Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Manifestations of the Holy Spirit: Definitions

Teaching this subject to those who are unfamiliar with it is like describing a landscape painting one brushstroke at a time. The partial picture sometimes produces as many questions as answers. As I read the paragraphs below, I see so many points that need further explanation and clarification, but which must wait for future posts to complete the picture.  The subject cannot be covered in one post. So…I will proceed as best as I can, and hope that my friends will follow the process until I have covered the subject sufficiently. Meanwhile, I do welcome any questions or comments that the reader may wish to present. –Billy Long

The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit
”Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant….But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…” 1 Corinthians 12: 1, 7
It is fitting that the Apostle Paul begins his discussion of spiritual gifts by expressing his desire that the church not be ignorant of them. This statement implies there is knowledge and understanding to be gained beyond a casual reference or quick dismissal of the subject. It also implies the apostle knew that, in spite of the pervasiveness of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in the early church, there would be the possibility of spiritual gifts being either neglected or abused. His concern is valid today and should motivate us to search out knowledge, understanding, and experience.

We can learn much from teaching, but experience is necessary to really understand the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught by word and by example. The disciples learned by listening to His words, watching Him in action, and practicing what He taught and modeled. Trying to understand the manifestations of the Holy Spirit without experiencing them is like trying to be an automobile mechanic just by reading the manual. It requires not only study, but also training. The Bible is our manual and is absolutely foundational, but James tells us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” Experience gives substance and weight. Otherwise, we remain in the arena of intellectual discussion and doctrine. The apostle Paul said the gospel did not come in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit. 

This Greek word is translated “gift” and is rooted in the word for “Grace.” It refers to a broad range of spiritual gifts, and by definition signifies they are the operations of God’s grace. “Charismata” (spiritual gifts) encompass three main areas: Offices, Ministries, and Manifestations. Here is a general definition of each.   
(1) Office gifts are given to equip and strengthen the body of Christ. They include apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and are special callings.

(2) There are various, specialized areas of service which are in fact ministries, but not offices. These include teaching, ministries of miracles, healing ministries, serving, giving, prophesying (not the office of prophet), administrations, etc. All Christians can have ministries or areas where they are gifted to serve.

(3) The manifestation of the Holy Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11. Paul lists nine ways in which the Holy Spirit manifests Himself. They are…
The word of wisdom
The word of knowledge
Discerning of spirits
Interpretation of tongues  

Any Spirit-filled Christian can potentially move in any or all of the nine manifestations of the Spirit as they are needed. These operations of the Spirit do not refer to specialized ministries or one gift that a person carries around with him, but rather to a variety of ways the Holy Spirit may use any believer at any time as He chooses or as the need arises.

It is also important to note that the terms in this list refer to specific, supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit and not to natural human talent and acquired skill. For example, the “word of knowledge” does not refer to “knowledge” in general but rather to a “word” of knowledge. Jesus’ word to the woman at the well is a good example.

The term “manifestation” used in 1 Corinthians12:7 means that the Holy Spirit comes to reveal Himself as the presence of Christ at work through His people. He is not a vague, distant, impersonal presence, not just a doctrine, or emotions, or some nice concept we refer to in our liturgy.  He is the active presence of God revealed.  Peter described it as “this which you now see and hear(Acts 2:33). Paul described it as the “demonstration of the Spirit and power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). The Holy Spirit desires to carry us beyond empty ritual and theology and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in tangible ways. This happens when we present ourselves to Him and allow Him to work.

Definitions of the Nine Manifestations
A Word of Wisdom
This does not refer to wisdom in general, but to a specific word of wisdom for a specific situation, a special word given to help in a difficult situation or a time of perplexity. It does not refer to philosophical wisdom, but to practical wisdom, helping us to know what to do, how to do, or what to say. It is a word that clarifies and gives divine perspective in a matter.

A Word of Knowledge
As noted above, this refers to a special word of knowledge, not to general knowledge acquired through study or by efforts of the natural mind. It is a supernatural knowing.
There are many example of this is the lives of the old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the apostles.

There are three categories of faith.
1.    Faith dealt to every Christian, the faith involved in salvation. Romans 12: 3 says that God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
2.    Faith which is a general trust and confidence in God. This faith is revealed in how we face life in our daily walk with God.
3.    A manifestation of the Holy Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12: 9.

Faith as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit does not refer to the usual or general faith that is always active and present with the Christian, but to a special faith for a specific purpose. It refers to a surge of confidence given for a particular need or circumstance. It is the supernatural emptying of doubt as an individual, by divine revelation, receives clear insight into the knowledge of God’s will and purpose regarding a matter, resulting in the absolute certainty that it will come to pass. It involves special insight into the will of God with the certainty that it will be done. This insight is accompanied by the grace to either pray or speak it done. This type of faith produces outstanding and unusual events.

