I don’t think it is too far fetched to think that there might be 10 gifts of the Holy Spirit or even more. Paul refers to the nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 as manifestations of the Spirit. Could there be other manifestations that we could add to this list or is this the complete list?
Photo by Ken’s Oven on flickr
There are certainly a number of other lists of the gifts. Some refer to spoken contributions when we gather as church. Others include more natural abilities that can be used in serving such as administration. Others list roles in the church such as apostles. Many of these lists overlap and none may be exhaustive.
This is probably the most famous lists of gifts of the Holy Spirit, certainly in charismatic circles. It is through these gifts that we know the Holy Spirit is with us when we gather together and when we are sent out in mission. However some of the gifts are better understood than others.
1 Corinthians 12:8-12
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Before turning to speculation about the tenth gift of the Spirit I want to define each one of the gifts in this passage in turn and look at how they work especially in relation to mission. What are they? How do they work? How do they help us fulfill God’s mission? Of course the purpose of the gifts is to build each other up as the body of Christ but the impact of these gifts also overflows to others.
1. A word of wisdom
This is when God gives someone insight into how God is working out his purposes so that they can speak into a situation enabling someone to make appropriate sensible decisions.
The word of wisdom can be seen as an inspired application of a supernaturally revealed insight into a certain situation. Like many of the gifts this may come in very natural ways in conversations and provide practical help in situations leading to level-headed and successful responses.
Wisdom by zigazou76 on flickr
So is a word of wisdom just God planting a seemingly random thought into our head of what do in a certain situation? Or it is insight about how to apply the truths about God’s ultimate purpose of sending Jesus? Looking at chapters such as 1 Corinthians 2
I get the feeling that it is it is more likely to involve the latter.
In Know Your Spiritual Gifts Mark Stibbe points out that it is not surprising that Jesus – wisdom incarnate – astounded people with his wisdom, such as when he answered his accusers’ questions about eating with sinners or when he said of the woman caught in adultery, ‘If any of you is without sin let him be the first to throw a stone’. Such insights were fundamentally theological but spoke about God’s purposes into situations in very practical ways.
A word of wisdom, then, is God helping us to apply our insights about God’s purposes into the ever the changing situations around us. Perhaps it can involve God helping us to listen to others and to really hear what they saying. The Spirit might bring to mind the questions that we need to ask or a story that might have some bearing on the situation that brings such insight into what is being discussed.
Though the context of 1 Corinthians 12 is the gathered church I see no reason to limit it to church conversations. God also speaks as we are involved in mission. Many of the words of wisdom spoken by Jesus are in conversations with people other than his disciples.
Let us look for God to guide our conversations with everyone so that we may demonstrate God’s wisdom to the world.
2. A word of knowledge
I tend to see the definition of this as ‘God given insight into God’s heart and mind’ that is given by teachers such as Rodman Williams and Mark Stibbe as being the most biblical. But the idea of this being specific knowledge of a situation that God reveals has been popularised by preachers such as John Wimber and is often what people mean when they use this term.
In the 1980s John Wimber popularised the term of a ‘word of knowledge’ as a supernatural insight into a person’s heart or situation. In practice what it often meant was someone getting up in a worship gathering and saying, “There is someone here with…” and describing a certain illness or injury. It is still often used in this way today.
What does the Bible say?
But is this popular idea really what the Bible describes as a ‘word of knowledge’? We can read stories such as Jesus and the woman at the well where God reveals facts supernaturally but what reason do I have to call this a word of knowledge?
Apart from 1 Corinthians 12 the phrase ‘word of knowledge’ doesn’t appear in the Bible. So in order to answer this question two authors I have much respect for Mark Stibbe in Know Your Spiritual Gifts and J Rodman Williams in Renewal Theology both look at the immediate context of what Paul meant by knowledge.
