Spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Holy Spirit that occur when people sit at Jesus’ feet, hear His voice, and do what He says. Spiritual gifts are Holy Spirit expressions, not human possessions. They flow through you, not to you.
Their purpose is to demonstrate the real presence of the living, resurrected Jesus Christ and to minister to (to serve) others; not to give status or recognition to the people they flow through. Like smart phone apps, Holy Spirit manifestations have a specific point and purpose. They are not just natural abilities and aptitudes that can be discovered by a inventory, a test, or an assessment.
We don’t use the Spirit’s gifts (His expressions). The Spirit uses us to release His workings. Any of His gifts can be released through any believer whenever He chooses. They don’t belong to special or specific individuals.
The Holy Spirit is ready to release His gifts whenever Christ-followers gather for worship (if we don’t quench the Spirit and hold them back by programming them out of the meeting). The Holy Spirit also seeks to release His gifts in our day-to-day lives.
As an example of Holy Spirit expressions, Paul lists nine Spirit manifestations in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. By looking at them, we can better understand how the Spirit wants to flow through us.
Word of wisdom — This is a flash of godly insight, understanding, and or direction. In a one-on-one situation it might be: “It keeps coming to me that you can overcome that problem you told me about by asking your boss to forgive you.” In a church meeting it might be: “I sense that the Holy Spirit wants us all to get on our knees and pray for our nation.”
Word of knowledge — This is a release of information that you have no natural way of knowing. The Holy Spirit just deposits it in you by way of words, impressions, or pictures. (Once my wife was praying for a 50-something year-old man and saw him on a skateboard. She shared it with him and his mouth dropped. He said something like: “You had no way of knowing this, but ever since I’ve been married my wife has kidded me that one day I’m going to get out of the box and get on a skateboard.”
Faith — The gift of faith is an inner flow of deep trust in God — a supernatural release of strong confidence that a prayer is certain to be answered.
Gifts of healing — Gifts of healing occur when God uses one person’s prayer and/or faith to bring physical healing to another person. (Once in church I saw a picture of me putting my hands on a man’s cheeks and praying that his constant pain [due to a steel plate in his face] would be healed. I told him and the others in the gathering what I saw and asked if he minded if I do it. He said no. The pain stopped and two years later he’s had no more pain. Here’s his story.)
Working of miracles — This is when God uses human faith and/or prayers to produce a supernatural change in the physical world. (Someone just told me that once she really needed some money and asked God to meet her need. She was in her car and searched through her purse. Then she looked around the car and looked again in her purse and saw two one-hundred dollar bills.)
Prophesy — This is speaking unrehearsed words that come directly from the Holy Spirit. It often happens when people are spontaneously praying and/or sharing from their heart about what God means to them. (Jesus told His disciples that when they were brought before councils, they shouldn’t plan what they will say, but instead the Holy Spirit will give them His words on the spot.)
Discerning of Spirits — This is when God shows you the source of something that is being said or done. There are three possible sources for just about everything people say or do: 1) human desire; 2) the influence of spiritual evil; or 3) the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking in a language that you don’t know — Although sometimes controversial, this is really a simple, but profound release of the Holy Spirit. It is supernatural. By bypassing the brain (because the brain doesn’t comprehend it) it gives the Spirit the freedom to flow through us unimpeded by our opinions and/or will. It is primarily for private use, however, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives some guidelines and limitations on its public use.
Interpretation of a language you don’t know — If someone supernaturally speaks in an unknown language in a public meeting, Paul says that someone needs to tell everybody what was said. This is not a human translation of the language, but a supernatural revealing of the meaning of the words that were spoken.
When Christians gather, God wants to release manifestations of His Spirit. People, especially in our post-Christian generation, won’t be convinced to follow and obey Christ by human wisdom. They need to see and experience the reality of the living Christ, not just hear a talk about Him. That’s why Christ-followers must be freed up from programs and allowed to follow the Spirit when they gather in His name.
If you would like to see a prototype of the gifts in action, visit The Salvation Army Berry Street — where ordinary people, in the flow of the Spirit, show and tell what God has done — Sundays @ 10:45, 225 Berry St., Nashville, Tennessee, 37207.