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This is not just my service, it is our service. It is not just one person ministering, it is the body ministering to the body. Right from the beginning I want you all to feel a sense of personal responsibility for what happens here this morning. If you and I together can cooperate with the Holy Spirit then God will do great things for us. Let’s all seek to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and responsive to God right from the beginning in this meeting. It will be an unusual meeting, it will be different from probably any meeting you’ve been in, in most cases. But, we’ll begin in a very normal sort of way.
I would like you to turn with me to the book of Acts, chapter 4, and I want you to read with me a prayer that was prayed there by the early church, the apostles and the early church. This was a crisis in the development of the early church, they had just been forbidden to preach any more in the name of Jesus. The religious and political opposition had focused on the one vital aspect of their ministry. I don’t doubt that Satan inspired them to make that decision because by withholding from the early Christians the right to use the name of Jesus they had removed the entire power and authority of the gospel. Every promise and every provision of God is available only in the name of Jesus whether it be forgiveness of sins, eternal life, healing of sickness, deliverance from evil spirits, holiness, whatever it be. Every provision of God is available only through the name of Jesus. So, the church confronted this tremendous crisis. They had been told they were not to preach any more in the name of Jesus. They betook themselves to prayer, they gathered together and it says they lifted up their voice with one accord and they prayed this prayer. I’m not going to read the whole prayer but I’m going to read the last two verses of the prayer.
I believe that this is a prayer sanctioned and approved by God. First of all, it was prayed by the apostles and the early church together in unison. Secondly, the Holy Spirit has caused it to be recorded in Scripture. I believe it’s still a good prayer, I believe this prayer still represents the will and the mind of God today. I’ll read these verses once by myself and then I’m going to ask you to read them with me as our collective prayer for this meeting here this morning. Listen to me now as I read them the first time. Acts 4:29–30:
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching for thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”
Would you dare to prayer that prayer here this morning? Would you dare to be specific enough that God will do that here this morning? See, God has no interest in prayers that are not specific. Some people so hedge their prayers about with reservations that they never really know whether they get answered or not. God just isn’t interested in that type of prayer. But when you dare to be specific, God gives attention to your prayer. Would you dare to pray that God will do those things that are stated in that verse here this morning before this meeting closes? You know, you’re committing yourself because you’ll know whether God answers that prayer or not.
All right. If you feel that way—don’t read this just as an exercise in reading but if you’re prepared to make it your personal prayer and commitment this morning, then I’d like you to read it with me. We’re reading it as a prayer. It’s all right to read written prayers, isn’t it? Lots of religious groups do it. Here’s a written prayer in the Word of God. Are you ready?
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”
You notice they were very careful to use the name of Jesus. Let’s read that once more. Are you with me?
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”
Amen. I didn’t hear you. Amen, that’s right. All right. So, this morning we’re going to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We’re going to talk about one of the ways in which the Holy Spirit administers the riches of Christ. Not the only way but one way. We’ll turn now to 1 Corinthians 12 and we’ll read verses 7–11:
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man [or to each one individually] to profit withal.”
The manifestations of the Holy Spirit are available to every believer. No believer should be without the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. They’re given for a useful, practical, beneficial purpose—to do good. As my good friend Bob Mumford says, “The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not toys, they’re tools. And without the tools you can’t do the job.”
“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the workings of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man [or to each one individually] as he will.”
Both at the beginning and at the end of that list Paul emphasizes these gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit are for each believer individually. No believer needs to be without his own specific God- appointed manifestations of the Holy Spirit. If you are living without the gifts and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in your life, you are living below the revealed will of God for you as a believer in Jesus Christ and a member of Christ’s body. It is not the will of God that any believer be without the enjoyment and use of these gifts.
Now I’m going to teach very briefly on the gifts and then I’m going to work on them. This is not new teaching, this is comparatively familiar. Many Bible teachers over the last several decades have pointed out that there are nine gifts and they are conveniently divided up into three categories with three gifts in each category. This has been pointed out by all sorts of people I don’t need to name, but many well- known Bible teachers have pointed this out; it’s not new. We will just look very quickly at the three categories and the three gifts that belong in each category. I’m going to ask you to cooperate with me in doing this.
