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We are speaking about the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10. This has led us to examine the basic Greek word that is used, which has become so familiar to us in the form charismatic. The Greek word is charisma. In our first study we went through the various places in the New Testament where this word is used and we sought to get a general picture of the meaning of the word and its associations. We pointed out that it’s directly associated with the Greek word charis, which means “grace” and that charisma means “grace made definite or specific or some particular manifestation or operation or form of God’s grace in the life of a believer”—that is, one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is only offered through Jesus Christ; He is the only channel of divine grace.
In this passage in 1 Corinthians 12 we have nine specific gifts listed and I think, once again, I will just go through the list without reading the intervening words. Beginning in verse 8:
“The word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues.”
There are nine. We found in our previous study 25 distinct instances of the word charisma. So, naturally we ask ourselves this question, What is so special about these nine gifts mentioned here in 1 Corinthians 12? Why are they a special category on their own? I would suggest the answer in terms of simple scientific phraseology that we should think about charisma as a genus and these nine gifts which are usually called the gifts of the Holy Spirit as one species in that genus.
This naturally leads to the second question, What is it that causes these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 to differ from the other examples of charisma? What is the distinguishing feature of these gifts of the Holy Spirit that are listed here in 1 Corinthians 12? I think many, many Christians talk about spiritual gifts and gifts of the Holy Spirit but they don’t have a real understanding as to what particularly distinguishes these gifts. I would suggest that the answer is found in verse 7, the verse that introduces the list where Paul says:
“The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal [or for a useful, profitable, practical purpose].”
I believe that the key word that distinguishes these nine from all the others is the word manifestation. Manifestation, as I understand it, means “an open revelation to the senses.” It’s something that is manifest; it’s something that can be perceived by the senses—by the eye, by the ear and so on. So, what distinguishes these from the others is that they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Himself comes to indwell the believer in Jesus Christ and He’s there, as I understand the teaching of the New Testament, as a person. The body of the believer becomes the temple in which the person of the Holy Spirit dwells. The apostle Paul says in this same first epistle to the Corinthians, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” So, as I understand Scripture, every believer who has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit has the person of the Holy Spirit indwelling the physical temple of his body.
But, the Holy Spirit within that temple is invisible, He is imperceptible, His presence cannot be perceived by any of the five senses. These gifts are the ways in which the invisible Holy Spirit is made manifest out of that believer. When we see these manifestations, they are the evidence of the invisible Spirit dwelling in that believer. There are nine distinctive manifestations, which are given forth from the believer in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. So, the key distinguishing word is the word manifestation. Every one of these in some way or another must be perceptible by the senses. The Holy Spirit Himself being invisible, but the results that He produces in these gifts in the life of the believer are perceptible by the senses.
I think there’s an example of this given in the teaching of Jesus which He gave to Nicodemus in the John 1 where He spoke about the Holy Spirit in terms of the wind and He said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, [or] whither it goeth.” The Holy Spirit is here typified by the wind. None of us has ever seen the wind but we know when the wind is blowing because we see the things that the wind does. The leaves come off the trees, the trees all bend in one particular direction, the clouds go scurrying across the sky, the dust is thrown up in the streets and so on. And when we see all these things happening they are the manifestations of the wind. We never see the wind; nobody has ever yet and cannot see the wind. Its nature is to be invisible. But, the things the wind does are manifestations of the wind.
And, no one sees the Holy Spirit indwelling another believer but the things the Holy Spirit does from within that believer are the manifestations of His presence, a distinctive revelation that He’s there and operating in certain specific ways.
It is important to understand that it is scriptural to speak about manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Some Christians have got such a picture of the Holy Spirit, He’s so sacred and so invisible and so spiritual that it’s never anything that you can get close to or feel or experience. This isn’t correct. There are many, many things the Holy Spirit has done which are perceptible. I’d like to just illustrate this from two passages in the New Testament, the first one is Acts 2. Acts 2, of course, describes the events on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended in person from heaven to take up His dwelling within the newly formed church of Jesus Christ on earth. No one can question that there were manifestations. It was the manifestations of the Holy Spirit that drew the great crowd of people to hear the sermon that Peter preached which brought 3,000 souls to the point of decision. If there had never been any manifestation, no one would have ever known that the Holy Spirit had come. He’s known through His manifestations.
There’s one very interesting little word that’s used several times which is important to notice. Let me give you the verse that I have in mind and then I’ll trace it back for a moment. Acts 2:32–33 Peter is coming to the climax of his message and he’s preached about Jesus and the course of His ministry, His death and His resurrection and finally, His ascension into heaven. This is how he closes. Verse 32:
“This Jesus hath God raised up [from the dead], whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy [Spirit], he hath shed forth [or poured out] this, which ye now see and hear.”
Notice, they didn’t see and hear the Holy Spirit but they saw and heard what the Holy Spirit did in and through the believers whom He had come to indwell.
