and the gift (doorea: the present) that came by the grace/kindness of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
This statement of Paul shows clearly that charisma/spiritual gift is a ‘present out of kindness’ and not simply a present. (The Greek has the word: doorea (feminine) or doorema (neuter) for present).
Paul indicates that a ‘spiritual gift’ (charisma/present out of kindness) … has become abundant for very many and that this charisma/spiritual gift, this present out of kindness, originates in the grace, the charis/kindness of God.
Simultaneously, he couples the kindness van God to the gift (Greek: doorea = the present) that He has given in the person of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, this present exists not so much in the person of Jesus Christ Himself, but rather in the grace, the charis/kindness of Jesus and the fact that He was prepared to give His life, so that man is able to receive forgiveness of sins through faith in Him.
This is clearly stated in the following verse.

Romans 5:16-17
Nor can the gift (doorema) of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift (charisma/the present out of kindness) followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace (kindness) and of the gift (doorea: the present) of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Paul writes here that the present (doorema, that was translated as “gift” in the previous verse), exists in the spiritual gift (charisma/present out of kindness) that lead to righteousness,
For: … those who receive the abundance of grace (charis/kindness) and the present (doorea) of righteousness will live through Jesus Christ.
Righteousness is therefore regarded here as a present (doorea) from Jesus, out of kindness (charis/grace), thus as a ‘spiritual gift’ (charisma/present out of kindness).

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift (charisma/present out of kindness) of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Note:  here the ‘gift/charisma/present out of kindness’ is eternal life in Jesus Christ, that God bestows out of His kindness.

Romans 11:29
… for God’s gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness) and his call are irrevocable.
Literally: For the gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness) and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 12:6
We have different gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness), according to the grace given to each of us.
(This text is discussed in detail in a separate study. See below.)

1 Corinthians 1:4-7
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge –  God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift (charisma/present out of kindness) as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

1 Corinthians 7:7
I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift (charisma/present out of kindness) from God; one has this gift (charisma/present out of kindness), another has that.
It says literally: But everyone had his personal charisma/present from God out of His kindness.
Interpretation:  Paul regards the fact that he has never been married as a kind present from God, probably because a marriage with children would have been a hindrance for him in his ministry.

Remark: the following texts 1 Corinthians 12: 4, 9 and 28 are discussed in detail in separate studies.

1 Corinthians 12:4
There are different kinds of gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness), …

1 Corinthians 12:9
… to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness) of healing by that one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:28
And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness) of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:30
Do all have gifts (chrisma/presents out of kindness) of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

1 Corinthians 12:31
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts (charisma/presents out of kindness). And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
Remark:  by ‘the most excellent way’ Paul means here the love (agape) that he describes in chapter 13 of his letter to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 1:11-12
… as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour (charisma/present out of kindness) granted us in answer to the prayers of many. Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace/kindness.

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect your gift (charisma/present out of kindness), which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift (charisma/present out of kindness) of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

1 Peter 4:10
Each of you should use whatever gift (charisma/present out of kindness) you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

A few remarks:

A few remarks in order to avoid misunderstandings:

  • The concept of ‘charisma/spiritual gift/present out of kindness’ is often wrongly only used in relationship to God and the Holy Spirit, but:
  • Charisma/present out of kindness’ is a general concept.

According to Romans 1:11 Paul desires to bring the Roman Christians some spiritual ‘charisma/Gifts of God’s grace/presents out of kindness’.
In Romans 12:6 he indicates that we too (the people) have ‘charisma/presents out of kindness’.

  • The ‘presents out of kindness’ are often referred to as the ‘gifts of the Spirit’ in the Christian world.

The New Testament always speaks of ‘gifts through the Holy Spirit’ in this respect.


4 words are studied in order to understand the concept of ‘presents out of kindness’ correctly.
These 4 concepts are illustrated in two examples below.

Example 1:
In a publicity procession that precedes a festive event in a city, an open lorry rides along with an enormous barrel of sweets.
Next to this barrel stands a man smiling broadly to the crowd along the way.
This friendly, smiling man illustrates the concept of ‘chairo’.

As he goes along he regularly throws sweets out to the public.
This throwing out sweets illustrates the concept of ‘charis/grace/kindness’.

Now, however, he looks very specifically at someone in the public and throws a handful of sweets to that person.
Directly throwing the sweets, specifically to that person illustrates the concept of ‘charizomai’.

The sweets that person receives illustrate the concept of ‘charisma/present out of kindness’.

Note:  Many people received one or more sweets when the man with the barrel threw sweets around. They received them out of his kindness, because they happened to be standing nearby. They received  the sweets out of ‘charis/grace/kindness’.

Only when someone receives something that is specifically directly thrown him/her does he/she receive it as a ‘charisma/present out of kindness’.

In both cases attention is paid primarily to the kindness of the person who is handing out.

Viewed spiritually:  If someone wants to experience the blessing of God in his/her life, he/she must live in a relationship with God and with Jesus. Those who trust in the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus have free access to the throne of God, a throne of ‘grace/kindness’.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace/kindness with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace/kindness to help us in our time of need.   (Hebrews 14:16)

This kindness of God is for everyone who lives near to His throne.
In this respect, God sometimes turns His attention very specifically to someone, who, as a result, receives a ‘charisma/present out of kindness’ very personally from Him.

Example 2:
Someone has a glad, kind character.
This ‘glad, kind character’ represents ‘chairo’.

Because of his character this person is known for his kindness in his neighbourhood.
This ‘kindness’ represents ‘charis/grace’.

One day this persons comes across a street musician.
Out of the kindness of his heart he gives him a coin.
The fact that this person pays attention to the street musician out of the kindness of his heart and goes to him to give him something, represents ‘charizomai’.

The coin the musician receives is a ‘charisma/present out of kindness’.

Suppose that this person gives the coin to a child who is with him to give to the street musician, in that case the child receives this ‘charisma/present out of kindness’ to give to the street musician.
In this way the street musician finally receives a ‘charisma/present out of kindness’ (the coin), out of the kindness of the man’s heart, via the hands of the child.

This study is continued in:


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Spiritual Gifts – definition.