Why Some People Don’t Get Miraculous Gifts – John Boruff

“You always resist the Holy Spirit!” –Acts 7:51

When it comes to my relationship with God, my Christian life, most of the time I’ve been focused on myself: meaning, that I’m focused on how I’m doing with God: is my conscience clean?, etc, or to consider if evil influences are coming against my spiritual growth. It’s at those times, when I consider evil influences, that my attention turns towards the people that are producing those influences; and by turning my attention to them, I tend to pray for them to change, or will preach to them, explaining what the Bible says about such an issue, usually with the same result that Jesus said would happen to those who throw pearls to swine: they turn against me and rend me to pieces with their words. And in the course of such contradictory conversations, I suppose, it becomes evident that they are pigs of the spirit, wallowing in the mud of their sins, having no desire to be washed by the water of the Word. To put it as plainly as possible, there is only one main reason why people don’t get baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit: they love their sin and have no desire to get rid of it. There are as many reasons for why people are not Spirit-baptized as there are numbers of sins. The ten commandments named the top ten sins that are the most offensive to God (Exod. 20:1-17); and I suppose it is from here that all the other specific sins, both major and minor, grow out from: the sin of paganism, the sin of idolatry, the sin of blasphemy, the sin of avoiding church or devotional activities, the sin of dishonoring parents, the sin of murder, the sin of adultery, the sin of stealing, the sin of false accusation, and the sin of jealousy for another person’s possessions.

In my personal life, I have seen a number of people, in a number of situations get trapped in any of these sins, or their offshoots, and get locked into one of them, so much so that it seemed to prevent them receiving the Holy Spirit in the fullest measure; or at least in the sense that they were capable of having Pentecostal experiences. Each person is different and that means that each one usually has that one sin that dominates over the other ones. Human minds are too simple to carry too many sins at once: it seems that its usually just one dominating sin—a sin that so easily entangles, a besetting sin—that entraps certain people, and prevents them from entering in a fully mystical life, complete with supernatural experiences, even if they are occasional. Such things as feeling the presence of God, speaking in tongues and the joy that comes from that, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, dreams and visions, the voice of God, visions of angels and demons, successful prayers for healing or casting out demons, experiences with prophecy being foretold and then seeing a fulfillment of it, even if its minor, Biblical and personal coincidences seen as signs from God, confirmations, directions, divine interventions, guidance, financial providence of a dramatic nature, etc. This whole element of the supernatural, Pentecostal, and charismatic aspects of life in the Holy Spirit are cut off from them; and I have often wondered if there are main reasons why these people don’t experience these things.

I’m inclined to think that UNBELIEF is the main reason why people don’t have supernatural experiences, which I guess is a form of pagan idolatry, and would go against the first two commandments that offend God. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Unbelief puts people into a spiritually unreceptive frame of mind. That is, an unwillingness to believe, have faith in God, or trust in the Bible for what it actually says, particularly what it says about supernatural phenomena. Part of this could be unintentional, due to upbringing: 1. Liberal mainline Christians have a very rationalistic, naturalistic, materialistic, deistic, science-based view of the world; it is natural for them to give a “natural explanation” to paranormal phenomena every single time, for fear of being considered superstitious or unwise. Rudolph Bultmann is leader of this view: he popularized the idea among liberals that the supernatural things in the Bible were just legends or a kind of Judeo-Christian mythology, like the Greek myths. Since Jesus pretty much made it a rule that faith was necessary for healing and casting out demons (Mark 16), it follows that this rule of faith would apply to pretty much every other miraculous gift that could come from God to increase that level of faith. The apostles asked, “Increase our faith!” and so Jesus will for those who really mean it; but not for those who persistently take the opposite stance. 2. Scientific people who advocate scientism: “I believe in science;” those people are generally Darwinists, or atheistic evolutionists, like Richard Dawkins. They only believe in the physical world, their churches are museums of natural history, their prophets are evolutionary biologists; and since God is part of the non-physical world, they reject Him and everything spiritual. Again, it could be due to upbringing and environment, but there are also plenty of people in this category who have seen the true Gospel preached on TV and they have turned it off every time. 3. Fundamentalists, or Calvinistic evangelicals who believe in the doctrines of dispensationalism and cessationism, as taught in B. B. Warfield’s Counterfeit Miracles and John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos. They are unwilling to accept any testimonies of miracle stories, both ancient and modern, both Catholic and Pentecostal, simply because they hold to a theological belief that the first century was the only period of time in which the miraculous gifts were experienced by people. That is, during the time of the gospels and the book of Acts. They say this because they believe God gave these gifts to authenticate the original apostles of Christ as sent from God and as being given authority to write the New Testament, such as Paul, Peter, John, etc. Although the New Testament does not state this as the reason for miraculous gifts, it is the best explanation that fundamentalists have come up with for why people never see any miracles happening in their churches today. But to point out a few holes in their belief, if only in passing, see Thomas Boys’ The Suppressed Evidence; it shows that although Augustine, Luther, and Calvin all went through periods of doubt in the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit in their lives, it also shows that later in their lives they experienced supernatural things and changed their minds. It also shows that the first Presbyterian group, known as the Covenanters and then led by John Knox, were very open to charismatic experiences, particularly visions that revealed the locations of and manners in which divine retribution against their enemies would be carried out by God. The fact that Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Knox all received supernatural experiences of the Holy Spirit at some points in their lives; and the fact that many healing testimonies are mentioned in Augustine’s City of God, book 22, chapter 8, is to basically cut down the entire tree upon which the theology of cessationism has grown.

