The gifts of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
As you can see, Paul did not want the believers who were in Corinth to be ignorant of the spiritual gifts. Which ignorance did he refer to? The ignorance of the existence of the spiritual gifts or the ignorance of their use, employment and control? Now, since the Corinthians did not lack any spiritual gift, as Paul said to them at the beginning of his first epistle he wrote to them (1 Corinthians 1:7), and among the Church of Corinth there were believers who did speak with other tongues and prophesied (that is what we learn from other words of Paul, such as these: “Let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret” 1 Corinthians 14:13 – NKJV, and: “For you can all prophesy one by one ….” 1 Corinthians 14:31 – NKJV), the answer is this: Paul did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant of the use, employment and control of the spiritual gifts. And that is confirmed by what Paul wrote in the rest of the twelfth chapter of this epistle and in the fourteenth chapter of it. But when and how did the Corinthians learn of the existence of the spiritual gifts? Well, according to the Scripture, they learned of the existence of the spiritual gifts through Paul when the apostle preached the Gospel to them, for it was Paul who had imparted the spiritual gifts to the saints of Corinth; so they had received the spiritual gifts through Paul’s ministry. Which shows very clearly that Paul did not want believers to be ignorant of the existence of the spiritual gifts, and not only of their use and employment.
I also – like Paul – do not want believers to be ignorant of the spiritual gifts, both of their existence and their proper use in the body of Christ. So this is why I teach about the gifts of the Spirit. 1) First of all, so that those believers who have never heard that there are spiritual gifts (in the days of Paul there were some believers who for a certain period of time had not even heard that there was the Holy Spirit – Acts 19:1-7, so we should not be surprised if some believers are ignorant of the existence of the spiritual gifts) might learn of their existence (as well as of their proper use), because the gifts of the Spirit are for the Church, for the edification of the Church and not for the destruction of the Church. Paul says this very clearly: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (1 Corinthians 12:7); the NIV reads: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”. Please, note these words “to profit withal” or “for the common good,” for they nullify all those arguments according to which the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer necessary. For if the manifestation of the Spirit was useful to the Church at that time, it must be useful to the Church today also; if the Spirit edified the Church through His gifts at that time, for sure He will edify the Church through those same gifts today. If at that time the Spirit desired to edify the Church of God through His gifts, for sure today He desires to do the same thing. Is there anyone who can demonstrate that the mind of the Spirit is no longer the same? No, there is nobody who can demonstrate that the mind and the work of the Holy Spirit have changed, and there is nobody who is able to change His mind and His work. Today the Spirit distributes His gifts as He wills, and nobody can keep Him from distributing them. 2) Secondly, so that those believers who already know of the existence of the spiritual gifts but hold mistaken views concerning some of them (that is, concerning the function and the use of some of them) might be corrected.
Now, as we have read, there is one Spirit yet there are diversities of gifts. In other words, the Holy Spirit gives different manifestations to the members of the Church of God. The reason is that in the Church there are various needs; just as in the human body there are different members with different functions which meet different needs (the eye allows us to see, the ear allows us to hear, the feet allow us to walk, the mouth allows us to eat, the stomach and the liver allow us to digest what we have eaten, etc.), so in the Church of God there are different gifts which meet different needs. The Spirit does not give the same manifestation to everybody, but He gives everyone the spiritual manifestation which is according to the will of God. However, the will of God does not exclude the will of the believer, that is to say, even though the Spirit distributes His gifts as He wills, the believer must earnestly desire spiritual gifts, for Paul told the Church of Corinth to covet them, as it is written: “But covet earnestly the best gifts ….” (1 Corinthians 12:31) and again: “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). Therefore things are very clear, spiritual gifts must be coveted by all of us. All believers must covet them, whoever doesn’t covet them doesn’t want the Church to be edified through the manifestation of the Spirit, he doesn’t want the Church to be edified through the gifts as it was edified in the days of the apostles.
Now let us look closely at the gifts Paul speaks about, in order to understand why they are given for the edification of the Church, and in order to understand their utility.
The word of wisdom
The word of wisdom is the revelation of a future event. Therefore it is the prediction of an event, such as a war, a famine, a flood, a marriage, an arrest, the coming of someone, the birth of someone, the death of someone, a judgement of God upon someone, a blessing of God for somebody, the salvation of somebody, the healing of somebody, etc. However, the word of wisdom is expressed not only in foretelling future events, but also in the giving of those divine commands and instructions which make for the development of those future events. The word of wisdom can be received through a vision, or a dream, or through an audible voice. Here are a few biblical examples of the word of wisdom.
