The Gifts of the Spirit
I. The Gifts of the Spirit
The outpouring of God’s Spirit molded together a spiritual body (group of believers) scripturally defined as the New Testament church (Ephesians 1:22–23). Supernatural manifestations of the Spirit occurred, commonly referred to as gifts of the Spirit. By supernatural, we mean something that cannot be explained or understood by human reasoning according to natural laws. No one should ever limit the power of God to work only through things that the natural man understands, for He has declared: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). Similarly, the same book that teaches about the use of spiritual gifts states, “The things [ways and thoughts] of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11). This is not to say that we cannot learn the things of God but rather that they are not perceived by worldly wisdom. Human reasoning is unable to digest spiritual truth.
1. The Gifts Are to Profit the Church
The spiritual gifts are given by God to His church to profit the church and its members. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (I Corinthians 12:7). There are those today who contend that the church can no longer experience these gifts. But nothing in the Scriptures shows when any of the gifts were withdrawn. To the contrary, the gifts will remain in the church unto the second coming of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1:2, 7). The human body has many members such as hands, fingers, eyes, and ears. So also is the body of Christ. There are many members of one body, and all are important. Some may be more evident than others, but all are needed.
a. The Difference between the Gifts and the Fruit of the Spirit
The gifts of the Spirit are not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is spiritual grace in the character of the believer. Every believer is to possess all aspects of the fruit for use all the time. On the other hand, the gifts of the Spirit are divine enablements to strengthen and encourage the church.
b. Great Care in Their Operation
Great care must be taken in the operation of the spiritual gifts. The Corinthian church became unbalanced in the operation of the more spectacular gifts, and Paul gave them instructions on the regulation of the spiritual gifts in the church. (See I Corinthians 14.)
2. The Nine Gifts of the Spirit
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (I Corinthians 12:1). We can list the supernatural gifts of I Corinthians 12 in three categories.
a. Power to Know Supernaturally
(1) The Word of Wisdom
Natural wisdom is the ability to apply possessed knowledge and experience. The word of wisdom is a portion of supernaturally imparted wisdom to meet a particular need. The word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are supernatural manifestations of the Spirit, and they exist on a plane far above their natural, human counterparts. Sometimes an answer we need will not come by human wisdom, but God gives a specific word of wisdom at a particular time for a particular situation. The word of wisdom implies a thought or utterance through a direct operation of the Holy Spirit at a given moment rather than an abiding deposit of supernatural wisdom. The normal life of the church occasions a constant need for wise leadership. Problems will occur and delicate situations will arise among the most spiritual believers. The word of wisdom can be vital in meeting these needs. Examples of the word of wisdom are the way the apostles dealt with the controversy over the daily assistance to widows (Acts 6:1–7) and Paul’s insight and advice concerning his shipwreck (Acts 27:10, 31, 34). The word of wisdom includes the supernatural revelation of divine purpose, the supernatural declaration of the mind and will of God, and the supernatural unfolding of His plans and purposes concerning things, places, people, and communities.
(2) The Word of Knowledge
Every Christian must endeavor to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord” (II Peter 3:18). The word of knowledge is a portion of supernaturally imparted knowledge to meet a particular need. The Bible does not speak of a “gift of knowledge,” but rather it speaks of the “word of knowledge.” All knowledge ultimately rests with the Lord, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). It is therefore reasonable to believe that the Holy Spirit can impart any part of the divine knowledge at any time, as He wills. The word of knowledge includes facts from God about people, places, things, and events that a person could not possibly know unless God revealed them. An example of the word of knowledge is Peter’s supernatural knowledge of the secret sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–10).
(3) Discerning of Spirits
The Bible does not state that there is a “gift of discernment,” but rather it speaks of “discerning of spirits.” The discerning of spirits is the ability on a particular occasion to ascertain whether a spirit or an action is of God, of the devil, or of the human nature. First John 4:1 admonishes us to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God.” The purpose of this gift is to detect what is true and what is false. The gift of discerning of spirits is not only defensive; it can also be offensive in the sense that once an evil spirit is detected as operating through some human channel, that channel can then be delivered through the power of the name of Jesus Christ. Examples of this gift are Peter’s denunciation of Simon the sorcerer based upon discernment of the intent of his heart (Acts 8:23) and Paul’s rebuke of a spirit possessing a girl at Philippi (Acts 16:16–18).
b. Power to Act Supernaturally
The spiritual gift of faith is to be distinguished from saving faith or the daily faith without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The gift of faith is a measure of faith above the faith that all of us have as children of God. It is a special faith imparted to us by the Spirit, as are the other gifts of the Spirit, to meet a particular need. The gift of faith surpasses all reason, looks impossibilities in the face, and turns them into miracles. Examples are the faith of Peter and Paul for the lame man (Acts 3:4, 16) and Paul’s supernatural faith during his shipwreck (Acts 27:25).
