Faith, as depicted in the New Testament in its various aspects, always agrees with the definition given in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Yet the essential nature of faith expresses itself in distinct but related forms: 1) faith to live by; 2) faith as a gift; and 3) faith as a fruit.
In this teaching letter, we will examine the second category—the nature of faith as a gift.
In 1 Corinthians 12 on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul opens the chapter with: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” Then in verses 7–11 he lists nine distinct gifts:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
The key word for the distinctive nature of these gifts is manifestation. The Holy Spirit Himself, dwelling in a believer, is invisible. But when these gifts operate through a believer, the presence of the Holy Spirit is made manifest to human senses — and the results can be seen, heard or felt.
Since these gifts are manifestations, not of the believer’s personality but of the Person of the Holy Spirit within the believer, all of them are supernatural in character. In every case, the results they produce are on a higher level than we could ever achieve solely by our own ability, possible only through direct, supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit. By these gifts, and through the believer, the Holy Spirit emerges from the invisible spiritual realm to make direct impact upon the physical world of space and time.
Paul establishes two important practical points concerning these gifts. First, they are distributed solely at the discretion of the Holy Spirit, according to His sovereign purpose for each believer. Human will or achievement is not the basis for receiving these spiritual gifts. Secondly, they are given “to each one . . . for the common good”—for a useful, practical purpose. As Bob Mumford has said, the gifts of the Spirit are tools, not toys.
It has often been pointed out that these nine gifts fall naturally into three groups of three:
• Three gifts of utterance – gifts that operate through the believer’s vocal organs: prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
• Three gifts of revelation – gifts that impart spiritual illumination: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and distinguishing of spirits.
• Three gifts of power – gifts that demonstrate God’s supernatural power in the physical realm: faith, the gifts of healing, and the effecting of miracles.
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