That leaves occultists, Catholics, and Pentecostals as the remaining groups of people who experience supernatural things. I will allow that both Catholics and Pentecostals can be filled with the Holy Spirit and have miraculous gifts; but in the case of Catholic charismatics, they would have to be the types that put the Virgin Mary on the shelf of their devotional life and allow Jesus to be the center of it. When it comes to occult people, New Agers, and Wiccans, at least these people are supernaturally minded and are open to “ESP” or “psychic” experiences. They just need to embrace the Gospel and repent from witchcraft; and when they do that, they should make a pretty smooth transition into Pentecostal experiences, because they are not the types of people to just be loaded down with scientism and unbelief about the supernatural. I think in one way or another that was the category I was in when I gave my life to Christ when I was 14. I had been primed into supernatural ideas by Goosebumps books and Stephen King movies; and was fascinated by supernatural ideas, and I believed in their reality. You just have to be the mystical type to let the door swing open to these things once you come to Christ. If there’s anything keeping you from this, then it would be an area of your life you should get straight with God about.

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The Christian Man: Against His Worldly Counterparts – John Boruff

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” –1 Corinthians 16:13

Jocks: Usually Aggressive and Mean-Spirited Men

In my personal view, white male jocks and their older peers are usually the worst kind of men. Wikipedia rightly says that this category of men are characterized by behavior that is aggressive, arrogant, mean, egocentric, easily offended, and short-tempered. These men are macho, they don’t cry, they’re afraid to hug or show affection, they are gay-bashers, and they bully people. But surprisingly, despite all of these negative characteristics, they are popular. But maybe that is because most of the world system is overrun by football and jock culture—and most of the world is comprised of people who would rather treat you like dirt than by people who are looking for a new friend. Maybe with the exception of some guys with a background in track and field, or other solo sports, like skateboarding—but generally those involved aggressive sports in the past or present—football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, boxing, etc—you’re going to find totally arrogant jerks; and sad to say, from school to the workplace, they generally don’t change the way they act. Football guys especially, I think, are the worst type of guys to be around. They are so often no more than arrogant, competitive, annoying bullies that walk around with a sense of entitlement, pushing others around, belittling them.

Control Freaks and Gold Diggers: The Worst Kind of Women

As for the worst kind of women, I would have to say it’s the women that find themselves attracted to these mean jock types, because they probably have similar personalities. These I would have to say are generally control freaks—a type that is so impossible to put up with: but it seems to be in women with different interests and backgrounds; second to that, I’d say the gold diggers are the second worst kind of woman, but not every woman has the opportunity to be a greedy gold digger, although I would say that gold diggers are a type of control freak.

Hipsters and Jesus Freaks: My Favorites

As for the best kind of people, I’d like to say that I prefer hipsters—especially Christian hipsters—because hipsters tend to care about friendship—they don’t really insult each other. They show respect to each other; they hate bullies and oppressors; they are generally sexually straight, but they show gay people respect as human beings; they love rock music and all its variations; they are open to paranormal phenomena and spirituality; they are emotionally expressive, creative, and sometimes intellectual (but just shy of being nerdy); they read and talk about interesting things, etc. I’ve always gravitated towards hipsters, because I’ve found them to be the kindest, and emotionally the healthiest to be around. The obvious drawbacks of the hipster culture are fornication, drug use, and profanity—all three of which open the door to association with drug dealers and criminals. (But you find that in jock culture too.) So, really “Jesus freak” hipsters are the safest to be with, socially, culturally, psychologically, emotionally, and yes spiritually. I’m glad to say we had more than a few of these present at our wedding. I would like to make one exception: fake hipsters. These are the pretentious posers who only imitate hipsters in the external sense—like their clothing styles, their music, and their slang, etc. But they haven’t gone all the way to embrace the ethos of anti-materialism, emotional expression, friendship seeking, creativity in the arts, etc. They just copy clothing styles and things. A true hipster embraces the ideology; it’s really a personality type—it’s not just a youth culture, a fashion statement, or a preference for bands like the Beatles or Nirvana. It’s a personality type that manifests itself in different ways, is all. So, if you come across a snobby hipster that looks down on someone—nope, that’s not a true hipster. They just bought the t-shirt—they don’t get it.

