What Can We Do To Pursue Spiritual Gifts? This question comes as a query no doubt from someone who is looking for and expects to receive miraculous gifts of the Spirit. The language of the question mirrors 1 Corinthians 14:1. “Purse love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”
The influences of futurism and Pentecostalism have made the desire for the practice of spiritual gifts appear to be a valid claim. And, because people believe that religion in general is something that is “better felt than told” it answers the call of man to have an experience to which they can relate.
My first encounter with Pentecostalism was through relatives who left the Baptist church for a “greater experience” with God. This new experience was strange indeed. I had always gone to a church where people came in, sat down, listened to a very sensible message of instruction in righteousness and spiritual living, then went home. So, my first reaction to “getting the Holy Ghost” was one of fear and confusion.
Just Wasn’t Feeling It
The strange behavior of those who claim they had it was something I knew I didn’t want, nor did I know how to get it. I confess. I tried, but nothing happened. That caused my relatives to conclude I had a demon and was beyond salvation.
While I had grown up with parents and grandparents who were members of what would be called a conservative fundamentalist church, I had not embraced Christianity. My work as a musician eventually brought me in direct contact with Baptist and Pentecostal churches when I played for groups and in concerts.
When attending a Pentecostal church, I noticed that the preacher always claimed to be getting direct messages from God. I wondered how God spoke directly to him and not to others. Then with as little Bible knowledge as I had at the time, which could barely fill a thimble, I heard him say something that even I knew had to be a stretch of the truth.
It was at that point that I asked God to show me direction through the scriptures. There was never a spoken voice, however it led to study and that led to my conversion. I have been in the same faith for the most part ever since, except with major overhauls to my eschatological paradigms.
I Had To Speak In Tongues To Be Saved?
During the time, my relatives were telling me that if I had not spoken in tongues I was not saved, that I needed an anointing of the Spirit which I would know I had when I felt something (which they were never able to quite explain) and that God would speak directly to me. Well, I never heard His voice, never felt anything but strange whenever they were praying over me, laying hands on me and trying to exorcise my demons and I certainly couldn’t speak a lick of glossolalia.
What I Read Did Not Agree With What I Was Told
Then, I began to read 1 Corinthians 12-14. It appeared to me that Paul never taught that everyone was supposed to speak in tongues, (1 Cor. 12:30) or possess all of any of the gifts (with the exception of the apostles).
Afterward, I read that not even all the tongue speakers were pleasing to God, (1 Cor. 13:1), nor those who possessed the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 13:2). I have to be honest. When I first heard and saw an entire congregation of people shouting to a frenzy and claiming to speak in tongues I thought they were demon possessed. Whatever they had, I did not want to catch it.
Why Was Everyone Doing It?
Next I read 1 Corinthians 14:23. “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uniformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” That is exactly how I felt.
This was getting more intriguing as I went along. Paul seemed to be setting limits on this alleged uncontrollable spirit that my relatives claimed they had and which would not turn them loose until they were physically and emotionally spent.
I Never Saw Any Interpreters
Finally, I kept reading and was absolutely perplexed by what I had seen comparing it with what I read. “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. (1 Cor. 14:27) Never had I witnessed such an arrangement or orderly expression of tongue speaking in that church. People were jumping up all over the place. I’d never seen anyone attempt to interpret what was said, unless the interpretation was “Praise the Lord.”
Things Began to Heat Up
Later, they spoke about being baptized in fire! I had listened to sermons growing up where baptism occurred in water. Fire! Sounded like hell to me at the time. So, I ready Matthew 3:7-12. The only fire baptism I could understand was for the wicked who refused to repent. Needless to say, my relatives were too happy about my “rebellious spirit,” of rejecting their “Holy Ghost” doctrine.
John, the Baptizer Was Okay Without Miracles
Following this, I read Luke 1:15 about John, the baptizer. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mothers womb. Yet, the scripture said John did no miracles or signs! (John 10:41) This seemed to be the norm.
I Never Saw the Apostles Present
Then, I read that the signs and miracles were given through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands.
“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17).
This seemed to be confirmed because Simon the sorcery recognized what happened and offered money for the power to lay hands on others and impart the Spirit.
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money.” (Acts 8:18)
It even turns out that Philip and Stephen along with the seven were full of the Holy Spirit before the apostles laid hands on them. (Acts 6:3, 6). Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude that the purpose of prayer and laying hands on them was to impart the spiritual gifts. Afterward, Philip certainly work miracles and performed signs and wonders in Samaria, (Acts 8:5-13).
I’ve yet to find one of the apostles, but I would love to meet them, (at least I think I would). From what I read especially in Acts 5, they used those powers to do more than pile money in the collection plate which is precisely what the preacher was doing at my relatives church.
Like A Leper
Finally, what really settled the issue for me was Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, where he taught that those gifts would only continue until Jesus’ return in A.D. 70. Well, that put an end to pursuing spiritual gifts. I decided to pursue the written word as my guide and upon informing my relatives of that, they basically wrote me off as spiritually incurable. For all practical purposes our relationship for almost 30 years has been nothing more than casual pleasantries.
For many years, I was like a leper to them. Only recently have they begun to speak and interact with me. But, knowing that I could be filled with the Spirit without having miraculous gifts is quite comforting. Galatians 5:16-25 is more of the Spirit than I can handle. So, I for one am not going to complicate it by pursuing the illusion miraculous gifts which only belonged to the first century church.
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