Through a word of wisdom Noah knew that God would send the flood on the earth and that he had to build an ark, as it is written: “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:13-21). As you can see, Noah received not only the prediction of the flood, but also some important commands which he had to put in practice so that the plan of God might be fulfilled. Noah built the ark, the flood came upon the earth, and all the human beings and the animals were destroyed except Noah and seven others, and all the animals which were in the ark.
It was through a word of wisdom that the prophet Samuel knew that the following day God would send him a man from the land of Benjamin, who was the man appointed by God to reign over Israel. Here is what we read in the Bible: “Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me” (1 Samuel 9:15-16). That word was fulfilled on the following day, as God had said to Samuel. God sent Saul to Samuel and “when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people” (1 Samuel 9:17).
It was through a word of wisdom, which God gave to the prophet Samuel, that Saul knew what would happen to him after he would leave Samuel. Here is what Samuel said to Saul: “Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man” (1 Samuel 10:2-6). All those signs were fulfilled on that day, as the Lord had said through Samuel.
It was through a word of wisdom, which God gave to the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite, that Jeroboam knew that he would become king of Israel, as it is written: “And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever” (1 Kings 11:29-39). And Jeroboam some time later became king of Israel, as the Lord had said.
At Antioch, one prophet named Agabus, “stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world” (Acts 11:28 – NIV), which came to pass in the days of Claudius.
After some years, Agabus, while the apostle Paul was at the house of Philip, came and predicted that Paul would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles, as it is written: “And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (Acts 21:11). This prediction also was fulfilled.
It was through a word of wisdom that the evangelist Philip knew that he had to go toward the south along the road which went down from Jerusalem to Gaza, and it was through a word of wisdom that when he saw the Eunuch sitting in his chariot he knew that he had to go near and overtake that chariot, as it is written: “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth’. So the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from begin baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:26-38 – NKJV).
The word of wisdom is as important as it was in the days of the prophets and of the apostles. Through it we can know things that no human being knows, for they are hidden in God. Is it not wonderful? I can tell you by experience that when God reveals to you a portion of His wisdom, by revealing to you something that will happen in the future, or by commanding you to do certain things so that His plan may be fulfilled, you feel happy, strengthened and also comforted, and compelled to praise His great name. Earnestly desire this manifestation of the Spirit, so that men may acknowledge that our God still predicts future events, as He did in ancient times, and at the appointed time He brings to pass His predictions. Let everyone acknowledge the truthfulness of this Scripture: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.: Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:8-11)
The word of knowledge
The word of knowledge is the revelation of the existence, condition or whereabouts of some person or object or place, of the location or occasion of some event. It is the revelation of past happenings or of things existing or events taking place in the present. For instance, it may be the revelation of a plot against someone, a sin committed by someone secretly, the nature of a man’s thoughts or the condition of his heart, the place where something or someone is hidden, the place where a lost object is, etc. The word of knowledge also can be received through a vision, or a dream, or through an audible voice. Here are some biblical examples of the word of knowledge.
It was through a word of knowledge that the prophet Elisha knew the secret encampment selected by the king of Syria as the base of his military operations against Israel. Here is what we read in the Scripture: “Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:8-12).
It was through a word of knowledge that the Israelites knew where Saul was hidden. Here is the biblical account of that event: “And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh; And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands. And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they enquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff. And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king [Long live the king!]” (1 Samuel 10:17-24).
It was through a word of knowledge that the prophet Elisha knew that his servant Gehazi had taken something from Naaman. Elisha had refused to accept from the hands of Naaman what he had brought, who had been healed of leprosy by Elisha. However, Gehazi coveted what Naaman brought and took something from Naaman secretly, but God exposed the treachery and punished Gehazi for his sin. Here is the biblical account of that event: “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:20-27).
Jesus, while He was talking with the Samaritan woman, told her that she had had five husbands and the man living with her at that time was not her husband. Here is what the apostle John wrote: “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (John 4:16-19). That woman realized through that word of knowledge that the one who was speaking to her was a prophet. In addition to this, she believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, for the apostle wrote that when she went back to the town she said to the people: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).
It was through a word of knowledge that the apostle Peter knew that Ananias and Sapphira his wife had lied to the apostles concerning the price of the land they had sold. It is written in the book of the Acts of the apostles: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:1-11).
It was through a word of knowledge that Ananias, a disciple who lived in Damascus, knew that Saul of Tarsus was in the house of a man named Judas on Straight Street and that he was praying and had seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands upon him. Here is what Luke wrote: “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9:10-18)
As you can see, the word of knowledge is a useful gift, for through it the Spirit reveals also certain sins which have been committed secretly by some people. So we need this kind of manifestation, that people may acknowledge that our God is holy, that His eyes are everywhere, and that man cannot mock Him, and thus great fear may seize them. Very often believers behave in their private life as if God did not exist and then they come to the place of worship as if nothing had happened. Very often we see the places of worship full of hypocrites whose secret sins need to be revealed publicly so that everybody may realize that God cannot be mocked.
