“Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).
“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).
From my point of view, most Pentecostals and Charismatics do not pay very much attention to the area of spiritual gifts, or especially the development of them. Speaking in ecstatic tongues while caught up in the worship of God’s presence–this seems to be as far as most are willing to go with the Holy Spirit. In rare cases, you have those who receive words of knowledge and pray for healing–but they are always put up on a pedestal like Smith Wigglesworth (and by the way, he’s usually the only person ever referred to).
But I say IT’S TIME THAT WE CHARISMATICS START TO DEVELOP OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS! Many of us already have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, feel God’s presence, and speak in tongues. Occasionally, we may experience a dream that comes to pass in a mysterious way, or we pray for healing and get a small result like removing pain temporarily, or have a “Bible coincidence” where we feel like God speaks to us through circumstances, only shortly confirmed later in the Scripture (or vice versa). But these are infantile spiritual gifts. God indicates in the Bible that WE CAN EXCEL IN THE GIFTS; and that there is such a thing as “FANNING INTO FLAME” THE GIFT OF GOD. Both of these words “excelling” and “fanning” might also come under the names of “development” or “growth” or even “perfection”.
The gifts I am referring to is not the moral or ethical fruit of Galatians 5:22-23. There has been plenty of attention given to that area of Christian spirituality throughout the ages, and especially in the Evangelical and Holiness revivals. I am referring to the charismatic or prophetic or miraculous gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, NKJV:
To one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
This is a list of prophetic and miraculous gifts. They are supernatural. No rationalist can explain these away in natural terms and be intellectually honest with himself. The apostle Paul is definitely referring to supernatural knowledge and powers in this passage of Scripture. Very few Pentecostal/Charismatics have had any deep knowledge or experience of what this passage means. At best, most theologians have either shied away from commenting on the passage too thoroughly, or have rationalized it into a not-so-supernatural interpretation. Some Reformed theologians go so far to say that “the gift of prophecy” is not a supernatural gift at all–but simply the gift of preaching an expository sermon on a Bible chapter! But no–I would maintain, that what we are looking at in the above passage, is a list of Paul’s understanding of the prophetic revelations and powers, that were at work in the Old Testament prophets, Christ, the apostles, and the early church. And these gifts are nowhere said to have ceased for Christians today, although Reformed theologians will often do “Bible gymnastics,” and try to tweak arguments out of the Scriptures to prove that miracles were only for Bible times. Cessationists, Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, and all non-Charismatic Christians believe that the spiritual gifts had ceased after the Bible was done being written. They believe that all of the miracles of the Catholic saints throughout history were false and that all Pentecostal/Charismatic miracles are false! But as a Charismatic Christian, I believe that God has been giving visions, revelations, and miraculous gifts to Christians all throughout history, and that He is still doing so today!
Satan wants to keep us Charismatics distracted from developing our spiritual gifts. That is last thing that he wants. If he can keep Charismatics arguing with Cessationists or staying at the low level of speaking in tongues–he will try to do that. But look: “If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'” (1 Cor. 14:23-25). It is for this reason that Paul writes, “He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5).
KNOWING ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS vs. DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Knowing about spiritual gifts is not the same as developing spiritual gifts. Many Pentecostal/Charismatics know about spiritual gifts. Its part of their vocabulary: “words of knowledge” are commonly known as direct words from God, but most think of this as only coming in the form of a mental voice. In fact they can also come through dreams, visions, and direct impressions. Much less is known about words of wisdom, the gift of faith, healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the discerning of spirits, and the interpretation of tongues. Even the gift of tongues, and its many mysteries, is largely unknown. But on the other hand, I might go so far to say that most Charismatics DON’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS. And this is truly a sad thing, because we are the only members of the Body of Christ that are supposed to know! For more study on simply knowing about the spiritual gifts, see the following Charismatic books: Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts (1928), Harold Horton’s The Gifts of the Spirit (1934), Howard Carter’s Spiritual Gifts and Their Operation (1968), Dennis and Rita Bennett’s The Holy Spirit and You (1971), Smith Wigglesworth’s Smith Wigglesworth on Spiritual Gifts (1998), Rodney Howard-Browne’s Flowing in the Holy Spirit (2000), Sam Storms’ The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (2002), and Derek Prince’s The Gifts of the Spirit (2007). These books should offer just a BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF 1 CORINTHIANS 12:8-10.
But after you know what the spiritual gifts are, intellectually and somewhat experientially, then it becomes urgent that you DEVELOP THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO BECOME MORE POWERFUL IN YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCES. I mean, that we follow Paul’s command to excel in the gifts of prophecy, healing, and miracles–that we FAN into a FLAME the POWERFUL GIFTS OF GOD WITHIN US by the power of the Holy Spirit. And to be honest, I don’t really know how to do this yet. But I realize that the need is there, at least in my life–and I’m going to assume that this is also true in the lives of thousands of other Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. There are levels of anointing, faith, and power that we can climb in the spiritual gifts.
