Spiritual Gifts

The theology and outworking of supernatural power and gifts of the Holy Spirit is not a new phenomenon rather they are deeply rooted in the historical church of which we are all a part.  The apostle Paul taught extensively on the nature and outworking of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, and this has been a central element of church life since the Patristic period (140 AD). At St Saviours, we predominantly use Paul’s teaching as the basis for our understanding and application of these gifts, within the context of prayer ministry.

Let us remember that:

The Holy Spirit and His gifts are given to the church to enable us to minister to each other, precipitating our transformation from brokenness to holiness; from separation or disconnection from God, to experiencing intimate relationship with Him. This does not happen over night, but begins once we accept the invitation from Jesus into the Kingdom and continues throughout our lives in and through the work of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

A brief explanation

God has given the church supernatural Gifts of the Spirit so we can ‘partner’ with Him in ministering to each other, reconnecting us back into intimate relationship with Him; to be healed, to experience the fullness of His love  and to play our part in the restoration of others.

These gifts are given for the supernatural transformation of the church and to serve as an outward sign to the world that God is powerful, that God is real and among us.

Another dynamic that occurs when we engage in the ministry of the spirit is that we play a part, in the coming of the kingdom.

Jesus miraculously healed individuals and was involved in other supernatural miracles, all of which were a sign that the Kingdom of God had come in and through Him.

On the day of Pentecost, with a display of divine power released by the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Spirit is poured out upon the people.

Jesus sends us the Spirit, to help and guide us as we engage in the ministry entrusted to us, by him.

We are given power and authority by Jesus (Mark 16, Luke 9) to do greater things than Him. In John 4: 12, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

We are given authority, to advance the Kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantor of the coming of the Kingdom (check out 2 Corinthians and Ephesians 1 & 4).

The kingdom is already here but not yet here fully … We live in the presence of the future … We already know a measure of victory over sin, over demonic oppression and over disease … We live in the power of the Holy Spirit - who is the dynamic power and presence of God’s coming kingdom.

Our lives are transformed when we participate in the life of the Spirit, individually and corporately. Paul makes the statement, about the ‘diversity in unity’ of the divine order (in ‘God the Trinity’) in order to highlight the godliness of God’s supernatural gifts in the life of the church. Paul wants us to see that this is the place where the one true God, equips His people to advance His Kingdom, in the face of principalities and powers.

Spiritual Gifts Definitions

Spiritual gifts are the supernatural gifts bestowed in the church, by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is at work, things can sometimes get a little messy. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, it appears that jealousy and envy have caused division in the church, expressed in their use, and abuse of certain spiritual gifts.  

Namely, in that they seem to be favoring those gifts that were more dramatic in appearance, or more unusual.

Speaking in tongues especially seems to have created a type of pecking order in which those who practiced in the gift, claimed superior status, to those who did not.  

Although Paul affirms tongues as a valid gift among the others, he does make the distinction that gifts, building up the church, are to be considered of greater value than those gifts that edify the individual, such as tongues.

The kingdom comes to earth in and through Jesus, he gives us authority to do even greater than things than he did and sends the Holy Sprit and His gifts to equip us in advancing His Kingdom.

The gifts that Paul urges us to eagerly desire, are given for this specific purpose, and are listed as follows:

  • The message of wisdom – literally translates as ‘a word of wisdom’. From Paul’s earlier discussions, we understand that the message of wisdom is a God given insight, into the purposes and workings of God. In this context, wisdom is the ability to apply spiritual truth to a specific issue in a specifically relevant fashion (Acts 6:3,10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13; 12:8; James 1:5; 2 Peter 3:15).

  • The message of knowledge – literally translates, as a ‘word of knowledge’, a supernaturally given piece of information or Spirit given discernment, concerning God and human life. (E.g. Jesus and the woman at the well – Jn. 4). The message of knowledge is the ability to discover, accumulate, analyze and clarify information, which is pertinent to the growth and well being of the body (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:8; 2 Corinthians 11:6; Colossians 2:2-3).

  • Faith – Faith is normally known as the ability to discern with extraordinary confidence the will and purpose of God and to propel the body of believers into actively claiming the promises of God (Acts 11:22-24; Romans 4: 18-21; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 11).

Paul understands that one and the same Spirit brings faith as a foundation; and faith as an extraordinary working of divine grace. Paul’s use of faith here is used in the context of a special gift along with the other supernatural gifts, not faith as the basic element in the life of all believers but faith in miracles.

  • Gifts of Healing – literally means ‘gift of cures’. Paul’s language here indicates the manifestation of the Spirit through the lives, and ministry of believers, so that others can experience divine healing. The gift of healing is the ability to serve as a human intermediary through whom God’s healing power is applied to another person’s physical or emotional need (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12-16; 9:32-35; 28:7-10; 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28).

  • Miraculous powers - literally translates as, ‘workings of power’. In the Gospels, there are documented many ‘powerful acts’, that are outworked in and through Jesus, and other members of the church, that were believed to be manifestations of God’s power. God was transcendent but His presence was immanent, and his power was constantly at work. And sometimes, the manifestations of that power were out of the ordinary, and remarkable.  

God does work through us with this gift, and sometimes God’s will is achieved in incredible ways. So we continue to pray for healing and for miracles.

  • Prophecy - In brief, the gift of prophecy is the special ability that God gives the members of the body of Christ, to receive and communicate an immediate message of God, to his gathered people. We can all hear from God and through the coming of the Spirit, each and every one of us is able to prophesy. Paul deems prophecy as desirable because it edifies, encourages and consoles and is also, a genuine Missional activity.  

  • Distinguishing between spirits – as with the gift of tongues, this gift caused considerable discussion and division in the early church. It is now widely accepted, that what Paul is referring to here, is the gift of ‘making inspired assessments of inspired utterances’,  of discerning true prophecy from false prophecy.

  • Speaking in different kinds of tongues – literally, ‘kinds of tongues’ in this context, Paul is referring to a special form of Spirit, inspired utterance, distinguishable from prophecy that aims toward God rather than comes from God, through the speaker to the people.

We can see from Paul’s comments that Paul does not have in mind speaking in other, known, human languages. In fact, such speech is thought to be unintelligible both to the one speaking and to the majority of those listening.

  • The gift of tongues - can be used for a missionary purpose (Acts 2), for devotional personal prayer (1 Cor. 14), as encouraging corporate worship (1 Cor. 14: 2, 13-17) … (i.e. when singing in the Spirit).

  • The interpretation of tongues – some manifestations of tongues need interpretation in order to be edifying for one another and so along with the gift of tongues, is given the gift for clarification in order that the gift might serve as a missional purpose for the sake of others. The speaker of the tongues is not the one gifted with the interpretation

Thank you for your passion and ongoing commitment to minister God’s grace and healing, through the ‘ministry of prayer’.