Discovering the Spiritual Gifts Part 4

While Jesus was with the disciples He taught them how to minister with the authority that He had. They healed the sick, cast out demons, and fed the masses, all in a day's work. Yet, Jesus said they would do even more amazing things than this. You can imagine Peter tugging on his earlobe wondering what could be more incredible than the night Jesus resecured a soldier's detached ear as if he was molding silly putty (John 18:10-11, Luke 22:47-53).

How would this be possible?

Jesus told the disciples after his resurrection that the Holy Spirit would come and fill them with supernatural power. i.e. the same power that had raised him from the dead would fill them too. Instead of a temporary one-hit-wonder, the Holy Spirit would be a permanent resident in their lives. A few weeks later the Holy Spirit burst on the scene and the Father surprised everyone with astonishing gifts. Oprah or Ellen have never come close!

"They [the disciples] allowed themselves to be filled, consecrated, governed, and used only by [Jesus]. They yielded themselves to Him as instruments of His power. He dwelt in them and used them for all His wondrous deeds." - Andrew Murray, Experiencing the Holy Spirit

The result is that the Holy Spirit 'manifests' God's presence and glory through his children. This simply means He makes Himself known, becomes visible, or expresses himself in glaringly obvious ways. Some of the ways He did this became so common, that Paul was able to catalog them and point out that they were not our own doing, but a gift from God for the benefit of others.

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom,

to another a 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.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit,

and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

(1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

These gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are sometimes referred to as the 'manifestation gifts'. Simply put, the manifestation gifts are supernatural gifts seen when the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through a believer (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The book of Acts is full of accounts of the believers using these gifts as a normal part of the Christian life.

<Cick here to skip to a brief explanation of each gift>

Bring a gift to the party

When believers gather together for worship and prayer, the Holy Spirit moves among the people and gives them words and wonders to share with each other. I have been in prayer meetings where the Holy Spirit has given one person a song, another a vision, another a psalm, another a single word, another a message in tongues, and to another a prophetic word.

"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:16)

In this way, everyone is encouraged and blessed as the Holy Spirit ministers and leads us together. Paul spends some time writing to the churches explaining how best to facilitate these gatherings so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful and orderly way, e.g.1 Corinthians 14:6. Pagan worship was notoriously chaotic so there were some adjustments to be made (Ephesians 5:18-19). More pointedly, he makes it clear that it is not a number of different deities at work, but the one Spirit, who can do things his own way, because He knows what He's doing.

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

Everyone loves a good giveaway

These gifts of the Holy Spirit are not limited to church gatherings. They are intended to serve as a powerful witness to the presence and glory of God (Stephen's ministry is a great example (Acts 6:8-10).

"Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." Mark 16:20

In this way, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are a powerful evangelism tool (as Jesus also demonstrated). When you pray for the sick and they are healed, when you discern an evil spirit and get rid of it from someone who is suffering, when you receive knowledge of someone's secret thoughts and reassure them God sees them, God's powerful love is manifest and hearts turn to Him.

Who gets which gifts?

Some spiritual gifts tests can cause confusion about who gets which gifts of the spirit. Because they are ranked alongside other gifts mentioned in scripture, the results can imply that you receive one or two gifts and none of the others. I believe this is unhelpful and a misunderstanding of the gifts of the Spirit.

For example, the gift of 'speaking in tongues' or 'prophesying' mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 is not for a few believers, it is for all believers, this is why Paul encouraged both and to learn to use them properly (1 Corinthians 14).

It is counter-productive to think that you only get one specific gift and that's it. You would have to go out in groups of eight just in case you needed that other guy who can fill in the blanks! Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs for companionship and accountability, but He gave them the same Spirit who would give them the power they needed to confirm the good news (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Jesus described a variety of ways the Spirit would manifest himself in the life of a believer:

"He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name, they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:15-18)

Good luck doing any of that without the Holy Spirit!

If you have the Holy Spirit, then you have spiritual gifts freely available to you to use (for the common good of course). i.e. a believer may learn to prophesy, discover the faith to pray for healing, and discern demonic interference, all before breakfast. When you make yourself available to Him, He will make them available to you if you ask. This means we can serve and minister in any situation because we already have the Holy Spirit working in and through us to bless others.

Having said that, your personality or motivational gift will greatly affect which of the manifestation gifts you are likely to move in. This is because you will have more confidence activating a gift that you already have empathy for. For example, prophetic people and those who are encouragers, tend to seek the gift of prophecy and words of knowledge. Those gifted with leadership may be more inclined to seek wisdom and miracles, while those who God has graced with mercy and compassion may be motivated to see the manifestation of God’s healing to end someone’s suffering.

Those 'rockstars' you see may actually be men and women who have cultivated a life dependent on the Holy Spirit and developed and honed a particular gift because God has anointed them for that purpose 'just as he has determined'.

The more you use and learn about each of the gifts, the more your faith and confidence will grow. Ultimately we make ourselves available for the Holy Spirit to manifest God's glory through us.

A brief explanation of each gift at work

(click on any of the links to find more information)

  • a message of wisdom: when the Holy Spirit gives divine wisdom to reveal strategies or methods for specific situations, with solutions and positive actions to take.

  • a message of knowledge: when the Holy Spirit reveals specific details or information that could not be known by the person who receives it.

  • faith: when the Holy Spirit gives supernatural reassurance that God that what God has said will happen and confidence to act on that conviction to see it through

  • gifts of healing: when the Holy Spirit supernaturally heals someone who is suffering any kind of pain

  • miraculous powers: when the Holy Spirit does something extraordinary that cannot be explained by or attributed to human or natural forces.

  • prophecy: when the Holy Spirit reveals God's heart and mind regarding a person or situation that can be in a current context or His future plans.

  • distinguishing between spirits: when the Holy Spirit enables someone to discern hidden sources of spiritual activity, and whether it is of God or demonic origin. Evidence of the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light is clearly seen.

  • speaking in different kinds of tongues: when the Holy Spirit enables someone to speak in a new spiritual language for:

  • personal encouragement and strength as the Holy Spirit makes possible engagement with God spirit-to-Spirit (Romans 8:26-27, 1 Corinthians 14:2)

  • sharing a prophetic message to the church directly from the Holy Spirit i.e is not filtered by the one sharing it. This requires an interpretation before it is given. (1 Corinthians 14:4-5)

  • the interpretation of tongues: when the Holy Spirit provides the understanding of a prophetic message given in tongues and communicates the message in the common language of the people it is shared with. (1 Corinthians 14:6-11)

These gifts often work together. For example, a word of knowledge can be accompanied by a message of wisdom (i.e how to apply the truth in practical ways) or it might identify a specific sickness someone has that God wants you to pray for healing.

And of course, the Holy Spirit can give any spiritual gift He chooses at any time. He isn't limited to a scholastic catalog of spiritual gifts. He can make them up on the spot and is full of wonderful surprises!

Is there a best-before-date?

Cessationists believe that the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and performed signs and wonders through the apostles but that this ended with their deaths. The apostles and reported miracles in the history of the church suggest otherwise:

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come and his power would enable the apostles to become witnesses throughout the world (Acts 1:7-8). It was the apostles who then affirmed and encouraged the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers after Pentecost. For example:

  • Joel prophesied the Holy Spirit would be given to all believers. The Apostle Peter testified that this had not only happened (Acts 2) but was a gift God wanted to give to anyone who repented and turned to Him (Acts 11:15-18).

  • The Apostle Paul taught extensively on the proper use of the gifts in the churches he planted and mentored, with the expectation that they were not to ‘quench’ or limit the Spirit (1Thessalonians 5:19) but to ’eagerly desire the greater gifts’ (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Obviously, it is my belief that Jesus is not done working signs and wonders through people who are filled with His Spirit, and the stories you read on this site are only a few examples of present-day manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Unwrapping the Gifts

How to receive the Gifts of the Spirit

We experience the Holy Spirit when we accept the Father's gift of salvation through His Son.

"But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour." - Titus 3:4-6

We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through impartation from God and other believers. Here are some different examples of this in the early church.

e.g. the breath of God - John 20:21-23

e.g. through prayer and/or physical touch (laying on of hands) - Acts 8:14-18

e.g. spontaneously - Acts 10:44-48

How to activate the Gifts of the Spirit

We receive the Holy Spirit by faith and with Him, all the gifts He has to offer. You can activate these gifts simply by asking him to begin manifesting Himself through you. This means listening for his voice and responding to his prompts when you see a need you can pray for. Look for opportunities and take a step of faith. Just like driving a car, there is no point in getting a licence so you can sit in your car. You need to turn the key in the ignition and put it into gear. Tap the gas and experience the engine come to life.

"I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

How to develop the Gifts of the Spirit

  • Learn about each of the gifts through study and practice

"Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed."

1 Corinthians 12:1

  • Learn in loving community and find those who know more than you do

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."

Romans 12:3

  • Be a mature student

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness."

2 Peter 1:4-6

  • Let love motivate you more than your motivational gift:

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."

Romans 12:9-11

Refer to this article GIFT WRAPPED GOODNESS for more



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* All scripture is quoted from NIV translation unless noted