Finally, note this. Even though the word of knowledge is distinct from the word of wisdom, they are closely related, and often they are intergraded in their manifestation. For instance, it was through a word of knowledge that John on the isle of Patmos knew the condition of the seven churches; and by the word of wisdom he was able to give them the mind, will and commands of God.
The gift of faith is not the faith which comes by hearing the Word of God and by which people are saved and receive the Holy Spirit as well as the gifts of the Spirit (we might call this kind of faith ‘general faith’), but a special faith granted by the Holy Spirit to some believers on certain circumstances that they might work miracles, or rather receive miracles in their life. Those who possess faith the gift of the Spirit believe God in such a way that God honours their word as His own and miraculously brings it to pass. The gift of faith may often operate in conjunction with other gifts of the Spirit. Let us see now some biblical examples of the manifestation of the gift of faith.
Through this gift the prophet Elisha made the iron ax head float, as it is written: “And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it” (2 Kings 6:1-7).
Through this gift Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego quenched the violence of fire, for it is written: “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:1-30).
Through this gift Jesus fed several thousand people with just a few loaves and fish (Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:30-44; John 6:1-15, and Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9), He walked on the water of the sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48), and He withered a fig tree (Matthew 21:18-19).
As you can see, this gift is very useful, for through its manifestation both believers and unbelievers can see that the things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Nothing is impossible with God: He indeed does things that are impossible with men.
The gifts of healings
The gifts of healings (NKJV) are gifts which enable the believer who has received them to heal the sick. The power of the Lord is present for him to heal the sick, just as it was for Jesus (Luke 5:17).
Jesus gave His twelve disciples power to heal the sick, as it is written: “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1; cf. Luke 9:1-2), and they healed the sick while Jesus was still with them, as it is written: “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where” (Luke 9:6). As I have said, all these healings were performed by His disciples while Jesus was still with them; however, the twelve (remember that after His ascension into heaven Matthias took the office of Judas Iscariot) healed the sick even after Jesus was taken up into heaven. For it is written in the book of the Acts of the apostles: “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people….. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:12,16). As you can see, the twelve apostles had gifts of healings.
The apostle Paul also had gifts of healings, for it is written: “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island [Malta], came, and were healed” (Acts 28:8-9).
Another servant of the Lord who had gifts of healings was the evangelist Philip, for the Scripture says about him: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).
Now let me show you from the Bible how the sick can be healed.
A sick person can be healed through the laying on of the hands of a believer who has these gifts, who, after he has prayed for the sick, places his hands on the sick person in the name of Jesus, and heals him. The practice of laying hands on the sick was a common practice in the early Church; for instance, the apostle Paul, after he prayed for the father of Publius (who was sick of a fever and dysentery), “placed his hands on him, and healed him” (Acts 28:8), and James commanded the elders of the Church to pray over the sick (which implies that they had to lay their hands on the sick) and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord, saying that the prayer of faith would save the sick and the Lord would raise them up (James 5:14-15). He who has gifts of healings can lay his hands on the sick even without saying a specific prayer for the sick, but by saying to the sick just these words: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ be healed!’ This practice also is biblical, for Jesus said about those who believe on Him: “In my name …. they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18). As for anointing the sick with oil in order to heal them, it must be said that the apostles anointed the sick while Jesus was still with them, as it is written that they “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:13). So it is lawful for those who have gifts of healings to anoint the sick with oil in the name of the Lord. Healing can take place even without the laying on of hands and the anointing with oil, but only by a command given by the servant of God who possesses gifts of healings, as in the case of that man lame from his mother’s womb to whom Peter commanded to rise up and walk (Acts 3:6), and in the case of that man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed, to whom Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed” (Acts 9:34 – NKJV), as well as in the case of that man who was lame from his mother’s womb and who heard Paul speaking, to whom Paul said: “Stand upright on thy feet” (Acts 14:10). Healing may even be obtained through some handkerchiefs and aprons that have touched a man of God who possesses gifts of healings and the gift of working miracles, as it happened to many sick in the province of Asia while Paul was there, as it is written: “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11-12). However, I would like to point out that Paul did not use to pray over handkerchiefs and aprons, nor did he urge people to put handkerchiefs and aprons on his own body in order to bring them to the sick. I say this for I know that there are certain preachers who do these things. Finally, I say that someone can be healed even through the shadow of a man of God, just as it happened in Jerusalem in the days of the apostles, as it is written: “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them” (Acts 5:14-15). However, I would like to point out that, as in the case of Paul in Asia, Peter did not urge people to bring the sick into the streets and to lay them on beds and couches that at least his shadow might overshadow them.