From Jocks to Yuppies: The Toxification of the Workplace

Those who were jocks—primarily concerned with talking about sports and not much else than that—once they graduate from college, and become successful in the workplace, they still mainly only talk about sports, much to the grievance of every non-jock that works with them. They are the yuppies. The jock-to-yuppie phenomenon in America is tragically prevalent; and I think it’s to blame for why so many companies have so many macho jerks intoxicating the work environment. Jocks, once they graduate from college, and enter the workplace and become young upwardly mobile professionals (yuppies)—they fill the place with the same aggression and competitive spirit that they had on the football field, and seem to be incapable of thinking of anything else other than those subjects as they allude to their job. The manager is like a football coach, the workers are like football players, the sales group is a “team,” and so forth. It’s enough to make a non-jock guy puke, roll his eyes, walk outside, puke again, go home and sulk.

Christian Masculinity Versus Worldly Ideas

The important thing to take away from my criticism of jocks is the following: it’s not that sports are bad. Honestly, football could be harmless fun if that’s all we would let football be. Although it’s not for me personally, because I think it’s just a boring game: you throw the ball, catch the ball, run a little bit, tackle, get tackled, walk around, and repeat it over and over again. The problem really has to do with modern American ideas about what it means to be a “real man.” The same manifestations of jerkiness can also be found in the military and the workplace. There’s confusion and misinformation about manliness; and as always, we can correct it by looking at the Bible for guidance. What God says about manliness is all that matters.

Worldly people in American culture think of a real man in different ways: bodybuilder physique, chiseled jawline, masculine facial features, a confident attitude, a “take charge” leader mentality; but it unfortunately gets warped into something worse by something like 30% of the male population: it turns into a macho man mentality–a jerky, cocky a-hole mentality, for lack of a cleaner expression. This is seen in verbal and emotional abuse, sometimes physical violence, narcissism (preoccupation with physical appearance), machiavellianism (manipulation), and psychopathy (hurtful behavior marked by a lack of regret, compassion, or sympathy). Relationship gurus say that a “real man” is a nice guy who has a relaxed but confident attitude. I can agree with that, but I think God has more to say about it. So let’s allow the Bible help us to filter out which characteristics to cling to as Christian men; and which ones to get rid of. Because obviously, there is a right way to be a man and a wrong way to be a man (Prov. 14:12)–and the Bible is the only way we can find that out…

1. Men are strong (1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Kings 2:2); both in body and their mental state: they are practically fearless.

2. Men are not childish, but adults (1 Cor. 13:11); they are capable of intelligent thought and self-control, unlike little boys.

3. Men are prepared to fight, if necessary (Job 38:3); they take measures to defend themselves and their loved ones.

4. Men are leaders of women and children (Isa. 3:12); and it is tragic if it is the other way around (1 Tim. 2:12).

5. Men respect women (1 Pet. 3:7; Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19); and they are sensitive to meet their needs.

6. Men pursue righteousness and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11).

7. Men train their children with both nurture and admonition (Eph. 6:4).

8. Men imitate Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1): which seems to fit into the hipster culture by the way, much more than the jock culture. Which picture below looks like the Jesus in the Bible?

Jesus on a Donkey  Jesus Playing Football

9. Men do not practice homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9-10); are not transvestites, and do not imitate anything that is female in nature; it is manly to desire to be “one flesh” with a wife (Gen. 2:24).

10. Men are brothers with other men (Rom. 12:10); they are confident about their strength, intelligence, and leadership; and tend to have brotherhood with other men that share these same values.

Any Examples?

To me, the clearest, most concrete examples of Christian masculinity are found in the Lord Jesus; and following after Him, the twelve apostles, Paul, certain legendary missionaries, saints, and revivalists, such as the Covenanters depicted in John Howie’s The Scots Worthies, many of the Puritan preachers who were persecuted for their faith, etc. There are others I could mention: preachers whose sermons I like, but can’t put down here, because I know that some of those preachers were too rough in their lives to imitate. What am I aiming for? I am aiming at all those preachers who have stayed the course, pursued a Gospel-centered revival ministry despite years of opposition, have gained the respect of their wives and kids, and have proven themselves to be good family men. These are the kinds of men I would like to honor: these are the men imitating Christ and leading Christian families. These are the men all men should want to be. Sort of like Mister Rogers, but a bit more manly than that–kind, approachable, while at the same time strong and confident, an attitude like Charles Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie.

