Gifts and Fruit
In last week’s message, we thought about a great event that is recorded in the second chapter of Acts. The event was the apostles of Jesus being filled with the Holy Spirit.
That event - being filled with the Holy Spirit - caused many wonderful things to happen. For instance, the apostles were given the power to preach very effectively. And, as the apostles led many others to accept Jesus and also be filled with the Holy Spirit, those others became eager to learn about spiritual things and to have a willingness to share what they had with those in need.
The coming of the Holy Spirit to fill those who believed in Jesus as Savior was a major event in the early Christian church. Before His death, resurrection, and return to Heaven, Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit would come. How good it was when the Holy Spirit came.
In last week’s message, we thought about how effective the apostles and other early Christians were because of the Holy Spirit. But you know what? The power of the Holy Spirit was not just for that moment. It went on into the future, which will be evident in the first of two Bible passages featured in this message.
The first passage for today is I Corinthians 12:7-11. The passage was written by the apostle Paul. In it, Paul teaches what effect the Holy Spirit was to have on the people he had led to accepting Jesus. Those who were also filled with the Holy Spirit.
Right before verse 7 of I Corinthians 12, Paul challenged believers in Christ to have unity. He acknowledged there were many gifts among Christians. He was about to list some. There were many gifts, but, Paul pointed out, it was the same Spirit who assigned them all.
The point? No one was more special than anyone else because each person received his or her gift from the same source.
In addition, there were, Paul wrote, many ways to serve, but all service was to be channeled in just one direction, which was to the Lord. Every Christian served the same Lord.
And there were many ways to work, but Christians were to remember there was just one God who inspired each example of work to be done.
Unity. That is what the Christians in the city of Corinth - the Christians to whom Paul wrote - were to have. That was to be the case, even when using the gifts assigned to them by the Holy Spirit.
What were the gifts to which Paul referred? He listed them right after he wrote that each one was to be exercised with the power of the Holy Spirit and that each one was given by the Holy Spirit for the common good. Not any one or two gifts were more important than any of the others. All were necessary for the congregation to thrive.
What were the gifts?
The first one on the list is wisdom, which is defined a number of ways. Wisdom is the ability to understand the Bible. It extends to being aware what is the best thing to do in any situation. The best for God’s kingdom and for other people.
Of course, those in the early church who did not have Bibles like we have. They were required to listen to the teachings of the early church leaders, including Paul, so they would be familiar with the teachings of Jesus. But the ability to understand God’s way and know how that can best be used in life was, according to Paul, one of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their understanding.
Next on the list is knowledge. That seems to be fairly close to wisdom. It is knowing the Bible so well, but also having the ability to analyze the teachings in it, that it will be clear how people should live to be pleasing to God.
When thinking of that, along with the ability to share that information with others, I remember the very first counseling session I ever had. A couple had recently been married. They were having major in-law problems on both sides.
After about half-an-hour of them telling me the problems, I gave what I thought was absolutely stellar advice about what they should do. The couple paused for a moment before looking at each other and exclaiming that was absolutely the worst, most stupid, advice they had ever heard. Within five minutes of that, the couple had talked through what they thought they should do. They got up from the table, thanked me for the time and advice, and walked away, happy they had decided what to do.
Thank you for the advice? They did not take my advice. Maybe I helped them process their dilemma. It seems that is more often my role in such situations.
But knowledge, I think, should be more than that. It should include giving advice. Advice based on the Bible. Advice people will actually listen to and follow. I guess that means I might not have knowledge as it reaches its full meaning in this passage, but knowledge was, according to Paul, one of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their knowledge.
Next is faith. Faith is usually defined as what is necessary to perform miracles, but it can be expanded to the ability to trust God in emergencies and to the ability to stay true to Christ and continue to profess His truths even when it is difficult to do so.
Some of the apostles displayed all those parts of faith, including many of them performing miracles, including miracles of healing, which happens to be next on the list. Paul himself displayed the last parts of the description of faith. He was so often under attack. Many times his very life was threatened. Yet he continued to preach about Jesus. He did so to people who were often under persecution themselves.
Faith was, according to Paul, one of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their faith.
Healing is next on the list. That was perhaps more prevalent at the time of Paul than it is now.
Let me change that. It was probably relied on more back then than it is now. Now there are many doctors and nurses and hospitals around.
