In these last months of 2015 we bring to a close our yearlong focus on Pentecost. This doesn’t mean that after December we stop being Pentecostal! Rather, it means we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as His Spirit moves over this earth.
We began this year focusing on “Who is the Holy Spirit?” And, “What is He doing in the earth?” As we approached Pentecost Sunday on May 24, we prayed for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit among us.
I rejoiced to read accounts from around the world of people baptized in the Holy Spirit! Over the summer we looked at the fruit of the Spirit and how the Holy Spirit is shaping our personal and corporate character.
From October through December, we are focusing on the gifts of the Spirit. A Pentecostal church is a charismatic church. That means that we welcome the gifts of grace that God pours out upon His children.
In this issue of Encourage, you will read Dr. Harold Dalton’s review of the late Bishop B.E. Underwood’s IPHC classic, Spiritual Gifts: Ministries and Manifestations. Originally published in 1984, this book provides the usual categories IPHC uses in helping us understand the Apostle Paul’s writings about spiritual gifts. For a moment, let’s review the Apostle Paul’s teachings about spiritual gifts.
1. Equipping gifts: While all the gifts have a ministry function, some of them are more directly involved in the ongoing ministry life of the Body of Christ. This is first seen in the equipping gifts. These are sometimes called “ascension gifts” or “the gifts of Christ” and are found in Ephesians 4:11–16. The gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are foundational for the body of Christ. These are persons that Christ has gifted to lead and equip the body of Christ.
2. Ministry gifts: These gifts are named in Romans 12:3–8. They are sometimes called “gifts of the Father” or “motivational gifts.” That means that these gifts reflect the unique talents and abilities each of us has as part of our nature. These are “native abilities,” the things we do well and like to do. They are the things that “motivate” us in life. These gifts are meant to be sanctified for God’s glory and used in the growth of Christ’s body on earth.
3. Supernatural manifestations: There are miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit that are given to enable the body to respond to particular needs. Bishop Underwood called them “surprises” of the Spirit. Every follower of Jesus should have an open heart for whenever and however the Holy Spirit wants to manifest Himself through us. These gifts are reflected in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 and sometimes called the “nine gifts of the Spirit.”
My prayer for the IPHC is that in these months we will again discover, develop and deploy these ministry and manifestation gifts in our service to the Lord, to His church, and to the world. But as we focus on these various gifts, it’s important to remember some Scriptural guidance.
First, we are not superior Christians because of spiritual gifts. Whatever our gifts, it’s not about us! It’s about Jesus building His Church (Ephesians 4:12–16)!
Second, spiritual gifts are given to build up the body of Christ. We need one another and the gifts at work in each of us. A Spirit-filled congregation is a community of people who recognize God at work in one another. We see in our brothers and sisters someone whom Christ has gifted. We need them, and they need us (see 1 Cor. 12–27).
Third, when we minister in the anointing of spiritual gifts, we minister in the power of the Holy Spirit. Even with our natural abilities, it is the Holy Spirit who makes them fruitful for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 12:4–7).
Fourth, our gifts do not define us. We are born again, sanctified, followers of Jesus. Our identity is in that we are sons and daughters of the Living God. Spiritual gifts are not meant to elevate someone above others; spiritual gifts serve to elevate the name and power of Jesus above all (Romans 12:3–6).
Fifth, love, or agape in the Greek, is “the more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31 through 14:1). I like to think of 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 as two slices of bread. Both slices are good—really good, in fact—and are seen first. But the best part is the meat (or, for some of you, the peanut butter and jelly) in the center! That’s what 1 Corinthians 13 is: it’s the meat, the heart, the real substance and purpose of spiritual gifts. It’s about love!
We see this clearly expressed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:31. He tells us: “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (NKJV). Then he introduces to the chapter we know as 1 Corinthians 13. This love is not like the love of this world. Agape love is love defined by the cross of Christ (John 3:16–17). It is the love disciples have among themselves that reveals the truth of Jesus to the world (John 13:35). It is the love that controls how I relate to my brothers or sisters in Christ (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:8). Yes, Pentecostalism is about the fullness of the gifts active in the church today. But it starts with love.