The Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
A recent survey was done where two-thirds of Christians noted that they had heard of spiritual gifts. However, nearly two-thirds of the believers who had heard about spiritual gifts had not been able to accurately apply what they had heard to their lives.
Those survey results tell me that taking a look at God’s supernatural gifts is very important. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1 Corinthians 12:1,7). Spiritual gifts enable us to do the work of the ministry effectively, to help and bless others. If I could simplify the Gospel message, it would be to say this: As Christians, we have been blessed to be a blessing. Freely we have received, now freely we must give to others.
Let’s take a look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-10).
There are three different categories of gifts listed in this passage of Scripture:
- Revelation Gifts:
- word of wisdom
- word of knowledge
- discerning of spirits
- Power Gifts:
- gifts of healings
- the working of miracles
- Inspiration Gifts:
- interpretation of tongues
- Gifts of Revelation:
The first category of spiritual gifts gives you the power to know something beyond natural human knowledge. These three gifts are the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits.
Word of Wisdom:
This is where the Holy Spirit gives you the wisdom to know what to do or how to do it, either for your life or someone else’s. When you’re dealing with a crisis situation, or seeking God’s wisdom or direction, this gift of the Spirit is incredibly helpful. When you’re ministering to a friend who is going through a difficult time, you may not know how to help them, but when God gives you a word of wisdom, it brings life and peace to them. All of a sudden you get a thought, “Why don’t you try this?” And they say, “How did you come up with that?” Your response: “It was the Holy Spirit!” I have found this gift to be especially helpful in my role as a pastor as I counsel people.
Word of Knowledge:
In this gift, God supernaturally gives you knowledge of an event or other information in someone’s life – either past or present – that you were not aware of in the natural. When you share this with that person, it brings encouragement and builds their faith to know that there is a God who knows exactly what is going on in their life. I remember a time when I was preaching on the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom at Koinonia Foursquare Church, a Spanish congregation in Surrey, BC. In that service, the Lord gave me a word of knowledge about someone who had a very specific problem with their vocal chords. I got a sense that this person was someone who wanted to use their voice to be able do the work of the ministry, but this sickness was hindering their ability to do so. The church had a small congregation of only 30-40 people, so the chances of there being someone with this very unique condition would be slim. When I shared this word with the congregation, there was a woman at the back of the church who came forward and said she had just happened to be in Canada visiting that weekend, and came to the church service that morning. That was no coincidence. This woman shared with me how she was involved in prison ministry in her home country, and that as a result of years of preaching the Gospel there, she had strained her vocal chords and developed this condition. As she was speaking with me, her voice was raspy, and obviously this affected her ability to minister the Word. I shared with her the truth that, “What God reveals (through a word of knowledge), God heals.” Because of the spiritual gift of the word of knowledge, this woman had faith to receive her miracle from the Lord. As I laid my hands on her and prayed in faith in the name of Jesus, she was instantly healed. Praise the Lord!
Discerning of Spirits:
This is the ability to discern the spirit world, to tell whether something is divine (from God or angels), human (having a natural origin) or demonic (from Satan or demons). This is a very important gift as we are step out and desire to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When we hear a word of prophecy and someone claims to be speaking for the Lord, we need to be able to discern whether it was from the Lord, whether it was of natural origin, or whether it was demonic.
I remember attending church one Sunday morning during the first year after I had become a Christian. The church that I attended, Solid Rock Ministries, was very open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In our service, there was a man who stood up in the middle of worship to give a word from the Lord. As he gave the word, everything that he was saying was true, in that it lined up with Biblical revelation, but there was just something in me that felt like the inspiration wasn’t initiated by the Lord. Our pastor didn’t say anything and the service went on, so I didn’t give it much more thought. However, when we came back to church for our Sunday evening service, one of the first things our pastor did was address that situation. He said, “I need to apologize to you. This morning there was a man who stood up and shared a word, but I felt in my spirit that it wasn’t from the Lord.” I was so thankful to hear him say that, and realized that I had experienced discerning of spirits in operation.
- Gifts of Power:
The second category of spiritual gifts gives you the power to do something beyond natural human ability. These three gifts are faith, gifts of healings, and working of miracles.
