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Passion for the Spiritual

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s exhortation to build up the church.  That’s found in his first letter to the Corinthians.  We’re now in chapter 14.

So it is with you.  Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12

This verse strikes at the heart of one of the biggest misunderstandings that we can have as believers.  I’ve heard many people speak out against the usage of the Gifts of the Spirit.

Some say that these gifts ceased with the original 12 apostles.  Others teach that we have no say in what gifts we receive.  God’s sovereign choice is the only determining factor in the giving of these gifts.

I was very careful in the above two paragraphs to use the word “gifts”.  That’s an important point that I want to make.  The word, gift, has a certain connotation in our society.

When I think of what a gift is, I think of something that somebody picked out just for me.  The giver determines what the gift is, who it will go to, and when it will be given.  That’s the problem addressed by this verse.

Scripturally speaking, the “Gifts of the Spirit” are not gifts.  That’s a term that man has come up with for tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc.

Even in the above verse, the English translation uses the word gifts twice.  But the word gift is not in the Greek original of that verse at all.

The Bible calls these things workings or manifestations of the Spirit.  They’re the functions of the Holy Spirit through the church.  It’s how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the world.

That’s why it’s foolish to say that the “Gifts of the Spirit” have ceased.  That’s like saying that the Holy Spirit has ceased doing His job.

We need to hear what the above verse actually says in its original language.  It reads, “Since you are passionate about spiritual things, be passionate about super-abounding at building up the church.”

The Holy Spirit wants to work through us.  He’s looking for people who are willing to be used.  These signs, wonders, and miracles are how He operates.

I believe that when it comes to these workings, it has more to do with our willingness than God’s sovereign choice.  That’s why we’re told to passionately pursue those spiritual workings that build up the church.  It’s something I can strive for.

I think it’s funny that the word passion appears twice in the original of this verse, and not once in English.  Passion is something I can cultivate.  The more time I spend with the Holy Spirit, the more passionate I become towards Him and His work.

Spend time in the spirit.  Develop a passion for His work.  Then, expect to see the miracles that can only come from the Holy Spirit working through you.  Make it your desire to use this spiritual work to bless and build up all those who the Lord brings into your life.

Question: Why is our willingness to be used by God so important?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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The Power of Love

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the spiritual gifts.  He’s explaining them to the church in Corinth.  The apostle was trying to straighten out some of their foolishness.

For the last few posts, we saw that the Gifts of the Spirit are useless without walking in love.  That’s the most important ingredient in any ministry.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1

We’re told here, that of the three most important concepts in Scripture – faith, hope, and love – the greatest is love.  Paul then tells us to pursue love.  In order to do that effectively, we need to walk in the spiritual gifts.

It literally says to be passionate about the things of the spirit.  We should especially desire to show love by speaking a Word on behalf of God.  That’s what prophecy is.  God is love and if you speak His Word, then love will be evident.

In order to understand First Corinthians, chapter 14, we need to keep it in its context.  Paul is writing to a church where everyone’s doing their own thing.  All they care about is their own wants and desires.  Love for others doesn’t enter into their thoughts.

He wants them to use their gifts to bless others.  That’s the context of his next statement.

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:2-3

There are those who look at these verses, and the ones that follow, and conclude that the gift of tongues is bad and prophecy is good.  That’s not what Paul is trying to get across to this church.  That’s why I talked about the context.

The apostle wants us to see that in the church setting, love needs to be the major component.  Prayer in tongues has a definite purpose.  I use it to build myself up.  That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t directly show love to others.

So if I come to church and all I do is pray in the spirit, then I’m not loving others.  Instead, I’m being self-centric.

In the church, there needs to be an evident communication of God’s love.  Prophecy is a great gift for showing God’s love.  God’s Word can be a powerful encouragement to those around us.

In the church, I have a choice.  I can major on making sure that I’m blessed.  That’s what the Corinthian Christians were doing and Paul wasn’t happy with them.

My other option is to go to church with a desire to bless others.  Through the gift of prophecy, I can speak a word of strength, encouragement, and comfort.  I believe that’s what “being the church” is all about.

And in reality, I’ve found that when I want to bless others, God finds a way to bless me in the process.  There’s a mutual encouragement in the body of Christ.