Healing is a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit to cure sickness and disease in the name of Jesus. This was a common occurrence in the early Christian church. Jesus commissioned the church to heal and then placed healing in the church as one of the manifestations of the Spirit available for all believers. It can also be a specialized ministry.  The following methods were used in the Bible: Prayer, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, speaking the word of faith, simply believing, the use of handkerchiefs or aprons, having the sick person do something (such as wash or dip in water), and touching the garment or shadow of one anointed with healing ministry.

Miracles can be defined as God using someone to do the impossible or various supernatural works. Miracles in the Bible include the dead being raised, food multiplied, walking on water, special healings, creative miracles, limbs restored, and miracles of provision.

Prophecy in the New Testament church was not “preaching.” Prophecy is speaking by immediate revelation and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It can relate to past, present, or future. The time aspect is not primary, but rather it is the Lord speaking to encourage, comfort, strengthen, or to bring some revelation. Prophecy is the Holy Spirit’s moving upon one to speak a word from God to a specific person or people. It can be an intense and dramatic word or a quiet and gentle word to remind someone that God loves them.
There are three levels of prophecy:
1)    The office of a prophet (Ephesians 4: 11, Acts 21: 10-12).
2)     The ministry of prophecy in which a person is specially gifted in ministering to others prophetically (Romans 12: 6. Acts 21: 9).
3)    The manifestation of the Holy Spirit (“You can all prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14: 24, 31).

Discerning of spirits
This refers to supernatural revelation giving one the ability to discern (recognize and know) what type of spirit is at work in a person or situation.  It is the ability to know if the source is God (of God), an evil spirit (of Satan), or the human spirit (of man). Another aspect of this particular gift is the ability to discern a person and his character. Jesus demonstrated this type of discernment many times as He “saw” or discerned the nature, character, and motivation of people around Him. This gift operates when it is specifically needed and when the Holy Spirit chooses. It is not intended to cause one to be critical, condemning, and always trying to judge others.

“Tongues” (“languages”) is the supernatural ability to pray in another language (either earthly or heavenly) by means and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When praying in tongues, a person’s spirit is praying. It can be intercession or praise and worship. It strengthens the believer and builds him up. This type of tongues does not need an interpreter, and there is no limit to the number of people who can worship or pray together in this manner. All of the examples of tongues given in the book of Acts are of this type. In each of these occasions there are more than “three at the most” who are praying in tongues. Every Christian can pray in the Holy Spirit in intercession and praise.
A second type of tongues is the message given to the church or a prayer in tongues given before the church. In this case an individual is moved to speak a message in tongues while the church listens quietly. This is to be interpreted, and is limited to two or three at the most.

Interpretation of Tongues
The interpretation of tongues is the Holy Spirit giving someone an interpretation of or response to a message previously given in tongues. There are varying opinions as to the nature of the interpretation. It may be a literal translation of a message given in tongues to the church, or possibly a prophetic response to a prayer in tongues given before the church.
(For a complete study on the subject of “tongues” the reader is encouraged to go to this link  and read the entire series of articles on “Praying in the Spirit.”  
Summary: Pursue Love and Desire Spiritual gifts
The gifts are for every believer and not just for some special person up front on stage.  They may be spectacular, but usually they will reflect the quiet and gentle moving of the Holy Spirit as Christians reach out to one another with compassion and care.
The apostle Paul tells us to “pursue love and desire spiritual gifts.” When we move in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit we are expressing our hunger for God’s active presence among us and we are showing our love and care for those around us. Jesus healed people because He was moved with compassion. We will move in the gifts of the Spirit as we are moved with His compassion. The gifts therefore are instruments of God’s love. I pray for the sick because of God's compassion for those who suffer. I want to move in prophetic insight because there are people who need an encouraging word from God. I want to have a word of wisdom because someone is perplexed or confused and asking God for direction. I want to see miracles because so many people are facing impossibilities and need the “waters to part.” I want to pray in the Spirit because it strengthens my prayer life, strengthens my spirit, and helps release my ability to move in the other gifts of the Spirit, which will in turn touch others with the compassion, presence, and power of God.

When we speak of spiritual gifts, we are speaking of the presence of Jesus Christ working among us. We are not necessarily focusing on the spectacular and the dramatic, although these do occur from time to time. But mostly we look for those unobtrusive and often unnoticed acts of the Holy Spirit working in the background and which flow among us as life and grace, quietly, yet deeply touching and blessing the lives of those around us. It is those daily, obscure, and non-spectacular acts of obedience that strengthen the church. It flows out of the individual’s desire to be used of God, and his willingness to reach out to people with love and compassion.

