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Gifts of the Holy Spirit
by Dr. Henry Vazquez, B.B.S., M.Div., Th.D.
Dr. Steven C. Brown, D.D.


In This Lesson
Introduction | For a Specific People, Time, or Purpose? | Unity with Diversity | Word of Wisdom
Word of Knowledge | Faith | Gifts of Healing | Working of Miracles | Prophecy
Distinguish between Spirits | Tongues | Interpretation of Tongues


The Holy Spirit of God is alive and doing well.
...and so are His gifts.

Before Jesus was crucified, He encouraged His disciples by reassuring them that he would not leave them alone like orphans. He would ask His Father to send the Holy Spirit to comfort them and to remind them of all the things He had taught them:

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18 NIV)

For a Specific People, Time, or Purpose?
For those who believe the spiritual gifts are only available for certain religiously-elite individuals or only the original 12 Apostles, let me ask you this question: To whom was Paul speaking in the following passage from 1 Corinthians 12:1-11?

1"Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to 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. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."
(NIV emphasis added)

There are others who believe the spiritual gifts were only available for a time, to fill certain "temporary" needs, and are no longer available today. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:7-16—

7"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' 9(What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (NIV emphasis added)

Let me ask this question: After Jesus distributed the gifts as stated above, when did He take them away? Consider the following:

5"...because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' 6So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?' 7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings..." (Hebrews 13:5b-9a NIV emphasis added)

A More Excellent Way
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 tells us about the nine best-known gifts of the Holy Spirit:
8"For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance [word] of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues."

    Scripture tells us that the first seven of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, are found in both the Old and New Testaments. However, the last two — speaking in "various kinds of tongues" and the "interpretation of tongues" — only seem to be utilized since Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit came to permanently indwell believers. [Remember, we learned in the lesson "The Holy Spirit" that He did not permanently "indwell" people in the Old Testament. Rather, He was "near", or "on", or "with" them for a particular purpose, event, and/or time.

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Unity with Diversity
In order to gain a more excellent understanding of the gifts noted in verses 8-10, we need to read these verses in their context [that is, pay attention to the verses just before and following these verses]. Thus, this study is based on the whole of chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians in which the Apostle Paul describes the spiritual gifts, or gifts of the Spirit.

Verses 1-3
1"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus is accursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit."

Paul begins by letting the Corinthians know there are certain aspects of the spiritual gifts which need to be better understood. Paul is not questioning the gifts themselves. He knows they are from God; but he wants the gifts to be exercised in love, in decency, and in order [comprehensible arrangement].

Before becoming Christians, the Corinthians were led astray and influenced to mute idols [bronze, gold, and wood caricatures/effigies of false gods]. Some of the Corinthians were involved in bizarre practices within these religious cults. These practices involved hypnotic-type states with frequent use of drunkenness and sexual orgies wherein they would yield themselves to be led to indulge in gross sins.

Paul declares that no one who has the Spirit of God would ever deny or mock Christ. Only someone with the Holy Spirit of God living in them can say, "Jesus is Lord";. However, calling Jesus "Lord" is meaningless unless the Holy Spirit is truly and personally actively living in the person's life and they are living for Christ in true love and obedience.

Verses 4-6
4"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone."

Because the Corinthians exaggerated the importance of the gift of tongues, Paul reminds them it is the same Spirit of God who distributes a variety of gifts to His people. Paul is emphasizing the unity of the body of Christ which is reflected in the holy Trinity.

The Church needs these gifts for the building up [edifying] of God's children. There are different gifts, but all are through the same Holy Spirit. Also, even though believers may have the same gifts, the gifts may operate differently through each individual believer's life.

Verse 7
"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

Each spiritual gift may manifest in a variety of ways as the Holy Spirit wills. Paul is not emphasizing any sort of classification or hierarchy for the gifts, nor is he saying any particular gift is less important than the other. Keep in mind, Paul is addressing a problem this particular church had in placing too much emphasis on [or exaggerating] the gift of tongues.

