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The Gifts of the Spirit

“Each has his own proper gift of God … But the apostles were perfected in all”
– Clement

The gifts of the Spirit, also known as the charismata, are extremely imperative to the building of the church, especially during the end times when the church is destined to inherit an incorruptible body. There are various gifts of the Spirit, to which the loftier ones have been for the most part vacant in the modern church and are often neglected (due to that they are not the glamorous, attention grabbing gifts), or are misunderstood. There are some denominations that do not believe in the gifts of the Spirit, however this reveals that they are not true believers since Jesus said that these signs will follow those who believe (Mark 16:17) casting out demons, laying hands on the sick, etc. There is another school of thought that as soon as you come to confess Jesus Christ and believe, you need to be “activated” in the gifts immediately and sent out, even though you just got saved. Both of these ideas fall short of what the Word declares and what was accomplished by the earliest Christians.

The Early Church walked in such power and authority, and in such a high level of spiritual activity, that many revivalists were endeavoring to walk in that same power the early Christians did. For instance, Smith Wigglesworth understood the criteria to receive the Holy Spirit along with operating in the gifts as the Early Church did, stating:

I cannot conceive of anything else but what the Early Church all received the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. And I believe today that we should press home to every soul the necessity of meeting the conditions and being filled with the Holy Ghost.” [1]

What I find most interesting is that most charismatic churches, who read Smith Wigglesworth’s books and are trying to emulate what he did, do not go back to the source that Smith did. In fact, they are more likely to go a completely different path to receive and operate in the gifts than the way the revivalists did, or the Early Church for that matter. Smith stated that the church in his time was not walking in the same power as the Early Church and that the church was still awaiting to move in that type of power again. Just take a minute to ponder this next statement:

“When I think about the first Church, how God favored her, how He burst thru her, how He definitely spoke, how He transformed Christians and made them move with the power of apostles, that wherever they went they transformed lives-God did such wonderful things, and when I think of it, I think, that we should have something far in advance, and say: ‘Look up; your redemption draweth nigh!’ I want to take a perspective of what they were, and we must be. I am inwardly convinced of the power that awaits us, the installation of God’s movement right in our hearts” [2]

Smith Wigglesworth was waiting for the day that the church would walk in the same power it once did and understood that it was the destiny of the church to do so. Today’s move with “Azusa Now” and “Together” are trying to go back to what Smith Wigglesworth and the like were doing, but those revivalists truly had the revelation of what the church had to go back to. The gifts of the spirit are in no way at their full capacity in most of the church today and the former revivalists understood that it would come at the end. A lot of what is being said about the new move is that it will be about miracles, signs and wonders, and healing. In reality, that is not new. According to the Early Church, those gifts are not even lowest levels of giftings and are actually common. Common in the way that pagans, witches and satanists are able to operate at a level of signs and wonders as well such as Pharaoh’s magicians (Exodus 7:11). There is something that cannot be matched or equaled, when it comes to the wisdom of God.

The Early Christians were still walking in power and in the Spirit after the Apostles. They understood the gifts from the teachings passed down and taught the meaning of them. For instance, if you were to go to most churches and ask what the peak of spiritual giftings is, you will most likely hear people say, “signs and wonders” or “healing” or even “prophecy.” However, those were the lowest level of giftings. Origen revealed through the Apostle Paul’s writings the significance of the gifts according to rank.

And Paul also, in the catalogue of “charismata” bestowed by God, placed first “the word of wisdom,” and second, as being inferior to it, “the word of knowledge,” but third, and lower down, “faith.” (cf. 1Co_12:8) And because he regarded “the word” as higher than miraculous powers, he for that reason places “workings of miracles” and “gifts of healings” in a lower place than the gifts of the word. And in the Acts of the Apostles Stephen bears witness to the great learning of Moses, which he had obtained wholly from ancient writings not accessible to the multitude. For he says: “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Act_7:22) And therefore, with respect to his miracles, it was suspected that he wrought them perhaps, not in virtue of his professing to come from God, but by means of his Egyptian knowledge, in which he was well versed. For the king, entertaining such a suspicion, summoned the Egyptian magicians, and wise men, and enchanters, who were found to be of no avail as against the wisdom of Moses, which proved superior to all the wisdom of the Egyptians. [3]

Provided that the highest realm of giftings pertain to the Word. The word of God states “he who is wise captures human lives [for God, as a fisher of men–he gathers and receives them for eternity].” (Proverbs 11:30). The wise Solomon did not say that signs and wonders or healing wins souls, but rather, wisdom. This type of wisdom is not a human wisdom convincing people through elegant and inspirational preaching (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Most of today’s churches are filled with inspirational speakers rather than true wise men. If people are “winning souls” by means of human wisdom, then who is really getting saved? Solomon describes the attributes of a wise man as able to understand enigmas and parables. The Spiritual gifts that pertain to the Word of God are a grander state of spirituality, shown to us in the way that the magicians of Egypt were not able to replicate wisdom of God, but only the signs and wonders. Understanding and interpreting the mysteries is the only way to understand the teachings of the Gospel, for it is written, “Without a parable He did not speak” (Mark 4:34) and “Because it has been given to you know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11).