And, it’s rather interesting to notice this word “this” which is one of the chains that run through this description. I’d like you to look back in that chapter to verse 6. I’m assuming that you’re basically familiar with the events that initiated this whole incident, the descent of the Holy Spirit appearing in cloven tongues of fire sitting on the head of each one, each one being filled with the Holy Spirit and beginning to speak in other languages, new languages which they had not learned. In verse 6 it says:
“When this was noised abroad ...”
Or, in some of the modern versions, “when this noise came abroad.” It was the noise that attracted the crowd, let’s remember that. Noise is a manifestation, a thing that can be heard.
“When this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”
It’s perfectly specific as to what astonished the multitude, it was they heard these Galilean fishermen talking languages which the other people recognized and they knew the Galileans didn’t know. This is the point at issue. In verse 7 they made it even more clear.
“They were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue [or language], wherein we were born?”
Then going on to verse 12—and notice what they were referring to, these Galilean fishermen speaking in languages which they didn’t know, they said:
“They were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?”
What’s this? These people speaking in languages that they didn’t know. It’s quite specific; it couldn’t refer to anything else.
Peter stood up and he put them right because some people said, “These men are drunken, what are you listening to them for?” Peter said in verse 15:
“These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it us but the third hour of the day.”
It’s only 9 o’clock in the morning. No one gets drunk at 9 o’clock in the morning. That’s the effect of what he said. Verse 16:
“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel...”
“This,” again, refers to the same thing, the speaking in the other languages.
What does Peter say about this—the speaking in other languages? “This is that.” What’s that? The promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit which was given through the prophet Joel. Here is something that is specifically joined together with the little linking word “is.” This is that. What’s this? All these people speaking in other languages. What’s that? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit spoken of on the Day of Pentecost. There is no question about it; it cannot have any other meaning. They said, “What meaneth this?” Peter said, “This is that.”
And then at the end of his message in the verse that we read first, verse 33, he came back to this. I’ll read that 33rd verse again.
“Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy [Spirit], he hath shed forth [poured out] this, which ye now see and hear.”
What’s this? The same this as all the way through. What did they see and hear? They saw and heard these men speaking other languages which they knew these men had never learned by natural understanding or education. So, here is a very clear proof that when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer He’s going to produce manifestations out of that believer which can be seen and heard. This is actually the evidence of His having come. It’s a manifestation, it’s something that is perceptible by the senses.
Then notice what Paul says about his own preaching and ministry in 1 Corinthians 2:4–5. I think I could read even from verse 1 because I particularly love these words. First Corinthians 2, beginning at verse 1:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.”
He was not a great preacher. Many people imagine Paul was a terrific preacher but this is contradicted by Scripture because in 2 Corinthians he quoted his enemies as saying his bodily presence was “weak” and his speech “contemptible.” He was no preacher. I think Peter was a tremendous preacher but Paul was not a pulpit personality at all. He was apparently a rather small and, as they say, bandy-legged little man. I don’t know quite where they got that from. He wasn’t a tremendous orator. So, how did he produce his results? This is the secret. He said it wasn’t excellency of speech or of wisdom, it wasn’t my degree that I got at the feet of Gamaliel. How did I do it? Let’s look.
“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
Paul was a very learned man and he made a rather remarkable decision: to forget all that he knew and to know only one thing, which was Jesus Christ. And not merely Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
You read the 18th chapter of Acts, he was in danger of his life, he was about to get up and leave and the Lord spoke to him in a vision and said, “Don’t go. Speak. Don’t be afraid. I have much people in this city.” And then verse 4:
“My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
I want you to notice that word demonstration. It exactly lines up with manifestation. What was the secret of Paul’s ministry? Not oratory, not education, but the manifestation of the supernatural power of God, the demonstration, the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
How can you demonstrate the Holy Spirit; He’s invisible? You demonstrate Him through the supernatural gifts which Paul enumerates in the 12th chapter of the same epistle. He says that there’s a purpose for this and I want you to notice it, verse 5:
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
The faith of every true Christian should not be based on intellectual, philosophical arguments, on seminary-trained professors and degrees, but on personal experience of God’s power.
I remember when I was a missionary in East Africa I came to a kind of crisis in ministering to the African students whom I was teaching and training to be teachers because they said yes to everything but you never knew how much they really believed. The problem was too much acquiescence. So, one day I remember standing in front of the students in an assembly and I said, “I want to thank you that you’re so cooperative and obedient and willing to do what we ask. Whatever we ask you to do, you do. I know the reason why, because your education depends on us and you want education; it’s your god.” But I said, “In the minds of most of you there still remains a great big question mark.” When I said that they began to look at me. I said, “The question that’s in your minds is this: Is the Bible a book for Africans that you can read and trust or is it just a white man’s book which somebody’s brought from another country which doesn’t really relate to Africans?” And I said, “Many of your own African elders are telling you that it’s just a white man’s book—that you better not spend your time trying to obey or to follow.” When I said that, there was quite a silence because I had said the very thing that they were thinking. When I brought out this question that was in their minds I said, “I want to tell you one more thing. I cannot answer that question for you!” Well, that surprised them because they thought missionaries could answer all questions. I said, “There’s only one way you’ll find the answer to that question and that is if you have a personal experience with the supernatural power of God in your life. When you have that experience, you’ll know it didn’t come from Britain, it didn’t come from America; it came from God.” I said, “When you have that, then you’ll know.”