Back then there was probably more reliance on requesting healing by praying for it. Sometimes those who were sick had hands laid on them as prayers were spoken. Sometimes anointing oil was poured on them. That is what the apostle James called on believers to have done.
Healings did take place. Healing was, according to Paul, one of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their ability to make people well.
The working of miracles. There are a few ideas what that refers to. One is the ability to do what Jesus did in raising people from the dead. Another is the ability to heal people, most especially people who are possessed by evil spirits.
There were some in the early Christian church who had the ability to do great miracles. That was, according to Paul, one of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their ability to do miracles.
To others was given the gift of prophecy, which can mean the ability to tell what is going to happen in the future. It can also mean preaching, which begins with knowing the mind, heart, and will of God so well that the one preaching knows when to rebuke and warn, telling those who hear that God is not pleased if they are doing something wrong, and when to advise and guide, encouraging people to know and obey the teachings in the Bible.
Then not just knowing, but communicating those things effectively and at the right times.
There were some in the early Christian church who had the ability to foretell the future and/or preach. To effectively communicate rebukes and warnings and advice and guidance and encouragement. Those with that gift were and should have been respected, but they and everyone were to know the gift was given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about that spiritual gift.
To others were given the spiritual gift of the ability to distinguish between spirits. The ability to know if something was from God or from the devil, or maybe from a human desire for something to happen. The ability to know whether someone speaking was a true or a false prophet.
In our day and age, there is a built in way to know if someone is a true or a false prophet. It is the Bible. Using myself as an example, you can - in fact, you are invited - in fact, you should - check whatever I say with the Bible. The Bible is the true measure whether what I say - or anyone else says - is spiritually true.
The ability to know whether spiritual truth or lies were spoken by people was critical to keep any group of believers pure. It was, according to Paul, one of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their ability to discern.
Various kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Those two abilities are included in Paul’s list of spiritual gifts.
There are, in the Christian world, differing opinions what is meant by various tongues. To me, it refers to the sudden ability to speak other languages. Languages not studied and not known, but languages other people knew so they could understand the preaching about Jesus. Others like, in Acts 2, the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabians. The others who were also in Jerusalem the day the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ apostles.
Whatever the specific meaning, the purpose of using other languages and having the ability to intrepret such languages for others in the crowd who might not understand, is for all people to more fully comprehend the message of Jesus, which is the love and salvation He offers.
That some would be able to speak in other languages and that some would have the ability to interpret such speaking were, according to Paul, two of the gifts given to some early Christians. Given by the Holy Spirit lest anyone brag about their abilities.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth that some of them would have wisdom, while others would have knowledge. That some would have faith, while others would have healing power. That some would be able to do other kinds of miracles, while others would be able to preach well, and others would be able to distinguish between spirits. That some would be able to speak in various languages or interpret other languages.
That was written specifically to Christians in the city of Corinth. What Paul wrote was for them at that time.
However, what Paul wrote also applies to today. Even now, there are those in every congregation of Christians who have the spiritual gift of wisdom or knowledge or faith or healing or other miracles or preaching or distinguishing spirits or using various tongues or interpretation. And listen. Each person in every congregation has at least one of those gifts.
Or other gifts given by the Holy Spirit. In some other Bible passages there are additional gifts listed. They include leadership, teaching, evangelism, giving, administration, and intercession for others. Those things are also needed in every congregation.
Why are all spiritual gifts needed? As Paul wrote, they are for the common good, so we can grow in our faith together.
Again, who gives each spiritual gift? The Holy Spirit.
And what is the purpose of each spiritual gift? To best serve our Lord.
Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? That is the first and foremost question of all. If you have accepted Jesus, wonderful. If not, you need to.
Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? Sometimes that happens at the point of accepting Jesus. For others, it might be a later prayer request to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is the way it was for me. But have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? If not, you need to be. That is the only way to have any kind of spiritual gift. A gift that is important for the good of yourself and others as you serve the Lord - the one Lord and the one God and the one Holy Spirit.
Having a spiritual gift… And by the way, do not claim you do not have a spiritual gift. The promise of the Bible is that every Christian has some spiritual gift. No one has all of them, but each one has at least one of them. If you do not know your spiritual gift, pray to know. There are also quite a few spiritual gift tests that can help you identify your gift or gifts.
