THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
WORDS OF WISDOM & KNOWLEDGE
In his Corinthian letters, Paul addresses the "special gifts" of the Holy Spirit. While there are a variety of gifts, there is only one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4)
Jesus was quick to tell those who listened to his teaching that the words and wisdom he imparted came from his Father, and were delivered to him to speak. This allows us an insight to understand how piercing and revelatory was his teaching. Jesus told his followers that this same gift could be evident in their lives, allowing them Spirit-directed words of wisdom when such were needed.
Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)
Paul acknowledges this in his letter to the Corinthian Christians, writing,
To one there is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom. (1 Corinthians 12:8)
Again to the Corinthians, Paul writes,
To another (there is given) the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:8)
Where human wisdom and knowledge fail, the Spirit speaks to the heart. Something new is imparted, and a way is found, where once there existed confusion or fear.
FAITH BY THE SAME SPIRIT
Some today speak of their faith as a mental attitude that is the result of existing facts. The apostle James declares that this is not the kind of faith that is capable of miracles. When speaking of such, he says,
You (boast that you ) believe that there is one God. Even the demons believe that, and shudder. (James 2:19)
The faith that works miracles is a faith of a divine quality. The Bible speaks of the faith of God, that is imparted by the Holy Spirit. We read that Barnabas, for example,
...was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. (Acts 11:24)
Paul speaks of having the "faith of Christ," and having the "spirit of faith." This is the faith that is empowered by the Holy Spirit, bringing healing through prayer.
THE GIFT OF HEALING
Paul speaks of the gifts of healing being conveyed by the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:9)
It is said that Jesus spent as much time administering healing to the sick as he did in teaching and preaching. When Jesus sent his disciples out into the country to minister, he told them emphatically,
You shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. (Mark 16:18)
After the disciples experienced the Spirit-baptism on the day of Pentecost, they witnessed many miracles of healing. We read:
Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. (Acts 5:16)
Philip traveled back along the route Jesus had walked, into the badlands of Samaria. There he met with dramatic results as,
...with shrieks and cries, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. (Acts 8:7)
Healing followed the apostle Paul wherever he voyaged. Even on the island of Melita, shipwrecked, and weary, he might have felt discouraged and withdrawn. Instead, motivated by the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul prayed for Publius, the chief man of the island. Publius was,
...immediately healed, and the rest of the sick on the island came and they too were cured. (Acts 28:9)
Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. (James 5:14, 15)
THE WORKING OF MIRACLES
In naming the gifts of the Spirit, Paul continues by saying,
...to another miraculous powers. (1 Corinthians 12:10)
The whole movement of first century believers followed the teachings of a man who had performed uncountable miracles. Now, anointed by the same Spirit that had rested upon their Master's life, they were endued with a new confidence and enthusiasm. On the day of Pentecost, Peter addressed the multitude, calling to their attention that they were followers of...
Jesus of Nazareth...a man accredited by God to you by miracles. (Acts 2:22)
From that turning-point moment of the Spirit's descending, the disciples of Jesus moved boldly in the certitude that they were new ambassadors of Jesus and his ministry of comfort, healing, and salvation. When Peter and John ministered to the man lame from birth, and he was healed, even the religious leaders, who opposed Christ at the time, were forced to admit that something special was happening. Following one of the more spectacular healings accredited to Peter and John, they confessed...
Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. (Acts 4:16)
Regarding Paul's ministry, we read:
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. (Acts 19:11)
This pattern of the miraculous continued throughout the history of the early Christians. Twenty-three years after Christ's ascension to his Father, Paul wrote to the new believers in Galatia. From his writing room in Ephesus, he reminded them of...
He who gives to you the Spirit and works miracles among you... (Galatians 3:5)
Six years later, Paul wrote from Rome to the followers of Jesus in Palestine...
God also testified . . . by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4)
In Paul's letter to the Christians at Ephesus, he makes a comment that underscores the aspect of these properties of the Holy Spirit given to men and women as gifts. Referring to the time immediately following Christ's ascension to his Father in heaven, Paul writes,
He gave gifts to men . . . some to be apostles, some to be prophets . . . so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12)
Among the early church, those specifically mentioned as prophets were, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius and Manaen. (Acts 13:1)
These men had a special influence in Paul and Barnabas being sent on their missionary journey. We read:
While they were worshipping the Lord . . . the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. (Acts 13:2)
After Paul completed his first missionary journey with Barnabas, he was joined by Silas, and we read of him,
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. (Acts 15:32)
The role of operation of prophecy was important among the first believers. In our time too, there is a great need for divine instruction. Paul writes,
Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. (1 Corinthians 14:3)
There is an indication as well, that this gift would continue, ongoing in the lives of future believers in Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowd,
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. (Acts 2:17)
When Paul arrived at Caesarea on his way to Jerusalem, the writer of the book of Acts records,
We reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, The Holy Spirit says, In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles. (Acts 21:8-11)
DISCERNING OF SPIRITS
We must not be forgetful of the fact that we are living in a world where spiritual conflicts and warfares do exist. While the scriptures teach and admonish us of the true work of the Holy Spirit, they also warn us of dark forces that would imitate and contend with this true spirit. Both Old and New Testament writers cautioned concerning "false prophets."
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
Again he said,
Many false prophets will appear and deceive many. (Matthew 24:11)
In the book of Acts we read of a confrontation between Paul and Barnabas and a sorcerer named Bar-jesus.
When Paul and Barnabas came to Paphos . . . they met a sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-jesus. Then Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, said, You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? (Acts 13:6, 9, 10)
There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. (2 Peter 2:1)
And John adds,
Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
Continue to Part Five
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