You can read what I wrote in my first post here, but just to summarize here’s what we understand:
- Our personal mission is to reach and disciple people.
- As a church, we do this corporately as we are the gift of Christ to the world.
- The Holy Spirit was given to help us continue the ministry of Jesus and connect people to Him.
With that said, where exactly then do the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” come in? Well, I’m glad you asked! As the Holy Spirit worked through the disciples in the early church, it became clear by their experiences that there were certain ‘gifts’ or ‘pathways’ that the Holy Spirit worked through believers. These ‘gifts’ or ‘pathways’ are outlined primarily in one place, 1 Corinthians 12-14 by the premier New Testament author, the Apostle Paul. (Just a side note, these gifts are not the same as the gifts outlined in Romans 12:6-8 or Ephesians 4:11, which are seen more as offices or roles in ministry.)
So what is the purpose of these gifts? In 1 Corinthians 12:7 Paul makes this very clear, and in fact makes a similar statement a number of times between 1 Cor. 12-14. He says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (NIV) In the New Living Translation it says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” So these gifts are meant for the benefit of others, not necessarily ourselves. Remember, we are called to reach and disciple people in love. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the means through which God helps us do that very thing.
Now at the end of 1 Corinthians 12 in verse 31, Paul makes a very interesting statement: “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Greater gifts? That sounds odd! Are some of the gifts he listed better than others? I would say no. But I do believe that there are gifts that are greater in certain contexts. Let me explain.
In Acts 4, Peter & John walk up to the gate called Beautiful at the Temple. As they approach this gate, they encounter a crippled man that is begging for money. At this moment, Peter has a choice to operate in one of two obvious gifts…the gift of generosity or the gift of healing. Both would be beneficial and good for the crippled man, but one is greater in this setting. Consequently, Peter operates in the gift of healing and the man is instantly healed through the working of the Holy Spirit.
So the greatest gift is the most beneficial gift in a given context. Paul further illustrates this in 1 Corinthians 14 when he challenges the reader to be aware of unbelievers in your midst when a gift is in operation. Because the gift that is in operation needs to be beneficial not detrimental. It is to be done with the goal of connecting people to Jesus.
You might think? Do we really have any choice in this matter? When the Holy Spirit moves isn’t it meant to be free and somewhat chaotic? Well if that were the case, the Holy Spirit would be operating in complete opposition to God’s nature. God is an orderly God. He is the one that set in motion the setting of the sun and the coming in of the ocean tides. While the Holy Spirit moves and responds, He is still orderly and He choses to partner with us, not apart from us. In 1 Corinthians 14, it says “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.” So we do play a part and do have opportunity to “seek the greater gifts” in our given situation.
So what do we do with this? Our goal is to “Seek the greater gifts”. The Holy Spirit wants to work through you to do remarkable things in your workplace, home, neighborhood, and school. But as I mentioned, it is still subject to your involvement. Seek the greater gifts and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you to continue to “Connect people to Jesus”!