Spiritual Gifts

While the previous section discussed baptism of the Holy Spirit, this section will discuss the spiritual gifts that follow said baptism. Just as the nature of the baptism by the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of the gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This section will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

 

1) Teaching

2) Tongues

3) Prophecy and Vision

4) Healing

 

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used.

1) Teaching 

As Jesus said, in order to spread the message of the Gospel to a fallen world, there must be teachers to assist people in understanding challenging teaching. The gift of teaching does not rest on a foundation of well-studied research.

 

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

 

In fact, the gift of teaching has very little to do with knowledge. The gift of teaching goes beyond the mind. This gift is strengthened and powered by wisdom: not the wisdom of men but the wisdom of God. A person gifted in the area of teaching can go beyond well-rehearsed lessons or sayings. A person gifted to teach instills in the learners something deeper than mere mental assent. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the teacher channels the wisdom of God in the same way that Jesus did during his ministry. Jesus was able to see things that no one else could. He could see the heart of the issue before anyone else seemed to know the topic. It is this very nature that is given to an individual blessed with the gift of teaching.

The gift of teaching enables the teacher to teach to the heart, the place that needs teaching the most. The gift of teaching also enables the teacher to speak clearly to a variety of listeners. In reading the Gospels, Jesus’ effect on hearers is never limited by the demographic of his audience. Jesus spoke clearly to every heart ready to listen. The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach clearly and succinctly, in a way that differs from man’s teaching of spirituality, codified and complex philosophical webs of theological nonsense that result in confusion and not liberation. God always desires to be well understood.

 

Jeremiah 33:3

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

 

The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach about God in a way that achieves this goal.

 

2) Tongues

The gift of tongues is often a polarizing topic of discussion. Some Christians are raised understanding that the speaking of tongues is commonplace in the Christian life. However, others have lived a Christian life for many years and have never been in an environment where the speaking of tongues ever occurred. Since two separate groups living lives devoted to God can have such different experiences in regards to the speaking of tongues, why has it become so synonymous with the gifts of the Holy Spirit? While “speaking of tongues” can be left for a different time, at its heart, this particular gift has very little to do with “words,” “sounds,” or “body language.” In fact, at the heart of speaking in tongues is simply, “worship.” Worship that is not corporate, but deeply personal and intimate. When we read the account of Pentecost where the Apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit and began speaking in their native tongues, what is most important is not so much that they were “speaking in tongues” but that for the first time they were caught up in deeply personal worship, not simply for, but with the creator God and according to his will. This worship was unique to them personally and was not necessarily for the benefit of the group.

The gift of tongues is entirely about the personal celebration of God. While all Christians possess a deep joy in being Christian and being known by God, someone with the gift of tongues has a specific means by which to express that particular celebration of God. When the non-Christian world uses the phrase, “speaking in different tongues,” they do so to express the presence of different languages, accents or dialects. Thus, speaking in tongues is known by everyone, Christian and non-Christian, as a way of communicating that is uniquely understood by one group but not by another. The gift of tongues is similar within Christianity. For example, someone who has been gifted to compose music for the worship of God has a unique ability to craft melodies to produce a song that glorifies God.   While most people might not understand the process of songwriting, composition or musical theory, when hearing the final product in the music, it is clear that God is beautiful and beautifully good to us. Similarly, if a person finds true celebration of God in creating recipes that illustrate his provision and creativity in a delicious and beautifully nutritious meal, this also is a tongue that many people cannot understand the intricacies of, but can all come away worshipping the creator God as a result thereof.

While there are many who do speak in tongues in the traditional verbal sense, it is my opinion that if that traditional speaking of tongues does not express a celebration of God, then as Paul has said, it is simply the sound of an obnoxious cymbal.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

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.

 

Associating the gift of tongues with music or food might seem radical, but I believe that these unique abilities in all of us achieve the designed purpose of speaking in tongues in the first place. That purpose being the personal expression of personal celebration of God. Some people possess a unique quality, skill or “tongue” that allows them to experience this deeply personal worship and in turn bring glory to God by sharing that gift with others, while never assuming that all must possess that gift in identical forms to begin with.

 

3) Prophecy and Vision

Numerous stereotypes obstruct the true Gospel of Jesus from effectively healing the world. One such stereotype is that all Christians claim to possess secret knowledge of the future. With the frequent prophetic pronouncements of certain evangelists concerning the coming Rapture or Second Coming of Christ that are invariably debunked, the non-Christian world has come to view the idea of Prophecy and Vision as something in which the “extreme,” “fundamentalist,” or “crazy” Christians dabble.

