The Sign or Supernatural Gifts
Dr. Joe Temple


For quite some time we have been discussing the question: “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” We discovered that the answer could be found in a twofold way. There are individuals known as gifted persons, and then there are what we referred to as practical gifts—gifts given by the Holy Spirit to certain individuals. As we looked at the list found in I Corinthians, chapter 12, and the list found in Romans, chapter 12, we discovered that when we include one gift with another and make allowances for repetition, there are something like fifteen gifts of the Holy Spirit which are bestowed upon individuals.

For ease in discussion, we divided fifteen gifts of the Holy Spirit into three sections. We referred to spiritual gifts that were used in relation to the spiritual welfare of the Body of Christ. Then we talked to you about service gifts, those gifts which were used in a plain, practical way for the furtherance of the ministry of the Body of Christ. They may have had a spiritual note to them; they may not have had a spiritual note to them. They might have been nothing more glamorous than washing dishes for a person, but a person could have the gift of ministry in this respect.

Today, we come to a discussion of the third division of the fifteen gifts. We referred to them as sign or supernatural gifts. We refer to these gifts as sign gifts because some Bible scholars feel that they were given as a proof of the authenticity of the Apostolic Church, a proof of the authenticity of the Apostolic ministry before the Word of God was the completed revelation as we have it today. As sign gifts, you can understand why we would refer to them in that fashion.

We use the word supernatural because the sign gifts, as well as the other gifts listed in this particular discussion, had a supernatural element about them and a supernatural characteristic which could not be duplicated by human effort. That is the reason we have grouped them together in the manner in which we have.

Notice in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 7:

I Corinthians 12:

7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

Or for the profit of the entire Body of Christ. The gifts were not given to bring special acclaim to the individuals, nor were they given for selfish uses, but they were given for the profit of the Body of Christ.

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;
9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

The last verse emphasizes that it is the sovereign right of the Holy Spirit to give the gifts to whomsoever He will. The list of gifts which we have read in your hearing today includes more than the sign gifts or the supernatural gifts, so-called. let me point them out to you even though we will not be thinking about all of them today.

The gift of faith in verse 9 is one of our supernatural gifts. Also the gift of healing in verse 9, the gift of the working of miracles in verse 10, the gift of tongues in verse 10, and the gift of the interpretation of tongues in verse 10—all represent the sign gifts or the supernatural gifts which are bestowed upon the Church by the Holy Spirit.

The Gift Of Faith

The thing that we want to consider with you today is the first one in the list, not that it is any more important than the others, but it happens to come first. We refer to the gift of faith. As we consider the gift of faith, we must recognize, and we must recognize immediately, that the Bible speaks of three kinds of true faith other than the general body of truth which was delivered to the Church.

For example, the Bible speaks of a false faith that does not come into our discussion. The Bible speaks of a faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints. That represents doctrine. That does not come into our discussion today. The Bible speaks then of three kinds of true faith.

The first kind of true faith that is mentioned in the Word of God is the faith by which we are all saved. The second kind of faith mentioned in the Word of God is the faith by which we all as Christians live. The third kind of faith mentioned in the Bible is the faith known as the gift of faith, which is bestowed upon the individual by the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit wills to bestow it.

If we do not make these distinctions that I have suggested to you, then there will be no end to the confusion in our discussion, and we want to avoid that confusion because we must assume that everybody is not as well taught as everybody else. That would be a logical assumption because everybody has not been able to sit under the ministry of the Word, and everybody has not had as free access to the Word as others have had. If we assume that everybody knows absolutely nothing about the subject that we are discussing, then we will be able to present information to clarify questions for all concerned.

The Faith Which Saves

Turn in your Bibles with me to Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, as I introduce to you a passage of Scripture which presents to us the first kind of faith mentioned—namely, the faith which saves. We read:

Ephesians 2:

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Notice the simplicity of the Word, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This passage of Scripture puts it as plainly and as simply as it might be put. You are not saved by anything that you have done. You are not saved by anything that you are doing. You are not saved by anything that you will do. You are simply saved by faith through grace, and even that is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.

There is a discussion among theologians from a grammatical standpoint in the original text whether the words that not of yourselves refer to faith or to the entire act of saving. There are some Bible scholars who feel that the phrase refers to the faith, that even the faith to which you believe is not of yourselves. Others feel that this would not be a correct interpretation because of the gender of the the various words in the original text. They feel that it is the entire act which is not of yourself; that is, salvation by grace through faith is the gift of God and not just the faith.

I mentioned the controversy because you may run across it in your reading and you may wonder. Actually, it has very little bearing on our discussion today because the emphasis is whether it be placed upon the Word or whether it be placed upon faith through grace. It emphasizes the fact that this faith which saves is the gift of God. So no one individual needs to go about saying, “I would like to be saved, but I don't have faith enough to be saved.” No one individual needs to go about saying, “I have thought for a long time that I was a Christian, but I am wondering now.” Why are you wondering? “Well, I am just wondering if I really believed when I was saved. I wonder if I believed hard enough. I wonder if I believed full enough.” There are many discussions which come forth. We emphasize to you that there is no comparison to faith. You are saved by faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God.