“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts.” 1 Corinthians 14: 1

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Biblical Context for the Supernatural

Common errors in approaching spiritual gifts
There are three common errors in how churches approach the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Evangelical churches tend to either dismiss them (ignoring them altogether) or naturalize them (doing away with the supernatural aspect). Pentecostal denominations which claim acceptance of the gifts have often quenched them through emotionalism. 
The error of the non-Christian world is that it imitates spiritual gifts through psychic and occult phenomena which are demonic counterfeits of the true. When man seeks spiritual experience apart from the God of the Bible, he will encounter human soul power and evil spirits. In modern cultures evil spirits have masqueraded as “good” and so have lured many educated folk into the pantheistic world of the new age movement. In our modern culture the spirit realm has disguised itself as “good” and gives people spiritual experiences with “warm-fuzzies” included. The devil comes as an angel of light.
 Pagan and primitive societies have been generally animistic, either worshiping spirits or seeing them in everything. They know the reality of spirits and their malevolent nature. They generally fear them and constantly try to placate them in their religious rites and cultural practices. With the exception of modern new age philosophies that see good spirits in inanimate objects and nature, most primitive societies have always recognized the evil in the spirit realm, and have lived in fear of these spirits unmasked for what they really are.
American culture has seen a rise of activity in the non-Christian supernatural realm through new age and eastern mysticism and occult and psychic phenomena.  Multitudes have sought spiritual reality while attempting to avoid the God of the Bible and the moral demands He places upon His followers. This has resulted in a rise and acceptance of various facets of eastern religions with their new age practices including yoga and meditation (which seem harmless on the surface but are demonic in their origins), a fascination with the occult and paranormal phenomena, astrology (horoscope), and witchcraft.  All of these practices introduce people to the demonic supernatural realm.  The Bible forbids our involvement with such practices because they represent a form of idolatry (See Deuteronomy 18:10); they introduce people to the realm of evil spirits; and they counterfeit the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

The Biblical Context for the Supernatural: Jesus, the Bible, the Church
The genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit occur within an atmosphere where Jesus Christ is glorified as Lord and the Bible is respected as the word of God. People are filled with joy and peace as they are healed, set free, encouraged, and strengthened. True Christians need not fear nor be apprehensive about the workings of the Holy Spirit. Within the context of the guidelines given below Christians can discern what is of God and what is of the evil one.

Jesus is Lord. The supernatural must be within the context of the people who confess and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The New Testament is very clear. The Holy Spirit comes to reveal and glorify Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus affirmed this to His disciples before He ascended to the Father (John 15:26). The Book of Acts is filled with examples of the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit as He reveals Christ and confirms the Gospel message with miracles, healings, exorcisms, prophetic utterances, and great joy. The letters of the apostles reaffirm and establish as foundational the truth that those under the influence of the Holy Spirit will acknowledge and confess that Jesus is Lord. The writers also stated that anyone working in the supernatural who does not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus  is a false-prophet and of the anti-Christ.  (1John 4: 1-3, Revelation 19:10, 1 Corinthians 12: 1-3).

The Bible. The supernatural must be within the context of the biblical model, within the context of those who believe the Bible to be God’s word and who walk according to it both doctrinally and morally. The supernatural must follow the pattern found in the Gospels, the writings of the apostles, and in the Book of Acts.
The Biblical writers exhorted God’s people to trust only those whose message was according to their written Bible. Moses warned Israel to reject any prophet or miracle-worker who spoke contrary to the written law and word of God that Moses had given (Deuteronomy 13: 1-3). Isaiah warned Israel of those who claimed supernatural gifting but who did not speak according to law and testimony given by Moses and the prophets (Isaiah 8:19-20). The Apostle Peter tells us that the written word of God is more sure than a voice from heaven and that we do well to heed it as a light that shines in a dark place. (2 Peter 1: 12-21).

The Church. The supernatural must be within the context of the church, the people of God who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. We are referring to people, not buildings and corporate entities, but the living body of Christ that transcends all political and corporate entities.
The context of church refers to followers of Christ functioning under the authority of God’s Word, believers gathered in His name, as well as involved in personal ministry and outreach in daily life as they interacts with the world outside the church.1 Corinthians 11-14 speaks of the gifts of the Holy Spirit working within the context of the body of Christ, the church. The Apostle Paul tells us that God has appointed in the church the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:28).  Paul lists the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as well as ministry gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and in Romans 12: 4-8. Again he sets them within the context of the body of Christ.

The Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit comes to reveal and glorify Jesus. The “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit is actually the manifestation of Jesus Himself walking among us and working through us. For the church to express the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4: 13) to this world it must abound and grow in both the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 5: 22-23) express the nature of Christ, His love and holiness. The gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 12: 7-12) express the power and actions of Christ. This is the true Biblical context for the supernatural—an atmosphere where followers of Christ walk in His word and express His nature and power by the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit.