For many church-goers there has been confusion regarding the Spirit of God especially in this “End-Time” era. Whether you refer to Him as Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Spirit of God or by any other title, the meaning and function is the same – He was left (or sent to earth) to be our Helper, our Advocate, our Teacher.
This study is to impart to you the mission for which Jesus sent Him here to pursue.
First of all, Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is His name, not His title. When referring to Him, you should not use “the” in describing Him. That’s like addressing me as “the Danny True”. I’m sure you will not offend Him but you should use the correct protocol or name.
As stated above, the cloud of confusion has been so strong that many churches or denominations tend not to teach in depth about Holy Spirit. In fact, many state in their doctrine that He no longer exists as a viable “person” here on earth; that His work ended after the last Apostle. We’ll look into that!
I will try to use Scripture references in this writing, especially regarding the more controversial issues. In all my Biblical articles, I encourage the reader or hearer to follow the trail – look it up yourself! Don’t take my word, follow God’s Word.
The Scriptures tell us that God’s Word or prophecy is NOT subject to one’s own interpretation (2nd Peter 1:20) and I try not to imply that anything in the Bible is my “opinion”. I don’t use phrases like, “Thus sayeth the Lord” but I will say that “I think this might be from the Lord”. I guess that is a satisfactory disclaimer.
So, check out the content that I enclose in this article; weigh it, test it, taste it and then pray about it and what it might be saying to you.
The Work of Holy Spirit in This Age
For years, especially in my youth, when I would read of Holy Spirit, my assumption was that He is a New Testament character. He was rarely mentioned except when the Trinity was identified – Father, Son, Holy Ghost. But, in fact, He has been alive and well and doing His work since “day one”.
In Genesis, verse one begins “In the beginning, God . . . ”. The word “God” is Elohiym in the Hebrew text. It means God in the plural sense. In other word, more than one, or three. The Trinity as we know it, was involved in the creation of the earth. That fact was needed to be established so that we could understand the work of the Godhead throughout the entirety of the Scriptures, Old & New Testaments.
In the Old Testament Holy Spirit made His appearance but was rarely identified “by name”. Most used was “the Spirit of God . . . “ but in fact He was that very same person who showed up in Genesis 1.
When Abraham was visited by three angels, one of them has been assumed to be Jesus BUT it could have been Holy Spirit. The same “angel” led Lot and his family out of Sodom before its total destruction. And these are only several examples of “the Spirit of God” visiting people.
In those days, the Spirit of the Lord was sent to selected leaders rather than to all of God’s people. When the Spirit came to an individual, He brought with Him one or more gifts which equipped the individual to serve God by serving Israel. Examples of this are: Bezaleel, who was given the gift of craftsmanship (Ex. 31 :2- 3); Othniel, who was equipped to be a judge (Judg. 3:9-10); Gideon, who was given military skills (Judg. 6:34); Samson, who was given physical strength (Judg. 14:6,19); Saul, who was given political skills (1 Sam. 10:6); and Micah, who was given prophetic gifts (Mic.3:8).
For the first three thousand years of existence on earth Holy Spirit was around and doing His work. But when Jesus came, the scene began to change and, upon His death and Resurrection, the NEW Covenant was set into motion and God’s Spirit was poured out on ALL who accepted Christ as their Savior.
But let’s look at things as they occurred when Jesus walked the earth with the disciples. First of all, when He elected to set aside His Godliness and come to us as a normal man-child, the intent was to live like a human being. So He came with no special attributes or power. In order to demonstrate the ability to live a sin-free life, He had to subject Himself to all the “temptations” to which the rest of us are exposed.
Except for one account where, at age 12 He went into the temple and preached from Isaiah, there is no exacting Biblical history of His life as a teenager. By the way, He didn’t use “supernatural power” when speaking at temple. I know a number of 5-6th graders (12-year-olds) who can preach a message as well as or better than many “adults”!
Although we are in the dark about those intervening years from age 12 to 30, you may assume that Hebrew tradition was followed. Every Jewish boy was taught the trade of his father, sat under teachings from the Torah by his father or in Temple, and so on. Unlike our trend to send them out upon reaching 18 years of age, at 30 the boys were considered adult men and had the opportunity (in fact, the mandate) to leave their father’s household and start their own separate lives.
It was at this age that Jesus was “permitted” to use the gifts of the Heavenly Father that were returned to Him upon reaching manhood. (This is important to us as we will see later). “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
So, Jesus rounded up those whom He wanted to follow Him. There were twelve initially but quite a number of people – men, women and children – also went along. They could be called “camp followers” but more than likely they were just moved by Jesus’ teachings and went along to get more!
