The Fruits and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? What’s the difference, and how can we best make use of these blessings from God?

God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Many of those gifts involve God’s Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the power of God. It is the “Promise of the Father” that the resurrected Jesus Christ told His disciples they would soon be baptized with (Acts 1:4-5).

The baptism of the Spirit doesn’t just wash us outwardly, it changes us on the inside. This is “the” Promise of the Father because it brings so many other promises and gifts to us!

The Holy Spirit is the parakletos. Jesus explained about this incredible gift the night before He died (John 14:16-18).

In different translations it’s translated Helper, Comforter, Counselor. The Greek word parakletos literally means called to one’s side. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, in a court of law it meant a legal assistant, counsel, advocate, intercessor. The power of God’s Holy Spirit does all of these things for us.

The Holy Spirit is an essential part of the conversion process. Peter made it the capstone of his sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The Holy Spirit is a wonderful gift. It makes possible many other blessings, including the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit helps us grow in the fruit of the Spirit—some of the wonderful characteristics of God listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

The Holy Spirit helps us grow in the fruit of the Spirit—some of the wonderful characteristics of God listed in Galatians 5:22-23.Here are the nine characteristics of this amazing fruit, including the Greek words and a brief definition of these characteristics we must grow in.

Love (agape): Brotherly love, affection, good will, a love that is based upon a sincere recognition of the value of the one loved.

Joy (chará): “‘Joy’ . . . is the virtue in the Christian life corresponding to happiness in the secular world. On the surface they seem related. But happiness depends on circumstances, whereas joy does not” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

Peace (eiréne): Harmony, concord, security, safety, prosperity, felicity, the joining together of two things that had previously been ripped apart.

Longsuffering (makrothumía): Patience, endurance, slowness in avenging wrongs, forbearance.

Kindness (chrestótes): Moral goodness, integrity.

Goodness (agathosúne): Uprightness of heart and life; a goodness which benefits others.

Faithfulness (pístis): Conviction of the truth of anything, the character of one who can be relied upon; fidelity trustworthiness.

Gentleness (praótes): Mildness, meekness.

Self-control (engkráteia): The virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.

For deeper study, see our articles “Works of the Flesh vs. Fruit of the Spirit Word Study” (which was the source of these definitions), “The Fruit of the Spirit” and the related articles about each of the nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit also imparts to members spiritual gifts for the benefit of the whole Church.

The primary passage describing spiritual gifts is 1 Corinthians 12. Here Paul used the Greek words pneumatikos (“spiritual things”) and charisma (“that which is graciously given”) synonymously for spiritual gifts (NKJV Study Bible, Word Focus, “spiritual gifts; gifts”).

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for 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. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as [it] wills” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible note on this passage explains:

“Paul’s idea in this section is to stress the essential unity of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ and the characteristic of a healthy body is that every part in it performs its own function for the good of the whole; but unity does not mean uniformity, and therefore within the Church there are differing gifts and differing functions. But every one of them is a gift of the same Spirit and designed, not for the glory of the individual member of the Church, but for the good of the whole.”

<p>God has given specialized abilities and functions to the hands and feet, to the eyes and ears. The body needs all of those things, and the spiritual body (the Church) needs all of its members to use the abilities and opportunities they are given to serve and help the body grow. </p>

God has given specialized abilities and functions to the hands and feet, to the eyes and ears. The body needs all of those things, and the spiritual body (the Church) needs all of its members to use the abilities and opportunities they are given to serve and help the body grow. 

Paul continued the analogy of the Church as a body throughout the rest of 1 Corinthians 12. God has given specialized abilities and functions to the hands and feet, to the eyes and ears. The body needs all of those things, and the spiritual body needs all of its members to use the abilities and opportunities they are given to serve and help the body grow.

Paul noted that having the right motivation for spiritual gifts is not always easy. He went on to encourage the Corinthians not to misuse the gifts. “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Spiritual gifts in Romans 12

Paul also gave another list of gifts given to help build up the Church in Romans 12:4-8:

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

“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.”

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit and what is their purpose?

The purpose of all the spiritual gifts is to edify or build up the Church.

Here is a list of some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, with a brief summary of their purpose.

From 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28:

The word of wisdom (sophia): Special ability to express God’s wisdom, the “wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17), such as displayed by Stephen. When some tried to dispute with Stephen, “they were not able to resist the wisdom and Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10).

The word of knowledge (gnosis): Not the material knowledge of the Greeks or the human-devised secret knowledge of the gnostics, but the ability to powerfully share the “knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Faith (pistis): Since all must grow in faith, this spiritual gift must be referring to a special level of faith and faithfulness.

Gifts of healings (iama): Miraculous power to heal diseases as displayed publicly in the early years of the New Testament Church and occasionally throughout history. Paul made clear that this gift (and other gifts) would not be given to everyone (1 Corinthians 12:30). Such gifts were given for special purposes at certain times to build the Church.

