Category Archives: Holy Spirit Questions

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Does It Mean that the Holy Spirit Is Our Paraclete?

 

After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon, He then gave them a statement of great encouragement: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16–17).

The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another,” with the secondary notion of counseling or supporting him. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He is a personal being who indwells every believer.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now He was going to leave them. The Spirit of God would come to the disciples and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master’s literal presence. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter”—another of the same kind. The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God in essence, for both are God.

During the Old Testament age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:12). David, when confessing his sin, asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). But when the Spirit was given at Pentecost, He came to God’s people to remain with them forever. We may grieve the Holy Spirit, but He will not leave us. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How is He with us when He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father? He is with us by His Spirit (the Helper—the Parakletos).

To have the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete is to have God Himself indwelling us as believers. The Spirit teaches us the Word and guides us into truth. He reminds us of what He has taught so that we can depend on His Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit works in us to give us His peace (John 14:27), His love (John 15:9–10), and His joy (John 15:11). He is a comfort our hearts and minds in a troubled world. The power of the indwelling Paraclete gives us the ability to live by the Spirit and “not gratify the desires of the sinful flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit can then produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23) to the glory of God the Father. What a blessing to have the Holy Spirit in our lives as our Paraclete—our Comforter, our Encourager, our Counselor, and our Advocate![1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: How Can I Recognize the Guidance of the Holy Spirit?

 

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send one who would teach and guide all those who believe in Him (Acts 1:5; John 14:26; 16:7). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled less than two weeks later when the Holy Spirit came in power on the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2). Now, when a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately becomes a permanent part of his life (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The Holy Spirit has many functions. Not only does He distribute spiritual gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7–11), but He also comforts us (John 14:16, KJV) teaches us (John 14:26), and remains as a seal of promise upon our hearts until the day of Jesus’ return (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit also takes on the role of Guide and Counselor, leading us in the way we should go and revealing God’s truth (Luke 12:12; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10).

But how do we recognize the Spirit’s guidance? How do we discern between our own thoughts and His leading? After all, the Holy Spirit does not speak with audible words. Rather, He guides us through an inner voice (John 16:13), our own consciences (Romans 9:1), and other quiet, subtle ways.

One of the most important ways to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to be familiar with God’s Word. The Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16), and believers are to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and commit them to memory (Ephesians 6:17). The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), and the Spirit will use it to speak to us (John 16:12–14) to reveal God’s will for our lives; He will also bring specific Scriptures to mind at times when we need them most (John 14:26).

Knowledge of God’s Word can help us to discern whether or not our desires come from the Holy Spirit. We must test our inner voice against Scripture—the Holy Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. If it conflicts with the Bible, then it is not from the Holy Spirit and should be ignored.

It is also necessary for us to be in continual prayer with the Father (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Not only does this keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, but it also allows the Spirit to speak on our behalf: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26–27).

Another way to tell if we are following the Spirit’s leading is to look for signs of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If we walk in the Spirit, we will continue to see these qualities grow and mature in us, and they will become evident to others as well.

It is important to note that we have the choice whether or not to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we know the will of God but do not follow it, we are resisting the Spirit’s work in our lives (Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), and a desire to follow our own way grieves Him (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit will never lead us into sin. Habitual sin can cause us to miss what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. Being in tune with God’s will, turning from and confessing sin, and making a habit of prayer and the study of God’s Word will allow us to recognize—and follow—the Spirit’s leading.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is Glossolalia?

 

Glossolalia, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “ecstatic utterances,” is the uttering of unintelligible, language-like sounds while in a state of ecstasy. Glossolalia is sometimes confused with xenoglossia, which is the biblical “gift of tongues.” However, whereas glossolalia is babbling in a nonexistent language, xenoglossia is the ability to speak fluently a language the speaker has never learned.

Additionally, whereas xenoglossia is not an innate or natural ability, studies have shown that glossolalia is a learned behavior. Research conducted by the Lutheran Medical Center demonstrates that glossolalia is readily learned by following simple instructions. Correspondingly, it was found that students could exhibit “speaking in tongues” in the absence of any indications of trance-like stupor or behaviors. Another test conducted with sixty students showed that after listening to a one-minute sample of glossolalia, 20 percent were able to imitate it precisely. After some training, 70 percent succeeded.

