The gifts of the Holy Spirit have but one purpose: to supernaturally demonstrate the reality of Jesus’ resurrection to both believers and non-believers alike. But before we dig into that, I first want to make a distinction between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Most people consider the fruit of the Spirit as being defined in the following passage:
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. — Galatians 5:22-23a
In truth, the fruit of the Spirit is love (agape) and the rest of the items in that list are simply various attributes of that kind of love. Agape can be defined as “unselfishly choosing another person’s highest good without regard to the personal cost we must pay in doing so.” And that God-like unselfishness expresses itself in the attributes of that list as well as those listed in 1 Corinthians 13.
Please note here that fruit is grown while gifts are given.
We ourselves cannot grow the fruit of the Spirit. Whenever we attempt to do so, we end up on a performance basis with God, doing dead religious works. Avoiding such is the thrust of the entire Book of Galatians in which we find the above-quoted list. It is God Who develops the fruit of the Spirit in us by His grace and through our submission in faith and obedience to both His Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading. The equation in play here is:
Grace + Truth + Time = Spiritual Growth — How People Grow
by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
In other words, God’s grace empowers us to live His Truth (the Word) over time which grows spiritual fruit. Jesus called this “abiding in the Vine” in John 15.
As we exercise our faith in God’s Word, obeying it’s dictates as well as responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit (walking in the Spirit), allowing Him to guide, correct, reveal, encourage, convict, heal, and comfort us as He chooses over time, He transforms us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) into thinking, acting, and reacting like Jesus would in the situations and relationships in which we find ourselves.
Pitfalls to Avoid
It is crucial that we maintain a very clear conceptual boundary between the fruit and gifts of the Spirit.
Many Pentecostal and charismatic believers have deluded themselves into thinking that, because they — or someone else they know — are used regularly in the gifts by the Holy Spirit, they must be more spiritually mature/advanced/in-tune than others. Why? Because we humans stand in awe of supernatural manifestations and our racial bent towards superstition fueled by our own tendencies towards sin-consciousness (we’re not good/holy/spiritual enough) tempts us to exalt those who are used in such a manner.
However, our standing before God is based solely upon the blood of Jesus and the finished work of the cross, not because we are used in the gifts of the Spirit for His ministry. The Holy Spirit uses whoever will cooperate with Him in the manifestation of the gifts regardless of that believer’s maturity, personal consecration, or godly conduct in the daily affairs of life. Thinking we are something special because the Holy Spirit uses us in the gifts is a manifestation of the “born-on-3rd-base-and-thinking-we-hit-a-triple syndrome” and we become subject to strong delusion through this type of spiritual pride, with Satan drawing us into vicious traps that destroy our ministries, families, and sometime our very lives.
Also, there is a great tendency for people to assume that because they or others are used in the gifts of the Spirit, that they are also “walking in the Spirit” or being “led by the Spirit.” These two terms refer to our day-by-day submission to Jesus’ lordship over our lives, not our being used of the Holy Spirit to supernaturally bless one or more people at a gathering of believers through the gifts. Being led by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit are behaviors that all believers, charismatic or non-charismatic, should be doing because that’s what Christians are supposed to do.
Let me be perfectly clear in conclusion on this topic: Just because you are used in the gifts of the Spirit does not mean that you are one iota more holy or spiritual than the person next to you who isn’t!
The Gifts of the Spirit
The biggest problem with non-charismatics’ attempts to explain the charismatic gifts is their complete lack of personal experience. Such efforts are closely akin to someone trying to teach swimming with neither the instructor nor the students having ever gotten into the pool — they may know some theories about swimming, but it’s just not the same as getting in the water and experiencing the results of applying them firsthand. But I’ve been swimming in this pool for over 3 decades and the water’s fine, so listen closely. 🙂
The gifts of the Spirit are defined in the following passage of the New Testament:
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
Here they are in list form:
- Word of Wisdom
- Word of Knowledge
- Special Faith
- Gifts of Healings
- Working of Miracles
- Discernment of Spirits
- Interpretation of Tongues
With the exception of tongues, all these gifts are given on specific occasions for the purpose of ministering to others as the Holy Spirit chooses. The gift of tongues is both: 1) given permanently and persistently to all who receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit so that we can edify ourselves spiritually by praying in tongues at any time we choose, as well as; 2) Spirit-led occasions of ministry to benefit others.
Operating in the Gifts of the Spirit
It is vitally important for us to remember that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and will never violate our free will. He doesn’t just suddenly take a notion to take people over and use them against their will — that is the behavior of demons, not God. So whether we allow Him to operate through us in the gifts or not is our choice, though turning Him down in this manner due to fear, embarrassment, self-consciousness, or other self-based negative emotion qualifies as “quenching the Spirit”, which we are commanded not to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
He will also never lead us to do anything or speak anything through us that is contrary to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Trinity and, as God, watches over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12) — He never contradicts Himself. Utterances of any kind by the Holy Spirit are always going to align with the New Testament. So, for example, prophesies and exhortations for us to go out and kill the wicked are certainly not from the Holy Spirit.
There are some times when we think we’re being used in the gifts when in reality it is our own impassioned opinions, personal prejudices, or maybe just a bad pizza. This is to be expected because we are flawed human beings and sometimes blow it despite our best intentions. Whenever this happens — and it will happen at least once — simply ask God to forgive you, apologize to whoever was effected by your actions as needed, and shake it off, having learned from the experience — you’ll do better next time!
Being led by the Spirit in our daily lives, especially in the gifts, is an on-the-job-training exercise and the more we practice it, the better we get at it. God does not slap His forehead and fall off His throne in heaven in surprise when we screw up. He knew every mistake we were ever going to make from the foundations of the world, long BEFORE we ever submitted to His lordship over our lives and before we made ourselves available to the Holy Spirit to be used in the gifts. Guess what? He loved us and died for us ANYWAY. It is better to step out in faith and make the occasional mistake than to be frozen into disobedient inaction through fear of failure.
That’s all for this post. I’ll start describing how the gifts of the Spirit function within believers and the church in my next one.
Thanks for reading!