SPIRITUAL GIFTS, PART 4

Lightning bolts appear above and around the Chaiten volcano. Awesome, but God’s power unleashed is greater!

THE GIFTS OF POWER

We call this group of spiritual gifts “the gifts of power,” but we need to remember that they function like all the other spiritual gifts. The “power” at work is God’s power, working through a believer.

This group of gifts includes the gift of faith, working of miracles, and gifts (plural) of healing. It is probably significant that faith is included in this group since it is fundamental to the operation of all the gifts, but especially to the gifts of power. The gift of faith is also the least spectacular of all the gifts.

1. The gift of faith

It should be pointed out that there is a world of difference between “faith” and the spiritual gift of faith. We are told that “faith” is absolutely essential if one is to serve the Lord:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

No faith, no salvation! One of the foundational statements about the Christian life is this: the just shall live by faith. So at the outset, we know that all believers have a measure of faith. Interestingly, even that “ordinary faith” is a gift of God:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8)

And yet, Paul makes it clear that there is a very special manifestation of the Holy Spirit involving a supernatural “injection” of faith.

This “gift of faith” is really a special quality of faith given to an individual during times of crisis or opportunity when they are endowed with a faith that is beyond what they may be used to. The Holy Spirit gives this individual a sort of divine, unshakable certainty that God’s promise to them—whatever it may be—will be fulfilled no matter what it looks like.

A truly classic example of this gift of faith is seen in the life of the prophet Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, there is an incident when, in the face of tremendous odds, Elijah went about his appointed task for the Lord with a strangely calm assurance that he would be triumphant. In fact, Elijah is so sure that sure things will work out in his favor, he actually mocked those who were against him. Finally, when it came time for the Lord manifest His presence, all Elijah did was pray a calm prayer, already knowing what would happen:

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36, 37)

Of course, we know the story. God’s power was manifested exactly as Elijah knew it would be.

The question may arise, “Maybe Elijah just had a lot of faith.” He certainly was a man of faith, but he also had his doubts; he didn’t have that special faith fall the time. In the very next chapter of 1 Kings, that special gift of faith seems to be completely absent in the prophet’s life.

It seems that Jesus was referring to this special gift of faith when He spoke these famous words in Matthew 17:20—

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

We don’t always have that kind of faith. In fact, most of the time we probably don’t. Jesus’ point was that just wee bit of that divine faith—which is part of God’s nature—injected into the soul of a believer can produce wonders.

2. Gifts of healing

It seems that ever since the birth of the Church, believers clamour for this supernatural ability. Often we want to be able to heal those who need healing out of a genuine sense of sympathy. Sometimes there are those who wish to heal the sick for other, less altruistic reasons.

One of the great misconceptions surrounding this supernatural ability to heal the sick is that one who has it always has it; that they can walk through any crowded hospital ward, any time, touching people, and healing them. It is historically provable that there were people in the early church that did possess the ability to heal the sick, but there is no evidence whatsoever that these individuals went around healing every sick person they came in contact with. In the days of the early church, as today, some people are healed, the vast majority are not.

Jesus was one who definitely possessed this gift in full measure. While He often healed the sick, and at the height of His ministry we are told that He “healed them all,” it should be noted that the “all” were those who were sick in a certain locality. Other times the Bible makes it clear that Jesus did not heal everybody. The manifestation of the gifts of healing in no way suggests the unlimited power to make all the sick well.

As we read the New Testament, particularly of the expansion of the Church, it seems this spiritual ability to heal the sick was very common. This seems to indicate that the gifts of healing served a purpose other than the obvious one. It seems to be connected to evangelistic or missionary activity, where such a demonstration of divine power would open a door for or draw attention to the Gospel as it was being preached. This remarkable demonstration of God’s power would serve to attest to the authenticity of the Gospel.

One final observation: we are discussing the gifts of healing, not the gift of healing. The use of the plural seems to indicate a variety of forms of this particular gift.

Is there a connection between the work of medicine and science and the gifts of healing? The short answer is NO. This is a very specific ability granted a believer whereby the power of God flows through him to the benefit of the Body of Christ. It is absurd to think that God would allow His Spirit to work through a godless doctor to affect the healing of someone. The gifts of healing have nothing to do with medical science, psychology, positive thinking, mind control or anything explainable.

There is a longer answer, however. All healing comes from the Lord. No man can heal another man any more than a farmer can make seed grow. Whether one is healed immediately as the result of the manifestation of God’s power or whether one is gradually healed through medicine and science after having been prayed for, it is still God at work and God should be glorified in either case.

3. Working of miracles

In the Greek, it’s not “the working of miracles,” but rather, “works of power.” The Greek word used is dunamis, which refers to the power of God. Jesus made a distinct promise to His disciples that they would be able to perform the same miracles that He had:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Not long after that, He promised them this:

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)

And certainly did! Peter raised Dorcas back to life in Acts 9:40. Paul raised Eutychus back to life (Acts 20:10) and we are told this Acts 19:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11—12)

We even read about the time Peter’s shadow worked a miracle (Acts 5:15)!

These are outstanding incidents we know about. This gift seemed to have been fairly common in the very early church, and it’s likely not all of its manifestations were this incredible. As with the gifts of healing, it’s the power of God working through a believer, not a native talent or ability on display.

That God gifts individuals with His gifts sometimes raises eyebrows. We are told that the gifts are given as God’s decides. Sometimes, we may wonder why a certain member of the church has been gifted with a certain gift but we were not. Samson is classic example of one who had been given a gift, probably this gift of working miracles, that never fails to raise eyebrows. Here was a man—a buffoon—who was a total failure in his most of his life, yet he consistently manifested God’s power. This helps us understand the importance of 1 Corinthians 13:1, 2—

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

In other words, we, like Samson, can be weak-willed, buffoon-like Christians and still manifest the gifts of the Spirit. This is a problem in the church today as much as it was a problem in the Corinthian church of Paul’s day. The solution is to exercise our spiritual gift or gifts, whatever they may be, for the love of God and the Body of Christ with the goal of glorifying Jesus Christ, not self.

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