By the way, “disciple” means one who follows and espouses the teachings of another. It is also where the word “discipline” is derived. Sounds like a student in a classroom to me. These disciples sat under and mostly absorbed what Jesus was teaching. But many times they pulled Him aside and asked for clarification. They were missing something that would have aided them in having full understanding of what the Master was teaching.
Many times Jesus spoke in parables so as to confuse those in the gatherings who were there to do Him harm – to catch Him saying things against the governmental or temple leadership. But, these parables would at times confuse His own disciples and He would chide them for not having their “ears open” to understand exactly what He was saying.
Before Jesus was executed, He told them that after His death He was sending “someone” who would help – a teacher and advocate – for them to continue in the work that He had begun. They either didn’t understand this OR they just passed it off.
After He died and was buried, the disciples hid away – ran off – for fear of their own lives. Peter, James and John among others went back to their former occupation – fishing. But, as He promised, He came back, and went down to the water where the fishermen were. One by one He gathered the disciples back together and fellowshipped with them for around 40 days. During that time He reminded them that they would be given power to further the Gospel message.
He told them to go to Jerusalem and wait until the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) would come to them. And then Jesus was taken up into Heaven to rejoin His Father. He left them by saying “I’ll be back”.
On the fortieth day after Jesus’ resurrection, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which celebrates Moses receiving the 10 Commandments from God, the followers of Jesus, some 120 men, women and children, gathered in an upper room, praying. Suddenly, as promised, Holy Spirit appeared and fell upon all who were gathered.
It was at this time that the disciples fully understood the teachings of Jesus and, further, gained the boldness to proclaim the Gospel message to their fellow Jews. Peter, the coward who denied knowing Jesus, spoke to a gathering and three thousand were saved through his message! (Acts 2: 1- 47)
Incidentally, following the “Pentecost” visit by Holy Spirit, the 12 disciples were first referred to as apostle, meaning “one who is sent out”.
But, what about the other 108 people who were with them in the “Upper Room”? They received the same anointing – men, women AND children – and you can be sure that they also shared their experiences with others. This constituted the beginning of the “Christian” movement or church.
Now, let’s discuss those “gifts” that they received. There are actually three categories of gifts from God, not just the ones that are highly promoted in 1st Corinthians and Romans. In his writings Paul referred to about twenty different gifts, including such things as preaching, teaching, and leadership. Some interpreters have suggested that by putting Paul’s lists of gifts together, we get a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts. This seems unlikely, as today we can recognize some gifts which Paul did not mention, such as the gifts of music, of working with youth, and of counseling.
So, the three categories of God’s gifts are Ministry Gifts, Power Gifts and Motivational Gifts. Let’s look at each of those.
The Ministry gifts are listed in Ephesians 4:11 – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers. You can see the respective “duties” of each office in my companion booklet “The Manual”. The order of this “list” does not indicate any superiority or authority of those individuals, although there are those in some “modern” churches who try to establish it as such.
The Motivational gifts are not specifically revealed in Scripture (other than those alluded to by Paul, above) but it is hoped that you can see the relevance in the following discussion:
Paul told us that the church is the Body of Christ; each Christian is a member (eye, ear, leg); and each member has its appropriate ability (to see, or hear, or walk). This understanding leaves no room for arrogance or ignominy concerning our gifts. We are all needed, else “the Body” is handicapped or constrained.
Each person has been given at least one motivational gift or talent. It may be your trade or a skill, craft or hobby. In any case those can be used motivationally to help in the work of the Church, the Body of Christ.
As an example, you may be skilled in carpentry. That “gift” can also be used within the church OR, outside, to help someone in need. Your helping in those areas is a form of ministry.
Or you may be a good decorator or designer. Or a mechanic. The list goes on and on but they reflect gifts given to you, the member of the Body, not only to use to earn a living but to be a help in the church or to others who may be destitute or in need of your talents.
There is a caution concerning these types of gifts. Only work in your area of expertise. For example, if on a Sunday morning there is an announcement that Mr. & Mrs. Smith, who normally take care of the nursery cannot be there today and there is a request for a couple to “volunteer” to fill in for them. Unless you are “called” or gifted in that area, stay out! You will undoubtedly make a mess (pardon the pun) if you are not skilled in changing dirty diapers. In addition, you are probably taking away from others who have that gift the “stars in their crowns” they would have earned had they spoken up quicker.
This applies to most areas in the church or outside ministry. Finances, musical talents, driving the church bus, usher, cleaning the toilets; all these areas involve gifts that are imparted as parts of the Body – and NONE is greater than any other, in the sight of God.
Also, regarding gifts or talents, I have used this philosophy all my life: I am an uneducated man, that is, high school only. But God has chosen to shower upon me talents that only one could expect to derive from “higher education”. Additionally, he has placed me in “high places” that can only be achieved by possession of a degree.
