“God is honoured and people are blessed when we cherish the spiritual gifts and function in them.”
Most Pentecostal and charismatic believers have witnessed incidences of abuse and misuse of spiritual gifts. These include everything from strange physical displays to condemning, threatening or manipulative “words from the Lord.” Such abuses can cause believers to fear valid supernatural demonstrations and, in some cases, to develop disdain for them.Improper and unwise demonstrations of spiritual gifts have contributed, in a large degree, to a downward trend in their use.
“The baptism with the Holy Spirit,” wrote R. A. Torrey, “is the Spirit of God coming upon the believer, filling our minds with a real apprehension of truths, especially of Christ, taking possession of our faculties, imparting gifts to us not otherwise ours but which qualify us for the service to which God has called us.” 1
The gifts of the Spirit Torrey refers to include the ones Paul lists—wisdom, knowledge, faith, miracles, healings, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Believers are meant to function in these divine gifts. They are imparted to us by the Spirit to equip us for service.
Jesus functioned in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:1,14), so we can look to Him as our example for the proper use of the Spirit’s gifts and power. The Spirit, Paul tells us, imparts His gifts to each of us for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). In other words, when humble servants of Christ allow the Spirit to operate through them, good things happen.
The golden rule governing spiritual gifts is simple: “Let everything be constructive and edifying and for the good of all” (1 Corinthians 14:26b).2 Any exercise of a spiritual gift should honour Jesus first (John 16:14) and, secondly, benefit fellow believers.
No one should despise their gift(s) or be envious of another’s abilities. The Spirit chooses which gift each believer receives and for what occasion (1 Corinthians 12:11). All spiritual gifts should be received with humility and used with care. There’s no place for arrogance and self-promotion when it comes to God’s holy and precious gifts. Some have tried to govern the church from the pew by feigning one of the vocal gifts such as prophecy, a word of wisdom, or a word of knowledge. This is a classic misuse of a spiritual gift.
The gifts of the Spirit need to be accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23. A man who believed himself gifted to give messages in tongues often interrupted church services with long discourses. No interpretation followed. He exasperated both pastors and congregation. When told that his behaviour was not only out of order, but that his so-called messages didn’t edify anyone because no one understood them, he was indignant. The Spirit took control of him, he said, and forced him to stand and speak. Besides not understanding that a message in tongues must be interpreted to be of any benefit to the church (1 Corinthians 14:5b), his explanation that the Spirit forced him to stand and speak contradicted Scripture. Paul tells the Corinthian church that: “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). This kind of disruptive behaviour lacks the fruit of the Spirit and stifles the use of genuine spiritual gifts.We must be careful, though, that in our attempt to avoid awkward disruptions in public services we do not sideline the Spirit and disregard His gifts.
Supernatural gifts aren’t reserved for meetings only. The Spirit worked through the early church wherever they found themselves actively spreading the gospel. That was often in one-on-one encounters like the one Philip had with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-39). The gifts can flow through us in the home, on the job, in our neighbourhoods, and in our churches.
A Christian awoke with the urgent thought that he should visit a certain man in hospital and lead him to Christ. Previously the man had scorned the gospel, which made the Christian somewhat reluctant. Unknown to him, a fear of hell had come over the dying man. When the Christian arrived at the sick man’s bed, the Lord gave him these words: “The time for playing games is up. You have to decide today if you’re going to heaven or hell.” Those words penetrated the man’s soul, and he said, “I don’t want to go to hell.” That day he received Christ.
Ordinary people functioning in the supernatural—this is God’s way. God is honoured and people are blessed when we cherish the spiritual gifts and function in them. In the chaos of these times, believers need to employ the Spirit’s power. It’s impossible to do God’s work without it.
Rose McCormick Brandon is an award-winning author of personal experience stories and biblical essays. She’s the author of Promises of Home: Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference. Rose and her husband, Doug, live in Caledonia, Ont.
1. R. A. Torrey, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1910; Project Gutenberg, 2009), 160, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30241/30241-h/30241-h.html.
2. Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC),Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation.