Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit II

Most of the time in modern churches talk about gifts of the Spirit focuses on four main areas, prophecy, miracles, healing, and speaking in tongues, probably because they seem more exciting.  As we saw in the previous post, the gifts were given to meet a special need and disappear when they are no longer needed.  As Paul pointed out, once the scriptures were complete, the need for a prophet to get a special message from God was no longer as necessary.   If everyone in the church speaks the same language,  the ability to speak in other languages as they did in Acts 2 is far less important.  I Corinthians 12-14 were written to help us get a proper understanding of the spiritual gifts, as verse 1 tells us. 

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.   Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.  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.” (I Corinthians 12:1-3)

The Corinthians were gentile people who had been taught false doctrines about a lot of different gods.  Since Christianity was new to them they would tend to to carry over some of those false doctrines and attitudes for a while because they simply didn’t understand the difference, and this was true of their attitudes toward spiritual gifts.  In order to determine whether a gift was truly from the Holy Spirit or not it would be necessary to try the Spirits as we saw in I John 4.  A Chinese Christian visiting a church in America heard a man who claimed to have the gift of tongues cursing Christ and accusing him of being a fraud in fluent Mandarin Chinese, but because no one understood what he was saying, no one questioned whether it was from God or not.  The Chinese man was quite concerned.   In chapter 14 we will see some guidelines to prevent such things from happening.  First we start with some basic principles about the gifts. 

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (I Corinthians 12:4-7)

The first thing we need to realize is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do everything the same way every time.   He does not give everybody the same gifts.   A person can have the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues for example.   The Holy Spirit may lead one church to have a single pastor and another to have several elders.   One group may be led to support missionaries individually while another may use a cooperative program.  One pastor may earn his doctorate while another never goes to college.  The Holy Spirit can do different things in different people.  He is still the same Holy Spirit.  Looking down on someone who has different gifts or does things a different way only demonstrates our lack of spiritual maturity. 

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 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: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (I Corinthians 12:8-11)

One person may have a gift or talent for helping people to make wise decisions, while another has a special gift for learning important facts.  A third person has a much greater level of faith while someone else has a gift for healing people or doing various miracles.  One may have a special gift for recognizing whether something is from the Holy Spirit or some other spirit while another may have a gift for speaking different languages.  Still another may have a gift for interpreting from one language to another effectively.  The Holy Spirit gives each person the gifts he wants them to have for the benefit of the entire church.  They are not intended to be used to enhance our own prestige or make us rich. 

In Samaria there had been a religious teacher named Simon who had gained great wealth and influence through his activities.  When he accepted Christ he wanted the same kind of power and prestige in the church   Acts 8:18-23 tells the story.  “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”  The very fact that Simon was concerned about being able to make a lot of money or gain such respect in the church indicated he was not led by the Holy Spirit, but was being directed by an evil spirit.  Unfortunately many use their gifts and talents to benefit themselves rather than to strengthen other Christians.     

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