Charles Ingalls

For the development of a theology on Christian manhood, try taking a look at Adam Clarke’s Christian Theology, chs. 20-21, Larry Christensen’s The Christian Family, chs. 4-5, and John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, chs. 10, 17, 23, Appendix 1.

Disinterested and Absentee Fathers

Extract from pages 384-385 in ch. 23, “Where’s Dad?” by Weldon Hardenbrook in John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

I humbly but firmly submit that the soul of our nation is in crisis in large part because American men have—from ignorance and for various and sometimes even subconscious reasons—abandoned their God-given role of fatherhood. They have discarded the notion of being responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of those around them.
  A series of historical events, beginning at the Industrial Revolution, traversing the search for American independence and the Second Great Awakening, and culminating in Victorianism, has had the net result of disestablishing American men from a true role of fatherhood and moral leadership in our land. The American male, at one time the ever present guide of the close-knit colonial family, left his family for the factory and the materialistic lure that the Industrial Revolution brought. The most numerous and most active members of the church, the men—who commonly debated theology in the colonial marketplace—were, in time, to be found arguing business practices in the tavern. The fathers who labored hard to instill the value of cooperation in their offspring, in time gave their children the example of unlimited individual competition. Men who once taught their children respect and obedience toward godly authority came to act as though independence were a national virtue. Men who once had an active hand in the education of their sons relegated this responsibility to a public school system dominated by female teachers and feminine learning patterns. Once the leaders of social progress, American men came to look on social reform and mercy movements as women’s work and, in time, became themselves the objects of that social reform, in the case of movements such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
  Over the course of 150 years, from the mid-eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, American men walked out on their God-given responsibility for moral and spiritual leadership in the homes, schools, and Sunday schools of the nation. As sociologist Lawrence Fuchs notes, “The ground work for the 20th-century fatherless home was set. By the end of the 19th century for the first time it was socially and morally acceptable for men not to be involved with their families.”

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The Pharisaical Spirit – John Boruff

God’s heart is grieved and rain falls from the sky when He sees the abuse and activity of a Pharisaical spirit at work in any church.* That rain is the tears of God and is not the rain of a blessing, but is the sadness of God expressing itself in nature. Those of His prophets who have the Holy Spirit can partake of this grief in their emotions, and they can weep like Jesus did, and cry, “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets!” (Matt. 23:37). Who is it? It is the Pharisees that do this, but under that external façade, is a kind of religious demon, or group of demons, which I will call Pharisaical spirits (Matt. 12:45). The Pharisees mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are definitely not the first people to be under the influence of these evil spirits. Jesus implied that other people had been guided by these spirits before them—namely, their forefathers who had been responsible for slaying many of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 23:29-36). In this they are shown to be prophet killers: in fact, if they could have their way, all of the activities of the Pharisaical spirit seem to point to the final outcome of stamping out the gift of prophecy, the influence of prophets, and drive toward the martyrdom of saints or the killing of prophets—not the least of which was the Son of God Himself. If they can’t physically kill a prophet, then they will try to fire him or ruin his reputation.

All of their malevolent words and actions are essentially persecuting in nature; but they also have the nature of trying to enter in contentious conversations with God’s prophets, to trap them in their words (Matt. 22:15-22), and finally build a case against them, so they can take some kind of formal action against them, and bring them into some kind of council and accuse them, and sentence them. They are very accusatory and litigious and they get a high off of this. They are heresy hunters for sure; but worse than that, they are also hunters of true prophets, and they can accomplish this just as easily as they attack rank heretics, by showing that these saints and prophets have dreams and visions that are not already written down in the Bible, and they can make the case that these prophets are going beyond what is written and are hence really heretics: merely because they’ve seen visions. This was what happened when David Wilkerson’s The Vision came out in 1973 and he lost a lot of his supporters in Assemblies of God leadership (Gary Wilkerson’s David Wilkerson, p. 174). The problem is, there is nothing in his series of visions that contradict the Word of God: in fact, they only served to enforce it, confirm it, and make more real the prophecies of God’s Word concerning the last days. I believe that when Annas, Caiaphas, and the Pharisees of the first century died, their demons flew out of their bodies, and sought other religious leaders to inhabit and influence; and I believe this has been going on for two thousand years (Matt. 12:43-45). You can see the face of the Pharisees in the corrupt Catholic priests before and during the Reformation; in the Anglican priests during the Puritan and Methodist revivals; you can find the Pharisaical spirit in the “proper” clergymen who opposed evangelical revivals in the United States from the Great Awakening to the Brownsville Revival.

