Love and the Gifts of the Spirit

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Using the context of this passage in order to interpret these statements, we can understand why these descriptions of love were given. As we go along, please open your Bible and read each scripture reference given. Let your beliefs be established on what God says and not just the opinions of others. By reading the first verse of 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we see that Paul is talking to born again believers about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, (spiritual gifts). It must be noticed that this is not referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all believers initially in Acts chapter 2 and continued to be poured out on the first century church. The gift of the Holy Spirit (the promise of the Father) is for all who believe (Acts 1:4-5, 2:37-39), but the gifts of the Holy Spirit are divided among believers according to the Spirit’s discretion (1 Cor. 12:11). Meaning, every spiritual gift is not given to every believer. The Corinthian believers were confused, as well as many are today, as to the difference and purpose of the gift verses the gifts. There is “diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4). 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 are dealing with the difference and purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit and being used in spiritual gifts. Paul is explaining that the gift of the Holy Spirit (the promise of the Father) is given in order for the individual to edify themselves. The purpose of spiritual gifts are so that others can be edified. Spiritual gifts are to edify not only believers, but can also be a sign to unbelievers that God is working among us (1 Cor. 14:12,22). He will also explain that the love of God lives inside of believers, and that God is not the author of confusion. He desires there to be order when believers assemble together (1 Cor. 14:33,40).

The reason the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to explain what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, was to show God’s decent and orderly way spiritual gifts should be excercised. Paul tells them “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1Cor. 14:32). This means that a gift of the Spirit being manifested through the believer, does not have to be shouted out upon the initial prompting of the Spirit. Instead, each one should operate under the guidelines of love as they are used by the Holy Spirit in one or more of His gifts (1 Cor. 13:4-8). If they do act in love, the spiritual gifts would benefit all that were present in their assemblings. Each believer should yield themselves to minister their gift, not in haste, but patiently. Not envious that God uses others in other gifts or the same gift they have. Not motivated by pride, or wanting the Lord to work through them as a means to make others view them as “spiritual” . Not rude, interrupting someone else as they are trying to minister, in order that you can minister your gift. Not self-seeking, wanting to gain a following around “your ministry” and gift(s). And not easily angered when it seems that you may not be given a chance to minister as you had hoped, (or were interrupted by someone). And not holding a grudge and unforgiveness inside, even though you were legitimately wronged. But forgiving one another, because you have been forgiven despite your unworthiness. Let all things be done in order to the praise and glory of God.

Some believe that the gifts of the Spirit ceased after the apostles died, or after the canonization of Scripture. One of the proof texts for such thinking is 1 Cor. 13:8, “Love never fails: but whether be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away”. 1 Cor. 13:8 refers back to 1 Cor. 12:8, which states these are gifts of the Spirit. I believe the Bible does teach that these gifts WILL cease to operate within His body, the church. The question is, WHEN WILL THEY CEASE TO OPERATE?

A word of knowledge is one of the gifts of the Spirit. I have received a word of knowledge before from God regarding a specific situation in another believer’s life. This word of knowledge I received was based upon scripture and was confirmed to that individual by other believers giving that individual the same word of knowledge. And this word of knowledge wasn’t new information to the individual I gave it to. The Spirit of God had already told this individual this truth, but they were struggling to obey. The Lord simply placed this same message in my spirit to remind this individual of what they already knew God wanted. This is an example of a word of knowledge being in operation today. Although I know this was from the Lord, my experience and testimony is not what you should base your belief upon regarding whether or not the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. A Christian should never base their belief system off of experience, but instead what the Bible teaches. So if you are wondering if the gifts have ceased or not, you should first ask your heavenly Father for wisdom concerning this subject (James 1:5-6). Then, study the scriptures and allow the scriptures to read to you instead of you reading into the scriptures what you think they mean. Do not study the Bible like you would any other text book. Study it relying on the Spirit of truth to lead you into truth. This revelation of The Truth goes beyond intellectual knowledge that can be assertained by intellectual capabilities. “But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). For us to know and understand “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power”, we must be given this wisdom and revelation by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:17-21). And if you believe God can give you wisdom according to Ephesians chapter 1 and James chapter 1, why can’t you believe God could heal the sick and answer the prayer of faith that was instructed in James chapter 5?