Be passionate about spiritual gifts.  And seek to show the love of God in all that you do.

Question: How were you positively affected by someone operating in their spiritual gift?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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Maturity and the Gifts

We’re continuing our look at the love chapter – First Corinthians, chapter 13.  We always need to keep in mind that the greater context for this passage is a teaching about the Gifts of the Spirit.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10

This is another of those hotly debated Scriptures.  There are some who teach that the “perfection” spoken of in this verse refers to the completion of the New Testament.  They say that once the Holy Bible is complete, then there’s no more need for the power-gifts of the Spirit.

But is that what Paul is trying to get across?  I don’t believe so.  The words that he uses don’t open up that interpretation.

He tells us that our knowledge and our prophecy are all partial.  That’s obvious.  None of us gets the whole plan from the Lord.  We only see partial glimpses into what God’s doing.

Paul goes on to say that when the perfect or complete thing arrives, then the imperfect thing will be rendered useless or idle.  This verse does not say that the imperfect thing would become more and more perfect until it was totally complete.  That would be the case if it were talking about the New Testament.

As he was receiving his revelation, the Apostle John was told something very important by an angel.

“Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Revelation 19:10b

All prophecy ultimately points to Christ.  But in our current conditions, it only a partial view of Him, or what He wants to accomplish in us.  However, when Christ – the Perfect One – appears, there will be no need for any of those prophecies anymore.  They will be rendered useless by the Lord’s appearing.

We will then have a perfect view of the One to which all knowledge and prophecy points to.  That’s right in line with what Paul goes on to explain.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

I think it’s clear from this verse that he’s talking about the church coming to maturity.  It’s not the Bible that needs to be matured and completed, but us.

This is especially true in regards to the Gifts of the Spirit.  As children, we think that everything is about us.  As we grow older, if we mature, we start thinking about the needs of others.

In some cases what you do remains the same.  It’s your attitude that changes.  When I was a teen, one of my chores was to put out the trash.  Guess what?  Now that I’m married I still put out the trash.

There’s a difference, though.  As a teen, I did those chores to gain privileges or an allowance.  Now, I do them because that’s what adults do.  I want my family to be healthy and safe.

That’s what Paul is trying to get us to see through this chapter.  Not that the gifts are going to cease to operate.  But that we need to move in the gifts with a heart of love towards those we are ministering to.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about prophecy, tongues, or giving someone a drink of water.  Walking in love is the sign that you’re becoming mature in Christ.

Question: How does walking in love bring about maturity in you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Love and the Gifts

We’re continuing our study of love in First Corinthians, chapter 13.  Paul is now going to compare its lasting effects to that of some spiritual gifts.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8

This is a verse that has sparked a lot of debate over the years.  There are those who point to it and say that the Gifts of the Spirit had an expiration date.  They conclude that these gifts ceased to operate after the original 12 apostles died.

I don’t think that’s what Paul is trying to say.  He’s teaching us a more excellent way of walking in the gifts.  Love is a factor that brings greater results.

He starts by saying that love never fails.  This means that the effects of love are enduring.  An act of love will continue to touch someone’s life long after the event has passed.  With that in mind, look at some of the other gifts.

Paul says that prophecies will cease.  That word, cease, means to be rendered useless or idle.  It does NOT mean that people will stop prophesying.

The prophecies themselves are only temporary.  Once they’ve been fulfilled, they have no more purpose.  That’s because a prophecy will always point to something.  And once the focus of the prophecy arrives, we begin a new chapter.

He goes on to say that tongues will be stilled.  Again, this verse does NOT say that the gift of tongues will no longer be available.  The word, stilled, means to be paused or restrained.

This tells me that the gift of tongues will be paused or put on hold.  It also means that those who operate in this gift would be physically or legalistically retrained from using it.  A look at church history will prove the truth of this interpretation.

Finally, the apostle says that knowledge will pass away.  It’s actually the same Greek word he used when he said that prophecies would cease.  It simply means that the usefulness of the knowledge given will come to an end.

Why is Paul telling us all this?  Because he wants to take our supernatural gifts to a higher level.