As we wrap up this study on pastoral abuse, true Christians can only do themselves a favor to acknowledge what the Bible says concerning the marks of a Pharisaical spirit:

1. There is no fruit of the Spirit: no love, peace, or joy that surpasses understanding, no patience, no gentleness, or kindness, or goodness (Matt. 3:7; Gal. 5:22-23).

2. There is an element of showmanship, of being a religious show off: to make a public demonstration of their ability to pray, fast, or wear fine church clothes (Matt. 6:5, 16).

3. There is a nitpicky attitude, of making mountains out of molehills; focusing on minor issues, and ignoring major issues; being extremely judgmental of others who don’t fall in line with their foolish opinions and practices that don’t even center around true kindness or righteousness (Matt. 7:5).

4. They are prophet killers: either of their bodies or their reputations (Matt. 21:33-45).

5. They are adulterous: since they have no guidance or consolations of the Holy Ghost, what else can they do but resort to fornication or adultery for comfort? (Matt. 19:3; cp. 12:39).

6. They are authoritarian: they literally worship the idea of authority. They push others around, they are pushy, rude individuals; if they do attain to a level of leadership through arrogant self-promotion, then they imbibe the Pharisaical spirit at its greatest depth and give into a power trip that never goes away (Matt. 21:23).

7. They are unrepentant: and why should they repent? They think they are always right; and after all that hard work at getting into a place of authority, do you think they have the presence of mind to be humble and contrite or even transparent with others about their sins? No sir! (Matt. 21:32).

8. They obsess over the condition of their church building, in an unhealthy way. They seem to think that the building itself is more valuable than mystical experiences with the Holy Spirit. And so while they are busying themselves with blessing the house of God, praying for the house of God, and fundraising for the house of God—they also find the time to preach against charismatic prophets and mystics that might have found their way into their church (Matt. 12:6-7; 27:62).

9. They abuse their church members, if not physically, as that has happened in some very extreme cases—then definitely verbally and emotionally, and sometimes sexually. They can even bring themselves to go to bars, hang out with drunkards, and get drunk themselves, and be back in time for Sunday morning service (Matt. 24:49).

10. If they have to, then they will resort to bribes, lies, and false accusations to snuff out their enemies—no doubt, enemies that they have created by their annoying and controversial attitudes (Matt. 28:12).

11. They are in a state of damnation, on their way to Hell (Matt. 24:51).

12. They reject the deity of Christ and demonize the Holy Spirit: though I wouldn’t say that “Christian pharisees” always do this in doctrine, but definitely in practice (Matt. 9:3; 12:24).

13. Their hearts are far from God (Matt. 15:8);  they talk about sports a lot; and often have worldly, macho attitudes. Although I will admit the sports aspect is not mentioned in the gospels, nor do you see it often in church history, other than King James’ Book of Sports: which was originally a measure against nitpicky Puritans who preached against playing sports on Sunday, because they saw it as a violation of the Sabbath day’s rest. Still, in modern times, a Christian man can easily observe that other Christians or church leaders who happen to be football, baseball, or basketball fans, etc, or tend to fall in the “jock” category, tend to give into a lot of the same spirits or attitudes held in common with the Pharisees: namely–the spirits of competition, authoritarianism, abuse, aggression, murderous or violent spirits, one-upmanship, cockiness, pride, arrogance, showmanship, greed, etc. The references to football plays during church services and sermons are too innumerable to mention, far exceeding Paul’s passing reference that a failing boxer is beating into the air (1 Cor. 9:26), even as these worldly-minded men often do with their empty speeches. The Puritans mainly opposed football because of its violent nature:

In 1531 the Puritan preacher, Thomas Eliot, argued that football caused “beastly fury and extreme violence.” In 1572 the Bishop of Rochester demanded a new campaign to suppress this “evil game.” In his book, The Anatomie of Abuses (1583) Philip Stubbs argued that “football playing and other devilish pastimes…withdraweth us from godliness, either upon the Sabbath or any other day.” Stubbs was also concerned about the injuries that were taking place: “sometimes their necks are broken, sometimes their backs, sometimes their legs, sometimes their arms, sometimes one part is thrust out of joint, sometimes the noses gush out with blood…Football encourages envy and hatred…sometimes fighting, murder and a great loss of blood” (John Simkin, “Football and the Church” in The Encyclopedia of British Football, 1997).

