Q and A – Gifts Of The Holy Spirit

Q and A – Gifts Of The Holy Spirit May 27, 2009

To submit more questions see the instructions on the page about my sermon on the Gifts.

Adrian, do you think we will have all the gifts of the Spirit in ‘completeness’ in heaven? Did I hear/mishear what you said?

Paul says that the gifts will pass away when we see Jesus face-to-face. But that passing away is because they will, in effect, be swallowed up in the perfection that we will receive (see 1 Corinthians 13). So, where there are gifts of healing on earth, we will not need them in heaven because we will already be enjoying the results of having been completely healed.

We won’t need prophecy or the words of wisdom and knowledge as we will know God fully and have received all wisdom and revelation. Miracles will not be necessary to induce awe and wonder in us. We won’t need tongues or interpretation because before the throne will be a multitude that are still recognizably from every tribe and tongue (Revelation 7), but I am sure we will all understand each other, and certainly understand God. Our capacity to comprehend and express God’s praise will also mean that our words will not be insufficient to express his praise as they often are here.

Discernment of the presence of spirits will be replaced by an eternal enjoyment of God’s eternal presence. The spiritual gift of faith will not be needed because we will be walking by sight; however in a mystery worth pondering, faith itself, like hope and love, will remain. (1 Corinthians 13)
I’ve been praying on and off for the gift of prophecy. But I feel God is saying this isn’t for me, yet. Should I keep on praying for it? Should every Christian expect to receive every gift?

The way this question is expressed is interesting as it partially suggests the answer. If you feel God is saying something to you today then, in a sense, you have already received a gift of prophecy, at least for you personally. It seems to me that regarding most spiritual gifts, and quite possibly even all of the cases, a believer can aspire to receiving the essence of the gift on a personal level, and certainly in heaven these gifts will all be swallowed up as I already mentioned. So in that sense we are never wrong to pray to receive them. In terms of what Paul is really talking about here, however—the use of these gifts in a corporate context—then Paul himself is certainly clear that not every believer will use every gift publicly. He tells us explicitly that not all believers have every gift. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

Remember, though, Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians 14:5: “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, BUT EVEN MORE TO PROPHESY,” and urged us to “pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1) Sometimes gifts are imparted to us by the laying on of hands and prayer, so perhaps you might want to seek out someone to pray for you. Having said all that, I think we must not forget the sovereignty of God in all this, and so we seek him rather than trying to force his hand to give us a particular gift.

You quote Ephesians 1 regarding the Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance. Then you link that inheritance with “going to heaven”—do you get that from Ephesians or somewhere else?

Well, the “inheritance” is not really defined in Ephesians 1. It does seem to be connected to God bringing all things in heaven and earth together, and with us being the display of God’s glory in the age to come (see also Ephesians 2). The inheritance is something we have yet to fully obtain, and the Spirit is described as a “foretaste” of that. From other scriptures I think that the inheritance probably represents our fully restored relationship with God and position as glorified sons of God. That would make sense since it seems the gifts of the Spirit are to reintroduce us to a limited relationship with God which foreshadows our future complete relationship (1 Corinthians 13). So, as John Piper would put it, “God is the Gospel.” “Going to heaven” was intended as a shorthand for this (possibly not a very good one).

Isn’t “receive the Spirit” synonymous with “become a Christian”?

Biblically I believe that receiving the Spirit seems to be a tangible real thing that you know has happened to you. Whilst I agree that every Christian must in some sense have the Spirit, since it is the Spirit himself that causes us to be born again, I do not think that every Christian is aware of the Spirit’s activity within them. Thus, we seek an outpouring of the Spirit which helps us be sure we are saved (see Ephesians 1) and which at least in Acts seems to usually be associated with the manifestation of gifts of the Spirit.
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