Why am I putting “spiritual gifts” in quotation marks? Calling these manifestations of God’s grace “spiritual gifts” can be confusing and doesn’t accurately reflect what the Bible says in Greek.
We are going to dive more into that in our next post. But for now, I’d like to share how I got into searching out the subject.
When It Seems Like Scriptures Contradict Each Other, Dig Deeper!
When I started to live a life of power, I quickly realized that I needed to understand 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, the chapters about “spiritual gifts,” better. The way I had understood these chapters didn’t fit well with the teaching of Jesus. When it seems like different passages of scripture contradict each other, it’s time to dig deeper. We misunderstand Paul if we think he was contradicting what Jesus taught.
With practice, my understanding of the “spiritual gifts” because very closely tied to my understanding of the gospel. You’ll see a lot of that if you read my three “Heaven Now” books. For example, I know I can hear God’s voice because I’ve been justified so I have access to approach God, and the Holy Spirit, who knows the things of God, lives in me. Similarly, I can heal the sick because the very nature of the God I’m now in communion with is to heal. His peace, love, and joy expressed through me drive out demons and diseases. And if the foundations for healing the sick and prophesying are so rooted in the gospel, then all who have faith in Jesus can heal the sick and prophesy.
I realized that the way I’d once understood Paul’s writing on “spiritual gifts” seemed to create a disconnect between the gospel and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit – almost as if they were separate “special powers” given apart from the person of Christ. In fact, I felt like a lot of people missed the point when they said, “Wow, you have a great spiritual gift…” I thought “No…this isn’t about a ‘spiritual gift.’ This is who Jesus is. He is the healer.”
We’ll examine Paul’s writing next week. But for now, let’s start with the scriptural basis for all believers to hear God’s voice, heal the sick, and do works of power.
Jesus Never Sent His Disciples To Evangelize Without Healing The Sick!
Let’s start by looking at the great commission:
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Note that Jesus told the twelve to pass on the commands he gave them to all future disciples. Therefore what Jesus commanded the twelve to do also applies to us. And how did Jesus teach his disciples to proclaim the gospel?
Matthew 10:1, 7-8 (NIV) Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
… as you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Jesus sent 70 out in the same way (Luke 10), and then passed these instructions on to all future disciples in the great commission. According to Jesus’ teaching, healing is a ministry for all Christians to engage in. The parallel passage to Mathew 28, Mark 16 confirms that it is part of the great commission.
Mark 16:15-18 (NIV) He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
This scripture clearly says that driving out demons, speaking in tongues, and healing the sick are part of Jesus’ commission for all Christians. Evangelizing was always so difficult for me before I started ministering healing to people. Healing made it natural to share the gospel. Jesus never expected his disciples to have to try to share the gospel without healing the sick! How can you truly proclaim the kingdom of God without a manifestation of power?
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
So where in this does the concept fit in of healing as a “spiritual gift” that only some Christians are given? It doesn’t! What about tongues? Like healing, Jesus said it was for all who believe. What about other works of power?
John 14:12 (NIV) Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Jesus said “The Father gives the Spirit without limit.” (John 3:34 NIV) I have heard some people argue that this unlimited supply was only for Jesus. I then ask, how is it possible for “whoever believes” to do the same and even greater works than Jesus did on earth?
The promise of even greater works than Jesus did is there for “whoever believes in me.” Some people say “Yes, all Christians can minister healing but some have a gift. They are better at it than others.”
The problem with saying this is that if we think “I don’t have what it takes because this isn’t my ‘spiritual gift,'” we negate Christ’s promises about faith. Then we are no longer relying on the Spirit of Christ empowering us to obey the commands of Christ, because we are focusing on if we have a certain “spiritual gift” or not. If we follow that line of thought we are thinking of a “spiritual gift” as a special power given separately from receiving the Holy Spirit.
You All Can Prophesy
We just saw that tongues, healing, and the same works of power that Jesus did are available for all Christians. They aren’t something that is only available for certain chosen’ ones. What about prophecy?
Consider Moses’s words in the Old Testament: “But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29 NIV)
Moses’s wish was prophetic and was later fulfilled. The apostle Peter said that what was happening on the day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel 2:28.
Acts 2:16-18 (NIV) No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
So all Christians can prophesy and give words of knowledge? What did Jesus say?
John 10:27 (NRSV) My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
Here’s the real breaker:
1 Corinthians 14:31 (NRSV) For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.
Wait! We thought that Paul in Corinthians was talking about “spiritual gifts” that are only given to some Christians, and you can’t be sure which ones a particular person will or won’t get. But even right here he says “you can all prophesy.”
Many Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians edify themselves by speaking in tongues, but rarely exercise any of the “gifts” that are meant to edify others. A lot of the confusion about “spiritual gifts” may come from having little experience in ministering supernaturally to edify others.
This is my experience, and my observation of many other people’s experiences: When a Christian throws themselves heavily into ministering to edify others with a particular “spiritual gift,” it soon opens up other “spiritual gifts” or manifestations of the Holy Spirit. A person could start by ministering healing for example, but this often leads into words of knowledge, words of wisdom, prophesy, discernment of spirits (sensing or seeing angels or demons), and manifestations of power. Or a person could start with prophecy and words of knowledge, but if they continue it will lead them into ministering healing, discernment of spirits, etc.
The nature of how this works isn’t so much a “special ability” that somebody received to do a certain thing. Rather, it’s something that becomes built in a person through increasing experience and partnership with the Holy Spirit, based on who God is. As we continue to partner with the Holy Spirit, the variety of manifestation grows to be more and more in accordance with the need of the person in front of us, not according to what “gift” we may or may not have received.
I struggled for years to understand how Paul’s writing in Corinthians about “spiritual gifts” could fit with what Jesus taught in the gospels. Next week I’ll share some insights that help to make a lot more sense of what Paul was saying, showing how Paul’s writing about “spiritual gifts” has often been so misunderstood.