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The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
By David A. DePra
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are perhaps the most misunderstood dynamic of the Christian experience. The gifts are misrepresented, counterfeited, and completely stifled today -- not everywhere – but in many churches. There are reasons for this -- reasons that need to be corrected if we are to ever see these gifts operate again on the scale God intends.
A Gift is a Gift
We must understand the difference between NATURE, FRUIT, and a GIFT. Such understanding clears up much confusion about this subject of spiritual gifts.
Jesus said, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. And a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." His message was that a tree can only bear the KIND of fruit which corresponds to it's real nature. Thus, you can know the nature of a tree BY it's fruit.
Herein we find a great distinction. First, we find that we all have a NATURE. Our "nature" is the "kind of tree" we are. If we are "in Christ," we are a "good tree." If we are "in Adam" we are a bad tree. And the fruit we produce will show it.
But we also see that our NATURE is a GIFT. We didn't choose it. If we have received a new nature through the new birth, then we acquired it solely by grace through faith. We did not become a "good tree" through anything we did.
Yet a good tree must grow to produce good fruit. What kind of fruit does someone in Christ produce? God says, "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." (Gal. 6:22-23) These are descriptions of spiritual CHARACTER.
Notice: Fruit is NOT a gift. No. NATURE is a gift. But fruit is the outcome of a process whereby that NATURE is made manifest. We do receive the NATURE or new life of Christ as a gift. But the fruit of the Spirit is the result of our believing and obeying God. As we do, we grow to manifest the life which God has put within us. And THAT is the fruits of the Spirit.
Jesus stated this in other places. He said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8) Thus, we see that fruit is something WE must bear. It is not something we receive as a GIFT. Spiritual fruit is the result of abiding in Christ, and of living with Him through faith and obedience.
Another way to say it is this: We must work OUT what God puts IN. We must work OUT our salvation through fear and trembling -- but never can we work it IN. New life is a GIFT. But the fruits of that new life is the result of a growth process.
But where do the GIFTS come in? Clearly, they are NOT fruit of the Spirit. No. Fruit doesn't get on a tree become someone walks up to the tree and hangs on fruit as a gift. Rather, the gifts are exactly that: GIFTS.
The Truth is, the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit come along with the NATURE God gives us through the new birth. The Holy Spirit is the "earnest of our inheritance." If we are born-again, we have the Holy Spirit, and if we have the Holy Spirit, the GIFTS are in us as well. It is just a matter of which God wants to manifest through us.
So we see that our new NATURE is a gift, which includes all that is OF that new nature -- the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is the product of being conformed to Christ -- of growing to manifest His righteous character.
This all leads us to a conclusion: You don't need to have the character of Jesus Christ to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Corinthian church proved that. However, you do need the character of Jesus Christ to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a way that glorifies God, and edifies the Body of Christ. Otherwise, what results is a misuse of the gifts, if not a stifling or distortion of them.
Two Kinds of Gifts
One of the most important things we must see is that God does NOT merely give us spiritual gifts! No. God gives us His Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit possesses ALL the gifts. Therefore, if the Spirit lives in us, then the gifts are in us, and able to operate through us.
Spiritual gifts are not gifts you and I acquire through natural birth. They cannot be acquired through training, or education. They are not the product of human personality. We acquire the spiritual gifts only through the new birth -- the spiritual birth -- in Christ. Indeed, the gifts of the Spirit do not belong to us at all. They belong to the Spirit in us.
Actually, there should not be an argument as to whether the gifts belong to us. How could they? WE do not belong to us! We are bought with a price. We are no longer our own.
There are, of course, natural gifts. These are talents, abilities, and positive traits, which we have acquired through natural birth, training, and through natural personality development. But never confuse these with spiritual gifts. They are of a completely different realm, and of a completely different realm.
Things like the ability to sing, play the piano, or to be a great public speaker, may, in fact, be quite useful. They might even be abilities we can use to God's glory. We should give all of our natural gifts to God -- without any strings or merit attached. But these are NOT spiritual gifts. They are natural gifts. And that is all they will ever be.
One of the reasons this is hard to see is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit do NOT by-pass the human personality. The gifts do not operate independent of us. No. The gifts of the Holy Spirit operate in and through us. The Spirit takes our personality and manifests Himself through the person we are. Thus, despite the fact that the gifts of the Spirit are NOT the product of human personality, they always operate through the human personality. For, "the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets." (I Cor. 14:32)
This is why the gifts of the Spirit are easy to counterfeit. It is quite possible that someone who does not have the Spirit within them can act as if they do -- even through their own ignorance of what they are doing. But happily, we are not left in confusion on this matter. The
Bible is filled with ways to know whether the Holy Spirit is operating.
