The Public Use of Spiritual Gifts Do you remember when you first received your driver’s license? The joy, the freedom you felt! You could now drive anywhere you wanted! Well, almost anywhere. You had to stay on the road. You could not drive on the sidewalk, through your neighbor’s yard or flowerbed, and definitely not into their living room window!
Besides staying on the highway, you had to stay on your side of the road and in your lane if there were multiple lanes. You had to heed the speed limit and the traffic signs and signals. Freedom to drive did not mean you had freedom to do as you please. Freedom came with boundaries. The boundaries applied to every driver, not just to you. The boundaries kept everyone safe and enabled everyone to get to their intended destination. When someone went outside of the boundaries, that is when people got hurt. But when a vehicle is used properly, it is so beneficial.
At Casper Faith, we believe in the public use of the gifts of the Spirit in a church service—prophecy, tongues, and interpretation. They can be profitable and build people up (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:3). At the same time, we realize that the gifts must be used properly so that they are beneficial. The apostle Paul issued the same decree when he declared that they should be used decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).
For the gifts to be beneficial, we follow a pattern that allows for freedom, yet provides boundaries to keep people safe. We believe that God has ordained pastors to lead and oversee the local church (1 Peter 5:2; Hebrews 13:17). That oversight extends into our worship services. In essence, our leadership decides when and if a message is appropriate for the service. Here are some basic guidelines we abide by:
- If during worship you sense the Lord giving you a prophecy, tongues, or interpretation—come to the front row where pastor is and share it with him so he can discern and facilitate when it should be given. He may ask questions for clarification or to sense how it would fit into the service.
- If pastor is on the platform, wait in the front row for him to come to you or acknowledge you. If the congregation is sitting, please sit in the front row and wait for him to approach you.
- If pastor deems the word appropriate, he will introduce it and give you an opportunity to present it. He may have you wait for a point later in the service when it will flow the best.
- Pastor will hold the microphone for you as you present to make sure that people can adequately hear the message.
- If you receive a message during the sermon, please wait until the prayer time when our prayer team comes down front. Then approach pastor. He will determine what should be done.
We have found several benefits by operating in the gifts in this manner:
- It provides for times of quiet or free worship in a service that are not interrupted by the expression of a gift. When this time passes, the gift can be appropriately expressed.
- It has encouraged more people to be used in the gifts. Many people feel uncomfortable “interrupting” a service, not sure when is a good time. By having our leadership introduce the gifts, more people have been used by the Spirit.
It has promoted a greater variety of expression. Some have shared visions they felt the Lord has given them. Some have shared Scriptures they sensed God wanted shared with the congregation.
- It has been received positively by the unchurched and the uninformed (those who have not encountered the gifts in their church experience). Instead of them feeling like we are crazy or weird like the apostle Paul alluded to (1 Cor. 14:23), they feel our church is a safe environment, that we do not just let anyone take over the service.
- It is “decent and in order” instead of chaotic and interruptive, just as the Bible says a church service should be.
- It provides a framework to stop someone who is intentionally trying to interrupt the flow of the church service or give a false message. We must be aware that in these last days, “spiritual” people will come into the church to mislead and use it (1 John 4:1; Acts 20:29; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Peter 2:1). This pattern helps protect the flock God has entrusted to us.
Questions About Our Format
For many people who have grown up in Pentecostal or charismatic churches, this pattern diverts from their tradition where someone just expressed a gift whenever they felt like it. Our model may be different from yours. We are not saying it is perfect. Nor is it right for every church. But it is how we feel the Lord wants us to order our church services. Below are some common questions people have:
- What if I can’t control my gift? Shouldn’t I be allowed to express it when it comes?
According to the Bible, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). In other words, you are able to control if you will or will not speak.
- Shouldn’t the Holy Spirit decide when to give a gift instead of the pastor? Aren’t you controlling the gifts instead of letting the Spirit freely flow?
The truth is, while the Holy Spirit nudges people to be used in the gifts, He never decides when to yield to the nudging—the person does. We have asked those who operate in the gifts this question, “What do you do when we are in the middle of worship and you feel the Holy Spirit urging you to give a message in tongues/prophesy?” Their answers are something like this, “I wait for a break in the service. Then I give it.”
