Holy Spirit Basics, Part I

gifts_of_the_spirit-1When we consider the Holy Spirit we need to remember that God is one inseparable God, such that there is no conflict or discrepancy between the Spirit, the Word – Yeshua, and the Father. (Deut 6:4).  However, there are vast differences among those who make up the church, about the Holy Spirit.  There are fundamental truths about the Godhead that are undeniable and must be accepted by all Christians, for example, the substitutionary death of Yeshua for the remission of sins, the resurrection, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer, and several more.  To believe that Yeshua was not the Messiah, the Son of God, or that he was not actually born of the Virgin Mary is heresy.  There are many other items that are open to discussion and for which differences are not considered heresy.  For example, church government, interpretation of details surrounding the end times and Messiah’s return, manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and many more.

Therefore, we see the term “charismatic” used among various denominations and even within denominations to distinguish those who believe all the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit described in the bible are still available for the church today and those that do not.  For example, there are Charismatic Baptists, charismatic Methodists and even Charismatic Catholics, etc.  Many, if not all, acknowledged Christian Revivals were accompanied by various outpoured manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  It is not productive to explore the range and legitimacy of these.  However, it is helpful to consider what the scriptures describe in great detail about the gifts of the Spirit; how they are to be used within the gathered congregation, and what is to be the believers focus thereon.

I find it very difficult to ignore scripture, even if I would like to ignore it, nor do I think reinterpretation of clear language is honest.  It was said of Thomas Jefferson that he cut out every paragraph of his bible that contained a miracle, apparently because he could not believe it.  When I was in college, I inflamed a pastor friend for quoting Martin Luther, who said, the book of James was a straw epistle.  At the time I was not fond of James’ view of Faith and works.  A long-time minister once put it very well, when he said, I would rather stand before God on judgment day and say, I thought you meant literally the words of the Bible, rather than try to explain why I ignored them as being figurative or no longer relevant for today.  Of course, there are some passages that are clearly figurative and meant so, e.g. when it says the kingdom of heaven is like….

Nevertheless, no one can accept anything of God without faith, and without faith it is impossible to please him.  The practical application is that if you do not believe in a gift of the Spirit or that God would give it to you, you will never have it.  Then you can proclaim (without validity) that the gifts are not active today, that whole chapters of Corinthians and Acts are thus to be ignored, and that anyone who does purport to have a Spiritual gift is merely moving in the natural and/or caught up in emotionalism.  This is exactly what atheist do on a massive scale; they see no evidence of God, they don’t believe the Bible, and anyone who does is an uneducated unscientific idiot caught up in myth and emotion.  It is a slippery slope to ignore any scriptures.  Lest I sound too severe, you can still be a Christian and disbelieve in the gifts of the Spirit, I think.

The scripture defines several spiritual gifts:  “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:1-10).”  One huge misconception about these spiritual gifts is how they operate, for example, to speak in a tongue one has to open their mouth and utter sound through their vocal cords; to prophecy one would need to express with words what God has imparted to them, and if the impartation is an image or mental picture or impression other than dictated english, the prophecy would require some level of interpretation into English words.  Furthermore, gifts of healing vary just as Yeshua’s healing did, but generally some contact is made with the sick person.

So we see that God does not cause us to transform into a robot for the operation of a spiritual gift.  When you pray is it a spiritual act or are you like a small child asking for what they want? Prayer is spiritual in its highest form.  “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27).  If you believe this it may transform your prayers from a list of needs in your mind to praying the very heart of God through the Spirit.

It is similar with the gifts of the Spirit.  The gifts are for building up and encouraging the congregation.  We are to desire spiritual gifts.  “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31).  “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Cor. 14:1).

You may wish to review another post in this site on this topic, “Holy Spirit in Jars of Clay”.

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