Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Gifts of the Spirit

We know what the fruits of the Spirit are. They're love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5: 22, 23), basically all goodness and righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5: 9). You know a tree by the fruit it bears, and so the fruits of the Spirit are the evidence of God's work being perfected in you. They are the evidence that God truly is making you a new creation (Ephesians 2: 10). The fruits of the Spirit are traits, characteristics of one's demeanor.

But what are the gifts of the Spirit? Gifts of the Spirit are the talents and abilities that enable you to serve your role in the church. Indeed, your role in the church is your gift of the Spirit. Every Christian (member of the church) has some gift, which Paul calls "the manifestation of the Spirit," and they have that gift because God has chosen them to fulfill that role to benefit everyone in the church (I Corinthians 12: 7). In other words, every Christian has a specific function in the church, which is the body of Christ.

So what, specifically, are the gifts of the Spirit that one might receive? Paul lists several in verses 8 - 10. There Paul lists wisdom; knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, diverse kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues as gifts of the Spirit. Further down in verse 28 Paul also includes as gifts of the Spirit the gift of helping others, and the gift of administration. These are all roles that need be filled if the church, that is to say the body of Christ, is to function well.

It is thematic to I Corinthians 12 that the church is one body made up of many dissimilar members like our physical bodies are made up of many dissimilar members. Just as the various members of your body perform different functions, so too do the various members of the body of Christ. And in both cases they are all still members of the same body (e.g. verse 27). This is an important point, and there are many today who need to take note of this simple truth. Do not err by thinking that someone may not be a Christian just because they do not exhibit any one particular gift of the Spirit. Paul is clear that not everyone will exhibit all of the gifts of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12: 29, 30).

Okay, every Christian has the gift of faith, but then so does everyone who is not a Christian. Everyone born has that measure of faith necessary unto salvation, and it is indeed a gift from God (Ephesians 2: 8, 9, Romans 1: 20). In keeping with Paul's analogy, faith is like oxygen, or the life blood that brings it, to the members of our bodies. No matter its function, every member of our body must receive oxygen via the bloodstream lest it die. Likewise, everyone born must have that measure of faith sufficient unto salvation, lest they could not be saved. And that measure of faith can grow or die, depending on what the individual does to either nurture or kill it, but that is a subject for another article.

Regarding the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, if any member of the church does not have these gifts, it is only by their own choice. God is clear on this matter. He gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us, which is to give us the gift of knowledge (John 14: 26). Moreover, He said that He will give liberally to all who ask for wisdom, (James 1: 5).

But of course, when Christians speak of the gifts of the Spirit today, they aren't usually thinking about faith, or knowledge or even wisdom. I dare say that there are many who will not ask for knowledge because it might mean having to learn, or worse yet study, and they'd rather not. No, when Christians speak of the gifts of the Spirit today they're talking about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, or at least the ones they believe are miraculous. They're usually most interested in the gifts that, as Paul said, are not given to everyone (I Corinthians 12: 29, 30). Unfortunately, few Christians really understand the nature of these less common gifts.

Oh, indeed some of the gifts of the Spirit truly are miraculous. The gift of healing is such a gift. As is the gift of discerning spirits. Of course, no one who understands the gift of discerning spirits would ever desire such a gift, anymore than someone would desire to be called an apostle if they truly understood what it implied. Think about it for a moment. Would you really want to go through life constantly, poignantly, aware of the evil around you at every turn?

And what about apostleship? Would you really choose to be called an apostle if you understood that it meant you would some day have to choose to be painfully and horrifically martyred for refusing to deny that the Christ rose from the dead? This was the role of the Apostles. This is the only thing that sets the Apostles apart from Jesus' other disciples. "But wait!," you say. "John was an Apostle and he died of old age." And that's true. John was the only Apostle to die a natural death, but only because he survived being martyred (I assure you, a fate far worse than that of the rest).

My point is not that you should be careful what you wish for, lest you might get what you ask. My point is that these gifts are so poorly understood by so many today, and it needn't be so if they'd only ask God to show them the truth (Matthew 7: 7, 8; Luke 11: 9, 10). And of these less common gifts of the Spirit, the two most, and most often, misunderstood are tongues and prophesy. So let's consider these in more detail.

Most people today think of the gift of speaking in tongues as being synonymous with praying in the Spirit. They believe that speaking in tongues means miraculously speaking in the tongues of angels. But praying in the Spirit is not the same thing as speaking in tongues, and speaking in tongues is not the same thing as speaking in the tongues of angels. Moreover, the miraculous gift of tongues is yet something else altogether.

The miraculous speaking in tongues is indeed a real Biblical event. It actually happened. It occurred on the day of the fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks (a week of weeks or seven weeks if you will), on the day after the seventh Sabbath. The seventh Sabbath was the 49th day (7 x 7 = 49), and the day after that Sabbath, a Sunday, was the fiftieth day. Hence the Feast of Weeks is also called the Feast of the Fiftieth Day. You might recognize it by the Greek word for "fiftieth day," or "Pentecost" (See also The Feasts of the Lord). Let's look at what scripture says happened.

