1 Corinthians 14:1
Pursue love, earnestly desire spiritual gifts
Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to the followers of Christ for the building up the body of Christ and extend the Kingdom of God throughout the world.
Spiritual gifts are not innate, natural talents, like an ear for music or the ability to draw, but rather they are empowerments that the Holy Spirit gives to a believer to minister to the body in ways that were not possible by mere natural effort apart from the Holy Spirit. In the ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts, we see that they performed miracles, healed people, preached, and spoke in tongues, which they had not been able to do apart from Christ.
Spiritual gifts are empowerments for building up the church and extending the Kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul instructs this congregation on the function of spiritual gifts. He repeats several times that they are to strengthen or build up the church.
But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3).
…try to excel in gifts that build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).
…All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Of course, it must also be noted that Paul suggests that spiritual gifts can have a witnessing function to non-believers.
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:24–25).
Who can have spiritual gifts?
Every believer can expect the Holy Spirit to minister through him or her with spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is the owner and dispenser of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7,11). As believers, we are then stewards of the gifts of God (1 Peter 4:10). Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… (1 Corinthians 12:7; emphasis added). This protects us from a static view of spiritual gifts and leads into a more dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit where we can expect Him to move through us in multiple ways for His glory as He sees fit.
Spiritual gifts can be experienced immediately following conversion, but are often received at various moments subsequent to conversion. Paul encourages Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14). It is not clear exactly when this happened in Timothy’s spiritual journey, but it was probably when he was commissioned by the church to begin his ministry. This also suggests that gifts can come by impartation from spiritual leadership by the laying on of hands. It is also clear from Scripture that spiritual gifts can be received when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit apart from the laying on of hands (Acts 2:4; 10:44–48; 19:6).
How do spiritual gifts work?
As we read the book of Acts, we see that spiritual gifts were very much a part of the ministry of the New Testament church. We also see them in operation in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus did His miraculous deeds in His Spirit empowered humanity (Acts 10:38). He asked his disciples to do the things that he had been doing (Luke 9:1). Since his ministry was a demonstration of spiritual gifts through a fully surrendered man, then he could with confidence say to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).
Though the focus of Acts is on the ministry of the Apostles, we also see that lay people exercised spiritual gifts (Acts 6:8; 8:6–7; 9:17–19; 10:44–46; 19:6–7). Thus, every believer can expect God to work through him or her with spiritual gifts. Various passages in the New Testament mention a variety of gifts, principally 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 29–30; Romans 12:4–8; Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Peter 4:10–11. It is not easy to define or describe each of these gifts. Some seem to be quite evident in their nature. The Scriptures do not indicate that the list of spiritual gifts is exhaustive. The number of spiritual gifts is not important, but rather the understanding of what they are and how they are to be used.
Spiritual gifts should work together, complementing each other. There is a need for them to be active in the church. Paul exhorts the Corinthian congregation to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). This does not mean, however, that gifts should be used to exalt the individual or to feed an immature desire for attention. He repeats in v. 12 that they should try to excel in gifts that build up the church. Spiritual gifts must be used in love (1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12:9; Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 4:8). If they are not used in love they will be abused and cause problems in the body rather than blessings (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). Love, when used with spiritual gifts is like oil in a machine. It makes all the parts work well together. We must also remember that our “comfort zone” is not the same as spiritual discernment, and at times even a gift manifested in love may make those ignorant of it uncomfortable. Therefore, patient teaching on the gifts and their manifestations is a necessity (1 Corinthians 12:12–27; Romans 12:4, 5; Ephesians 4:12,15,16).
Is one spiritual gift more important than another?
All the gifts are needed in the body of Christ. All the gifts are equally valid. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–26, the Apostle Paul instructs the church that no one should despise his/her own gift by comparing it to the gifts of others. And he also says that no one should despise someone else’s gift as being less than his/her gift. Some gifts are more apparent than others, but each gift is important.
Paul indicates that the gift of prophecy is an important gift, one to be desired (1 Corinthians 14:1). First Corinthians 14:1–25 compares the gift of prophecy and the gift of speaking in tongues in the context of public worship. The clear indication is that the gift of prophecy is more profitable for building up the body of Christ than the gift of speaking in tongues is, unless the tongues are interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:5, 27–28). The context of the ministry is what determines the value of a particular gift. Speaking in tongues is a valid gift for today. However, in the public ministry setting, the gift of tongues must have someone to interpret for it to be profitable for strengthening the body. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God (1 Corinthians 14:27–28, emphasis added). This would indicate that if there is no interpreter present, tongues should not be used as when one would speak to the congregation. However, if it’s not used for speaking to the congregation then no interpretation is necessary. Speaking in tongues is allowed in public for personal prayer to God for which no interpretation is necessary. This, of course, is also of value to the individual believer’s edification and ultimately for the edification of the church and must not be considered a lesser gift.
What is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?