Based on the literal interpretation of scripture, I believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operating today within the body of Christ. Why? Before we make that judgement, let us remember why God gave these spiritual gifts and who He gave them to. God designed the gifts of the Spirit to operate within the body of Christ, His people. Not just a few “ministers” that hold a position at a church building. These gifts function within the church, His people. The New Testament tells us that the church is not a building or religious organization. The church is who Jesus Christ shed His blood for (Eph. 5:24-25, Heb. 12:23, Col. 1:18,24). Jesus Christ did not die for a building. Jesus did not die for a religious organization. Jesus died for people! And the gifts of the Spirit are to be exercised by the people and for the people’s edification. The edification of His people was the primary reason He gave these spiritual gifts. To edify means to encourage, to persuade, to inspire, to make an urgent appeal or to provoke. The gifts of the Spirit are one of God’s ways He performs these activities of encouraging, persuading, inspiring, making an urgent appeal to us and provoking us onward in our faith.

To allow the body of Christ to operate in the gifts of the Spirit would require many to change the way they “do church”. Many “church” services are conducted where a few “minister” while the “real church” (the people), sing, sit and then are dismissed. This routine is comfortable to most and allows us to know what we can expect. If we were honest, very few feel the need to truly “love one another” (John 15:12). To do so would require our time, consecration and ultimately us giving up our life to help “save” others. And then, to go beyond just natural acts of kindness towards one another, into the realm of allowing God to use us in a supernatural way in one or more of the spiritual gifts, seems extreme. But this is not to be extreme. This should be common practice among God’s people! To only attend services requires little effort or commitment. Submitting your whole life and will to God and being willing to be used as He wills in ministering to others, as the Bible prescribes, requires a loss of self. In fact, it would require us to lose OUR life.

Did Jesus teach that believers had to be “sold-out” and completely commited to Him? Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save His life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26). Jesus was not teaching on how to earn your salvation, for none of us can (Rom. 3:28). He was teaching on discipleship, which is the activity of following Him after we have received this free gift of salvation. Jesus doesn’t leave anything to question concerning the cost of discipleship. It will require us denying ourselves of self-led living. Some have twisted this to mean denying yourself of pleasure. That is not what Jesus was saying. He was teaching that the only way to live the abundant life which would be provided for us through The Cross (John 10:10). This abundant life is made possible and brought about through the “office” and “person” of the Holy Spirit. But, the Holy Spirit will give this abundant life to believers as they “walk after the Spirit” and “not after the flesh”. The flesh is that which makes every person a person, or “self”. The flesh is not the sin nature, it is a person’s mortal body. “Let not (the) sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof”. Your mortal body, or flesh, is “neutral” in regards to good and evil. It can be yielded for righteousness or unrighteousness (Rom. 6:13). To deny yourself of yourself, is to deny yourself of relying on the flesh to live a Christian life. “Self” consists of what make up our own personal strength and abilities. Willpower, determination, education, intellect, talents, abilities and religious efforts are all products from self. None of these things are evil, simply neutral. But they become “evil” when we make any one or more of these the means by which we live the Christian life in regards to overcoming the sin nature and powers of the Devil. Instead, we must look away from these things as the MEANS of the abundant life and look exclusively to the “author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured The Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Instead of us trying in our own strength to deny ourselves of sin and perform the will of God, Jesus was teaching us HOW to live a victorious life free from being dominated by the sin nature and the powers of darkness. This victorious life He already won for us at The Cross. The requirement for us to receive and experience what He already won for us is in exercising our Faith. To rely, trust and depend on His work  in order to bring about His works in our life. This is How you deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus. It’s by Faith. This is how you lose your life. When you do COMPLETELTY rely, trust and depend on His finished work, the Holy Spirit will begin to do His work inside of you like never before (Rom. 8:2)! Your job is to submit to God and allow Him to make you into who and what He wants you to be. This is just your reasonable duty, not extraordinary (Rom. 12:1). And when you allow the Spirit of God to transform you on the inside each day by faith, not works, it will show in your outward actions and demeanor. “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink,; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in These Things serves Christ is acceptable to God” (Rom. 14:18-19). Do you rest in His righteousness, or are you trying to attain right standing with God because of your “doings” and “efforts”? Do you live at peace with God, and in the peace of God, due to your faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, the only reason we can have this peace? Are you walking in joy in the Holy Spirit, or walking in fleshly satisfaction of performing religious activities? It is available to all who will Believe! Will you?