In just about every part of the world, glossolalia can be observed. Pagan religions all over the world are obsessed with tongues. These include the Shamans in the Sudan, the Shango cult of the West Coast of Africa, the Zor cult of Ethiopia, the Voodoo cult in Haiti, and the Aborigines of South America and Australia. Murmuring or speaking gibberish that is construed to be deep mystical insight by holy men is an ancient practice.

There are basically two aspects to glossolalia. First is talking or murmuring in language-like sounds. Practically everyone is able to do this; even children before they ever learn to speak can mimic real language, though unintelligibly. There is nothing extraordinary about this. The other aspect of glossolalia is ecstasy or the demonstration of trance-like elation. There is nothing unusual about this either, although it is more difficult to do intentionally than to merely utter language-like sounds.

There are some Christians, especially within the Pentecostal movement, who believe there is a supernatural explanation for glossolalia similar to that described in the New Testament. They believe that the chief purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues is to manifest the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them just as on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), which was prophesied by Joel (Acts 2:17).

Among those Christian churches who do espouse the practice of glossolalia to one degree or another, there is no uniform agreement as to its workings. For example, some are adamant that it is indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit, while others minimize its importance, saying Paul taught that the gift of “speaking in tongues” wasn’t nearly as important as the other gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 13). Also, there are those wishing to avoid dividing the church on such issues by not speaking of it at all or dismissing it as a simple psychological experience. Then there are those who regard glossolalia as a deception of Satan himself.

Exotic languages are heard and understood throughout the world, but existing languages are not heard or understood when spoken as “ecstatic utterances” or “tongues.” What we do hear is a profusion of hype, claims, confusion, and noise. We simply cannot declare, as at the time of the first church, that “each of us hears [understands] them in his own native language” (Acts 2:8 NIV).

Simply put, the practice of glossolalia is not the biblical gift of tongues. Paul made it clear that the chief purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues was to be a sign for those who did not believe and to spread the good news, the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:19, 22).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Seal of the Holy Spirit?

 

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “deposit,” “seal,” and “earnest” in the hearts of Christians (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13–14; 4:30). The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The Greek word translated “earnest” in these passages is arrhabōn which means “a pledge,” that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a “first installment” to assure us that our full inheritance as children of God will be delivered. The Holy Spirit is given to us to confirm to us that we belong to God who grants to us His Spirit as a gift, just as grace and faith are gifts (Ephesians 2:8–9). Through the gift of the Spirit, God renews and sanctifies us. He produces in our hearts those feelings, hopes, and desires which are evidence that we are accepted by God, that we are regarded as His adopted children, that our hope is genuine, and that our redemption and salvation are sure in the same way that a seal guarantees a will or an agreement. God grants to us His Holy Spirit as the certain pledge that we are His forever and shall be saved in the last day. The proof of the Spirit’s presence is His operations on the heart which produce repentance, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), conformity to God’s commands and will, a passion for prayer and praise, and love for His people. These things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.

So it is through the Holy Spirit and His teachings and guiding power that we are sealed and confirmed until the day of redemption, complete and free from the corruption of sin and the grave. Because we have the seal of the Spirit in our hearts, we can live joyfully, confident of our sure place in a future that holds unimaginable glories.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Discerning Spirits?

 

The gift of discerning spirits, or “distinguishing” spirits, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11. Like all these gifts, the gift of discerning spirits is one of the gifts believers are given by the Holy Spirit, who disperses these gifts to individuals for service in the body of Christ. Every believer has spiritual enablement and capacity for a specific service, but there is no room for self-choosing. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts according to the sovereignty of God and in accordance with His plan to edify the body of Christ.

