In 1 Corinthians 12: 8-12, Paul names some of the spiritual gifts that God distributes: words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. Many of us have been taught that this list refers to a one-time, permanent endowment for each person. But I believe that Paul is not talking here about a dispensing of permanently held spiritual gifts. He is talking about passing touches of the Spirit at different times in different settings. Russell Spittler of Fuller Seminary calls them “gracelets.” I like that name. It implies that these are little expressions of God’s grace. They come and they go, like fragrant flowers that open and close. In fact, they can come and go in milliseconds. One time a certain gift goes to one person. At another time it goes to another person. At any given time a person could minister in prophecy, in tongues, in healing, or in some other form of blessing for the good of others. at would be hard to accomplish in a church where most members are expected to be passive observers. These are delicate nuances in our relationship with God, and we have to be sensitive enough to respond to them. If we do not, we will never learn to move in the power of the Holy Spirit. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT.
I believe that one of the most revolutionary teachings John Wimber brought to the table on the subject of spiritual gifts was his belief that the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (i.e., operating in the power of the Holy Spirit) was for everyone and that the gifts were not “one-time permanent endowments” that Christians owned, but were “passing touches of the Spirit,” available to all.
In the world of Spirit-endowed, Spirit-empowered Christianity, we tend to see many who, sadly, treat the gifts of the Holy Spirit as badges they have earned. Our previous blog addresses that unfortunate situation. Sometimes, this concept of private ownership can become so cemented into the charismatic or Pentecostal mindset; we find churches where men and women strut across the stage, believing they are the best thing to happen to the church since Jesus of Nazareth! I recall working with one very nice man who believed that he had been given the gift of healing, but only for headaches! This man served as an elder in a church where I worked and when people would ask him for healing prayer, he’d turn them down if their ailments weren’t associated with head pain. Maybe once or twice, I did see him step outside his ownership box and pray half-heartedly for someone with the flu!
Let me be frank. As I see it, this ugly concept of owning the gifts of the Spirit, or being given only one gift to use, is repulsive in the sight of God. And it’s time to restore some sensibility to the church when it comes to this goofy belief that you and I can control or manipulate the way God wants to utilize his gifts in his church.
Sadly, a good portion of the evangelical church in the twentieth century saw such misuses and misunderstandings of the gifts, and they decided that it’s simply better to step away from the table, proclaiming that these power gifts of the Spirit have all died out, so we don’t have to worry about them anymore! But, honestly now, isn’t that just moving from one extreme to another?
Wimber brought a fresh revelation on the spiritual gifts: A view that helped restore the gifts of the Spirit back to the larger church, while also addressing the great misuses of those same gifts by those who believed them to be theirs to use at their own discretion. In countless settings, Wimber was so excellent in de-mystifying the gifts of the Spirit while also giving permission for the common man or woman in the pew to believe that they could operate in these gifts as well as the anointed pastor on the stage.
John’s concept of gracelets, you see, brought the gifts back to the God who actually owns and operates them. In truth, it is Jesus of Nazareth, the Resurrected Son of God, who actually owns the gifts of the Spirit! And as we learn to follow him, deferring to and preferring his will over ours, Jesus can then work with the Holy Spirit in the use of those gifts as needed. One author described the operation of the gifts of the Spirit in this lifetime as following “the dancing finger of God.” I like that.
When I walk through this life, believing proudly that I’ve been given a gift or two of the Holy Spirit, acting as though the use of those gifts comes from my directive, I’m dangerously close to becoming the owner/operator rather remaining as a simple servant. And if you and I want to follow the commands found in the gospels correctly, Jesus is still looking for humble, obedient servants who will do his will at his discretion, not independent franchisers looking to build a ministry for themselves!
So there you have it, my friends. As Wimber saw it, the power gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today. Case closed. But sadly, from his perspective, the way so many contemporary Christians operate with these gifts does more damage to the kingdom of God than to help it. Thus, Wimber taught us to treat the gifts of the Spirit with tender, gentle care, seeing them as gracelets released by the Spirit on all believers for certain times and certain situations. From this theology, countless men and women who never viewed themselves as professionals were encouraged to believe that Jesus enjoyed releasing his gifts upon us as we simply go out in his name, loving “the hell” out of everyone we meet.
Maybe it’s time for the whole church to take a good refresher course on Holy Spirit gracelets once again?
(p.s. Since the original writing of this blog, my good friend & publisher Winn Griffin has released his wonderful book, Gracelets. Actually it was Winn who originally assisted John Wimber in assembling the teaching notes used on this important subject of spiritual gifts. Click here for more info!)
Holy Spirit, I thank you for your gracelets, your gifts that are released at the command of Jesus, and by the power of God. I, for one, want to learn how to operate in all of your gifts, allowing your gracelets to flow through me, as you direct, and at times you desire. May I always be open and willing for your gracelets to flow through me. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How have I limited the use of the gifts or, worse yet, treated the beautiful gracelets of the Holy Spirit as personalized gifts to be used in my way, at my discretion, and in my timing?
- What might it look like for me to change my point of view on these gifts of the Spirit and learn the fine art of following “the dancing finger of God” as he releases his gracelets amongst the body of Christ for his kingdom purposes?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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