I dismissed the assembly, I didn’t argue with them, I went away and prayed. I prayed in this basis. I said, “Lord, You said whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. I’ve been sowing the Word of God to these young people and You said if we sow to the Spirit we shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life. I’m holding You to Your Word.”
I preached the Word and I prayed and I did not do anything to coerce them into any type of acquiescence of the Christian faith. About six months later there was a sovereign intervention of God in that college. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you briefly how it happened. It was quite remarkable.
We had what was called a half-term break and most of the students went off home for a long weekend. But there were about six or eight students whose homes were so far away they couldn’t get there and come back in time. They stayed in the college. My wife and I thought we ought to do something for these six or eight lonely young men so we invited them up to our home—which was a little unconventional in that setting in Africa—to have a cup of tea. Being at that time more British than American, tea was what we offered them. So, they came up and they were very little accustomed to a kind of European or American style of living and sitting on chairs and sitting around and talking and making conversation. They had never experienced that. We sat there rather stiffly and we served them tea and they took about five spoonfuls of sugar each one in each cup! Then I thought, “What are we going to do with them now?” I said, “Maybe we should have a word of prayer.” Well, obediently they would kneel down to pray and we started to pray and something happened. It was like a thunderclap. Something came into that room and it just hit us. Every one of those students started to pray out loud simultaneously. They were praying in a language I didn’t know, but I don’t think it was praying in other tongues, I think it was their own tribal language.
We were in a Pentecostal mission but the other missionaries complained later we made too much noise. But it was a divine act. I didn’t have anything to do with it; I couldn’t have done it if I stood on my head. God intervened. That started something which went on for approximately four years. We had a sovereign, supernatural move of the Holy Spirit in that college.
About three months later I was speaking to the same group of students again. I read to them Acts 2:17. I think I’ll read that for you for a moment. Acts 2:17:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
I read it carefully and slowly and made sure they understood the meaning. Now I said, “I call you all to record that every single statement that’s made in that verse has happened to you. It hasn’t happened to somebody in another country or another college or another church, it’s happened to you. You’ve experienced it. Your eyes have seen it; your ears have heard it. This is God’s testimony to you that you’re living in the last days. Now, I’m not asking you to believe something that a white man said or something that is in a white man’s book. You have firsthand experiential evidence that this is true.” I’ll tell you, that did for them what no series of sermons or arguments or theological evidences or seminary training could ever have done. It changed their entire attitude, their way of behavior. It made that college a place that was worth living in. It wasn’t an effort to get them to pray, we had to stop them praying! They wouldn’t go to bed; they would pray all night in their dormitories. This was a sovereign intervention of God but it came through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. When they really found that this was for real in their own experiences then you didn’t have to keep priming them and prodding them and pushing them along.
This is what the apostle Paul says. It is not enough to have sound doctrine, theology, education, argument, reasoning. It will not do the job. Our faith must not be based in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. That’s the only faith. I assure you, in these last days with the power of wickedness mounting on every hand and every type of assault against the faith of God and Jesus Christ and the true church of God, no one is going to get through that doesn’t have a personal experience of supernatural power in their own life. This is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The apostle Paul treated it that way.
Let’s look back at those words of his again for a moment. 1 Corinthians 2, we’ll just read verses 4–5 again because they’re the key to seeing the importance of what we’re studying.
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand [or be based] in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
So, we have established this: that it is scriptural to talk about the manifestation of the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. These particular nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 are distinguished from other gifts that God gives by being supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit out of the life of the believer.
Now, for a moment let us consider the relationship between the ministry gifts which are spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12. We’ve already read the list of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Let’s look at the list of ministry gifts in Ephesians 4 just once more for a brief moment. Ephesians 4:11, and it is speaking about the resurrected Christ. For it says in verse 8:
“When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
That’s Ephesians 4:8. Then in verse 11 it specifies five main gifts that He gave to men.
“He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers...”
I want to take a moment or two to bring out certain points of difference between what I call “the ministry gifts” and what I call “the spiritual gifts” or “the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” It’s important to see this. If you’ll look at your outline you’ll see that we have two parallel columns. On the left hand side we have ministry gifts, on the right hand side we have spiritual gifts. We notice three points in which they’re distinguished. First of all, taking the ministry gift. The believer himself is the gift given by Christ to His church. This is important to see. Look at Ephesians 4:11, you’ll see this is the wording. “He gave some, apostles ...” He didn’t give to some apostleship; He gave some, apostles. The men were the gift given by whom? By Christ. To whom? The church. These are Jesus’ gifts to His church because the church cannot ever be what Jesus intends without these ministry gifts. So that in the ministry, the man in his capacity as a minister—or lady if it’s applied—is the gift. The apostle Paul was Jesus’ gift to the Gentile church. Likewise, a prophet is a gift by Jesus to His church.
