The Purpose of Spirit Empowerment
The Assemblies of God is a Pentecostal denomination and focuses heavily on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts, according to the apostle Paul, should be sought out by Christians (1 Corinthians 12:31); however, what purpose do these gifts serve? It is difficult to ignore the severe pains wrought by the misunderstanding, attempted misuse, and poor motives championed by those who have in the past abused these gifts. Therefore, it is imperative that the church understands these precious gifts and, more importantly, the role these gifts should play in the church.
First and foremost, a believer seeking the gifts of the Holy Spirit should recognize Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 13. Though the passage here is often recited at weddings, Paul writes about love in relation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He writes further in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “And I show. You a still more excellent way.” He then explains that a man or woman who exhibits the greatest extent of the spiritual gifts and simultaneously lacks love is rendered meaningless. Though someone may speak the most exquisite, angelic words ever uttered, these words are liken unto the most disruptive and horrendous clamor if they do not have love. (1 Corinthians 13:1). If someone through prophecy understands all the mysteries of the world, they are still left useless to the kingdom of God if they lack love (v. 2). Therefore, when earnestly seeking gifts, the believer must understand that this love, explained deeper in vv. 4-7, reigns supreme over everything else. The believer must first seek to love, both God and people (Matthew 22:36-40), as it is seemingly unlikely that God would bestow any gift unto an unloving soul.
The beauty here is echoed in Peter’s teaching on the use of these gifts in 1 Peter 4. He writes, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (v. 10). These gifts are to be employed in service to other members of the body of Christ. The building up and edification of the church is the primary function of these gifts, and any gift used selfishly or destructively should be condemned and subsequently ignored. It should be considered a terrifying occurrence when the gifts of the spirit are misused, and anyone finding themselves in a situation in which they have abused the gifts of the Spirit should seek earnest and urgent repentance.
The diversity in gifts offered through the Spirit is indicative of the interdependence of members within the universal church. Paul writes, “For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14). He goes on to explain that each part of the body, whether hand, foot, or eye, belongs to the body and plays a necessary role in making sure that the body functions appropriately (vv. 15-17). Paul also stresses that each member should recognize the value and importance of the other members (vv.21-26). This call for unity amongst the diverse gifts is pivotal in the overall effectiveness of the church. As we experience the gifts manifested in other believers, we should all rejoice for the completeness granted by the Spirit. Without this diversity, the body of Christ would meander throughout the world as a cripple.
Finally, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are a window through which believers can catch a glimpse of paradise. The gift of healing restores the body, but our restored and glorified bodies will never be in want or need of healing. The gift of prophecy allows us to hear from God, but when we dwell with him in eternity, we will speak with him face to face. The gift of teaching imparts unto us the knowledge of God’s will, but our understanding and knowledge will be made perfect in the age to come. The beauty of accepting these gifts and benefiting from their edification should cause believers to further hope and rejoice in our promised fate in the hands of Christ. They are signs of God working through his kingdom on earth, and they should be welcomed among believers.
Ultimately, the gifts of the Spirit are used to build God’s kingdom. Any other occurrence will inevitably lead to pain and destruction, furthering the plans of the enemy. I urge you to seek these gifts to edify, build up, and unify the body of Christ, and we must remember that love is the driving force by which these gifts become effective. Simply put, if we lack love, we should avoid seeking the gifts of the spirit. Love survives beyond these imperfect gifts into the next age (1 Corinthians 13:8-13), and to seek gifts aside from love is a fruitless venture.