Charism in the New Testament

I’m currently working on a biblical theology of charisms for my dissertation, and so the obvious place to start is with the New Tesament use of the word charisma and its variants.

I think many are surprised to find that the use of the word is actually quite limited.  There are only 17 occurrences in the entire NT, all in Pauline epistles, except for 1 Peter 4:10 (listed below).

The term seems to be used in two senses: a) as a general term meaning “gratuitous gift,” which describes a blessing of God, and, notably in Romans 5 and 6, is used as a term for salvation; b) as a specific term describing the variety of gifts given to members of the Christian community, each bringing a particular vocational / functional obligation.   This is the way we normally think of “charisma” – but note that it does not necessarily refer to “spectacular” or unusual gifts.  These are gifts given to all, and include, for example, teaching, alongside prophecy and healing.

The other thing to note is Paul’s synonymous use of charisma and dorea in Romans 5.   This calls for a survey of the occurrences of dorea in the NT.   In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul also speaks of the pneumatika in a way that is clearly related to his understanding of the variety of charismata.   Both of these terms overlap somewhat with the concept of chrarisma, but they are also used in different contexts.  Another post would be required to cover all those texts, but for those who might be interested, I’ve got summaries of dorea here and pneumatika here.


Romans 1:11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift (χάρισμα ~ πνευματικὸν) to strengthen you—

Romans 5:15 But the free gift (χάρισμα) is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace (χάρισ) of God and the free gift (δωρεὰ)in the grace (χάριτι) of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

Romans 5:16 And the free gift (δώρεμα) is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift (χάρισμα) following many trespasses brings justification.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift (χάρισμα) of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 11:29 for the gifts (χαρίσματα) and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 12:6 We have gifts (χαρίσματα) that differ according to the grace (χάριν) given to us

1 Corinthians 1:7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift (χαρίσματι)  as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift (χάρισμα) from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts (χαρισμάτων), but the same Spirit;

1 Corinthians 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts (χαρίσματα) of healing by the one Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts (χαρίσματα) of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:30 Do all possess gifts (χαρίσματα) of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

1 Corinthians 12:31 But strive for the greater gifts (χαρίσματα). And I will show you a still more excellent way.

2 Corinthians 1:11 as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing (χάρισμα) granted to us through the prayers of many.

1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift (χαρίσματος) that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift (χάρισμα) of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;

1 Peter 4:10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift (χάρισμα) each of you has received.

4 thoughts on “Charism in the New Testament

  1. Pingback: Summary of the Uses of Charism and Related Words in the New Testament « James Pedlar

  2. Pingback: “Gift” in the Old Testament « James Pedlar

  3. Dear JamesPedlar,
    I do really appreaciate you for the effort you have been taken for this work as a best contribution to the very essence of the church. i am a student at Lateran and I am working on my final thesis for the specialization in pastoral theology with a title ” the impact of Ecclesial charisms in the contemporary Indian socciety”. And I am so glad to read your thoughts.I will be happy to get from you some references to support my theme. my id is all the best. Fr. Manuel

  4. Fr Manuel –

    Thank you for your comments and your encouragement. Your thesis sounds very interesting! I hope I will be able to read it some day. I will email you with my bibliography. God’s blessings on your studies in Rome.

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