Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Gifts Of The Spirit I
The Holy Spirit produces fruit in every person who receives him, and as we saw in Romans 8:9, that is true for every Christian. How much fruit is produced is limited only by our willingness to study the scriptures and allow him to change our attitudes and behavior. Unfortunately, most people are more concerned about the special gifts or abilities the Holy Spirit gives. This had become a major problem in Paul’s day and continues to the present time, with the result he devoted three chapters of I Corinthians to the subject, explaining what the different gifts are, how they are received, and the guidelines for their use. I would like to start with I Corinthians 13.
“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 13:1-3)
Paul states that without the agape love that is the first part to the fruit of the Spirit, none of the gifts are of any value. No matter how many different languages a person may be able to speak, both human and unknown languages, without the fruit of the Spirit, they are just meaningless noise, like pounding a sheet of tin or slamming cymbals together. In its proper place, speaking in tongues can add a great deal to the music, but improperly used it just messes up and distracts from everything else.
Similarly, the ability to preach, to tell what God says, regardless how many degrees one has or how perfectly one understands the scriptures, is completely useless and meaningless without the fruit of the Spirit, and especially charity or love. The hearers may learn a lot, but no spiritual change will occur. People’s faith will be based on Human wisdom rather than the power of God, as Paul said in I Corinthians 2:4-5.
Finally, Paul points that without the love that the Holy Spirit produces, all our efforts to please him will be wasted. We can give to feed and help the refugees until we starve ourselves, or serve in some humanitarian effort, even being killed for our effort and without the Holy Spirit working in us, it will not benefit us at all. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. “
The love the holy Spirit produces is different than the love the world expresses. I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes what that kingd of love is like. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” That spiritual love is only concerned about what is good for others. It doesn’t manipulate people or take advantage of them, nor does it destroy their self-respect. It doesn’t look down on people, but at the same time it is honest about what they are really like, and is willing to put up with some inconvenience, hoping for something better in the future. It is not blind idealism like much of what is charity today, but is concerned that helping one group does not hurt another. It is key to producing all the other parts of the fruit.
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:8-13)
All of the gifts are given to fulfill a temporary need. When they are no longer needed they will disappear. The fruit of the Spirit on the hand, will remain as long as the earth continues. They will never lose their power. The focus on the gifts implies a spiritual immaturity. It’s kind of like playing in the shade the tree produces, but not bothering to water the tree or protect it from gophers or harmful insects. If we take care of the tree it will provide the shade as well as the fruit, but if not we may not have either shade or fruit. .
While all the parts of an apple are important, the most valuable part is the flesh, the part you eat. Similarly, all the parts of the fruit of the Spirit are important but the most important part is the agape love or charity.