I said before that those who have received gifts of healings heal the sick, but it must be said that those who possess the gifts of healings can’t heal every sick person, because a sick person can be healed only if he has faith. Is it not written that on one occasion Jesus asked two blind men, who pleaded with Him to have mercy on them, if they believed that He was able to give sight to them (Matthew 9:28)? Therefore, if a sick person does not believe that Jesus can heal him, he will not be healed. That is confirmed by the fact that even Jesus, who had the gifts of healings, did not do many powerful works in Nazareth because of their unbelief, as it is written: “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Another thing that must be said is that a sick person will be healed if his healing is according to the will of God for him. With regard to this, I want to point out that according to the first epistle of Paul to Timothy, Timothy had frequent infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23), and that Paul wrote to Timothy in his second epistle that he had left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20). These passages concerning the illnesses of Timothy and Trophimus teach us that even those who possess gifts of healings must submit to the will of God. It is true that the Scripture does not tell us whether afterward they were healed or not by Paul, however the Scripture makes it very clear that at that time Paul could not heal them for God did not want to heal them (we take for granted that Timothy and Trophimus wanted to be healed and believed that God could heal them). If Paul healed them some time later, that means that the time appointed by God for their healing had not yet come. Nevertheless, I say it again, the Scripture does not tell us if afterward they were healed or not. So a sick person may remain sick for a certain period of time till the time for his healing has come. However, according to the Scripture, God may have decided not to heal a believer who is sick because He has decided to let him die and bring him safely to His heavenly kingdom. In this case, therefore, the disease will lead the believer to death, as in the case of the prophet Elisha, about whom the Scripture says that he “had become sick with the illness of which he would die” (2 Kings 13:14 – NKJV).
Another important thing to be said about healing is this: even if a believer does not possess gifts of healings, he must pray for the brothers who are sick so that they might be healed by God, for James says: “Pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Please note that to pray for the sick is a command for all of us and not something which is optional.
Healing takes place by the power of God, through the faith of the sick in the name of the Lord Jesus. To explain this concept there are no better words than these, which Peter spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem after he healed the lame person at the temple’s door called ‘Beautiful’: “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16). These words can be spoken by anyone who has gifts of healings after he has healed a sick person.
Healing is one of the signs which accompany the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, for Jesus said that among the signs that will accompany those who believe is also this: “In my name ….. they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18). Being a sign, it confirms the Gospel of the grace of God (Mark 16:20). In other words, through the healing of the sick by the name of Jesus Christ, God shows that the Word which is preached is true, is a trustworthy word which deserves full acceptance. Therefore, when they see sick people healed in the name of Jesus Christ, unbelieving people are led to believe in the Lord Jesus, and that is what happened in ancient times (Acts 9:35) and happens today. Of course, not all unbelievers turn to the Lord when they see the sick healed by the name of Jesus but only a part of them (just as in the days of Jesus and in the days of the apostles not all those who saw the sick healed by the power of God turned to the Lord). However, healings are useful also because through them many works of the devil are destroyed by the power of God and this makes believers rejoice in the Lord, praise His holy name and fear Him. Healings wrought by the power of God in the name of Jesus Christ are a manifestation of His great power, but also of His great love and compassion toward men. Think about this for a moment: God in His goodness wants not only to save people from sin but also to heal their diseases! He wants to meet also the physical needs of people, both believers and unbelievers. God is really good!
Therefore, let us earnestly desire the gifts of healings, and let those who receive them use them to serve others (thus without charging for healing) and let them be humble and pure. May the name of our great God be glorified through the healings worked in the name of Christ, and may the works of the devil be destroyed. Let everybody acknowledge that in the midst of the Church there is a God who heals all diseases, that He can do and does what no doctor is able to do. To Him be the glory in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The working of miracles
The gift of working miracles is different from the gifts of healings, because the gifts of healings concern the healing of diseases while the gift of working miracles concerns the working of signs and wonders. This gift is the power granted by the Holy Spirit to work signs and wonders by God’s command. Moses had this gift, and the two witnesses, who will appear before the coming of the Lord, will receive it. So let us look closely at what the Scripture says about them.