Having a spiritual gift is proof you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Just like the apostles were able to preach effectively and do some healings when they were filled and just like other early Christians were willing to be generous with those in need when they were filled, so will we be able to use whatever spiritual gift the Holy Spirit gives us when we are filled.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then display the filling by using the spiritual gift given to you by the Holy Spirit. And do something else to prove the Holy Spirit is in your life. Something recorded in another writing of the apostle Paul, this time Galatians 5:22-23. What is written in those two verses is the fruit of Spirit. A list of nine things that should describe those filled with the Holy Spirit.
Before looking at the list, let me state there is a pretty good chance none of us has all nine of these things fully developed in our lives. At least I do not have all nine fully developed in my life.
The point is not that any us should feel guilty. On the other hand, it is each of these nine things we are to strive to make part of our lives. Something we can strive for as we allow the filling of the Holy Spirit to make us more and more spiritual.
Let’s consider the nine things in groups of three.
First, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, and peace. It is love, joy, and peace that any who are filled with the Spirit should have in their lives. Those who are filled with the Spirit should at least be working on love, joy, and peace. Working on those things with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love is wanting what is best for others, including those who are not nice to us. That can be tough, but it is what the Holy Spirit can and will help us to develop.
Joy is knowing things will be fine because of Jesus. At least spiritually fine. Christians - those filled with the Holy Spirit - can have joy, even in times of trouble.
Peace. That, too, can describe us even in times of trouble. Peace is knowing we are in God’s hands, which means we can be assured of surviving spiritually, even if not physically.
Second, the fruit of the spirit is patience, kindness, and goodness.
Patience refers to not taking revenge against someone, even when it seems logical to take revenge.
Why would we not want to take revenge? How about the love we are to have for others, wishing them good? How about wanting peace, knowing God will take care of whatever needs to be taken care of?
Kindness and goodness are a call to be mellow, meaning pretty close to what love and patience mean, as in knowing we can take revenge, but not doing so, instead being forgiving and, when possible, encouraging.
Third, the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Being faithful means being trustworthy. If you are faithful, it means you can be relied upon.
Gentleness has a few meanings, including being submissive to God, being teachable and willing to learn, and being considerate of others.
Self-control. That means keeping wrong desires under control. It also means keeping emotions, including anger, under control. Which does not extend to never being angry. Sometimes anger is called for. But make sure you are angry at the right times about the right things.
A number of years ago, I was one of the youth sponsors who drove some of our youth group to Kearney for a wedding. After the ceremony and reception, when it was time to head back to Lincoln, everyone I was to drive was in my vehicle except for one young man. He was nowhere to be found until, after I think 20 minutes of searching, we located him. He was hiding in a closet.
Why he thought that was a good idea, I do not know. I mean, he did not have any fun while he was in the closet alone.
We escorted him to my vehicle. We left the church and were about halfway to the Interstate when the young man announced he had forgotten his glasses back at the church.
We turned around and went back to the church. He got out of the vehicle - and promptly disappeared again. It took another 20 minutes of searching to locate him again, that time in another closet, before again escorting him to my vehicle.
That time we made it to the Interstate and all the home without additional problems, but as the second search was going on, one of the other youth leaders complimented me on staying so calm. I had to admit that while I may have looked calm on the outside, my insides were in a state of turmoil.
Maybe I need to work on self-control. I think there are a few other items on the list I need to work on as well. You might be able to pick out a couple you need to work on, but may you and I remember we do not have to work on any of the fruit of the Spirit or develop any of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit by ourselves. In fact, we cannot effectively work on any of them unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Know your spiritual gift. The gift - or gifts - given to you by the Holy Spirit. Use what the Holy Spirit has given you. Use what He has given in ways that show you are at least developing spiritual fruit.
And again the questions. Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior and have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? You need to do both those things. When you have done both those things, you will be able to have at least one spiritual gift to use for the common good of all believers and you will be able to be spiritually fruitful.
Accept Jesus if you need to do that, or ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit if that is what you need. That will help you. It will be of benefit for other believers. It will be pleasing to God.
The closing song is going to also serve as our benediction. We will sing the single verse once. There will then be a moment or two of silence, giving each of us an opportunity to pray, either to accept Jesus or ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit or that we will have the discernment to know our spiritual gifts or the courage to use them. We will then sing the single verse a second time.
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
For our silent prayer time, accept Jesus if you need to, ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit if that is your need, or pray for the wisdom needed to know your spiritual gift or for the courage to use it. For a moment or two, pray.
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.