14. They don’t practice what they preach: there’s a disconnect between orthodoxy and orthopraxy (Matt. 23:3).

15. They are sly political schemers, bent on entrapping and incriminating God’s prophets (Matt. 26:3).


*Most of my Biblical proofs on the Pharisees here are from the Gospel of Matthew.

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Donald Gee’s “Concerning Spiritual Gifts” – ch. 8 – Discerning of Spirits – John Boruff

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Donald Gee’s “Concerning Spiritual Gifts” – ch. 7 – The Gift of Prophecy – John Boruff

For further insights on charismatic heretics and prophetic mistakes, see Ronald Knox’s Enthusiasm, Eddie Hyatt’s 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity, Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations, and John MacArthur’s Strange Fire (valuable for recent charismatic errors, although I disagree with his cessationist views).

22:00 – Correction: I didn’t mean the Oneida Community, I meant to refer to “The Kingdom,” at “Shiloh,” and the “Holy Ghost and Us Bible School” led by Frank Sandford. For more about that, see Churches That Abuse by Ronald Enroth.

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The Miraculous Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 – John Boruff

Although it’s not the only place in the Bible that speaks of miraculous gifts, it is this section of Scripture that speaks of them as directly as possible for their use in the church. I’ve tried to veer away from verses that don’t deal with miraculous gifts, so that I can stay on subject as much as possible. I’ve consulted John Wesley and Adam Clarke.

Lordship Salvation: The Mark of a True Prophet

12:1-3: Lordship salvation: a sign of genuine miraculous gifts and prophets.

The Gifts of Revelation Defined

12:8-10: I’m inclined to believe that all nine of the miraculous gifts are gifts of revelation, but that they are different revelations for different purposes: the word of wisdom (interpretation, application, and direction), the word of knowledge (secret facts), faith (supernatural confidence for a miracle, protection, or financial providence: Adam Clarke says, “a peculiar impulse, as Dr. Whitby calls it, that came upon the apostles when any difficult matter was to be performed, which inwardly assured them that God’s power would assist them in the performance of it”; John Wesley calls it “miracle working faith” when commenting on 13:2; Clarke: “miraculous faith” on 13:3), gifts of healing (faith to pray for specific sicknesses), the working of miracles (supernatural confidence to pray or command specific nature miracles other than healings), prophecy (knowledge of future events; or just a general experience of revelation gifts; for the first view, Clarke says: “the predicting future events, such as then particularly concerned the state of the church and the apostles; as the dearth foretold by Agabus (Acts 11:28); and the binding of St. Paul, and delivering him to the Romans (Acts 21:10), and St. Paul’s foretelling his own shipwreck on Malta (Acts 27:25)”), the discerning of spirits (knowledge of the presence of specific kinds of evil spirits; faith for casting out demons by prayer in Jesus’ name), diverse kinds of tongues (inspired speech, evidence of the presence of God, unknown foreign language, angelic language, personal faith building), and the interpretation of tongues (a revelation that interprets the meaning of a tongue).

Miraculous Gifts Are Occasional Experiences, Not Constant Ones

12:11: Miraculous gifts are occasional, episodic experiences, and are not constant: they are given by the Holy Spirit on special occasions, in accordance with God’s will. This doesn’t mean that “occasionally” means rarely–certainly not for someone who regularly prays for healing, such as a Pentecostal evangelist like Smith Wigglesworth or a charismatic pastor like John Wimber.

Healers and Prophets: The Hands, Ears, and Eyes of Christ

12:14-21: Although hearing Gods voice, having dreams and visions, and the laying on of hands are not specifically mentioned in ch. 12, it seems that they are allegorically mentioned in 12:14-21–the “hands” could be healers in the body of Christ, the “ears” could be prophets who tend to hear God’s voice the most, and the “eyes” could be the prophets, visionaries, or seers, who have dreams and visions more often; and are more skilled in dream interpretation, like Joseph and Daniel. A view like this would make sense, because people tend to put healers and prophets up on a pedestal, but Paul is saying that all of Christ’s body parts are necessary for there to be a healthy church: we don’t just need Christ’s hands, ears, and eyes (the healers and prophets), we need others too, such as Bible teachers (pastors), and “deacons” such as ushers, charity workers, etc.

12:28: This verse definitely seems to suggest that Paul had prophets and healers on his mind in 12:14-21. It only seems natural for me to suggest Mike Bickle’s Growing in the Prophetic and John Wimber’s Power Healing for further teaching about the prophetic and healing ministries.