As for Moses, when God appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush and told him to go down to Egypt to set free His people from the hand of Pharaoh, God gave him the power to work some signs and wonders before the elders of Israel so that the Israelites might believe that the God of their fathers had appeared to Moses. Here is what the Scripture says: “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land” (Exodus 4:1-9). God gave Moses also the power to work signs and wonders before Pharaoh and against the Egyptians, for He said to him: “When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). And that is what happened afterward, for Moses and his brother Aaron went to the elders of the people of Israel, and Aaron worked the signs God had commanded Moses to do, and the people believed them (Exodus 4:29-31), and then they went to Pharaoh to command him to let the people of Israel go and since he refused to obey, God worked through Moses and Aaron many signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all the Egyptians, as it is written: “He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen. They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they rebelled not against his word. He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies, and lice in all their coasts. He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He smote their vines also and their fig trees; and brake the trees of their coasts. He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillers, and that without number, And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground. He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength” (Psalms 105:26-36). Perhaps you will say to me: ‘The word ‘miracles’ does not occur in the above mentioned Bible verses!’ That’s true, however it is also true that in another place the Scripture calls the signs and wonders performed by Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt “miracles” (Numbers 14:22).
As for the two witnesses who will appear before the coming of the Lord, they will possess great power, for we read in the book of Revelation: “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (Revelation 11:6).
As you can see, the authority that Moses received and the authority that the two witnesses will receive from God at the appointed time is an authority which has nothing to do with the authority to heal diseases, for it is the authority to work signs and wonders, that is, miracles.
Those who have received the gift of working miracles have power to raise the dead and to cast out demons, for there is no doubt that when a believer raises a dead person he performs a miracle and not a healing, and that casting out demons does not mean healing the sick, for when Jesus spoke about the signs that will accompany those who believe He mentioned these signs separately (Mark 16:17-18). To cast out demons means to expel demons out of demon-possessed people, and very often these people are healthy and don’t need healing, that’s why we put deliverances from demons among the miracles.
Therefore when we read in the Acts of the apostles that Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time in Iconium “speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3 – NIV), and that “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8 – NIV), and also that “the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12 – NIV), we think that among all those signs and wonders there were surely signs and wonders that had nothing to do with the healing of diseases, such as the raising of the dead and the deliverance from demons (or the expulsion of demons). As for the apostles, we know that they had the authority to raise the dead and to cast out demons, for we know that after the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter raised a dead woman (Acts 9:36-43) and Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl at Philippi (Acts 16:16-18).
Our desire and our prayer to God is that God may confirm the Word of His Grace by enabling His servants to heal the sick and to do signs and wonders. Don’t be surprised, for we have the same desire that the early disciples had and our prayer is the same prayer that the early disciples made to God. Listen to what Luke says in the book of the Acts of the apostles: “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David [the NIV reads: “by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David] hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31).
Discerning of spirits
The Spirit of God, through this gift, enables some believers to discern the presence of evil spirits (demons) into the body of some persons or near them, or enables them to see evil spirits doing their evil works or to discern their evil works. When the Holy Spirit allows to see or to discern the evil spirits which are tormenting the demon possessed, His purpose is to enable believers to cast demons out of the demon possessed and thus to set them free in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, because evil spirits can be cast out of these people only through the name of Jesus Christ, that is to say, by commanding them in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of the demon possessed.
This gift is called ‘discerning of spirits’ because there are different kinds of evils spirits, which perform different evil works, and thus it is necessary to discern them. As in the kingdom of God there are different kinds of good spirits (cherubim, seraphim, an archangel, and angels) which have different jobs, so is in the kingdom of the prince of the power of the air (that is, the devil), for in it there are various kinds of evils spirits.
For instance, there are evil spirits which cause dumbness and deafness like that evil spirit which Jesus cast out of a boy, as it is written in the Gospel according to Mark: “And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose” (Mark 9:14-27). In the Gospel according to Matthew we find another case of a person who was dumb because of a dumb spirit and was able to speak only after Jesus cast out the demon he had, for it is written: “As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil [demon]. And when the devil [demon] was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” (Matthew 9:32-33). Therefore some of those who are dumb and deaf have a demon, which causes dumbness and deafness; so in these cases, in order to see these persons healed of their dumbness and deafness, this kind of demon must first be discerned and then cast out. Pay attention to this: I have not said that all those who are dumb and deaf have a dumb and deaf demon which causes their sickness, but that some of them have a dumb and deaf demon, for the fact that a person is deaf and dumb does not necessarily mean that he has a dumb and deaf spirit, it can be so, but this is not always the case. It is erroneous – according to the Scripture – to state that every deaf or dumb person is demon-possessed, for just as in the days of Jesus there were many dumb and deaf people who were not demon-possessed at all but simply sick – that’s why Jesus did not cast any demon out of them, but He just healed them (Mark 7:32-37) – so today there are many dumb and deaf people who do not need to be delivered from demons, but simply healed of their sickness.