To Paul knowledge didn’t involve finding out about other’s people’s secrets. It involved receiving insight into God’s secrets now revealed – into the “unfathomable depths of God’s grace”, the wonderful truths about “his gracious gift of his son”, this grace that is now available to us his church.
This is not to say that God doesn’t speak supernaturally to people about situations just that they can’t see any justification for calling that a word of knowledge. They both suggest it would be more Biblical to call such experiences prophecy as Bible passages indicate that this is how the prophets spoke and never use the term ‘word of knowledge’.
So how should we define ‘word of knowledge’?
Perhaps it would be more accurately to use the term ‘word of knowledge’ to describe the sharing inspired insights into God’s purposes and grace with those we talk to.
The gift of faith is when God encourages you to hold onto him in a difficult situation even if you can see no way out. People’s faith may be stimulated by stories of answers to prayer – particularly of healing and miracles – or even of others being saved – but we need to ensure that these are cautiously stated and are factual and true or people will become cynical. Ultimately it is God that gives the faith it isn’t something you can whip up.
Faith by 4thglryofgod
The ability to move mountains
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says ‘If I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing’. This is a reference to what Jesus said about mountain moving faith in Mark 11. These verses show that the gift of faith is a supernatural confidence that God will remove any obstacle that gets in the way of us his purposes.
What, all the time?
I don’t agree with much of the Word of Faith teaching sometimes referred to as the ‘faith movement’ that is popular in some Christian media such as the God Channel. They imply that we are called to live in such mountain moving faith all the time. This sort of teaching can get people into serious financial trouble.
No, not all the time
In reality we pray and do not always see the answer come. We may be convinced that it is what God wants but still God does not do it. We also have doubts and we should not be made to feel guilty about that. A friend of mine David Matthew has written this article on this inspired by his own situation of praying for his house to sell.
But yes, sometimes
I believe that on occasions God does give us a confidence to see an obstacle overcome to further the purposes of his kingdom. This is the gift of faith.
4. Gifts of healing
Healings occur when God enables you to supernaturally bring about wholeness and relieve someone’s suffering in response to prayer. Healings may also come in response to you commanding sickness to leave or you commanding a healing to come as we see Jesus and the early apostles doing. But I think we need to take care that we do this in a gentle yet authoritative way.
Any believer can pray for the sick
The Bible says that elders are specifically called to pray for the sick. But it also shows that others may pray for healing too.
Writers such as Mark Stibbe and J Rodman Williams point out that the use of the present continuous tense here indicates that anyone who has been used in healing may expect to be used again in this way.
Of course they would agree that there are no guarantees. Perhaps that is why Paul does not use the term ‘healer’.
Let us pray with faith
The gifts of healing do appear to have a link with the gift of faith. When faith is present healing can happen and lack of faith can inhibit it.
We shouldn’t blame others or ourselves for lack of faith when healing does not occur. This sort of faith is a gift from God as much as the healing is. I don’t know why God doesn’t always heal. But I still keep praying for people and expect them to get well.
Don’t just pray for the sick in church
Of course we pray for each other to be healed when we gather as a church. We may even do that with the laying on of hands. But the Book of Acts shows us that this gift also has an important place in mission.
‘Healing on the Streets’ – a missional project that I looked at earlier this year – follows the Biblical pattern of speaking to the sickness in an authoritative yet gentle way, often also with the laying on of hands and sometimes anointing people with oil. But I don’t believe that street outreach should be the only or even the main outlet for this gift.
Offer to pray for your friends
In everyday conversation if someone tells us about an illness we can offer to pray for them. We may offer to pray for them audibly in front of them and lay hands on them but we don’t have to. We can offer to pray in our own devotional times or suggest that we ask our small group or church to pray.
We can be hesitant sometimes because we fear that God may not heal them. But even if God does not heal them, people will often be grateful for our prayers. So let’s take the opportunity and offer to pray anyway. We might be surprised at the result!
