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When Paul speaks about the use of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor 14, he was trying to advise a church whose use of these gifts was somewhat chaotic: everyone bringing songs, prophecies, words of knowledge and so on in a manner which did not allow for people to hear, listen and digest what was being said and done. He reminded the Corinthians that God is a God of order and peace (1 Cor 14:33) and tried to bring some sense of order into services.
Nowadays, it may be more rare to see these gifts used in our church services, but we need to eagerly desire spiritual gifts and seek God for these. The phrase ‘eagerly desire’ (used in 1 Cor 12:31 and 1 Cor 14:1) means to strive after something, to pursue it with fervour. So often, we are like people who are ovewhelmed by gifts and therefore leave some untouched. God wants to give us good gifts to build up and encourage the church. God may give us a gift as a ‘one-off’ or lead us into a ministry which uses one gift in particular, but in all things, we need to seek the Giver more than the gift.
The gifts of the Spirit include:
1. a message of wisdom (not natural wisdom, but given by God specifically for a situation, as Jesus demonstrated when the Pharisees tried to trick Him with a question about paying taxes – Matt 22:15-22)
2. a word of knowledge (again, not natural knowledge achieved through studying or long experience, but supernatural knowledge as demonstrated by Jesus with the woman from Samaria in John 4:16-18)
3. faith (for a specific situation, as when Paul had the faith to raise Eutychus from the dead in Acts 20).
4. healings (e.g. when Peter and John healed the lame man in Acts 3)
5. prophecy (which means God speaking messages to His people, not just foretelling the future, There are many examples of prophecy in the book of Acts – see Acts 21:10-11)
6. messages in tongues (i.e. other languages. These can be declarations of praise or messages from God.)
7. interpretation of these messages (so that the church can be built up, since we do not generally understand the languages used.)
8. distinguishing between spirits (demonstrated by Paul in Acts 16:16-18 towards the female slave whose words may have seemed flattering but whom Paul recognised as being demonically inspired.)
9. miraculous powers (e.g. ‘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)
If we were given the opportunity to have whatever gifts we desired, it would be interesting to see what we would choose. God wants to give us these amazing gifts so that the church can be built up and made stronger. Let’s eagerly desire these gifts and seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. (Eph 5:18)