The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the special abilities, which the Holy Spirit “sovereignly” (just as He determines) gives to various believers ‘for the common good’ of the church. It is quite different from “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 38), which, as discussed last week, is the Holy Spirit Himself given to minister the saving benefits of Christ’s redemption to the believer.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest the power and influence of the Holy Spirit in a Christian. They are very necessary divine provision and empowerment for operating at a supernatural level and demonstrating God’s power in the life and ministry of a Christian, as well as the Church. The gifts are “spiritual,” implying that they are of the Spirit, and supernatural. However, they are for this world and not eternal (1Cor. 13:8-10), helping the Christian and the Church to prevail and overcome this world’s powers and challenges, as the Divine/Church’s mission is accomplished.
There are four notable lists of the gifts in the Bible (1 Cor. 12:8-10; Isa. 11:2-3; Rom.12: 3-8 and Eph. 4:7-13), which both overlap and vary, indicating that the listings are not meant to be comprehensive, but to express the diversity of ways God endows Christians for spiritual service. The gifts are of different kinds and related to different kinds of service and different kinds of working. The Holy Spirit uses different men in different ways, imparting different gifts to each. The listed gifts are: Nine in 1Corrinthians (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues), seven in Isaiah (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), seven in Romans (prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and showing mercy) and five in Ephesians (the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers). 1Peter 4:10-11 also refers to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and mentioned two (speaking and serving).
Just like the gift of the Holy Spirit, Himself, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are to be desired and received as gifts, not grabbed, feigned or manipulated. It also need be said that, as important as the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the Church’s mission and the life and ministry of the Christian, their possession neither guarantees nor entails spiritual maturity. The Christians in Corinth, for instance, lacked no spiritual gift (1Cor.1: 7), yet they were noted for being “carnal” and spiritual infants (1Cor 3:1-3).
The gifts are desirable, but their value is dependent on their being exercised in love and orderliness (1Cor. 14:1, 39). In fact, without love, the gifts are void and profit nothing, particularly in relation to salvation and the kingdom of God (Matt. 7:21-23; 1Cor. 13:1-3). It is love that is “the most excellent way” (1Cor. 12:31-13:1ff). It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit), which constitute the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14:7). Every believer has a gift (1Cor 12:7, 11; 7:7), but none has all the gifts (12:29, 30). The gifts should, therefore, bring us to humility and unity. The gifts are needed, but not at the expense of love.
The Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba,
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.