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The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Updated: May 20, 2023

How to move in the gifts

This teaching is not just about the gifts of the Holy Spirit but is also about how to be able to move in them so that the church of Jesus Christ can be built up.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

8 Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors, and teachers.

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

v8 Victorious Roman generals on returning to Rome paraded the biggest and strongest of their captives so that the Roman citizens could see the extent of the legion’s victory. They would also have their men shower the crowds with trinkets such as coins and small pieces of jewellery so that the people could share in the victory. So it was that when Jesus Christ won the greatest victory of all time triumphing over the devil and all his powers and principalities and made an open show of them! When he ascended back to heaven, he showered men (the church) not just with trinkets but the wonderful and precious gifts described in verse 11. These gifts are known as either the five-fold or four-fold ministry gifts and their purpose is to bring the church of Jesus Christ into a full maturity so that the body can perform the ministry.

All the ascension gifts are dependent on the anointing of the Holy Spirit and it may well be that these gifts are not just limited to the ministry gifts (v.11) but also include many other (if not all) the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the gift of gifts Himself!

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.

9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.

10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to other divers’ kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

11 But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Please notice in verse 7 the gifts are given to every man to profit the body of Christ.

These gifts are not just speaking about natural talents, e.g. the gift of tongues means that someone is good at foreign languages. This cannot be referring to the spiritual gift of tongues since there are many unbelievers who are gifted at languages!

There are nine gifts of Holy Spirit described here and these can be conveniently divided into three groups for study purposes.

1. The verbal gifts; tongues, interpretation, and prophecy.

2. The inspirational gifts;(God shows us something we otherwise could not know) word of knowledge, word of wisdom and discernment of spirits.

3. The power gifts (demonstrating the power of God); healings, miracles, and faith.

Although the power gifts may be the most spectacular of the gifts the emphasis of the bible is on the verbal gifts with over half the Scripture about the gifts devoted to these. 1 Cor 14 teaches solely about the verbal gifts. There is not a whole chapter devoted to either the inspirational or the power gifts. We are also taught to desire the gift of prophecy above all others! In the early church we find that the verbal gifts were the gifts most manifested in the church. If we follow the example the Corinthian church there should be tongues, interpretation, and prophecy at every church meeting! Interestingly the other six gifts tend to be used more in personal ministry with occasional manifestations in the church meetings. The verbal gifts are often the gifts that open us up to begin to move in the other six gifts. In some ways they are easier to move in since these gifts are under our control i.e., we can either speak or keep silent! Regular use of the verbal gifts seems to keep us open and ready to operate in the other six gifts when the Holy Spirit gives them to us. They help us to recognise the voice or leading of the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues is especially useful to us in that we can use it for our personal edification almost anywhere, doing the ironing, in the car and we can use it without speaking out! For those of us who can speak in tongues it should be a daily exercise so that in addition to our personal benefit we are ready to give a tongue at church if the Spirit wills.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 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.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

5 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 interprets, that the church may receive edifying.

6 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?

7 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?

8 For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

9 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.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

11 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.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 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.

16 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?

17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

18 I thank my God; I speak with tongues more than ye all:

19 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.

20 Brethren be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

21 In the law it is written, 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.

22 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.

23 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?

24 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:

25 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.

26 How is it then, brethren? 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.

27 If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.


39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Comments by verse

v.1 We ought to desire spiritual gifts especially that we should prophesy!

v.2 When we speak in an unknown tongue, we are not speaking to men but to God.

It is a direct communication between man and God or vice versa. Although our minds do not understand we are speaking mysteries about God. What do you think the angels make of this?

v.3 Prophecy is in English and is understood by the church thus building them up.

v4. Tongues builds up the speaker, but prophecy builds up the church. see also Jude v20.

v5 Paul wants everyone to talk in tongues but even better if they prophesy so that others can be fed. However, if there is an interpretation of the tongue it has the same effect as a prophecy i.e. it is understood!

v6-12 What good is done in public if no one can understand what you are saying. Love considers others not just our own profit. If you want to give a tongue for the church pray and ask God for the interpretation as well so that everyone will be blessed.

v15. Spirit filled Christians should pray and sing, sometimes in English, sometimes in tongues. Both are OK and one should not preclude the other.