This is a unique form of faith (not the faith that saves you) that supernaturally trusts and does not doubt concerning specific matters – to believe God for the impossible. Have you ever been in a situation where you were praying for someone, and you were absolutely confident that God was going to heal that person, provide for them, or turn that situation around? That’s the gift of faith.
My sister Robyn’s son, Harrison, was born in January of 2003, and was in the intensive care unit in the hospital for over a month. He was dehydrated, unresponsive, and started having seizures. They put him on antibiotics and gave him a whole array of tests: EEG, EKG, spinal tap, brain ultrasound, renal ultrasound, heart ultrasound, EMG and neuro-consult – everything imaginable.
After weeks of tests and not knowing what was going on with him, they finally concluded that he had Urea Cycle Disorder, “a genetic disorder caused by a deficiency of one of the enzymes in the urea cycle which is responsible for removing ammonia from the blood stream. The urea cycle involves a series of biochemical steps in which nitrogen is removed from the blood and converted to urea. Normally, the urea is transferred into the urine and removed from the body. In urea cycle disorders, the nitrogen accumulates in the form of ammonia, a highly toxic substance, and is not removed from the body. Ammonia then reaches the brain through the blood, where it causes irreversible brain damage and/or death.”[i]
Ammonia levels in the human body normally run around 35, but Harrison’s were up as high as 600, causing him to go into a coma. He was flown by air ambulance from Regina to the children’s hospital in Winnipeg with his mom, where he underwent testing for this disorder. The doctors were doing everything possible that medicine could do for him. My mom called me and said, “Please, you have to pray for Harrison’s healing.” We prayed, and I called Robyn to say, “I want you to know that our church is praying for Harrison, and I want you to know that Jesus is going to heal him. He is going to live and not die.” This was the gift of faith in operation. If I hadn’t known, by the gift of faith, that Jesus was definitely going to heal Harrison, I wouldn’t have shared that with my sister. What would have happened if I had made that bold proclamation that Jesus was going to heal my nephew, and he wasn’t healed, but rather died? That could have potentially destroyed my sister’s faith in God and the power of prayer. But because I knew that I knew that I knew Jesus was going to perform a miracle, I shared that with my sister.
The high ammonia levels should have caused Harrison’s death, or at the very least, incredible brain damage. However, our God is a God who answers prayer! While he was in the children’s hospital, Harrison’s ammonia levels went down, and he came out of the coma. The doctors declared him a miracle baby. They said, “We can’t explain it. We don’t know why this is happening. It’s a miracle.” All of the things the doctors said that he would never be able to do, Harrison is now doing. He is alive and well and healthy today, to the glory of God. My sister Robyn says that her little man has been through more in his young life than most of us have in our entire lives, and he always has a charming smile for everyone and will make you fall in love with him. He enjoys video games, playing outside, and loves to read and is just a normal healthy boy now – praise the Lord!
Gifts of Healings:
These are the healings God performs supernaturally. An example of this is an accelerated mending, like the healing of a broken arm. Something that could have been healed over an extended period of time, God heals instantly. In the spring of 2006, when I was the youth pastor at Bible Fellowship Church, we saw a major move of God’s Holy Spirit in the area of healings and miracles. During one of our weekly worship nights, a young girl named Stephanie came into the service wearing a finger splint. Her finger was black and blue, and she could not move it. That evening, as she stood in the presence of God, she experienced the gift of healing. Jesus healed her finger! She took off the splint, and it was no longer black and blue, and she could move it without any pain.
Working of Miracles:
This is the manifestation of power beyond the ordinary course of natural law. This is where something that could never have been done naturally occurs. An example of this would be if someone who was maimed – missing a limb – had that arm or leg restored. If someone is born without a limb, or their arm or leg is severed, it would never grow back, no matter how much time you give it. The working of miracles is when God does something that in the natural would have been impossible. These kinds of signs and wonders took place over and over in the life of Jesus, where the blind saw, the mute spoke, the deaf heard, and the maimed were made whole.
