God's truth for today's world

the gifts of the spiritToday, we’re continuing our Living in the Spirit message series. We need the power of the Spirit in greater measure in our personal lives and in our church.

This morning, my message is entitled “The Gifts of the Spirit.” The gifts of the Spirit are supernatural gifts that the Spirit gives to believers to accomplish God’s purposes. The Greek word for spiritual gifts if charismata, which means gifts of grace. These gifts are not optional, they are great importance in your spiritual life and in the life of the church. Yet, they are not well understood and even less utilized in many churches, including ours. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?

Acts 1:8 (NIV)  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus teaches us in this verse that the power of the Holy Spirit, which is manifested through spiritual gifts, is to equip believers to be witnesses. We see spiritual gifts being used in evangelism in the ministry of Jesus and the early church over and over. Not only are spiritual gifts of great use in evangelism, they are also useful for building up the church.

1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV)  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Within the church, the gifts are distributed by the Spirit for the common good of all the believers in the church.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV)  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 distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

These 9 spiritual gifts are the ones we are going to talk about today. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is an important list of the variety of supernatural gifts available to the believer.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV)  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

Even though the Spirit gives the gifts, we are commanded to eagerly desire spiritual gifts. If you don’t desire and pray for them, you won’t ever receive them. So, I trust that today’s overview of these nine gifts will increase your desire to operate in them in your own life. For sake of discussion, I’ve divided the nine gifts into three categories that have been recognized by many others.

Gifts of revelation

These are gifts in which God supernaturally reveals something to you that you could not have known by natural means. The Bible is full of examples of these gifts of revelation that God distributes to believers to further His plan and purpose.

Message of wisdom

Acts 6:10 (NIV)  but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.

This gift is a revelation from the Spirit that applies God’s wisdom to a situation or problem. It is a message of wisdom that is beyond human understanding. The verse is from the life of Stephen, when unbelievers were not able to withstand his message of wisdom with their arguments. We are told in the context of this verse that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. To operate in the gifts of the Spirit, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. The next gift is the …

Message of knowledge

Acts 5:1-3 (NIV)  Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.  With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.  Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?

How did Peter know that Ananias was lying? There was no way for Peter to have humanly discerned the lie. Yet, the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of the matter through a message of knowledge to Peter. Peter then used that knowledge to confront Ananias and Sapphira and bring God’s judgment on them. The difference between a message of wisdom and a message of knowledge is that a message of knowledge supernaturally reveals new, previously unknown information. A message of wisdom reveals a way to wisely deal with a problematic or difficult situation.

Distinguishing between spirits

What are the spirits that this gift refers to? There are basically three kinds of spirit. There is the human spirit in every person, there is the Holy Spirit and there are demonic spirits. You cannot see spirits by natural means. This spiritual gift gives a believer the ability to supernaturally distinguish between these different kinds of spirits.

Acts 16:16, 18 (NIV)  Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. … Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

In this case, the Holy Spirit, gave Paul the ability to recognize that this slave girl was operating by a demonic spirit that could predict the future. She followed Paul around and caused trouble for their witnessing. Paul, discerning that she was demonized by an evil spirit, cast the spirit out of her. The girl was set free and the ministry could continue. We really need this gift today to be able to distinguish between mental illness and demonic influence and possession.

Application

Now, we’ve already mentioned the command in Scripture that every believer should desire these gifts. Why aren’t more people operating in the gifts? The first and foremost reason is that the New Testament assumes that every believer has been water and Spirit baptized. These gifts are seen almost exclusively in Spirit- baptized believers. So, if you have not been baptized in the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, you’re not going to experience these gifts. I’d encourage you to come forward for prayer to receive Spirit baptism.

The second reason that even Spirit-baptized believers don’t utilize these gifts is that there is a lack of faith and a lack of understanding. As you study the Bible and believe that what you read about can happen today, your faith will grow.

Gifts of power

These three gifts are demonstrations of God’s power and are particularly useful in outreach and witnessing.

 Gift of faith

Matthew 17:20 (NIV)  He replied, “Because you have so little faith. 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.

