Yes, I know, part 3 of the intro. And some of us still haven’t finished it. However, one group has now got on to the leadership gifts so I will add that section shortly.
Re the introduction section, I have made a few minor modifications to the material as we have gone through it – mainly to widen out the bible readings.
Last time we got as far as the end of the Old Testament and were ready and waiting for the age of the Spirit to begin with the coming of Jesus. But before plunging in to New Testament, I showed the group a video from The Bible Project, which outlines beautifully the story of the Holy Spirit. You can find it here:
Go down the page and find “Biblical Themes”. The Holy Spirit video can be found there (you may need to scroll to the side) and can be viewed online or downloaded.
Now, back to the start of the New Testament’s account of the Holy Spirit…
Here is the section we are looking at:
The pouring out of the Spirit
The days foretold by these prophets is now upon us. We are living in the age of the Spirit, an age heralded by the coming of Jesus.
Read Luke 3:16 and 3:22.
Jesus received the Spirit at his baptism, and John tells us that Jesus would be the one to baptise with the Spirit. The Greek word for baptism mean “to overwhelm”, “to immerse”, “to be plunged into.”
Jesus offers a complete immersion in the Spirit to all who turn to him, John 7:38. But, during Jesus’ ministry, the age of the Spirit had not yet begun, John 7:39, Luke 24:29, Acts 1:8. The age of the Spirit began on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit rained down in an overwhelming, immersing, plunging manner, Acts 2:1-13. Peter explains to the amazed crowd what has happened and invites them to join in, Acts 2:14-41.
What do the images of water and fire tell you about the Spirit?
Who is the Spirit now promised to? Does that include us?
How do we receive the Spirit?
Reflecting on the readings and questions, it was clear to us that the Spirit is given to every believer. As Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said in his sermon,
“Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all who the Lord our God will call.”
EVERY believer receives the gift of the Spirit.
There was some discussion about whether baptism was a necessary precursor to receiving the Spirit. Certainly, the passage above could be interpreted that way. But we preferred to emphasise not so much the mechanics of baptism as the intent, i.e. the desire of the believer to be forgiven for their sins and to make a public statement of their faith, a witness to the fact of their conversion.
The next subsection is:
The work of the Spirit
Read John 14:15-27 and John 16:5-16.
What do Jesus’ words tell us about the Spirit’s work and role?
Again, the group spent a lot of time on this. We identified these characteristics of the Spirit: counsellor, Spirit of truth, he lives in us and is in us, holy, teacher, convicter with regard to sin, righteousness and judgement, guide into truth, makes Jesus and the Father known to us.
The Spirit of God lives in us? We accept this almost without thought but aren’t amazed at it! How can that be? God is living in us! It is amazing stuff. That’s how close and intimate a relationship God wants with us.
The fruit of the Spirit
Now read Galatians 5:22-23.
This is a list of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit reflect the character of Jesus. When we become Christians we are not suddenly perfect! The Holy Spirit works within us, transforming us so that we reflect the character of Jesus more and more.
Who “gets” the fruit of the Spirit – are they for everyone or only special people?
What are they for?
How do we grow the fruit in our lives?
We agreed that the fruit is for everyone but they are not gifts, they are fruit, which means they take time to grow and develop to come to ripeness/maturity in us. The idea is that we gradually develop the increasing likeness of Jesus Christ in our character as the Holy Spirit works in us and through us and helps us grow as Christians.
The gifts of the Spirit are not the same as the fruit.
There are lots of lists in the New Testament, e.g. read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-30, Ephesians 4:7 and 11-13, Romans 12:4-8, 1 Peter 4:10-11
Do these lists list all the gifts?
Is there a difference between natural and spiritual gifts?
Who receives spiritual gifts?
Every Christian who desires them will receive spiritual gifts but no one has them all or all the time. They are gifts, given when needed.
The Bible does not categorise the gifts but many people have done so in order to make it easier to study them.
How might you try to categorise the gifts?
We are going to study the gifts in groups according to this categorisation:
- Gifts of leadership
- Gifts of discernment
- Gifts of healing and wholeness
- Gifts of support
This is simply to make things manageable for us.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 and 11
What are the spiritual gifts for?
Are any gifts more important than others?
We decided that the lists given in the Bible were not exclusive. God can give any gift he wants for the purpose he wants to achieve. But the lists in the Bible are helpful in showing us the range of gifts that he wants to share with his people. We loved it how gifts such as prophesying were listed alongside gifts such as helping and encouraging.
We pondered the difference between natural and spiritual gifts and concluded that God’s Spirit may well use a natural skill and enhance it for God’s purposes. but a spiritual gift may also come suddenly without any natural skill involved at all. (It is interesting that non-believers will often refer to a “natural” skill as a “gift”, but surely a gift has to be given by someone, and we know who that someone is!)
We also noted that sometimes the Spirit will give a gift for the long-term when someone needs to fulfill a role, e.g. a leader. But sometimes a gift is needed only for the moment, e.g. in a crisis the Spirit may give the gift of leadership to a particular person for that particular situation.
Looking at the Bible passages, we were very clear that gifts are NOT given for personal aggrandisement. Rather they are for the common good, the building up of the body of Christ.
1 Cor 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Eph 4:12 “…to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
To finish, pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through these sessions and that we will be open to receive whatever God wants to give to us.
Related to this last suggestion of prayer for the end of each session, we discussed how we can tell which gifts we have, either as long-term roles or as given at any moment by God. I explained how we will keep coming back to this, as a key part of the study series is to know that every believer has spiritual gifts and then discern which gifts we see in others and in ourselves.
Certainly, discernment is a key skill here. If people you trust and respect keep saying to you that you are good at something, what is God telling you through this? If you are suddenly excited by something someone says about a particular spiritual gift, what is that telling you? Or think about what sort of things you enjoy doing for God – what is that telling you?
By way of example, one of the group members said she could think of a gift not listed and she said “inspiring others in the faith.” As she said that, I got very excited. I love doing that sort of thing – from the pulpit, in baptisms with families who do not know the Lord, at the Extravaganza, in discipleship groups, anywhere I’m given the chance really… What she said touched me and it was the Spirit lifting my heart about one of the gifts he wants to use in me.
How exciting this all is! The Holy Spirit wants to give us all gifts!