Some Bible teachers take this as an opportunity to minimize the importance and power of the gift of tongues and misapply what Paul is saying. In fact, some even go so far as to totally neglect the gift of tongues and do not allow this gift to operate in their congregations. It is sad to see churches that do not allow the third Person of the Trinity to operate in the church. Aren't they, in essence, "quenching" and "grieving" the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Ephesians 4:30)?

Verses 8-10
8"For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance [word] of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues."

This list is not exhaustive, nor is any gift more important than the other. In fact, there are many other gifts given by the Holy Spirit of which we may not be aware, but all work together for the glory of God when exercised with love. Although Paul here does not explain the gifts listed, we will list them here with definitions and examples in an effort to gain a better understanding of the spiritual gifts:

  • Word of Wisdom
    The term "word" indicates a speaking gift. This is a supernatural and divine ability to understand the Bible and God's will, and to skillfully apply it to one's life or to proclaim it to others. This is a spontaneous prompting of the Holy Spirit to declare divine wisdom and God's Word, which brings the practical application of that word to a need or a problem.

    The Holy Spirit does not make a person wise by this gift, nor does it mean this person cannot make mistakes. The "word" given is simply a practical message to meet a particular need. It could be wisdom to resist adversaries. It goes beyond common sense and is not human wisdom. For example, King Solomon in dealing with the baby and the two women who claimed the baby (cf. 1 Kings 3:17-27).

    Jesus possessed and displayed such wisdom.

    "...they were astonished, and said, 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?'" (Matthew 13:54)

    "...he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him?'..." (Mark 6:2)

    The first martyr, Stephen, also displayed such wisdom: "But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking." (Acts 6:10)

    • How can you test if this wisdom is from God?
      James writes: "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." (James 3:13) It will not be hypocritical, it will glorify Christ, and it will be full of the fruit of the Spirit and the Word of God. All other wisdom which contradicts the Word of God is earthly and demonic. "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic." (James 3:14-15).

    • How can we tell when it's ourselves or truly from the Holy Spirit?
      • It never contradicts the Bible.
      • If something is ridiculous or "out of control", it isn't from the Lord.
      • Wait to see if it comes to pass. Sometimes we may be given a Word of Wisdom and/or the Word of Knowledge to prompt us to pray. In those cases, nothing else is required.

  • Word of Knowledge
    This is also a speaking gift. It is a supernatural insight into what the Bible says about God. This gift has to do with Biblical truth and the application of it. It has nothing to do with finding lost articles or what sin or disease a person may be suffering from — although God can certainly give insight and help us with these.

    Through this gift, we can understand the mysteries [spiritual truth already contained in the Bible] written in Holy Scriptures. This gift focuses on understanding the truths of the Bible. The Word of Wisdom mentioned above is the practical application of the Word of Knowledge. Many of the gifts work interchangeably with one another.

    For example...

    • At the house of Cornelius, Peter gave a "word of knowledge" that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was God's approval of the Gentiles. 44"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47'Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?'" (Acts 10:44-47)

    • The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians that he had received a "word of knowledge".3" the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. " (Ephesians 3:3-6)

    • Colossians 1:26—

  • Faith
    This is distinct from saving faith [which applies to Christians] or natural faith [which any human being has that does not require them to be a Christian], such as faith in an object to perform a specific function. This gift is manifested through the Holy Spirit as strong trust in God through difficult circumstances.

    "He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'" (Matthew 17:20)

    A practical example of this gift is how Paul responded in the midst of a violent storm in Acts 27:21-25—

    21"Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24and he said, "Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you." 25So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.'"

    This gift can be used in a song, a prayer, a testimony, or something dropped into the mind of the preacher to raise the level of faith in the local body. This gift is given by the Holy Spirit to believe God for the impossible or improbable.

