Pentecostal and charismatic Christians are familiar with the term ‘ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit’, but for the benefit of others, let me explain what I think it means.
The Holy Spirit empowers believers to minister to others in the Body of Christ in order to build them up and point them to Jesus, and this ‘empowerment’ forms part of the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’.
This series is about the things that make a church service welcoming to the Lord Jesus and the indicators of His presence in the corporate gathering. Ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit is one such qualification and sign. Let me explain.
Kings give presents to their guests
In ancient times, kings, or other important people, customarily gave gifts to the guests attending their functions. Today, the practice lives on in the form of ‘party favours’ and more especially the gifts placed at each person’s place at the wedding reception table.
There are hints of this practice in Old Testament passages such as Ester 2:18, which records that ‘the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality’. In the New Testament, there are also allusions to this practice. For instance, Matthew 22 records Jesus’ story about a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son (God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son) and ended up inviting people off the street (you and me). The custom was that if someone arrived at a function such as this without the required fine attire then the host would ‘gift’ them with suitable robes. Obviously, in the story, the invited guests were unprepared for such an occasion and so they would have all been offered complimentary clothing when they arrived at the venue. It makes perfect sense therefore that the host, the king, was deeply offended by any guest who refused this gift. So, we would not wish to offend our divine host when He invites us to attend his special function, an occasion which we call the Sunday church service.
Gifts of the Spirit
There is a strong biblical thread connecting the idea of divine gifts with the gathered church. The Romans 12 passage outlining ministries and gifts starts with the words; ‘We have different gifts, according to the grace given us’ (verse 6). Similarly, the primary New Testament passage on spiritual gifts introduces the topic with; ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men’ (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). In addition, the other key passage that outlines aspects of spiritual gifts, Ephesians 4, starts with; ‘grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ (Verse 7 per ESV).
I know that charismatic Christians customarily understand ‘Gifts’ as semi-permanent abilities given by the Holy Spirit to believers.
However, I think that there is sufficient evidence in 1 Corinthians 12 to indicate that they are rather special spiritual endowments given through believers to other believers as the Holy Spirit directs on any given occasion or circumstance.
To return to the analogy of the wedding garment, it is better to think of them as something given for the occasion rather than something worn routinely from then on.
Gifts in action
So, see the scene: We all arrive with everyone else at the Sunday Church service expecting to meet with the King of Kings. We also expect to be given something suitable to the occasion that will allow us to participate in the celebration of His presence. As the worship service progresses, you become aware of people there who desperately need to receive something tangible from their Lord. A compelling thought coalesces with your awareness and in it you sense the Holy Spirit saying, “Go to that person over there and minister my gift to them”. You don’t know just what to do or how to do it, but you trust the goodness of God and you appreciate His involving you as a ‘gift giver’, so you approach the person and ask if you may pray for them. As you start to pray, thanking God for His goodness and asking Him to meet the particular need, something wonderful happens. You just know what the root issue is and what to do about it. You don’t know how you know, but you just do. This ‘knowing’ is, as far as I can discern, the gift of Knowledge and the ability to prescribe a solution is a Word of Wisdom. Or perhaps, you might just ‘know’ that the person needs to be healed of a specific physical or emotional condition, so you ‘minister’ this to them with respect, gentleness, humility, and joy; this is a Gift of Healing. Then again, perhaps the Holy Spirit wants to say something to this person, so you speak out as best you can what it is you think The Lord wants to convey, and this would be a form of the gift of Prophecy.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive or complete description of what might take place as the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts among the gathered church members. The principles that emerge are however applicable to all circumstances. (1) The Holy Spirit gives the gifts, which are in fact manifestations of His power and grace, (2) Our role is to be alert to His voice, obedient to His prompting, and joyfully willing to be the ones who ‘carry’ the gifts to their intended recipients.
Signs of the presence of Jesus
Why are gifts of the Spirit signs of the presence of Jesus among us? Because they indicate that the divine host is present and is blessing those He has invited! Because He is tangibly among us to direct the distribution of these gifts of His grace. Because He has invited us into His presence as a group of believers to edify, build up, equip and us fill with sense of wonder at who He is, and the gifts demonstrate this reality.
If you have ever been the recipient of such a gift of grace, then you know without explanation just how it affected you. Someone who has received a genuine gift of healing will always be grateful to The Lord Jesus. To receive words of prophecy that personally encourage and give hope is memorable and when the hope is fulfilled, then it is impossible not to praise God and treasure the gift forever.
Gifts of the Spirit are signs of the presence of God and evidences of His love for His people. They are to be received with joy and not argued over, and they certainly are not to be faked or manipulated. To return one last time to Jesus’ story of the wedding banquet, they are to be ‘worn’ with grateful honour and shared generously with all in need.
I believe that the Lord Jesus is delighted to be present in a gathering where His followers are delivering His gifts to those in need.
My next article covers a possibly surprising indicator of the Lord’s presence in His gathered body – anointed leadership. If you are a leader in the church then you don’t want to miss this, so if you haven’t done so already, why don’t you subscribe and get the articles directly by email (click on the little subscribe icon right at the top left of this post, second from last, or click HERE).