When it comes to the gift of discerning spirits, every born again believer has a certain amount of discernment which increases as the believer matures in the Spirit. In Hebrews 5:13–14 we read that a believer who has matured beyond using the milk of the Word as a babe in Christ is able to discern both good and evil. Not only is the maturing believer empowered by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures to tell the difference between good and evil, but also between what is good and what is better. In other words, any born again believer who chooses to focus upon the Word of God may be enabled to be spiritually discerning.

There are certain individuals, however, who have the God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Scriptures and erroneous and deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. Although we are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to “spot” the forgeries in doctrine that have plagued the church since the first century. But this does not involve a mystical, extra-biblical revelation or a voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning among us are so familiar with the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The spiritually discerning are those who “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God in a thoughtful and diligent manner.

As the Apostle Paul writes, there may be diversities of equipping in the body of Christ, but those diversities are meant for the edification and building of that body as a whole. And the success of that body is dependent upon all parts of the body faithfully fulfilling their place in the body as God has enabled them. No spiritual gift should be used to “lord it over” others or claim for oneself a special anointing from God. Rather, the love of God is to be the basis of how we use our spiritual gifts to edify or build up each other in the Lord.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Healing?

 

The spiritual gift of healing is the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God that miraculously brings healing and deliverance from disease and/or infirmity. It is the power of God that destroys the work of sin and/or the devil in the human body, such as the healings that Jesus and the disciples performed (Matthew 4:24, 15:30; Acts 5:15–16, 28:8–9). The gift of healing given to the church is primarily noted in 1 Corinthians 12, where the spiritual gifts are listed.

Spiritual gifts are powers, skills, abilities, or knowledge given by God through the Holy Spirit to Christians. Paul tells the church that the purpose of gifts to edify other believers, and ultimately, to glorify God. God gives these gifts for His use, but in the Corinthian church, they were apparently a type of status symbol or being used to indicate superiority. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 12:9 refers to “gifts” of healing in the plural, which may indicate that there are different gifts of healing. The gifts of healing could mean a very wide range of skills or abilities. This could be from the power to do miraculous or dramatic healing, like making the lame walk, or the use or understanding of medicine. It could even be the ability to empathize and show love to others to the point of removing or healing an emotional wound.

There has been much debate about the usage of the spiritual gift of healing among Christians. Some believe the gift of healing and some other sign gifts are no longer operative today, while others believe the miraculous gifts are still in operation today. The power to heal was never in the gifted person himself/herself. The power to heal is from God and God alone. Although God does still heal today, His healing through the gift of healing belonged primarily to the apostles of the first century church to affirm that their message was from God (Acts 2:22; 14:3).

God still performs miracles. God still heals people. There is nothing preventing God from healing one person through the ministry of another person. However, the miraculous gift of healing, as a spiritual gift, does not seem to be functioning today. God can certainly choose to intervene in whatever manner He sees fit, whether “normal” or miracle. Our salvation itself is miracle. We were dead in sin, but God entered our lives and made us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the greatest healing of all.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

 

Many people find the Holy Spirit confusing. Is the Holy Spirit a force, a person, or something else? What does the Bible teach?

The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person. First, every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is “he” not “it.” The original Greek language of the New Testament is explicit in confirming the person of the Holy Spirit. The word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter and would naturally take neuter pronouns to have grammatical agreement. Yet, in many cases, masculine pronouns are found (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13–14). Grammatically, there is no other way to understand the pronouns of the New Testament related to the Holy Spirit—He is referred to as a “He,” as a person.

Matthew 28:19 teaches us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a collective reference to one Triune God. Also, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3). We are to obey Him (Acts 10:19–21) and honor Him (Psalm 51:11).

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.

The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.

And the personhood of the Holy Spirit is affirmed by His role as the third Person of the Godhead. Only a being who is equal to God (Matthew 28:19) and possesses the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality could be defined as God.

In Acts 5:3–4, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as God, stating, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Paul likewise referred to the Holy Spirit as God in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, stating, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is a person, as Scripture makes clear. As such, He is to be revered as God and serves in perfect unity with Father and Son to lead us in our spiritual lives.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: Will the Holy Spirit Be Present during the Tribulation?

