Last time we discovered that Pentecost was
not the day the Disciples received the Holy Spirit, but instead
it was a time when He came upon them with an unmistakable
display of power (Acts 2:1-4).
Remember, they had already performed miracles in the
Lord's name. When He
sent the 12 out to preach to Israel, He gave them authority to
heal the sick and drive out demons (Luke 9:1-6).
After that He sent out 72 others to every town in Israel,
Jewish and Gentile, and they were able to heal the sick and
drive out demons too (Luke 10:9,17).
But never before had anything like the events of
What Happened On Pentecost?
We begin this part of our study by looking
at the effect speaking in tongues had on those in the presence
of the disciples on Pentecost.
Since this was the first time anything like this had
happened, we should expect to find some defining characteristics
for this supernatural ability.
Theologians call this the Principle of First Mention.
It's based on the fact that when an important idea appears for
the first time in the Bible, additional detail is often included
in the passage to help us understand it.
For example, we find the first mention of cross in
Matt. 10:38, where Jesus said,
“anyone who does not take His cross and follow me is
not worthy of me.” People sentenced to be crucified were
required to carry their own cross to their execution, and we've
all seen vivid enactments of the Lord doing just that.
But He didn't mean we all have to be crucified like He
was. He meant that
His followers must put their own plans for their life to death
and seek to follow His plan for them instead.
With that we'll pick up the narrative in
Acts 2:7 to get the crowd's reaction to their use of the
gift of tongues.
Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all
these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each
of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes
and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and
Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors
from Rome (both Jews and converts to
Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders
of God in our own tongues!"
When the Holy Spirit came upon the
Disciples that morning, they were supernaturally empowered to
speak to their audience in such a way that each one present
understood them in his own native language. Their hearts were
opened to Peter's sermon, and about 3,000 were baptized into the
Later on, when Paul described the gift of tongues, he said it's
complimented by the gift of interpretation implying that
messages in tongues are meant to be understood, otherwise they
serve no purpose. Paul taught that if there is no interpreter
present then the person with the message is to remain silent. (1
Cor. 14:27-28) Without an interpretation, the message is
By the testimony of these two examples,
it's clear that messages in tongues are meant to be understood
and use of the gift is meant to be orderly, as a sign for
unbelievers, just as it was at Pentecost.
Uttering a phrase or sentence consisting of words no one
on Earth can understand doesn't meet either the Biblical
definition of, or the Holy Spirit's purpose for, the gift of
tongues. But when
the Holy Spirit empowers someone to share a message in a
language he or she
can't speak, that person is exercising the gift of tongues.
When someone translates such a message into a language
that everyone can understand, he or she is using the gift of
interpretation. At Pentecost no interpreters were needed because
everyone heard the Gospel in his own language.
Gifts in 1 Cor. 12
As for spiritual gifts in general, the
Bible makes it clear that every believer has at least one.
These gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit just as He
determines, for the good of the body. (1 Cor. 12:7,11)
How the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts is
hinted at in the words Paul used in listing them. The English
word "another" appears eight times in
1 Cor. 12:8-10, but
Paul alternated between two different Greek words when he wrote
it. They both mean another, but allos means another of
the same kind, while heteros means another of a similar
but different kind. The way Paul used these two words is very
Using their different meanings,
1 Cor. 12:8-10 would
read like this. (It
will read more easily if I leave out the parts that say it's all
done by the same Spirit. I assume we already know that.)
"To one there is given through the Spirit
the message of wisdom, to another (Greek allos, another of
the same kind) the message of knowledge, to another
(Greek heteros, another of a different kind than those given
wisdom and knowledge) faith, to another (allos, same kind
as those given faith) gifts of healing, to another
(allos, same kind as faith) miraculous powers, to another
(allos, same kind as faith) prophecy, to another (allos,
same kind as faith) distinguishing between spirits, to
another (heteros, of a different kind than either previous
group) speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still
another (allos, same kind as those given tongues) the
interpretation of tongues.
The way Paul alternated allos and
heteros shows that he was separating believers into three
groups. The first group gets the gifts of wisdom and knowledge;
gifts for the second group include faith, healing, miracles,
prophecy, and discernment; and the third has tongues and
I don't think we should necessarily understand
this is as a set of hard and fast rules.
For one thing, the Holy Spirit can come upon any of us at
any time with the temporary power to do what needs to be done at
the moment. And for
another, He distributes His gifts just as He determines for the
good of the body. But it does confirm that different people get
different gifts and can help us understand why certain gifts
seem to be more prevalent in some parts of the Church than in
Even if some of the details concerning these
gifts are confusing, others are very clear.
For instance, every born again believer was given at
least one spiritual gift when we received the Holy Spirit to
dwell within us. Our
job is to use our gift(s) for the good of the body, following
the Spirit's prompting.
Also, the gift of tongues is not given to
every believer and was never intended as evidence of a so-called
baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Gifts in Romans 12
Some folks don't realize there are other lists
of gifts in the New Testament.
One is in Romans 12 where Paul also gave us the
procedure for discovering our gifts.
First, we offer our lives totally to God, giving Him
permission to accomplish His will in us.
Next we stop conforming to the pattern of this world and
its preoccupation with getting all this life has to offer, often
at the expense of our heavenly calling.
Then we let ourselves be transformed by the renewing of
our mind. We do this
by rejecting the secular world view and accepting the Biblical
one in its place.
By doing these things we'll begin to understand God's
will for our life and how He's gifted us to fulfill it. (Romans
Then he listed 7 more gifts the Lord has made
available, again as He has determined.
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. If it is serving, let him serve;
if it is teaching, let him teach; 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. (Romans
can see from this passage that the Lord intends for us to use
our gifts. As you let Him re-order your life around the area of
your giftedness, you'll be more effective in everything you do
and experience higher levels of satisfaction and well-being than
you've ever known.
And you'll have a greater impact for good on those around you.
This is what the Lord meant by streams of living water flowing
from with in us. (John 7:37-39)
Gifts In Ephesians 4
And there is still one more list from Paul.
Speaking of Jesus, he said;
It was he who gave some to be apostles,
some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be
pastors and teachers, to prepare
God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ
may be built up until we all reach
unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and
become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of
Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
The gift of prophecy is contained in all
three lists, perhaps reflecting Paul's view that we should be
eager to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:39), and teaching appears
twice. So the total
of 21 includes 18 unique gifts. The list in Romans 12 is
attributed to the Father, the one in Ephesians 4 to the
Son, and the one in 1 Corinthians 12 to the Holy Spirit.
Our gifts were invested in us the moment we
heard the Gospel of our salvation and believed it.
believers are never told they have a spiritual gift and
therefore don't ever look for it. Others know about it but need
some time to tune out the static of their secular lives
sufficiently to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit
within them. When they do they realize He's been there all
along, waiting to activate the gift He's given them and provide
guidance on its use.
Still others come to the Lord at a point in
life that makes them especially attuned to the Holy Spirit's
voice and they immediately know with a clarity they can't
explain what their primary gift is and how they're supposed to
use it. For them it's like having a tiger by the tail as their
lives are radically transformed, and they realize things will
never again be the same as they were before.
Depending on their gift they may start a
Bible study or a prison ministry, visit the sick, or begin
giving away their money.
Often they do this to the utter amazement of friends and
family, who marvel at the change in them.
The only difference in these three groups
is the length of time it takes to be transformed and renewed.
The Holy Spirit is the same for all of us.
As Charles Stanley so aptly puts it, “It's not how much
of the Spirit is in you, it's how much of you is on the Spirit.”