‘Not by Power, Not by Might but by My Spirit,’ says
the Lord. Zechariah 4:6
By Pastor Mark Barbee
The Christian Church seeks to rely on the Holy Spirit for leading the church: first
of all through leaders, secondly through worship, thirdly through the priesthood of
believers in all their ministries. This is not to say we have arrived, but it is an attitude we
try to cultivate, corresponding to the initiation of the Spirit, we must have the fruit of the
Spirit producing in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control.
Spiritual gifts (charismata) are found in three lists or categories if you will, in the
New Testament. The gifts of leadership are found in Ephesians 4:11-16. We might
generally describe this as evangelists, pastors, and teachers, working together with input
from gifted leaders from the larger body of Christ (apostles and prophets) to prevent us
from being isolated. Congregational leaders meet together to seek the leading of the
Lord in most issues that affect our congregation. This is done with much prayer.
A subset of leaders work together weekly to plan worship. A group of pastors
and worship leaders meet to pray and plan and rehearse worship services. Our prayer is
that we capture God’s desires to help lift up Christ. Our prayer is to be creative and
Spirit-led. The rest of worship happens as all the people bring their giftedness into
worship settings in an orderly way, in the spirit of I Corinthians 12 & 14.
Thirdly, we encourage all our ministry leaders and all believers (the priesthood of
believers) to cultivate the Holy Spirit in their personal lives and ministry. There are
several ways of doing this. There is a direct touch of the Spirit that helps many of our
people to pray in the spirit more effectively and meaningfully. There is also the
opportunity to be filled on a continuous basis through praise and worship.
Ephesians 5:18 & 19
Be filled with the Spirit, speaking one to another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
One cannot be an effective ministry leader unless he or she is filled with the Spirit and
relying on His help. Romans 12 lists seven types of ministry gifts.
Finally, we should not hesitate to ask the Lord Jesus to fill (baptize) us in the
Holy Spirit, for He said in Luke 11:9-13, “Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall
find, knock and the door will be opened to you. If you then, though you are evil, know
how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give
the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”
There is much room for growth in these various areas. There are limitations such
as time, numbers of people in morning services, and numbers of seekers who do not
know of the things of the Spirit. But we should seek to grow within the framework
where God has us presently. Meanwhile, let us cultivate both the gifts and the fruit of the
Spirit in our lives and worship “in Spirit and in truth.”
A Holy Nation of Many Tribes
James wrote to the “twelve tribes,” James 1:1 “together, these groups constitute
the people of God who are continuous with the old Israel, but consist of all, regardless of
their nationality, who acknowledge Jesus as God’s Messiah.”
The psalmist David foresaw the worship of the new Jerusalem, the church. If
Psalm 122:1-5 may be seen as a secondary reference to the church, the various tribes are
pictured going up to Jerusalem. Hebrews 12:22. There is a Jerusalem “above”, a spiritual
one including all peoples. Yet, the twelve tribes may also refer to diversity among God’s
people. While we do not like the term “denominations," we recognize that there are
different groups in the church who do things differently. They sometimes are
represented by denominations and sometimes by movements. They are often
characterized by different personalities and approaches (or giftings) that need one
another. The diversity can even be seen by Paul’s letters to various churches. His
messages to them indicate different situations and problems.
Inclusion vs. Exclusion
For a moment, let us suppose that different tendencies are found among groups in
the same church family. Some are traditional, some holiness, some charismatic, some
mercy and good works, some more formal, some more intellectual, some more
structured, others more spontaneous. The great challenge is to involve all these folks
appropriately and find room for their giftings in ways that will not alienate those from
other different persuasions.
Most often, churches have leaned toward one particular persuasion or set of
giftings and made others feel excluded. Often these churches have denominated (named)
themselves accordingly. This is still the temptation. But a non-denominational church
seeks to avoid the easy labels that tend to exclude valid gifts and ideas.
Thus, we are a microcosm of God’s Israel with many tribes that go up to Mount
Zion to worship (Psalm 122). In the large assemblies we try to minister to everyone’s
common needs. Some spiritual exercises and experiences are more effective in smaller
groupings of people, especially when they are more understood by the constituents of
that group. At the same time, larger gatherings are an evangelistic and teaching outreach
to seekers and visitors.
We should never let particular gifts become requirements or badges of holiness.
If anything should be obvious in the New Testament, it is the diversity of gifts working
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
Paul addressed the Corinthian brethren with these words in I Corinthians 12:1 –
“Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” Unfortunately
some ignorance has characterized people on both sides of this issue for years. We must
come to terms not only with our own feelings, but with those of our brothers.
Surprisingly, very few discussions of the matter begin with the hermeneutics
principle known as “the law of first mention.” We shall do so in two ways. The first
mention of “charismata” in the New Testament is by Jesus in Mark 16:17, where Jesus
says that spiritual language (tongues) is one of the signs that shall follow those who
The law of first mention in Paul’s writings would include Romans 1:11 and 12:6.
The Greek word is charismata and “grace gift.” Paul longed to impart a gift or gifts to
the Romans to make them strong. Chapter twelve mentions seven types of gifts
(charismata) which means he probably used the term more loosely than we often do
today. The implication of the passages is that God gifts each member of the body. These
might be called ministry or serving gifts.
Now, the law of first mention in I Corinthians takes us to chapter 1, verses 4-8.
“I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him
you have been enriched in every way in all your speaking and in all your knowledge –
because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack
any spiritual gift (charismata) as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be
revealed (the Greek is apocalupsis). He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will
be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It amazes me how many folks ignore these verses because they reveal two
significant ideas. First, Paul had a fairly positive attitude toward the gifts and their role
at Corinth. Secondly, he expected the gifts to continue to the end, the day of Christ (i.e.,
His return). The gifts seemed to be helping them in two specific areas, speaking and
Now, when we come to chapters 12 and 14, we see there were some problems and
Paul corrects them in a way that would be sensitive to outsiders and promote order. In
these chapters, Paul follows some guiding principles in the listing of nine spiritual gifts.
Firstly, not everyone receives the same gift, but all are necessary for the common
good (verse 7).
Secondly, we were all baptized by the same Holy Spirit into one body (12: 13).
Of course, this baptism is manifested to a different degree in various believers.
Thirdly, Paul concludes in chapter 12 with the encouragement to “eagerly desire
the greater gifts.”
Chapter 13 is the great parenthesis in which love governs our whole demeanor in
both the discussion of and operation of the gifts. Finally, Paul concludes the chapter with
the glorious promise that when we see Him face to face, the partial assistance of spiritual
gifts will no longer be needed.
Unfortunately, many teachers have tried to show a connection between the
“perfection” of verse 10 and the New Testament canon. Most scholars, including some
Restoration teachers, see this position as untenable. The Greek word teleios (perfect)
consistently refers to the consummation, or restoration of all things in Christ’s eternal
kingdom. The other interpretation (perfection being the New Testament) has caused
more problems than it has solved.
Chapter fourteen details the preferred use of spiritual language in two realms,
personal and corporate. Paul desired all to have the personal edification of tongues as he
had (verse 1-10). But in the church (assembly) the use was to be limited based on the
presence of an interpreter and the presence of unlearned folks (inquirers). While we are
not to forbid speaking in tongues, our leaders are in agreement that the public expression
would raise many problems because of the presence of both believers and inquirers in our
public worship who are unlearned in this matter. The personal practice of spiritual
language (as in Romans 8:26 and I Cor. 14:14-19) is common in our body, but should not
be seen as a shortcut to holiness or an excuse not to become disciples of the Word.
Perhaps other spiritual gifts can be discussed in the future. For those who wish to
pursue this study, Jack Hayford’s Spiritual Language is a balanced source. Let us freely
share the life that comes from such blessings in a gentle and loving way. But let us not
turn gifts into requirements or spiritual badges of superiority.
Let us all continue to “be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to one another in
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Ephesians 5:18b and 19. “But you, dear friends,
build yourselves up in your most holy faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Jude 20.
And Paul said in I Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with
my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind…”