The working of miracles (dynamis): Acts of power, “specifically, the power of performing miracles” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). When Philip performed miracles in Samaria, he gained a hearing for God’s message (Acts 8:6-7).

Prophecy (propheteia): “The telling of a revelation from God, either new revelation or divine explanation of what was revealed in the past” (NKJV Study Bible note on 1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

Discerning (diakrisis) of spirits (pneuma): Spiritual insight, such as Peter showed in recognizing that Simon the sorcerer was “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23).

Different kinds of tongues (glossa): “The ability to speak a foreign language without ever having learned it” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). This miraculous gift was used in Acts 2 and several times in the early years of the Church to help build the Church, but Paul strongly warned the Corinthians not to misuse it in chapter 14. In addition, natural language ability has always been important for building a worldwide Church.

The interpretation (hermeneia) of tongues (glossa): Paul focuses on the importance of making it possible for messages to be understood by the whole congregation, for the building up of the Church (1 Corinthians 14:13, 16, 28).

Helps (antilempsis): “Denotes the aid given to the weak by the strong . . . and refers to special gifts to care for the sick and needy” (New Bible Dictionary, “spiritual gifts”).

Administrations (kybernesis): Literally “acts of guidance, giving directions” (ibid.).

From Romans 12:6-8:

Prophecy: See above under 1 Corinthians 12.

Ministry (diakonia): Service, especially service to the brethren. For example, the service of deacons (Acts 6:2-6).

Teaching (didasko): “To be a teacher” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). The Church needs teachers on various levels, including for classes for children.

Exhorting (parakaleo): “To admonish, exhort” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). The word can also have a range of meanings, including encouraging and comforting.

Giving (metadidomi): For those with the gift of sharing and giving, Paul encourages liberality from a generous motivation.

Leading (proistemi): “To be a protector or guardian; to give aid” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Paul calls on those with this gift to do it with diligence.

Showing mercy (eleeo): “Ministering to the sick and needy. This is to be done in a cheerful, spontaneous manner that convey[s] blessing rather than engender[s] self-pity” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged, note on Romans 12:6-8).

“For the equipping of the saints”

Paul does not say that the spiritual gifts he listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 were the only spiritual gifts. Nor does he say that these specific gifts will always be needed or present in the Church. Some of these spiritual gifts were especially needed at the beginning of the Church, and some may be given again in the end times (for example, see Acts 2:16-18).

Paul’s point was that God knows the needs of His Church and provides for those needs.

He also addressed God’s gifts in Ephesians 4, this time from the point of view of the leadership God would provide as needed:

“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” (Ephesians 4:11-12; read 13-16 for a fuller picture of God’s wonderful purpose for the Church in perfecting each member).

Difference between fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit

The fruit of the Holy Spirit should be growing in each Christian’s life.

The important thing for each Christian is to be good soil in which the fruit of the Spirit can grow, and to humbly seek to serve where his or her abilities match the needs and opportunities.Paul called the more specialized, individualized abilities spiritual gifts. These are given in special ways and in extra measure to fulfill specific needs for the Church.

As we have seen, there can be overlap. The important thing for each Christian is to be good soil in which the fruit of the Spirit can grow, and to humbly seek to serve where his or her abilities match the needs and opportunities.

Recognizing your gifts

All Christians should study and strive to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. And God wants us to serve others and the Church in any way we can. Many needs and service opportunities don’t require specialized talents or gifts—just love, humility and diligence. We don’t have to discover some spiritual gift in order to serve our brethren.

But as we read through the lists and consider other ways we might serve, it’s normal to try to discern the gifts God has given us. See our article on “What Is God’s Will for Me?” for more on this. Here is a quote from that article about gifts God gives us so we can serve:

“How can we know which gifts we have been given? After asking God for help to see them, we can ask ourselves: What have I done well and enjoyed doing? What needs have I filled? What needs do I have the skills and abilities to fulfill? How do others describe me? (It can be helpful to ask family members and friends how they see you serving and what they suggest you volunteer to do.)

“After writing down talents, skills and interests you could use to serve, take time to study those gifts in the Bible. How does God want them to be used? How does God not want them to be used? How can they be used most effectively? And, can we stay humble in God’s eyes and avoid the pride and vanity that Satan loves to pump into human minds?”

Read the full article for more on this. And study the “Related Articles” below.

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

Read More

Continue Reading


Discern is published every two months and is available in digital and print versions. Choose your preferred format to start your subscription.

Print subscriptions available in U.S., Canada and Europe


Please choose your region:


Discern Article Series

Christ Versus Christianity
Walk as He Walked
Christianity in Progress
Wonders of God's Creation
Ask a Question