5. Miraculous powers
These are when God enables you to meet the needs of others in amazing and unusual ways. The way this term is often used gives much overlap with healing – but another important aspect of this God given provision. We need to take care to distinguish needs from wants and not be led astray by materialism. I am thrilled when I hear of God providing money and resources when it clearly demonstrates God’s care for the poor.
picture by jczorkmid on flickr
Miracles are powerful sudden and undeniably supernatural works of God. They may include sudden healings or unexplained provision of needs. As a charismatic I believe that miracles continued throughout history and do occur today although by their very nature they are not a common occurrence.
Miracles build our faith
Stories of true miracles are thrilling as they show God at work and bringing his grace and mercy to needy people. It is so encouraging when a friend or colleague tells us of something amazing that has happened as a result of our prayers. This can increase our confidence in praying for the needs of our friends.
Though I am skeptical of hype
Unfortunately if we search the internet for stories of miracles today we find stories of healings in big meetings surrounded by hype. God may well be at work in some of the situations but I must admit to being skeptical.
There are also cases of miracles such the appearance of gold fillings in people’s teeth or gold dust falling from the ceiling. I cannot see why God would do this as I can see no real benefit to the people involved.
I am sure that there are true miracles today
I am thrilled by personal accounts of God answering the prayers of people I know.
I also love hearing stories that are often ‘off the radar’ so to speak. It is great to hear stories of God providing for people, especially in poverty stricken countries, healing people or even bringing them back from the dead in places where access to medical care is limited. Here I can see God’s hand meeting people at a point of need.
Yes, despite my skepticism of the hype I believe that God can and does move today. These are Gifts of miracles!
When God speaks to you so that you can show others what he is saying. This doesn’t need to have the trapping of ‘Thus says the Lord…’. You might just want to say that you sense the Holy Spirit is emphasizing something that you go on to explain. It might be about God’s nature or purposes or specifics of a situation. Though some may refer to revelation about specifics of a situation such as insights into someone’s health problems as a word of knowledge – the Bible appears to refer to this as prophecy.
What is prophecy?
As a charismatic I believe that God still speaks today. God speaks through the Bible and the Spirit may emphasise certain verses to us and show us how these apply. This is the beginnings of prophecy.
Christian prophecy should never contradict what the Bible clearly says but it will be more than just someone explaining what the Bible means. It is someone speaking God’s perspective on a particular situation that may include facts that God reveals and even predictions of what God will do.
God may bring ideas to our minds as we focus on him either to be spoken right away or to be meditated on and then spoken at another time.
How should prophecy be worded?
In the Old Testament prophecy was mainly spoken in the first person as if God was actually dictating the message word for word in the prophet’s mind.
Interestingly in the New Testament we see prophecy said as ‘the Holy Spirit says that…’ rather than ‘Thus says the Lord…’ I have heard prophecy today in both formats but I must confess to feeling more comfortable with someone explaining what they feel God might be saying than saying ‘God says…’
This more conversational approach leaves us room to weigh what God is saying. It allows people to take what is good without worrying if they think that one or two phrases were not of God.
Where do we prophesy?
Prophecy may be for each other as we gather together in each other’s homes or in larger gatherings but also it may also be for others outside the church.
It could be that God gives a prophecy that is very relevant to a non-Christian who is visiting our meeting. But it could also be that God speaks to you with something to say to one of your friends or colleagues. If so we could end up prophesying anywhere – in a cafe or in a pub.
I wonder if raising a topic in conversation may prove a more fruitful way to explore what God is saying than saying ‘God told me this…’ especially if you are talking to someone who isn’t a Christian.
Whoever the prophecy is for whether the gathered church or individual friends or colleagues we need to pray for an opportunity to speak it out – and then go for it!
7. Distinguishing between spirits
The gift of discernment may give you insight into what is actually happening in a given spiritual situation. For instance, when someone is apparently responding to God in an unusual way is this really the Holy Spirit moving being embraced with humility or is it an emotional response as the result of human hype or showmanship or are their even evil forces at work here?