One of our youth leaders at Bible Fellowship, Geoff, and one of the students in our youth group, David, prayed for a man who was blind. The three of us were attending a conference together, and I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. The man’s eyes were clouded over with a grey film, and it was obvious that he was blind. David and Geoff would hold their hands up in front of the man’s eyes, but he couldn’t see anything. As they prayed for him, he fell down under the power of God. When they picked him up, they asked him if he could see, but his vision hadn’t returned. Seven times they prayed for him, and he continued falling down under the power of God. The seventh time, as they picked him up, he was totally and completely healed! His eyesight was better than 20/20 vision. We were in a large church in Abbotsford, BC, and the man was able to read the numbers on a clock on the far side of the sanctuary. None of us were able to read the clock from that distance. We had to get closer to the clock to confirm that he was reading the time accurately. What an amazing example of a working of miracles.
- Gifts of Inspiration:
The third category of spiritual gifts gives you the power to speak something beyond natural human ability. These three gifts are prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
This is a divine utterance of the Holy Spirit to encourage, edify or comfort people. In his teaching on spiritual gifts in First Corinthians chapter fourteen, the Apostle Paul writes: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy… But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (verses 1-3). Because of the importance the Bible places on this particular gift of the Spirit, we will devote an entire chapter to studying this gift. Therefore, we will keep this section short. Prophecy in its simplest form is hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, and declaring the Father’s heart to others.
Different Kinds of Tongues:
This is the gift of speaking supernaturally in a language not known to the individual. One example of this gift in operation is sometimes seen in the lives of missionaries who are preaching the Gospel in a foreign country. God supernaturally enables them to speak in the language of the people that they are ministering to, resulting in people coming to faith in Jesus. Missionary Leland Edwards, the youngest son of pioneer missionaries to the nation of Panama, tells a story in his book Chasing the Vision that illustrates this gift in operation:
“That morning, Mama Mecha, along with several others, received Jesus as Savior and wanted to take the next step of being baptized in water… Before being immersed, she gave a ringing testimony of having been born again. As she came out of the water, she lifted her hands in praise to the Lord and suddenly she began to speak in another language.
Standing in the crowd witnessing the service was a man from Spain. He said to my parents, “That elderly woman, after being baptized, spoke in an ancient Egyptian language and quoted a psalm of praise from the Old Testament. There is no way she could even speak one word in that language which I learned in my work as an archeologist in Egypt. That had to be God.” Dad explained to him that she was being baptized with the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:4.”[ii]
When this gift is used in a church setting, it functions best alongside of the following gift, the interpretation of tongues.
Interpretation of Tongues:
This is an interpretation of a message that is given through the gift of tongues. Hear the heart of the Apostle Paul concerning this spiritual gift: “I wish you all had the gift of speaking in tongues, but even more I wish you were all able to prophesy. For prophecy is a greater and more useful gift than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church can get some good out of it.” (1 Corinthians 14:5, nlt). This tells me that when someone exercises the gift of tongues in a church setting and there is an interpretation, this edifies and encourages people, just like prophecy. We see the importance of the gift of interpretation of tongues in this passage of Scripture:
“But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:6-13).
Wrapping up his teaching on spiritual gifts in First Corinthians chapter fourteen, Paul says, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (verse 26). Not only does the Lord want us to know about these gifts, He also wants us to “earnestly desire the best gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31). He wants us to seek after them, and believe for them to be released in our lives so that we can be a blessing to others. What will happen when the gifts of the Spirit are flowing in our lives? See a picture of this painted by the prophet Isaiah:
- “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
- Because the Lord has anointed Me
- To preach good tidings to the poor;
- He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives,
- And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
- To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
- And the day of vengeance of our God;
- To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion,
- To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning,
- The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
- That they may be called trees of righteousness,
- The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Lives will be changed for all of eternity.
- [i] http://www.nucdf.org/ucd.htm, “What is Urea Cycle Disorder?”
- [ii] Leland Edwards, Chasing the Vision. (Creation House, 2006).
- “The Fullness of the Spirit” is one of the chapters from my book: “Supernatural: Contending for Signs and Wonders Today.” Contact me today if you would like a free copy of the e-book version of this study in the Book of Acts!