Over time, God imparts various types of spiritual empowerment, called Gifts of the Holy Spirit, to those who have received salvation.
- Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given according to His divine grace; they cannot be earned through human merit (Eph 4:7-8; 1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1).
- God gives spiritual gifts at His own discretion; He is not bound by man’s wishes (1 Cor 12:4-11, 18; Heb 2:4; Eph 4:11; Rom 12:6).
- God wills that every Christian exercise spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11, 28-30; Rom 12:4-8).
- God provides gifts for the purpose of ministry and service; they are not given to draw attention to man or satisfy his ego (1 Cor 12:7; 1 Pet 4:10).
- God intends that the ministry of the church be accomplished through spiritual gifts; human talents are not sufficient (2 Cor 10:3-5; Mat 25:29; 2 Tim 1:6; Rom 12:4-8).
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are summarized in the following table. Various Bible versions use a variety of words for these gifts.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Rom 12:6-8 1 Cor 12:4-11 1 Cor 12:28 Eph 4:11
Prophecy Prophecy Prophecy Prophecy
Teaching Teaching Teaching
Working Miracles Working Miracles
Speaking in Tongues Speaking in Tongues
Interpretation of Tongues Interpretation of Tongues
It is unusual for a Christian to openly declare that he/she has received any Gift of the Spirit except for one particular gift: the gift of speaking in tongues. This curious circumstance evolved in the modern era primarily as an outgrowth of the 1906 - 1909 Azusa Street, Los Angeles revival. Subsequent to that revival, several denominations claimed that any Christian who has received the gift of tongues is not just filled with the Spirit but is empowered by the Spirit and raised to a peerage above the rank and file Christian who, by comparison, is just barely saved. This is a dangerous and destructive path; it smacks of exclusivity and arrogance which, of course, are not gifts of the Spirit. This counterfeit desirability, manufactured by denominations, has caused countless Christians to seek the gift of tongues and devalue all other gifts. Some churches even have training classes for those who can’t speak in tongues but would like to learn how. Other churches are so outraged by what they consider fake spirituality that they will expel from service any member who dares to speak in tongues even in the privacy of his/her own home. Once again, we Christians have made a mess of things! What might be a reasonable mediating position?
Four kinds of tongues exist:
- Speaking in a language unknown the speaker but known to those who speak that language (Acts 2:1-11). Rare in the modern era!
- Speaking in a language known only in heaven and unknown on earth unless God gives the gift of interpretation (1 Cor 14:4, 19, 28).
- Speaking under demonic influence.
- Speaking in non-rational ecstatic verbiage as a human reaction to a religious emotion.
The gift of tongues, as defined in bullet item 2, is for prayer, praise and thanksgiving (1 Cor 14:14-16) and should generally be practiced in private. However, if the gift is exercised in public only two or three should speak and each should have an interpreter (1 Cor 14:27-28).
As a general rule regarding spiritual gifts, seek not, forbid not!