The Gifts of the Spirit, all by themselves, are only temporary events.  People won’t remember that I gave a prophecy on a certain date in the past.  But they will remember if the prophecy was used to show love to them.

Prophecy, tongues, and word of knowledge – they all give temporary benefits.  But if they’re used to show love to others in a tangible way, they have a lasting effect.

The Corinthian church was boasting in their ability to “flow in the anointing.”  They had all the gifts evident in their meetings.  Unfortunately, it was all for show – “Look what I can do!”

They left out the most important ingredient – love for one another.  There were factions and divisions.  The poor within their congregation was being publically shamed.  Love was noticeably absent.

We need to learn their lesson.  Having a move of God with the Gifts of the Spirit is an awesome thing.  But we can’t leave out love for our brothers and sisters.

It’s not an either/or proposition.  We need both the Gifts of the Spirit and love if we’re going to minister as Christ did.

Question: How have you experienced the Gifts of the Spirit operated in love?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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A Passion for Greater Gifts

In my last post, I finished talking about the local church ministry gifts.  Paul concludes this section of his letter with an exhortation as well as an introduction to his next thought.

But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31

The first thing that gets my attention is that Paul tells us to eagerly desire something.  That’s important.  The word he uses means to be passionate about it.  We’re to be emotionally invested in obtaining these gifts.

I feel bad when I see Christians who seem disinterested in walking in the power of God.  What greater witness could there be than to see a divine miracle take place in your life or the life of your loved one?  It’s the power of God that draws people to the cross.

However, there’s another aspect of this statement that’s often misunderstood.  I’ve heard teachers use this verse to say that some gifts are more important than others.  So they start comparing gifts.

“After all, speaking in tongues only builds up that believer; while prophecy builds up the church.  So it’s more important that you prophesy.”

That statement shows a lack of understanding concerning the gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve heard others explain that the greater gifts are the ones that you need right at the moment.  While that’s a little bit better, it doesn’t go far enough.

The word greater, in the Greek, is a special word.  It literally means larger or to a greater degree.  I don’t believe that Paul wants us to compare gifts and only be passionate about the better ones.  He’s telling us to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts to a greater degree.

There’s a verse of Scripture that will bear this out.  Look at how this same Greek word is used here.

But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

More grace.  Do you think that the grace we have isn’t good enough?  So God has to give us better grace?  No!  God wants to give us His grace to a greater degree.

We need to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts, and His grace, to a greater degree than we now have.

But Paul isn’t finished yet.  He wants to show us the most excellent way of walking in the gifts of the Spirit.

The Greek word translated as excellent is hyperballo.   Hyperballo, literally means, to throw beyond.  The word picture being used is of an Olympic sport such as the javelin throw.

Everyone else has thrown it to a certain, average point.  You, however, get up and throw it beyond all the others.  That’s a picture of the concept of excellence.  When you throw beyond the normal or what’s expected, then you’ve entered the realm of the excellent.

When you serve Christ, you need to be going beyond the average or what’s expected.  That’s what will get people’s attention.

So starting in my next post, we’ll be looking at this most excellent way of ministry.  Of course, many of you already know that Paul is going to be talking about the way of love.  Hopefully, as we study it together, we’ll get some new insight into this amazing walk.

Questions: How passionate are you about walking in the Lord’s power to a greater degree?  How does it show?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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My Will or His?

In my last two posts, I talked about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  Not everybody believes that they’re still active today.  How do you feel about walking in the power of these gifts?

I think that in many cases, we don’t want the attention that they’d bring to us.  People would start to question how we were able to do some of these things.  Then we’d have to explain ourselves.

But, in actuality, isn’t that what we’re called to do in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What better way of getting someone’s attention, than seeing the power of God firsthand.

I think it’s sad that we’ve turned this Scriptural truth into a theological debate.  Why not just step out in faith and see what happens.

It’s probably because there’s a deeper issue.  Paul gives us some insight into it.  He concludes his list of the manifestations with the following statement.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:11

The first thing I see is the word “all”.  They are all the work of one and the same Spirit.  The same Spirit who gives wisdom also gives tongues.  We need to understand the significance of this.

Right now there are churches who want to pick and choose what they’ll accept.  The same church that would ask me to pray for wisdom in a situation would throw me out if they knew I prayed in tongues.