Notice, the person does not give the message immediately when (s)he feels the Spirit’s prompting. The Spirit does not force them to give it in the middle of a song. The person restrains it and waits for what (s)he feels is an appropriate time. Then they give it. In other words, the giver of the gift decides when is an appropriate time to express what the Holy Spirit has laid on their heart. In reality, the person decides the moment of when to give a gift, not the Holy Spirit.
What our model does is change which person decides when the best
time for a message is to be given. Instead of giving control to any
person in the congregation to make the decision when the service
should be interrupted, we are now giving control to the church
leadership to decide when the service should interrupted. As we have
done this, we have seen the gifts of the Spirit grow in our service as
our leadership has administered the flow.
- I have never seen the gifts in operation like this before? Is this something new? Is it okay to do so?
For years, charismatic groups like Women’s Aglow and Full Gospel Businessmen have used a format where the leadership decides when and if the gifts are to be expressed. While a “give it when you want” mentality might work in smaller churches where you pretty much know every person who is at the service, it is becoming more common for larger churches to use a leadership-guided protocol to promote an orderly flow of the gifts while protecting their congregations.
It should be noted that the apostle Paul gave boundaries about the amount and the administration of the gifts in a service. He did not want the gifts to be forbidden. At the same time, he was against chaos and a free-for-all atmosphere. He wanted everything to be done in a decent, orderly way that edified those who were present (1 Cor. 14:26-40). In other words, he was saying, “you are free to drive your car, just keep it on the road.”
Questions about the Gifts of the Spirit
- Didn’t the gifts of the Spirit die out after the first century?
Some people think the gifts died out after the Lord gave the last book of the New Testament or shortly thereafter. This thought comes from taking 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 out of context: “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”
However, the above passage is referring to when we get to heaven, not to the completion of the canon of Scripture. It is referring to a time when we are in the presence of Christ. We have seen Him face to face and have a perfect revelation of Him. When that happens, we will not need prophesies or messages in tongues because we will know Him perfectly. Note that the verses also talk about knowledge. Do we need knowledge today? Most definitely yes! We need to grow in the knowledge of Christ and His ways. The need for knowledge did not die out with the apostles. And neither did the gifts of the Spirit.
Throughout church history there were sprinklings of the gifts, but for the most part the church lost sight of Spirit empowerment until the 1900’s. That was not Christ’s desire. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He does not change. He wanted to continually empower His church to do even greater works than He did—greater in the sense of more of them (John 14:12; Acts 1:8). Healing is part of the atonement (Matthew 8:16-17; Isaiah 53:4-5). God still wants to heal, just as He still wants to forgive sin. The church of today still needs edification, encouragement, and comfort—which are the functions of a prophetic word (1 Corinthians 14:3). Truly we can see that the gifts were meant to be a vibrant part of the church’s life until Jesus comes again to take them to heaven.
- What are tongues and interpretation?
In the Bible, the word for tongues actually means languages. When Christians “speaks in tongues”, it means they speak in a language they do not know (Acts 2:4-11). It is not gibberish. Actually, the Holy Spirit who lives inside of believers speaks through them (Romans 8:26-27).
Tongues and interpretation are when God wants to share a message with people. The gift of tongues is when the Holy Spirit gives a believer a message from God in an unknown language. It should always be accompanied by the gift of interpretation of tongues so that the hearers can understand what has been said (1 Corinthians 14:5- 13). The Holy Spirit will give the same person or another person the understanding of what was spoken and (s)he will speak the interpretation. It is not a direct translation, but an interpretation. It should always strengthen, encourage, and comfort believers.
- Is there a difference between a message in tongues and the believer’s personal prayer language (s)he receives at Holy Spirit baptism?
The apostle Paul makes a distinction between the private exercise of tongues and its manifestation in a worship service. All believers are candidates for the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the physical sign of speaking in other tongues (Acts 2:39). Paul desired everyone to be Spirit baptized and speak in tongues because a believer is edified by praying in his prayer language (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).