  • Gifts of Healing
    Notice the plural noun in this gift. The plural indicates this gift is given to heal various kinds of sicknesses and diseases. It indicates that the Holy Spirit wants to use a variety of people to minister these gifts and that the Holy Spirit will heal all manner of sickness in the body, soul, and spirit.

    No one can simply decide to use this, or any of the other gifts, at will; but it is "as He [the Holy Spirit] wills" (v. 11). People don't heal; God does.

    "And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:29-30)

    In Acts 3:1-13 the Holy Spirit used Peter to deliver healing to a man who had been crippled from birth. Though James 5:14-15 tells us to call the elders of the church for healing prayer, the Holy Spirit can use any member of the body to minister gifts of healings to the sick. Again, this is as the Lord wills; we cannot merely claim a healing.

    Keep in mind, the reason for the many healings in Christ's time was to authenticate and credit Him as the Messiah. If we are seeking God for a healing, we should continue to believe with prayer and worship waiting on God and being submitted to Him through obedience.

      Although healing is provided in the atonement, it is not guaranteed in this life. God chooses to heal whomever He wants, wherever He wants, and however He wants. Much emotional and spiritual damage has been done in the body of Christ because of an unbalanced teaching in the realm of healing.

  • Working of Miracles
    This gift also is plural. These are mighty, supernatural demonstrations of divine intervention. An example of this would be as in the judgment of blindness on Elymas in Acts 13:9-11—

    9"But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10and said, 'You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.' Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand." (Acts. 13:9-11).

    This is a "sign" gift to encourage people to believe and to continue believing.

  • Prophecy
    This is a speaking forth of God's word for edification, exhortation, and/or comfort. This is an inspired utterance given by the Holy Spirit to speak God's message to the people of God.

    "...knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21)

    • Peter prophesied on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:14.

    • This will be a word which either:
      • does not contradict the Bible;
      • touches sensitive spots;
      • brings conviction and worship;
      • stimulates to action; or
      • can reveal what was secret.

    This gift is intended to minister primarily to the body of Christ, but is also used sometimes to minister to unbelievers.

  • Distinguish [Discern] between Spirits
    This is used to detect whether what someone is saying is true prophecy from God or not. "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said." (1 Corinthians 14:29)

    It is used to test whether a spirit is from God or not because there are many false prophets in the world now. This gift is also given to discern the human spirit, whether one is truthful or deceptive.

    This gift is powerful and is used to work against Satan in order to proclaim the truth of the Bible. An example is found in Acts 5:3 when Annanias lied to Peter: "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?'"

  • Different Kinds of Tongues
    There is variety in this gift, as it is expressed in different kinds of languages, both human and heavenly. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels..." (1 Corinthians 13:1)

    This gift is used...

    • glorify, magnify, and worship God. It is given so you can express your thankfulness to the Lord. (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:16-18) You speak directly to God in the will of God.

    • an initial sign of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Other variations of the initial sign of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit could be any of the other gifts of the Spirit which manifest. It often works alongside the gift of interpretation of tongues.

    • God to be a sign for unbelievers when they come into an assembly so they will know something supernatural is going on.

      "Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers." (1 Corinthians 14:22)

  • Interpretation of Tongues
    This is a supernatural ability to understand and translate what is being spoken in tongues. This gift comes as one gives attention to the Lord rather than to the tongues being spoken in the assembly.

    The gift of faith is required in order to exercise this gift, as the Holy Spirit will only reveal a few words of interpretation at first. Then, when these words are given in faith, the rest comes as the Spirit gives utterance.

    We can see an example of this in the Old Testament in Nehemiah 8:8 when Ezra read in Hebrew and the Levites gave the meaning in Aramaic so the people could understand what was being read. However, in that case, the Levites understood both languages. When interpreting a message in tongues, it is interpreted through the Spirit as He gives us understanding while we wait for the Lord and act in faith.

    "In the Law it is written, 'By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.'" (1 Corinthians 14:21 referencing Isaiah 28:11)

Verse 11
"All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (emphasis added)

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given as He pleases or determines and not as a believer wills or desires. We cannot work on the gifts in the sense of "practicing" or "learning" how to perform. However, we can partner with the Holy Spirit and remain sensitive and open to His leading and participate in opportunities [such as worship, obedience, etc.] where the Spirit of the LORD is moving. Nevertheless, the Spirit moves where He wills, not as we will.

Does the Holy Spirit use a person with the gifts who has not received the baptism in the Spirit [as defined in traditional Pentecostal doctrine with the evidence of speaking in tongues]? The answer is "yes" because it is "as the Spirit wills".

  • Old Testament prophets prophesied and performed miracles.
  • The disciples ministered healing before the day of Pentecost.

Yet, the baptism in the Spirit ordinarily results in a higher incidence of spiritual manifestations. Or, to put it another way, the gifts of the Spirit are "incarnational" — meaning God has His part in them and we have our part, or responsibility, in them. The key is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit because He will never bring shame to Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit will always give glory to Jesus.

Verse 12
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ."

Paul now compares the Church to the human body by stressing unity. "Unity" does not mean uniformity, but rather interrelatedness and interdependence. We must embrace diversity among the body of Christ. In the Church today, many want to be a mouthpiece. However, not everyone is used by the Lord in this way because we all have our roles, responsibilities, and our God-given talents and gifts to which God has called us.

Verse 13
"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit."

The baptism described here is a baptism by the Spirit into the body of Christ, not the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

"And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law..." (Luke 2:27)

Luke 4:1—

See also Romans 2:29; Ephesians 3:5.

Therefore, baptized "by" the Holy Spirit and baptized "in" the Holy Spirit are not just Pentecostal hermeneutics. One baptism places the person into the body of Christ; the other baptism gives the believer an "overflowing" of the Spirit of God which Christ had promised on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:5,8; 2:4). See the lesson "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" for a more detailed instruction.

And of course, there is baptism in water which is commanded in Scripture as an outward identification of your life in Christ.

Verses 14-20
14"For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
15If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body.
16And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body.
17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
19If all were a single member, where would the body be?
20As it is, there are many parts, yet one body."

Paul emphasizes diversity in these passages, which is something the Corinthian church needed. It is important, even vital, for Christians to appreciate and value the different ministries and gifts within the body of Christ, especially the clergy men and women. We should not be jealous of God's call on other ministers. The devil has used this to divide the ministers of God because he knows it will ultimately affect the congregation.

Verses 21-27
21"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'
22On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
23and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
24which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,
25that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
26If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

Paul here continues to illustrate the interdependence we should have within the Church.

Verses 28-31
28"And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
31But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way."

Paul now begins to conclude his point of diversity, unity, and interdependence in the body of Christ. This listing of gifts is chronological with respect to the history of the early Church and in no way is indicative of any gifts or ministries being better or more important than others.

Paul asks a series of questions which call for "no" as an answer. Paul is dealing here with ministries and gifts and their manifestations within the Church when believers come together. [Note: Verse 30 is not about the gifts of tongues as related to private prayer or praise. Paul is also not talking about tongues as the initial evidence (sign) of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit as promised and provided by Christ.]

"Do all speak in tongues?" is in the continuous-present tense in Greek and means, "Do all continue to speak in tongues?" This means not all believers will have a continuing ministry of tongues and interpretation of tongues for the Church.

When Paul says to "earnestly desire the higher gifts" [as a preface to chapter 13], he means that the gift(s) plus love is greater — not that love is greater than the gift(s). In order for the gifts to manifest and be guided by the Spirit of God, they must be exercised with love. Paul is teaching us that, to truly be used by the Lord and be effective with the gifts according to the will of God, love needs to be part of the use of the gifts. This is the "more excellent way" of exercising the gifts.

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Dr. Henry VazquezQuestions/Comments?
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