To this I am grateful and have always given to Him the praise, adoration and “credit” for all He has done. For that reason, I try to “give back” in the area of talents and skills, without charge, to help others who could find themselves in a similar situation. (Matt 25:14-30)
I have saved Power Gifts till now because they need detailed study and understanding. Power gifts, as shown in 1st Corinthians 12:4–11, include these nine:
- Utterance of Knowledge
- Working of Miracles
- Discernment of Spirits
- Speaking in Tongues
- Interpretation of Tongues
Before discussing each of these nine gifts separately it needs to be said that these are primarily for the purpose of winning souls to Christ; they are NOT for the personal use or gain of the individual using them. A possible exception is number nine, speaking in tongues, but we’ll address that at the appropriate time.
- The gift of Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge, experience, understanding or common sense and insight. This may include helping to resolve disputes and problems.
- Knowledge is the (technical) understanding and skill required to do something. I have a personal account of the use of this gift.
Shortly after beginning work at the Space Center in FL, I was introduced to a co-worker, Ray Gorney, who was a two-way radio technician. In time, I spoke to him about the work of Holy Spirit. Ray was raised Catholic although he was not active.
Ray was very good at what he did but there was one “walkie-talkie” police radio that he couldn’t fix. He would bring it out in his spare time but try as he may, could not get it to work. Encouraged by the Spirit, I began describing the Gift of Knowledge and asked him to bring forth the defective unit. He did, removed the cover and after a few seconds, I told him to replace a particular module. He said “I have already replaced that one”. I insisted, he did and when he turned it on, it worked!
Ray was SO touched to see that God would work in his life that he asked for and received salvation that night. In addition, I prayed that he would be empowered with the gifts of Holy Spirit. He received and started on a new life. He joined a non-denominational church, studied his bible day and night and listened to every tape he could.
He is now in Idaho living out his dreams and working in a Christian ministry. We stay in touch.
- Faith is one of those gifts that strengthens the Christian to accomplish a feat that one would normally not have the strength to do. Stepping forth in boldness knowing that, at the appropriate time, the Lord will give you the faith to do what needs to be done.
- Healing is one of the “controversial” gifts. Some say that the gift of healing ended with the last Apostle, that it is no longer needed in today’s church. Like Tongues, which we will look at later, there is nothing in the Bible that states the gifts of the Spirit of God have run out of power, need or effectiveness!
The act of laying hands upon someone who is infirmed and praying, believing, for the healing to come forth is as effective and needed TODAY as it was in Bible times. Someone viewing a healing will be moved, hopefully to their or onlookers salvation, for that is why it is done.
There are many references to healing in the New Testament. Jesus, when leaving earth told (us) to continue in doing the things He did – in fact, even greater things. Healing was a paramount characteristic in His ministry. The raising of the dead was another.
- Working of Miracles. I haven’t turned water into wine (yet), but there have been many times that, while unbelievers were watching, I did things that I would not normally be able to do. This type of gift is preceded by a confession of not having the ability to do it. When it occurs, people are moved by the power of God that you have been given for that moment.
- Prophecy is when one speaks forth an oracle or word from God, usually before a congregation, but can occur privately as well. This is different from the office or Ministry gift of Prophecy in that is usually a spontaneous utterance, something that you usually do not do. All prophecy is subject to confirmation by two or more when in a group setting, and, if before an individual, Holy Spirit would have pre-conditioned the person to receive the word given.
- Discernment or discerning of Spirits is another one of those gifts that, when used properly, can change a person’s life. For example, when praying for a person’s problems, this gift will reveal to you the working of an evil spirit. By giving this revelation to the subject, it can be further dealt with by intense prayer (deliverance).
Usually the person operating in this gift is also familiar with and experienced in the process of deliverance. NOTE: do not attempt to administer deliverance unless you are experienced or have fully prayed about it! There must be two or more ministering in this gift present. Further, do not attempt deliverance upon yourself; ask others who are experienced in that.
- Speaking in Tongues is one of the gifts that can be used corporately or privately. It is also one of the most misunderstood of all the gifts of God. In Mark 16:17, Jesus said “- – – these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;”.
There is controversy in the above, for some will say that the tongues mentioned is a foreign language, as indicated in Acts 2, with the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when by-standing foreigners heard their languages spoken. Yet, others will say that it is an unknown “language”, known only to God and the angels (1 Cor 13:1).
I contend there are TWO types of tongues; foreign language unknown by the one speaking and, at separate times, a “prayer” language, known only to God and the angels (unless there is an interpretation – that will be the next gift).
On a personal level, my late wife, Teresa, experienced the former. Normally she would speak in “gibberish”, that is to say, utterances that no one, including herself, knew what was being said. But one day, years ago, while attending a large women’s prayer group in Johnson City, TN, at the conclusion of the session people started leaving the event. One girl, a Japanese student at ETSU, was preparing to fly back to Japan since this was the end of the semester.