The first category we will call revelation, the gifts of revelation. The second category we will call vocal, the vocal gifts.
The third category we will call power, the power gifts for want of a better word.
All right. Now, let’s begin with the column on revelation. The first one there is the first gift listed by Paul which is a word of wisdom. Where the King James says “the” word of wisdom the Greek says “a” word of wisdom. I think it’s better put that way. God has all wisdom, but fortunately for you and me He doesn’t dump it all out on us in one outpouring because we’d be submerged. But, every now and then when we’re moving in the will of God and we need wisdom and we don’t have it available by any natural means, then supernaturally by the Holy Spirit God imparts to us a word of divine wisdom. The first gift there is a word of wisdom.
The next gift is the next one in the list which is a word of knowledge. Exactly the same. A word of knowledge. The difference between knowledge and wisdom is important. Knowledge is informative, wisdom is directive. Ecclesiastes 10:10 says:
“Wisdom is profitable to direct.”
Knowledge gives you information, wisdom tells you what to do with it. Some people have got a lot of knowledge but no wisdom to use it with. But we need both and we really need them combined. You may have much wisdom but if you don’t have the facts you’ve got nothing to act on. So, when you need specific knowledge; you’re walking in the purposes of God, you’re doing the will of God, you come to a place where you need knowledge not available to you by any natural means, then supernaturally by the Holy Spirit God imparts to you a word of knowledge. Just a little tiny seed of the total knowledge of God. The third gift of revelation is somewhere further down the list. Who can tell me? Discerning of spirits. But, in the original Greek both parts are plural. Discernings of spirits. Many of these gifts, about five of them, are plural in both parts. Discernings of spirits. I believe every discerning is a gift. Every time you get a discerning it’s an individual gift. That’s why the gift is collectively discernings of spirits.
Now, to discern is “to recognize and to distinguish between.” So you recognize and distinguish between the various kinds of spirits that confront you in the Christian life. There are many. There’s the Holy Spirit. It’s very important to discern the Holy Spirit. Some people fail to discern the Holy Spirit; they don’t recognize Him when He’s at work. They sometimes dismiss Him. The manifestations of the Holy Spirit are sometimes very unexpected. You may see some of them this morning. Very strange. There have been groups that have prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and when He came He came in such a way they didn’t recognize Him and they refused Him. The whole Keswick movement, if you’ve ever heard of that, in Britain, started with a prayer for the Holy Spirit to come. But when He came some of the people started to laugh and they thought, That isn’t holy and they turned it off. But, it was the Holy Spirit; they didn’t recognize Him.
There are angelic spirits—good angels and evil angels. Discerning of spirits includes both categories. In Acts 27 in the storm when Paul was on the ship, an angel of God visited the ship. But the only person apparently who knew the angel was there was Paul, nobody else discerned the presence of the angel.
Then there are what I was talking about last night, demons or evil spirits—which I do not believe myself are fallen angels, but that’s by the way. There are many, many categories of evil spirits. Sometimes we need to be able to discern between one and the other. Or, just recognize an evil spirit. Many times evil spirits will seek to counterfeit the Holy Spirit—which has been one of the problems of the Pentecostal movement. Many times they’ve been taken in by counterfeits and attributed to the Holy Spirit what actually has been the work of evil spirits. Unknowingly, unintentionally, but through lack of discernment. So, we need to be able to discern the presence and activity and operation of evil spirits.
Then there’s the human spirit which is distinct from all the others. In John 1 Jesus discerned in Nathanael a man with a guileless spirit and He was extremely surprised because he was an Israelite and there aren’t too many of those.
We move on to the vocal gifts. The first one is prophecy, which is an utterance given by the Holy Spirit through a person in a language understood by the person speaking and understood by those who are spoken to. Prophecy is not inspired preaching, it’s a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
The next one in the vocal list is kinds of tongues. In one place in the King James it calls it “diversities of tongues” and the other calls it “divers kinds of tongues.” But the Greek is identical in both. Notice both parts of plural. Kinds of tongues. As I understand it, this is not an unknown tongue. It’s not the tongue with which you communicate with God in your personal devotions. This is a public ministry in the assembly and there are various kinds of tongues. Not various different languages but various uses or functions of tongues in public. I’ll offer you four without commenting on them: intercession, praise, rebuke and exhortation. If the message in an unknown tongue is an exhortation then it must be interpreted to be effective into a known language.
