How Are the Gifts Misused?

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We don’t always hear discussions and studies on how the gifts of the Spirit can be misused. But we must understand how they can be misused so we do not misuse them. In our last post, we talked about how to follow the Spirit.

Now we talk about ways people “miss the Spirit” or misuse gifts He gives us. Just like any mechanical device or product we buy from the store, the gifts have uses the Holy Spirit gives them to us for. But if we misuse the gifts, we disrupt the service or don’t give the message and ministry the Holy Spirit gave us the gift for.

When we look at the misuses of the gifts of the Spirit, it helps us to avoid the distractions and bad results that come with misuse. “Missing the Spirit” means we spoke out of turn or used a gift when the Spirit did not lead us to do so. Operating a gift “in the flesh” means we used the gift without following the Spirit, or chose our own timing and message.

Grieving the Holy Spirit

We can view grieving the Holy Spirit as the umbrella under which what we will speak of below fits under. Paul talks about grieving the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30. He says it in the middle of commands on holy Christian living.

The context tells us grieving the Holy Spirit means violating godly principles and living. Many of the commands surrounding the comment on grieving the Holy Spirit deal with speech and anger. But grieving the Holy Spirit covers any sins a Christian commits.

Isaiah also mentions that Israel grieved the Holy Spirit when they rebelled against the Lord (Isaiah 63:10). Despite all the times God reached out to Israel, loved Israel, and redeemed him, Israel continued to rebel against the Lord. This grieves the Spirit of God.

To grieve the Holy Spirit is to make Him sad, or make him feel pain. When we grieve the Spirit, we irritate, insult, and offend Him. Our sin greatly offends the Holy Spirit because He puts much time and effort into helping us become holy.

Choosing to sin goes against His program of conforming us to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29). We don’t want to offend the Holy Spirit. He does so many great things in and for us. The ways we misuse the gifts of the Spirit result in grieving Him.

He handpicks our gifts and teaches us how to use them. When we misuse them, we ignore His leadership and His gifts. But there’s a more specific way Paul talks about misusing the gifts, which he calls quenching the Spirit.

Quenching the Holy Spirit

In a series of short commands in 1 Thessalonians, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Paul describes the attitude of the Christian, to be thankful, prayerful, joyful, and abstaining from evil.

But what does it mean to quench the Holy Spirit? The word for “quench” has the idea of extinguishing a flame. The fire of the Spirit can be stopped. Paul could leave us wondering exactly what he means when he tells us not to quench the Spirit.

Instead, he gives us clues in the very next verse. He tells us to not despise prophecies but test everything and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). Testing prophecies reminds us of those who weigh prophecies (1 Corinthians 14:29).

Testing, or weighing, prophecy refers to the gifts of the Spirit. So quenching the Spirit is about the gifts of the Spirit. When we quench the Spirit, we stop from using the gifts, or we keep the gifts from operating in our services.

In some churches, the leadership refuses to allow the gifts to operate because they think they are too hard to control. But we must not control the Holy Spirit. He must control us. Some believe the gifts ceased at the completion of the New Testament.

But this cannot be the case. As we have discussed, they interpret 1 Corinthians 13:10 where Paul says, “When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” to mean that the perfect is the completion of the New Testament, and the partial is the gifts.

But this cannot be a proper interpretation. None of the Corinthians would have understood the completion of the New Testament to be the perfect. In fact, none of the Corinthians would have even thought of Paul’s writings, along with other apostolic writings, to be a collection called the New Testament.

So they would not have understood Paul talking about “the perfect” as the writing of the New Testament. I contend “the Perfect” to refer to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul references this time when he says, “then we will see face-to-face.” You cannot see the Scriptures face-to-face. This is an in person meeting. This is when we will meet the Lord Jesus.

We must not quench the Spirit, extinguish the fire of His gifts and leadership through those gifts. It’s not easy to navigate the gifts and allowable Holy Spirit to move as He wishes among us. But stopping the gifts disables one of the Spirit’s ways of communication and leadership among us.

Scripture commands us to allow the Holy Spirit free reign among us. We must learn to listen to the Spirit, to allow Spirit-led leadership to weigh carefully the movement of the Spirit among us. But He must speak and move among us.

What If I Mess up?

Many Christians are afraid to follow the Spirit’s lead and use their gifts because they think they will mess up or use their gifts wrongly. None of us wants to become a hindrance to the Spirit’s move. We don’t want to miss the Spirit or become a distraction.