There are some schools of thought in the church that focus on “activating” people into the gifts and part of this “activation” consists of training courses. Some exercises in these courses consist of a person sitting in a chair facing a wall, with another person in a chair behind the first person, and the first person facing the wall will have to “discern” who is sitting behind them. This is not a joke, this really happens. This makes the church look more like Hogwarts than Temple ministry. Let me give you some advice, if you are offered to take “prophetic training” courses, just put the pamphlet down and run… just run. The gifts are often misappropriated and misinterpreted. For instance, the “word of knowledge” is usually misinterpreted as telling someone about their life. For example, “Oh sister I see that you were in an accident, and your lower back is injured, and I see that your name is Cindy.” However, that is not described as a word of knowledge in the Scriptures and my opinion is that a person assumed or guessed that’s how the “word of knowledge” functions. As we read above, it is the gift of the words of wisdom and words of knowledge that pertain to the Word of God and not about our personal life.

The Early Christians did not just start “activating” people and then turn them around to start evangelizing. There has to be a process of sanctification that we all have to go through, to be able to be partakers of the gifts. The Apostles and Prophets all went through this process, no one is exempt.

3. Those great and truly divine men, I mean the apostles of Christ, were purified in their life, and were adorned with every virtue of the soul, but were uncultivated in speech. They were confident indeed in their trust in the divine and wonder-working power which was granted unto them by the Savior, but they did not know how, nor did they attempt to proclaim the doctrines of their teacher in studied and artistic language, but employing only the demonstration of the divine Spirit, which worked with them, and the wonder-working power of Christ, which was displayed through them, they published the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven throughout the whole world, paying little attention to the composition of written works.

4. And this they did because they were assisted in their ministry by one greater than man Paul, for instance, who surpassed them all in vigor of expression and in richness of thought, committed to writing no more than the briefest epistles, although he had innumerable mysterious matters to communicate, for he had attained even unto the sights of the third heaven, had been carried to the very paradise of God, and had been deemed worthy to hear unspeakable utterances there. [4]

As Eusebuis stated, the apostles were purified, and their souls having attained virtue was the sort of training one needs to be suited for ministry of the divine gifts. The apostles were not instructed how to preach, and they didn’t study psychology to learn how to speak to people with different personalities. It was not by the strength of their human effort or intellect, but by the power of the Spirit. If you observed revivalists who operated very strongly in the gifts, they have a common virtue amongst them; fasting and affliction. This gives a weightier significance to what the apostle Paul said “for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).” [2Co 12:9-10]. The reason why many don’t walk in the power of the divine gifts is because they do not want to pay the price, and not willing to trust in God in those moments of weakness.

Weakness is often where most fail, specifically the sense of being vulnerable i.e. our human instinct, in which we wrestle with begins to manifest. It’s the instinct to survive. That human instinct is what Christ instructed us to forsake “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) The writings of the apostle Paul reverberates this instruction, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) The way that Christ lives in us and is able to wrought His very power through a vessel, is when that vessel has died to the lust of the flesh and the desires of this world and has attained a virtuous soul that has been “sanctified by the truth” (John 17:19). By laying down our life through the many afflictions and hardships that God uses to teach us that it is only through His strength and power that we are able to operate in the supernatural. The supernatural teaches us to transcend our humanity into divinity. That is what God is teaching us through the afflictions and that is how one can operate in the gifts of the Spirit.

Clement taught that the apostles were perfected in all the gifts.

But each has his own proper gift of God” (1Co_7:7) – one in one way, another in another. But the apostles were perfected in all. You will find, then, if you choose, in their acts and writings, knowledge, life, preaching, righteousness, purity, prophecy. [5]

Those who have been called to the office of the Apostle are called to be perfected in all the gifts, not just flow in them, not just dabble here and there, but to be perfected in all these gifts. The apostles did not take the “prophetic training courses” of today; they walked in obedience to the truth and they were being sanctified by it. We need to strive for the high calling and not settle for the bottom. In John G Lake’s writings, he discussed that even after all the healings and miracles he had seen the Lord do, he understood that there were deeper revelations, and the healings and miracles was only the first step. Today, most believe that healings and miracles are the be all and end all. John G. Lake received that baptism of fire because he had the revelation of it and was striving for it. We must strive for that fire, to ascend past our human nature to the spiritually divine nature of who God is. The gifts are just a side effect of God’s divinity dwelling within us. To God be the glory, amen.

References:

  1. Smith Wigglesworth “Great Grace Upon the Church” Sermon October 31, 1922
  2. Smith Wigglesworth “Great Grace Upon the Church” Sermon October 31, 1922
  3. Origen-Against Celsus Bk 3 Vol 4
  4. Eusebuis-Early Church History Vol 3
  5. Clement-Stromata Bk. 4 Vol. 2

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