There are evil spirits which are called ‘seducing spirits’ because their job is to deceive people into accepting all kinds of false doctrines. Paul mentions them when he says to Timothy: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons]; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). These evil spirits help the false prophets and false christs spread their damnable heresies among the people of this world, as well as the false ministers of the Gospel who are among the Church of the living God spread doctrines of demons, which unfortunately many believers have accepted. I remind you that the father of lies is Satan (the devil), so every false doctrine does not come from God, but from Satan. In order not to be deceived by these spirits it is necessary to watch and pray, and to search the Scriptures continually to see if what is taught is true.
There are evil spirits which perform signs and wonders. The apostle John saw some of them in a vision, for he says in the Book of Revelation: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils [demons], working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:13-14). These spirits enable the false prophets and the false christs to work signs and wonders in order to seduce people. Many Indian gurus, and the witches and the wizards have these unclean spirits, which enable them to perform false miracles, and as you know these servants of the devil have many followers. However, bear in mind that these evil spirits work false miracles even among believers through false ministers of the Gospel, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Beware of them too.
There are evil spirits called spirits of divination, by which some people predict (or foretell) the future, for in the Scripture we read that while Paul and his fellow workers were at Philippi they met a slave girl with a spirit of divination and Paul one day discerned that evil spirit and cast it out. Here is the biblical account of that deliverance: “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:16-18). Many people today have this kind of evil spirit and they need to be delivered from it.
Evil spirits look like monkeys, frogs, crocodiles, snakes, goats, pigs, etc. As we saw before, the spirits which John saw looked like frogs. Other evil spirits look like ordinary persons, others are half human and half animal, and others look like unknown creatures.
There are evil spirits which are stronger than others, for Jesus said that the spirits which cause dumbness and deafness can be cast out only by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29); and there are evil spirits which are more wicked than others (Matthew 12:43-45). And there are evil spirits which rule over large areas of the earth as lords or leaders and governors in the evil spirit world; in the book of the prophet Daniel we read that the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted the messenger of the Lord sent by God to Daniel (Daniel 10:1-20) 21 days, that prince was an evil spirit.
In conclusion, I want to say this: Jesus Christ overcame Satan and all the evil spirits; for the Scripture says that, having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15). When demons are rebuked and cast out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, they obey, and come out of the demon-possessed. Therefore we must not be afraid of the evil spirits: remember that the Scripture says that we have overcome the devil by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11), and that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4), and again that “when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will put him to flight” (Isaiah 59:19 – NIV). Glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, now and forevermore. Amen.
Last but not least, remember that one day Satan and all the evil spirits will be cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, where they will be tormented forever and forever (Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41).
Prophecy, divers (different) kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues
Here is a brief exposition of what the Scripture teaches about these gifts of the Spirit. The gift of prophecy is a gift through which the Spirit exhorts, edifies, and comforts the Church, and sometimes He can speak through it even to unbelievers. There is no prediction of future events in prophecy. Believers must covet to prophesy. Prophecies must not be despised (1 Thessalonians 5:20). However, prophecies must be carefully examined in the light of the Scripture, and if a prophecy is doctrinally wrong, for it is inconsistent with the Holy Scripture, it must be rejected immediately. The gift of divers kinds of tongues is a gift through which a believer is enabled by the Spirit to speak in more than one tongue. It is a gift which is not given to everybody, that’s why Paul says that not all believers speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). He who speaks in tongues always speaks to God, and what he says can be a prayer, a song or a thanksgiving (and not a message to the Church). However, if what he says in other tongues is not interpreted the church will not be edified, so he must pray that he may interpret as well. Only when tongues are interpreted the listeners can say ‘Amen,’ for they have understood the meaning of the words and they can be edified. That’s why the gift of interpretation of tongues is important. When the Church comes together in one place, tongues must not be forbidden; however, it is necessary to observe the commandments of the Lord (given by the apostle Paul) concerning tongues in order not to create confusion. Therefore, if anyone speaks in a tongue, two or at the most three, should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, they should keep silence in the church and speak to themselves and to God. Speaking in tongues all together should be avoided; otherwise, if an unbeliever comes in, he will say that we are out of our mind.
Now, after this brief exposition, we are going to examine the gift of prophecy and the gift of divers kinds of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues in the light of what Paul says in the fourteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians.