In Acts 2, verses 1 - 11, we read that Jesus' disciples were given "... to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." This does not mean that they were given to speak in the tongues of angels, such that those listening could not understand them. To the contrary, the Spirit gave them utterance such that every man there could, "hear them speak in [their own] tongues the wonderful works of God." Therein was the miracle, that even though the speakers were all Galileans, each man their heard them speak in his own tongue.

Most believe, as do I, that the Holy Spirit miraculously gave each man the ability to speak another language that day, such that no matter where the others were from, they heard someone speaking their own language. And that's certainly miraculous. Of course, some believe that the Holy Spirit gave the Galileans utterance such that every man listening heard each speaker speaking in his own language. In other words, when one spoke, the Arab heard him in Arabic, and they Egyptian heard the same man speaking Egyptian. And indeed, if that is what happened, it was also certainly miraculous.

But most people who believe this do so because the account goes on to describe a sermon given by Peter, one that they errantly believe he addressed to the whole crowd. But note in verses 13 - 15 that scripture tells us, "Others," began to mock them, and accuse them of drunkenness. It doesn't say that those listening began to mock them, but "others." And Peter addresses them, not as visitors from abroad, but as "Ye men of Judaea, ...." This makes sense, if you think about it for a moment. It would have been the men of Judaea that didn't understand what the disciples were saying, prompting them to think the disciples drunk. And this also means that they did not hear the disciples in their own language.

In any case, this was decidedly a miraculous event. But this is not what Paul refers to as the gift of tongues (for example in I Corinthians 12, 13 and 14). In general, there is nothing necessarily miraculous about the gift of tongues. And don't be confused by I Corinthians 13: 1. Paul is not claiming to speak with the tongues of angels. He is simply employing hyperbole. He was saying that even if he did speak with the tongues of angels,  to do so would be without profit if it lacked love.

Read the first three verses of I Corinthians 13. Do you believe that Paul was claiming to have all knowledge, or to understand all mysteries, or to have all faith? No, he was just stressing the point that no gift is profitable if it is not exercised in love (charity). In point of fact Paul did speak in more tongues than the rest of them (I Corinthians 14: 18). Paul was a highly educated man. As such he spoke many languages, and that was the gift of tongues, the ability to speak more than one language. If you are multilingual, you have the gift of tongues. If you aren't, you don't. It's as simple as that.

But that the gift of tongues is not supernatural does not imply it is not Spiritual. It is precisely through people exercising the gift of tongues that the Gospel has been spread to all nations and to all peoples. And this indeed is the work of the Lord.

And this brings me to the final gift I want to touch on, the Spiritual gift that Paul calls the gift of prophesy. Read I Corinthians 14: 18, 19. Paul said he'd rather speak 5 words with understanding than 10,000 words in an unknown tongue. Earlier, in verses 1 - 5 of that same chapter, Paul tells the believers at Corinth that prophesy is the greatest of the Spiritual gifts, the one to be most cherished, even coveted (I Corinthians 14: 39).

And, at this point it is crucial to understand that the word translated here as prophesy doesn't mean what we think of as prophesying today. It doesn't mean to proclaim special, heretofore unknown, revelations received directly from God. It doesn't mean the same kind of prophesying as was the case with Samuel or Jeremiah or Daniel. It simply means to speak publicly, to teach. A better translation might be to preach, or to teach, the Word of God.

On the other hand, the gift of prophesy may not be so different today than then after all. Oh, to be sure, the Word of God has already been given to all men in the form of scripture. So there may be no more "special revelations," but the gift of the Spirit is that He teaches one the meaning of God's Word. The gift of the Spirit is that He gives one the understanding of God's Word so that they in turn can explain it to others.

And who has this most cherished of the spiritual gifts today? Who has the gift of prophesy? Your pastor has the gift of prophesy. Preachers have the gift of prophesy. Your Sunday School teachers and your small group leaders have the gift of prophesy. Anyone who, when you need advice as you deal with the course of your life, finds and shares that advice in scripture, they have the gift of prophesy.

Galatians 5: 22, 23    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Ephesians 5: 9    (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

Ephesians 2: 8, 9    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2: 10    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

I Corinthians 12

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 
2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 
3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. 
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 
28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Romans 1: 20    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

John 14: 26    But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

James 1: 5    If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Matthew 7: 7, 8    Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11: 9, 10    And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Acts 2: 1 - 11    And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Acts 2: 13 - 15    Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

I Corinthians 13: 1 - 3    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

I Corinthians 14: 18, 19    I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

I Corinthians 14: 1 - 5    Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

I Corinthians 14: 39    Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.