To acknowledge that we need to operate in the gifts of the Spirit, requires an admission on our part that we can’t edify ourselves. Operating according to God’s ways makes us take the humble position of acknowledging how weak we really are. The pride of mankind keeps ourselves “locked up” in our man-devised ways of how we can edify ourselves. We think, due to use having the words of God written in our Bibles, that we can discern and know the truth without the help of His Spirit. Isn’t that what our brains are for? “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things to spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto Him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:12-14). Dependence on God and His Spirit are essential in understanding spiritual things and the ways of God. They often don’t make sense in the natural. Obeying the scriptures and submitting to God’s way of “church” will take us beyond religious rituals and spiritual disciplines. It will take us into the place where the grace of God flows freely and the Holy Spirit is our life source.

Isn’t that what Jesus told his disciples to do (John 15:12-13)? To follow His example, and lay down their lives for others? Didn’t Paul tell the Corinthians they had been “bought with a price” and were “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:20,7:22-23)? After salvation you are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your resonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

Most of our problem isn’t knowing in our heads what the truth is, it is believing it in our “hearts”. Do we believe that the church should “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13)? You know if you believe it by if you are doing it or not. Some Christians limit their activity with other Christians to their time together at “the building”. Some get together with other Christians outside of “the building”, but are they exhorting one another? Are they too busy with the things and pleasures of this world to open the Bible and discuss the things and ways of God? After being with one another, has their love of God, love for each other and love for those that don’t know Jesus been stirred up? If you think that I am saying the Bible teaches for God’s people to be primarily concerned with the kingdom of God instead of the things of this world, you are starting to get my point! I want all born again believers to know that their life is to be consumed with knowing God on a one on one basis. And, as you surrender your life to the Lord, and quit trusting in your own strength to do His will, but instead rely on His Spirit , you can be used of God to enable others to know Him more and more.

Being used of God isn’t limited to a building. It is limited by you. God never forces anyone to get saved, though He desires that all men would. He never forces one of His children to live according to The Truth, though He desires that they all would. God wants to work inside of and through His people everyday of the week, no matter what location you are at. The gifts of the Spirit can operate wherever you are, because wherever your are is where the Holy Spirit is. He lives inside of you, you are His temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The Spirit wants to glorify God through you, to the extent that He can do this is up to you.

A gift of the Spirit will never expand beyond the truth provided within the canon of Scripture. So no one being used to prophesy is never going to contradict a truth found in the Bible. It will instead bring our attention to a truth(s) already within the canon of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit’s way of simply illuminating believers (His church) to a truth within the Bible, that they need to hear and believe at that specific time. All gifts of the Spirit are to help believers and unbelievers to believe God and walk by the “faith of the Son of God who loved” us “and gave Himself for” us (Gal. 2:20). Believing is trusting God to be who He says He is, and He will do what He says He will do. Who He said He was, and what He said He would do is found in the Bible. Therefore, this must be our only source of spiritual truth. How we have always done “things” (the traditions of other men), must never rise above the supremacy of the Bible being the authority we submit to. It’s instructions are to be our life source. “According as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and Godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). We are not to base our beliefs from the next “Christian” best seller. We are not to operate according to the wisdom of this world. We are not to operate our Christian assemblings according to what we are comfortable with. We are to order our lives and our gatherings, as close as possible to the instructions given to the New Testament church. God’s word contains “ALL things pertaining to life and Godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) What part of ALL do we not understand? The problem is not our capability to understand, but our receptivity to BELIEVE what the Bible says. We all have this problem! Unbelief leads us to trust in the strength and ways of man, instead of relying on the power of God. What would happen if we began to order our lifestyles not according to what we have always done, but instead according to the New Testament pattern? I believe we need to humble ourselves, get on our knees and ask God to forgive us for neglecting His word, His ways, and His Spirit. We need to know The Truth, believe The Truth, and obey The Truth. When we do, we can by God’s grace and help, discern the lies.

No matter who you are, God has great things to show you concerning who He is and what He wants to do through you! His plan and power, becoming a reality, are waiting on you to believe and then receive. Read His Word and believe what it says. The power of the gospel of God is not in the reading, but in the BELIEVING. Make the time to hear from God. Yes, God still speaks directly to His people. If we don’t hear from Him, who will? Don’t just take the time to hear about Him, hear from Him. For “the gospel of Christ” ( the Messiah) ” is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)! This salvation is needed and never ceases within a Christian’s life according to the one requirement that salvation is predicated upon, BELIEVING!

WHEN will the gifts of the Spirit cease to operate in the church, God’s people? The gift of having a word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kind of (languages)tongues and the gift of being able to interpret tongues are all given to the “body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27). We are to “follow after love, and desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:1). We should stop desiring spiritual gifts when we stop following after the love of God. We should stop desiring spiritual gifts when the church, God’s people, no longer need edified (1 Cor. 14:12). We should stop desiring spiritual gifts when we are all perfect. “But when the perfect is come , then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:10). The “perfect” is to be every Christian’s hope (1 Cor. 15:16-21,35-44). The “perfect” is the resurrected and glorified body. This spiritual body will be absent of having a sin nature like we do now (1 Cor 15:53). Our mortality will have been “swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4). We will no longer need the gifts of the Spirit described in 1 Corinthians, because what they were designed to do will have been accomplished! We will no longer need to be edified, encouraged and reminded of the truth because we will be living in the fulfillment of The Truth! And ultimately, after the thousand year reign of Christ is over (Rev. 20:4-6) Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Death, hell and all whose name “was not found written in the book of life” will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15) This is the beginning of the “perfect age”. Sin, Satan, death, all unbelievers and unbelief are done away with. God will make a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). “And there shall be no more curse” (Rev. 22:3). We “shall see His face” and serve and be with God forevermore (Rev. 22:3-4)! In the Perfect “Age” (dispensation) to come we will no longer know in part, but know Him fully and completely in our glorified state of existence!!!

THE CALL TO THE CHURCH (the Christians)

We need the moving and operation of the Holy Spirit within the church, His people. Without the Holy Spirit moving and operating through us, our gatherings together and everyday life can at best be mere forms of godliness, while at the same time be denying the power of God from manifesting (2 Tim. 3:5). If you realize you are merely religious, but not living the Spirit filled life you are called to live, there is good news. The Holy Spirit desires to use you regularly to exhort, encourage and build up others in their Faith.

But He first wants you to rely upon Him exclusively in order to live a holy life. You cannot separate yourself from the sin within you. At best, you can practice abstinence from acts of sin. The Holy Spirit’s job is to “put down” this evil desire within you everyday, so that your mind and heart can live free from sin’s control (Rom. 6:14). When the Holy Spirit does this for you, that doesn’t mean you are then perfect. It simply means that the cause of your desire to sin will have lost the power over you that it previously had! The Holy Spirit will do this work inside of you by grace alone. Grace means you can’t work to get it and that it will only be given to those who don’t deserve it. Do you qualify? Thank God I do! The Holy Spirit will perform this awesome work in your heart as you depend on Jesus death on the cross to be the answer to your sin problem. It was because of The Cross, the Holy Spirit can now live inside of you and do His work inside of you!

Secondly, the Holy Spirit wants to use you in ways that He may not have been able to do in the past because you weren’t willing to be used by Him. If so, you don’t need to try and conjure up anything. You just need to believe and trust the ways God has designed the church to operate, and leave the “how” up to Him. Just be available and willing to be used. And don’t try to earn anything from God. He only can deal with any of us according to grace, in every aspect of life. And remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. This is not a spooky or weird “spirit”. We are talking about God. God is the Holy Spirit. “For there are three who bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are One” (1 John 5:7). If you can trust God with your eternal soul, I think you can trust God with your life on earth. God loves you and everyone on earth. He desires to use you to display His love to others. Let His love and His Spirit flow from who He has made you to be.

 

THE CALL TO MINISTERS

If you are a spiritual leader, called and ordained by God, I want to encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to move and operate when His people, the church, gather together. We need the moving and operation of the Holy Spirit to be present in our gatherings.The life of any “church” is the Holy Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2). He is the One who convicts His people and the unsaved of their sin (John 16:8). He is the One who leads the people to not just hear the truth, but to “see” and believe the truth (John 16:13-15). He is the Spirit of truth (John 15:26, 16:13). He is the One who lives inside of the church, His people, and knows what they are going through. He is the One who is suppossed to lead us day by day, to become conformed to the image of Christ. Not into the image of you or what your particular organization looks like. Can you pray and ask God, “whatever you want to do in our midst, Lord have your way”? I hope so. Why would you be afraid or not want God to do what He wants to through you or others? This is the same God you claim to be a servant for. The Holy Spirit desires to operate according to how God has designed Him to work in the church, not according to how men have designed and programmed Him to work during our gatherings. This is God we are talking about. He has to be The One in charge. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