(2) Working of Miracles
The working of miracles is a supernatural release of God’s power through a person’s life to effect an immediate, supernatural event. It is a sign or wonder that humans cannot explain by an appeal to “natural laws.” It can be a miraculous “coincidence” effected by God when we pray. Examples are the raising of Dorcas back to life (Acts 9:40), the raising of Eutychus back to life (Acts 20:10), and special miracles in Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:11–12).
(3) Gifts of Healing
The “gifts of healing” are plural. They refer to special healings of various types performed by God. All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can lay hands upon the sick for their recovery (Mark 16:18), and all elders in the church can anoint with oil for healing (James 5:14). Nevertheless, it appears that on certain occasions God operates in a special way to heal miraculously. When the gifts of healing are in operation, God removes the cause of disease or affliction and healing ensues. There are numerous examples of healing in the New Testament church, including Acts 5:16; 8:7; 9:33–34.
c. Power to Speak Supernaturally
In general, prophecy is an anointed utterance from God. It can consist of foretelling or forthtelling. The gift of prophecy is a specific message from God to the hearers in their own language. True prophecy will always be in harmony with God’s Word. Prophecy will never replace the Bible or diminish its worth. Prophecy must always agree with the Bible. A prophet can prophesy, but not everyone who exercises the gift of prophecy fulfills the office or ministry of a prophet. (See Ephesians 4:11–13.)
The gift of prophecy brings edification, exhortation, and comfort to the church (I Corinthians 14:3, 5). “Prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (I Corinthians 14:22). It does not replace or supersede doctrinal teaching or spiritual leadership.
Speaking with tongues means speaking miraculously in a language unknown to the speaker. There are different kinds of tongues. The Bible reveals three different purposes or uses of speaking with tongues. First, it is the initial evidence when someone is baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4; 10:44–46; 19:6). The second use is speaking to God in personal prayer (I Corinthians 14:2, 14–15). “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself” (I Corinthians 14:4).
The believer can speak in tongues in private devotion or in corporate worship when everyone is praying individually. In such a case there is no need for interpretation (I Corinthians 14:28). The third use is addressing the church, coupled with interpretation (I Corinthians 14:13–27).
(3) Interpretation of Tongues
By this gift a person interprets a message in tongues for the church. When a person brings a message to the church through the gift of tongues, the gift of the interpretation of tongues is used to edify the church (I Corinthians 14:12). “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret” (I Corinthians 14:13). If there is no interpreter, the one speaking in the unknown tongue should keep silence in the church, although he or she can continue to pray in tongues personally (I Corinthians 14:28). What a blessing the gifts, under proper direction, can be in the local church! The pastor should always have the oversight in the operation of the gifts. (See I Corinthians 14:29, 33.)
From the Old Man to the New Man
II. From the Old Man to the New Man
It is exciting to witness the miraculous manifestations of God’s power in the church. But the greatest miracle that can ever happen to someone is to experience the life-changing transformation brought about by the new birth (John 3:5). Jesus performed powerful miracles during His ministry, including the raising of the dead. He gave the disciples power to perform many of these same miracles, but He cautioned them not to rejoice because they had power over spirits but rather “because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The Lord is obviously more concerned with the miracle of salvation and eternal life than any other miracle that could be performed. Salvation is always God’s highest priority for humankind.
1. The Works of the Flesh
Jesus offers victory over satanic forces, human weaknesses, and struggles of life (John 16:33; I John 5:4–5; I Corinthians 15:57). But it seems that the greatest enemy is within:
“Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23). When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive the very presence and life of God to dwell within, and He gives us power to conquer the fleshly nature. The sins in Mark 7:21–23 come from a carnal, sinful nature. Galatians 5:19–21 also lists sins that come from the sinful human nature: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” When left to itself, the heart is capable of unbelievable evils. Those who live according to the dictates and the desires of this sinful nature can never please God. It is impossible to please God with the carnal mind, for it is hostile toward Him and does not submit to His laws (Romans 8:7). For this reason God gives a new nature (Romans 7:6; I Corinthians 6:17), a new mind (I Corinthians 2:16), and a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26–27; Romans 5:5), thus making a new man (Ephesians 4:24) full of new life (Romans 6:4; II Corinthians 5:17). The old man, as he is called (Ephesians 4:22), cannot please God. He cannot understand God (I Corinthians 2:14), neither can he live holy before God (Romans 8:5–8). Can sweet water come from a bitter spring? (James 3:11). Of course not! Neither can he who lives in the lower nature of the old man produce the fruit of the newly created man. The sinful nature will oppose God’s work in each heart (II Corinthians 10:3–5). The Christian has a dual nature—the nature of God and the sinful nature of the flesh (Galatians 4:29). We must overcome the sinful nature. Sometimes people fail in the struggle, but if they repent and keep trusting in God, they will have victory. Children fall many times before they are finally able to walk. When God’s children make mistakes and fall, He promises forgiveness and strength to rise and walk again if they will confess and repent (I John 1:9; Hebrews 4:15–16; 12:3–4). “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:12–13).