On the other hand, with spiritual gifts, the gift is given to the person: “To one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge.” The person has the gift. Putting it in very simple language, in the ministry gifts the person is the gift. In the spiritual gifts, the person has the gift.
The second point of distinction, point number two, with the ministry gift every aspect of the total ministry makes up the gift. Ministry, in a certain sense, is a lifetime. It’s like a man who is an athlete; let’s say he runs the mile faster than anybody else. His whole life centers around running the mile. The man who is an apostle, his whole life centers around being an apostle (or a prophet or an evangelist). In fact, Paul in many places compares Christian ministry to the activities of athletes because there’s so much that’s parallel. The need for training, the need for discipline, the need for dedication. All these things are parallel. A ministry is not just a brief revelation of something, a brief manifestation that may only last a few seconds or minutes. A ministry is a life work.
On the other hand, these nine supernatural gifts are just brief, dramatic, brilliant, arresting manifestations that happen and are finished. For instance, a prophetic utterance is given. It may last 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, and it’s finished. It isn’t something that goes on all the time. A word of wisdom is given, it occurs in a few seconds. A man suddenly gets a revelation that directs him to do something that he could not do by natural understanding. Discerning of spirits is given, a person suddenly sees there’s the spirit of lust in that man or some other spirit. We’ll come to the detailed outworking of these details later.
Again, the ministry is almost a lifetime. The spiritual gift, it’s just a momentary thing. It’s almost like a flash of lightning or a thunderclap. It’s just there and finished.
Because of this, it’s important to see the third distinction. In the ministry, character is involved. But in a spiritual gift character is not involved. This is so important to understand. You see, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are like the kind of gifts we see on a Christmas tree. It doesn’t take long to put a gift on a Christmas tree, does it? It doesn’t take long to get it off, does it? It’s a momentary act putting it on. It’s a momentary act taking it off. Because I received an electric shoe polisher for Christmas—as I did—doesn’t make me any different person from what I was before I received the shoe polisher. If I was lazy and disorderly before I received the shoe polisher, I’ll still be lazy and disorderly afterwards. It may make it a little easier for me to be lazy with a shoe polisher, but it doesn’t change my character. Because, a ministry cannot be divorced from a character. This is the difference.
So, you’ve got to be discerning about spiritual gifts. A person may receive a marvelous spiritual gift and have a lousy character. This is a fact. And the gift doesn’t change the character. Nor has that person got anything to boast about because he’s received a gift. Paul says, “Why do you boast about it if it’s a gift?” You’ve got nothing that makes you any different from anybody else except the gift. And that didn’t come from you. It’s so important to see this.
Here’s a very clear example that I’ve picked out. Ephesians 4:11, it says in the middle of that verse:
“... he gave some ... prophets ... That is, Jesus Christ gave to His church some men or maybe women with the ministry of a prophet or a prophetess.”
First Corinthians 14:31:
“For ye may all prophesy one by one ...”
Notice prophesying doesn’t give you the ministry of a prophet. A prophet is a ministry. Prophesying is a spiritual gift. Paul says, “All believers may prophesy”—may exercise the spiritual gift of prophecy. Alas, today we don’t see many of them doing it. But, as far as God is concerned, there is no limit, “ye may all prophesy.” But God never says, “You’ll all be prophets.” He gave some, prophets as ministries but the gift of prophesying is open to all. If we don’t prophesy it’s not because God doesn’t want us, it’s because we haven’t reached out to receive what God is offering us through the Holy Spirit.
I say this primarily to point out the very important distinction between the ministry gifts and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let me just briefly enumerate the three points of distinction.
With the ministry gift the believer is the gift. With the spiritual gift the believer receives the gift and is then able to minister to others.
Secondly, with the ministry gift every aspect of that man’s ministry is part of the total gift. But, with the spiritual gift it’s just a brief, momentary manifestation, that’s all it is.
Thirdly, in a ministry character is involved. It must be by the very nature of the thing. But, with a spiritual gift, character is not involved. It does not in itself change your character.
I think you just as well learn this now or you’ll be headed for some bitter disappointment. A person may stand up and prophesy like an angel and keep you waiting for every appointment that he ever makes with you. It hasn’t changed his character. It should, but it doesn’t necessarily do so. Character is one thing, gifts are another.
To put it another way, in another area, gifts are one thing, fruit is another. The Holy Spirit has nine gifts and if you look in Galatians 5:22 He has nine forms of fruit. What’s the difference between fruit and gifts? Well, what’s the difference between a Christmas tree and an apple tree? You can go to a Christmas tree, put a gift on it, take a gift off. It doesn’t take a moment either way. You can’t go to an apple tree and put an apple on and take an apple off. It comes by a process of growth and maturing and cultivation. Spiritual fruit comes that way, there’s a process involved. But gifts come instantly.
