The Individual Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Gifts given for profit
Reading 1 Cor. 12. 1-28
GOD HAS CHOSEN to work through men and women (often quite obscure ones at that!) and He has done this in preference to carrying out His purposes independently. We who are God’s servants are therefore called with the high honour of entering into partnership with Him. The whole Trinity is vitally interested. The Father’s work is carried on as the Lord Jesus uses the gifts given to His servants and these gifts come from the Holy Spirit, i Cor. 12. 4-6.
The gifts of the Spirit are many sided. They are given for the profit of God’s people. He is a free and munificent giver: He expects us to use His gifts in the most practical possible manner. This is illustrated in the stories of the talents, Matt. 25. 14-30 and of the pounds, Luke 19. 12-26. In each case one servant made no use of his gift at all and he who received one pound buried it (instead of making it work) in a napkin or, as the word really is, a sweatcloth! Does this speak to us today? In the stories the use of the gifts meant more gifts, more blessings. So it is with us. In business a firm turns over its stocks to make profits and the greater the turnover, the greater should be the profit. We should turn over our gifts to the same end of profit, bringing glory to God and blessing to men, Rom. 12. 11.
The first of the individual gifts stated in 1 Cor. 12 is wisdom. It is significant that this gift is stated first because in this same chapter some gifts (not specified) are declared to be greater than others, v. 31. What does Scripture tell us about wisdom? Proverbs 3. 19 states that by wisdom God founded the earth; Psalm 104. 24 that by wisdom He does all His works. Turning to the New Testament, we read of the Lord Himself that He grew not only physically, as is natural, but in wisdom, and this is put first, Luke 2. 52. The Lord is described as the wisdom of God, 1 Cor. I . 24 and ‘in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom’, Col. 2. 3. The Scriptures are called the wisdom of God, 1 Cor. 2. 7 and 13. The most outstanding characters in the Scriptures are specially stated to have been men of wisdom. Joseph, Gen. 41. 39, Moses and Joshua, Deut. 34. 9, David, 1 Sam. 18. 14, Solomon, 1 Kings 4. 29-34, Daniel, Dan. 2. 23 and Paul, 1 Cor. 3. 10. That wisdom is difficult to define and is hidden from natural man is clear and is emphasized in the book of Proverbs, as well as its transcendent value to those who have it in any measure. Proverbs 4. 7 tells us it is the principal thing, to be obtained at all cost. Young people should seek it early, Prov. 8. 17. Good manners are not acquired overnight and neither is wisdom. The development of all worthwhile gifts takes time – a lifetime. Seeking for it, it is found by faith and a real desire, in the measure of God’s will for each one of us, Jas. 1. 5-7; Matt. 7. 7-11. The service of God is the highest calling a man can have. It should be worked out with the maximum of wisdom. This is necessary for ministry in the spiritual things, 1 Cor. 3 10, and the material things of the assembly, Acts 6. 3.
Knowledge is the next gift mentioned. Learning comes very much easier to some than to others. It is not merely a matter of opportunity to learn being given to some and not to others. Aptitude to learn is a real gift. Scripture truth is by no means easy to understand, once one has passed the first and easy truths of salvation by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. By familiar usage it may seem easy to some, but as soon as a great doctrinal matter is discussed seriously, the knowledge which is merely superficial is shown up. Rightly to divide God’s Word requires real knowledge, and the multiplicity of sects and schisms shows how far from a real knowledge of the truths regarding the Church and essential doctrines are a vast number of people, including many sincere believers. A balanced grip of truth concerning the Gospel, the Christian Church, God’s purposes for Israel, prophecy, the types, the Trinity, the work of Christ, Christian morality, etc., is required and those with the necessary knowledge have the responsibility under God to impart it. It should be passed on as simply and helpfully as possible, care being taken not to be proud of what is known, or puffed up, 1 Cor. 8. 1 and 2, and to avoid unnecessary controversy and pseudo-scientific so-called difficulties, 1 Tim. 6. 20. A great deal of the ministry enjoyed in assemblies comes to us from brethren who have had to spend much time in patient study, preparing for the service of tomorrow or possibly ten years hence. It is right that others should recognize this and seek to encourage God’s servant in every way possible, by attention, meeting all expenses and something adequate in addition if there is any dependence. This latter is especially important in these days of rising costs of living and any lack of attention to it a grave dishonour to God’s servant and the gift given for the edification of the Church. We cannot judge people with a whole-time ministry if we are not prepared to finance adequately the ministry we have. There is a great need for those with the gift of knowledge in assemblies today.
Faith is a special gift of God. The faith referred to in this chapter is not that exercised in becoming a Christian, but the faith given specially to some believers as their gift to be exercised in special ways. The name of George Muller springs instantly to mind. Few could have done the work he was called to do. God raised him up with a remarkable gift which was faithfully used and resulted in untold blessing. So careful was Mr. Muller that God alone should be glorified that he regularly took extreme precautions to see that nothing but simple faith in God was exercised to carry on the tremendous work which developed. Undoubtedly faith was the mainspring in the lives of men like the Wesleys, William Booth, A. N. Groves, Dr. Chalmers, Livingstone and a great host of God’s saints chiefly unknown. Faith, in the adverse scene in which their lot was cast, was a first essential and God gave them it in the measure needed and they on their part obtained a good report like many before, Heb. n. 39. May we, whose lot is cast in different circumstances, have the gift of faith according to God’s sovereign will and glorify Him in using it aright. It is, perhaps, a more universal and basic gift than the others mentioned so far. It has enabled many to rise above illness or trying circumstances in a victorious manner.
The other gifts are sign gifts to the early Church showing God’s power with the believer. Unbelievers were healed, Acts 3 and 19, Timothy was not, 1 Tim. 5. 23. The prayer of faith can still be effective, but the large-scale apostolic blessing has ceased, both in healing and other miracles. Nobody can now raise a person from the dead as Peter raised Dorcas, Acts 9.
Prophecy was very important and took precedence over leaching, 1 Cor. 14. 30, but now Scripture is completed the gift has ceased, 1 Cor. 13. 8. Peter and Paul used the gift of discernment in order to make clear the Gospel truths, Acts 8 and 16 and in the latter case a miraculous cure was effected showing the link between discernment and miracles.
Tongues were given for edification and if in public required interpretation. The Gospel, through tongues, was preached to all nations on the first day, Acts 2. 5 and 6. Now-a-days, foreign languages have to be painstakingly acquired, although, no doubt, divine help is granted. Carey learnt Sanskrit and other languages as he cobbled shoes in Northamptonshire to serve God magnificently in far off India.
To be followed by ‘GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN GOVERNMENT'