“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 NIV
At first glance, some of these spiritual gifts listed in this passage can be overwhelming and intimidating. The gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith; not so much, but the gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, and speaking in tongues have a supernatural quality that seems beyond our human capacity. I mean these are things that Jesus and the Apostles did, right? Not us, mere mortals?
Jesus, in Matthew 10, apparently gave the disciples these gifts when he said,
“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8 NIV
These are like superpowers. In Acts 20:7-12; we discover that the Apostle Paul had the ability to raise the dead. There was a young man, Eutychus, who was sitting in third story window listening to Paul teach. Paul’s teaching or message went on until midnight. After what sounds like a several hours, Eutychus is having a hard time staying awake. I know the feeling, been there done that. Eutychus not only falls asleep, he falls out of the third story window and dies immediately upon impact. Paul rushes down and throws himself on top of Eutychus and life is restored. Of course we know that Paul didn’t raise Eutychus from the dead, God did it. God’s power was manifested in or on Paul to raise Eutychus from the dead.
Personally, I’ve never heard of anyone who could or claimed to be able to raise the dead, but there have been plenty who claim to have the gift of healing. How many of us have witnessed “healers” on TV or in person laying hands on someone and after fainting or convulsing on the ground, the person being healed jumps to their feet claiming that their affliction, sickness, ailment, or addiction is miraculously gone? I will admit I have always been skeptical of that kind of theatrical healing, but I’m not discounting it. It’s just one of those things that I don’t understand. I have heard and witnessed healing where the sick or ailing have been anointed with oil and prayed over by elders of the church. It wasn’t as immediate or theatrical, but it was real to those who were healed.
Speaking in tongues is another gift that is difficult to wrap my head around. If you have been to a charismatic church, you have probably experienced it. A person may stand and begin speaking in tongues. It’s not like speaking English or German. It’s a “language of the Holy Spirit”. To some it may sound like gibberish. There is a primary rule to this particular method or gift of speaking in tongues. If someone speaks in tongues, there must be an interpreter. Basically, someone who stands up and translates what is said. We can see an example of speaking in tongues from Acts 2 in the Bible.
In Acts 2, the disciples were all gathered in one place. We don’t know where, but it was a special day, one that we celebrate today. It is called the “Day of Pentecost”. Jesus had promised the disciples that he would be sending the Holy Spirit to “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. (John 14:26 NIV) The Holy Spirit or “Spirit of Truth” would also be an “advocate to help you and be with you forever”. (John 14:16 NIV) In Acts 1:8 Jesus told the disciples, “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.” Well on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit showed up.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1-4 NIV
The “tongues of fire” described in this passage is believed to be a physical manifestation of the gifting of speaking in tongues. The disciples actually saw them. The tongues of fire “separated and came to rest on each of them”. Forgive the paraphrase, but it was like a “holy ghost upload”. Now filled with the Spirit and successfully uploaded with the latest language software updates, they began to speak in other languages. Everyone who heard them speak understood what was being said in their own language.
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,0Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Acts 2:5-10 NIV
Some even thought the disciples were drunk, and probably thought it was a hoax or a parlor trick. I’ve tried to figure out what actually happened and how they were speaking multiple languages at the same time, which could explain the perception that they were drunk. Mixing them together would sound like gibberish right? But I have another theory. What if the disciples were speaking one language, Hebrew or Aramaic, but the Holy Spirit was translating it in real time to those who were hearing? Like if I addressed a crowd of multinationals who didn’t speak English in English, and yet they understood me perfectly in their own language. Either way, it is miraculous.
Whether it came out sounding like gibberish or in a specific language, it worked, and the church grew in number because of this experience. Many an argument has been waged over this topic, so I’m not going to try and settle the debate. My point is that there are certain “supernatural” or “miraculous” gifts that we may never truly understand, especially if we don’t possess them, which I don’t. If I don’t have a “supernatural” or “miraculous” spiritual gift does that mean I don’t have enough faith or does it make me any less of a Christian? Absolutely not! There are some gifts that are called or considered to be “greater” or “lesser”, but Paul is clear to point out in 1 Corinthians 12 that all gifts are equally indispensible and honorable. We’ll get into that a little bit more next, as well as exploring spiritual gifts from a more practical perspective.
Love y’all! Have a great weekend!
Weekly Devotional by Robby Morris, Director of Family Ministry & Facility Coordinator @ Andrews UMC.