GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
One must be baptized in order to receive spiritual gifts (Acts 2:38, 8:15-17, 19:5-6, 1 John 5:6-8). For further information on this, please read the Baptism Essay.
According to 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 there are a variety of gifts we can receive from the Holy Spirit. Although there is a variety of gifts, there is still only one Holy Spirit (verse 4). Some of these gifts are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, powerful works, prophesying, tongues, and interpretations (verses 8-10). God distributes these gifts as He sees fit (1 Corinthians 12:8-31, Hebrews 2:4).However, we must be careful that we do not identify a true believer based on gifts, as Scripture tells us that the main identifier of a person being one of God's true Christians is if they have love among themselves (John 13:35), and that the display of spiritual gifts means nothing if we don't also have love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)(NKJV, HCSB). Scripture states the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will eventually end (1 Corinthians 13:8), because we have only partial knowledge and only partial prophecy, and when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will end (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). These gifts continue all the way until the return of Christ (compare Acts 2:17-21, Joel 2:28-32, Matthew 24:29-30). This shows that the "complete" thing to arrive will be Christ, which is supported in Ephesians 4:13. All gifts must take place for the encouragement of others (1 Corinthians 14:26) . It is imperative to remember, though, that not all who claim to have gifts are of God, therefore we must be careful to discern the genuine from the fraud (Matthew 7:21-23).
Although the Bible speaks of the gift of tongues, we need to remember that some who speak in tongues may not truly originate from the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:1 reminds us to test the inspired expressions to be sure the tongue originates from God. The Bible gives information as to what is expected when using the gift of tongues:
1 -- If there is someone speaking in tongues, then there should be someone there to interpret. If there is no interpreter then the speaker should remain silent (1 Corinthians 14:6-11,27-28).
2 -- The speaking of tongues is useless without it being for a revelation, prophecy, or teaching (1 Corinthians 14:6).
3 -- Speaking a few words that can be clearly understood by all is better than speaking ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (1 Corinthians 14:19).
4 -- Though we are to pursue the gift of prophecy, we are not to forbid the speaking of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39).
5 -- Verses 22-23 points out that tongues are a sign for unbelievers, not the believers, which is why the interpretations are necessary.
According to Scripture, when people spoke in tongues they were actually speaking in the native languages of the foreigners who were present (Acts 2:1-7,11) validating that the tongues were actually for the benefit of unbelievers. Also, the speaking of tongues in a congregation was to be limited to one or two speakers along with a translator (1 Corinthians 14:27).
The Bible makes it clear that the gift of tongues is for the benefit of those who do not yet believe, and thus there must be interpreters in order for the tongues to be of any use. In other words, the gift of tongues is not meant to be a string of mysterious spoken gibberish. Remember 1 John 4:1, which says:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Without an interpreter, one cannot test the tongue. This is why an interpreter is a necessary element in the gift of tongues.
Interpretations belong only to God (Genesis 40:8) and no prophecy of God springs forth from a private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21). Interpretation of tongues is a spiritual gift from God (1 Corinthians 12:10). Interpretation of dreams are from God (Genesis 41:15-16).
How can we discern a godly interpretation from a private or demonic interpretation?
1. Test to see whether the interpretation agrees with the Bible (Isaiah 8:20, Acts 17:10-11).
2. Test to see whether the interpretation denies the Father or the Son (1 John 4:3).
3. Test to see whether the interpreter himself denies the Father and Son in either word or action (Matthew 7:21-23, Titus 1:16).
4. Test to see whether the interpretation promotes someone or something other than God, Jesus, or Scripture (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).
5. Test whether the interpreter bears spiritual fruits (Galatians 5:22-23).
It is imperative to test the interpreter as well as the interpretations, as we do not want to find ourselves becoming misled in our haste to find truth.
The early Christians were bestowed with the gift of powerful works (Acts 6:8-10, 14:3, 2 Corinthians 12:12). Scripture tells us that we aren't to stop those who do powerful works in the name of Jesus, for by doing so we may be condemning ourselves (Mark 9:38-42). However, though many faithful men may receive such a gift, we must remember that Jesus also warns that not all who claim gifts really know him, as stated at Matthew 7:21-23. Satan can mislead us with his own lying signs and powerful works if we aren't careful to search out the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
Genuine powerful works will:
1. Always witness about the Father and the Son (Acts 1:8, 4:7-10, Romans 15:19).
2. Never be a money-making enterprise (Acts 8:17-21, 2 Corinthians 4:7 ).
3. Never promote a person (1 Corinthians 2:5).
The gift of prophecy is considered a greater gift than that of tongues; that is, unless that one also translates the tongues (1 Corinthians 14: 1-5). Only two or three prophets are to speak, while the others discern the meaning (1 Corinthians 14:29). If another one gets a revelation while the first is still sitting there, then the first one with the revelation is to keep silent, in order to prevent disorder; therefore all should prophesy one by one, not simultaneously (1 Corinthians 14:30-33) . This gift that is given to prophets is to be controlled by the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32). The gift of prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers (1 Corinthians 14:22). Prophecy is only brought forth by God through Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Scriptures show that in the last days God will pour out his spirit on people and they will be given the gift of prophecy (Acts 2:17-18). We are not to treat prophesying with contempt (1 Thessalonians 5:20). We must also beware of false prophets, for they will abound (Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 24:11,24, 2 Peter 2:1). You can discern a false prophet by their "fruits", and their prophecies don't come true (Matthew 7:15-20, Jeremiah 28:1-17, 2 Peter 2:1-3). For further information on false prophets, refer to the page titled "False Prophets".
The power of healings comes from God Himself (Luke 5:17). Many faithful men in Scripture were given the power of healing (Luke 9:1-6). The early Christian congregation was given gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:8-31).
The book of James instructs congregations to have the Elders pray over the sick members in the name of the Lord in order to bestow healing. Lay members of the congregation are also instructed to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14-16).
Keep in mind though, that our prayers for healing are not a magical obligation for God to obey. Remember, the Apostle Paul -- a man known for being the vessel of healings and miracles (Acts 16:18, 19:6,11-12, 20:9-10, 28:8) -- didn't receive a particular healing that he repeatedly prayed for (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Therefore, do not be quick to judge a person as being faithless if a healing does not occur; sometimes God chooses to use a person's physical weakness to work out a person's strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Wisdom and knowledge come from God (Proverbs 2:6-7, Luke 21:15, 1 Corinthians 2:1-13, 12:8). King Solomon was blessed with the gift of wisdom from God (1 Kings 4:29-34, 1 Kings 5:12). The early Christians were also given the gift of wisdom (Acts 6:3, 10, Ephesians 1:17). God gives the gift of wisdom to all who ask Him for it (James 1:5).
The true gift of wisdom will:
Be peaceable, gentle, merciful, impartial, and without hypocrisy (James 3:13-18). True godly wisdom will not go beyond scriptural instruction (Galatians 1:8-9).
As Scripture shows, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are many and can be bestowed on anyone that God wills to have them. And as shown above, these gifts will continue right on through the end times until Christ returns. Therefore, although we must be careful of false Christians, we must also be careful to not condemn those who really do have gifts.