This is not belittling gifts. Far from it, it’s not my purpose to point out the limitations and the differences between these various ways in which the Holy Spirit operates and which the grace of God operates. Some people say, “Brother, I’ve got fruit; I don’t need gifts.” Do you know what experience has taught me? To question just how much fruit people have who talk like that. “Brother, I’ve got love; I don’t need gifts.” Well, one thing I’m sure is love will never lead a believer to refuse God’s gifts. That’s totally illogical. That kind of love is really just a whip to beat Charismatic or Pentecostal people with, that’s all it is. God’s love isn’t used as a whip.
There is a valid distinction. You say, “Brother Prince, I’ve got all the love; you have the gifts.” I say, “Brother, what are you going to do with all your love? How are you going to help humanity with that love you have? You need the gifts.”
The gifts are the means that make love effective. Imagine a mother sitting by her sick child. “Honey, I love you, but I’m going to sit here. I’m not going to put my hand on your forehead. I’m not going to pray for you. I’m not even going to call the doctor. But, I love you.” How much love? Love in word but not love in deed. In order to show love you must have means that make love effective. What are the means? The gifts. Divorce the gifts from love and Paul says they’re just like “sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.” But have love without gifts, what do you have? Frustration. “Honey, I love you, I’d love to do something to help you, but there’s nothing I can do.” See? We mustn’t be one-sided. We need love; we need gifts. We need gifts; we need fruit. We need spiritual gifts; we need ministries. None of these is a substitute for any of the others. How much do we need? We need all. God never intended us to live a rationed life as Christians.
This I’ll come to at the close of this study, I’ll return to this theme of the riches of God’s grace.
Now there’s one other important point that I want to establish and I have it here way down the outline, this statement, “Believers have spiritual gifts.” Please note I’m not talking about ministry gifts, I’m talking about spiritual gifts. Why I say this is—and it’s in no sense to criticize or oppose anybody— in recent years there has been a teaching which has gained some ground amongst Charismatic people that it’s wrong to talk about having spiritual gifts. It’s almost as though this indicates pride. You see, if it’s a gift, you’ve got nothing to be proud about. In the first place, it doesn’t make you any different from what you were before. The gift, you didn’t get, it was given you. But, the suggestion is, for instance, I don’t have a gift of healing. If anybody gets healed, the person who gets healed is the person who gets the gift. I don’t have a gift of prophecy. If prophecy is manifested, the person prophesied to is the person that receives the gift. This can have a very confusing effect on people so I just want to point out to you that this is really not scriptural. I believe if God gives you or me a gift, we have an obligation to confess that God has given that gift. I heard men—and if I mentioned their names you’d know them—who obviously have a divine gift of healing but in order to avoid controversy or criticism they will not own up to it. They say, “I don’t have any gift of healing, I’ve never claimed to have a gift of healing. God heals.” That’s true, God heals, but He uses human instruments to heal through.
Anyhow, let’s look at this for a moment because I think if you haven’t encountered this problem one day you will. Let’s look in 1 Corinthians 12:7 for a moment.
“The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
For a useful, practical, profitable purpose. Not as a luxury, not as something to boast about, not as a merit badge, but to be used for a practical, profitable purpose.
One of the things about the Greek language is that in many places the tenses of the verbs are of vital importance. This is an example. The verb is the regular or continuous present tense: “To one is regularly given by the Spirit a word of wisdom,” and so on. A person who has these gifts regularly has them manifested. This does not limit the Holy Spirit from manifesting any gift through any person at any time He will, because all the gifts are resident in the Holy Spirit. If you’re in an emergency and somebody is lying dying in front of you, you don’t have to stand there and say, “I don’t have the gift of healing, there’s nothing I can do.” Because, if you have the Holy Spirit, potentially you have everything in Him. And there’s nothing to prevent the Holy Spirit manifesting the gift of healing through you at that moment.
But, the Scripture would not justify you saying you have the gift of healing unless it is regularly manifested. “To one is regularly given a word of wisdom, to another is regularly given a word of knowledge.” You see, God definitely must have seen the need to keep us humble because in case any of us should ever get puffed up about prophesying, God gave some very beautiful words of prophecy through a donkey. You remember the case of Balaam’s ass? If you’d like to look in 2 Peter 2:16, Peter has a rather nice little comment on that. He’s speaking about Balaam and although Balaam is not a major character in the Old Testament it’s remarkable how many times he’s referred to in the New Testament and held up as an example and a warning. It speaks in 2 Peter 2:15 about believers:
“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
You see, the root problem with Balaam is the same as with a lot of preachers. He got fond of money. I want to tell you very definitely that certain spiritual gifts can make a person pretty wealthy. Any person that has a gift of healing can make money through it. There’s nothing wrong in receiving the gifts of God’s people for a ministry but we are not to make these gifts the means of getting money. Jesus said, “Freely have ye received, freely give.” There’s a tremendous temptation.