But when we don’t use our gifts because of this fear, we also hinder the Spirit because He wants to minister through the gifts He gave us. This is the same as not teaching or preaching, not reading or using the gifts of administration or hospitality.

The Holy Spirit uses all the gifts to minister to His people. We would think it absurd to not lead, preach, or teach. So why is it so outlandish for the Holy Spirit to prophesy, speak in tongues and interpretation, use a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom, or any of the other gifts many prohibit?

Every gift is essential to the body of Christ. He made every gift, and each gift has its purpose in His hands. Instead of wondering if you are feeling the prompting of the Spirit, think of what it will be like for the body to not hear the message He gives you, or the lack of leadership and the message you have to proclaim.

We often think of the negative, but think of the positive. How will the Church be different if we allow the Spirit to minister through our gifts? What essential ministry can you add to the saints with your gift in full operation?

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Although unbelievers commit the blasphemy of the Spirit by attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil, I mentioned it here because the gifts of the Spirit are His works. We must tread carefully when we discuss some gifts under the banner of demonic works.

Demons can counterfeit the works of the Spirit. Some believe through exorcism that demons have spoken in tongues. But if a Christian is speaking in tongues, especially when it is orchestrated by the leadership of the Holy Spirit, this is not a demonic influence.

If we attribute gifts like speaking in tongues and prophecy to demons, we come very close to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. We must be careful not to attribute the works of the Spirit to demonic influence, possession, or oppression.

Let’s use the philosophy of Occam’s razor. If a Christian is speaking in tongues, and that is one of the gifts of the Spirit, we should attribute it to the Holy Spirit rather than demonic influence. It makes more sense for it to be the Holy Spirit speaking through one of His gifts.

I would rather be wrong about attributing these actions as the Holy Spirit using His gifts that He created and ministers through than saying these were works of the devil. Scripture tells us these are the gifts given by the Spirit. Let us give Him credit first. If something seems off, or not of the Spirit, we can assess that situation with godly wisdom and the Spirit’s guidance.

Can the Gifts of the Spirit Be Taken Away

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon people for great works. He came upon the prophets, kings, and priests to perform tasks for Him. He gave kings wisdom to rule, prophetic words to the prophets, and used the priests to minister God’s atonement for the people.

But the Holy Spirit did not dwell in Old Testament saints as He does New Testament Christians. One difference between the old covenant and the new covenant was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He inhabits anyone who believes in Jesus as part of the new covenant.

The Holy Spirit indwells and seals believers at the moment of salvation. He also gives us our gifts when we become Christians. Can we lose the Holy Spirit? The Bible does not answer this question.

You don’t earn the gifts just like you don’t earn salvation or any other blessing and grace Jesus gives you. So you can’t lose your gifts if you don’t use them. The deeper question is whether you can lose the Holy Spirit’s presence in you.

The only possibility of losing the Holy Spirit’s presence indwelling us is to lose our salvation. The New Testament clearly teaches that a believer can fall away from Christ (Hebrews 6:4-6). Other scriptures speak of falling away. If a Christian is no longer a Christian, it’s possible for the Holy Spirit to leave that person.

In such a case, a person would no longer have the gifts the Holy Spirit gives as part of His indwelling and cooperation with a Christian. One may ask, “What about when Paul says the gifts and calling are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29)?

When Paul said this, he was talking about the nation of Israel, not the New Testament Church or Christian believers. He was saying that Israel still receives the covenants, the law, and the special revelation of God to the nation.

But we infer this from other biblical teachings and Scriptures. It is hard to lose the gifts, just as hard as it is to fall away from Christ and lose the Spirit’s presence dwelling in you. You must choose to fall away from Jesus, and that is a process of rejecting Him and not wanting to be part of Him anymore.

Wrapping Up

It’s good for us to know the ways we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit, so we avoid doing them. But we want to grow closer to Jesus, obey the Holy Spirit, and minister to the body of Christ.

These questions need to be answered. We need to understand some of the relationship rules to knowing Jesus and having relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is a down payment of our salvation and final inheritance with Christ in heaven. We want to honor Him and allow Him to minister through us with His gifts. What have you been taught about misuses of the gifts of the Spirit?

Up Next

Understanding how we could misuse the gifts of the Spirit helps us know how to operate in the gifts correctly. In our final post on the gifts of the Spirit, we will talk about how to seek the greater gifts.

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