The Gifts of the Spirit
I believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within every single believer, and desires to use you to let the Kingdom of God breakthrough on earth. Through the power of the Spirit working in us, we are able to do supernatural things. Do you believe this? Let’s go on a journey together.
In this message series Living Under Influence, we started exploring about how the Spirit sets us free and guides us to live a life that glorifies Jesus. Then we went on to discover how the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue the mission and ministry of the Kingdom of God. I want to take this one step further and discover what the Bible says about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In the writings of Paul, we find three different lists of spiritual gifts. These lists are very different and emphasize different ways the Holy Spirit empowers the church.
First of all, there is Ephesians 4:11-12. This passage describes certain people, or ministries, that the Holy Spirit gives to the church to help her to flourish.
Then there is Romans 12:6-8, which describes a category of gifts I would explain to be Holy Spirit empowered abilities. There are certain things you are naturally good at. When you surrender those natural abilities to God, the Spirit can supernaturally empower you in those areas to serve the body of believers even beyond your own capacity.
In this blogpost, I am going to focus on a third category of gifts, listed in 1 Corinthians 12. There he says this:
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.
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.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-11
How do these gifts work?
I want to start off by explaining that, except for speaking in tongues, these are not gifts that people permanently possess. The Holy Spirit uses people as vessels for what He wants to do. He gives, for example, a gift of wisdom to a person, with the purpose to share it so that others may benefit. So we understand these gifts as “a” gift and not as “the” gift.
It is true that the Holy Spirit may use certain people often in the same way. The gift of prophecy, for example, is mentioned in all three lists. So someone that the Spirit is often using to speak prophetic words, we could recognize as someone with a prophetic ministry. Which, by the way, doesn’t make everything they say prophetic necessarily.
Any of the gifts of the Spirit is available to every Christian, as the Spirit directs.
The passage finishes with: The Spirit distributes them to each one, just as He determines. When we are receptive to the Spirit, any of these listed gifts are available to each one of us – and it is the Spirit who distributes these gifts.
What are they for?
Paul uses the words “common good” to describe the purpose of these gifts. The way we see them operated in the book of Acts, is either to demonstrate the power of God to support the message of the Gospel or create a hearing for the Gospel. We also see these gifts function with the purpose to strengthen the church, for example to encourage, direct or correct.
Let’s go over this list of 9 gifts mentioned here and explore what they mean. We’re going to divide them up into three categories: gifts or revelation from the mind of God, gifts of inspiration from the mouth of God, and gifts of demonstration of the hand of God.
Gifts of revelation - the mind of God
These are things that God reveals that go beyond what our minds can think up. They are super-natural.
The word of knowledge
God reveals some of His infinite knowledge to a person to bring to light something that was hidden. In Acts 4 we see Peter receiving a word of knowledge about Ananias to reveal sin. But more often, words of knowledge give warnings, reveal intentions and can lead to healing. In the Vineyard movement, we have seen many times people receiving a word of knowledge about someone with a certain illness, even into detail, asking them forward to receive their healing.
Words of wisdom
A revelation of God’s infinite wisdom, where He gives insight into certain situations, not only revealing facts but also how to interpret them and how to respond.
Distinguishing of spirits
This gift helps to interpret messages or events and determine the motivation behind it – is it from God, human or perhaps demonic. The Holy Spirit is giving insight into what is going on in the spiritual, often to protect the church from being deceived.
Gifts of inspiration - the mouth of God
Now, this can be foretelling – something is going to happen, or forth-telling – applying Scripture to a certain situation. Prophecy reveals what God has to say about a certain situation. Quite often in the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit fell on a group of believers, they would start to prophecy and speak in tongues.
Different kinds of tongues
The ability to speak in a language you didn’t learn. This can either be an existing language – take for example the preaching of the apostles at Pentecost – but also an angelic language, not known to man. We see many people receiving this gift to strengthen their prayer life. This is actually a gift that will stay with you.
Interpretation of tongues
This is the translation of a word spoken in tongues into understandable language, which makes it equal to prophecy. I’ve once met someone who would often receive the interpretation of tongues and when we were praying in a group he told us that what one person was praying in tongues, was what the other person was praying in English.
Gifts of demonstration - the hand of God
Gift of faith
Don’t confuse this with faith for salvation or the faith which is a fruit of the Spirit. This goes even further and would point to receiving faith in an instant for something you thought absolutely impossible before. It’s that moving mountains type of faith. This type of faith leads people to leave any objection behind and speak or act boldly under the guiding of the Spirit.
