We recently began looking at the gifts of the Spirit together, focussing specifically on those gifts given for practical service and gifts given for leadership and administration. If you remember we also spoke about some of the barriers that we face that hold us back from using the gifts and talents we have been blessed with for the glory of God.
This week, in this concluding sermon on the gifts of the Spirit we will be looking together at what some people refer to as the gifts of utterance, of which there are perhaps 10 listed in the Bible:
Our first gift of utterance is an apostle who is literally ‘one sent forth’ for a specific purpose; an envoy, or a missionary. Someone who is an ambassador of the Gospel. Apostles are frequently engaged in the proclamation of the gospel to an unbelieving world (Galatians 2:7 – 9)
The first apostles were the disciples of Jesus. But other people subsequently became apostles:
- Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus and is often referred to by the early church fathers as being the apostle to the apostles. You may remember in John’s Gospel how Jesus’ first resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene and she proclaimed the good news to the disciples before they too saw Jesus for themselves.
- Someone else who we know as being an apostle was St Paul and if you consider his missionary journey’s and ministry in the early church we begin to get an idea of what an apostle is like.
In my own experience I knew someone who was gifted in this way. He was particularly good at church planting and building up churches – even if he was hopeless at sustaining the church once it had been established. But he recognised this and invested time and energy in building up a strong leadership team who could take the church forward.
- Word of wisdom
The second gift of utterance is a word of wisdom. People with this gift frequently express profound spiritual insights through the Spirit at a given moment, disclosing the mind, purpose, and way of God as applied to a specific situation. I would dare to say that I sometimes see this gift at work in the team here in this church. Do you perhaps know of people who have an incredible ability to get you to look at things in a different way and are perhaps able to encourage you to step out in faith?
3. Word of knowledge
The third gift of utterance is a word of knowledge. People with this gift are often given a revelation of knowledge from the Holy Spirit about something / someone, given for a specific purpose, usually having to do with an immediate need.
Have you encountered people who at times have insights about you, insights that bless you and lead you to life?
The fourth gift of utterance is teaching. People blessed with this gift have a great ability to expound and instruct people in established Christian doctrine so that people might be built up and equipped. It is worthwhile pointing out that being blessed with the gifts of the Spirit also carries with it responsibility. In James 3: 1 for example we are told… “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
In my walk of faith I have been blessed to meet a handful of people who are really gifted teachers and when they are exercising their ministry you simply feel engaged, excited, alert and in a place where you really listen. It is incredible to consider that perhaps the disciple Peter was blessed with this gift…if you want to see how then take a look at some point at the early chapters of Acts and see how when empowered by the Holy Spirit a simple fisherman who was rash and impulsive was used in an incredible way by God.
The fifth gift of utterance is prophecy. This typically involves the proclamation of a message of edification, exhortation, consolation and / or rebuke. I know I have preached about prophecy at St Margaret’s before but I truly believe that the gift of prophecy is vital for the growth and direction of any church – no wonder we are told to “Keep on pursuing love, yet be seeking earnestly the spiritual gifts, especially the ability to prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14: 1) I know of at least one person who is connected to church here who I would consider to be blessed with this gift. I think is it really important to say that I believe that this gift is linked intrinsically with discernment.
The sixth gift of utterance is discernment or literally “distinguishing between spirits.” I believe that this gift is complementary to prophecy, and distinguishing the genuine prophet from the false. It is certainly an important gift to have in times of false teaching or when the teaching in parts of the church veers off towards the heretical.
Discernment is also critical when engaging in intercession and spiritual warfare. If you read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he talks about the armour of God and the spiritual struggle that we engage in, this is a gift that really helps.
- Speaking different kinds of languages
The seventh gift of utterance is speaking in different kinds of tongues or languages. This sadly has tended to be a gift which has caused much controversy in the church and so bear with me if I spend a little bit of time explaining it:
- We see reference to this gift in several places in the New Testament. In Acts 10:44-46:
o “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
- Not ALL Christians speak in tongues
- Speaking in tongues is not necessarily the ONLY sign of being filled with the Spirit
- There are no first or second-class Christians. If you don’t speak in tongues you are not a lesser Christian!!!!
- Speaking in tongues is not the most important gift
- Speaking in tongues is a human or angelic language (1 Corinthians 13:1)
- It is a form of prayer (1 Corinthians 14:2) for private or corporate use…but there are some caveats when it is used in corporate worship!
- It builds up an individual and brings glory to God
- It transcends language barrier (1 Corinthians 14:14)
- The speaker is in full control
- Tongues are a sign for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22)
8. Interpretation of languages
The eighth gift of utterance is the interpretation of tongues or languages. If you get time take a look at 1 Corinthians 14 which goes into some length about the interpretation of tongues and why it is important, especially in a context of corporate worship.
St Paul said “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)
The ninth gift of utterance is an evangelist, which literally means “to announce good news (evangelize), especially the gospel” or to declare or bring and show good tidings and preach the gospel.
Have you ever been in situations where someone you know simply can’t help but “gossip about God”? It is almost as if they are exploding with excitement about the things of God, the love of Christ and his good news.
I know some people who are blessed with this gift and it is a joy to minister alongside them. They are passionate, fearless yet deeply compassionate and loving individuals who see people as God sees them and desire with all of their heart that they might come to faith in Christ and be blessed and saved.
10. Pastor – teacher
The tenth or final gift of utterance is the pastor – teacher. I think this gift is exemplified by the illustration of a shepherd. Someone who looks after the flock, someone who guides and instructs the flock. I think Peter was blessed with this gift and in my mind Jesus’ instruction to him to “feed my sheep” captures the heart of it.
Every Christian has the Holy Spirit (we are “in the Spirit” (Romans 8:9)) but not every Christian is filled with the Spirit. In Ephesians we are told to “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-20) and there is a sense that we need to continually be filled with the Spirit. Someone once said that the problem we have is that we leak! Jesus knew times of filling and times of being emptied. Jesus spent time in prayer with his heavenly Father to recharge his spiritual batteries. We need to do the same! Jesus invites us to drink deeply from the spring of the water of life that we might never thirst. (Revelation 22:17)
In all of this I hope you recognise that even if we are by very nature of our parentage and ancestry blessed with specific abilities at birth which come to fruition as we find ourselves in life, the gifts of the Spirit are if you like extra-ordinary gifts or talents given to the people of God to bring glory to him and to build up his church. It might be that God takes a talent we already possess and deeply blesses it – making the secular sacred – and in the power of the Holy Spirit making it bear much fruit OR it might be that in a given situation we are blessed with a gift of the Spirit for a specific time and purpose.
As I said last time, remember at all times that in Christ ALL of you have a calling, a value and a purpose. May you seek earnestly the gifts of the Spirit. May your prayer be “Come Holy Spirit, Come.”