The Way to Pentecost
Chapter 17: The Gifts of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is Himself a Gift. In the Gift of the Spirit there are gifts. "Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men ... 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" (Eph. 4:8-12). "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal" (I Cor. 12:4-7).
Diversities of ManifestationThe manifestation of the Spirit is not always the same. There are diversities of gifts, differences of administration, operation, and manifestation, but the same Spirit. There is a manifold variety of the one Spirit. There are varieties according to temperament, according to capability, according to grace, and according to function. The failure to remember this ensnares the unwary. They look for the experiences and gifts in others to be given to them. To some it is given to be as men filled with new wine, to others it is given to speak with tongues, and to others to work miracles of healing and of power, and we are apt to think these are invariable and inseparable from the Holy Spirit baptism and fullness. The Spirit divides to every man severally as He will, but the gifts of the Spirit are no more arbitrary than the elections of Grace. In the distribution of the talents each received "according to his several ability." Spiritual gifts must not be interpreted as natural endowments, but the principle of distribution is the same, and the two are not related. The gifts of the Spirit transcend the gifts of nature, but they function through the sanctified powers of man. There is a new creation, but it is along the lines of natural endowment. Not all have the same gifts, and one deciding factor in the Will of the Spirit is according to the ability of sanctified nature to receive and function. The scope is not according to our natural talents, but "according to the power that worketh in us," and the power works consistently with personality. The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit, but it is to spiritual man spiritual gifts are given according to each man's several ability in the will of the Spirit.
"All have not the gift of healing, neither do all speak with tongues." Neither does the Baptism of the Spirit make all Evangelists. This is a snare into which many fall. They read of the mighty Pentecostal experience of Evangelists who have won souls for Christ by the thousand. The Evangelist links soul-converting power with the gift of the Spirit of Power, and it is almost impossible to separate the two. Therefore as it wrought in them it may be expected to work in us, and many have passed through agonies of disillusionment and disappointment. God does not make every Spirit-filled man a Moody, a William Booth, a Thomas Cook, or a Thomas Champness. He gives the Spirit to some that they may be ministers of helpfulness; to some that they may be faithful witnesses; and to others that they may be sanctified mothers who are keepers at home and miracles of patience, wisdom, and sweetness. To each there is a gift of the Spirit, and whatever the kind of gift, there is to all the gift of power for effective service and testimony. Each receives power. Pentecost swallows up ineffectiveness in power, and banishes fear in the victory of courageous faith.
Distinctiveness of GiftsThe gifts of the Spirit are distinct from natural talents and from the Fruit of the Spirit. They are related to both and distinct from both. The fullness of the Spirit vitalizes natural powers, quickens dormant faculties, and reinforces capabilities. Fire quickens, energizes, clarifies. The brain gets a new quality of alertness, endurance, and effectiveness. The mind receives new powers of perception, intelligence, and understanding. The heart finds a new clarity of vision, a new simplicity of motive, and a new intensity of emotion. The impossible becomes capable of achievement in the sanctified powers of the natural man. These are undoubtedly the work of the Spirit, but the gifts of the Spirit are distinct from these, and they transcend the powers of even sanctified natural powers. They are not unrelated, and yet they are in some ways independent. There are nine gifts of the Spirit: Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Miracles, Healing. Prophecy, Discernment of Spirits, Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues. Wisdom and knowledge are related to intelligence and learning, and yet they are so distinct that they are undiscoverable from the natural powers of man, and are given to those who have neither natural sagacity nor education. Faith is man's sixth sense. We live by Faith. We walk by Faith. We do everything by Faith. The gift of the Spirit is Faith. By the Spirit Faith sees the Invisible and proves the reality of the Unrealized. Healing is a gift of the Spirit. This is not the same as the sanctified skill of medical science. Those to whom it was given in the Early Church knew little or nothing of medicine. The sick were instructed to send, not for the doctors but the Elders, and the appointed means of healing were anointing and the Prayer of Faith. None could heal indiscriminately. Paul kept Luke, the beloved physician in his journeys, and Trophimus was left at Miletus, sick. The Lord the Healer still gives to men the gift of healing by His Spirit; and the gift works quite apart from the medical knowledge or the use of drugs or herbs. Miracles are the gift of the Spirit, and the age of miracles is not past. Prophecy is more than insight or foresight, though the prophet is a seer and a fortune-teller. By the gift of the Spirit there is a God-given discernment of spirits. The Apostles had it. Many prophets of God had it. The Gift of Tongues comes last on the list, and is first in controversy. There is a gift of Tongues that is given for a sign, and there is a gift of Tongues that is for the perfecting of the saint. and the building up of the Body of Christ. It means more than a gift for acquiring an unknown language, and it is certainly no substitute for such learning. A careful study of the New Testament places the gift among the enduements of the Church, and specially safeguards it against abuse. The gift of the Spirit gives a supernatural power to the works of sanctified natural endowments, so that men are challenged to see and consider cause and effect, and find there is nothing in the natural man to account for what is manifestly of God.