Some of these spiritual gifts overlap or are used in conjunction with other gifts. This is especially true of the gift of faith. Faith is necessary to operate in any of the gifts. The gift of faith primarily refers to a supernatural gift of faith from the Spirit that enables a believer to believe God for extraordinary things. Jesus spoke in these verses about faith that could move mountains, faith with which all things are possible. The gift of faith is not the faith that one is saved by. The gift of faith is definitely involved in the other power gifts that we will be talking about, including …

Gifts of healing

Acts 14:9-10 (NIV)  He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

In these verse in Acts 14, Paul first operates in the gift of knowledge. He saw that the lame man had faith to be healed. Then he operated in a gift of healing, when he gave the man the command to stand. And obviously the gift of faith must have been present to give the command to stand to a lame man who had never walked. This is the only gift which is referred to in the plural, gifts of healing. There are many types of illnesses, and so there are different gifts of healing. These gifts of healing are of great importance in witnessing, as God loves to demonstrate his love and power by healing unbelievers.

Gift of miracles

Acts 19:11-12 (NIV)  God did extraordinary miracles through Paul,  so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

The gift of miracles encompasses both gifts of healing and deliverance from demons. In this passage, God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. In some miraculous way, the power of the Spirit was transmitted through handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him. Both physical illnesses were healed and people delivered from evil spirits. The gift of miracles if broader than just healing and deliverance. It would also encompass raising people from the dead, feeding people miraculously and other supernatural displays of power.

Application

Some people get hung up in trying to discover what gift or gifts they have. I believe the Bible teaches that any Spirit-baptized believer could be used by the Spirit to operate in any gift at any time. Now, it may well be, that you will operate in some gifts much more than others.

How do you know what spiritual gift that God may use you in? First you need to be Spirit-baptized. Then, the next step is to desire to be used by God in spiritual gifts and pray for opportunities. Finally, you must step out in faith when there is a need and trust the Spirit to work through you to meet the need. Pray for people to be healed wherever you go. Everyone can do that. Now, some people with the gifts of healing will have more success than others. However, prayer is a great way to witness to unbelievers.

Gifts of utterance

The last three gifts that we’re going to look at today have to do with speaking what the Spirit gives you to speak. To be used in these gifts, you have to learn to submit your tongue to the Spirit.

Speaking in tongues

1 Corinthians 14:2 (NIV)  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

Speaking in tongues is speaking a language that you do not know through the power of the Holy Spirit. There are two ways that God’s Word instructs us to speak in tongues, privately and publicly. When a person is Spirit-baptized, they receive the ability to speak in tongues whenever they desire. Paul said that he spoke in tongues privately more than anyone else. So everyone can pray in tongues privately. Yet, only some will be used in the gift of public tongues and/or interpretation of tongues.

Speaking in tongues is praying to God in a language you don’t know. When you pray in tongues, you are praying in accordance with God’s will and your prayer will be answered. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul addresses an issue in the Corinthian church in which the people were speaking their private tongues publicly and no one knew what they were saying. That’s why God give the gift of …

Interpretation of tongues

1 Corinthians 14:4-5 (NIV)  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.  I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

When you pray in tongues privately, you edify yourself, you build yourself up spiritually. That’s a good thing, that’s something that every believer can do when they are Spirit-baptized. However, in a church service, gifts are to be used for the common good. So, these verses give instruction that if someone speaks in tongues in a church service, someone must interpret what they are saying, so others can understand and be edified. So, either the person speaking in tongues or someone else must interpret the tongues.

Gift of prophecy

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NIV)  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

Whereas speaking in tongues is praying to God, prophecy is God speaking to people. Preaching, where the pastor prepares his message in advance, through Bible study and thought is not prophecy. Prophecy is when the Spirit speaks to a person and gives them a message from God to strengthen, encourage and comfort the church. Prophecy may include prediction of the future or it may not. Paul makes it clear that every Spirit-baptized believer is able to prophecy. Those who have a regular ministry of prophecy would have the ministry gift of prophet or prophetess.

We read before form 1 Corinthians 14:1 were God’s Word instructs us to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” Prophecy is very important in building up the church to be everything that God intends.

Conclusion

Today, we’ve taken a quick overview of the nine spiritual gifts discussed in 1 Corinthians 12. I’d encourage you this week to read and study 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 to better understand these spiritual gifts. Then begin to pray and seek God, first of all to be Spirit-baptized if you have not been. And secondly, seek Him to be used in spiritual gifts.

Our motivation in desiring spiritual gifts is to have the Spirit’s power to do God’s work in the church and world. 1 Corinthians 13 discusses that our motivation must love, love for God and love for other people. The gifts of the Spirit give us the power to meet needs supernaturally and bring others to Jesus. Let’s continue to pray as a church, that God would lead us into greater power for His glory.

Message Outline & Study Guide

Living in the Spirit Series

The Fruit of the Spirit
The Order of the Spirit
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