Holy Spirit – Gifts, Fruit, and Offices


The Fruit and Gifts of the Holy Spirit


The Fruit


Since the Fruit of the Spirit is actually the character of the Holy Spirit, or the character of Jesus Christ, we refer to the fruit in the singular. When we list the characteristics of the fruit we are listing different aspects of the character of the Holy Spirit. Such a list appears in Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience or perseverance], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 22, 23 NIV)


There is not effort expended on the part of the believer to force the growing of such fruit. We have mentioned that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to enhance the relationship between us and Father and Son. Therefore, if the relationship is maintained the fruit will automatically grow. Just as a branch of a grape vine will grow if it remains connected to the vine, so we will grow in the fruit of the Spirit as long as we stay connected to Jesus. Although it may seem like a form of effort on the part of the believer to pray and read the Bible in order to maintain and enhance her or his relationship with God; we certainly can understand a lover communicating with his or her partner and reading their love letters.


There is a passage of scripture in 2 Corinthians that describes the increased glory we have in the new covenant compared with the old covenant under Moses. The people of Moses’ day asked him to put a veil over his face because the glory was so bright. Paul notes that Moses wore the veil to hide the fact that the glory was fading. In the power of the Spirit, however, we are able to go from the glory we are in to ever increasing glory: “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!


“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would but a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3: 7 – 18 NIV)


As we contemplate our relationship with Father through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit we reflect more and more of God’s character. The result is that we become more and more like Jesus demonstrated when He was among us. All of the fruit exudes from love. Think of a tube of toothpaste. Imagine that in that tube is the fruit of the Spirit. When various circumstances of life squeeze your tube out come love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The more your relationship with Father has been enhanced, the more likely the fruit of the Spirit will be squeezed out rather than something else. Our relationship with God is based on relationship and that relationship is based on the fruit of the Spirit that emanates from love.


The Gifts


There are by some counts 26 or 27 gifts of the Holy Spirit. The concentration of the teaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is usually centered in the 9 gifts cited by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. These are called the signature gifts of the Holy Spirit:

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12: 7 – 11 NIV)


The Application of the Gifts


It is good for us to remember that we have this listing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit because Paul was writing a letter of instruction and correction to the church at Corinth. These instructions have served us well as we describe the work of the Holy Spirit among us. However, as with all application or use of the gifts of God there may be misuse or misapplication in certain specific situations. To deal with this possibility Paul made specific instructions of how the gifts are to be applied. Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter and is often read at weddings to encourage the proper application of love in marriage. It’s true purpose, however, was to show that love must be the central theme when using any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.


The 9 signature gifts of the Holy Spirit listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 can be divided into three categories that have similarities. Word gifts, power gifts, and prophetic gifts. Tongues (or speaking in unknown languages) and interpretation of tongues equals prophecy. A word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, and discernment of spirits together form the word gifts. Faith, gifts of healing, and miraculous powers form the power gifts. The gifts often work together and may work in one individual or in multiple individuals depending on the desire of the Holy Spirit. The gifts are actually the power of the Holy Spirit working in the Body of Christ. As these gifts are described keep in mind that there are overlaps to the working of the gifts as the Holy Spirit is directing them. In the area of healing, for example, we may see the gifts of healing, miraculous powers, faith, discernment of spirits, word of wisdom, and word of knowledge all active during any particular experience of healing.


Here is a brief description of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians:


  1. A Message (or Word) of Wisdom

All of the gifts of the Spirit have counterparts in the Old Testament except speaking in other tongues and the accompanying interpretation of tongues. Please remember that the gifts are very specifically the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches that the gifts are given at the discretion of the Holy Spirit to those He desires to give the gifts. Overall, it might seem at first glance that one gift may be given to one person. However it must be remembered that it is the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts and, if He so chooses, He may decide to give one person more than one gift or even several of the gifts as needed to build up the Body of Christ.

A message (or word) of wisdom is a part of the wisdom of God. If you will, it is a small piece of God’s wisdom. I have always thought of this gift as associated with the gift of a message (or word) of knowledge. I have applied it in this way: God grants a piece of knowledge to an individual for a particular situation. Then, to that same person or a different person in the group, God grants a piece of wisdom telling how to apply the knowledge given.

A meeting of leaders in a position of deciding the direction or the actions of a church or an organization often discern pieces of knowledge and wisdom supplied by the Holy Spirit during the discussion. If the meeting is being conducted with an expectation of consensus in mind, rather than voting to settle controversy, this will be more likely to be the prevailing situation.