 

The question of the Holy Spirit not being present during the tribulation results from a misunderstanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:7, which reads, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” Right now, prior to the tribulation, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is the restraint of evil. In verses 8 and 9, we learn that the restraining power of the Holy Spirit holds back the “lawless one” (Antichrist) so he is not revealed before God wills it. The passage says the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain the growth of evil, but that does not mean He will have no ministry whatsoever.

In Acts 1:4–5, Jesus promises that His disciples would soon be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts chapter 2, Jesus’ promise is fulfilled. In verses 38 and 39, it is written that “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ ”

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is thus assured for every born-again believer, and nowhere in Scripture is that promise rescinded. Regeneration is the Spirit’s work; without Him, no one is saved. If the Spirit were not present during the tribulation, no one could be saved. But the fact is that a multitude that no one can number is saved during the tribulation (Revelation 7:9–14). Therefore, those who come to Jesus during the tribulation period will also be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Give glory to God for making that provision, because tribulation saints will need the guidance and direction of the Spirit during that troubled time.

Another good reason that the Spirit must be present during the tribulation is that He is omnipresent. Since He is everywhere at all times, He must be in the world during the tribulation.

At some point—only God knows when—the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit will be removed, the Antichrist will be revealed to an unwitting and unsuspecting world, and the tribulation period will begin.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Power of the Holy Spirit?

 

The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God. The Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, has appeared throughout Scripture as a Being through and by whom great works of power are made manifest. His power was first seen in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1–2; Job 26:13). The Holy Spirit also empowered men in the Old Testament to bring about God’s will: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Samuel 16:13; see also Exodus 31:2–5; Numbers 27:18). Although the Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people in the Old Testament, He worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own. All of Samson’s feats of strength are directly attributed to the Spirit coming upon him (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).

After His resurrection and before His ascension to heaven, Jesus promised the Spirit as a permanent guide, teacher, seal of salvation, and comforter for believers (John 14:16–18). He also promised that the Holy Spirit’s power would help them to spread the message of the gospel around the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The salvation of souls is a supernatural work only made possible by the Holy Spirit’s power at work in the world.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon believers at Pentecost, it was not a quiet event, but a powerful one. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4). Immediately afterward, the disciples spoke to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. These people hailed from a variety of nations, and therefore spoke many different languages. Imagine their surprise and wonder when the disciples spoke to them in their own tongues (verses 5–12)! Clearly, this was not something the disciples could have accomplished on their own without many months—or even years—of study. The Holy Spirit’s power was made manifest to a great number of people that day, resulting in the conversion of about 3,000 (verse 41).

During His earthly ministry, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14), and empowered by the Spirit to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Spirit also equipped the apostles to perform miracles (2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 2:43; 3:1–7; 9:39–41). The power of the Holy Spirit was manifest among all the believers of the early church through the dispensation of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom, and more.

All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). And, although some of the spiritual gifts have ceased (e.g., speaking in tongues and prophecy), the Holy Spirit still works in and through believers to accomplish His will. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel. The Holy Spirit’s powerful indwelling is an amazing gift we should never take lightly.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy?

 

The spiritual gift of prophecy is listed among the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Romans 12:6. The Greek word translated “prophesying” or “prophecy” in both passages properly means to “speak forth” or declare the divine will, to interpret the purposes of God, or to make known in any way the truth of God which is designed to influence people. Many people misunderstand the gift of prophecy to be the ability to predict the future. While knowing something about the future may sometimes have been an aspect of the gift of prophecy, it was primarily a gift of proclamation “forth-telling,” not prediction “fore-telling.”

A pastor/preacher who declares the Bible can be considered a “prophesier” in that he is speaking forth the counsel of God. With the completion of the New Testament canon, prophesying changed from declaring new revelation to declaring the completed revelation God has already given. Jude 3 speaks of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (emphasis added). In other words, the faith to which we hold has been settled forever, and it does not need the addition or refinement that comes from extra-biblical revelations.