Spiritual discernment is telling the origin of a word or action. Is it inspired by God? Is it just someone’s good idea i.e. from their own spirit? Is its origin from some evil forces? As Christians this should be carried out with a charitable attitude. We need to take care that our seeking of the truth doesn’t end up making us angry and bitter mud slingers. Too often have I seen internet discussions between Christians go this way.
Discernment inside the church community
When a prophecy, teaching or an idea is brought to the church or Christian group it is important to discern its origins. Paul says that prophecy should be weighed. If the group is small enough a good way to do this is through questions and discussion. In a larger church situation this conversational approach may be more difficult. But however it is done the final responsibility of sifting what is said rests with the elders. However if God gives this gift to others they can express their feelings on this to the elders.
Discernment outside the church community
It could also be we need to be aware of the forces at work in our community, workplace or wherever we are trying to reach. I am aware that some charismatics have some quite bizarre ideas about how the devil works and how we should deal with him. We often need to be discerning about our approach to discernment.
Nigel Goring Wright’s Theology of the Dark Side gives a helpful and balanced understanding of how these forces may work. See my review of his book here.
8. Speaking in different kinds of tongues
Speaking in tongues is when God enables you to speak to him in languages you have never learnt. As with all the gifts you are still in control but if you receive this gift unlike other gifts you can operate it at will especially to use in their own devotions. Though sometimes the first gift someone receives we cannot say that without this ability someone is not Spirit filled.
The gift of tongues or the gift of languages is the supernatural ability to speak in a language that you have never learnt. Although it can be an earthly language, as it was on the day of Pentecost, often it is a heavenly language that is unintelligible to human hearers unless it is interpreted.
Are tongues the sign of baptism in the Spirit?
In Pentecostal circles speaking in tongues is often understood to be the initial sign of baptism in the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit is not automatic upon becoming a follower of Jesus. It is a definite deep spiritual experience accompanied by some outward sign. My own experience was that I did speak in tongues but I cannot see from the scriptures that tongues are necessarily the sign of baptism with the Spirit.
How should we use speaking in tongues?
Personally I have found that praying in tongues silently in this way can be a real help as I go about my daily life. It strengthens me enabling me to be confident enough speak out or help someone when I need to and it opens up a channel through which God can guide my prayers.
Also in many charismatic circles there is a practice of everyone speaking in tongues at the same time. It appears that Paul tells the Corinthians that this isn’t the way to use these gifts. It is selfish and will course any guests or visitors to doubt the sanity of the group.
Paul indicates two ways to use tongues. Either one person at a time should speak in audibly tongues and someone else should interpret so that the rest can understand what is said or they should be speak in tongues silently holding the words inside their head.
I have discussed some these points on speaking on tongues before on my previous blog here.
9. Interpretation of tongues
The Bible indicates that speaking in tongues when we come together should involve each person speaking in turn and that someone should then explain to others what someone who just spoke in tongues actually said. I would only speak in tongues in this way if I felt specifically prompted by God and I believe the result would be a prayer from the Spirit that sums up some or all of the people’s hearts. When I hear such tongues or speak them myself I often sense that I understand them and so give the interpretation.
Generally tongues are languages that cannot be understood by the hearer. However Paul talks about tongues being explained to everyone by an interpreter. Many years ago I asked God for the gift of interpretation and began interpreting tongues.
Tongues should be interpreted as prayers
Paul argues that the purpose of speaking in tongues is to speak to God. This indicates to me that an interpretation will not be in the form of God speaking to us. Rather the interpretation will be in the form of a prayer. In my experience this isn’t so much a personal prayer but a prayer that gives insight into the heart of his people towards him – our longings and frustrations, our rejoicing and thanksgiving.