The Holy Spirit’s desire is to first have the rule and reign within your own life. The Lord didn’t save you by grace, expect you to live by works here on earth until you die and then be glorified by grace (Galatians 3:1-5). He has provided a continuing salvation from self, the sin nature and the powers of darkness! This salvation is given without us working to get these great benefits. And if we do try to work for these benefits (law-like living), they will not be given. The harder we work to make ourselves holy and earn His favor, the more His holiness alludes us. Jesus Christ has redeemed us from having to live this way (Gal. 3:10-14). This type of lifestyle has our focus on good works, our faith in our own performance, our power source as self and will always result in failure to inwardly transform us. We may have performed good activities and even been used of God to help others, but inside, who WE ARE is still in need of help. Inside we are a person who loves God and wants to do “right” things. But the power to perform those things is hindered because the power of “the sin” inside of us is stronger than our willpower (Rom. 7:15-24). No one is exempt from this. And everyone who has ever been saved (Rom. 6:3-5) has to experience this trying and failing (Rom. 7:7-24) before the revelation of The Answer for the believer is realized (Rom. 7:25-8:14). And there is only one answer and solution to set God’s people free from the law of sin and death, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! This is the Divine Design. This is the answer you have been searching for. Not a new revelation, an old one that has seemed to allude many of us. Take advantage of it!

Secondly, the Holy Spirit wants His people to know the solution for “the sin” problem. God’s people have lived in bondage too long to habits and sins that they need to be set free from. Many of them have given up trying to be free, because they have concluded there really isn’t true freedom from sin this side of heaven. We will never be free from the sin nature, the temptation to sin and free moral choice to sin. But, we do not have to be dominated by the sin nature any longer (Rom. 6:14). This freedom is what Jesus died to give. Our salvation is complete. We “are complete in Him”. Don’t hold this freedom back from His people. You have the power, due to your position, to either proclaim “deliverance for the captives” or teach the ways and methods of man that at best helps people abstain from acts of sin at times, but never changes their hearts (Luke 4:18). God’s salvation is from the inside out. You can allow Jesus by the power of His Spirit to “set at liberty them who are bruised” by simply proclaiming His message (Luke 4:18). This message is what the prophet Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ first advent would bring (Isaiah 61:1-2)! It is The Gospel! The good news that God’s people, being set free from the powers of darkness and the sin nature that hold them captive, can live full of the Holy Spirit and at peace with God. And people walking after the Spirit of God are busy about the business of Their King. While living in the benefits of His kingdom, they, full of His love, desire all to experience such a great salvation! So let your people know The Truth, and help them believe The Truth. The Truth will set them free (John 8:32)!

A NOTE TO ALL:

In studying Scripture, and church history, I have learned that whole-heartedly following Jesus is not usually popular. In fact, most of the time it is down right hard. It wasn’t easy for New Testament Jews to exclude themselves from going to synagogue after being saved. It wasn’t easy for New Testament believers to not be able to sell their produce and livestock in the market place, because to do so would require them to first pay honor to a false diety. Their Faith led them to a place where they were cut off from the provisional system of the world. Now what? You may have heard the stories of early church believers who were required to give up their very lives and be executed because they would not renounce Jesus as Lord. And often, the opposition isn’t from “the world” of unbelievers. Most opposition to men and women of The Faith, is from the very people who should be “siding” with Christ. The religious world stoned Stephen for his testimony to the truth (Acts 6:8-7:60). Although Jesus had came to save the very individuals who stoned Stephen from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13),they refused to accept His way of salvation and remained in their own man-devised way of righteousness (Rom. 10:3-4). Religion is the greatest opposition to Jesus Christ and His followers. May God help all of us to not have a zeal for God according to the wrong knowledge (Rom. 10:2). In these last days, may we not have just a “form of Godliness” while denying the very power of God that wants to set us free and operate among us (2 Tim. 3:1-5). May we “turn away” from such foolishness and embrace the real God of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:5). Whatever the cost, it pales in comparison to the glory we can experience here on earth, and in the eternal life to come! Follow Him.