Practical Gifts of the Spirit
Dr. Joe Temple


Turn in your Bibles, please, to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapter 12. We need to have a word of review from time to time. You will keep in mind that we are answering the question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” We suggested to you that though there are a number of references in the Word of God to this particular subject, the basic truth is found in I Corinthians, chapters 12, 13, 14. You will realize as well that we were not able to give an exposition of each one of the verses in this particular section and still fulfill the scope of our discussion, so we suggested to you that Paul's teaching along this line could be summarized by three words. One word we gave you was the word difficulty , indicating to you that the Apostle Paul suggests that there were difficulties related to the exercise of these spiritual gifts. We learned that those difficulties are related to such general principles that in any time in the history of the Body of Christ and in any area, practically speaking, there will be certain difficulties related to the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit.

Then we looked with you at what we called distribution of these gifts as we summarized what Paul had to say by reminding you that the distribution of the gifts is the sovereign right of the Holy Spirit; that is, He bestows these gifts on whomsoever He will in whatsoever manner He will, and we as individuals have absolutely nothing to say about it.

Then we emphasized to you that this distribution was not only sovereign; it was systematic and specific for the benefit of the Body of Christ so that there would be no confusion related to the exercise of these gifts; all would be done decently and in order.

The third word that we gave you to summarize the teaching of the apostle was the word diversity or the word differences , indicating to you these gifts are not all the same. There are differences and diversity related to them. We said that these differences and these diversities could be summed up by four words. We used the word passing , the word permanent , the word personal , and the word practical . We suggested to you that some of these gifts are passing in the sense that they are not evident throughout the entire history of the Body of Christ, keeping in mind that the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost and continues through this present hour and will continue until the day that the Body of Christ is completed and taken out of this world.

We said that some of the gifts are permanent in the sense that they are exercised throughout the entire history of the Body of Christ.

Then we said that some of the gifts were personal. We said it might be better to use the phrase, gifted people or gifted individuals in regard to personal gifts because we discovered that these personal gifts were such gifted individuals as apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We said that the gifts were practical in the sense that the gifts are abstract gifts which are bestowed upon individuals as the Holy Spirit is pleased to bestow them. We said that these practical gifts are in exercise during the history of the Body of Christ as there is a need to exercise those particular abstract gifts. We suggested to you as we looked at these chapters—I Corinthians, chapters 12, 13, and 14; Ephesians, chapter 4; Romans, chapter 12—if we make allowances for duplications and allowances for combining some of these gifts that we feel certainly should go together, there are approximately twelve practical gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. For a better understanding of these gifts and to enable us to discuss them in an adequate fashion, we have divided these twelve practical gifts into three groups.

If you have made any study of this subject, you will find that Bible scholars divide them in various ways—some into one group, some into five, some into four—but we have been pleased to divide them into three groups. We have divided some into a group we call spiritual gifts ; some we have divided into a group we call service gifts ; and then we have divided some into a group which we refer to as sign gifts or supernatural gifts . In relation to the latter group, it might be wise to use both phrases because even the sign gifts , as the others, had a supernatural quality about them that could not be interpreted in natural terms.

I would like for you to look with me at I Corinthians, chapter 12, and familiarize yourself with these gifts in their proper divisions. I do not know just how far along we will get with our discussion today because it is something that we cannot complete in one sitting, but I would like for you to have them fixed in your mind. So if you will notice in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 8, the word of wisdom in the verse and the word of knowledge. Then down in verse 10, the gift of prophecy and the discerning of spirits .

We would like to suggest to you that these are the spiritual gifts. Added to these is one taken from Romans, chapter 12, verse 7—the gift of teaching. “…he that teacheth, on teaching.”

You will recall that we told you in our last lesson that gifted persons were pastors and teachers—one office—but we said that that should not be confused with the gift of teaching because there are many individuals who are teachers who are not pastors.

Then we told you that the gifted person known as the prophet should not be confused in the exercise of his ministry with the gift of prophecy because the gifted person known as the prophet exercises a gift which was different from the gift of prophecy. You may wonder why we call these gifts spiritual gifts in the sense that the apostle introducing the subject said that all of these were spiritual gifts. He said they were all spiritual gifts because the Holy Spirit is responsible for their distribution. We are referring to these five gifts as spiritual gifts because we believe them to be gifts which were bestowed by the Holy Spirit for the spiritual welfare of the Church. They represent a spiritual ministry which is carried on by those who had been a recipient of these particular gifts.

