Wednesday, May 28, 2008
How Do The Gifts of The Spirit Help Us?
THE BODY OF CHRIST
''The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body . . . and we were all given the one Spirit to drink'' 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (see also Romans 12:4-6).
All believers are part of the Body of Christ - the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23), and ''God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be'' (1 Corinthians 12: 18). Christ is the Head of the Body, and God's desiøgn is that ''from him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK" (Ephesians 4:16).
That means that, for this to happen, every believer must have a part to play, and it is with in this framework that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are revealed. The Body of Christ is the physical expression of Christ on earth, and just as the FRUIT of the Spirit is the expression of Christ's character to the world, so now the GIFTS of the Spirit are the expression, through the Holy Spirit, of Christ's power and will. These gifts are not given for ourselves, but so that others in the Body may be built up and encouraged, and as a witness to the world.
''There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men'' 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.
There are nine gifts of the Spirit actually mentioned in the Bible, and God has distributed them evenly amongst different members of the Body, so that each member is dependent on the other. The gifts are not natural talents, but supernatural - given by the Holy Spirit for a specific purpose.
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit THE MESSAGE OF WISDOM, to another THE 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 THE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN SPIRITS, to another THE ABILITY TO SPEAK 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 gives them to each man, just as he determines" 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11.
The gifts fall naturally into three categories:
GIFTS OF REVELATION
These gifts embrace the message of wisdom, the message of knowledge, and the ability to distinguish between different spirits - all three involve special revelation knowledge straight from the Holy Spirit.
GIFTS OF POWER
The gifts of power include faith, gifts of healing, and miraculous powers - they are an expression through the Holy Spirit of the power and earthly ministry of Jesus.
GIFTS OF DIVINE COMMUNICATION
These three gifts include prophecy, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of those tongues - these are all divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and are an expression of Christ's will and direction.
THE ENEMY'S PLAYGROUND
The three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12-14 are totally devoted to a proper understanding of spiritual gifts. In chapter 12, the Apostle Paul defines the gifts, and places them in the context of the Body of Christ. Then chapters 13 and 14 are respectively devoted to:
''And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, l 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 have not love, l am nothing'' 1 Corinthians 12:31 -13:2 (read also verses 8-13).
Spiritual gifts, says Paul, are nothing without love - for that is their whole reason for existence. The church in Corinth was moving in the area of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:7), but had obviously become unbalanced in its understanding of the use of those gifts, and this needed to be corrected. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul encourages the Corinthians to "follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts . . . "
"For you can all prophecy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of tprophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace . . . Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophecy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way'' 1 Corinthians 14:31-33,39-40.
The Corinthian church had obviously got into areas of difficulty with those misusing the gifts. We must understand that when we enter the realm of spiritual gifts we enter the arena of the supernatural - where the enemy also works. For this reason it is important for the gifts to operate under the covering of experienced ministries - those mature in the gifts themselves - for leadership is a God-given safeguard in the Body against the misuse of gifts.
THE BASIS OF OPERATION
''What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. ALL OF THESE MUST BE DONE FOR THE STRENGTHENING OF THE CHURCH" 1 Corinthians 14:26 (see also Colossians 3:16).
The reason for the gifts given by the Holy Spirit and the basis for their operation must be to build the Body of Christ up in love, so that all may grow into a deeper relationship with the Lord. And so, for this reason, it is the Holy Spirit's desire that we:
" . . . eagerly desire the greater gifts . . . '' 1 Corinthians 12:31.
Gifts of Revelation
1. The Message of wisdom
''Keeping close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him, 'Teacher, we know that you speak and‚ teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. ls it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?' He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 'Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?' 'Caesar's,' they replied. He said to them, 'Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.' They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent'' Luke 20: 20-26.
Jesus Himself, the source of all revelation, provides the best examples of the message of wisdom (see Luke 4:1-13; 10:25-37; 20:19-39; John 8:3-11).The message of wisdom operates in circumstances where we may be faced with a problem that we don't know the solution to. The Holy Spirit can prompt our hearts, and suddenly we find ourselves with a wise answer. This gift is particularly useful in counselling or witnessing to others.
''If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault; and it will be given to him . . . the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" James 1:5; 3:17.
2. The Message of Knowledge
"When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.' 'How do you know me?' Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, 'I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you' '' John 1:47-48.
The message of knowledge, like the message of wisdom, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not natural, acquired learning, but a portion of knowledge that could not have been received by any other means than supernaturally. Once again, this is a gift of the Spirit which can help when we talk to others about the Lord - we can ask the Lord to isolate for us the key-problem in their lives so that we can speak right to the heart (see Matthew 9:1-8; 17:27; John 4:18; Acts 9:11-12; 2 Kings 6:8-12). God is all knowing - He has a complete knowledge of things past, present and future (Psalm 147:5; Hebrews 4:13) - and in the operation of a message of knowledge, the Holy Spirit gives the believer a portion of specific knowledge straight from the Throne of God.
