I began functioning in the gifts of the Spirit back in 1974. I flow in several of the gifts of the Spirit and have seen them all in action. I have also seen and heard way to much weirdness and charismatic razzel dazzle. So, here, I present the solid wisdom and insight of men who were there in the 70’s.
Paul lists the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 but does not explain them or show how the Spirit works them in us. He tells us each person has been given the ability to manifest the Spirit and the manifestations are for the common good. He emphasizes “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 NKJV
Explanations of the gifts of the Spirit*
Word of wisdom
Jesus manifested a word of wisdom when, to the Pharisees who were intent on tripping Him with their questions about paying a tax to Caesar, He gave His famous reply: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to god the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21 NASB). He promised us similar wisdom for times of emergency, “for the Holy spirit will teach you in the very hour what you ought to say” (Lk 12;12 NASB). See Mt 10:16-20. Acts 6:17 is an outstanding example of the need of a word of wisdom to settle particular problems that arise in a church congregation. The answer of the twelve apostles manifest wisdom of the highest degree—deep spiritual principles coupled with sound common sense. The Spirit’s bless is evident in that their statement found approval with the entire congregation and enabled the word of God to keep on spreading so that many more became obedient to the faith. James, acting as a moderator of the first church council at Jerusalem, manifested a word of wisdom (Acts 15:13-21) which was accepted by all and which settled the controversy regarding legalism. The possibility of receiving a word of wisdom, however, should never cause one to stop seeking wisdom for life in general (James 1:5). We cannot depend on this charismatic gift for every situation because it is only a word of wisdom. As Donald Gee says, it is “a spoken utterance through a direct operation of the Holy Spirit at a given moment, rather than an abiding deposit of supernatural wisdom.
Word of knowledge
Dennis Bennett defines a word of knowledge was a “supernatural revelation of facts past, present, or future which were not learned through the efforts of the natural mind. It may be described as the Mind of Christ being manifested to the mind of the believer, and is given when needed in a flash of time (1Cor 2:16). This gift is used to protect the Christian, to show how to pray more effectively, or to show him how to help others.” A word of wisdom often is given in conjunction with the word of knowledge in order to show how to apply the information God has revealed. In the Old Testament, Nathan the prophet received a word of knowledge regarding David’s affair with Bathsheba, as well as wisdom to know how to bring the king to repentance (2 Sam 12:1-14). The prophet Elisha knew in his heart about Gehazi’s greedy act and therefore was able to expose his hypocrisy (2 Kings 5:20-27). Jesus our Lord knew the evil thoughts of the scribes (Mt 9:2-6) and the natural history of the Samaritan woman (John 4:17-19). A word of knowledge enabled Peter to rebuke Ananias and Sapphira for their lying wickedness (Acts 5:1-9).
Gift of faith
The three dynamic gifts provide extraordinary powers to effect changes in the lives and circumstances of both saints and sinners. The gift of faith is not saving faith, which a man exercises when on the basis of God’s word he trusts in Christ to redeem him. Nor is it the faith of Gal. 5:22, one of fruits of the Spirit, which develops in the believer as faithfulness or fidelity. The gift of faith, according to Dennis Bennett, is “a sudden surge of faith, usually in a crisis, to confidently believe without a doubt, that as we act of speak in Jesus Name it shall come to pass.” This is the wonder working faith that Jesus said can move mountains (Mt 17:20; 21:21; Mark 11:22-24; Lk 17:6; 1 Cor 13:2). As Lenski says, by means of this charisma, things that are otherwise impossible are actually accomplished in the course of our service unto the Lord. This gift frequently operated through Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament. Think of Elijah’s faith when he prepared for the fire to fall from heaven and when he announced that rain would come! (1 Kings18:22-38, 41-45). Daniel had the gift of faith when he “stopped the mouths of lions” (Heb 11:33; Dan 6:22). George Mueller’s orphanages at Bristol, England, for 2000 children, and Hudson Taylor’s obtaining 100 missionaries to evangelize the interior of China are modern-day examples of the gift of dynamic faith in action.
Gift of healings and workings of powers
The next two gifts appear in the Greek as plurals: literally, “charismatic gifts of healings’ and “workings of powers.” The plurals indicate that all healings and all miracles are in each separate case a supernatural operation of the Spirit. As Bittlinger says, “Every healing is a special gift. In this way the spiritually gifted individual stands always in new dependence upon the divine Giver.” Lenski explains: “In each instance a specific intimation came to them from the Spirit that the act should be performed, and not until that moment did it occur, but then I always too place without fail.” Peter and John for instance, had passed the lame beggar at the Gate Beautiful many a time, but not until a certain day did the spirit prompt them to channel healing to him (Acts 3:1-8). This principle explains why a Spirit-filled Christian cannot go into a hospital and administer healing to every sick person he sees. The plural nouns also indicate the different kinds of diseases and afflictions, requiring different sorts of healing. The implication may be that a certain person is especially used in bringing healing to those suffering from a certain disease or group of diseases.
Working of miracles
The “working of miracles” covers those wonderful works which are not strictly healings. Included under the category of miracles would be the exorcising of demons and the restoring of persons from death, such as Dorcas and Eutychus (Acts 9:36-41).; 20:6-12). Quite a number of authenticated cases of the raising of the dead have taken place recently in Africa and Indonesia, as well as in America. The creation of new bodily parts or organs much better be explained as an instance of the gift in operation instead of one of the gifts of healings. Since the beginning of the Indonesian revival in 1965, the Christians have repeatedly trusted God to turn water into wine for their communion services, in that tropical land where grapes do not grow.
Distinguishing of spirits
The third gift which operates by a direct revelation from God is the “distinguishing of spirits” (v.10 NASB margin). It goes without saying that this not a critical spirit in the natural or even the true intellectual discernment of the child of God that is developed through Christian fellowship and through study of the Bible. Yes, is is essential for us to partake of the word of righteousness and to train our senses or faculties to discern good and evil, i.e., to make moral decisions (Heb 5:13-14). The spiritual gift of discernment, however, does not come through training but is imparted in the moment when it is needed. The Greek word for “discernment,” diakrisis, literally means a “judging through,” a seeing right through to the inner reality with a judgment based on that insight. Dennis Bennett explains that by this gift the believer is enabled to know immediately what is motivating a person or situation. Those responsible for the orderly progress of a meeting of the brethren need to know whether a person is operating under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whether he is expressing his own thoughts or feelings, or whether he is controlled by a wrong spirit. The Holy Spirit will manifest himself by this gift through those who pass judgment on the messages of the prophets in the assembly (1 Cor14:29). Usually the discerning of a false or evil spirit brings a sense of heaviness, unrest, or even sickness, whereas the sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit is one of joy and peace and love. This gift, then, is the gracious provision of the head of Church to arm her against the subtle deceptions of the enemy.
A striking example of the gift of discerning of spirits in operation is found in Acts 16:16-18. A slave girl having a spirit of divination met Paul and his party in Philippi, evidently desiring to follow them to the place of prayer. Even though her shouts to the crowds about Paul seemed lofty and spiritual, yet Paul detected the true nature of the motivating spirit and at last commanded it to come out of her. Probably he waited until the day she was ready to be saved so that when he exorcised the demon it would have no right to reenter her. See 1 John 4:1-6.
*From The Layman’s Commentary on the Holy Spirit, included in the Logos International Study Bible published in 1972.
In Part 4, we will consider prophesy, tongues and interpretation of tongues.
Link to good article by Charles Carrin on the word of knowledge