Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:29-31
The Holy Spirit is always an interesting topic of discussion in religious circles. Many believe the Spirit works in the lives of Christians in a miraculous, charismatic way. I have had discussions with folks who believe that one does not have relationship with the Holy Spirit unless one performs or has had performed on them some sort of supposedly miraculous deed.
Usually this is manifested in some sort of supposed “faint,” the handling of poisonous snakes or drinking of poisonous liquids with the goal being without harm, “being healed” of various maladies, or “speaking in tongues,” which is supposedly done when one babbles nonsense due to the Spirit supposedly taking over them. Interestingly, when one reads in the Bible of Christians miraculously speaking in tongues they were speaking actual various dialects and languages from different cultures and countries rather than babble (Acts 2:4-11).
It’s understandable that many believe the Holy Spirit operates in this fashion today, because Scripture does record some of the early Christians possessing miraculous spiritual gifts. Paul wrote to Corinth about “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:1) before talking of how there were “varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (12:4). He then listed the different types of spiritual gifts, of which a study of each of them reveals that they were miraculous in nature (12:8-10), before specifically noting, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (12:11). The apostle then spends the rest of chapter 12 and all of chapters 13 and 14 talking about these miraculous spiritual gifts.
Note that Paul brought out that not all the early Christians had these miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-30; 14:16, 23). This is interesting, considering that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” was promised to all who would become Christians when they obeyed the gospel through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32). Is this a contradiction, or is there a difference between Paul’s miraculous “spiritual gifts” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” promised by Peter to “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39) through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14)?
Studying all of God’s Word will reveal the truth (Psalm 119:160). When one does so concerning this topic, one sees a difference between the two. While “the gift of the Holy Spirit” was given to all who obeyed the gospel, miraculous spiritual gifts were given to selected Christians by the apostles when they laid their hands upon them. The apostle Paul was known to give saints spiritual gifts in this way (Acts 19:5-6; Romans 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:6). Acts 6:1-6 gives a more detailed example, wherein the apostles directed the Jerusalem church to select from among them seven men to serve in a benevolent work. Stephen and Philip were among the chosen. These men were brought before the apostles, who then “laid their hands on them” (6:6). Only afterwards do we read in Acts of anyone other than the apostles performing miracles, in that Stephen (6:8) and Philip (8:6-7) were able to perform them also.
It’s interesting that Stephen, Philip, and the rest of these seven men had to meet certain qualifications in order to be chosen, among which was that they already be “full of the Spirit” (6:3). This cannot mean that they already had the ability to perform miracles through the Holy Spirit, because we read of no one other than the apostles performing miracles in Acts until after they laid their hands on these seven men (6:6). However, when we remember that all who obeyed the gospel through penitent baptism were promised “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-39), it’s clear that the qualification “full of the Spirit” refers to the promise given to all Christians when they are converted into Christianity rather than the ability to perform miracles.
Lord willing, in next week’s column we’ll get into a deeper study of the difference between miraculous spiritual gifs and “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and why the former has ceased while the latter still exists today. If you’d like to study on this or any biblical topic personally, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.