Scripture defines three categories of what may be included under the more general term of ‘spiritual gifts.’ The first category is that of so-called grace gifts (Greek charismata derived from charis meaning grace) which involve the inward motivation or disposition as well as enablement received from the Spirit to carry out various kinds of service to others. These gifts help to strengthen and build up the body of Christ and are partially described in the 12th chapter of the latter to the Romans. Each believer has at least one such gift to express God’s love to others and to be a witness of God’s love to the world.
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teaches, on teaching; or he that exhorts, on ex-hortation; he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness….given to hospitality” Romans 12:6-13
A second category of gifts are ministry gifts (Greek diakoniai literally translates as the word service). Paul lists five types of leadership gifts given to the church by Christ for perfecting and edifying the saints and preparing people for service and advancing the gospel. “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, to a perfect [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-13
Some claim the offices of apostles and prophets no longer operate today, supposedly having ceased after the first generation of the church age. Nowhere is such a notion supported by scripture, and it doesn’t even make common sense that the Lord Jesus would give certain ministry gifts for a limited time while still others remain in operation. Such a falsehood is made by the same fractions of the visible Church who promote a heresy that a third category of gifts, namely those referred to as spiritual gifts or manifestations, are no longer are in operation. Both of these teachings are what the apostle Paul refers to as being “doctrines of devils” which have been introduced into various denominational catechisms by “seducing spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1).
This third category of spiritual gifts (Greek pneumatika derived from pneuma which means spirit) are those referred to by the apostle as “manifestations of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). The Greek phanerosis which is translated as “manifestation” literally means exhibition or expression, and refers to those gifts which are direct acts of Holy Spirit in and through believers. These are given according to the Spirit’s will (12:11) and enable the operation of ministry which is of a supernatural nature for the glory of God.
It is incorrect to assume that one who exercises a spectacular gift such as miracles or of divine healings is more spiritual than a person operating in less spectacular gifts, or that God approves of all that such a person does or preaches. These manifestations are never to be confused with fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) relating to Christian character and sanctification. And we are warned that manifestations may even be imitated by Satan or by workers disguised as ministers of righteousness (Matthew 7:21-23). We’re never to accept manifestations at face value, but are instructed to “try the spirits whether they are from God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Let us review the pneumatika or “manifestations of the Spirit” as listed in the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians. In each instance, they are intended to edify others with the exception of personal prayer in tongues using what is commonly referred to as a ‘prayer language.’ The first gift mentioned is a word of wisdom. This isn’t having wisdom for daily living which is gained by study of God’s Word or through personal experience. It is a wisdom spoken supernaturally by the Spirit to provide guidance apart from any natural sense as to God’s way of not only viewing but dealing with a particular situation.
At times a word of wisdom may be associated with a second spiritual gift mentioned which is a word of knowledge that supernaturally reveals information about a situation or issue which could never have been known by natural means. Being given words of knowledge will frequently create difficult situations. For what is revealed by the Spirit is commonly something another person is trying to keep secret or is unwilling to deal with because of denial. So it is that spiritual maturity is required for seeing that a word of knowledge or word of wisdom to be used wisely.
A gift of faith is not that faith leading one to salvation, but rather faith imparted by Holy Spirit that enables one to believe for the extraordinary and miraculous. It is the kind of faith that moves mountains and is often associated with miracles, gifts of healing, and even raising the dead. Such a gift is imparted by Holy Spirit on special occasions rather than a faith which exists at all times and is a faith often combined with gifts of healing to restore health. The word “gifts” suggests each act of healing is a gift of God to a person receiving healing. While healing doesn’t operate through all believers, all are still encouraged to pray for the sick and those under oppression.
Working of miracles concerns supernatural power that alters the normal course of nature. Divine power manifesting through miracles took place frequently in both the OT and NT. Even the laws of nature have always been subject to the will of God who created nature. Holy Spirit can execute the will of God the Father at any time in any way, be it parting of waters at the Red Sea or the Jordan river, water flowing from a rock in the desert, the sun standing still or going backward in its course, raising the dead to life, or creation of new limbs and organs. For some to claim that the working of miracles no longer operates by the power of Holy Spirit is utter heresy caused by spiritual blindness, and those holding such a doctrine are not a genuine part of the NT church.
Concerning prophecy, there is need to distinguish between prophecy as a temporary manifestation of the Spirit available to all Spirit-filled believers and prophecy as a ministry gift given some who function as prophets in the Church (Ephesians 4:11). As a spiritual manifestation, prophecy is not simply delivery of a prepared word or message. Rather it brings a Spirit-inspired word or revelation directly from God to bring comfort, strength, encouragement, or even warning if not judgment. Prophecy must be tested to determine if it conforms to the Word of God, promotes godly living, and is uttered by someone living under the lordship of Jesus Christ. All too frequently people have a “word from the Lord” which is from the carnal nature if not directly inspired by the father of lies Satan.
Discerning of spirits is an extremely important Spirit-given ability to discern evil and to distinguish whether an utterance is from the Spirit of God or from a false prophet. This gift is increasingly critical in latter days when the activity of deceiving spirits and false teachers increases. Paul warns of this: “The Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). There is evidence of such today with prosperity teaching and doctrines of dispensationalists who claim that Holy Spirit no longer operates today as in times past. The discerning of spirits also serves to identify at times demonic influence as a cause of physical or emotional disease requiring exorcism.
The somewhat controversial gift is “tongues” or speaking by impulse of the Spirit in other tongues or language not known to the speaker. A language may be recognized by others (Acts 2:4-6) or a language unknown to man, often referred to as “tongues of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Such speech is not learned and takes place apart from a conscious mind. It involves the human spirit and Spirit of God intermingling so the believer communicates with the Father. In some cases, tongues is a sign confirming having received baptism in the Holy Spirit and may or may not continue thereafter as a ‘prayer language.’ Tongues are never to be used except with interpretation in a congregation of believers (2 Corinthians 14:28), a command not always obeyed in Pentecostal churches. Absence of interpretation indicates speaking in tongues was out of order when it takes place in a congregation.
Interpretation of tongues is a Spirit-given ability to communicate the meaning of what is said in tongues so that believers can participate in what the Holy Spirit has inspired. The interpretation may contain instruction, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, or revelation on some matter. Interpretation can be given by one who speaks in tongues or someone else, and is to serve as a means of edification. When tongues with interpretation are genuinely from God, they will be of comparable length and similar cadence. Repeated phrases in tongues will be matched by repeated phrases in interpretation. It is my personal experience over the years that the latter is often absent, leading one to question validity of either the tongues or the interpretation.
Operation of these spiritual gifts, prominent in the book of Acts, has continued over the centuries. Paul tells us these manifestations of the Spirit are given to profit the church (1 Corinthians 12:7). To claim that what God intends as blessings for the body of Christ no longer operate in present times is not only error, but a “doctrine of devils.” Such heresy is prominent in some of the largest denominations, an error for which there is no biblical basis other than demonic influence in refusing to accept what takes place by the Spirit in many places worldwide.. Holy Spirit is grieved by failure to believe what He inspires as described in Scripture. Satan keeps many bound in mental torment, various addictions, and physical illness by promoting what is taught by either so-called dispensationalists or cessationists.