I tell you, to be personal, with the ability that God has given me to help people who need deliverance from evil spirits there are people that will pay $10,000 to a psychiatrist, and if I could operate in that realm I could demand— I was amused by a lady once. I gave her three hours of my time. I did everything I could for her and at the end she said, “You know, I’ve spent $5,000 on psychiatrists.” I didn’t say anything. About a month later she sent me a check for $30. I thought, “Praise the Lord anyhow!” I didn’t ask her for a cent, I want you to understand, but I thought, “The psychiatrist certainly knows how to charge and he won’t take anybody unless.” You know that if you go to a psychiatrist they say that you go through certain doors. There’s one door that says income over $10,000 and there’s another door that says income under $10,000. If your income is under $10,000 you go through that door you find yourself in the street again!
I point this out: there are certain ministries that enable a person to acquire money. I believe one of the reasons why God has restricted these ministries is because people cannot always be trusted. I mean, let me say frankly and I say it with all the respect in the world, Katherine Kuhlman could get any money that she wants. There is practically no limit to what she could get if she was after money. That’s just a simple statement of fact. There’s nothing wrong with God’s people receiving offerings but let’s examine our motives. I’m speaking first and foremost of Brother Prince.
Anyhow, let’s go on about Balaam. In verse 16 because he went astray after money it says:
“[He] was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.”
That’s a beautiful comment, isn’t it? The ass had to talk to the prophet because the prophet wouldn’t listen to God. If we ever get a little bit puffed up, “Brother, I had a wonderful message of prophecy ...” just remember Balaam’s ass. Come down to earth again. God can do it through a donkey in the last resort. That doesn’t belittle the gift, but remember, it’s a gift, and if you were a donkey before you prophesied, do you know what you’ll be after that? You’ll still be a donkey. This is the lesson. Spiritual gifts don’t change nature or character.
Why did I say that, where have we got to? I’m saying that in an emergency, in a situation, God can give any manifestation to any person that’s needed. But this is not having the gift. We would not say that Balaam’s donkey had the gift of prophecy. Why? Because it only happened on one occasion. But when the thing is regularly manifested then that person is said to have the gift.
Having said that, let us just notice a number of places in the New Testament where it is specifically stated that believers have gifts. Turn with me for a moment to Romans 12:6:
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith...”
It is perfectly clear that Paul speaks about the believers who have the gift of prophecy, the ability to prophesy. He says if we have the gift, let’s use it in a scriptural sober-minded way. Let’s not get puffed up, let’s stay within the limits of God-given faith. I’ll bring this out later in teaching about prophecy. There is a danger of going beyond the proportion of your faith.
Then in 1 Corinthians 7:7, as we already read, we don’t need to go over it in detail, Paul says:
“Every man has his own particular gift ...”
This is perfectly clear that the man has the gift.
In 1 Corinthians 12:30, this is rather an important one because it related particularly to one of the gifts that people are a little shy about saying that they have. Paul says:
“Have all the gifts of healing?”
Clearly he means not all do but some do. Otherwise it would be a meaningless question. Here is clear scriptural authority for believers to say, “Well, I have the gifts of healing. God gave them to me. It doesn’t make me any better than I was before but I have to say as a matter of experience it’s regularly manifested through me.”
Then in the next verse:
“Covet earnestly the best gifts ...”
If you couldn’t have gifts, then there wouldn’t be anything to covet. It’s clear that believers do. And, you are in the will of God to desire to have gifts.
Then in 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul speaks to Timothy in such a way that it is absolutely clear that he reckoned with Timothy having a certain gift. First Timothy 4:14:
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee ...”
And 2 Timothy 1:6:
“... stir up the gift of God, which is in thee ...”
Now, if the gift is in, then you have it, that’s the way I look at it, it’s clear. And finally, in 1 Peter 4:10 Peter also uses a similar kind of language.
“As every man hath received [a] gift ...”
The King James says “the gift” but the Greek says “a gift.”
“As every man hath received a gift, even so minister the same ...”
You can’t minister what you don’t have. First of all, you have to receive it, then you have to minister it. Notice again, Peter assumed that all Christians would have gifts thus enabling us to minister to each other. As I said in my previous study, if you’ve got nothing to give, you can’t give it. That is real poverty, having nothing to contribute. That’s the tragic condition, I suppose, of 90 percent of professing churchgoing Christians. They don’t have anything, so they can’t give it. But that’s not the will of God. Paul says—and we’ve already looked at this—the manifestation of the Spirit is given to “each one.” No believer in Jesus Christ needs to be without his own distinctive manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
What is the purpose? I want to present this in closing this particular study not from man’s point of view so much as from God’s point of view. You see, we often make this mistake. We view the thing only from the point of view of “What it will do for me?” For instance, you hear people talking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. “Oh, you’ll feel wonderful if you get the baptism.” Don’t believe it. You won’t feel wonderful all the time. Sometimes you’ll feel worse than you’ve ever felt before. Or, “It’ll help you tremendously with your study of the Bible.” That it will do. Or, “You’ll have power to witness.” That’s wonderful. But all these reasons for having the baptism in the Holy Spirit are directed towards what it will do for you. The great reason for having the baptism in the Holy Spirit is what it will do for the body of Christ. “In one Spirit we were baptized into one body” to make us effective members of that body.