Paul says: ”Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Why does Paul urge the saints to eagerly desire especially the gift of prophecy? Why this gift and not the gift of divers kinds of tongues, for instance? The answer is given by Paul immediately after, for he says: “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:2-5 – Please note this: the word unknown, which occurs six times in this chapter in the King James Version, is in italics, signifying that the original Greek manuscripts did not contain this or any such word). This is therefore the reason why prophecy is to be preferred to speaking in tongues (that is, the gift of divers kinds of tongues): because, while he who speaks in other tongues speaks to God, for nobody understands him and he utters mysteries by the Spirit, and in order that the Church may understand what he has said and thus may be edified, it is necessary for someone (who has the gift of interpretation) to interpret what he has spoken in other tongues; he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men, and since the words spoken through the gift of prophecy are spoken in the language that everybody in the Church can understand, they do not need to be interpreted and they edify the church. Now I am going to quote some prophecies uttered by the prophet Isaiah, so that you may understand what Paul means when he states that “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort”.
Words of edification: “Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isaiah 28:23-29).
Words of exhortation: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. … Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. …. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 46:8; 8:13; 1:16-17).
Words of comfort: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;…. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation. ….. But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 51:12; 7-8; 43:1-2).
Concerning the gift of prophecy, two important things must be said. The first thing is that a prophecy is not the revelation of a future event (as some think) because – as we have already seen – the revelation of a future event is given through the gift of word of wisdom. If you read carefully the above mentioned words of Isaiah, you will note that there is no revelation of specific future events in them. That there is a difference between prophecy and revelation is confirmed by the fact that Paul mentions them separately, for he says: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” (1 Corinthians 14:6). The second thing to be said is this. The gift of prophecy alone does not make anyone a prophet, because in order to be recognized as a prophet a believer must have also some revelation gifts (which are these: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits). The examples of the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others show this clearly, for besides the gift of prophecy, those prophets had revelation gifts. However, let’s come back to tongues.
As we saw before, Paul says that he would like everyone of us to speak in tongues, but he would rather have us prophesy, because he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues (for the reason he said before). However, if he who speaks in tongues does interpret as well, then this superiority vanishes, that is to say, he who prophesies is not greater than he who speaks in tongues, for Paul says: “Except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” – the NIV reads: “Unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified” – 1 Corinthians 14:5. Why does Paul say ‘except he interpret”? Because if he who speaks in other tongues does interpret what is spoken, the church will understand what the Spirit has said in other tongues through him to God. Let me give you an explicative example: let us suppose that while the Church is gathered a brother prays to God in other tongues asking Him to deliver a certain brother named John (who is in Ivory Coast and whom the Church does not know) from the hands of some wicked men who are about to kill him because of his faith, and that after he has prayed he interprets that prayer. What will happen in the assembly? For sure, the believers who are gathered together will be able to say ‘Amen’ to that prayer, because they have understood it. And obviously all the believers who are gathered will be greatly edified since they will know that the Spirit has interceded (through the mouth of a believer who is among them) for a child of God unknown to all of them who lives in another nation. If the words spoken in tongues are the words of a song, then the members of the Church by hearing the interpretation will be edified for they will understand that spiritual song. As far as this subject is concerned, I know that many pastors affirm – on the basis of the above mentioned words of Paul (1 Corinthians 14:5) – that tongues plus interpretation is equal to prophecy, because the Church receives edification, thus according to them the interpretation is a message directed toward the Church, or a ‘message in tongues.’ But they are mistaken for lack of knowledge and because they don’t divide the word of truth rightly. They are wrong because we are edified not only by hearing a message of exhortation, of comfort, and of edification addressed to men, but also by hearing a prayer or a song which is uttered in an another tongue and then interpreted. There is no doubt about it. Please answer this question of mine: ‘If we feel edified when we hear some brothers praying or singing in Italian, because we feel that their prayer or their song is prompted by the Spirit of God, why shouldn’t we feel edified when we hear a prayer or a song uttered by the Holy Spirit in an another tongue through them and then interpreted? Furthermore, if those words of Paul had that meaning, Paul would have contradicted himself because at the beginning of the fourteenth chapter he said that he who speaks in a tongue speaks to God and not to men (1 Corinthians 14:1). Therefore, speaking in tongues is always directed toward God, whether it is interpreted or not. It follows then that according to the Scripture there are no messages in tongues, for he who speaks in tongues does not speak to men but to God, and since the speaking in tongues is addressed to God and not to men, also the interpretation of it is addressed to God and not to men.