The third gift then in this heading is interpretation—and you understand—of tongues. We’re not going to dwell on any of those. This whole central column, the vocal gifts needs hours and hours of teaching. It’s a very important and a very difficult subject but we’re not going to deal with it.
We’ll move on here to the gifts of power. By process of elimination we’re left with three. The first one is faith. We have to pause a moment and point out that there are various different kinds of faith spoken about in the New Testament. First of all, there is what I call “faith to live by.” Romans 1:17:
“The just shall live by faith.”
Every believer has to have that kind of faith, faith that you live by. Your whole life as a Christian is based on that faith in Jesus Christ and the Word of God. That kind of faith comes in the Romans 10:17 way.
“Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
Every child of God has that kind of faith.
Then there’s a faith which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is listed in Galatians 5:22–23. The fruit of the Spirit—and it’s ninefold—is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Number seven in the list is faith. The fruit of the Spirit is various different aspects of total Christian character. Fruit relates to character. And fruit has to be cultivated. It does not come by an instantaneous act.
This time of year you can see the difference very clearly if you consider the difference between a Christmas tree and an apple tree. A Christmas tree carries gifts, an apple tree carries fruit. You can put a gift on the Christmas tree by an instantaneous act and remove it by an instantaneous act. That’s how gifts are received. But you don’t put an apple on an apple tree by an instantaneous act, it grows by a process. If it’s going to be worth eating it has to be cultivated. And that’s Christian character, the fruit of the Spirit. It comes by a process and if it’s going to be worth anything it has to be cultivated. You cannot in anyway in the world today market uncultivated fruit. God is not interested in uncultivated fruit either. He says the husbandman or farmer laboring first must be partaker of the fruits. It takes work to produce Christian character. You have to work at it. It grows but it has to be cultivated.
The fruit of faith is an aspect of Christian character. I define it this way, as a quiet, steady, continuing trust that doesn’t get shaken, doesn’t get upset, doesn’t get disturbed. And you’ll agree with me that has to be cultivated. It doesn’t happen in five minutes. But when you’ve been through fifteen crises and the sixteenth one you remain steady and unmoved, you know it’s all right, God is still in control. The ceiling may fall in, the floor may drop out but God is still on his throne. And that, I think, is the fruit of faith.
But what we’re talking about here is the gift of faith. This is supernatural faith. This is God’s own faith. It’s very close to a word of wisdom and a word of knowledge. That was a little bit of God’s wisdom, a little bit of God’s knowledge. The gift of faith is just a little bit of God’s faith imparted to you supernaturally. See, everything God ever did He did by faith. God created the universe by faith. In His own word He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast. Faith is divine, creative, irresistible.
Jesus at one point cursed a fig tree and within 24 hours it withered from the roots. He didn’t lay hands on the fig tree, He didn’t anoint the fig tree, He just spoke to the fig tree. When the disciples commented on the fact that the fig tree was withered in 24 hours He said, “Have the faith of God.” That’s the correct translation. Mark 11:22–23. “Have the faith of God.” Have God’s faith. That’s what we’re talking about in the gift of faith. It’s a little mustard seed of divine faith dropped into your heart and while you have it you are just as effective as God Himself. It doesn’t matter whether God speaks to the fig tree or you speak to the fig tree, it’ll have to wither because it’s God’s faith that enables you to speak.
In this connection it isn’t the quantity of faith that matters, it’s the quality. Jesus said all you need is a mustard seed to move a mountain. You can speak to the mountain. In most cases this faith operates through a spoken word as God’s faith did. He spoke and it was done. He commanded and stood fast. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. That’s God’s faith. While you have it, you’re irresistible. When He leaves you’re back again in your own human level. It’s just a little and usually a brief impartation of divine faith for a specific purpose which God wants accomplished.