Also, note the transition from prophet to teacher in 2 Peter 2:1: “There were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (emphasis added). Peter indicates that the Old Testament age had prophets, whereas the church will have teachers. The spiritual gift of prophecy, in the sense of receiving new revelations from God to be proclaimed to others, ceased with the completion of the Bible. During the time that prophecy was a revelatory gift, it was to be used for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of men (1 Corinthians 14:3). The gift of prophecy has the same purpose today, declaring the truth of God. What has changed is that the truth of God has already been fully revealed in His Word, while in the early church, it had not yet been fully revealed.

Christians are to be very wary of those who claim to have a “new” message from God. It is one thing to say, “I had an interesting dream last night.” However, it is quite another matter to say, “God gave me a dream last night, and you must obey it.” No utterance of man should be considered equal to or above the written Word. We must hold to the Word that God has already given and commit ourselves to sola scriptura—Scripture alone.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Faith?

 

The spiritual gift of faith is found in the list of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 9 says that some people are given the gift of faith, but the gift is not specifically explained. All believers have been given saving faith by God as the only means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9), but not all believers are given the spiritual gift of faith. Like all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gift of faith was given for the “common good” which means the edifying of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The gift of faith may be defined as the special gift whereby the Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God’s promises, power, and presence so they can take heroic stands for the future of God’s work in the church. The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, and His promises. Examples of people with the gift of faith are those listed in Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter, often called “the hall of faith,” describes those whose faith was extraordinary, enabling them to do extraordinary, superhuman things. Here we see Noah spending 120 years building a huge boat when, up to that time, rain was non-existent and Abraham believing he would father a child when his natural ability to do so had ended. Without the special anointing of faith as a gift from God, such things would have been impossible.

As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of faith is given to some Christians who then use it to edify others in the body of Christ. Those with the gift of faith are an inspiration to their fellow believers, exhibiting a simple confidence in God that shows in all they say and do. Extraordinarily faithful people show a humble godliness and reliance on God’s promises, often so much so that they are known to be quietly fearless and zealous. They are so convinced that all obstacles to the gospel and to God’s purposes will be overcome and so confident that God will secure the advancement of His cause, that they will often do infinitely more in the promotion of His kingdom than the most talented and erudite preachers and teachers.

So to sum it up, God gives all Christians saving faith. The spiritual gift of faith is given to some, who exhibit extraordinary amounts of faith in their Christian walk and who, by their faith, are a joy and an encouragement to others.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Mercy?

 

In His Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ beatitudes is “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Mercy means to be led by God to be compassionate in our attitudes, words and actions. It is more than feeling sympathy towards someone; it is love enacted. Mercy desires to answer the immediate needs of others and alleviate suffering, loneliness, and grief. Mercy addresses physical, emotional, financial or spiritual crises with generous, self-sacrificial service. Mercy is a champion of the lowly, poor, exploited, and forgotten, and often acts on their behalf.

A good example of mercy is found in Matthew 20:29–34: “As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.” Notice that the blind men associated mercy not with a feeling but with an action. Their physical problem was that they couldn’t see, so to them, the act of mercy was Christ’s intervention to restore their sight. To be merciful is more than a feeling; it is always followed by an action.

This gift has a practical application of active service as well as a responsibility to do so cheerfully (Romans 12:8). Additionally, we are all called to be merciful. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 5:7 promises mercy to those who are merciful towards others. As spiritually dead and blind sinners, we are no better off than the two blind men in Matthew 20. Just as they were utterly dependent on Christ’s compassion to restore their sight, so are we dependent on Him to “show us His mercy and grant us His salvation” (Psalm 85:7). This bedrock understanding that our hope depends on Christ’s mercy alone and not in any merit of ours should inspire us to follow Christ’s example of compassionate service and show mercy to others as it has been given to us.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Leadership?

 

The Bible gives the means for the church to accomplish tasks, develop the local congregation, serve the needs of the fellowship, and help it establish a community witness. The Bible describes these means as spiritual gifts, one of which is the gift of leadership. The spiritual gift of leadership in the local church appears in these lists in two passages, Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The Greek word translated “rule” or “govern” in these verses designates one who is set over others, or who presides or rules, or one who attends with diligence and care to a thing. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12, it is used in relation to ministers in general: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord.” Here the word is translated “over you.”

