What’s the Difference?

A Comparison and Contrast of the Romans 12,
Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 gifts.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the different spiritual gift passages in the Bible? How are they similar? How are they different? And especially relevant to 5Q, how do the Ephesians 4 APEST gifts “fit in” with the others? 

You’re not alone. This is one of the most commonly asked questions that arises when diving into the topic of spiritual gifts. 

This blog post we have an excerpt from Nathan Brewer — one of our 5Q Trainers & Coaches — from his newly revised and expanded work The Pulse of Christ: A Fivefold Training Manual. It’s the first part of a series of three posts:

  1. Theological – what the difference is between the different spiritual gift passages in the Bible? A comparison and contrast of Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12 gifts.
  2. Practical – frustrated with not knowing how to activate APEST? What if there was a manual? A practical exercise for each? 
  3. Personal – how does this look like in the life of a practicioner? A testimony about his leadership & team journey.

Read on, learn, enjoy, pass on…


God has made you unique, a beautiful masterpiece unlike any other of the 7.7 billion people living on this earth. There has never been, nor will there ever be, another you. We are each given spiritual gifts, and even if you have the same gift as someone else, the complexity of each human being means your gift will be expressed differently to theirs.

While “only” five gifts are focused on in this training manual, this will not produce “cloned” Christians. On the contrary! A whole combination of factors—our country of birth, the parents who raised us, our personality, talents, abilities, and our individual spiritual gift mix—all create an incredibly unique expression of that gift. 

The goal of all spiritual gifts is to empower you to serve others for the purpose of building up the church and to make an impact in the world, flowing out of a motivation of love. 

When expressed correctly, spiritual gifts will always point to Jesus and give him glory. There are four passages in the Bible which touch on spiritual gifts: Romans 12:4–8, 1 Corinthians 12:4–31, 1 Peter 4:10–11, and Ephesians 4:11

One of the most common questions regarding this topic is, “How do the gifts in Ephesians 4 compare and contrast to the other gifts?” There are a few key factors that are unique to the gifts in Ephesians 4:11

First of all, the source is Jesus, whereas the gifts in Romans 12 come from the Father, and the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 come from the Holy Spirit. 

Fascinating how the Father, Son and Spirit work together in harmony to generate and distribute these! More below…

Second, the gifts are actually people, rather than an activity or manifestation. 

For example, an evangelist or a shepherd is a person; in contrast,  showing mercy is an activity and a word of wisdom is manifestation of the Spirit. 

Moreover, the Ephesians gifts result in a singular and unified effect (rather than diverse effects): specifically, equipping the saints, which builds up the body of Christ towards the goal of unity and displaying the full measure of Christ. 

The comparison matrix below helps distinguish these passages.1

1 Note the list in 1 Peter 4 was not added to the table because it essentially only covers two broad areas of speaking and serving.

In their book The Permanent Revolution, Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim offer a helpful picture of how the gifts may interrelate in a person’s life: 

In our view, Ephesians 4:11 is the interpretive center, or organizing principle, around which the other gifts listed in Scripture are organized. Consider this illustration from the field of construction. Let us say someone has a particular calling to build houses. That is, his vocation is to be a carpenter and builder. To accomplish this job, this person needs more than one tool: a hammer, a sledgehammer, a drill, pliers, and so on. At some point, he will need all of these to accomplish the work of building the house, but he will use them only as needed. Similarly, the gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 can be viewed as a kind of tool belt. If I am a prophet, I will always be a prophet, but the context in which I function prophetically necessitates that I use the different tools on my belt: insight, prayer languages, dreams, and foresight. 2

Certain people will need to use some of the tools more often, since their vocation/calling of the five will necessitate it. For example, a prophet (Ephesians 4) frequently needs discernment (1 Corinthians 12) and a word of wisdom or knowledge (1 Corinthians 12). A shepherd (Ephesians 4) will often need to show the Father’s mercy (Romans 12). 

There will certainly be overlap. For example, in addition to the prophet (Ephesians 4) who frequently needs discernment (1 Corinthians 12), a teacher (Ephesians 4) will also frequently needs discernment (1 Corinthians 12) as they teach (Romans 12). An apostle (Ephesians 4) will also need to teach (Romans 12) in order to lay foundational DNA truths, such as the gospel, as they pioneer new work in a new place. 

Makes sense, right? So it becomes this dynamic interplay between the gifts that truly results in a unique display by a person. They all point to Jesus and give him glory. They are all gifts that empower us as his Kingdom Agents to make the Kingdom of God more tangible in our local spheres. 

Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Jesus. Amen! 

2 Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim, The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice in the 21st Century Church (California: Wiley, 2012), 25.


Nathan is Founder of Kyrios Ministries, an international discipleship and missions team of passionate Jesus followers advancing the Kingdom of God by making disciples in an organic way, and equipping the church in the fivefold ministry of Jesus. He is a Trainer and Coach with 5Q Collective. The author of The Pulse of Christ: A Fivefold Training Manual, he offers a handbook full of twenty-five practical exercises to activate APEST built on ten years of ministry experience. And together with his wife, Insa, they are currently planting a simple church with 5Q/APEST as the organizing paradigm of seeing Jesus and being his Body.

In his pursuit to help people live life to the fullest, exploring new countries & waterfalls, Mexican food, and soccer make life even more fun. He and his family live in Vienna, Austria. He posts regularly at Fivefold Training. You can contact him directly at Nathan@fivefoldtraining.com