Then we come to the other two gifts which are the other two gifts of power. Gifts of healings and we might as well put them up together, workings of miracles. You’ll notice both parts are plural in both gifts. It’s gifts of healings and workings of miracles. Again, my personal impression is that each healing is a gift and each miracle is a working. Every time a healing comes, it’s a gift. It’s important to understand the relationship between healings and miracles. Essentially, healing relates to sickness. If there’s sickness in a body then the healing power of God by the operation of a gift deals with that condition of sickness, removes the sickness and replaces it by health. Healings are frequently invisible. They are also quite often gradual and progressive. They are not consummated in one single act. The healing power may be at work over a period of time.
On the other hand, miracles go beyond healings. If you have earaches, the healing power of God may remove the earache but if your middle ear has been removed by surgery and you have no middle ear, you cannot heal a middle ear that isn’t there. But, a creative miracle will restore a middle ear—which I have seen happen. Or, to take another rather controversial example, if you have a cavity in your tooth, you can’t heal a cavity. But a creative miracle of God will replace the cavity. Some of you may think I’m way off but in a court of law as an honest witness I would have to testify that I’ve seen that happen. I watched once while a dark cavity filled up with yellow gold and it did it in approximately 60 seconds. I watched the whole process inside a person’s mouth from beginning to end. That’s a miracle. You’d agree with that! You might not believe it happened but you’d agree it was a miracle.
My grandson Stephen has rather unusual faith for teeth and he’s prayed and many people have had their teeth filled.
This, again, will seem remarkable but I’m just telling it the way it is. You can get various different kinds of fillings. This is the truth! Some people get silver, some get gold, some get tooth! You say, Why does God do it with gold? I think God likes to show us He moves with the times. God has got plenty of gold, the streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with gold.
In 1963 I met a Lutheran lady in Minneapolis and I didn’t know God did anything for Lutherans! She said, “The Lord filled my tooth.” I said, “The Lord filled your tooth?” I said, “Would you mind letting me look at it?” She pulled her gum back and I looked and it was a kind of porcelain. It was beautiful, it was contoured to fit the crown of the tooth exactly. I said, “What did the dentist say?” She said, “The dentist said, ‘We don’t use material like that.’” The same woman had two disintegrated vertebrae in her neck and God restored them. That’s a creative miracle. She had one in her tooth and one in her neck. That’s the area of miracles, the workings of miracles.
That’s what we’re going to major on this morning, the workings of miracles. I want to point out to you that there’s a very real place for this in the church today. We were in 1 Corinthians 12:7–11. I want you to move on to 1 Corinthians 12:28:
“And God hath set some in the church...”
And I think here the church in these chapters of 1 Corinthians could be rendered the public assembly of God’s people. You see, without being controversial and I just give this as an example, Paul says “it is not permitted to your women to speak in the church.” Well, if it meant the church as the total body of Jesus Christ, any person who is in the church is in the church all the time. So in that case women would never be allowed to speak at all—which might be a good reform but it’s obviously not what Paul intended!
So, I just use that as an example to draw the inference that when Paul is speaking in 1 Corinthians 11, 12, 14 about the church, he’s talking about the official public assembly of God’s people. So he says God has set some in the church and he gives a specific order. He mentions eight ministries and the first five are given in a specific order.
“... first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers ...”
Those are the top three ministries in authority in the assembly. I think the essential point about them is they are ministries of the Word. Bear in mind the Word is the supreme authority in the assembly of God’s people. All else is subject to the authority of the Word and must be judged by the standards of the Word. So, the three senior ministries in the assembly are all ministries of the Word.
Incidentally, do you notice just by way of illustration and comment that—I suppose you’re familiar with the five ministries stated in Ephesians 4:11, the five main ministry gifts. “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors [or shepherds], and teachers.” Five ministry gifts, not spiritual gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers. It’s very interesting to notice that neither pastors nor evangelists are mentioned here in 1 Corinthians 12:28. You say, “Why?” I’ll offer you my opinion. First of all, why are evangelists not mentioned? What is the ministry of the evangelist? To bring the sinner to Christ. But we’re talking about God’s people; there are no sinners, no unconverted. So the ministry of the evangelist is not needed there. The evangelist himself may be present, but not in his ministry as an evangelist. He may have other ministries. He may exercise the gifts of healings or the workings of miracles but as an evangelist he’s not needed in the church.
