“When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. iv. 8). “But desire earnestly the greater gifts” (I Cor. xii. 31). God gave His Son to save the world, and His Spirit to sanctify the Church and equip her for warfare here and her reward hereafter. The Gift of the Spirit makes available the gifts of the Spirit which God’s people are commanded to “desire earnestly.” It is as if a father sent the present of a beautiful, costly box to a large family of children. Touch a secret spring and the lid flies open, and there are many smaller gifts for different members of the family, and a nice, large box which is only for the children who are obedient, loyal, loving, and whose faith will claim it. Touch a secret spring in this box and it opens and reveals other gifts for each obedient child whose faith will grasp them and who will use them to advance the father’s interests. This is a faint picture of God’s gifts to us. He gives his Son, a priceless box, to the whole world. Within this box is pardon, peace, adoption, and eternal life, which all may have. All who receive these gifts are entitled to the second box, the gift of the Holy Ghost to the Church, and all who receive Him and His sanctifying work become candidates for the third box, which contains His gifts. The first box brings salvation and enrolls as citizens of Christ’s kingdom. The second eliminates from the heart every impulse contrary to perfect love and loyalty to Him, and establishes Heaven’s rule of perfect love, and light, and victory there, and prepares the heart to receive the coming illuminations, and establishments, and endowments, weapons and ammunition, which will make it a victor on every battlefield. Two great works, but many gifts and blessings. The Pentecostal graces, concerning which so much is being written, and which can not be too highly magnified, melt the church into glad loyalty and self-sacrifice to God.
The gifts are weapons without which she is unfit for the battlefield. An army may have perfect love for its country, but, unofficered and unarmed, it will be drowned in defeat.
Hence Christ fortifies His forces, —
I. By a diversity of divinely appointed officers. “And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. iv. 1). These officers are all designed to work harmoniously together: (a) for the perfecting of the saints; (b) unto the work of the ministry; (c) unto the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. iv. 12). Amid for the purpose of protecting the church from (a) being tossed to and fro; (b) and carried about with every wind of doctrine; (c) by the sleight of men, in craftiness. The divinity of these appointments is emphasized and most of list repeated, with some additions, in I. Cor. xii. 28: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues.” Existence of all of these in the church is essential to its highest success. A church without the apostles would be like a building with no foundation; without prophets, i. e., preachers, like a body with no mouth; without evangelists, like a wholesale house with no traveling agents; without teachers, like a school without instructors; without pastors, like sheep without a shepherd; without helps, like a body without hands or feet without governments, like a state with no laws or office. Deprive the church of these divine appointments, and you thus cripple her power, and make her like Samson when shorn of his locks, the sport of the Philistine. When she honors these offices, and they all work as God designs, harmoniously together, then she goes forth, under her conquering Head, clear as the sun, fair as the moon and terrible as some great army.
II. By a diversity of divinely-bestowed gifts. Read I Cor. xii. In this wonderful chapter we have a photograph of the Pentecostal Church, officered and panoplied and ammunitioned as God designs it to be until translated. Here is promised the “Nine Gifts” which the Church may and must possess to be victorious in her warfare. Many people are sanctified wholly, but in their zeal for the more excellent way of perfect love, have evidently neglected the lesser, yet vital panoply of these nine wonderful weapons, which, in the hands of Spirit — filled believers, are “mighty through God” to defeat the devil.
(1) “The word of wisdom.” God gives wisdom to do the right thing, and speak the right word in the right way at the right time. It is not natural sense, but God-given skill. Without it no one can outwit the devil. Perfect love always imparts a thirst for this wisdom. Perfect faith in God’s promise will give possession of it. The possession of this Spirit-imparted gift was one of the required qualifications of membership in the first New Testament official board (Acts vi. 3).
(2) The word of knowledge. Divinely imparted knowledge, not studied out, but prayed down, which makes many a man who can not read or write more knowing in things divine than learned schoolmen.
(3) Faith. Not saving faith, which regenerates or fully sanctifies the soul, but the “gift of faith,” which claims victory and sings and shouts before the walls fall down. Without this “faith,” which “laughs at impossibilities and cries: It shall be done,” there will be no victory on the battlefield. Every triumph for souls in revivals, and along all lines of advanced spiritual work, must be claimed by faith before it is by sight. God gave the writer the gift of faith for “The Revivalist” and our Pentecostal publishing work years before the walls of difficulty crumbled.
(4) Gifts of healing. This long neglected, much-derided, frequently-abused gift is catalogued with the nine as a permanent fixture in the Pentecostal church. What God has thus joined together, let not man try to put asunder. If he does not possess it, let him not try to trim God’s Church to suit his own experience. This gift embraces the power to claim physical healing for self or others when God reveals such to be His will. It was practiced by the apostles, by Luther, by John Wesley, and beyond doubt is enjoyed by a goodly number in the church today. If “earnestly coveted” more it would be criticized less, and doubtless thousands would be blessed by it and the influence of Christianity burst like the sun into many dark corners which have never felt its light.
(5) Working of miracles. “Invoking of powers” (Whedon); “manipulation of dynamites” (Godbey); the possession of miraculous power to do any God-given work when such power is needed, whether it be to heal the sick or do the still greater work of resurrecting the spiritually dead and healing the spiritual leper. Skepticism as to this gift has well-nigh paralyzed its power today, but the fact that the Holy Ghost retains it in the list of available weapons for His work, proves that the day of miracles did not die with the apostles, in tones that a Niagara of human voices, no matter how highly trained, can not drown. There are many evils so strongly entrenched that they can be dislodged only by the explosions caused by the “manipulations of this dynamite.”
(6) Prophecy. “Inspired preaching” (Whedon). Not simply foretelling future events, but heaven-born God-sent messages from Spirit-filled hearts. “But if all prophesy, and there come in one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed” (I Cor. xiv. 24, 25).
(7) Discerning of spirits. “The power of detecting the hypocrite, of distinguishing true an false gifts, of recognizing genuine inspiration” (Whedon). God does not leave the church at the mercy of false doctrines, false brethren, false preachers and false Christs to be duped by them, not provides a gift able to detect every sham and discern the truth.
(8) Divers kinds of tongues. Power of conveying any God-given message to the persons to whom God sends it, in language which they can understand.
(9) Interpretation of tongues. Power to interpret God-sent messages so as to convey their intended meaning.
These nine gifts await the appropriating faith of the church as really as do the graces of the Spirit. God designs that they shall all shine in His church to the joy of heaven and dismay of hell.
A young lady came to our office recently. She was baptized with the Holy Spirit and longing to be useful. She definitely sought and claimed the gift of “wisdom to win souls.” She went away with the assurance that it was hers; within six weeks she had won five persons to Christ. Each of these gifts is just as fruitful in its own field.
A sham church is a total stranger to them, and any church is effective in proportion as she claims them and the greater grace that will enable her to possess and use them humbly for man’s good and God’s glory.
Reader, it is your privilege not only to “follow after” but to “desire” and possess “spiritual gifts.” Let not the adversary by any cunning frighten you from them. Some have vainly taught that all outside of love is fanaticism. Then Paul was a fanatic, for he unfolded these glorious gifts and commanded to seek them. They neither can nor should be substituted for perfect love any more than loyalty in a soldier for a sword and musket, yet like the latter weapons they are to be possessed and used.
See W. B. Godbey’s book on “Spiritual Gifts and Graces,” for a full and masterly presentation of this subject.