Again, if we view it from the point of view of God, the end purpose of all these gifts is not what it will do for me but what it will do for God. It will glorify God. You see, some of you are good Presbyterians, I know that. And you know what the Presbyterian catechism says. What is the supreme end of human beings? It’s to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I wonder how many Presbyterians, to be frank, really enjoy God rather than enduring God. I don’t know. That’s a matter that you have to settle by looking at their faces on Sunday morning. I’ve been in some places where it looked to me people were enduring more than they were enjoying.
But, I certainly agree with their statement out of the catechism, the supreme end of life is to glorify God. Few of us grasp this fact. Somebody said to me—in fact, it was a converted Jew or a completed Jew if you prefer—he said, “If you don’t exist for the glory of God you’ve got no right to exist.” That’s the truth. Everything was created for God’s pleasure.
And here is the application to spiritual gifts. Why are spiritual gifts important? Not just because they make me a wonderful person but because of what they do for God’s glory. Let’s look at this in closing. I’d like you to turn to Ephesians for a moment, Ephesians 1:6 and 12. Some tremendous phrases that are absolutely breathtaking. Let’s read Ephesians 1:5–6 first.
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
What’s the ultimate purpose of God in adopting us as children? That we may be for the praise of the glory of His grace. How many Christians think about the glory of God’s grace? It’s a tremendous subject. God’s grace is glorious. And then in verse 12 the same thought:
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
If you go back to verse 6 that word grace is emphasized there: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” That’s the King James Version. But the word “hath made us accepted” is a verb from the same root grace. And so I like the translation which says, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, which has made us graciously favored in the beloved.” You see, grace is heaped on us. Grace is given to us when we didn’t deserve it to make us the object of God’s special favor. Isn’t that breathtaking? See, the object of God’s special favor, more than anything else in the universe, do you know what it is? You and me. Why? Because of our relationship with Jesus Christ in the Beloved.
I also love the King James Version ,“He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Do you know why? Because I find about 1 in 5 persons in modern America has this basic problem, they feel rejected. I’ve dealt with literally scores of people in deliverance and counseling whose basic problem was because of some traumatic experience in life—very often the lack of love from parents. In fact, this is the commonest reason—they’ve gone through life feeling unwanted. I met a woman in a camp last summer—let me briefly relate this. I didn’t have an appointment with her, I was walking through the camp and she was walking the other way. She met me and she said, “Brother Prince, I’ve prayed if it was God’s will for you to talk to me that we’d meet one another without an appointment. Here we are.” I said, “Sister, I’m on my way to an appointment. I can give you about two minutes.” She started to talk to me and I immediately discerned or saw in all that she said and her very appearance this sense of being unwanted. I said, “I don’t have a long time to talk to you, but I’d like you to say these words after me.” I do not remember them exactly but basically this is what I said. “God, I thank You that I’m accepted in Jesus Christ. I’m not unwanted, I’m not rejected, I’m a child of God, I’m a member of the family of God. Heaven is my home. God is my Father. You want me.” I made her say that about three times. I gave her this Scripture. I said, “Remember, you are accepted in Christ. If nobody else wants you, God does. He doesn’t just tolerate you, He wants you.” About a month later I got a letter from that lady saying, “Those simple words that you spoke to me and that short interview has changed my whole life. I’m a different person.” Because of one realization: she wasn’t unwanted. God wanted her.
And so, I love to dwell on this. We who are the least worthy, the furthest off, have been made the closest. All the riches of God’s favor have been heaped upon us. God does everything He can to make us feel wanted. It’s in Christ and what is it? It’s grace.
The same word is used of the Virgin Mary. When Gabriel greeted her, he said, “Hail, highly favored.” Or, “Graciously accepted.” Or, “Much grace.” A person on whom God had heaped His grace. But that isn’t true of the Virgin Mary alone, it’s true of every believer in Christ. We are much grace, we’re highly favored, we’re the object of God’s unique and special favor. The reason why He heaps His favor upon us is that we should be to the praise of the glory of His grace throughout eternity.
This is where these gifts have a part to play. Look also for a moment in Ephesians 3:10 which is the same thought again. We will not go into the background of this verse but just notice these words:
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
The church of Jesus Christ is to be the revelation to the whole universe of God’s wisdom. It says manifold but the Greek word is very strong, “many sided, infinitely varied wisdom.” And you see, every one of us is given the privilege of being a distinct, specific, unique revelation of God’s wisdom. None of us has got the same story to tell. Every one of us shows an aspect of God’s wisdom which no one else can ever demonstrate.
