The Holy Spirit and You, Part 9



The Gifts of the Spirit


The greatest gift to the world came from God in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This gift is everything a sinful world needs to gain acceptance by God and to live eternally at peace with Him.  The Holy Spirit is another gift, but this gift is not for the world.  This gift is only for the Church, and it is a gift from both the Father and the Son.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is everything a Christian needs to live a full, abundant life, rich in purpose and power, that glorifies God.

The purpose of this message is not to examine each spiritual gifts individually.  Instead, we are going to look at the gifts in a general way; what they are and what they are for and how they work in a believer’s life and in the life of a local church.

The Holy Spirit is a gift, and He comes with His own gifts.  What are these spiritual gifts?  They are:

1.  Diversified

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.  (1 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV84)

The Holy Spirit lives inside every single born-again believer.  But how does He make His presence known?  How does the Spirit manifest Himself?  The answer is simple:  through the gifts that God gives to His people.   Here in a letter to the Corinthian church, Paul lists a series of nine spiritual gifts, but this list shouldn’t be thought of as exhaustive because elsewhere in the New Testament Paul lists other gifts of the Spirit, and depending on who’s counting, there could be as many as 24 or 28 gifts of the Holy Spirit.  But this list in 1 Corinthians is the one that most of us are most familiar with.  Scholars like to group them together as temporal gifts and permanent gifts – that is, some of the gifts ended with the end of the apostolic church while others continue to this day, they say.  Others like to say some gifts are verbal, other non-verbal, some are important others no so important. 

For his  part, Paul probably wasn’t thinking like that at all.  All he did was to make a list of gifts the Holy Spirit gives to people in a church.  The very fact that you can find every single gift in operation today somewhere in the world seems to point to the permanence of the gifts, at least until The Lord returns.  It’s foolish to claim some gifts have ceased while other haven’t unless you have the same kind of knowledge God has. 

These gifts were a natural outcome of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  All of these gifts come from ONE Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  Notice carefully this:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  (Corinthians 12:7 NIV84)

These gifts have nothing to do with native talent; they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit through an individual Christian.   As a Spirit-filled Christian yields himself to the Holy Spirit within him, that Spirit will work through him “for the common good,” that is, for the benefit of the church, the Body of Christ.  The gifts are not for your benefit.  They are not given to you so you can make more money or have a TV show where you read minds.  They are given to build up a local congregation and the Body of Christ in general.  And the fact that they are given by the Spirit means they are ALL useful.

2.  Bestowed by God

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.  (1 Corinthians 12:11 NIV84)

The building up of the church of Jesus Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit, through its members.

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:22 NIV84)

And He accomplishes this through us by giving us the various gifts of the Spirit.  Both the gifts and the power to use the gifts come from the Holy Spirit.  He is in back of all the gifts and He alone enables believers to use them effectively for the benefit of the church.  But notice the wording of 1 Corinthians 12:11 carefully:  every single believer may be the recipient of a spiritual gift or gifts.  It is the up to the Holy Spirit to determine who receives what gift or gifts.  This really is a remarkable verse in that it shows the Holy Spirit to be as much a Person as the other members of the Trinity!  He is not just an impersonal energy or force.  The precious Holy Spirit is a thinking, reasoning, loving, empowering, supernatural and Divine Person!  How blessed are Christians to have Him dwelling within them!

3.  For the good of all

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV84)

Far too often preachers, missionaries, evangelists, or Bible teachers are thought to be the only ones “gifted” in the church.  Far too often there is a distinction made between sacred and secular occupations.  Work for The Lord is thought to be done only by those who are ordained to do so.

Here Paul makes it clear that manifestations of the Spirit are given to every (each) believer.  This makes all the sense in the world, since the Spirit dwells in all believers!  In the life of all believers the Holy Spirit WILL reveal Himself, one way or another, through one gift or another.  Ordained or not.  Seminary-indoctrinated or not.  The Holy Spirit will work through a willing heart to benefit people within the Body of Christ. 

Every member of the church benefits from the gifts of the Spirit, therefore every member ought to be using his or her gifts as often as possible. 

[The ascended Christ gave gifts to the Church] to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…  (Ephesians 4:12 NIV84)

We all need to be useful members of the community of faith!  We can’t forever be human sponges, soaking up Bible teaching and blessings.  We must give back; we must  learn to let the Holy Spirit work in us and through us, building us up and others in the church.

4.  To be desired

But eagerly desire the greater gifts….  (1 Corinthians 12:31a NIV84)

While Paul plainly teaches that it is up to The Lord to decide who gets what gift or gifts, he also urges believers to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.”  This sentence is not without controversy.  And yet it really isn’t a controversial statement at all when it is understood in the context of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.

To “eagerly desire” comes from a Greek word, zeloute, meaning “burning zeal.”  All believers should have this attitude toward the spiritual gifts:  they should be learning all they can about the gifts and praying that The Lord would give them the best gift or gifts for them to use. 

The Corinthians were all excited about the spiritual gifts, but they were wanting the flashy ones, like speaking in tongues.  Paul’s aim was to get his friends to see that their distorted view of some of the gifts was doing more harm than good to the congregation.  His admonition should be viewed in that light of context.  ALL the gifts are good and important and we should all want to blessed with the most useful and appropriate one or ones for us and for our church.

5.  To be used carefully

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.  (1 Timothy 4:14 NIV84)

In the context of his letter to Timothy, Paul wanted to remind him that he had received a gift; a calling to do the work of The Lord.  For preachers and those who aspire to be preachers, this is an important verse to consider.  The call of God to those would do the work of the ministry is instigated by the Holy Spirit, not by another minister or a ministerial committee.  One doesn’t just decide to become a pastor because his father was one or because he wants to help people.  It’s a calling.  And with that calling comes the gift or gifts to get the job done.  Talent will get you only so far.  Work for The Lord must be done in the Spirit of The Lord.

However, what is true of the “professional preacher” is true of each believer.  We cannot afford to ignore or neglect our spiritual gifts.  How terrible it would be to ignore a spiritual gift because of fear or just neglect!  When a believer does that, they are literally robbing their congregation of the blessings that should be theirs!  It’s the absolute height of selfishness to NOT exercise your particular gift or gifts. 

6.  To be used!

Paul had warned Timothy not to neglect his gift.  Now in his second letter, he warns him again:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.   (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV84)

Timothy was to “fan into flame the gift.”  This is the need of the hour in the Church of Jesus Christ today, whether you are a leader in your church like Timothy, or a member.  Our constant danger is that we will become slack or lazy in exercising our gifts.  Every once in a while we all need to check ourselves to see if we are indeed walking in the fullness of the Spirit as we ought.  We should periodically renew our commitment and dedication to “fan into flame” our gifts.   This is the essence of revival:  a congregation that is living and working as they should – in the Spirit.


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