How could we possibly say that God is the same yesterday, today and forever if we think some of these are temporary?  We need the power of God to be evident in all generations.

I’ve heard some say that the Gospel needed this power temporarily to kick start the church.  Now that the church is in place, our testimony is all that’s needed.  I submit to you that our testimony – without the power – is getting us nowhere.

The next important phrase is that the Holy Spirit gives them…just as He determines.  It’s not up to me to determine what God will or will not do.  Let the Holy Spirit be free to move however He determines.

That’s what bothers me the most about this subject.  There are people who get upset at me for simply believing that all of these are still in operation today.  Why not just let me live in my fantasy world?

Why not let me go my merry way believing that God will impart His wisdom to me when I need it (which He has!).  Why not let me go on believing that God can use me to pray for the sick and see them healed (which He has!).

Don’t they know that if I want to be used of God to heal someone, and it’s not God’s will, then no matter how hard I pray nothing will happen?  But if God still heals then…

So I have a challenge.  Feel free to use it with anyone you know who doesn’t believe in the manifestations.

I simply challenge those who think they’re not for today to pray a simple prayer.  “Holy Spirit, if these gifts are still in operation in the church today, please manifest them in me.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

That should be no problem.  If you’re right in thinking they’re not for today, then you’re just speaking into the air.  Nothing will happen.

But, if my hunch is correct, they won’t pray this.  Because in many cases these people want to be in control of their lives.  They don’t want the Holy Spirit messing things up by making them an undeniable witness to the power of God.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit to confirm the Gospel that we preach.  Without it, we’re simply in a philosophical debate with other religions.

Keep your spiritual life strong.  Expect the Holy Spirit to show up at just the right time.

Question: Why do many in the church shy away from the power of the Holy Spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Manifesting the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

In my last post, I started looking at the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the 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 12:8-10

I’ve already talked about the Message of Wisdom, the Message of Knowledge, and Faith.  Now we’ll move on to the rest.

Gifts of Healing.  You may remember that a couple of posts ago, I talked about the word, gifts.  This is the Greek word, charismata.  It’s a gift that the giver retains the right to tell you how it will be used.

Another interesting point about this manifestation is that the original text reads – gifts of healings.  Both words are plural.

I see an incredible word picture in this.  It’s like each of us is given a bag full of presents – healings that we’re to deliver to particular people that we’ll meet throughout our lives.  It’s up to us to stay sensitive so that we can be obedient when the Holy Spirit tells us to pray over that sick person.

Miraculous Powers.  The words used in Scripture mean the working of power.  This can be anything, other than healing, that seems to go against the natural laws.

This also includes the instances of divine favor that we experience.  People in the world will say, “Wasn’t that a great coincidence.”  No, it was the power of God at work orchestrating things on my behalf.

Prophecy.   This is when God gives you a message that He wants you to deliver for Him.  It could be a private or public message.

Many times when we hear the word, prophecy, we think future.  That’s not always the case.  God may want something said that could deal with the past, present, or future.  I think that there are times when believers are speaking prophetically and they don’t even realize it.

Distinguishing Between Spirits.  The phrase, distinguishing between, comes from a Greek word that means to make a judicial decision.  It’s this supernatural gifting that gives you the ability to know what spirit, if any, is at work in a situation.  You’ll know if the demonic forces are trying to hinder.  You’ll also know if the Holy Spirit is at work in the background.

Speaking in Different Kinds of Tongues.  This is the use of your prayer language for ministry.  It could include simply praying for yourself or others.  It could also be a part of deep intercession.  It’s when you allow your spirit to pray in the will of God beyond what you know in the natural.

Interpretation of Tongues.  This is when the Holy Spirit gives you insight into what you or someone else is praying in the spirit.  It’s not quite the same as a translation.  That’s because what you’re speaking with your mouth may not be what’s being exchanged between you and the Lord in the spiritual realm.

These are the manifestations of power that the Holy Spirit wants to display through His people.  They’ll directly point to Christ as Lord.  They’ll cause people to move closer to a relationship with Him.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 15:18-19

I don’t believe that you can full proclaim the Gospel of Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Question: How have you seen the manifestations of the Holy Spirit at work?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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