Personally, I want to get to the point where I am 100% accurate in my prophetic predictions. If I have a vision, I want perfect discernment. If I have to cast out a demon, I want to do it instantly like Jesus and the apostles, and not have to wrestle in prayer for days. If I am called upon to pray for a blind man, I want the level of faith and power to be able to heal that man instantly. If I am challenged to read the secrets of a man’s heart, for the purpose of power evangelism, I want to be able to do so at will. If I am challenged by a witch to a miracle contest, I want to be able to slay her in the Spirit, or call fire down from Heaven whenever I want in Jesus’ Name; or part water like Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. I’m thankful, but also sick and tired of occasional inaccurate words of knowledge. I’m dissatisfied with my level of faith and power. I don’t want a weak anointing–I want to be POWERFUL IN GOD’S GIFTS. I don’t merely want to know about spiritual gifts in my mind–I already know what they are somewhat; I want to DEVELOP THEM and make them EXPLODE LIKE DYNAMITE. I want more dreams, and more visions. I want visitations from Jesus and angels that I can see while I am awake with my eyes open. I want to feel the anointing of the power of God in my body, and my hands like fire and electrical vibration. I want out of body experiences from Jesus. I want it all–I want to go all the way with the Holy Spirit. I want to prophesy with perfect accuracy, read minds, and instantly heal and cast out demons by the power of God in Jesus’ Name. I’m not content until I reach the Bible standard of prophesying and performing miracles.
SOURCES OF DIRECTION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
God, of course, is the primary source of direction for how to develop spiritual gifts. But if we are to consult the knowledge and experience of Christian prophets, healers, and miracle workers–there are at least two places that I know where we can look and learn:
1. Mystical Theology. Traditionally, this is the name of Charismatic theology that was used by Catholic theologians all throughout the medieval times. The knowledge and experience of prophetic saints will be contained and explained not only in the biographies and lives of the saints, but also in the theological works that examined their miraculous gifts in relation to the practice of contemplative prayer–and other ascetic disciplines. While Quaker and modern Pentecostal/Charismatic theology may also be called “mystical theology,” it is often removed from the concept of contemplative prayer and the experiences of the Catholic saints. Nevertheless, all Charismatic theology–whether Catholic or Protestant–is essentially prophetic and miraculous in orientation, and may be of assistance in the development of spiritual gifts. The same goes for the mystical theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. But then again, mystical or Charismatic theology in general is not really the answer. In order to DEVELOP SPIRITUAL GIFTS, there needs to be a specific aim for developing spiritual gifts in the book or CD or teaching. This kind of teaching is very hard to find. In my experience, most Charismatic theology merely examines what the spiritual gifts ARE, rather than give the reader or the student PRACTICAL ADVICE on how to develop and experience these spiritual gifts personally. I will also say, that in my personal experience with Christian prophets, it appears that BLACK PENTECOSTAL PROPHETS have more power and prophetic accuracy than white ones. I don’t know why this is, but this has just been my experience. I’m not biased too much against white Pentecostal theologians like Smith Wigglesworth. But I will say, that because my experience with black prophets has been so impressive, I am almost automatically inclined to read their books on developing spiritual gifts more than I would a book by any white man. And for this reason, I want to point you to a few books on prophetic development by black Pentecostal prophets: John Tetsola’s Developing Prophetic Accuracy (1999) and Prophetic Development (1999) and Ricardo Vincent’s Developing Your Prophetic Gifts & Ministry (2010). I also recommend anything from Paula Price (The Prophet’s Handbook) and John Eckhardt (God Still Speaks).
2. Prophetic Science. This is my own phrase I just made up. It would be the Pentecostal/Charismatic counterpart to parapsychology. For those of you who don’t know what parapsychology is–it is the scientific study of mediums and the psychic phenomena of spiritism; and is completely forbidden by Scripture (Deut. 18:10-11; Isa. 8:19-20). Although there have been “Christians” who have dabbled in parapsychology, and thought it was of God, it is most certainly of the devil, and not of God. It is the scientific study of necromancy or contact with the “dead.” It began with J. B. Rhine at Duke University in the 1930s. Rhine was fascinated with the occult powers of mediums. He studied them scientifically with “Zener cards,” photography, and other mechanical instrumentation. He welcomed mediums into his laboratory and also attended seances to document their demonic powers. Rhine gave mediums an air of scientific respectability for a while, and was largely responsible for the success of the New Age movement, and the establishment of fortune telling and psychic businesses all over England and America. Because of Rhine and his work, and the success of psychics and the New Age movement–it is a sad lament that most mediums today are far more advanced in their “psychic development” than Charismatic Christians are in their prophetic development. It’s time that we catch up with the pagans and show them that JESUS IS MORE POWERFUL THAN SATAN! I propose that interested Charismatic theologians and ministers begin to study Christian prophets in a similar way that J. B. Rhine studied mediums. Of course, this would not at all involve contacting the “dead,” because that is a sin! Rather, PROPHETIC SCIENCE would more likely be the study of certain prophets’ accuracy in predicting the future (Bob Jones, for example), reading secrets of hearts, words of knowledge, healing, miracles, etc. There is a chapter called “Science of Divine Healing” in John G. Lake: The Complete Collection of His Life Teachings, that suggests some parapsychologists once studied John G. Lake with a machine, and were able to document the healing anointing in his body! Consider the understanding and development of spiritual gifts that such things would contribute to the Body of Christ! DOWN WITH “PSYCHIC/DEMONIC ABILITIES”–AND UP WITH SPIRITUAL GIFTS FROM JESUS!