There is only one place in all of the New Testament that directly speaks of the gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12). The Bible speaks a great deal, of course, about faith in general, but there is something unique and distinct about the gift of faith. The Charisma of Faith is a spontaneous and divinely enabled expression of confidence in God which serves as a means for experiencing other supernatural activities of God.
It has been suggested that the Bible describes three types of faith: (1) conversion faith; (2) continuing faith; and (3) charismatic faith (see Mark Stibbes, Know Your Spiritual Gift; and Sam Storms The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts). While the other two are rather obvious, the last may need some further delineation. Charismatic faith is expressly described in 1 Corinthians 12:9, but this passage gives us no concrete explanation of what this gift is or how it differs from the other expressions of faith in the Bible. So, we must speak somewhat humbly about this gift.
Paul gives us some more context for the gift when he mentions “all faith” in chapter 13. Paul’s point in this chapter is to speak of the superiority of love to all spiritual gifts, but he mentions:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)
The mention of “tongues” and “prophetic powers” clues us into his context. He is speaking of the spiritual gifts. So, when he mentions “all faith,” he has in mind something distinct from the conversion and continuing faith that all believers possess. “All” is a key descriptor and carries with it some unique weight – this is the charisma of faith. He describes this faith in connection to Jesus’ own teaching about faith that “moves mountains” (Mark 11:22-23). The gift of faith, then, carries with it the confidence that the seemingly impossible can be accomplished by and in the strength of the Lord. As Sam Storms describes it:
The gift of faith is that mysterious surge of confidence that rises within a person in a particular situation of need or challenge and which gives an extraordinary certainty and assurance that God is about to act through a word or an action. (The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, 55)
It is unique in that it is occasional. That is, to say, it is not the result of the general development of our spiritual faith, but it arises, with full confidence, in the face of a specific occasion. It arises to meet a situation afresh.
Consider a few possible examples from the Scriptures:
Paul’s confidence in the preservation of all on board the boat in the midst of the storm (Acts 27:25)
Daniels confidence that no harm would come to him in the lion’s den (Dan. 6:23)
The list of OT saints whom the Hebrew author upholds for their faith; a faith which empowered them to “conquer kingdoms, enforce justice, receive promises, and stop the mouths of lions” (Heb. 11:32-33)
Or James words about the “prayer of faith” which results in healing of the sick (James 5:15)
These are unique and distinct examples which result in God’s miraculous work and manifestation.
What might the gift of faith look like in the modern-day? It may come as a bold confidence intended to strengthen the faith of others. It may come as the confidence to pray for healing knowing that God will do it in this particular occasion. It may come as the restful peace that no harm is going to befall you in a specific trial. It may be expressed in the assurance that a risky action will result in good, even in the face of seemingly uncertain outcomes. There are hundreds of ways this faith may display itself. What marks it as unique is that it manifests as “all faith,” with no mixture of doubt or skepticism, and it arises spontaneously as a divinely given gift in the moment.
There is probably no sense in which someone possess this gift consistently. Because it is occasional, it is not likely a permanent or “residential” gift. No one always possess the gift of faith, but it comes in seasons and scenarios as God allows. I recall only one experience in my own life where I sensed this charisma of faith. My wife had been experiencing serious illness which was causing her to lose sleep. In fact, a the moment of our prayer she had not slept in two days. In that moment, however, I knew that if I prayed for her to sleep that night that she was going to sleep. I knew, without any doubt, that God was going to grant what I asked and so I asked in full confidence. I had never before, nor have I since, experienced that gift. Because of its occasional nature, I don’t think that anyone permanently possesses it.
While all of the Bible speaks to the general faith that every believer experiences, the Charisma of Faith is different. It is distinguished by full confidence, by spontaneity, and by a specific occasion that requires its enlistment. God gives this gift in order that we might remember our desperate and constant need of Him, and to demonstrate His love, power, and compassion on us. Thank God for any gift that drives us back to Him!