'' . . . that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'' Colossians 2: 2-3.
3. The Ability to distinguish between Spirits
''From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never ha ppen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Out of my sight, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men' '' Matthew 16:21-23.
This gift is the God-given ability to distinguish the difference between good or evil spirits, between right and wrong attitudes of the heart, and between the Holy Spirit's work and that of the spirit of Satan (see Matthew 23:13-36; Luke 9:51-56; Acts 5:3; 8:9-24). The gift of distinguishing between spirits comes into crucial use when on the outside it is impossible to tell whether something that is said is from God or from the enemy (see Acts 16:16-18). Like the first two gifts of revelation, this gift can be used particularly in witnessing and counselling, and is designed to help us perceive the spiritual powers and forces we are dealing with (see also 1 John 4:1-3,6; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
The Gifts of Power
1. The Gift of Faith
The gift of faith is NOT saving faith - the faith we put in Jesus when we are born again. Nor is it the daily trust we place in God's character when we need His help. It is a dynamic, direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit related to the boldness which many Old Testament heroes experienced and which the early Church was birthed in (see Joshua 10:12-13; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1: 1-15; Daniel 6:16-23; Mark 4:35-41; Acts 3:2-7; 27:22-25).
" . . . I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you' '' Matthew 17: 20.
2. The Gifts of Healing
This gift is one of the "signs and wonders" gifts which confirms for the world the reality of the Gospel, and is an extension of the ministry of Jesus when He was upon the earth. It is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit "bears witness" that Jesus is alive (see Acts 5:32) (see also Matthew 4:23-24; 11:4-5; John 9:6-7; Acts 3:6; 5:14-15; 8:5-8; 10:38).
Jesus promised of the believer:
''I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" John 14:12.
3. The Gift of Miraculous Power
The Bible is full of miracles, displaying God's power over all circumstances of life. The gift of miracles involves a special enduement of the creative power of the Holy Spirit over natural laws for a specific time and purpose, and can include everything from miraculous provision to the casting out of evil spirits (see Exodus 7:10; 10:21-22; 1 Kings 18:31-39; 2 Kings 2:13-14; 4:1-7; Matthew 8:23-27; 17:27; Mark 6:41-51;John 2:1-11;Acts 8:39-40; 19:11-12).
''And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well'' Mark 16:17-18.
In all these gifts, because it is "the same Spirit'' working them, there is considerable overlap and dependence on other gifts. There are special ministries that the Lord has endowed specifically with one gift or another, but it is the Holy Spirit's desire that every believer operate in some or all of His gifts when the need arises.
The Greater Gifts
There is far more teaching in the Word of God on these three gifts than on all the rest put together. This is because they are vitally important for the building up of:
The individual believer (tongues) (1 Corinthians 14:4). The Body of Christ (prophecy, and tongues with interpretation) (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).
The Gift of Prophecy
Prophecy is a gift straight from the Holy Spirit, and comes from the Greek word meaning ''to bring forth". It can be a message of encouragement from the Lord, a word of direction or warning, or even a message telling about something that will happen in the near future (see Luke 1:46,67; Acts 11:27-30; 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 14:3).
"Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said'' 1 Corinthians 14:29 (read also verse 32).
There are different realms of prophecy requiring different measures of safeguard. There is prophecy which:
Strengthens,encourages and comforts (1 Corinthians 14:3). Brings direction to a person's life (1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14). Foretells future events (Acts 11: 27-30; 21: 10-11). Reveals sin and brings a warning from God (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
With each of the four realms of prophecy there is a lesser or greater need for ''weighing carefully what is said'' by experienced ministries. ''For we know in part and we prophesy in part'', Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:9 (read also verses 10-12), and so there is needed the gift of distinguishing between spirits, so that leadership can determine whether the prophecy was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the speaker's own human spirit, or even the enemy. The very first principle for judging a prophecy is whether or not it is based on the Word of God (see 2 Peter 1:19). The reason for these safeguards is because there is such a thing as a false prophet (1 John 4:1-3,6).
All may Prophesy
Paul encourages a desire for the ''greater gifts'' (1 Corinthians 12:31) - of which he puts the gift of prophecy at the top of the list because it builds up the Body (14:1,12). In the realm of encouragement and building up the Body, Paul says:
"For you can ALL prophesy in turn so that everyone fmay be instructed and encouraged . . . Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy . . . '' (1 Corinthians 14:31,39; see also verses 24-25; Acts 19:6; Romans 12:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:20).