This really pinpoints something that our accepted methods of evangelism today are very contrary to the New Testament. We get all the believers together, line up the back row with unconverted and turn the evangelist loose and hope that a few of the unconverted will get converted. That is not the New Testament pattern of evangelism the least bit. There’s only one pattern evangelist in the New Testament and his name is Philip. Philip didn’t sit in the temple in Jerusalem and wait for the people of Samaria to make their way there—which would never have happened. He went down where the sinners were without a committee, without a program and just taught them about Christ. And they came to the Lord. That is New Testament evangelism. It’s not getting a lot of saints together and hoping a few unbelievers will come in, it’s going out in the power of the Holy Spirit right where they unbelievers are. Let me say the young people today have grasped this truth and they, when they go evangelizing, they go out to the streets, the shopping centers, the drug hangouts and all these places. That is New Testament evangelism. It’s a waste of the time of God’s people to get 90 percent converted people listening to a sermon for the unconverted night after night every week.
And anybody knows that 80 percent of the unconverted will never come into the church building anyhow. Of those that do come, many are already gospel hardened so you’re making the worse investment of time and ministry that you can think of by doing it that way.
As for the pastor, why he’s not on that list, my opinion is that he’s there in his teaching ministry. The teacher there includes the pastor. But the pastoral ministry, the actual shepherd ministry is conducted outside the public assembly where the straying sheep are, where the sick are, where the wounded are and so on.
I say all this just to kind of give you a picture of what Paul had in mind. In the official assembly: apostle, prophet, teacher. Then the next two are the workings of miracles and the gifts of healings. I believe if we’re in New Testament order every assembly of God’s people properly constituted will have in it those who exercise the gift of the workings of miracles and those who exercise the gifts of healings. They’re part of the total provision of God in the assembly of God’s people. The New Testament anticipates they’ll always be there. Now I want to go on to Galatians 3 and I want to read only one verse though it would be good if we had time to read more. We’ll just read Galatians 3:5:
“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
You see, Paul assumed that in that assembly there would be at least one who would do two things. Minister the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Enable God’s people to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a valid ministry. I think we greatly need it. I meet people who’ve been in Pentecostal churches five and ten years and they tell me they’ve been seeking the Holy Spirit. Why? Because there isn’t anyone who knows how to minister the Holy Spirit. You shouldn’t need to seek ten minutes if you’re properly instructed. It’s a gift taken off the tree just like you take a Christmas gift off the Christmas tree.
One of our problems is again, we’ve started wrong. I’m saying “we Pentecostals.” This is not a criticism, it’s just an assessment. I know the accepted method of getting people baptized in the Spirit is you preach a rather excited, emotional type of sermon and you build up an atmosphere and then you call people forward to the altar. They come and they kneel there and start praying without any instruction and for every person kneeling there’s about three persons behind them squeezing them and laying hands on them and pumping the Holy Spirit into them! After awhile amidst the babble of voices you hear somebody speaking in tongues and you say, “Praise the Lord, he got it!” In that way, after awhile people do get it. But it’s not the divine pattern. The divine pattern is to minister the Spirit through the hearing of faith. In other words, you instruct people on the nature of the gift, the requirements for receiving it, how to receive it and then, in my case, you lead them in a prayer, they drink in and they receive it. I very rarely spend more than five minutes praying with people to receive the Holy Spirit. I say, if you’re not ready, then come back when you are. But it’s not an endurance test.
The other thing here that Paul speaks about is he that worketh miracles. He assumes that in their assembly there is someone who works miracles. He says he does it just like ministering the Spirit by the hearing of faith. That’s what I’m going to try to do for you this morning. Work miracles by the hearing of faith.
Let me show you one other rather fascinating phrase in the book of Acts. Acts 19:11. Just a very simple statement.
“God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul.”
Do you know the word that fascinates me? Special. You think of the implications of that word. Miracles were normal in the church, but some miracles were special miracles. That always prompts me to ask: In your church how normal are miracles? See? Miracles were taken for granted in the early church but the ones recorded here were somewhat special, they were unusual, they went beyond the normal.