Everything rises and falls with leadership. The more skillful and effective the leadership, the better the organization runs and the more the potential for growth increases. In Romans 12:8 the word translated “ruler” indicates care and diligence with reference to the local church. The ruler is to attend, with constant diligence, to his work, which is to watch over the flock and to be ready to sacrifice personal comfort to look after needy sheep.

There are several characteristics of those with the spiritual gift of leadership. First and foremost, they recognize that their position is by the appointment of the Lord and is under His direction. They understand that they are not absolute rulers, but are themselves subject to the One who is over them all, the Lord Jesus who is the Head of the church. Recognizing their place in the hierarchy of the administration of the body of Christ prevents the gifted leader from succumbing to pride or a sense of entitlement. The truly gifted Christian leader recognizes that he is but a slave of Christ and a servant of those he leads. The Apostle Paul recognized this position, referring to himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1). Like Paul, the gifted leader recognizes that God has called him to his position; he has not called himself (1 Corinthians 1:1). Following Jesus’ example, the gifted leader also lives to serve those he leads, and not to be served by them or lord it over them (Matthew 20:25–28).

James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, had the gift of leadership, as he led the church in Jerusalem. He, too, referred to himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). James exhibited another quality of spiritual leadership—the ability to sway others to think rightly, biblically, and godly in all matters. James persuaded those in Jerusalem on the contentious issue of how to relate to Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah. “And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His Name’ ” (Acts 15:13–14). With that opening statement he led them to think clearly and biblically, enabling them to come to a right decision on this issue (Acts 15:22–29).

As shepherds of God’s people, ruling with diligence includes the ability to discern true spiritual needs from “felt” needs and to lead others to maturity in the faith. He leads others to grow in their ability to discern for themselves that which comes from God from that which is cultural or temporary. Like Paul, his words are not “wise and persuasive” but are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, leading and encouraging others to rest their faith on that very power (1 Corinthians 2:4–6). The goal of the gifted leader is to guard and guide those he leads “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

The spiritual gift of leadership is given by God to men and women who will help the church to grow and thrive beyond the current generation. God has given the gift of leadership not to exalt men, but to glorify Himself when men and women use the gift He gave them to do His will.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Interpreting Tongues?

 

Along with the gift of speaking in tongues, another spiritual gift mentioned in the list found in 1 Corinthians 12:10 is the gift of interpreting tongues. The gift of interpreting tongues is the ability to translate a foreign language into the language of the hearers. The gift of interpreting tongues is always alongside the gift of speaking in tongues. It is a separate gift, but it is always used in conjunction with the gift of speaking in tongues.

A person with the gift of interpreting tongues could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he did not know the language that was being spoken. This is what distinguishes the spiritual gift from the natural gift of being able to understand and speak a variety of languages. The tongues interpreter would then communicate the message of the tongues speaker to everyone else, so all could understand and benefit from the truth being spoken. The tongues were known languages, not to ecstatic utterances. According to the apostle Paul, and in agreement with the tongues described in Acts, speaking in tongues is valuable to the one hearing God’s message in his or her own language, but it is useless to everyone else unless it is interpreted/translated. His concern is edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:5, 12).

Paul’s conclusion regarding tongues that were not interpreted is powerful: “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). There is no benefit to others in hearing something they cannot understand. More importantly, there is no benefit, and much harm, done in churches where the speaking and interpreting of a tongue brings forth that which does not line up with Scripture or which cannot be verified in Scripture.

Paul was also concerned about order in worship. His concern was that everything is done for edification of the church. He goes on to say that there should only be two or three speaking in a tongue and one should interpret. If there is no interpreter present, then one should be quiet (1 Corinthians 14:26–28). Because of the temporal nature of the gift of tongues, it assumes that the gift of interpretation of tongues was also of a temporal nature. If the gift of speaking in tongues were active in the church today, it would be performed in agreement with Scripture. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God’s Word to a person of another language (Acts 2:6–12), and it would also be in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.