Gifts of healings (both are plural):
Again, this points to the breaking in of the Kingdom of God into this broken world. There is grace for all kinds of healings – instant or progressive, emotional, social, physical and psychological. This, as well, is a hallmark of the Vineyard movement.
Let me share a personal story. At a service, I was part of the prayer team and a man came to me asking prayer for healing, because he had eczema all over his body, especially those areas where man really doesn’t want it. He had seen different doctors, tried different types of medications and creams and whatever, but it had not helped. We prayed, and he called me a week later reporting that he had been healed.
The reason I'm putting this story in is to encourage you. I'm a regular believer, just like you. I only have faith that can move a mustard seed (that's a joke, but still...) The Spirit used me to heal someone in a miraculous way. He can use you in that same way as well!
Workings of miracles
This points to any situation where we see God is using us to do something that ignores the laws of nature and just breaking in through supernatural power.
How to operate in the gifts?
First of all, none of these gifts of the Spirit have anything to do with ecstasy or any other way where we lose control over our actions. When the Spirit works through us, we are 100% part of that action. When He gives us words – we need to speak them out! The Spirit will not switch off your rationale and you will not become a robot. There is nothing spooky about the work of the Spirit. Yet, when the Spirit uses us in this way, we are able to say things, see things and do things that are impossible for humans, but possible with God.
When we operate in the gifts of the Spirit, we are able to say things, see things and do things that are impossible for humans.
Now, after saying all these things, I hope that you are longing for an outpouring of God’s Spirit as much as I am. What are some conditions that the Bible gives us to see these things happen? We have to have the right attitude and the right apatite.
The right attitude
These gifts never function in a way that elevates people, they only elevate God, as they reveal His presence and power in this world. All praise and glory should always go to God, and to God alone.
In order to operate in the gifts, we need to let go of fear and risk ‘what people may think of us’ to do what the Spirit prompts you to do.
So, humility is definitely a condition for the functioning of the gifts. We also need humility in the sense that we need to be ready to take a risk. To operate in the gifts, we need to let go of pride and fear and risk ‘what people may think of you’ to do what the Spirit prompts you to do – and you cannot do that without a good dose of humility.
Secondly, a loving heart is absolutely a condition for the functioning of the Spirit. In the next chapter of this same letter to the church in Corinth, Paul would emphasize that functioning in these gifts would be absolutely worthless if we don’t have love. He says:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)\
Paul places his chapter about love, starting with these three verses, in the midst of long explanations about the works of the Spirit for a reason. He knew that without a loving heart, these gifts won’t even come.
Operating in gifts of the Spirit has everything to do with listening to what the Spirit is saying and understanding what He is doing. When we operate in humility, we understand that we may not always get it right. Also, integrity is wildly important in this.
When you know that what you want to say is not something you received from God – don’t act like you did. That doesn’t always mean that what you are going to say is wrong though. God has also given us well functioning minds to interpret things and have ideas of our own that can make sense. But if you know that what you are going to say is not something you received by revelation, don’t claim the authority of revelation in any way, because in that instant you will lose integrity and credibility.
Prophecy with integrity and humility says: “I think the Lord is saying…” or "This or that is coming to mind, does this mean something to you...?
You cannot act like you are operating in spiritual gifts, hoping it will prompt enough faith for something to actually happen. If the Spirit is not directing you, don’t say that He is. And if you are not sure if it’s the Spirit, then say that you are not sure if it is the Spirit.
In the Vineyard, you will never hear someone say: “thus says the Lord”, but usually, “I think the Lord is saying…” This is a matter of integrity. We have to stay true to what the Spirit is doing.
The right apatite
To see the Spirit move, we need to welcome His work with expectation. We need to understand that Christ is the head of the church, and He can do as He wills, and that He doesn’t need our permission for this.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 says: Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good.
Pride, a loveless heart and dishonesty will absolutely quench the Spirit. In addition, also disunity, a critical spirit and any other sinful patterns will limit the space for God’s Spirit to move.
But I hope that, after saying all these things, there is a burning desire in you to see the Holy Spirit at work in our midst, and to be used by the Spirit through these supernatural gifts.
Three times in this letter, Paul will say: eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit. Let’s become desperate for more of the Spirit. Let’s cry out for more of Him. We need to leave behind our inhibitions, fear and unsupported critique, and trust that when the Spirit comes, He knows what He is doing.