Understanding the Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12:6-8

Paul writes about the spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, which says…

  •  “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” 

The spiritual gifts Paul lists in Romans 12 are…

  • Prophesying 
  • Ministering (or serving)
  • Teaching
  • Exhorting
  • Giving
  • Leading
  • Showing mercy

Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. The passage about spiritual gifts follows how to live for God. Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren…” (Romans 12:1)

“I beseech you..” Paul reminds us we have a choice about the way we live and the way we exercise the gifts God has given us. He begs us to live in a way that glorifies God, knowing what God did for us. 

God’s Word…

  • Prophesies to us, telling us the heart and mind of God.
  • Ministers to us, reminding us who we are, who He is, His promises, and faithfulness. 
  • Teaches us, correcting and training us in righteousness, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  • Exhorts us, encouraging us to turn away from destruction and pursue Jesus.
  • Gives us wisdom and understanding, reminding us that God gave us the gift of eternal life through Jesus.
  • Leads us, lighting our paths, so we know which way to go (Psalm 119:105).
  • Shows us mercy, revealing throughout history how gracious and merciful God truly is. 

God Gives Us Spiritual Gifts. We Don’t Earn Them. 

The difference and distribution of God’s spiritual gifts are tied to His grace, not our goodness or worthiness.  

  • “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…”–Romans 12:6

He further explains how to work out each gift in a way that serves the Body of Christ and glorifies God. 

So then, in Romans 12, Paul tells us how to live a Christian life. We have a choice to…

  • Present our bodies as a living sacrifice or think of our bodies as our own (vs. 1). 
  • Be transformed by the renewing of our mind or conform to the world (vs. 2).
  • Serve God and others with the spiritual gifts we’ve been given or serve ourselves (vs. 3-8) 

Do you want to know more about the spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8 so you can better serve God and others? Let's look at each of these gifts and how they work. 

Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Prophesying

The Greek word for prophecy means to “speak forth.” To prophesy simply means to speak out God’s Word, His heart, purposes, and truth with the intent of encouraging and influencing others to come into alignment with Him. 

God’s heart, purposes, truth, and will are all reflected in His Word. So speak His Word! The more time you spend time reading God’s Word, the more it will read you, and you’ll be able to “read” situations and people with the mind of Christ, offering opportunities to speak life into another. Memorize scripture and use it to encourage and direct others. 

Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Ministering

The gift of ministering is also called serving or helping. The Greek word for ministering is diakonian, where we get the word deacon. 

It is about serving others in practical ways and helping those in need. Essentially, when you have this gift, it comes naturally to you to want to meet people's needs, and it's easy for you to play supporting roles in the church. 

This gift is best described in Acts 6. When the number of disciples was multiplying, the Hellenists complained that Hebrew widows were getting more provisions than the Hellenist's widows. 

The apostles solved the problem by making this statement: “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.’”Acts 6:2-3.


Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Teaching

Teaching is the spiritual gift to clearly analyze, explain, and proclaim the Word of God to others, leading them to discover and understand scriptural truths. 

The New Testament is filled with instances where leaders in the early church used this gift to guide and strengthen the early believers, thus guiding them into teaching roles. Take the Apollos, Aquila, and Priscilla described in Acts 18, for example: 

“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.

“When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”–Acts 18:24-28 (emphasis added)

Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Exhorting

The gift of exhortation builds people up by encouraging them to practice what they have been taught. The danger of learning and not practicing the Word is deceiving ourselves and becoming puffed up with the knowledge that doesn't help or build up the Body of Christ. 

James described this problem the best. He said, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”–James 1:22-25

Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Giving

Giving is a Spirit-given capacity to serve God by cheerfully giving your material resources above tithes and offerings to further God's kingdom. It is joyfully and cheerfully sharing what you have with others. Givers often meet most of the financial needs of fellow Christians and churches even when their resources are meager. They give generously, as Paul advises givers to do. 

The Bible sets profound examples of this kind of giving. For example:

“Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”Acts 4:34-35

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’” –Luke 21:1-4 

Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Leading

You may hear this gift sometimes referred to as the gift of administration. People with this gift provide leadership, showing people the right direction for everyone's benefit. Paul encourages teachers to teach with diligence.

Paul is also a prime example of how this gift works. He prompted other leaders to action and, through his letters, stirred many to follow the right direction. 

We can also find nuggets about this gift from the book of 1 Peter 5: “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…” -1 Peter 5:2-3 

Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12: Showing Mercy

The gift of mercy enables people to go beyond the compassion the average person shows to someone in distress, express deep compassion and benevolence, and is sometimes prompted to do something about the situation. 

Another way the gift of mercy operates is through a person enabled by the Spirit of God to show the mercy God has shown to us. However, they don't excuse bad behavior but remind people that God forgives them.

Why Knowing Your Spiritual Gifts Is Important

When you identify gifts of the Spirit specifically accorded to you, it helps you in several ways. 

First, it reveals God's plan and purpose for your life. 

Secondly, you find out where you fit, which reduces the chances of burnout. 

Thirdly, it helps build a sense of community in the church.

It's important to remember that your spiritual gifts are only strengthened when you use them. The more you use your gift, the more it grows. 

Want to know where your spiritual gifts can be used or where you fit in within the Body of Christ? Sign up for our Next Steps Class here! You’ll be given a spiritual inventory quiz and learn more about how your gifts can be used to encourage others. Not quite ready to take the class? That’s okay. Learn more about spiritual gifts and biblical leadership principles by getting this free resource!