Right from the beginning of time, it is clear that God is in the business of working his good pleasure on the face of the earth (Genesis 1:25). In doing so, God has superintended to include mankind in his work on earth. Much so, God has prepared this good work beforehand for those who believe in his Son and are called by his name (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, God, through the holy spirit, empowers believers in Christ differently to walk in good works that he prepared for them beforehand. This he does through gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God empowers individual believers to serve and work with him for His glory and the good of all his children.
The Bible has four main passages in the scripture that list the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are 1 Corinthians 12:7-12, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11. Each passage explains why God has given us these gifts. These gifts include prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, discerning (distinguishing) spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues and the gift of helping. These gifts are given to believers, yet a believer can have more than one of these gifts in some cases. For example, the Holy Spirit may gift one believer to be a good teacher while simultaneously being a wonderful encourager of the saints.
How do we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
Firstly, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts. That is to say that there is no amount of payment, work, positioning or posture that we can do to get these gifts. They are given to us sovereignly by God and graciously by the Holy Spirit. Secondly, these gifts belong to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who owns these gifts, and as such, it is only from Him that we will get these gifts. Anyone who would desire to have the gifts of the Holy Spirit would then ask, how do I get to the Holy Spirit so that I may request Him to give me a gift? The answer is that you do not go to the Holy Spirit; he comes to you. How, then, does he come to me? Paul answers this question by saying that upon believing in Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit, a seal guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven (Ephesians 1:14). You receive the gift of the Holy Spirit upon believing in Christ.
The Holy Spirit comes only to believers and makes a home in them. A believer’s body then becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Another popular term used is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is the same as conversion, and it happens when the Holy comes and makes our hearts his home (Luke 3:16). To be baptised of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with the conversion that brings about repentance, the forgiveness of sins and receiving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). In the book of acts we see when people repented and believed in Jesus Christ, they received the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t a second experience after conversion, as some people teach. It is upon conversion that you are baptised of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, we see dramatic conversions, even people speaking in tongues. This was to signify the inauguration of the new covenant that included the Gentiles in salvation (Acts 10:44-48; 19:1-7). Contrary to popular teachings today, one does not have to speak in tongues for proof that they have the Holy Spirit. Evidence of the Holy Spirit only manifests as one walks by the spirit, bearing good fruit (Galatians 5:22-24). The gifts of the Holy Spirit themselves are not proof that you have the Holy Spirit, but you must have the Holy Spirit to have the authentic gift of the Holy Spirit.
Why does the Holy Spirit give gifts?
The Holy Spirit give gifts to believers of Christ Jesus for the edification of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11)–Swahili for edifying is ‘kujengana’. The Holy Spirit gifts believers to equip them for ministry (service). The service we render to each other as believers will lead is beneficial to us as individuals and as a group of believers. Firstly it leads us to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Secondly, it helps us to grow into maturity and unity till we all attain the full measure of the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13). Thirdly, when believers mature and are firm in their faith and knowledge of God, they are not susceptible to being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine and lies by human cunning or craftiness. Finally, when saints serve each other with their gifts, they distinguish between false teachers and the truth found in scripture and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-15).
The body of Christ is the church–all believers of Christ. For we are all in one spirit, individual members baptised into one body (1 Corinthians 12:12). Individual Christians should exercise their gifts in unity and harmony. The Holy Spirit gifts us differently, so we cannot do without one another. The way individual body parts are different in function and design, so are Christians (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). So, if anyone suffers, we all suffer, and if one member is honoured, we all rejoice together with him (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Every gift is important. That’s why they are diverse; we should be careful not to hold others in more esteem than others because of their gifts; this is the sin of impartiality. All of them are equal and needed in the church (Romans 12:3-6). The Holy Spirit gives us gifts to serve one another (1 Corinthians 12:27-31) in diligence and honour (Romans 12:7-8).
How do you discern your gift?
To discern is to make a proper judgement based on truth. Sometimes, in Christian circles, the word discern means knowing something. For example, discerning the gift of the Holy Spirit involves knowing the gift that the Holy Spirit has given you. Some people know their gift(s) early in their faith, while others don’t. Desiring to know the gift God has given you is a good thing. Since it indicates that you would love to obey God and serve the body of Christ appropriately, you should start by serving in your local church to know what gift the Holy Spirit has given you. Many people discover their gifts when serving in a local church. Look for any opportunity to serve God in your local church. It might be in ushering, teaching, music ministry, e.t.c.
The second thing to do, as you are serving, is to have this conversation with your Pastor or any mature Christian in your local church. God uses people to mentor, teach, guide, encourage and lead us in times of confusion. Sometimes, we may think we are gifted in certain areas, but when we seek counsel, we realise that our actual gifting is in a different area. Various people in the scriptures sought counsel concerning their gifts. Paul, for example, studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Even though God gave him his calling to teach among the gentiles directly, he was careful to recognise the work of God through Gamaliel in his life. We all need to be under mature Christians regardless of how gifted we might think we are. Gifts need to be nurtured, and part of nurturing is discipleship.
Thirdly, look down deep in your heart and see that you have a passion for serving others, especially through that gift that you think the Holy Spirit has gifted you. Passion may not initially be there, but you can grow into it. The first priority must be to love serving God and his people. The second is finding deep satisfaction while you exercise the gift. For instance, if you are called to be a pastor or teacher, pray that you find deep satisfaction and enjoyment in teaching the truth of God’s word to God’s people. Sometimes, if you do not have the joy of serving, you might want to evaluate if that is your real gift or if you should find another one. Usually, God will call you to serve his people, and in your obedience to his call, he will equip you, especially in serving him where there is a need.
Lastly, seek God in prayer. Ask him to show you your gift and how he would want you to serve him. God has promised us that if we delight in him, he will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalms 37:4). The desire to serve God is more seen in those who enjoy him and glorify him. So, seek God, enjoy him as you grow and strive to love him and his people. We grow in loving God by reading and studying the scriptures, praying and fasting, sharing the gospel with the lost and being part of a local church. You may not know your gift yet, but in striving to live as an ordinary Christian, God should meet you there and direct your path of serving him and his people (1 Corinthians 13).