(1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
In my last post I spoke of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit that is given to all people who are born of the spirit and who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The manifestation of the spirit as spoken of by Paul in verse 7 of this chapter is clearly speaking in tongues.
But now we look at the other gifts of the Holy Spirit that different people may receive. All of the gifts of the spirit are given for specific purposes. But there are two primary reasons why the Lord sees fit to bestow the gifts of the spirit on people, which we will cover here.
But first let us look at getting the gifts. There are many people who would like to have the gifts of the spirit. I mean, who wouldn't want to have the gift of miraculous healing and be able to walk into a hospital and empty it out by healing everyone there? Imagine that! Why can't we do that? Well…let's have a look at this whole matter in some more depth.
The first challenge that arises with the spiritual gifts is how do you get them.
There has been a teaching over the years in some churches where they “claim the promises of God.” I can't say for certain that I have heard this extended to claiming the gifts of the spirit, but the principle is the same if they do and unfortunately it is not a scriptural principle either for gifts or the promises of the Lord.
Claiming anything from God suggests that we are in the place of power. It presumes that we can have power over God and somehow force His hand to do what WE want; that we can take things from Him.
Who is God? Are we God? No we are not. The true power of God rests with God and His power is offered to us through grace, by faith, and when we obey His word following the teachings of Jesus Christ. We cannot force Him to do anything or take any of His promises unless He gives them to us.
And so too are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When you read this section of scripture you see that the most important point is not the gifts themselves, but how they are given or distributed.
The final verse in this section says,
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. – (1 Corinthians 12:11)
Note well, the gifts are all empowered and apportioned to people individually as HE wills. The gifts are not apportioned according to any man's will and no person can claim or take the gifts of the Holy Spirit for him or her self. It is according to the will of the Holy Spirit that a gift is given or not given.
We are encouraged to seek the gifts of the spirit and we may pray and ask for them, but in the end whether we receive a gift or not is entirely up to the will of the Holy Spirit.
Note also that these gifts are different from the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as discussed in my last post. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit, which I believe to be speaking in tongues, is for the individual. Speaking in tongues is given so that an individual can use the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the weaknesses of the flesh and walk in the spirit. It is used as part of the perfecting process that the Holy Spirit is doing in individuals to prepare them for God's kingdom.
But the the gifts of the spirit given in these verses is not for the individual but for the work of the church and to help others. When it talks about tongues in these verses, Paul is talking about a separate gift for the purposes and use of the church rather than the individual. The two should not be confused as they are different and have a different emphasis and purpose.
Who will receive these gifts, especially the ones often referred to as the “power gifts,” which are the healing and miraculous gifts and so forth? Only those people whom the Lord can trust with the gifts to use them for His purposes. Could you imagine a person with some of the miraculous gifts that the Lord could not trust? It would be more damaging to the individual, the church and the message of the Lord than not having the gift at all. Man suffers from pride and if a proud man had such power they could use it for their own gain or benefit rather than doing the work of the Lord.
Which brings us to consider why the gifts are given and the two primary purposes that I indicated earlier.
Supporting The Gospel
The first of these purposes is to support the message of the gospel. The gifts of the spirit were given so that they could offer a proof of the TRUTH of the gospel. We see this mentioned as part of the Great Commission in the gospel of Mark.
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. – (Mark 16:19-20)
The many signs and wonders that the disciples carried out were to confirm and support the message of the gospel. Just as Jesus preached the word and then did signs and wonders to prove that the words He spoke were from God, so too the signs and wonders carried out by the disciples were confirming the truth of the gospel to those to whom they preached.
We must remember that the gifts are not being done by us. They are being done by the Holy Spirit as directed by the Lord, which this scripture reveals. Even when Jesus walked the earth there were times that we see He had power to do certain things and so presumably there were times even He could not do things. Note this verse.
On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. – (Luke 5:17)
On this occasion the power of God was with the Lord to heal. But on other occasions we see that there was little power with Him to do many mighty works as we see when He returned to His childhood home.
4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. – (Mark 6:4-5)
Here we see that Jesus could do no mighty works in His hometown, which we see as you read further was due to the lack of faith among those people.
So one of the primary purposes of the mighty works and the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to support and confirm the gospel where there is faith to receive and accept it. And I should add, the gifts are given to support the TRUTH of the gospel or the real gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is important today because there are many things taught and believed as being gospel and truth, but are not. The modern church accepts and teaches many things that have no basis in the gospel and are in some cases not even mentioned in the bible. There are other things taught that directly contravene and oppose the truth of the gospel.
You can be certain that the Lord is not going to give His gifts to support error and falsehood. And this was the point I was making earlier about trust. He will apportion the gifts to those who He can trust because they are rightly holding and using the truth of the gospel.
Building Up The Church
The second primary focus of the gifts is for the building up of the church.
Just as the gifts were given to confirm and support the preaching of the gospel, so too certain of the gifts assist the church. For example, the gifts of knowledge, faith and prophecy may be used in the church to prepare and to warn the church of things about to happen.
The work of the Lord was to build a church and He assists wherever He can to strengthen and work with the church for it's growth, protection and support.
Although the Lord works with people as individuals, it is through the church as a body that growth occurs. It is by giving gifts to the church that it will grow and mature and it is by the working of people within the church together that people learn, grow and mature.
The Lord gave the ministry gifts to the church for this purpose as we see in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, – (Ephesians 4:8-13)
The ministry gifts the Lord gave were, as we see above, for the purpose of equipping and building up the body of Christ so that they would come fully to maturity in Jesus Christ.
The spiritual gifts are operated by those who are doing this work. The easiest example of how these two sets of gifts interact is where those with the ministry of a prophet receive and use the spiritual gift of prophecy.
So too the other ministry gifts will work hand in hand with the different gifts of the spirit to do the Lord's work for the purpose of building up the church.
These spiritual gifts are not given to an individual to use for themselves. They are given to be used for the purposes of the Lord in either building up the church or confirming the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
While we might wish to go into a hospital and heal all the sick, that would only occur if it is the will of the Lord. It would only occur if it supported either of the two primary purposes of the gifts and fitted with the Lord's timing.
Today we do not see the broad application of the spiritual gifts as they occurred in the early church. We might wonder why, but if we consider the two reasons these gifts were used, it makes perfect sense.
First, unlike the early church where they began with the truth as delivered by Jesus Himself and then by those who were taught directly by Him, we now see many different versions of the gospel. Not all of them are right and the Lord will not support what is false with His spiritual gifts.
Second, we have the issue of trust. The Lord will only trust the spiritual gifts to those who He trusts and who hold the fulness of the truth as originally taught by Him. The church as a whole and individuals in it have a lot to learn and to un-learn before they can be trusted to use His gifts correctly.
Third we have the issue of timing. The Lord will display these spiritual gifts when the time is right to do so. It may be for a specific individual or it may be for the church as a whole.
Will we ever see a great outpouring of the gift of the spirit as we read in the New Testament? Yes, I believe it will happen. The bible tells us that before the second coming of the Lord that the TRUE gospel must be preached across the whole world. Jesus told us that there would be a great invitation go out to ALL mankind to come to Him before He returns. I believe when these things take place we will see the working of all the gifts to show the people of the world that God is with whomever He uses in such a way. It will then be a time for the people of the Lord to stand up and be counted, and for the people of the world to choose…before it is too late.
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