Strengths versus Gifts: Understanding the Difference

“What’s the difference between my natural strengths and my spiritual gifts – or are they the same?” It’s a question we get often.

The quick answer? Natural strengths and spiritual gifts are not the same.

A more complete explanation: compare the two in scripture to understand how God defines each one.

Strengths versus Gifts: A Comparison of the Terms

Both natural strengths and spiritual gifts come from God: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11, NIV). Yet their names imply a clear distinction.

Natural strengths are just that: “natural.” They can be attributed to the innate genetic material that exists within all of us and is passed down from generation to generation. Natural strengths are your unique way or manner. Some may even refer to your strengths as “personality.”

Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, come directly from the Spirit of God; that’s why they are called “gifts.” Spiritual gifts are special abilities given to you by God. They are imparted to Christians at the point at which you become a believer, with the express purpose of building up the church (1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV and Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV).

You can also think of the difference between the two like this: personal strengths are the “how” – how you carry out tasks – and spiritual gifts are the “what” – what tasks or movement God will do through you.

A Comparison of Natural Strengths and Spiritual Gifts in Scripture

A simple Bible study reveals further differences between natural strengths and spiritual gifts. Use an online tool like Bible Gateway (a free resource that allows you to read, research, and reference scripture) Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, part of a key passage that addresses gifts and strengths:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NIV)

At first glance, you might think the passage describes only spiritual gifts. But when you read carefully, you can see how that Paul makes a distinction between a gift, a role, and a strength. 1 Corinthians 12:4 references “different kinds of gifts” (spiritual gifts) while verse 5 speaks about “different kinds of service” (positions or roles to carry out service) and verse 6 refers to “diBible Gateway homepage navigationfferent kinds of working” (manner or strengths).  Verses 4 and 6 clearly describe two different components: spiritual gifts and natural strengths.

When you compare  these verses in different Bible translations you get a more thorough understanding of the difference between natural strengths and spiritual gifts.

Check Available Versions

On Bible Gateway’s home page, click the “Available Translations” navigation bar on the left. That page will open up to a list of Bible versions you can search – more than 70 in English alone. Here you can click on the name of each translation and find out the origin of that version. You’ll see how various scholars invested themselves in that translation and the parameters they used in their work. Different translations give the same content presented in different language. This offers a fresh approach to a concept you may have thought you understood.

A Scriptural Comparison of Natural Strengths

Here is how three different translations of verse 6 uncover specifics about natural strengths.

  • New International Version (NIV): “different kinds of working” means the various approaches people take when faced with a task, problem, or issue.
  • Amplified Bible (AMP): “distinctive varieties of operation” indicates that each person’s approach is unique and one-of-a-kind.
  • The Message (TM): “God’s various expressions” shows that each person’s uniqueness is an expression of one facet of God’s personality.1 Corinthians 12:6

A Scriptural Comparison of Spiritual Gifts

Here’s how three different translations of verse 4 distinguish spiritual gifts.

  • New International Version (NIV): different kinds of gifts” refers to a variety of abilities God has given Christians.
  • Amplified Bible (AMP): “extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls” explains that spiritual gifts are unusual abilities and they are given by God specifically to individuals.
  • American Standard Version (ASV): “diversities of gifts” implies that spiritual gifts are wide-ranging.

1 Corinthians 12:4



Natural strengths and spiritual gifts: they are different. But don’t take our word for it. Read and discover about them for yourself.

210-project-book-cover-smallLearn how to apply your natural strengths and your spiritual gifts to advance God’s Kingdom when you read The 210 Project: Discover Your Place in God’s Story.Download your own Kindle copy of The 210 Project for free here. (Please note that 210 Project online interactions are sold separatekindle_logo-300x300ly.)

We are specially grateful to Ministry Insights partner Alliance Ministries, who has made this special offer possible.

Scriptures about Strengths to Study on Your Own

1 Corinthians 12
Romans 12:3-8
Ephesians 2:10
Ephesians 4:11-13
Ephesians 4:29
1 Peter 4:10

More on How to Study Scriptures About Strengths

How to Study Scriptures About Strengths, Part 1: Read Different Bible Versions

How to Study Scriptures About Strengths, Part 2: Do a Keyword Search

How to Study Scriptures About Strengths, Part 3: Search Bible Dictionaries

How to Study Scriptures About Strengths, Part 4: Compare Bible Commentaries