Teresa had been introduced to “Mioko” and greeted her as she went out the door. Before leaving herself, Teresa decided to refresh in the bathroom. While there, she clearly heard a voice that said, “Go speak to Mioko”. She replied, “But Lord, I did speak to her and now she’s gone.” The voice repeated, “Go speak to Mioko”. After the third time she opened the bathroom door and there stood Mioko! She had likewise needed to “refresh” and had come back in to the house.
Teresa explained to her what she had heard and Mioko agreed to listen. Teresa told her that she didn’t know what she was supposed to say to her and asked if she could speak in tongues. Mioko agreed. So Teresa began speaking, but in a “tongue” that she had never heard come out of her mouth.
When she was finished she looked up and Mioko was crying. She then told Teresa that she had spoken to her in Japanese, in fact in the very dialect spoken only in her village! She told her that the word that was given to her was to assure her that, having become a Christian while in the USA and concerned that everyone in her village was Buddhist and she would have no one to fellowship with, that He, the Lord, had placed another Christian in her village for her fellowship.
That was the only time that Teresa was aware that the “tongues” coming out of her mouth was in fact a foreign language.
The other “form” of tongues is that unknown utterance that is spoken. This usually occurs in “the prayer closet”, just you alone with the Lord (1 Cor. 14:9). In fact, unless you are the person who can pray a perfectly composed prayer at the perfect time – and I haven’t met you yet! – speaking in tongues is the best way to express yourself TO GOD, for that perfect word will go forth and accomplish what was intended. It gets you and your limited mind out of the process.
An example of this occurred to me. Some time ago, after moving to FL I was awakened in the middle of the night and felt that I was to pray in tongues. I was not “told” why or what I was praying (interceding) for, but I did feel it was for someone under duress. In the morning, while having breakfast the news report indicated that a Christian family under persecution in Russia was able to find sanctuary in the US Embassy.
Suddenly I knew that these folks, halfway around the word, were the object of my early-morning prayer!
9. This kind of praying in (unknown) tongues does happen in group meetings, in homes or churches. When this occurs, it must be followed by the final gift, the Interpretation of Tongues. If the message is not interpreted in a group session then there is no meaning and no one is blessed. For that reason a type of “protocol” should be invoked.
Generally, there should be limited “messages” spoken in unknown tongues – 2 or 3 at the most (1 Cor. 14:7). After speaking that person should pause, even for an extended time, so that someone else would receive the interpretation and bring it forth. If no one else does, a leader of the group (one in charge) should bring forth the interpretation. Should that not happen, the original one who spoke would interpret.
If no one receives an interpretation then it was spoken “out of order” and should be disregarded.
All too often the one speaking in tongues, concerned that no one would interpret, would quickly speak what he/she thought the message should be. You can see the fallacy in that!
So what is the process of getting all this “power”, you may ask. Again, there are differing opinions, so let’s look at some of them.
Some say that you “get” them at Salvation. Others say at baptism. Still others will say that it is a special impartation that you must ask (Him) for. Regarding myself, I was taught the latter. After “discovering” the Gifts of the Spirit, I went to a denominational pastor and an assistant who “walked “ in that ministry. There was a time of deliverance, then the laying on of hands to receive “the Holy Spirit”. After it was over, unlike many, I saw no stars, no “tongues”, no bells or whistles, but after a period of time, I “saw” the change come upon me and those gifts started fully appearing!
Regarding the other methods, and in contrast to my experience, I have concluded the following. Like Saul on the Damascus Road, I believe that the gifts were planted in me at the time of Salvation (yes, at age 6). However, there needed to be some catalyst to “turn them on,” and the deliverance (preparing to receive) plus the prayers “activated” what was already there.
No, it didn’t come as a result of baptism (see the account of the eunuch in Acts 8:27-39 who was “filled with the Spirit” before he was baptized).
Now you may ask, “Why do I need these gifts? I am already serving the Lord.” Well, let’s compare it to a trade; say, a carpenter or a mechanic.
True, you probably could make a fine piece of furniture using only your hands. But, think how much better, faster and maybe nicer looking IF you had some power tools, like a saw, router, drill and the like? It’s the same with ministry work; the better equipped you are, especially with “tools” designed by God Himself, the better the end result.
I wouldn’t want to try to repair a modern automatic transmission without the specialized tools that are available (and necessary) just to open it up!
God has supplied us all the tools that we will need to carry on the work Jesus began here – and He told us to “tarry a while” and He would deliver those tools to (us). So, why get bent out of shape with doctrinal constraint and opinions that try to tell us that those tools no longer exist?
(Joel 2:27 – 29 [KJV])
“I [am] the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”