Gifts of the Holy Spirit
(1 Corinthians 12)
Introduction: Last week, we discussed the baptism of the Holy Spirit and, in a general way, we discussed the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This week I promised you that we would get into a study of the specific gifts. What are they? How do they work? Which one(s) do you think you have? Why are some of them hiding? Let's get specific and dive in to our study of the Bible!
- Overview of the Gifts
- Last week we learned from 1 Corinthians 12:7 that gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the "common good," not the glory of a specific individual or individuals. Let's continue and read 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. What gifts do you see here? List them. (Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, powers, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.)
- What grouping do you see in these gifts? Do they fall naturally into general categories? (Wisdom, knowledge, distinguishing spirits and prophecy are gifts of intellect. Faith, healing and powers are gifts of demonstration. Tongues and interpretation of tongues are gifts of communication.)
- Would the importance of some of these gifts change with time and circumstances?
- Would it change with advanced technology? For example, in the class discussion last week, someone suggested that a gifted surgeon displayed the power of the Holy Spirit. Others disagreed. Would gifted doctors living in an area reduce the need for the gift of healing? (This is certain: without the presence of gifted doctors, the only way difficult cases could be healed would be through the special healing of the Holy Spirit.)
- What role do doctors play in healing? (I'm reading a popular book about the history of influenza. It brought into focus the fact that the great scientific breakthroughs in vaccines were simply a way to trigger the natural defense systems of the body. God has given our bodies extraordinary powers of healing.)
- If we don't see some of these spiritual gifts now, what explanation do you have for that? Are they hiding because we are unworthy? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:11.)
- Let's turn next to the specific gifts.
- Gifts of Intellect
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:8. What do you understand to be the gift of "the message of wisdom?" (The Greek can be understood as "wise words.")
- Whose wisdom are we talking about? Is this just the old, wise man (or woman) in the church congregation? (This is God's wisdom working through an individual.)
- Is this a special gift of the moment, or is this the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in a person's mind for decades? (It could be a moment of inspiration of wisdom, but I tend to believe that those with "wise words" are those who have been lead and taught by the Spirit for a long time.)
- Would this be a gift for preachers? (It would be helpful for sermons to be wise. But, this would seem to be a gift to help direct the church. We are not talking just about spiritual instruction, but more about practical decision-making.)
- Look again at 1 Corinthians 12:8. What do you think is the "message of knowledge?" (The Greek can be read "word of insight." This is the illumination of an issue.)
- How does it differ from the "message of wisdom?"
- Do you know someone who possesses a lot of information, but is not very wise? (In this context, I think the difference between wisdom and knowledge are not as great as they are when we use them in secular terms. Here, the insight is from the Holy Spirit. The difference is that the word of insight helps us to understand the words/mind of God. The word of wisdom helps us to understand what we should do with our understanding of the will of God.)
- As an example of this, we know that God does not want us to lie. But how we apply this knowledge might vary with the application of the wisdom of God, right? (Compare John 16:12-13. Jesus made a judgment on how much of the truth He would reveal to the disciples at that present time.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:10. What do you think is the gift of prophecy? (Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-3. Paul tells us that the gift of prophecy is of particular value. It seems that in large part it combines the gift of wisdom and knowledge for the "strengthening, encouragement and comfort" of the church.)
- Re-read 1 Corinthians 12:10. What do you think is the gift of the "distinguishing between spirits?"
- What kind of "spirits" are we talking about? What kind of a problem does this address?
- Are the "spirits" only "the Holy Spirit" and "what Joe thinks is right, but says the "spirit" told him?
- Or, can there be a darker side to this? Can the "spirits" include demons? (It could be all of these. I believe people have told me the "spirit" led them to do something that was merely their own preference or desire. See 1 John 4:1. On the other hand, 1 Timothy 4:1 speaks of "deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." Distinguishing between spirits is a way to tell the Holy Spirit from all contenders - both evil and foolish.)
- Gifts of Demonstration
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:9. What do you think is the gift of "faith?" (Be careful here. It hardly seems that Paul could be writing about "saving faith" because we all have this if we are saved. To get a better idea of the type of faith referred to here, read Matthew 17:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:2.)
- What kind of faith do you see in Matthew 17:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:2? (This is faith that causes miracles. It makes mountains move. It casts out demons.)
- Many times over the years I have been with other elders when we anointed someone with oil to heal them. ( James 5:14) None of the targets of healing jumped up immediately healed when the anointing ended. Indeed, some died later. My wife told me that, like a pack of cigarettes, I should make an advance disclosure of this to all who ask me to help anoint them: "This has never worked when I was doing this before."
- Is it "okay" not to have the gift of faith? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:11. The Holy Spirit determines who gets what gifts.)
- Let's examine James 5:14-16. Is James writing about the gift of faith when he says, "the prayer offered in faith?" (I hope so. I would normally pass my experience off as weakness in my faith or my sinfulness, but this week I read a Philip Yancy article in the back of the latest issue of Christianity Today. Yancy was interviewing a 90-year old pillar of faith in the evangelical community who admitted he had never seen a real, live, instant miracle of healing. But, he was still looking and believing!)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:9. How is the gift of healing different from the gift of faith? (It seems to be either a "lesser" gift or a specific manifestation of the gift of faith. Word Pictures in the New Testament ties this gift of healing to James 5:14, thus suggesting that James was specifically referring to specific spiritual gifts and not the ordinary faith possessed by every Christian.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:10. What is the gift of "miraculous powers" and how does it differ from the gifts of faith and healing? (Read in Acts 13:8-11 what Paul did to Elymas through the power of the Holy Spirit. Not all miracles are "positive" in their effect.)
- Gifts of Communication
- Again look at 1 Corinthians 12:10. Assume the gift of tongues simply refers to a foreign language, can you imagine a situation where you would need the gift of interpretation of tongues? (Yes. I once accidentally showed up at a Korean church. I thought it was an English-speaking church. It would have been helpful for me to have the gift of interpretation then!)
- Read 1 Corinthians 14:2-5. Is Paul talking about foreign languages here? (The argument that Paul is speaking only of a foreign language is a hard sell. Why would Paul say that this person only speaks "to God?" Why would Paul write "no one understands him?" Why would Paul call a foreign language "mysteries with his spirit?")
- Read 1 Corinthians 14:9-12. However you understand the gift of tongues, what is Paul's "bottom line" on this gift? (You need to seek to have those gifts that can be understood because those kinds of gifts build up the church. Unintelligible words do nothing to build up the church, but rather create confusion. The gift of tongues which helps the common good is the gift of communication.)
- Friend, what are you doing to build up the church? We all have at least one spiritual gift to help build up our church. Will you determine today to exercise your spiritual gift(s) and start building?
- Next week: The Fruit of the Holy Spirit.