However, there is another aspect of a message of wisdom. A message of wisdom may reveal something about God’s knowledge of the future. Just as there were present and future aspects of prophecy in the Old Testament; there are present (word of knowledge) and future (word of wisdom) aspects of the gifts of the Spirit in our present day.

  1. A Message (or Word) of Knowledge

I wonder if you might be observing that a description of the gifts of the Spirit might not be simple and straightforward to describe. We are actually trying to describe the working of God among us. Just as I have described a present and future aspect of the gift of a message of wisdom; there are, no doubt, multiple applications of a message of knowledge. Simply put a message of knowledge is a piece of the knowledge that God has given to an individual for the enhancement of the Body of Christ. It can be mixed with the gift of distinguishing between spirits because the knowledge given can reveal a certain action or way of thinking from a group or individual that will, in turn, reveal a certain spirit in that group or individual. This kind of thing happened in Jesus’ life several times when He knew what teachers of the Law or Pharisees were thinking and when He knew that a crowd was about to stone Him. Being revealed to Him by the Spirit was the thinking in the minds of others and the actions that a crowd was about to take.

Not only was there the revelation of what people were thinking but there was revelation of what to do about it and how to do it. By that I mean that on more than one occasion Jesus walked through and away from a mob that was determined to stone Him.

  1. Faith

The gift of faith for salvation is given to every person so they will be able to accept Jesus and decide to follow Him. Whether that gift is applied and followed is determined by the individual. I do not hold to the teaching that for some they do not have the ability to choose to follow Jesus. I believe that everyone has the ability and that some choose not to apply that kernel of faith.

The gift of faith given by the Holy Spirit in this context is more about the faith necessary to calm the storm or walk on water. When Jesus calmed the storm He turned to the disciples and asked, “Where is your faith.” In some accounts He added, “Why were you afraid?” In the account of Jesus walking on water Matthew reports that Peter also came to Jesus on the water but sank when he saw the waves. Jesus took his hand and caught him saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

We are given by the Holy Spirit the faith we need to deal with whatever situation needs to be dealt with for the good of the Body of Christ. In one sense the major or primary calling we experience is to witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In effect, we are inviting others to believe in the person of Jesus Christ because He has acted to make it possible for us to be saved from the ultimate consequences of our sin, eternal separation from God.

The secondary calling we experience is to disciple those who become new believers, those who are “born again.” The analogy used by Jesus in John 3 gives us an accurate picture of a new believer as a newborn baby. Specifically, the new believer is born of water and the Spirit. We are called to teach and disciple the new believer in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reminds us of all the Jesus taught so that we can give that teaching to the new believer.

In the context of the individual believer growing into maturity we see the gift of faith activated in witnessing, the Holy Spirit empowering us to teach and discipline, and the flow of faith needed to bring a new believer to maturity and begin to witness to others.

In the context of the Body of Christ we see the gift of faith active in individuals who become gifts to the corporate body. The one who is the witness develops into the office of evangelist. The one who teaches develops into the office of teacher. The one who disciplines and guides the new believer and the Body of Christ corporately develops into the office of apostle.

  1. Gifts of Healing

Gifts of healing is the only designation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is plural. Does this mean that one believer is able to pray for one kind of disease or illness but is not able to pray for another kind? No, not exactly. There is a principle of walking in the Spirit involved here that seems to be more obvious with the gifts of healing than with the other gifts. The principle I am referring to is that God is the Initiator. All of everything began with God as the Creator of all. As we walk in the Spirit we will only fit into the plans and purposes of God when we begin and end by submitting to Him. God knows more than you or I; God loves more than you or I; and God has the entire picture in mind including the specific disease or illness currently before you.

With that principle in mind; some have developed the gifts of healing in one area. That does not mean that God will not use them to bring healing to someone with another illness or disease. It means that we must submit the gift working in us to God related to a specific case.

Many times, in practice, the gifts of healing are activated in conjunction with the gift of knowledge. God will inform the person with the gifts of healing of a particular situation; a particular ailment; or a particular person through the gift of knowledge. When this happens, God has initiated events and when the person He is using to bring about the healing states the word of knowledge she or he has received the person(s) involved will be enabled to receive their healing.

  1. Miraculous Powers

We have just discussed the gifts of healing making special note that it is the only one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is plural. The gift of miracles or miraculous powers must be considered closely associated with the gifts of healing. The reason is rather straightforward because some diseases or situations involving illness or ailment progress to the place where we might say, “Only a miracle will help.” Really, when all is said and done, any working of God is a supernatural affair. We must conclude that any and all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are just what they claim to be, “gifts.” One who is gifted in a certain area is not greater than one who is gifted in another area. Paul makes it very plain in 1 Corinthians 13 that all must be done in love or it is all useless. That which makes one greater in the kingdom of God is the willingness to serve others in love.