On the other hand, only a limited number of Christ followers are enabled to exercise the gift in the assembly of believers as a means of building up the church (1 Corinthians 12:30). Being used to give a message in tongues does not make a person more spiritual than others (the same is true for giving a prophecy). We do not “earn” a gift by our spiritual merits. The Holy Spirit sovereignly distributes the gifts to people according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:11). But just because one has not been used to give a message in tongues yet, it does not mean (s)he should never be open to the Lord wanting to use him/her in the future. We should always be open to the Spirit’s promptings.
Since tongues is our personal prayer language, believers who have been Spirit baptized should use it regularly. Paul personally spent a lot of time praying and singing in tongues (1 Cor. 14:15-18). We should use our prayer language for worship and intercession. It’s very useful for those times you are troubled or confused and do not know what to pray or just can’t find the words to express yourself to God. When we pray in tongues, it builds us up (Jude 1:20). The Holy Spirit knows exactly what we need, and He intercedes for us as we pray in tongues (Romans 8:26-27). So use your prayer language often!
- Is it okay for a person to give both the message in tongues and the interpretation?
Not only is this okay, it is biblical. Paul taught that if a person gives a message in tongues, (s)he should be prepared to interpret it. If they are not received to do so, they should remain silent (1 Cor. 14:13, 28).
- Is a church service the only place the gifts can be used?
No, they can be used in many places outside of a church service—in your home with family members, at work with colleagues, or on campus with classmates. God can use you anywhere out in public like a store, a restaurant, a bus, or a street corner to give a word of wisdom or knowledge, to pray for healing or miracles or to share a prophesy or tongues and interpretation. The gifts can also be utilized in many ministry settings— small groups, Bible Study, or a corporate prayer meeting. They can be used anywhere with believers or unbelievers.
- Are prophecy, tongues, and interpretation the only gifts of the Spirit?
In the question above, we alluded to other gifts. The more accurate term for what we commonly call “the gifts of the Spirit” is “the manifestation of the Spirit” that Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” - 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (NIV)
Paul taught that the Lord “manifests” or reveals Himself to people in nine special ways. These nine gifts can be grouped into three categories:
1)The manifestation of God’s KNOWLEDGE through the gifts of:
- Wisdom—God places on your mind how to do something, how to solve a problem (e.g.—Acts 6:1-6).
- Knowledge—God gives you knowledge of what is going on around you that you would not have any way of otherwise knowing (e.g.—Acts 5:1-11).
- Discernment of spirits—God reveals what spirit is at work, godly or demonic (e.g.—Acts 16:16-18).
2) The manifestation of God’s POWER through the gifts of:
- Faith—a manifestation of God’s power that enables the believer to believe for something that otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to believe for (e.g.—Acts 3:4-16).
- Healing—A revelation of God’s power to heal sickness and disease (e.g.—Acts 19:11-12).
- Miracles—A manifestation of God’s power to supersede the laws of nature. (e.g.—Matthew 14:13-33).
3)*The manifestation of God’s MESSAGE through the gifts of:
- Prophecy—God reveals a message through a yielded believer given in the language of the speaker and the hearers (e.g.—Acts 27:10, 21-25).
- Tongues—God reveals a message through a yielded believer given in a language previously unlearned by the speaker and many or all of the hearers. This gift is only used in public when accompanied by the gift of interpretation. (e.g.—Acts 2:4-11; Daniel 5:5-8, 25-29).
- Interpretation—God reveals a message through a yielded believer by showing the meaning in a language the hearers understand (e.g.—1 Corinthians 14:27; Daniel 5:5-8, 25-29).
*Paul gave guidelines and restrictions on how these message gifts should be used so that the church service would be done decently and in order. Read about them in 1 Corinthians 14.
- In 1 Corinthians 14:34, it says women should be kept silent in the church and not be permitted to speak. Does that mean ladies should not exercise the message gifts?
This is not a prohibition against women being used in the gifts. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:5 about women praying or prophesying. The silence of women is for certain conditions. In 1 Corinthians 14:35, it is clear that women must be silent “if they are to learn anything”. The context of this verse must be seen in light of Paul wanting harmony and order in a church service. Since Greek women led more sheltered lives than the men, it would be natural for them to make inquiries of their husbands about questions they had about what was spoken. Paul says those questions should be asked at home, not in the middle of the service. This would be even more important if the men sat separate from the women, which was Jewish custom. For a lady to ask a question to her husband on the other side of the room would be very distracting.