To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV)
In the verses above the Apostle Paul gives a short list of some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will attempt to define these gifts below according to what I think they may possibly mean.
Some Christians are especially gifted with a Message of wisdom. They are good at giving godly advice and applying Christian principles of real life situations. These people are probably characterized by an intense appetite for Bible study, since God gives wisdom to us through His word.
The Message of Knowledge sounds similar to the message of wisdom, but obviously Paul considers them to be separate and distinct from each other. Perhaps this gift involves more factual knowledge than the former. A person who possesses the message of wisdom would be a gifted counselor and adviser, whereas a person with the message of knowledge would be a superb theologian.
Some Christians are especially gifted in the area of Faith. Of course all true Christians have faith, but there are apparently some who have been chosen by God to possess an extra dose of faith above what is available to or common in Christians. Those who have this gift can face great trials without every wavering much in their trust in the Lord. They must take great care not to become proud, or consider themselves to be inherently better than others who have greater doubts. Rather, they must use their gift to help and encourage the weak, that the whole church might be strengthened.
There are also gifts of healing. I suppose this could refer to emotional and spiritual healing in addition to physical healing. There were some in the early church, especially the Apostles, who had the God-given ability to publicly heal people with horrible diseases and deformities. I suspect the gift still exists today, but it is more subtle. It does not appear to be used legitimately in a public setting anymore, since the original purpose of this gift was to establish the veracity of the Scriptures, and specifically to prove that Jesus Christ is God’s personal messenger to Earth. This end has already been accomplished, and if we were to have public healing today, they would most likely detract from this purpose, not add to it. Nevertheless, there are probably some today who have a special ability to heal others through prayer. I suspect that this gift is given quietly to the kind of people who will not make a big show out of it.
God is a God of Miraculous powers, and sometimes he gives these powers to his servants to perform. These powers were used in the New Testament times to establish the legitimacy of the gospel. The need for this power is mostly obsolete, since God has already proven to the world that Jesus is the Son of God, and He does not often do encore performances for skeptics. However, I suppose it is possible that God gives this ability to missionaries laboring among previously unreached tribes in remote areas.
Thee is also a gift of Prophecy. In the New Testament times there were some prophets, like the Apostle John, who received very important visions about the end of days. There were also other prophets such as Philip who received prophecies about less historically significant, more immediate events (Acts 21:11). The gift of prophecy seems to be muted, once again, because Scriptural revelation is complete. If God were to give a modern day prophet vital, unique, information about the apocalypse, it would undermine the self-sufficiency of the Bible. But that does not mean that this gift is completely dead. Perhaps those who have the gift today are those who are talented at interpreting the true meaning of the prophecies already written down in Scripture.
Some Christians have the gift of Distinguishing between Spirits. They can spot fake Christians, or fake spirituality very quickly. This is a very important gift because, when properly used, it can help prevent the local church from being lead astray by false teachers. However, one must take care great care when exercising this gift so as not to over-reach and falsely accuse a faithful brother of being an enemy.
During the days of the Apostles there were some who had the gift of Speaking in different kinds of tongues. They could literally talk in languages that they did not previously know. This miracle is known to have occurred at Pentecost. This gift might be extinct today, or it might not. God still has the power to give this gift to missionaries if He sees fit. However, in most cases, I suspect that God desires the missionaries to learn foreign languages through hard work and effort. In some rare cases He might give them the ability to speak a new language that they haven’t learned yet. Related to this gift is another gift called The interpretation of tongues. It is similar but technically different. I do not know if this one still exists today or not any more than I do the other. This gift allows someone to understand a language that they did not previously know. The fact that these two gifts are mentioned separately implies that they are not always given together. There are some who might have the miraculous ability to speak in a language they never heard before, while others may have the ability to understand a language they had never heard before.