How do we do this? By the grace gifts. It’s only insofar as we receive these grace gifts that we’re able to manifest the grace of God. This is the thought that I want to leave with you. It’s not a question merely of what it will do for you; it’s a question of what it will do for God. It will enable God to fulfill His purpose in you. Without the grace gifts you cannot manifest the grace of God. It’s the grace gifts that manifest the grace of God.
Let us in closing look at 1 Corinthians 1:7. There might be time for one or two quick questions. We’ll see if there is. But let’s just look at this. I’ll begin at verse 4 reading through verse 8 but it’s the 7th verse that I have particularly in mind.
“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God [the emphasis is on grace] which is given you [how?] by Jesus Christ [remember, there’s only one channel of grace]; that in every thing ye are enriched by him...”
Oh, how wonderful to be rich. I’m not talking about primarily materially rich but spiritually rich.
“... in all utterance, and in all knowledge...”
There’s two main realms of gifts, the gifts of utterance the gifts of knowledge.
“... even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you...”
The more we have of the gifts the more the testimony of Jesus Christ is confirmed in us. Verse 7:
“... so that ye come behind in no gift; [you’re not lacking in any of the gifts. Doing what?] waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ ...”
Some people tell us that the gifts are withdrawn but Paul said the church has got to be adorned with and exercise in the gifts while it waits for the return of the Lord Jesus. In fact, the closer the return of the Lord comes, the more we need to manifest the gifts.
And then it says in the 8th verse:
“... who shall also confirm you unto the end...”
There is not a Scripture in the Bible that suggests that the supernatural gifts of God’s grace will ever be withdrawn from the church of Jesus Christ. When the church goes to meet the bridegroom as the bride, she will be adorned with the gifts He sent for her. And a church that isn’t wearing the gifts doesn’t qualify to be the bride. Because, if a young man loves a young lady and saves up everything he can to buy her a beautiful diamond ring to show how much he loves her and make her marked out as the one he wants to marry, if that young lady refuses the ring she’ll never marry the young man. Is that true? You cannot refuse the love gift and claim to have the love. It is really a deception. I mean, many Christians are sincere but they’re sincerely wrong when they say, “I love the Lord but I don’t want His gifts.” It’s inconsistent. If you love the Lord, if you love the bridegroom, you’ll take the gift which marks you out as a member of the bride because the bride is going to meet the bridegroom adorned with His gifts.
There’s time for one question. Anybody want to—If you receive one of these beautiful, supernatural gifts it should cause you to raise yourself up. I agree. It increases your responsibility. And a responsible person will conduct himself in such a way that the gift will go together with the rest of what he does. The reason why I say that is it’s possible to receive these gifts and be irresponsible. I feel it’s necessary to say it because so many people are disappointed, their faith is even harmed because they meet someone that has a gift whose character doesn’t match the gift. I’m just pointing out that they are two distinct things.
Well, the question is what would I suggest are the best gifts? I doubt whether Paul has them arranged in an order of merit. Number one, prophesy, number two, this or that. I think the best gifts are those which best fulfill the function for which they were given. As I said, one main function is to glorify God. The second main function is to edify the body of Jesus Christ the church. So, whichever gift in your situation and circumstance best fulfills those two functions is the best gift. I don’t believe you can make an absolute list and say this is the order of importance. It’s a question of the function and fulfilling that function.
I agree with that. Your question really is, for instance, may I rephrase it this way? A person has a gift of healing, shall we say, I’d rather say gifts of healing. We’ll come to that in greater detail later on. And yet, this person prays for somebody who is sick and the person is not healed but even dies. I think one thing we better understand about the gift of healing is that it is not under the control of the person who has it. A person does not say, “I have the gift of healing. Therefore I will heal you.” But it’s rather, “I have the gift of healing. God may use me if He wills through this gift to bring healing to you.” But you see, if you have the gift of healing to do whatever you like with it you could walk into the hospital and heal everybody. We know that isn’t so. We know, furthermore, that Jesus didn’t do that. He went to the pool of Bethesda where there was a great multitude of infirm and healed one man and walked out again. So, this is one thing.
Another thing is the gift of healing is not the only way that we can receive healing. For instance, I was sick in hospital for a year on end. Nobody healed me by ministering to me a gift of healing. I found that I had a right to health given me through the Word of God and I claimed it in naked faith without any demonstration, any manifestation—and over a period of months I received complete healing.
There are many different ways by which you can receive the end product of healing. The gifts of healing are one, the gift of miracles is another. But there are other means. Elders may anoint with oil and pray, there may be no gift in operation but the person is healed. Or a person may be healed in their own personal faith in the promises of the Word of God.
We’ll go into that more completely, I trust, when we come to the field of miracles and healings.