on incarnational ministry

on incarnational ministry March 26, 2021

“The gifts are incarnational.  That is to say, God works through humans.  Believers submit their minds, hearts, souls, and strength to God.  They consciously, willingly surrender their all to Him.  The Spirit supernaturally enables them to minister beyond their abilities, at the same time expressing each gift through their life experience, character, personality, and vocabulary.”[1]

i. on incarnational ministry

David Lim, a Pentecostal scholar, clears up a misconception.  Some say the Gifts of the Spirit are all supernatural.  Some people think that we Pentecostal-Charismatics believe that the Spirit somehow short-circuits the brain and takes over.  However, as stated by David Lim, we actively participate.  “Believers submit . . . consciously, willingly surrender,” etc.

Since we participate with the Spirit and are empowered by Him, Lim declares, “The gifts are incarnational.”  The incarnation normally refers to fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is fully God, yet He became fully human as well.  In in a similar way, we are empowered by the Holy Ghost to serve in ways we could never serve on our own.

Perhaps we should refer to our Lord with a capital “I”-Incarnation, and to ourselves with a lower case “i”-incarnational.  This choice of the word incarnational should not offend us.  After all, the name christians means “little Christs.”

ii. The Holy Spirit makes the call

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 1 Corinthians 12.11, NRSV

When we examine the praxis of the Charismata, the Spirit determines when, where, and who is involved in the Gifts.

From the Early Church interpreters of this Passage we are told that because the Holy Spirit is distributing the Gifts, no Gift in particular is better than another.  Paul levels out any perceived inequalities between the Gifts.  It is also important to note that church members do not vote on what Gifts are given, but the Holy Spirit makes the decisions.[2]

In a real way for us as the Body of Christ, the implication is that our relationship with the Spirit can be so close that we literally know His will and personality.  Lim says this verse, “strongly implies his continually creative personality.”[3]  When we watch Him work, and participate in His work, we get to know the Holy Spirit.

Stanley Horton states, “From these passages it is evident that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in bestowing gifts.  They are apportioned according to His will, which is the will of God.”[4]  The Holy Spirit is sovereign.  These are His Gifts, given by His will, and therefore the will of God.

As a quick side note . . .

This verse makes a strong case for the personhood and agency of the Holy Spirit, and there are plenty of other passages like it.

Some call the Holy Spirit the Executive of the Godhead.  His will is at work determining the use of the Charismata.  A person’s will and motivation are often considered to be components of personality, a construct that’s even recognized in psychological personality theory.

The Holy Spirit is not a force, or a mere wind, or any of the other symbols that are meant to point us to Him.

He is not the Gifts, but He is the Giver.

The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity!

iii. we must desire to participate

But strive for the greater gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12.31

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. KJV

The language here is pretty strong.  Paul is speaking to us through the Spirit’s inspiration, actually commanding us to eagerly desire or long for the best gifts.

The King James Version uses the strong word covet.  “‘Covet earnestly’ is to burn or literally to boil with desire.  It is from the same word as zealous and is also translated ‘jealousy.’  It is also an imperative, or a command.”[5]

If we don’t desire the Gifts is there something wrong?

Must we long to be used by God?

Perhaps in other words, do we want to participate?

Do we desire to be used by God?

iv. what are the best gifts?

Let me illustrate what “the best gifts” are not.  When I was really young, there were two very religious movements that were popular.

In one group, people would often meet at the water cooler at work, and someone would ask someone else, “Hey, what’s your sign?”

Perhaps the same two people would meet again that weekend at the coffee station at church, and one would ask the other, “Hey, what’s your Gift?”

Both religious views are basically false, the first being one more dark than the second.  When Paul is referring to the best gifts, what is meant is that there are certain Gifts that are needed at certain times.

What Gift is most needed?

“We can seek the best gifts, but He [Holy Spirit] is the only One who knows what is really the best in any particular situation.”[6, italics mine].

May we develop a yielded posture, a humble interior posture, so we may be able to surrender to the Holy Spirit in any given moment.

May we pay attention to our interior life because there’s a possibility He will empower us to impact others on the exterior,

so that we too can participate in the Holy Spirit’s incarnational good work.

pic credit: Radiant Church JXN | Facebook Business Page | 01.21.21 CLICK HERE

Meet Jared

series on the Gifts of the Spirit

  • Joseph Castleberry and others on the spoken word CLICK HERE
  • on the energetic working of the Spirit CLICK HERE
  • spirits, tongues, and interpretation CLICK HERE
  • on all the Gifts of the Spirit CLICK HERE


[1] David Lim, “Spiritual Gifts,” in Systematic Theology, ed. Stanley M. Horton (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2002), 462.
[2] John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians i.xxix.5; Jerome, Against Pelagians i.16
[3] Lim, 468.
[4] Stanley M. Horton, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit, Rev. ed. (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2005), 213.
[5] Jared Ingle, “Christ’s Law of Love,” Adult Discipleship Guide 50, no. 2, Messenger Publishing House Ministry Resource Center (Winter 2010-11): 54.
[10] Horton, 213.

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