What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “gifts of the spirit?” Do you get excited, do you feel pressure, do you want to walk in the gifts but don’t know how, do you feel like you’ve “been there done that,” do you feel like the gifts aren’t for today? Maybe something else?
I have some observations I’d like to share with you. Let’s start with the word “gift.”
Gifts/Graces of the Spirit
The word “gift” is the Greek word charisma. The root word is charis, which is the word for “grace.” Charisma is charis in action. This makes sense when you understand the true definition and function of GRACE.
Grace is unmerited favor but it also means “God’s divine influence in your heart.” Grace also means “capacity.” The idea is this, God will empower you in your inner man, otherwise known as your heart. He empowers you to do things that only His spirit is able to do, things you can not do in your own strength. Things like live holy, heal people, function as a prophet, be righteous, all of which are empowerments (gifts) of His spirit. But who can operate in which gift?
When I think of the gifts/graces, I think about a guy I call the unknown healer.
The Unknown Healer
You can read about this guy in Luke 9:49-50. This person is mentioned after Jesus sent out the original 12 apostles with power to cast out demons and heal people but before he sent out the 70 disciples 2 by 2.. The Apostle John has an interesting experience with “the unknown healer.”
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Who is this guy? He must have heard that Jesus gave His followers power and decided it was for him too. He took that for himself and jumped out there on his own. I find this seemingly insignificant story incredibly encouraging. He wasn’t part or the 12, he wasn’t part of the 70, but he decided that God’s power could work through him too.
Do you know who he is? I’ll tell you, he’s YOU!! Yes, you!! You’re the unknown healer. You’re the unnamed Jesus follower that can take God’s power and run with it. If you have His spirit, you can yield to His influence and be empowered to express His power. The fact the he is unnamed, and not formally sent out by Jesus tells me that anyone who chooses to minister in the authority of Jesus can do so, and Jesus is cool with it.
What about John’s response?
John, the self-professed “disciple whom Jesus loved,” the guy who reclined on Jesus’ chest, the author of the Gospel about God’s love. John told the unknown healer to STOP. Notice John’s reason, “because he follows not with us.”
He doesn’t go to our church, he didn’t go through our supernatural school, he doesn’t know our culture, he doesn’t have proper exegesis, he’s not one of the elect, he reads from the wrong translation of the Bible, etc… John tries to stop a man who has taken Christ’s mandate to set people free from demonic oppression and disease, because he was not part of his tribe.
This is “religion” at its worst. Our churches are full of this kind of division today. We disqualify people all the time because they “don’t follow with us.” Jesus said, “don’t tell him to stop, if he’s not against me he’s for me.” That’s as wide open as it gets, that’s freedom! It takes a secure leader to offer that kind of freedom. I understand the importance of everything being done decently and in order, but Jesus didn’t try to control people, He gave them power and set them free.
Jesus didn’t say, go get him and make sure he knows all the Law and Prophets. He didn’t say, bring him to me so I can make sure he’s interpreting the Bible properly. Jesus didn’t say, he needs to go through my training to be qualified. Jesus didn’t even ask the guy’s name, he told his followers to leave the guy alone. Jesus knew a secret, the Holy Spirit will teach the unknown healer to minister as he goes.
There Is Only One Anointing
Have you heard about the prophetic anointing, or apostolic anointing? The problem is, there is no such thing. There’s one anointing, that’s the indwelling of God’s spirit.
He places His spirit in you and it abides. His spirit will then move through you and empower you in different ways, which some people refer to as “anointing,” but that’s actually not scriptural. If you have God’s spirit, you are anointed, period.
1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But just as His true and genuine anointing teaches you about all things, so remain in Him as you have been taught.
To anoint with oil, you smear the oil on the person. The way God anoints is by smearing or spreading His spirit within you, and that smearing remains. If you have His spirit, you have been anointed by God. That indwelling spirit will then empower you in different ways. Paul’s audience would have understood this to mean, there is ONE anointing. As you read this passage from 1 Corinthians 12, notice how careful Paul is to express the point that there’s one spirit and that one spirit has different capacities.
1 CORINTHIANS 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the SAME SPIRIT; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the SAME LORD; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the SAME GOD who empowers them all in everyone.
Same spirit, same Lord, same God. You can also say, same anointing. There are no different anointings because there is only one spirit. Now that he’s made it clear that’s there’s one anointing, he describes how that one spirit empowers different kinds of gifts in people.
The word “given” means empowered or endued. The idea is that God empowers people to walk in these graces or gifts. The word gift is not to be understood as a stand alone package that one person gets while another person doesn’t. God’s spirit might empower one person to do something and another person to do another thing, but it’s the same anointing/spirit working the graces/gifts through everyone.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 ALL THESE ARE EMPOWERED BY ONE AND THE SAME SPIRIT (anointing), who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
God chooses which grace/gift he expresses through people. This is important because we’re all the same, all equal, all important members in God’s body. You don’t need to run to a “gifted” minister and have them lay hands on you to impart their anointing or gifts to you. You are complete in Christ, lacking nothing. As God is building His body in the earth, he needs you to yield to Him so He can express the power of His Gospel through you, you are an important part of His body!!
I understand impartation in the same way I understand tuning an instrument with a tuning fork. Before digital devices, musicians would use tuning forks. You can strike a tuning fork and hold it next to a motionless string on a guitar and that string will begin to resonate the same frequency as the tuning fork. Another person who is yielding to God and allowing Him to empower a certain gift through them can lay hands on you and “tune you” to the frequency of that gift.
That person doesn’t give you something, they awaken something within you. It’s still God who decides which gifts work through people, but if you’re called to operate in a certain gift, another person who already operates in that gift can help you become tuned to that gift and flow in it.
If you have God’s spirit, you have all the gifts in you, but they need to be activated. Another person can help you activate them or you can simply yield your heart to God and allow Him to empowerment you.
How Do I Do It?
You might wonder how to actually express the gift. Here’s the truth, you probably already operate in that gift, you’re just not intentional about it and you may not be confident in it. The best way to become confident is to minister to people. Get around some people and pay attention to what happens inside you. Connect to love for those people and do what the spirit leads you to do. By the way, you hear God better than you think, you have a new heart that knows His voice.
Fall In Love with People
After Paul goes into great detail about the gifts, he ends chapter 12 by saying, “I will show you a more excellent way.” He’s still talking about God empowering people to walk in his abilities, but he begins to frame it with love. He says all that stuff is pretty much worthless without love. He makes the bold statement, LOVE NEVER FAILS.
Here’s the bottom line. If you love people, genuinely have compassion for them, God will help you bless them. God will teach you in the moment what to say and do. He might want to give them a promise from His Word through you, He might want to help them understand which decision to make, He might want to heal them, He might want to call them into a specific office in the body of Christ, it can be all kinds of things. And He can do all of those things through you because you have His spirit within you. You are anointed, in fact, you are as anointed as Jesus!
The question is, will you lay aside your ego and fear of man, and act on the compassion that arises in your heart for that person?
The Holy Spirit will teach you as you go. Each day when you go about your life, see if you can connect to love for people in your heart. See if you can look at people and have compassion for them. I don’t mean feel sorry for them, but feel compassion for them as describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Fall in love with people. It may be just an emotion or feeling at first but it may also turn into an action. Be sure to stick to healthy boundaries, don’t create codependency or do their part for them, but love them, in real ways.
In the coming weeks I’ll discuss the specific gifts in more detail, but start with being willing to allow love to rise up in your heart for everyone around you.