How I began interpreting tongues
After seeking God for the gift of interpretation I found that often when I spoke in tongues I began to understand what I was saying. It wasn’t that I now knew the language and could now translate anything I heard in it. But when I spoke I felt that I intuitively knew what it was about.
In my own devotional times I began to speak in tongues and then speak out what I felt I had said. The next step was to speak out in tongues when we came together as a church and then to interpret that tongue. Also as I listened to other people who spoke in tongues I found that I had similar experiences of understanding. So when people spoke out in tongues I started to also come forward directly after they had and speak out what I believed they had said. It was great to be in a church where there was freedom to do this.
Can we use interpretation in mission?
I have already found that speaking in tongues throughout the day helps guide my silent prayers. I wonder if the next step is to offer to pray with my non-Christian friends when they have a need. Praying silently in tongues to myself first and then praying out the interpretation.
What’s number 10?
Paul refers to these nine as manifestations of the Spirit. There are a number of other lists of the gifts. Some refer to spoken contributions when we gather as church. Others include more natural abilities that can be used in serving such as administration. Others list roles in the church such as apostles. Many of these lists overlap and none may be exhaustive.
In looking for a candidate for the tenth gifts I think we need to consider how the distinction between roles and manifestations is blurred by the way they are mixed in other lists back in 1 Corinthians such as 12:29-31 that lists:
So here are some possible candidates for further gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Gifts of ministry
If we refer to Ephesians 4: 11 we see that apostles and prophets appear to be more like offices in the church with the people themselves being the gifts to the church.
However someone may have a gift of evangelism though not have a leadership office of evangelist – perhaps it is still right to see them as an evangelist but not as a leader. Perhaps we can all be endued to some extent with these gifts for example some people may tend to be more prophetic than others or some more pastoral. After all ministry means serving rather than leading and we are all called to serve.
Gifts that amplify natural abilities
Would it be right to put a natural ability alongside these manifestation of the Spirit?
Just as helps and administration are listed in 1 Corinthians 12: 29-31 natural abilities and supernatural endowment are combined in Romans 12:6-10 that lists prophecy alongside:
• giving generously
• showing mercy
So perhaps it would.
Gifts of generosity
Could giving generously be our tenth gift? Another list in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 again blurs the distinction between the nine manifestations and natural abilities and again mentions giving:
• giving generously
• hardship (or martyrdom)
Showing mercy in Romans 10:12 and even hospitality in 1 Peter 4:9-10 may all be kinds of giving generously. For some believers giving of monetary resources may lead to hardship or even giving to the extent of giving our lives in martyrdom in some places today.
As well as martyrdom another gift that might not be too popular today could be that of celibacy. If you look at Corinthians 7:7 this might be another candidate for us – thankfully alongside marriage. Perhaps this could be another an aspect of generosity implying a giving up of our time to the extent of not spending it on raising a family.
To minister or to serve is just one manifestation of giving generously. And though someone may naturally give even if they are not a believer yet God can empower giving in amazing ways. So if I had to nominate a tenth to add to complete this list of the ten gifts of the Holy Spirit personally I’d choose gifts of generosity.
What do you think?
Are their only nine manifestations? I know there are only nine in I Corinthians 12:8-10 but God is such a creative God, surely there must be more? Perhaps you can think of others – either in the Bible or in your own experience. Which one would you nominate as the tenth? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
Here is a good summary of Mark Stibbe’s out of print book Know Your Spiritual Gifts summarised by Alison Morgan
A friend of mine Scott Lencke is blogging about these gifts from 1 Corinthians 12 in his own blog Prodigal Thought and in a related team blog called “To Be Continued”.
Scott Lencke has started a series of posts over on Prodigal Thought on ‘What is Prophecy?’ Part one is here.
Discerning of Spirits another a post by Scott Lencke on Prodigal Thought.
Related posts on CharisMissional
What Are Your Spiritual Gifts?
What Does Charismatic Mean?
When I Spoke in Tongues at Greenbelt
How Often Do You Speak in Tongues?