So natural gifts are those we acquire through natural birth or natural means. We can, and should, surrender these for God's use. But spiritual gifts are acquired only by grace, through the new birth. We don't give these to God. He gives them to us.
Purpose of the Gifts
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that He
ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:3-13)
Here we see the purpose for all spiritual gifts. And Paul breaks it down into this summary:
For the equipping of the saints
For the work of the ministry
For the edification of the Body
UNTO THIS END
The unity of the faith
The knowledge of the Son of God
Maturity in Jesus Christ
Now, if there is one thing we need to understand, it is that when God says that this is the purpose of the gifts, He is not making suggestions. He is telling us, not only His will, but He is telling us that it is unto these goals that the gifts will operate -- and ONLY unto those goals.
The reason this is important to understand should be clear: If we have OTHER goals -- any other agenda -- we are on our own. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are NOT going to be operating through us. The Holy Spirit can do nothing except the will of God.
This tells us WHY the gifts do not operate in many churches. We are OUT of God's will. We do not have Christ as the center. Our church does not belong to God, but to us. Indeed, WE do not belong to God, but to ourselves. And we act like it. Thus, there is no freedom for the gifts to operate. We are crowding Him out with our own religious agenda.
For instance, if we, as a person, have a closed heart towards God, and will accept from Him only that which agrees with OUR spiritual agenda, how can the Holy Spirit come in and speak to us, or work through us, in a way which contradicts that agenda? He cannot. The Holy Spirit never forces us. Thus, if He begins to work, we will either dismiss Him, or resist Him. Any gift which might have been made manifest will not be given freedom to operate.
What if, for example, in our church, the Holy Spirit begins to operate through someone in a way which conflicts with our religious tradition, or with our particular ownership of our church? Will we let Him? Many churches will immediately push away such a thing.
The point is this: We must either allow God to adjust us to the Truth, or we are going to adjust the Truth to fit us. This does not mean that every time someone SAYS they are speaking for God that they are. But it means that we all need to be open to God, and refuse to have a religious agenda that we present to God.
Again, we see the key. The gifts of the Spirit can only operate where God's will is the ONE goal. Where Jesus Christ is truly the center. The Holy Spirit always glorifies Jesus, testifies of Jesus, and speaks of Christ. This is what edification IS. So if the gifts are to operate, we must desire this as well.
Jesus gave numerous functions of the Holy Spirit. He said that the Spirit would comfort us, teach us all things, bring things to our remembrance, testify of Him, convict of sin, guide us into all Truth, show us things to come, and take what belongs to Jesus, and show those things to us. The GIFTS will do this because they are the means by which the Holy Spirit functions through people. But if we are not open to the will of God -- open and receptive to the things
Jesus said the Holy Spirit would seek to do -- then how can the gifts operate? They can't. The Spirit will be grieved.
In the final analysis, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are hindered where Jesus Christ is hindered. You cannot have the gifts functioning to the glory of God if the people through whom the gifts operate, and if the people to whom the gifts operate, are out of the will of God. The reason should be clear: The Spirit will always seek to bring people INTO the will of God, and keep them there. If people are out of His will, and want to stay out, there can be no work of the HolySpirit.
The HOLY Spirit
Funny how it escapes us that the HOLY Spirit wants to do HOLY things! This becomes all the more important to understand once we realize that to "be holy" -- according to God --means to belong to God. "Holiness" means to "be set apart for God's use." Thus, the work of the Holy Spirit will ALWAYS be to make us holy – make us belong to God.
Contrast that over and against the Holy Spirit doing things which glorify MAN, or which encourages us to belong to ourselves. No. That would be UNHOLY. The Holy Spirit always does a work which brings the possession and ownership of a person FROM himself, over into the hands of God.
Actually, the Holy Spirit wants to BUILD us into a holy temple of God -- not only as a BODY of believers, but even as an individual. Edification means "to build." It means to be built into the temple FOR the Holy Spirit. And as Paul states, "For God's temple is holy, which temple you are." (I Cor. 3:17)
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom you also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:18-22)
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are intended by God to build us up as individuals, and as a Body, into a holy temple, or dwelling place for God. He wants to equip us for living with God forever, and to make us strong in faith.
What we see in this is that the gifts are intended by God to help us grow in spiritual character. We saw that the gifts are NOT spiritual character itself. But as the gifts minister, and are received, they provide us with tools, guidance, and revelation, which enable us to make the choices of faith and obedience which will eventually produce spiritual fruit.
So to complete our picture. We receive a new NATURE through the new birth. We are a "new tree -- a good tree." That tree is then nourished through the gifts -- the soil, the watering, and the sunlight. And if all of that happens, then the tree produces spiritual fruit to the glory of God.
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