Truth, Understanding, Insight

Holy Spirit

9th August 2009, mgh


8) Holy Spirit Gifts

This phrase 'Holy Spirit gifts', as such, does not occur in the Bible.

There may be people today who make claims that they possess the Holy Spirit but there is little evidence in the Bible that special powers are available to humans today. The Bible is very specific about the work and function of the Holy Spirit.

The expression 'gift of the Holy Spirit' is referred to in five places. Take a close look at Hebrews 2:4 and its context.

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ;
God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts (Greek: merismos) of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will? (Hebrews 2: 2-4)

This section of the Bible is specifically referring to the Messiah, who was revealed to the people through his message of salvation. A word for word translation reads,

with various miracles and spirit holy dividing-to-give according-to that himself determines

With the bestowal of special powers by Yahweh, Messiah showed by signs and miracles that he was indeed the Messiah. This word 'gift' in the Greek has also been translated as 'dividing asunder of soul and spirit' in Hebrews 4: 12. Yeshua broke off and gave of the spirit that he had.

There is another instance when it is recorded that there was a gift of the Holy Spirit given. Peter had been given a vision of unclean animals and was told to kill and eat. Peter protested that he had never eaten unclean animals. (Acts 10: 9-17) However Peter had been shown a most important stage in the redemption of mankind. The hope of salvation was to now be extended to the Gentiles. Peter was then sent to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, together with his kinsmen and close friends, who listened to the preaching of Peter. This is a most significant event. Also note that the Greek word used in Acts 10 is different to that which referred to the Messiah in Hebrews 2.

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believe in him shall receive remission of sins.
While Peter yet spake these words, the spirit the holy fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift (Greek: dorea) of the Holy Spirit.
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the spirit the holy as well as we? (Acts 10: 42-47)

Peter was commanded to preach to these Gentiles and he spoke of the Messiah, judgement and the remission of sins. The people believed, magnified God and were able to speak in unfamiliar languages, as the apostles had on the day of Pentecost. This was irrefutable evidence that the Gentiles were now incorporated in the plan of redemption. Peter, with the Jews, had witnessed the sign of the extension of the Gospel message to all nations and tongues.

Simeon, a faithful Israelite, had understood the role of the Messiah as extending the hope of Israel to the Gentiles. We see that Peter was given emphatic confirmation by the evidence of a portion of the holy spirit coming on Cornelius, that Isaiah's prophecy had to be fulfilled.

And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which you have prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke2:27-32)

Simeon was quoting from Isaiah 42, which is a prophecy of the Messiah. As an aside the spirit of the Holy One guided Simeon in his actions but did not give him a new revelation. Simeon's actions in the Temple were a public witness to the nation.

On the day of Pentecost when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke publicly to the people of salvation and the promise of redemption and forgiveness of sins.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift (Greek: dorea) of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2: 38)

We note here that the word gift (dorea) as applied to these people is the same as applied to Cornelius. It is NOT the word (merismos) applied to the Messiah in Hebrews 2:4. There is obviously a clear distinction. The gift (merismos) offered by Messiah to the mass of people was healing, forgiveness of sins and the hope of salvation.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives advice about gifts. The word used in this chapter is again another word in Greek 'charisma'. The gifts enumerated could be classed as special abilities that were important in the maintenance of the early congregations.

God has set some in the congregation, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts (Greek: charisma) of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1Corinthians 12: 28)

If we examine this list carefully there is a certain hierarchy. The Apostles were responsible for prophecy and teaching. They also had a limited ability to heal and by miracles confirm the truth of their message. Like Cornelius and the Apostles, some were able to understand and speak languages by which they could teach others from different nations, but in Paul's list of gifts this was least important, and clearly only given to 'some'.

We have in these examples, three different words that have been translated as 'gift' and apply to different situations. But in all cases teaching and prophecy are pre-eminent. In addition we must remember these documents are what is now ancient history, and describe the remarkable events which ensured at that time the gospel was spread to the whole world and that we today have the text of the New Testament.


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