First Mennonite Church
August 25, 2019
Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for Today?
Text: 1Corinthians 14:1-11
Next Sunday, I will finish our series on the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit by looking at what Paul teaches about the gifts. But before we could talk about that subject there is an underlying issue we need to work on, first and that will be the subject for today. Are God’s gifts through his Spirit something even for today or were they only a phenomenon necessary for the early church at its inception period? Do the words of John about what Jesus would do only valid for the early days of the church, when John said, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”? It is, therefore, very important for us to clarify the issue of whether or not the promise of God’s gifts through his Spirit is still pertinent and valid for today, before we can explore Paul’s teaching on gifts. Because, if the gifts are not anymore for us today, there is little benefit, if any at all, to consider the topic.
I am not sure if you are aware, but not all Bible-believing Christians believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for us today. They are sometimes referred to as “cessationists,” which means, those who believe something has ceased/stopped. There is a segment even among conservative evangelicals who, although sincere in their faith in Jesus, do not believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today. That does not mean that they are not saved; that does not mean that they do not serve the Lord with all their heart. In fact, maybe they serve the Lord with greater dedication and effort. However, it might mean that they hold a different interpretation of some scripture references and who might be very cautious about anyone claiming these gifts are for today. Another possible reason for not believing might be that they are afraid about something unfamiliar to them. They are also very intellectual, therefore, stay away from anything “emotional” or “subjective” as they would say.
So, what might be some other reasons many assume the gifts of the Spirit are not for us today? For some, it is a strict adherence to the Greek vocabulary in Paul’s letter. For instance, most translations of 1Corinthians chapter 12, verse one, reads: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. But those who stick to the Greek language, argue that the phrase “spiritual gifts” is not there, which is true. The word that appears in the Greek NT is “pneumatikon” which could be translated “spirituals.” But later in Paul’s discussion of the matter he addresses in that chapter, he uses the word “diairesies de carismata . . . de auto pneuma.” There are diverse carismata–gifts . . . but the same Spirit. (12:4). Also, in 14, verse one, Paul encourages: Follow the way of love (which he highlighted so beautifully in chapter 13) and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, (spirituals) especially prophecy, which in chapter 12, verse nine, he refers to it as one of the gift by the same Spirit.
The other reason many believe the gifts of the Spirit are not for today is because these are not commonly found in Christian congregations. Do you know a prophet in our midst? Can you identify someone with the gifts of wisdom, sitting among us?
And a third and main reason why some believe the gifts of the Spirit as experienced in the early church are not for today is because these people believe that God’s Spirit has already come to dwell in the believer in the moment of conversion to Christ, which is also true. Paul is very clear when he says that “No one can call Jesus Lord, if not by the holy Spirit. Also, that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of our redemption. In Romans, Paul says that the Spirit of God dwells in the believer because anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit in him or her does not belong to Christ (8:9). But these references, clearly, are not talking about the infilling with the Holy Spirit. They are referring to what happens when we give our lives to the Lord. He gives us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation, making his presence in us and with us. But to limit the work and presence of the Holy Spirit to only giving us assurance of our salvation, is to refuse any further involvement of the Holy Spirit in our Christian life.
Those who do not believe the gifts are for today, reject the idea of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The call this phenomenon, “a second grace,” although, it is not as we will see.
If all the Holy Spirit does today is to enable us for salvation and if at the moment of our conversion we receive everything there is about him, then what do we say about the following instances?
In Act 8, the Samaritans received the word of God and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That would mean that God had already given them his Spirit. But then, Peter and John went over to them to pray that “they might receive the Holy Spirit.” (8:15).
In Acts 9, Ananias went to see Paul after he was met by Christ on the road to Damascus. Ananias prayed for Paul to receive his sight and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Again in Acts 19, Paul found some disciples in Ephesus who had been baptized with baptism of John the Baptist, and then were baptized in the name of Jesus, but then Paul laid on them his hand and prayed for them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (19:6)
What these references say is that the infilling with the Holy Spirit happens even after these people have received Jesus. The coming of the Holy Spirit on them enabled them to speak in tongues and to prophesy and that happened after they were converted to the Lord. Even as attested in our passage for today, Paul was speaking to believers and said, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”
What we see in these reference is that believers who had received the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the moment of their conversion to the Lord were once again filled with the Holy Spirit in a fresh manner, empowering them to do something they had not been able to do initially. One last reference about this what we find in Acts 4. Peter and John had been arrested, but once the authorities realize they could not find any legitimate charge against them, released them. And Peter and John went back to the gathered believers—most likely those who had been with them on Pentecost day. When Peter and John shared what had happened, the believers prayed asking God for boldness. After the last amen had been said of their prayers, the place shook and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word with much boldness. (4:31)
So, what should we do?
Let us give thanks to God for giving us the Comforter to be with us and in us forever. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us, says in Romans five, verse five. God’s Spirit dwells in us, therefore, his presence guards our heart and enables us to call Jesus, “Lord.” But as we have seen through the testimony of God’s Word, God also wants to give us the necessary guidance, word of wisdom and knowledge, the power and faith to carry out his work. It is God’s desire that we seek what he has for us in order to be able to do his work. God’s Spirit will empower us when we hunger, yearn, have a longing to serve God with greater effectiveness. Just as we saw happening in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon those who were eager to serve the Lord, despite the troubles that could come on them. They Holy Spirit gave power, boldness, and wisdom beyond ordinary capacity when men and women earnestly desired to serve the Lord. The Holy Spirit will bestow upon us the gifts necessary for the moment and need when we yield ourselves to him. It would be a thrilling experience to see God at work in us and through us when we ask the Holy Spirit to help us do the work of the Lord. Amen!