The Relation of Fruit and GiftsFruit and Gifts are not identical. Fruit belongs to character; gifts are enduements of power. Gifts are an evidence of the Spirit; but they are no proof of holiness. Gifts are according to the elections of the Sovereign will of the Spirit of God; fruit is the manifestation of cultivated Life. Gifts are for service; fruit is for character. Gifts are functional; fruit is a quality of life. Gifts are bestowed; fruit is a manifestation. Gifts may be given immediately and complete; fruit is implanted and of gradual development. They are of the Spirit, and are intimately connected with one another, but they are not inseparable, much less identical. The gifts of the Spirit are given to people who are elect according to the Sovereign will of God, who by His Spirit divides to every man severally as He will. Love, in which is included all the fruit, is not in the list of spiritual gifts. Fruit is for all; gifts are for those for whom they have been prepared. All may not prophesy, but all must love. We may covet gifts, but we must bear fruit. Gifts cannot take the place of fruit.
The Function of Spiritual Gifts"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:6-8). The gifts of the Spirit are for service, and they differ according to the kind of ministry to be fulfilled. Occasion may determine function. There are seasons when special gifts abound. Some are permanent. Others are given for special vocations and exceptional occasions; as, for example, the gifts that came upon Timothy by the laying on of hands, and the special manifestations of power in times of special visitation. There are no reasons why the gifts of the Spirit should be operative in one dispensation and not in another. They did not cease at the close of the Apostolic Age. They have been manifest in all ages of the Church, and there are abundant proofs that they are still available to the faith and need of the Church. There is no reason why they should not be more manifest, and perhaps there is a greater need for them now than in some other times. The wonders of man rival the miracles of God. The psychic is hardly distinguishable from the spiritual. The Dragon-Lamb works wonders more theatrically impressive than the Lamb in the midst of the Throne. In the realm of wisdom and knowledge, faith and healing, miracles of power, prophecies and discernment of the occult, tongues and their interpretation, the wisdom of this world outvies the works of modern religion. The counterfeit outbids the true, but the true is the power that destroys the false. A revival of spiritual gifts in the Church would bring to naught the mocking pretensions of the world. Pagan cannot cast out pagan, any more than Satan can cast out Satan, but in the Spirit of God there is victory over the world.
Safeguards Against AbuseGifts are liable to abuse. In the Early Church they appealed to unspiritual men who desired them for carnal purposes, and thought they had a commercial value. They are still commercialized though not always for their cash value. In the Corinthian Church they became a fruitful source of rivalry, jealousy, and disorder. Those possessed of one gift claimed priority in importance and precedence in order. The root of the difficulty lay in the fact that carnal people were in possession of spiritual gifts, and used them for carnal ends. Spiritual gifts are no proof of spirituality. The New Testament nowhere makes spiritual gifts the sign of Holiness, and there were some greatly endowed of whom Jesus said that at the last it would be declared that He never knew them. There is no suggestion that the gifts were not genuine, but they were perverted to wrong ends or exercised in the wrong spirit. This is a serious difficulty to many, but the Scriptures make it plain that in a Church that "came behind in no gift, waiting for the Coming of the Lord," there were carnalities that would have disgraced a decent pagan assembly. Gifts are not substitutes for Grace, and ignorance and carnality have made them a menace to holiness of heart and integrity of character.
The safeguards against abuse are in the loyalties of faith. The first is loyalty to the Lordship of Christ. That is the first law of Christian discipleship and the continual standard of Christian life and service. The second line of defense is loyalty to the Word of God. The Word and the Spirit are never at variance, and the Word of Truth attests the Spirit of Truth, and the Spirit interprets, corroborates, verifies, and confirms the Word. No wisdom is of God that is not according to the Scriptures. There is laid down a plain practical rule in loyalty to the Fellowship in the Body of Christ. Edification is the test and order is the rule. Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues came into competition, and for these definite rules were laid down, but the law of love applied to all.
Continue to Chapter 18: The Law of the Spirit