The Service Gifts

I would like for you to notice with me what we referred to as the service gifts . We are using this term to describe the service rendered by the individuals who have these particular gifts and, as you see when we look at them, the service need not necessarily be spiritual because there are any number of services which are needed in the Body of Christ that are not related to the spiritual growth of individual Christians. Please look with me at I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 28:

I Corinthians 12:

28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Notice particularly the word helps and the word government . There are two service gifts. One of them is the gift of helps. It is described in Romans, chapter 12, verse 7, as the gift of ministry. The second gift is the gift of government, and it is described in Romans, chapter 12, verse 8, as the gift of ruling. If you will go back with me to Romans, chapter 12, once again and notice verse 8, you will be able to recognize two other gifts which we will call service gifts , for you will notice in verse 8, the statement:

Romans 12:

8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

We suggest to you that the word giveth describes a gift, a gift that definitely is a service gift in that it is related to the welfare of the Body of Christ. There is a sense in which we all have an obligation to give of our means for the support of God's work. There is another sense in which individuals have received from the Holy Spirit the gift of giving or, as it is elsewhere described, the gift of liberality . If you will look again at verse 8 in chapter 12, you will notice the statement: “He that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness…” We suggest to you that the ability to show mercy with cheerfulness is a very definite service gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon certain individuals within the Body of Christ. There is a sense in which we all must be merciful, but there is another sense in which certain individuals have a special gift for this particular thing, and it is very definitely a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Sign or Supernatural Gifts

I would like for you to notice with me the third class of gifts which I have referred to as sign or supernatural gifts. Keeping in mind that in all probability both terms should be used, because the gifts were sign gifts, as we have learned in relation to the gifted person involved, but there is a certain amount of supernatural character about them, a supernatural character that cannot be described in normal, natural terms. So if you will go back to I Corinthians, chapter 12, and notice with me verse 9, you will read the words:

I Corinthians 12:

9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

“To another faith.” This is a gift of the Holy Spirit which I call a supernatural gift. There is a sense in which we all have faith, faith to believe Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. There is a sense in which we can exercise faith in relation to the Word of God, but there is another sense in which individuals have a special gift of faith and because of that gift of faith are able to believe God for things which other people find it difficult to believe Him for. In verse 9, you will notice the Word healing. This describes another supernatural gift. We recognize that God does heal in relation to human effort, and we are grateful that He does. Most of us are healed in that fashion, but there is a healing that is of a supernatural quality that is not related to human effort. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Then you will notice in verse 10, the word miracles or the phrase to another working of miracles. This represents that gift whereby the laws of nature are interrupted and a miracle is performed.

Then in verse 10 of chapter 12, another gift is mentioned and is called the gift of tongues. This is the ability to speak in unknown tongues without the study of a normal language. Another gift closely related to it and must always be recognized with it is the interpretation of tongues for the one gift should not be exercised without the other gift being in evidence. Of course, the interpretation of tongues is a gift of supernatural quality in the sense that the interpretation can be made without knowing the language involved. These gifts we learned last week for the most part are sign gifts as well as supernatural gifts because they did accompany the apostolic ministry, giving an authenticity to the declaration of the apostles involved. These are the three classifications of what we have referred to as the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I would like for us in the time that we have remaining to look at as many of the spiritual gifts as we possibly can. Think what we read in verse 8:

I Corinthians 12:

8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

The Gift Of The Word Of Wisdom

“The word of wisdom.” We must read our Bibles carefully. This does not say that the Holy Spirit gives wisdom. It says the Holy Spirit gives as a gift “the word of wisdom.” There is a difference. There is a sense in which wisdom is available to every child of God for the asking. James, chapter 1, verse 5, tells us:

James 1:

5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Any believer has the right and the privilege to ask God for wisdom any time that he needs it, and God will give that wisdom to him. That is not a gift of wisdom. The gift is the word of wisdom. That is an expression of wisdom—the ability to utter a wise saying not necessarily in the sense of a proverb, but the ability to say that right thing at the right time. The apostles had this wisdom because the Lord Jesus Christ promised that He would give it to them. Turn, please, to Luke, chapter 21, verse 12. The Lord Jesus Christ had been warning these folk of the danger which they would face. In verse 12, He said:

Luke 21:

12But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
13And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
14Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
16And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

Will you notice there in verse 15 again:

Luke 21:

15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

This is a suggestion that the wisdom would be a pronouncement by way of defense, but the authorities would not be able to answer.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to Acts, chapter 6, and recall in Acts, chapter 6, a disputation arose in the early church concerning the distribution of food. Wisdom was needed to know how to handle the problem, so God spoke to the twelve apostles and said that they should select a committee of seven men full of the Holy Spirit—that is, controlled by the Holy Spirit; but if you will look down at verse 3, these individuals controlled by the Holy Spirit should also have the gift of wisdom. If they did not have the gift of wisdom, then they would not be a suitable participant in this committee of seven, for wisdom would be needed for the exercise of their obligations and privileges. If you will glance down at verse 10, you will notice that one of them is mentioned especially and, when he spoke his wisdom, no one was able to resist or withstand the wisdom with which he spoke. In Acts, chapter 6, verse 10, we read:

Acts 6:

10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

Will you turn with me, please, to Paul's letter to the Colossians, chapter 1, where the apostle emphasizes that he had the gift of wisdom and exercised that gift of wisdom in relation to the preaching of the Word. There are any number of people who can stand to their feet and utter a prepared message. It will not necessarily be delivered with wisdom where it can be received and absorbed to the edification of the believers involved. The gift of wisdom is needed for that. The apostle said in verse 28:

Colossians 1:

28Whom we preach,[Of course he was referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.] warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

This can only be done with the gift of wisdom. This is the reason it is possible for individuals to stand and fill the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and nothing ever happens in the lives of those to whom they minister because the truth, (there it is—the truth) though it may be delivered in the words of man's wisdom, is not delivered with the gift of wisdom, and that is not received as it should be.