It's important to note that being filled with the Holy Spirit is not meant to be just a one time event, but rather a continual process from day to day in which we are becoming more and more like Christ as we abide and spend time in His presence.
There are some who believe that the gift of tongues is the “initial, physical evidence” of being filled with the Spirit. Again, we affirm tongues as a valid gift for today. But we do not believe that the Scripture supports tongues as the only or initial evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:30 “Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues?” This clearly indicates that not everyone will speak with tongues; therefore, speaking in tongues cannot be the “initial, physical evidence” of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul, as he writes to the believers in the Ephesian church, commands them to…be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). “Filled with the Spirit” is a frequent expression in the book of Acts describing the source of the mighty power of God working in believers in Christ. This expression implies being carefully in tune with the Holy Spirit. We believe this is still valid for today, and every believer should seek to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit. So, what is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?
Though there is a record of people receiving spiritual gifts when they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44–48; 19:6), there are other instances of people being filled with the Holy Spirit where there is no mention of spiritual gifts but evidence of spiritual gifts (Acts 4:8, 31; 8:15–17; 9:17–18; 13:9, 52). Some may speak in tongues when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, others may speak in bold faith or words of knowledge. While rejecting the “initial evidence doctrine” we can see that there will always be evidence that a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit. No one ever received the Holy Spirit’s power without experiencing it. A belief of power without the experience of power is worthless. One phrase that could describe our posture in this encounter with God is “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” It would seem to be a dangerous thing to try and convince someone they have been filled with the Spirit if there is no manifest evidence in their lives. Our desire should be that God will use His people in a powerful way and to experience a life on fire for God. However, it would be equally dangerous to demand a specific gift or manifestation in that moment.
Finally, 1 Corinthians 12 lists a variety of gifts that occur when the Holy Spirit is ministering. We have no reason to believe this is an all-inclusive list of gifts, for it says in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” And also in 1 Corinthians 12:28 it says “gifts of healings, helps, administrations”. So we can see that there are more than just 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Rather than demanding a single gift as the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit, we ought to gratefully embrace all the gifts that the Lord desires to bring into our lives.
Have some spiritual gifts ceased to exist?
No. Because spiritual gifts were given to build up the church, the body of Christ, as long as the church is under construction, spiritual gifts are needed. A day will come when spiritual gifts will no longer be needed (1 Corinthians 13:8). However, this day has not yet come. It will come when perfection comes (1 Corinthians 13:10). Some interpret this “perfection” to be the completion of the canon of Scripture (the Apostolic Age). However, this is not a good rendering of the Greek text. This refers to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the church, the bride of Christ is complete and perfect, that is when spiritual gifts will no longer be necessary.
How can I discover my spiritual gift(s)?
It is possible for a person to neglect a spiritual gift. Absolutely! Paul warns Timothy not to neglect his gift (1 Timothy 4:14), and he also encourages him to stir up the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hand” (2 Timothy 1:6). Therefore, it is a biblical necessity that believers discover and move in the arena of spiritual gifts. It has been said that Christians are not primarily natural beings having temporary spiritual experiences. Rather, we are spiritual beings having a temporary natural experience. We live in a spiritual, Kingdom reality.
If the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts, then their discovery must by nature be a spiritual experience. When we walk in obedience, we trust that the Holy Spirit will respond with the revelation of His gifts in our lives. As well, Paul said that Timothy received the gift that is in him through the laying on of hands. We see here that, at the very least, the laying on of hands for imparting gifts as the Holy Spirit wills is one way we can receive gifts. Impartation of spiritual gifts is a very important part in the ministry of the church. However, we are not dependent on someone laying hands on us in order to have a gift from the Holy Spirit.
There are “tests” available out there that might indicate your spiritual gifting. However, some of them measure more what a person’s natural talents and preferences are, rather than truly identifying one’s spiritual gifts. These inventories also focus on past experience and are not always a good indicator of what the Holy Spirit might lead us into in our future ministry. It is always best to simply go to God and abide in him. Then, in turn, He will abide, fill you with the Spirit, lead and guide you into all truth.
A person does not need to announce or advertise his/her spiritual gift. The local congregation will recognize spiritual gifts as the gifted person’s ministry contributes to the building up of the local church body. Of course, this requires the individual believer to step out in faith and obedience to God’s Word. The gifts of the Holy Spirit operate through obedient and faith-filled disciples.
We, at Kingdom Harvest Fellowship International, believe that spiritual gifts are supernatural empowerments given by the Holy Spirit to believers in Christ to build up the church and extend the Kingdom of God for reaching the harvest. Our standard as we approach God for the release of His empowerment in our lives and the lives of the people to whom we minister should be to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” Jesus is our focus and completing His mission is our mandate. The gifts of the Spirit are to serve His purposes in the church and in our world. With the guidelines we have been given in God’s Word, believers everywhere should embrace the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and move out to fulfill our Lord’s call.