In our Seek the Gifts series on the gifts of the Spirit, we have discussed some of the preliminary matters about the gifts. We most recently covered the gifts in the Old Testament. We now want to talk about the foundation for using our gifts before we move on to talking about the gifts listed in the New Testament.
The foundation of the gifts may surprise you. You may think I’m heading in a different direction for this post, but nothing could be further from the truth. And I’ll prove it to you in a couple of sections.
Before we use the gifts of the Spirit and seek for the Spirit to minister through us, we must understand and practice the foundation through which the gifts work best. Let’s dive deeper into the foundation for using the gifts of the Spirit.
The Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is essential to operating in the gifts of the Spirit. It is essential to operating as a Christian. Jesus didn’t design the fruit of the Spirit just for one part of our lives. We must grow in the fruit every day.
We need to show people the fruit of the Spirit no matter what the activity. Whether we are at work, home, church, or any other place, Jesus expects us to act according to the fruit. In its original context, the fruit of the Spirit combats the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-25).
Paul lists many of the works of the flesh, but only nine characteristics of the fruit combat them. They stand in opposition to the works of the flesh because we cannot do both. If I am operating by the works of the flesh, I am not living by the Spirit.
We can operate in the flesh when we are using our gifts. We will talk more about misuses of the gifts in a later post, but we do not always follow the Spirit when we operate in the gifts.
We can act selfishly, use the gift without the Spirit’s prompting, and use it for the wrong motives. But operating out of the fruit of the Spirit keeps us from misusing the gifts. So we need both to please the Lord as we use the gifts the Spirit gives us.
The Fruit and the Gifts
How do I know the fruit and the gifts work together? I take my cue from Paul, who in the middle of teaching on the gifts says the most excellent way to use them is to practice love, the first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul outlines the spiritual gifts and experience to talk about prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation. But right in the middle between chapters 12 and 14, he teaches on unconditional love.
First Corinthians 13 has often been called the “Love Chapter” because of its focus on love. Many people like to quote part of it during wedding ceremonies. While romantic love should be unconditional, Paul is really talking about the first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul begins the chapter by mentioning several spiritual gifts. He speaks of speaking in tongues, the prophetic gift, the word of knowledge, and charity in the first three verses. Later in the chapter Paul again discusses prophecy, tongues, and knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:8).
In the chapter on unconditional love, Paul is really talking about the gifts. And the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31) is by practicing the first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit. I say first characteristic because there is only one fruit of the Spirit, one work He does in us. But it has nine characteristics.
When you read the New Testament and see the word “love,” you are almost always looking at the word agape in the original language. This is for God’s unconditional love that He shows toward us. But He is also working this character trait in His children.
He wants each of us to show unconditional love to everyone around us. He taught us how to love (). When Jesus discussed Kingdom character throughout His Sermon on the Mount, He taught about how to love others.
Unconditional love is impossible for us on our own. We are much more familiar with selfish love. Even on we show others love that seems to be focused on them, we do it because we get noticed. It takes a lifetime to learn how to have unconditional love.
But we don’t do it on our own. The Holy Spirit empowers us through the fruit to genuinely unconditionally love others. We won’t have to rely on our own resources and abilities to love others the way Jesus loves them. He is making us into His people.
Joy and Peace
Love is not the only characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit that applies to using the gifts. In fact, I will make the case that all the characteristics of the fruit are vital to honoring God as we use the gifts. Joy and peace are no different.
Every time around Christmas I hear people say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” As the Spirit ministers through us in the gifts to others, we received the joy of the Lord as our reward. We shouldn’t get noticed because we use our gifts.
Like unconditional love, joy is hard to find apart from Jesus. Many Bible teachers speak of the difference between joy and happiness. They define happiness as a fleeting, on the surface happiness. We base happiness on our circumstances.
But joy goes much deeper than happiness, unchanged by the situations of our lives. They suggest that our joy comes from our relationship with Jesus. But when we are doing the Father’s work, being ministered through by the Spirit, it fills us with joy.
To be partners with God in ministry is our highest calling. We have the joy of the Lord within our hearts. It is not a superficial healing but a deep-seated, overwhelmed, and overflowing heart. We just can’t keep our joy inside for long.
Some of the spiritual gifts, and other gifts of the Spirit, can bring peace to a situation and to people. Giving someone searching for direction and word of knowledge or a word of wisdom brings them peace.
When I lived in the church parsonage, I had several people tell me it was a very peaceful place. That’s because the Lord’s presence is there, and I am using the gifts as I minister to visitors. Peace passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and we can give understanding to others through the gifts.
Patience, Kindness, and Goodness
Patience is essential to practicing the gifts. We are all learning how to use our gifts in greater ways. Sometimes we make mistakes and use them in the wrong way. So we must be patient with one another as we learned to use our gifts and follow the Spirit’s leading.
I have been in services where a prophet has misused his gift. I have heard speaking in tongues as a personal prayer language used loudly and thought to be a word from the Lord for the entire body. Hearing tongues without the interpretation sometimes happens in services.
If we did not have patience with one another, we would throw the baby out with the bathwater and not practice the gifts anymore. Or we would criticize one another and not show unconditional love and understanding.
We must also be kind toward one another. It goes with patience and has the same result. If we are not kind toward one another when we miss the Spirit and misuse are gifts, we will be terrible representatives and witnesses of Jesus.
Kindness is part of unconditional love for us to learn our gifts and follow the Spirit. We must not become critical and criticize one another. Kindness and goodness relate closely to one another. We must be as good to one another as we are kind. Goodness and kindness must rule the day as we practice the gifts.
Faithfulness and Gentleness
We practice faithfulness in the gifts as we attempt to remain faithful to the Spirit and the minister at His leading. We don’t go off on our own and do our own thing. We show faithfulness to the Lord when we become instruments in His hands.
Along with kindness and goodness, we must act in gentleness toward one another. If we are not gentle with one another in our mistakes, we cannot truly show love to one another. It’s not easy to be gentle with someone when you think you are right and they’re wrong.
But that is why I said these are characteristics the Spirit is cultivating and us. We need His help every day to show these characteristics. It’s impossible for us to do this on our own. But with His help, we can operate in the gifts and glorify Jesus.
Self-control is definitely a characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit. At no time in our lives, especially before we knew Christ, did we practice self-control. When we followed our fleshly passions and desires, we had no self-control.
Like the other characteristics of the fruit, the Holy Spirit is cultivating self-control in us. He first taught us that He is in control, not us. And now as he teaches us how to have self-control, He works in us to make it happen.
We show self-control as we practice the gifts. We must wait for the Spirit to tell us when to use our gifts. This is self-control. When we learn to listen to Him, to not do it on our own, we practice self-control. And we control ourselves to forgive others who don’t wait on Him first.
It’s amazing how the Spirit uses the fruit to guide how we use the gifts. He is in charge, working in the background and leading us as He ministers through us. Each of the characteristics of the fruit must be in operation in us for us to glorify Jesus with the gifts.
Have you ever made the connection between the fruit and the gifts before? We are much more sensitive to the Spirit and tentative to each other when we allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate His fruit and gifts in us. What are other applications you can think of for the fruit and gifts working together?
Now that we have discussed the fruit of the Spirit as the foundation of the gifts of the Spirit, we turn next to talk about the categories of the gifts in the New Testament.