Most Christians know that 1 Corinthians chapter 12 contains a list of Holy Spirit manifestations, but just what are the 9 spiritual gifts?
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Here is the passage in question: ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines’.
However, we don’t find definitions of these manifestations anywhere in the Bible. So what exactly are they? Let’s take just the first two as examples – the gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge.
Definitions of the Gifts
When I was a new believer, my pastor taught that the gift of knowledge consisted of supernaturally given knowledge that the recipient would not normally have – information imparted directly by the Holy Spirit. He then linked the gift of Wisdom to Knowledge and defined it as a realisation, imparted by the Holy Spirit as to how to apply the gift of knowledge. But how did my teachers, and I come to this understanding?
Other teachers have different understandings of these gifts. For instance, one of my favourite theologians, the late J. Rodman Williams, states that ‘a word of wisdom is in some way an explication of the mystery of God that centres in Jesus Christ.’ He defines a word of knowledge as ‘an inspired word of teaching or instruction that occurs within the context of the gathered community’. Dr Wayne Grudem moves even further away from a directly supernatural understanding when he writes that a word of wisdom is simply ‘the ability to speak a wise word in various situations’. He describes a word of knowledge as ‘the ability to speak with knowledge about a situation’.
So, who is closer to the truth and how do we know for ourselves? I explore this question in my soon to be released book ‘The 9 Spiritual Gifts & How to Find your Ministry’, but I will tell you more about that just before it’s released… watch this space!
The importance of the matter
It is important for us to understand what the spiritual gifts are, because:
- This affects how we appreciate them. Are they manifestations of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of a believer and therefore directly supernatural in origin and presentation? Or are they expressions of our human giftedness, leading, and experience enhanced perhaps by the gracious help of the Holy Spirit?
- It affects how we respond to them. Do we act only when the Holy Spirit directly motivates us to do so, or do we operate in the gifts as a normal part of our Christian life and ministry?
And to make matters worse …
If it wasn’t confusing enough, we also have to contend with the occult counterfeits of the Spiritual Gifts.
Paul starts his discussion of what he calls ‘spiritual matters’ with the words; ‘About matters of the spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know how, when you were pagans, you were led to dumb idols—being led astray’. (1 Corinthians 12:1-2)
This seems a strange and enigmatic way of introducing the subject, unless one realises that many of the Christians in Corinth had been saved out of occult pagan teachings and practices. These occult phenomenon included things such as spiritual healing, prophecy, and tongues. Paul tells them, and us, not to be ignorant of this fact and thus become confused by the pagan counterfeits of the Gifts.
However, there are three things that I pick up in his warning that help me identify the nature of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
- Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 12:3 by identifying the key differentiator between true and counterfeit gifts – True gifts centre on Jesus and give Him glory.
- He writes of ‘speaking by the Spirit of God’ and this points to supernatural utterances rather than normal purely human interactions.
- Paul is concerned that believers might mistake the counterfeit for the real and this must surely mean that the real and the counterfeit appear to be very similar. In the occult world, both then and now, the ‘gifts’ are seen as direct manifestations of the ‘gods’.
Still to come
In my next post I want to deal briefly with the correlation between ‘anointing’ of the Spirit and the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit. I also intend to write about the correlation between manifestations of the Holy Spirit and ministries in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual manifestations are usually a feature of church revivals, so, in the meantime, why don’t you read my FREE book ‘The 12 Key Aspects of Revival’ – just click on the picture below or copy and paste the following link to your browser – http://www.truthistheword.com/revival-book-complimentary-access/