Speaking in the Unknown Tongues of Men and Angels

13:1-3: Since we know that Paul has speaking in tongues on his mind (12:28, 30; 13:8; ch. 14), it must mean that, although tongues come from the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), they can come in the unknown foreign languages of man, as in Acts 2, or the unknown language of angels, which always require interpretation, as in 1 Corinthians 14. Although speaking in tongues may sound weird to some people–so much that they avoid them to maintain an air of respectability: if tongues are used as spiritual gifts, they can frame the mind for communion with the Holy Spirit, and become a vehicle for prophecy. Pentecostals have always believed that speaking in tongues is worth the sacrifice, while other Christian groups have tended to be more resistant to it. I think Paul would side with the Pentecostals on this point, because he said, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,” and, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you,” and, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5, 18, 39, NIV). But far be it from Paul to say, as some of the oneness Pentecostals do, that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation!

Miraculous Gifts and the Spirit of Love

Gifts of prophecy, faith for miracles, generosity, and martyrdom are worth nothing to God–if not done in the spirit of love (1 Cor. 13:1-3): as an example of the opposite, take Moses when he struck the rock in anger at Meribah Kadesh (Num. 20; Deut. 32:51-52). God made a miracle of water gush out of the rock, but He punished Moses for his impatient, rude, and hateful attitude against the grumbling Israelites. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

13:4-7: Love is defined as being rolled up in the virtues of patience, kindness, truth-seeking, protection, trust, hope, and perseverance; but love is distanced from such things as jealousy, bragging, rudeness, selfishness, bad temper, grudges, and evil.

Dreams and Visions: The Need for Interpretation

13:12: Clarke: “If there be a prophet-I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and I will speak unto him in a dream (Num. 12:6); Rab. Tanchum thus explains: “My Shechinah shall not be revealed to him, beaspecularia maira, in a lucid specular, but only in a dream and a vision…it appears that the rabbis make a great deal of difference between seeing through the lucid glass or specular, and seeing through the obscure one. The first is attributed only to Moses, who conversed with God face to face, i.e. through the lucid specular; and between the other prophets, who saw Him in dreams and visions, i.e. through the obscure specular.” Dreams and visions are symbolic and mysterious, and they require skill at interpreting and making sense of them, as with Joseph and Daniel. I think that Paul’s expression, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part” 13:12, KJV), the glass is a kind of prophetic telescope, not entirely clear, and sort of hazy–that is, the mind–through which we experience dreams and visions. By this we are only given parts of information from the Holy Spirit, but are never given the whole picture at once: thus, even prophets still have to live by faith.

Miraculous Gifts Will Not Last Forever, But Love Will

13:8-13: Love is eternal, but miraculous gifts like prophecy and tongues are temporary–and are only of use to saints still alive on earth who are living by faith. It is because Christians are living in a probationary state on earth that God has designed for mysterious miracles and revelations to be His way of communicating spiritually with His people on earth. But once they are in Heaven, such mysteries will be removed and their rewards will be received.

The Gift of Prophecy and the Word of Knowledge

14:1: Especially the gift of prophecy–the all-encompassing phrase for the revelation gifts in 12:8-10. This phrase “the gift of prophecy,” has to include the word of knowledge, because Paul later says that “prophesying” reveals the secrets of people’s hearts (14:24-25). I think the way Paul is using the word “prophecy” in 14:1 is with a more general idea of having revelations and prophesying them in church, whereas in 12:10 it may be that he means “prophecy” to be the “knowledge of a future event” (see Clarke on 13:2), as when a prophet gives a prophecy of the future, like Simeon in the temple (Luke 2:34-35). Wesley saw it that way–defining the gift as “foretelling things to come.” My only reason for thinking this, is that Paul seems to be listing off different kinds of revelations that prophets can have in 12:8-10, and in that context, the word “prophecy,” when compared with the word “knowledge,” would seem to have the idea of future events as the only possible difference between the two words: these words are also differentiated in 14:6.

The Purposes of Prophecy

14:3: Strengthening, encouragement, and comfort are the three main purposes of prophecy. A closer examination of the Greek words will also reveal this entails exhortation, which can either be a summons to draw near to God or a call to repent from a secret sin. Edification is another translation of one of these words, which means to build up one’s faith in God.

The Purposes of Tongues

14:13-17: Speaking in tongues is a kind of supernatural speech: either a Spirit-filled prayer, song, worship, or prophecy (if interpreted). Clarke confused this whole passage by thinking that speaking in tongues was speaking in an instantly learned language, such as Hebrew. But this is not about learned languages, either naturally or supernaturally acquired. Several of the Azusa Street Pentecostals found out that this idea was a gross mistake, assuming the gift at first to be “missionary tongues,” that could be used to preach the Gospel in foreign countries. But tongues are only about spiritual speech and utterance (14:14-15), and when mystically interpreted by other visions, voices, or impressions, they can turn into revelations and prophecies. But mostly tongues are a kind of expression or outlet for a person who is receiving an outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto his body (see Acts 2, 10, and 19). Although a tongue speaker may speak in a foreign language temporarily (Acts 2), he still does not know the language, which is what makes the gift miraculous.

Taking Turns While Prophesying

14:30-33: Tongue interpretations and prophecies should only be shared by a maximum of three prophets per church service; and they must be respectful enough to take turns and not speak over one another. If a prophet notices another prophet has received a new revelation, because he stood up, then he should wrap up what he’s saying and let the other person prophesy next (14:30): this does not mean, as Wayne Grudem says, that prophets should rudely interrupt one another (The Gift of Prophecy, p. 59), and Clarke sadly follows suit. I agree with Matthew Henry that such an idea is an unnatural thought; and would assume that the Holy Spirit is silencing Himself in one prophet only to speak by another prophet about a different subject. I agree with Henry, when he says regarding 14:31: “That all might prophesy, one by one, or one after another, which could not be where anyone was interrupted and silenced before he had done prophesying; but might easily be if he who was afterwards inspired forbore to deliver his new revelation till the former prophet had finished what he had to say.” Patience, prophets! Patience! Scripture says to “prophesy in turn” (14:31), not to interrupt your fellow prophets. It must mean that a prophet should wrap up what he’s saying, once he sees another person give the signal to prophesy. The signal might have been standing up while everyone else is sitting down (14:30). The very idea that prophets should interrupt one another goes against 14:32-33, which says that revelations should be subjected to self-control, which implies they don’t have to be shared immediately. A prophet can wait a little to share what he saw, heard, or felt in the Spirit. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), just as prophecy is a gift of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:10); and it becomes God’s prophets to share their supernatural revelations in an orderly and peaceful way (14:33).

It seems that 14:32 excludes ecstatic prophecy as a legitimate means of revelation, because if prophecy could ever be ecstatic, then it would have to be out of one’s natural mental state, and not subject to self-control, as it is when a prophet receives a vision, mental image, voice, dream, or sudden impression of a thought popping into his head. Wesley said, “The impulses of the Holy Spirit, even in men really inspired, so suit themselves to their rational faculties, as not to divest them of the government of themselves, like the heathen priests under their diabolical possession. Evil spirits threw their prophets into such ungovernable ecstasies, as forced them to speak and act like madmen. But the Spirit of God left his prophets the clear use of their judgment, when, and how long, it was fit for them to speak, and never hurried them into any improprieties either as to the matter, manner, or time of their speaking.” There are some prophetic ministries that seem to operate ecstatically, but are in fact not really ecstatic–they are operating from strong and sudden impressions, but the prophetic minister expresses what he suddenly knows in an immature and seemingly uncontrolled way. If his eyes are open, and he is walking around from person to person sharing prophetic words, then he is still able to control his behavior. A lot of it comes across as a kind of grandiose showmanship, but he’s not without the ability to control his faculties. Immature as such a display can be, it is still possible such a prophecy could be from the Holy Spirit. An ecstatic prophet, however, is not able to control his faculties: his eyes are almost always closed, and he is in a kind of sleep, and he speaks without regard to what others are doing or saying, as it was with Edgar Cayce the “sleeping prophet.” That sort of thing, Wesley concludes, comes from an evil spirit that is counterfeiting the Holy Spirit.

You Should Be Pentecostal!

14:39: As in times of Pentecostal revivals, we should be eager to prophesy. But we should not be part of a church that forbids people from speaking in tongues, as is the case with many evangelical churches. We can have a tolerant attitude towards these members of the body of Christ, but if we are going to follow Paul’s direction here, then it means we should be part of a Pentecostal or charismatic church that does not forbid tongues, like the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard churches.


Bickle, Mike. Growing in the Prophetic.

Clarke, Adam. “1 Corinthians 12-14.” The Adam Clarke Commentary.

Gee, Donald. Concerning Spiritual Gifts

Grudem, Wayne. The Gift of Prophecy.

Henry, Matthew. “1 Corinthians 14:30-31.” The Matthew Henry Commentary.

Milligan, Ira. Understanding the Dreams You Dream.

Randolph, Larry. Spirit Talk

Robeck, Cecil. The Azusa Street Mission and Revival.

Wesley, John. “1 Corinthians 12-14.” John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes.

Wigglesworth, Smith. Ever Increasing Faith.

Wimber, John. Power Healing.

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Donald Gee’s “Concerning Spiritual Gifts” – ch. 6 – Faith, Healing, and Miracles – John Boruff

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