While “extreme” or “crazy” are not necessarily fair, “fundamental” is a word that says more than most who use it casually are aware of. In fact, the presence of prophecy and vision is absolutely fundamental to the nature of God and is a fundamental characteristic of the Church. Prophecies concerning God’s people have been spoken since the beginning and continued to be spoken following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The early Church possessed the gift of Prophecy and for us to assume that at some point between the 1st and 2nd century the gift of prophecy simply ran out like air slowly leaking out of an inflated balloon is in fact what can be justifiably labeled as, “extreme” and “crazy.”

However, the gift of prophecy is one that can never be used to glorify an individual. While the gift of tongues is uniquely personal in nature, the gift of Prophecy is a collective and corporate gift. This gift is not for the gifted but for those whom the prophecy concerns. In all situations where the gift of prophecy is used, there is one underlying purpose for words spoken: to express the divine authority of God in all situations and circumstances. Prophecy does not illuminate the power or knowledge of the prophet. Rather it often bypasses the prophet and is aimed directly at the listener. Prophecy exists simply to remind us of the past, present and future nature of the living God, the great “I am.”

The gift of prophecy is rare to most people in the Church these days, and that begs the question, why? In my opinion, the answer lies with a closer examination of people professing the possession of spiritual gifts. People who chase after spiritual gifts are often hungrier for the gifts than for God himself. Thus, the sinful temptation to fake the actual spiritual gift for the sake of possessing one becomes increasingly powerful unless the Holy Spirit Himself is allowed to intervene. As a result, the gift of teaching can often be faked by the presence of charisma, knowledge and preparation. The gift of healing can often be faked by the presence of lighting, volume, adrenaline, emotionalism and again, charisma. The gift of tongues can often be faked by the presence of emotionalism, corporate enthusiasm and again, charisma. On the other hand, prophecy is verifiable. Prophecy cannot be faked. The gift of prophecy is powerfully alive in the Church today but, like the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, can only be given, blessed and used by God Himself.

 

4) Healing

In the same way that Prophecy and Vision come with stereotypes and judgments on the part of those outside of the Church, the idea of “healing” has also gone quite misunderstood. The gift of healing, like Prophecy and Vision, was a large part of Jesus’ ministry and the Apostles’ teaching and was well represented in the early Church. For us to dismiss it as something done in the past but not available to our present Church is quite illogical.

 

Matthew 10:7-8 

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 

The gift of healing is for us in the Church to possess now, not simply to reflect back to in nostalgia as something done by our forefathers. While some are gifted with the gift of healing in dramatically physical ways, most people go their entire lives without seeing an actual physical healing in person. However, most assume the absence of frequent resurrections and blind-to-sight healings as proof that the gift of healing simply does not exist anymore. To assume this is to completely misunderstand the purpose of healing taught by Jesus for His Church to exercise in the first place. The purpose of the gift of healing is to express the impact of God. This impact is a visible transformation from old to new, done visibly and publicly. However, this transformation from old to new cannot be reduced to simply the transformation of the physical body. In fact, Jesus Christ was adamant that our physical body means very little. The purpose of the numerous physical healings that Jesus conducted in the Gospels was not to discourage or intimidate by comparison. Those healings were conducted for Christ’s ministry and the people of that time, to fulfill the prophecies of the prophets that illustrated the nature of the Messiah’s return, which would be characterized by physical transformation:

 

Isaiah 61:1-29 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

 

While physical healing and transformation is still present in the Church today and some are gifted in this area, it is my opinion that the true healing available to all those professing faith in Jesus Christ is of a different nature.

Jesus Christ was clear that healing is impossible without his presence and his word. In his Word lies the power of God to transform and save the lost.

 

Mark 9:25-29

2When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

 

While most will never see a dead body raised physically, the sharing of God’s Word to someone outside of the presence of God, by Jesus’ Word, is more powerful than physical resurrection. Anyone raised from the dead in this world still faces the challenge of sin. However, sharing the Word of God that results in a life born anew and a new creation in Jesus Christ represents the ultimate healing. There is joy in this world when a dead body is raised. However, according to Jesus, there is immeasurable rejoicing in Heaven at the resurrection of a life dead to sin, reborn and resurrected with Christ and transformed in his image.

 

Luke 15:1-7

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

 

Physical healing means absolutely nothing as long as the sin within the body is left unaddressed. The priority of Jesus’ healings targeted sin, not the body. Finding God in the words of Jesus Christ and His gospel is the true pearl, the true prize, the true goal. In this way, the Church today has been blessed with the privilege of truly raising the dead to life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

Philippians 1:18-26 

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT