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GIFTS AND MINISTRIES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Testimony of Truth
People of The Living God
There are many Christians today who ponder the Biblical record concerning the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. Some have concluded that the gifts of healing, miracles, and the supernatural power of God passed away with the Apostles. The general teaching is that healings or miracles do occur but only randomly when God in His sovereignty deigns it so. Others teach that they are for the church today and attempt to exercise that power at certain times to cast out devils or heal the sick. There are many TV evangelists who claim to have the power to heal, give prophetic utterances, possess a “word of knowledge” and claim the power to lay hands on people so they can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A third group of Christians believe the gifts are for God’s people today, although they do not operate except in very limited degrees because of the unbelief so prevalent throughout the Christian community. These may also teach that the gifts are reserved for a very spiritually mature people. So, what is the truth? Our first group will argue, “if they are for today, why don’t we see them in operation?” Because they don’t see them operating they find it easy to relegate them into the past rather than searching diligently to see what scripture teaches and then addressing the problem that has caused the power of God to cease among God’s people. This view relieves them of any responsibility for the absence of God’s supernatural power among Christians today. The second group acknowledges that the gifts are for today, so, in order to support their convictions, they conjure up schemes that are merely imitations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They use counterfeit “gifts” to deceive the multitudes, much like the magicians did when Moses stood before Pharaoh. The third group sees the fallacy of these other groups, yet they fail to possess the gifts as well, because they are waiting to be made perfect before they can receive the mighty gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Are The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit For Today?
The very first issue that must be examined pertaining to this topic is what the Bible reveals concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Does scripture teach the gifts were only for the original Apostles to “jump start” the Gospel? Those who hold to this idea teach that all we need today are the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is given but only to aid us in our understanding of the written word. Verses like Hebrews 1:1-2, are used to support their theory, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” It is very true that God has spoken through His Son and we treasure His words above all others contained in scripture. However, God also spoke through the Apostles, otherwise we need only the four Gospels and the rest of scripture is non-essential. If the gifts passed away after the first century, then we need go no further in our search for truth. We must then examine what Jesus and His Apostles taught regarding this important subject.
Since God has spoken to us through His Son, let’s begin our search with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s start with John 14:12. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” Jesus clearly stated that “believers” would perform greater works than He had done while on earth. The word “believers” does not relegate God’s power to the Apostles only. The common idea among those who have dismissed gifts of the Holy Spirit today say that Jesus was not speaking of miracles; rather He was referring to spreading the Gospel throughout the world bringing many souls to Christ. Of course, the salvation of souls is much greater than healing the physical body or moving a mountain into the depths of the sea. But is this what Jesus was referring to in John 14:12? And was He giving this commission only to those whom He had chosen to be Apostles and, with their passing, would cease?
The Same Works As Jesus
In John 10, Jesus was questioned by the Jews if He was the promised Messiah. Note how Jesus responds in verses 24-25: “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.” What works was Jesus speaking of? Not the salvation of souls but His miracle working power. The many miracles they had seen testified of Who He was. They just refused to accept those signs. It was that same miracle-working power which He promised to His disciples and which were to confirm the message they preached.
The second question in our search for truth is “Was this commission only for the Apostles?” In the above paragraph, we found that this power was ordained for believers. Is it then for all believers, just certain ones, or for those appointed to the office of apostleship? In the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told His disciples to go to all nations and preach and teach what He had taught them. In Mark’s account we have some addition to Matthew’s account. It reads, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18). Notice, “these signs shall follow them.” He then speaks of casting out devils (which is a supernatural empowerment), speaking with new tongues, laying hands on the sick and healing them. From these verses, we conclude that these are the works which should have been common in the church for the past 2000 years. Or do these verses mean nothing at all?
Now, let’s consider what a couple of the Apostles had to say about this topic. In Acts 2:38-39, Peter, in speaking to the multitudes who were astonished at what they saw taking place among those who had just received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, said this, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Of course, Peter is speaking of the Baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit in this discourse. However, with the Holy Spirit comes the power of God, also. One cannot possess the Holy Spirit and be powerless. The degree of power the Holy Spirit will manifest in a person’s life is the degree to which the believer walks in truth and holiness before the Lord. (This point must be considered in another article, for it is impossible to go there now.)
Functioning Body Of Christ
In writing to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul taught them how the church should function as a body. In chapter 12, he shows how the various ministries and gifts should all work together in unity for the spiritual health of the church. If these gifts were to begin fighting one another, it would cause a very serious problem within the church, the same as if different parts of our physical bodies do not work in conjunction with other parts of the body. (The genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit will never work against other works of the Holy Spirit. The genuine will always operate in perfect harmony.) Consider Paul’s words in I Cor. 12:27-31, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
We see in these verses that God gives gifts to whom He sees appropriate, for He calls each child of His to a specific place in the body and we don’t all have the same position. But notice carefully that Paul refers to the ministries of Apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, gifts of healings, speaking in tongues and interpretations. The ministry of Apostles, prophets, and teachers are offices or positions of leadership within the church, and Paul incorporates these offices with supernatural gifts.
The Office Of Apostles
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, tells why the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit are so critical. His words also reveal why Satan has so desperately resisted this power from being released to the church. He has sown tares among the wheat, lies mingled with the truth. He has sown unbelief in the hearts of God’s people, beginning with those entrusted to preach and teach the truth of the Gospel and consequently, has successfully kept the church weak, malnourished and immature. Consider these verses very carefully and let the truth revealed sink, not only into your mind, but into your heart and into your being. Ephesians 4:11-15, “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: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” From the above scripture: Can the church be what God desires it to be without the operation of these five ministries? These offices are essential in bringing forth a pure and holy church. Unfortunately, those who would shy away from the miracle-working power of God have redefined “apostles” to be the chief person of a specific denomination and lowered the office of “prophets” to “preachers.” The Greek word for apostles is Apostolos and is defined by James Strong. “A delegate; specifically, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle”] (with miraculous powers)” (Emphasis mine). This definition raises a very relevant question. If Apostles, along with the other four offices, are given to the church for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ, can the church be made glorious, holy, without spot, wrinkle and without blemish (Eph. 5:27) without these offices in the church today?
The Office Of Prophets
Prophets are not preachers only. Prophets may preach, but prophets are, according to James Strong, “a foreteller, by analogy an inspired speaker, by extension a poet.” Paul writes of the office to the church at Corinth in his first epistle chapter 14 verse 24 -25, “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” Some might claim that Paul is referring only to preaching truth, but we need to remember that Paul is dealing with some of the problems relative to spiritual gifts which operated within the Corinthian church. He, in this same chapter, speaks considerably about the gifts of tongues and interpretations. These are spiritual gifts and Paul is addressing how they should operate. It is true that unbelievers can and do come into a church where the Gospel is preached and they are convicted by the Holy Spirit and respond to the saving of their souls. But Paul is not focusing on preaching; he is dealing with prophesy, which is a spiritual gift that operates by the supernatural power of God. Many times with prophesy, future events are foretold, but this wonderful gift also gives to the prophet eyes to see into men’s hearts and expose their hidden sins.
A couple of examples of the operation of the ministry of prophesy might give a better understanding of this wonderful gift. In Acts five when Ananias came before Peter to lay down the funds he received from the sale of his property, he held back part of the amount, probably in case things fell apart. Peter, functioning in the office of a prophet, saw into Ananias’ heart and saw a hypocrite and a liar. His words to Ananias are words no one wants to ever hear spoken to them. “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:3-4). After these words spoken through the gift of prophesy, Ananias fell down dead and they carried him out to bury him.
Another account of the office of a prophet is Elisha. Elisha seeing the evil intentions of a man’s heart is found in II Kings 8:7-15. In this account, Benhadad, king of Syria, was very sick, so he sent his servant Hazael to the prophet Elisha asking if he were going to die of this infirmity. When Hazael arrived before Elisha and asked the king’s question, Elisha responded, (verse 10) “Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.” On the surface this sounds extremely strange. It seems as though Elisha is telling Hazael to lie to the king. Verse eleven in the text we are considering leaves us uncertain of which the pronoun “he” refers to, Hazael or Elisha. (Verse 11) “And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.” There are various opinions to whom these two pronouns refer but it clearly was Elisha that wept and he did so because he saw the evil scheme in Hazael’s heart. The prophesy Elisha had just given would certainly be fulfilled, for Hazael already had his eye on the throne. His treacherous conspiracy was determined upon whether Benhadad would die of his infirmity or not. If he would die then no need to slay him, but if he was to recover, then Hazael had already determined in his heart, to slay him. Elisha, as a prophet, saw the evil in Hazael’s heart and he wept. However, Elisha wept more for an evil which he saw, even deeper in Hazael’s heart. Elisha saw another event which would take place in the future. He wept for the evil which Hazael would bring upon God’s people Israel. This prophet not only knew what was in Hazael’s heart but he saw the evil which would come upon Israel through this evil man. Look at verse 12, “And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.”
These two examples should suffice to give a better understanding of the office of the prophet. It was not only to foretell future events but also to expose sin in one’s heart. It is very unfortunate for Hazael that he did not repent of his evil intentions and change the course of history. There is so much evil in our churches today, so much compromise, so many unrepentant sinners sitting in our congregations, and even standing in the pulpits, that the exposing of these imposters can only be effectively done through the five-fold ministry which must be returned to God’s church. I am not saying that there are no Godly men and women in our churches and in our pulpits sounding an alarm, but they are far too few. Let me also add that there is no church or group that has it all together or that has all the answers. However, there are many pastors, evangelists and godly men who refuse to bow their knee to Baal or to the unbiblical and illogical demands our modern society, a society creating laws which require that we allow any sinner or profane person who desires to stand in our pulpits, to do so. Or those of reprobate minds who would pass laws requiring our churches to allow gross, unconverted perverts to become members of our congregations. We do welcome the unconverted to attend our gatherings in hopes that they may come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but they should never be made members or serve in any position in the church. Those who are seriously concerned must begin to seek God more earnestly than ever before, and see that He restore the offices and gifts of the Holy Spirit to His people. May it be restored soon for the sake of God’s people.
Let us not allow our adversary, the devil, to deceive us any longer in rejecting these necessary ministries by postponing them or by being indifferent to them, rather let us “covet earnestly the best gifts” (I Cor. 12:31). It is not that we should desire the great ministries of the Holy Spirit for any personal gain but rather for the work of God in the earth. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the purifying of the church. They are for the maturing of the church. They are for effectively spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If these offices and gifts were necessary for the spreading of the Gospel in the days of the Apostles, they are just as essential in this day when “darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people” (Isa. 60:2). They are critical for the day in which we live. I am not speaking of those counterfeit prophets that prophesy out of their own imaginations; I refer to genuine Holy Ghost inspired men of God who are called, ordained, and empowered by God Almighty.