Walking In step with the Spirit- The Gifts of Communication
Gifts of communication:
Our God is a communicator, this began right back in the Garden of Eden, where He liked to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. However, the strength of God’s desire to communicate with mankind can be highlighted in sending Jesus, as John 1 says: The Word became flesh and lived among us.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that when the Holy Spirit came, He is also an expression of God’s desire to communicate, and that a number of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are specifically to do with communication.
What do we include among the gifts of communication?
· Interpretation of tongues
· Words of knowledge
· Words of knowledge
When considering these things, I often think it is important to start from the beginning!
With respect to the Holy Spirit and gifts of communication in the New Testament though there are possible roots to this in the OT; 1 Sam 10:9–13; 19:18–24) that means we need to go to Acts 2 and what happened when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples as they met in the Upper Room, waiting as Jesus had told them in Acts 1. Let’s read together from Acts 2 verse 1 (read verses 1 – 17). Jesus said the disciples would become witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth; and the next event we read about is the Holy Spirit giving the same disciples gifts starting with gifts of communication. So let’s briefly break these communication gifts down:
Tongues which are undefined, we cannot say that all the languages spoken were human
Many human languages understood by the crowd
Powerful preaching of the key message of the gospel
This is a strong indication that the Holy Spirit will give us the key abilities to be witnesses, starting with the ability to communicate that message in meaningful language to anyone that we meet and engage with. This communication was obviously effective as we are told that several thousand were added to the church in just one day, which began with just 120 gathered in the Upper Room! This is the kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit that as leaders we long for.
In Peter’s message there is also another very important aspect of this truth: the promise of the Holy Spirit is for all. In the OT a temporary anointing of the Holy Spirit was reserved for specially gifted people (mostly men) called prophets. Peter says the giving of the Holy Spirit represents a fulfilment of an OT prophecy which pointed towards a sea-change – that the only condition for receiving the
indwelling and gifting of the Holy Spirit was now that you repented, believed and were baptized. The gifts are now therefore available to all, not reserved for a special group of people.
The importance of receiving gifts of communication is then confirmed when we investigate the gifts
the Holy Spirit gives to us in more detail:
1 Corinthians 12
Now, dear brothers and sisters,* regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. 2 You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. 3 So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There
are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 8 To one person the Spirit givesthe ability to give wise advice*; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.*
9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of
healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages,* while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.
And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. 2 These chapters show that the gifts of communication operate within the body of the church, though from Jesus’ statement in Acts 1, and the Great Commission we can also be clear that we should expect to receive gifts in our contact with the wider world. To further highlight this scholars suggest:
The Holy Spirit communicates Jesus Christ’s message to the church (Rev 2:7 See also Jn 14:26; 16:13; Rev 2:11,17,29; 3:6,13,223)
This can be further amplified in the gift of communication in writing such as that experienced by the writers of the Bible:
The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture (2Ti 3:16 See also Mt 22:43 pp Mk 12:36; Ac 1:16; 4:25; 28:25; Heb 3:7; 9:8; 10:154)
Issues associated with gifts of communication
How do we know when “stuff” is happening it is God? I would refer you to what Dave Latham shared with us a few weeks back – we have a witness within us of the Spirit, we have the Bible, we have friends and leaders we can talk to. If you are ever uncertain don’t hesitate to reflect, think, read and ask!!
1 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. (3rd ed.) (1 Co 12). Carol
Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
2 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. (3rd ed.) (Ro 12:6–8). Carol
Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
3 Manser, M. H. (1999). Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes. The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse.
4 Manser, M. H. (1999). Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes. The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse.
Is the gift of tongues “evidential”? On the day of Pentecost the evidence that the disciples had been
filled with the Spirit (at least to the crowd) is that they speak in tongues. We see this repeated at
Cornelius’ house in Acts 10 when the Spirit is given to the Gentiles, and we also see the Apostles
praying for disciples who have not been taught about the Holy Spirit and the people speak in tongues.
However, it is not recorded elsewhere in the NT as the evidence, and I don’t want to go down that
route as some Charismatics and Pentecostals do. What I do know is that everyone who is filled with
the Spirit has to receive Him in faith, and that the experience of the filling is not as important as the
ability to live the Christian life that results from being filled. How can/should the gift of tongues be used?
The Bible says that when we pray in an unknown tongue we build ourselves up, it can be pictured like a visit to the spiritual gym! So both in private and public prayer it is an appropriate use of the gift of tongues to strengthen and encourage ourselves. In corporate worship we want to express praise, thanksgiving and our hearts to God, and sometimes our own language is not enough, so we can let our hearts speak to God in tongues.
In each of these first two cases, as long as order is maintained, we should feel free to speak/sing in tongues and not require an interpretation. Tongues can also be a way that God uses to confound/exceed human communications, so that we may unknowingly speak other human languages. This happened in Acts 2 as we have read, but I have also had the experience when in a church in India of someone coming to me and saying: “How do you know my name and situation, and who taught you to speak perfect Gudgerati?” I was looking around the congregation and just spontaneously as I saw someone who I felt was in need, expressed my heart in tongues, which proved to be the person’s mother tongue!
Finally, in worship or prayer times The Lord may want to bring a message to us that comes as a
tongue with an interpretation. Sometimes a person will overflow from prayer into tongues, and most often this is just that an overflow of their prayer, which sometimes there is an interpretation for and sometimes there may not be.
Is prophecy about telling the future? Well, it certainly can be, but I think it is more common for God to express His heart towards us in prophecy, which will always be in line with the Bible. I won’t go into details about prophecy here because it is probably the gift we are most familiar with, and there will be more opportunity to explore this during the series. However, I do want to emphasis that this gift is part of the inclusive promise in Acts 2 and that Paul says in one of his letters: I would that you would all prophesy! Therefore I would encourage you to ask God about prophecy and expect Him to begin to speak to you. Just as an aside, there is no special language associated with this gift, you don’t have to change the tone of your voice, speak in King James Version English or use phrases like
“Thus saith The Lord…”!!!
Words of knowledge are often very matter-of-fact and come in conversation, when God drops into you mind something about someone that you don’t know. This is often given as a key to help you to
counsel or pray for them. This gift can also be used in meetings when God shows something about
someone in order to help them to respond to an appeal. Words of knowledge focus on answering a
question around “what”.
Words of wisdom can similarly come in all kinds of contexts and are a great help in counseling and
praying, but are different from words of knowledge. The main difference is that if WoK are about
“what” then WoW are about “how”. When someone shares a problem or issue with me, my first
reaction is not to think what would I do about this, but to ask God what the person I am talking to
should do about it. I then find sometimes (but not always!) I have a thought drop into my mind about how to go about solving the problem or resolving the issue. I attribute these thoughts which have come in response to prayer as words of wisdom.
OK! So how does God talk with us, how does He communicate?
I have never seen/heard the old man with a long flowing beard shouting from the sky!!
Most commonly the communication is not in audible or visible form (although we know this does
happen); no what we have is things that pop into our minds in the form of:
Words that are specifically associated with a person
A little voice inside us
We all have to learn to be able to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit, but we do have a strong
encouragement from Jesus that as His sheep we will hear and recognize His voice.
I would love to run a workshop about how to hear from the Lord and how to communicate what He
says, but now is not the moment fro that. However, we do intend to follow up these preaches with
definite Q&A and workshop sessions in SG.