v16-17 Do not give thanks at the meal table in tongues since no one can understand and say Amen.

v18 Paul appreciated the gift of tongues and used it more than anyone else!

v19 but we must know the correct context for the use of tongues i.e. do not confuse the private use with its public use. At the meetings concentrate on what benefits the whole church.

v21.-24 There appears to be an apparent contradiction between verse 21-22 and 23-24 in that in the former tongues is designated as a sign for the unbeliever but in the latter as a sign for the believers. The explanation lies in that on the day of Pentecost the Jews who first heard the other tongues were fulfilling the prophecies of the old testament (Isa 28 and Deut 24 v29)to show the Jews that they were in unbelief. However, the reference to tongues in v23-24 is for the Church and therefore is for a different purpose i.e. for the believers not the unsaved.

v27 Let tongues and prophecies be given in batches of two or three and then give the congregation time to digest them and to discern what the Lord is saying to the church.

v39 Do not forbid the speaking in tongues.

v40 Be sensitive to the Spirit and others. Never behave in an unseemly or outrageous way for the church is the household of God.

The practicalities of using the gift of tongues

There seems to be two main roles for the gift of tongues.

1. The manifestation that often occurs at the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then used for communicating messages to God.

2. The operation of the gift to communicate a message from God to the church.

Although not all spirit filled Christians do talk in tongues, I personally believe that they have the ability. If you are in that position and would like to operate in the gift of tongues, we will be discussing how to remove any hindrances. Some people just seem to take off either speaking or singing in tongues right away. Others seem to pick it up a few words at a time!

Hindrances to speaking in tongues

1. Fear or shyness; sometimes people are called forward at meetings and are prayed for and told ‘just start speaking in tongues!’. This can be a nightmare for people who are very shy and would not even speak in English in front of a group of people! Such people who are shy should be allowed to manifest the gift of tongues at home or in a small supportive group. We need to be sensitive when ministering in this area. Sometimes at a meeting where most of the congregation are speaking in tongues it is much easier for the first timer to just join in.

2. Ignorance; some people believe that speaking in tongues is involuntary. That is not the case since scripture is clear that we have control over the gift, since we can speak quietly in tongues or sing or shout in tongues. Some people have been filled with the Spirit for many years and want to speak in tongues but do not realise that the gift is operated by faith with our co-operation. Sometimes new tongue talkers get stuck repeating one phrase and need to ask the Lord to develop their tongue. Many spirits filled believers operate in more than one tongue and seem to be able to recognise the change of tone.

When the new tongue-talker hears the words coming out of their mouths they sometimes think that is just coming from themselves. However, we must have the humility to admit that we would not recognise most other known languages if we heard them. If a small boy were learning French and said to his dad ‘oui oui’ or ‘bon bon’ then his dad might say ‘wee wee’ and ‘bonbon’ are not French words, but he would be wrong. Likewise, we will not recognise the syllables and words in our other tongues.

Although counterfeit tongues are exceedingly rare, if you are not sure about your tongue whether it sounds fight or not ask a small group of believers to listen to it to see how it sounds to them.

3. Unbelief; sometimes people can be in bondage over this gift and need a prayer of deliverance to set them free to move in the gift. Bondage can be brought about through sitting under wrong teaching on tongues or might even be due to fear of man about looking or sounding silly in front of others. We need to realise that the gift of tongues was a normal part of the spirit filled church life in the new testament church.

Why is God so interested in our tongue?

James 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

God knows that we need to sanctify our tongues and when we are speaking in other tongues in a sense God is taking control of our tongues whilst we still retain overall control. If the Lord can gain control of our tongue, then He can be begun to take over the rest of our lives as well!

When we are using tongues as a manifestation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are praying to God and we can all do it together. God can hear all of us at once! (remember the day of Pentecost). However, when the direction changes to when God wants to speak to the church a different rule applies. Usually only one person speaks in tongues at a time and everyone listens because we are not like God and able to receive all the tongues at once.

Although most tongues that can be translated by someone present give glory to God, very rarely there might be an impression of something wrong with a tongue. In such a case a prayer of deliverance is needed. remember, when you ask God for something good that is what He gives, not something bad!

When a tongue is given in a meeting someone should bring forth the interpretation in English.



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