Now Paul, after saying “unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified” (NIV), says these words: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:6-15). As you can see, according to these words of Paul, speaking in tongues in the assembly, if it is not accompanied by the interpretation, will be useless to the others. In other words, speaking in other tongues without interpretation is like a trumpet which gives an uncertain sound, it is like someone who speaks in a foreign language and we don’t understand what he says. Of course, he who speaks in other tongues is edified (however, he is edified not because he understands what he says in the Spirit, but because he speaks in the Spirit), but the Church is not edified since it does not understand what he says. That’s why Paul says: “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret” (1 Corinthians 14:13), so that besides himself he may edify the Church. Because if I pray in an another tongue, my spirit prays but my understanding is unfruitful. So what shall I do? Paul asks. I will pray in an another tongue (that is, with the spirit), but I will also interpret (that is, I will pray with the understanding); I will sing in an another tongue (that is, with the spirit), but I will also interpret my spiritual song (that is, I will sing with the understanding), so that the Church may be edified.
And immediately after, Paul says: “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:16-19). In other words, Paul says: ‘On the contrary, if you don’t do what I tell you to do, that is, if you pray or sing in an another tongue without interpreting the prayer or the song, how can he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving? He can’t. Of course, you give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you, but in the church (please note that Paul says ‘in the church’ and not ‘when I am alone,’ for it is evident he is speaking of the case in which the believer is together with other believers and not alone, because when he is alone the one who hears his words is God) I would rather speak five intelligible words than ten thousand words in another tongue. And then Paul says: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20). In other words, in malice be infants, but in understanding don’t be infants but adults.
At this point, Paul quotes these words spoken by Isaiah: “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:21), and says: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth” (1 Corinthians 14:22-25). So, according to what God said through Isaiah, tongues are a sign for unbelievers and not for believers; while prophecy is a sign for believers. Now I want to say this. According to some believers, these words of Isaiah confirm that speaking in tongues is a message to men. But that is not true; otherwise Paul, when he says that he who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God, would contradict himself. Know this, that those words of Isaiah are quoted by Paul in order to confirm that tongues are a sign for the Jews who don’t believe. In other words, God said through Isaiah that He would speak to Israel through the sign of tongues, that is, He would call their attention through that sign. The expression “with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people” means that God, through this supernatural manifestation, would show His people (whom He foreknew) that He was among the Gentiles. So the Jews would be able to recognize that God was among those who spoke in other tongues even though they belonged to other nations. Therefore God did not mean that those who would speak in other tongues by the Spirit would speak words to (directed toward) the Jews (for instance, words like ‘repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’), but that He would use that sign to call their attention to the Gospel. I agree with brother R. L. Brandt when, in expounding 1 Corinthians 14:21, he says: ‘God would speak to Israel, not necessarily in a direct message to them, but by permitting an easily recognizable supernatural manifestation, through which, if they would, they could discern divine reality’ (R. L. Brandt, Tongues the greatest gift?, Bridge Publishing, Inc., South Plainfield, New Jersey, USA, 1981, p. 57-58). In the book of the Acts of the apostles we find the biblical record of the fulfilment of the prediction concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which shows that God spoke through the sign of tongues (that is, through this supernatural manifestation) to the Jews. Here is what is written: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:1-21). As you can see, the Jews, who came together after they heard the sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, were amazed when they heard the followers of Jesus speaking in their own native language and wondered what that might mean. However, bear in mind that the disciples of Jesus were not addressing the Jews who came together, for they were addressing God as they spoke of the wonderful works of God. Nevertheless, God spoke to them through that miraculous phenomenon or sign. For the signs given by God speak; that’s what we must always bear in mind. Listen to what God said to Moses, when He gave Moses the power to do certain signs and wonders before the people of Israel so that they might believe that God had really appeared to him: “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land” (Exodus 4:9). Please notice the following expression “if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign,” for it confirms that the signs of God ‘have a voice.’ So tongues also are a sign of God for unbelievers. However, prophecy is a sign for those who believe; that’s why Paul says that if the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and an unbeliever comes in, he will say that we are out of our mind, whereas if an unbeliever comes in and everyone is prophesying he will be judged by all and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare and he will fall down and worship God exclaiming ‘God is really among you!’.
What then shall we do? Here is the answer of Paul: “When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:26-33). As for tongues, therefore, if anyone speaks in a tongue, two or at the most three should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. However, if there is no interpreter, those who speak in tongues should speak in tongues in a very low voice and not in a loud voice. The prophets, who have the gift of prophecy, should speak; but only two or three prophets at the most, and the others should examine carefully their prophecies. However, if a revelation is given to one of the prophets who is sitting down, then the first speaker should stop.
The conclusion of the speech of Paul is this: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:37-40). As you can see, the words of Paul are the commandments of God. Therefore, believers must desire earnestly to prophesy, speaking in tongues must not be forbidden, but all things must be done decently and in order.