TODAY’S MESSAGE – GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT ARE GIVEN BUT MUST BE RECEIVED
Let’s pray: Holy Spirit, rain down in tongues of fire
illuminating our minds, burning away the chaff
and refining our spirit as we come before you
and your word. Amen.
Last week we spoke about the person and role of the Holy Spirit in God’s plan for creation.
But, as we drew to a conclusion we said that the first gift to us was the incarnate Jesus, but then we were gifted the Holy Spirit himself. Today, we will explore the free gifts of the Spirit in the New Testament and what it means for us to truly receive them.
In Acts 2 we see the first mass outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers. Indeed this pattern is repeated further on, several times.
With the Holy Spirit comes gifts, as we read in detail in our reading from 1 Corinthians and also in Acts 2:17-18.
All are given gifts [verse 6 and again in verse 11]. No one is left gift-less.
If we compare this to the Old Testament in
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!”
We know that it would take the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God to create the opportunity for all believers to be endowed with Christ’s spirit and the Spiritual gifts.
What are these ‘gifts’ spoken of in 1 Corinthians. We see nine gifts – from unusual levels of faith and wisdom, to prophecy and healing to the gift of tongues. All supernaturally bestowed and individually given to the believers.
Robert Hillman, a UCA minister, has said the list spiritual gifts reaches 27. Others say less. Certainly lists of gifts are sprinkled throughout the New Testament passages such as
Romans 12:1-8,1 Corinthians 14,Ephesians 4,1Peter 4 :10-11
For instance this is what we read in Romans 12 [verses 5-8]
5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
They are defined, not only by their type, but through being called ‘free’ gifts or endowments. The Greek word for free gift is ‘charis’ – meaning ‘grace’ and also linked with another Greek work ‘chara’ – meaning joy.
Today we use the word ‘charismatic’ to describe the Christian movement of that name.
As a ‘free’ gift or grace, it is not something we can earn. We do not qualify for it by our own Christian maturity or holiness or service to God. It is a gift that cannot be bought as Simon the Sorcerer found out in Acts 8:9-24
Spiritual gifts, must be ‘freely’ received by us if we are ever to effectively use them. We need to accept them as a real entity.
Paul says in the very first verse of 1 Corinthians 12 ‘I do not want you to be ignorant’ [about spiritual gifts]. The root word of ignorance is ‘ignore’. To ignore is to wilfully not know or decide that we cannot know – it is also from this Greek word that we get the word ‘agnostic’ – meaning ‘not knowing’.
Receiving something means having an open mind and heart. It is also about discerning that what we receive is a gift from God. In 1 Samuel 3 – the young Samuel responded to the voice of God, but only after seeking the advice and wisdom of another. So too, we should discuss with others the gifts we believe we have received and ensure that it has a biblical base.
True receiving is a whole-hearted thing. There are no half measures. If we look at Acts 8:15ff
15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
The people had been baptised into Jesus, but had not received the Spirit and in Acts 19:1-7
Paul in Ephesus
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
Where the people had received John’s baptism of repentance, they still did not have the whole deal – they had to go from being just a Jesus follower to the Christ follower, who receives the Spirit of Christ.
The evidence of that conversion in Acts, whether we see it in Acts 2 or 8 or 19 – is the ‘tongues’ or tongues of fire that rested on the people. Thus a new way of communicating the gospel in a new ‘tongue’ or with a new passion shows the fulfilment of what John the Baptist said was to come.
In Luke 3:16 [one of my favourites]:
16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Similarly, we too, make a huge mistake by discounting the work of the Holy Spirit today, if we believe He has stopped working in miraculous and supernatural ways when the last of the original disciples died.
In The Spiritual Formation Handbook by James Smith and Lynda Graybeal [page 47], we are reminded that the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit through us is absolutely essential to being a Christ follower .
“God works in the believer through the person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit spurs the believer to pray and meditate [the focus of the Contemplative Tradition]; to seek a virtuous life [The Holiness Tradition]; to exercise mercy and compassion to one another [The Social Evangelical Tradition], and to promote harmony between our faith and our work [The Incarnation Tradition].However, many of us try to become faithful disciples on our own, without the power of the Holy Spirit [the charismatic tradition. The vital, exciting, electrifying work of the Holy Spirit is missing in our lives. Much of our struggle with temptation and sin, along with much of our failing to live joyful, whole lives, can be traced to our unwillingness to welcome the Holy Spirit.”
As we conclude today and have questions and further discussions, you may like to pray this week for discernment and provision of spiritual gifts in your life. Ask God to illuminate the scripture Luke 11:9-13 and what it means for you and your God given gifts].
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Next time, we start with a reminder that the spiritual gifts are freely given. But they are not a possession. They are not to be ignored but to be utilized and utilized correctly if they are not to be taken away again.