The Gift Of The Word Of Knowledge

I would suggest to you that in the light of experience, it would be reasonable to assume that this gift, this practical gift of wisdom, for the spiritual welfare of the Church, is in exercise in the Church today. Glance back to I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 8, and you will notice the second gift that we mentioned to you which we referred to as the word of knowledge. Once again, may I suggest that you read your Bible carefully. It does not say that knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Knowledge can be obtained by any sincere person who will study the Word of God. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” Such knowledge is not necessarily the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the word of knowledge, and the two must go together. The expression of knowledge—a revelation which you can express in relation to truth.

There is a good illustration of the gift of knowledge revealed in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 16. We recognize that this passage of Scripture is taken from an era before the Holy Spirit had come and before the gifts were bestowed, but it is an illustration of how the gift of knowledge can be bestowed upon individuals. You will remember in Matthew, chapter 16, the Lord Jesus Christ had asked for a testimony as to Who He was. Different opinions were given, and then in verse 16:

Matthew 16:

16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

The gift of the word of knowledge enables an individual to answer by revelation what needs to be answered.

Turn with me, please, to the Ephesian letter, chapter 3, and notice how the Apostle Paul emphasizes that he had this gift of which we speak today, the word of knowledge . In Ephesians, chapter 3, the apostle said:

Ephesians 3:

1For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3How [notice carefully now] that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

“My knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” the Apostle Paul said, “was given by revelation.” In the early days of the Church, the truth which we have recorded in our Bibles was given by this gift, the word of knowledge . It is possible that God would give this same gift today in relation to the revelation of spiritual truths, but there would be this one safeguard, and that is that revelation would never contradict anything that is already recorded in the written Word of God. God can enable certain individuals to see things in the Word of God that other folk cannot see, even though they have read the same passage over and over again, until it is pointed out to them. It would be reasonable to assume that the individual who is able to express this revelation would have the gift of the word of knowledge. It might be wise for us to recognize that this gift can also be related to events not necessarily connected with spiritual truths, but information which needs to be known for the welfare of the Body of Christ.

In Acts, chapter 5, you will notice the story of Ananias and Sapphira. You will recognize that Barnabas had sold all of his possessions because he thought he was led by the Lord to do so, but there was no command. He was not setting a precedent. This is not a suggestion that his idea should be followed. He sold all of his possessions and gave it into the common treasury of the Church. There was a blessing for him because of it and there was a certain notoriety which he himself did not seek, but which came to him naturally. A man and his wife, Ananias and Sapphira by name, decided that they liked that sort of thing, so they sold their possessions; but they put part of it in the bank and took the rest of the money into the common assembly and laid it at the apostle's feet. They did not say, “We have sold our possessions and have decided to give the Church part of what we have and save the rest for a rainy day.” They said, “We have sold our possessions just like Barnabas did, and here is what we have as a result of it.” You will notice in verse 3, Peter said:

Acts 5:

3But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

God's judgment fell upon Ananias, and he dropped dead. You will recall that the wife, Sapphiara, came in just a little bit later and she had the opportunity of telling the truth if she would, but she did not. Yet Peter, through the gift of the word of knowledge (the revelation of God), was able to know that this individual had lied to the Holy Ghost.

I am not prepared to say that the gift of knowledge as we are speaking of it at this moment is in exercise in the Church today. Certainly I would not claim to have such a gift. I have never met anybody personally who claims to have such a gift. But, in fairness to the discussion, I think it would be wise to recognize that when the gift of the word of knowledge is discussed in the manner in which we are discussing it at the moment, it is often pointed out that F.B. Meyer, one of the greatest preachers who ever walked across the stage of the world, a British preacher, one day stood up in the Congressional Church in London, England, and as he began his message, said, “There is a young man here today who has stolen three pounds from his employer. He is miserable because of it, and he will have no peace until it is returned.”

At the the conclusion of the service, this young man came to him and said, “Sir, how did you know that I took these three pounds? Were you speaking generally?” He said, “Sir, I did not know who did. I was not speaking generally. God laid it upon my heart to make this statement.” Now, anyone who knows F.B. Meyer knows that there is not the faintest thread of his ministry that is related to fanaticism. It is possible in the light of experience for the gift of knowledge as we have described it to be used in the age in which we live today.

An Exhortation

Our time is gone and we will not have time to get into the third gift and do justice to it. We are going to stop our discussion here for the moment, but with this one exhortation. We have gone over all of the practical gifts. We have not explained them, but we have gone over them so that you know what they are and you sure should be examining your own life to see if you have one or more of these gifts because, as I have emphasized to you, the Bible very plainly says that every child of God has at least one gift. When you discover the gift which you have, you should be encouraged to follow the exhortation recorded in I Peter. This exhortation could follow every message that we bring on the gifts of the Spirit because it is a needed exhortation:

I Peter 4:

10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.


Discover the gift the Holy Spirit has been pleased to bestow upon you, and then exercise that gift for the glory of our God.

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