2. The Fruit of the Spirit
When the Spirit of God is resident in a person’s heart, the Spirit will produce a harvest of love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, longsuffering, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22–23). The Spirit will conquer the things that were formerly destroying the person. Unbelief is conquered by faith; hatred is conquered by love; wrath and strife by longsuffering and temperance; fear by love and patience; bondage by deliverance, and so on. What a tremendous experience it is to see God completely change the old man into a brand new man who flowers into the true image of God! (Ephesians 4:24). Romans 12:21 states the principle for abundant life: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good. An evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” To bring forth good things, we must have a new heart, for the heart is the fountain of all the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). It is the ultimate aim of God to bring forth the fruit of His Spirit in the hearts of His people (John 15:8). He knows that a life abounding with the fruit of His Spirit is a meaningful and complete life.
The Beauty of Holiness
III. The Beauty of Holiness
If we could visualize our journey through life, we would see two roads that seem to fade away in the far distance of time. These two roads represent the way of life and the way of death (Proverbs 14:12). One is a road of blessing and the other is a road of cursing. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
1. The Journey of Life
As on any journey, there are many places of enjoyment along the road of life. It would be a monotonous trip if we did not enjoy any of the pleasures that dot the map of our travels. As we travel, we usually plan to enjoy all that we can and take advantage of all that our traveling time allows us to do. Even so, God plans for us to enjoy an abundant, exciting life as we travel toward eternity.
a. Which Way Will We Go?
The important thing to consider in choosing our course of travel is: Where will the choice of roads lead? Moses chose the highway of holiness rather than the adventures and pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25). This holy way of life is a separated way; it is set apart from the way of the crowds.
b. Becoming More like Him
As we journey through life on the highway of holiness, God changes us into His image from glory to glory. God enables us to conquer the sinful nature (which is always trying to influence us to travel down the old road of death), and God molds us after the character and the beauty of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; II Corinthians 4:4). The true image of God can only be reflected by the Spirit of God working in His people to cleanse us of things that mar the holy reflection of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:15; Ephesians 4:24). The further we go with God on this journey, the more we become like God. The more we become like God, the more others are attracted to God. The only way this searching generation will ever see God is through His people. “Without [holiness] no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). When the judgment comes, God will search for thosewho have on the garment of righteousness. They will shine as bright lights in a darkened day.
c. A Beautiful Way of Life
Holiness is a beautiful way of life, and it is an integral part of God’s work of salvation. Jesus came to save from sin, which means that He delivers from the bondage of sin and then He protects, preserves, and keeps us from sin—from things that would cause us to fall short of abundant life. To sin is to miss the mark, or the purpose, for which God created us. Holiness is a beautiful way of life that guarantees God’s protection and blessings from the three major enemies that war against the soul. Holiness is not a list of codes. It is a superior way of life that leads those who follow its course into the beauty and treasure of God’s kingdom. “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).
2. Perfecting Holiness
When God fills us with His Holy Spirit, we receive a holy nature. We do not have to exert strenuous physical and mental exercises to manufacture holiness. Holiness does not come from human works but from God’s Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16; John 1:13). The heart will have a great yearning to be like Jesus and will, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, be changed into the holy image of Jesus. Of course, we must yield ourselves to the influence and power of God (Romans 6:19). We must let God’s Holy Spirit lead and control us in every aspect of life (I Peter 1:15). If we do, God will lead us to abstain from the appearance of evil (Psalm 101:3; I Thessalonians 5:22). God’s Spirit will cause us to dress differently, act differently, talk differently, and even think differently (Philippians 4:8). We will be new people. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [conduct]” (I Peter 1:15). As we grow in the knowledge of the will of God, we will also grow in our ability to recognize activities and attitudes that would endanger our new life in Christ. Sometimes we may feel a check of the Spirit. Sometimes we may not immediately see danger in a particular activity, but God will use our pastor to help preserve us from the subtlety of sin. Godly pastors help guide people away from the dangerous road of sin and death. The Christian life is not governed totally by the question of whether or not something is sin, but by whether or not it will damage the image of Christ in a Christian’s life. The question is not merely, What do I have to do? Rather it is, What does Jesus want me to do? How can I please Him? How can I draw closer to Him? How can I become more like Him?