Four very important things about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that people often do not pay close enough attention to:
- They are gifts given by God. We cannot earn them, buy them, nor be voted into them. We do not get to choose which one we get to receive, nor that another may receive. It is totally God’s choice concerning whom to give the gift to.
- True spiritual gifts are given for a reason that only God should be allowed to determine. That means they are to be used completely subject to God’s direction. So God gets the glory, and not people.
- We can choose to neglect or nurture the gift that God gives us. And we can choose to selfishly use a gift for ourselves, or we can allow God to show us how to benefit somebody else through our gift.
- True spiritual gifts are not to be used to lift up the individual who has the gift. But rather as a servant we are to sacrificially utilize our gift to help others.
Even in Paul’s day, there were many that did not understand the gifts of the Spirit, and how they were supposed to be used. So he actually wrote quite a bit about it. And most of it can be found starting in 1st Corinthians the 12th chapter. I’m listing most of the scriptures by number here, so it will be easier to follow along.
“ 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.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:1-2
Note it is very interesting that when starting out his teaching about spiritual gifts, that the first thing he would warn us against, is being led away by idols. Could it be that the satanic spirit of idolatry knows how to masquerade itself as a spiritual gift? Yes! And when it would do so, it’s purpose would be to lift up a person, and to put down those that are true Christians.
“ 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.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3
Two very important clarifications are put forth here by the apostle Paul. He does this to give us clear understanding, before he would instruct us concerning spiritual gifts:
- The true Spirit of God working through an individual, will never persecute or put down another Christian.
- In truth, to be able to say that Jesus Christ is Lord over everything in your life: you must have already been consecrated by the sacrificial fire of the Holy Ghost. Because if your heart and life is not fully consecrated, you will resist the Lord when he redirects and changes your life contrary to your own choice.
“ 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.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
And so now he classifies the way the Holy Spirit can generally work into three categories:
- Through gifts
- Through administrations or ministries
- Through operations, or how things are normally done and accomplished
But notice that he states that the way the Holy Ghost works can be different within each of these three categories. That is why he says there are differences of gifts, and differences of administration, and differences of operations.
This is important. Because the tendency of mankind is to want to keep regularity, or to keep things the same. But mankind needs to realize, that when he tries to control things into regularity by keeping things the same, that he could potentially end up removing the Holy Ghost from doing what the Lord wants. (The scriptures also teach us that all things should be done decently and in order. But it does not specify that the order always has to be the same.)
So the apostle Paul is making it clear that the Holy Ghost changes things within these three different categories. And he will go on to explain that the reason why the Holy Ghost changes, is to meet the needs that are different.
“ But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7
He starts out with the reason “why” things are different at times. It is very important that when the scriptures give us the reason “why” that we pay close attention! Because this is the fundamental principle underneath the teaching. And when you understand the fundamental principle underneath what is taught, then you will be better enabled to allow the Holy Ghost to decide how and when things are done. And to understand with the right spirit and attitude, the remaining portion of this lesson on gifts, you must have this fundamental principle of “why” (to be a help and a profit to others) working in your heart.
“ For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:8
Did you notice that he distinguished between wisdom and knowledge? Showing that one could have the gift of wisdom, and that another the gift of knowledge. Which should cause us to ask the question: isn’t it better for these two gifts to compliment one another in the body of Christ, rather than to work against one another? And when they value each other, is there not a greater benefit to all the body of Christ? The Spirit increases the gift of wisdom through more experience. Whereas the Spirit increases knowledge often through more education. So is it good to operate with education but lacking wisdom? And how much farther could wisdom go, if it had more education and knowledge? It seems that both gifts are equally valuable in the body of Christ, especially when they work together.
“ To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:9
Some would think to measure your faith by wether you have the gift of healing. But the scripture above clearly implies that one could have a gift of faith, and not have the gift of healing. The book of Hebrews, chapter 11, is identified often as the chapter about those who have had great faith in past history. And most of those identified did not have the gift of healing.
“ 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: ” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:10
All of these things above have been identified as gifts for the Holy Spirit. But there has been in more recent times, a number of false teachings stating that the proof of whether someone has the Holy Ghost, is if they have the gift of tongues. But clearly in what we have read already, that is not true. So the question on our mind should be: what is their agenda for teaching such a false notion that tongues is the main witness?
“ But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:11
Again it is very clearly stated in verse 11, that it is the Holy Spirit who determines which person will have each gift.
“ For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
It is very clear by the scripture above that there is only one body of Christ. One body of Christians that every true Christian is a member of. And everyone in the body of Christ has different gifts. And so as he states this, he is bringing in an analogy of a human body that has many members: eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc. And in a human body that is healthy and working right, all these members stay connected, and work together for the benefit of the whole body.
“ For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:14-18
The body is not just a bunch of hands tied together. As the gifts of the Holy Spirit are very different, so the members of the body are very different from one another. Also the hand did not get to choose if it would become a hand. God made that choice. Neither did the hand get to choose which body it would be part of. God made that choice. Why? Because the body ultimately belongs to him. And Jesus Christ is the head of his own spiritual body.
“ And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:19-21
When the desires and purposes of individuals in the body of Christ become more important than serving the greater good of the whole body, then they start taking on the attitude: “I have no need of you.” But that is not true. We need everyone that God has place into the body!
“ Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:22-23
Spiritually feeble people teach us how to care for the weak. And it is critical that we learn how to do that, because every new convert starts out spiritually weak, as a newborn babe in Christ. And there are some who will always seem to have spiritual weaknesses, and those with strong gifts should see themselves as responsible for helping these weak ones to hold on and stay faithful.
“ For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:24-26
By being willing to care for the weakest one, we become a stronger body. And we learn how to long suffer with one another, and how to encourage one another.
“ Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:27-28
Notice the order that God has set these gifts working in the body of Christ. In specifying this order, it is not to imply that God loves one more than another, or that some are less needed. But rather that certain gifts are able to serve more needs in the body. They have an even greater responsibility as a servant to sacrificially labor for the benefit of the rest. Therefore you will see that the apostle Paul encourages us to desire these “best” gifts.
“ Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:29-31
Of course we have learned that not everyone has all the gifts. But we have also learned that the gifts that may be considered “the best” come with a much greater servant responsibility of self-sacrifice.
This is completely contrary to the way modern-day churches operate. Modern day churches place people in the best positions so that they may personally be benefited themselves. And they choose those positions themselves, because they are selfish. By doing so they have removed Jesus Christ as being the head of the body, because they themselves are now controlling it. And of course, in doing so, they also have sliced up the church into many different bodies that are controlled by people, not God.
Next in 1 Corinthians the 13th chapter, he explains that even though we may have the “best gifts”, they are of no value if we don’t have a sacrificial divine love of God working in us.
“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.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
So it is clear, that having the best gifts is not being the greatest, nor is it equated to having the most value. Some put a lot of emphasis on those who have gifts of faith so that they could remove mountains, or raise up the sick and heal the blind. Yet at the end of 1st Corinthians the 13th chapter, the apostle Paul makes it extremely clear, that the greatest measure of God working within the individual, is the sacrificial love of God in the individuals life!
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13
And then as the apostle Paul continued his point about the divine love of God, (or “charity” as it was interpreted within the King James version), he emphasizes the importance of being able to open true understanding in the word and to properly apply scripture. The King James version interpreted this by using the word “prophecy”.
“Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1
The word here does not mean foretelling things to come; but rather opening and applying the scripture. And truly when you open up understanding in the word, you are telling people about things that will happen to them: according to whether they take heed to the Word or not.
And so next he distinguishes between the gift, or ability to speak in multiple languages, and the ability to open up understanding in the scriptures.
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him ; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:2-3
He’s clearly showing them here that you may be able to speak in another language, but if you do not open up understanding of the truth of the scriptures, you are not edifying and helping the individuals.
“Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:12
So even as you desire the best gifts, be careful to be sure that you are using your gift for the benefit of the church. And not for yourself, or for attracting attention to yourself.
Note: certainly the apostle Paul desired that Christians would be able to have gifts to the Spirit. In fact, as is reflected in his epistles, he often wanted to lay hands on them and pray for them, that they might receive the gift the Holy Spirit would have them to have. But note that the laying on of hands was not lightly done, when it came to seeking God to give a spiritual gift to someone.
“Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” ~ 1 Timothy 5:22
So to lay hands on someone, and pray for them to receive a gift: means that you recognize the good Christian testimony in the person. And that you feel led by the Spirit to pray for them this way. Because it is still ultimately the Spirit of God that should be directing us in praying for a spiritual gift for anyone.
“God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” ~ Hebrews 2:4
The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that by the laying on of hands, Timothy received his gift for his ministerial calling.
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:14
But did you notice that the apostle Paul was exhorting him to not neglect a gift that he had already received.
“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:6
These scriptures inform us that a gift must be nurtured and exercised for improvement. It is something that God wants us to improve for his glory. For that purpose was clearly taught even by Jesus Christ himself, when he taught about the three servants that were given talents (Matthew 25:14-30). And when their master returned, he expected his servants to have labored to increase those talents given to them.
But every gift is given to us according to the will of God; according to the grace that he gives so we can humbly use the gift. And we do need grace for the gift, otherwise we will get lifted up in pride with the gift.
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” ~ Romans 12:4-8
So part of having the grace to be able to properly use the gift, is knowing how to wait for the right time to use the gift. It takes humility to wait, even though we may know that we have the gift.
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” ~ 1 Peter 4:10-11
There is a human tendency to measure or value people according to the gift. And this has caused a lot of harm within the church over the years. Because whenever one is lifted higher than another because of a gift, that means another needs to put lower. And that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one needs to be put higher, and no one needs to be put lower. We simply need to use our gift as it is needed for God’s glory.
Jesus actually identified the greatest man that was ever born. And you will probably be surprised to find out the reason why Jesus identified him this way.
“And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously appareled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” ~ Luke 7:24-28
Did you understand what Jesus said? Did you understand why John was considered the greatest? It is because John made himself the least.
The message that John preached was: “I must decrease…”
“Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” ~ John 3:28-30
This was not an optional requirement to John. He said “I must decrease.”
Another note about John and his gifts. Unlike the rest of the apostles, John did not do any miracles. He did not heal anyone of a physical ailment or disease. He did not speak in another tongue. He did not cast out devils. But rather he preached repentance and baptism, to prepare the way in people’s hearts to be able to receive Jesus Christ.
“And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.” ~ John 10:40-42
John did no miracles. But the message he preached caused many people to believe in Jesus Christ.
So who would be the greatest today? And who would have the best gifts today? That would be the most humble servant among us.
“Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” ~ Matthew 23:10-12
May we seek to be a humble servant, so that we may have the grace to seek the best gifts!