Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Gifts 1

As I perused the internet looking for some information regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit I became increasingly concerned that not only do many not practice the gifts but many are so ignorant of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they cannot even define them correctly. Disconcerting to say the least! How can we be a Spirit-filled people if we cannot define the objective descriptions of the Spirit's working among us?

So let's take a look at the 9 charisms mentioned in 1 Cor 12. Other sections of Scripture speak of motivational giftings and offices within the church but 1 Cor 12 clearly identifies these gifts as manifestation gifts. Their purpose is to reveal the Word of God, the Mind of God, and the Power of God to the situations within the believers gathered. John F. MacArthur is certainly no sympathizer with the charismatic movement but is forced to acknowledge that these gifts were "specific enablements" for the purpose of "authenticating or confirming God's Word". Unfortunately, MacArthur himself has called these gifts "temporary sign gifts"-despite the complete lack of any indication in this (or any other) text that these gifts were designed to be temporary. Miracles were common in the first century among those followers of Christ. So much so that some miracles became "ordinary" (Acts 19.11). They were not worked strictly by the Apostles alone. Indeed, the NT records many healings and miracles by those outside the 12. Paul seems to be encouraging the proper use of the charismata in 1 Cor 12. It is clear that the purpose is to manifest the Spirit for the common good (12.7) Donald Gee reminds us that these gifts arose out of individuals who had been personally filled with the Spirit. He writes, "The very phrase "manifestation of the Spirit" makes this clear. The Greek Word is phanerosis, 'a shining forth.' The nine gifts...are examples of different ways in which the indwelling Spirit might reveal himself through believers."
So, let's examine these manifestation gifts.

The Message (Word) of Wisdom- This is more than some sanctified natural gifting. It has little to do with human intelligence. All of these gifts are divinely imparted. Since the gift of healing has little to do with medical science- wisdom should not be expected to be connected to intelligence. Neither is the Word of Wisdom simply the application of the divine wisdom that comes down (James 3.17). That is the application of the teachings of Jesus. One author I read taught that the Word of Wisdom was a way of proper interpretation of Scripture. As important as good hermenuetics is, it is not connected to the Word of Wisdom. The Message of Wisdom is a spiritually imparted nugget of divine purpose and application. It is differentiated from the Word of Knowledge in that it gives a directive on what should happen based upon God's perspective. It is the revelation of God's mind on what to do in a particular situation. It is actionable. It is recognizable in the council rooms and board rooms of the church when the leadership is prayerfully seeking to honor God. It is seen in prayer meetings and presbyteries over those who are seeking direction for life and ministry. It is seen occassionally at the altar, as the Holy Spirit moves through everyday christians caring for one another. We see evidence of this revealing of the divine tactic in Acts 13.1f, when during a time of prayer, worship and fasting, the Holy Spirit said "Set apart for me Barnabus and Saul to the work I have called them." Before this we have no indication that Paul would lead a great missionary endeavor. But God knew what to do when the believers gathered did not. God can see the future, knows intimately the giftings of individuals, and can choose to reveal this to the seeking church to clearly direct the path of the church.

I have experienced the Word of Wisdom on numerous occasions. I often look back upon those keystone moments. They are like the divinely inspired stepping stones of my life. Looking back I see confirmed the path of God's plan and am encouraged. God sent men and women at key moments in my life to speak a Word of Wisdom to me regarding the direction of my life and ministry. When I am facing decisions that are not clear, I seek the Lord and he helps me by his Holy Spirit. often God uses others to speak a Word of Wisdom to me. It is not the wisdom of their age, nor the wisdom of scriptural principles, for these are too broad. This is the Wisdom perscription from Jesus. Is this not what we mean when we say Spirit led? Let the Spirit lead you in to his purpose by being open to the Word of Wisdom. Seek it out, desire it, be eager to be used in that gift and you will not only live a profitable life for the Kingdom of God but you will be a blessing to those around you.

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