Miraculous power works through an individual in the same way that all of the gifts work. All of the gifts work by and through faith. Basically, to apply faith means to believe a promise made to us through Scripture is meant for you! Then you pray and it happens! A miracle has occurred. God has intervened. You have become a channel for the supernatural to break into the natural.

  1. Prophecy

Another application of faith is in the gift of prophecy. Note that we have said that the gift of a word of knowledge is a small piece of the knowledge of God spoken into the present situation. The gift of a word of wisdom can be taken as a small piece of the wisdom of God spoken into the current situation thereby giving wisdom regarding how to make best use of the word of knowledge. Also, a word of wisdom can be a small piece of the wisdom of God spoken regarding a situation in the future. In this sense, the word of wisdom is foretelling or speaking of something that has not yet happened.

Prophecy is often spoken by the one prophesying as if speaking in the present tense when the actual events spoken are going to happen in the future. Psalm 22 is a clear prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus. The opening, or identifying, line was actually quoted by Jesus from the cross to announce to all that what was currently happening had been spoken of by David. Yet, when David composed this Psalm much of it was in the present tense, as if it were happening to David.

Another identifying aspect of this gift is proclamation. The one prophesying speaks spiritually as if seeing the events unfolding. In this sense, it is like a vision that the one prophesying sees as real in the physical while all the time knowing that it hasn’t happened yet. Prophetic witnessing or prophetic preaching may involve intimate knowledge revealed to the witness or preacher that will strongly influence the witness or sermon.

  1. Distinguishing Between Spirits

We are in the midst of a spiritual realm that is invisible but actually all about us. We are influenced by unclean spirits assigned to harass us, tempt us, discourage us, and accuse us. The recognition of these is the gift of distinguishing between spirits. It is far more common than is normally thought but usually not recognized as such. The greatest use of this gift is probably in interpersonal relationships. We call it the ability to “be a good judge of character.” Sometimes we miss acting on this gift and are misled or duped because of it. In the world of dealing with those who are addicted this gift plays a significant role as the addicted bring fantastic and heart-rending stories for the purpose of getting money for addictive substances.

  1. Speaking in Different Tongues (Languages)

Perhaps the most controversial gift of the Holy Spirit is the first gift apparent on the Day of Pentecost. There were three distinctive events on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled the 120 gathered together waiting at the command of Jesus:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a (1) sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They (2) saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and (3) began to speak in other tongues [or languages] as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 1 – 4 NIV) Numbers in parenthesis and italics are mine.

These events and the way in which they happened seem to be unique to the Day of Pentecost. The tongues spoken on this day were specifically languages of those present in Jerusalem from all over the world for Pentecost. Tongues are spoken as the Holy Spirit enables and the tongue spoken is chosen by the Holy Spirit. The tongue may be the language of men or may be an unknown language of angels. (See 1 Corinthians 13) There is no record in Scripture of recognizable languages of men being spoken declaring the wonders of God except on this day.

Do not think I am limiting the work of God or demanding or declaring that tongues must be in known human language to be valid. On the contrary, God is the initiator and the speaker in tongues may speak whatever the Holy Spirit enables. Tongues were considered a sign that the Gentiles had been filled with the Holy Spirit at the home of the centurion Cornelius. (See Acts 10)

Generally speaking, the gift of tongues manifests in languages unknown to the speaker or the hearer. When spoken in private or in short phrases in public in the mode of praise; tongues are for the edification or the personal building up of the speaker. If, however, tongues are spoken in public in the mode of preaching or exhortation; interpretation of tongues must follow the declaration in tongues.

  1. Interpretation of Tongues

Interpretation of tongues is not translation. Or, to be exact, we have reason to believe because of different lengths of tongues and the interpretation following that we are witnessing something different than translation. What I believe we witness when public tongues are “interpreted” is a Holy Spirit initiated inspiration by the one speaking in tongues and that inspiration being spoken into a known language by the one interpreting.

I have preached in English and have had my preaching translated into local tribal and generally understood languages such as Kissi and Swahili. A good “translator” will actually take what I have said and “interpret” my preaching into the known language of the audience. The interpreter will actually take what I have preached as inspiration and preach his or her own sermon that will reflect better what I have preached than a direct word for word translation.