I would like for you to turn with me in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 10, as I emphasize to you if you are wondering if this faith might be something unusual, something hard to obtain, something for which you might strive, your feelings along that line should cease. The Apostle Paul, quoting from Moses in the book of Deuteronomy in relation to the difficulty of keeping the law, said that that is not true in relation to being saved by faith. He said it is not necessary for you to ascend into Heaven. It is not necessary for you to descend into the depths. It is not necessary for you to do some great and some unusual thing. The Scripture says it isn't necessary. What does the Scripture say in verse 8? Notice:

Romans 10:

8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

It's not difficult to be saved. You are saved through faith. You don't have to do something unusual to get that faith. That faith is nigh thee. It is as close to you as your heart. It is as close to you as your lips. Then he goes on to explain what he means by that in verses 9-10, when he said:

Romans 10:

9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Verse 9 gives the act. Verse 10 gives the order in which it occurs. The individual believes with his heart, and then he makes confession with his lips that the Lord Jesus Christ is his Savior. This faith, you see, is as close to you as your heart. It is as close to you as your lips. All you need to do is exercise it.

A question that could well be asked is, “But where does this kind of faith come from? If God does give it, how does God give it? Does God just drop it down into your heart, so to speak, like some fresh pearl out of Heaven?” No. It comes to you in a very practical way, and it can come in no other way than this. If you will glance down at verse 17 of this same chapter, we read:

Romans 10:

17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

”Faith Cometh By Hearing”

Hearing the message of God. How is your faith engendered? It is engendered by the Word of God being presented. It is absolutely foolish for an individual to try to win a man to Christ by simply walking up to him and saying to him, “How would you like to accept Jesus as your Savior?” Or walk up to him and ask him the question, “Are you saved?” If you ask such a question of such a person who has never sat under the Word of God, you might get as foolish an answer as I got in the early days of my ministry before I realized that it was necessary for the Word of God to bring conviction to the heart of men. I asked a person one time, “Are you saved?” He said, “I didn't know that I was lost. What are you talking about? This is such-and-such a street and that is where I am going. Are you lost?” They had no idea what I was talking about. It is the Word that brings conviction. It is the Word which brings faith. Thank God faith comes by hearing God. But it might be wise for you to check in your minds the warning given in Hebrews, chapter 4, where we read:

Hebrews 4:

1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

You see, there was a group of people in Old Testament days who heard the Word preached by Old Testament prophets, but it did not avail them anything because they did not mix the Word which they heard with faith. Do not think today that you have not mixed it with enough faith. It is as simple as your believing it, and the faith of your believing will cause you to be saved.

Turn back with me, please, to the Ephesian letter as I give to you what I believe is the simplest process of the approach to salvation found in the Word of God. I hesitate to use the word steps for salvation because some of our friends have numbered steps, four steps, five steps, six steps, that are necessary for salvation. We would not want you to think that we are thinking along that line, but if you will notice in Ephesians, chapter 1, the words which are found in verse 13, you will have what we might term the procedure for want of a better word:

Ephesians 1:

13In whom [the Lord Jesus Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Notice the manner in which the procedure is mentioned. We are told in verse 13 that these individuals placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is, they received Him as their Savior. They committed their life to Him. They accepted Him. Whatever word or phrase you want to use, they trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. But how did they come to do that? Well, they heard the Word of truth, but what phrase of the Word of truth did they hear? The Spirit of God is very specific: the Gospel of their salvation, the good news that Christ died for them, the good news that salvation was theirs. Immediately after they believed—that is, after they trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior—they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. So the procedure is that simple. You hear the Word of truth, the word concerning your salvation, that Christ died for your sins according to the Scripture. You believe it, and when you believe it, you place your faith and your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; and immediately you are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.

The word sealed here should be interpreted in the light of the manner in which it was used in the day that Paul used it. He was thinking of the Roman seal which guaranteed the delivery of the subject under consideration. He used the word seal . The Roman seal was used indicating ownership, official ownership by a seal of authority, which seal dare not and could not be broken. So, I suggest to you today, as we consider the subject of the gift of faith, we recognize that before we think about the gift of faith, we must think about the faith by which men are saved. It has absolutely nothing to do with the gift of faith, for there are many of God's dear children who can give you a glorious testimony of God's redeeming grace in their lives and do not have the gift of faith.

Faith By Which We Live

The second kind of faith we said was involved in our discussion is the faith by which we live. Turn in your Bibles, please, to Galatians, chapter 2, and notice verse 20. There are many references to which we might turn, but this is explicit, I think. Notice:

Galatians 2:

20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Keep in mind that when God, in His mercy and in His grace saved you, He does not set you to running and leave you alone, much as you might wind up a little toy in a little automobile and put it on the floor and let it run where it would and let it run down. God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, dwells within you and causes you to have a resource upon which you can draw that no unsaved person has access to. It is the faith which is in Jesus Christ because that is the literal meaning of the statement: “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” I live by my faith which is in the Son of God.

This faith of which we speak is even different from the faith that saved in that it is a faith which is produced in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit. Notice with me, please, Galatians, chapter 5, and notice down in verse 22, the fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Notice that in this cluster of fruit which is produced in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit is the word faith. I don't know how many times when I have been witnessing to individuals, attempting to lead them to a decision for Jesus Christ, they have said to me, “Well, I would like to do this thing. I know I should, but I don't know whether I will be able to hold out or not. I don't know whether I will be able to make it or not.” What they mean is they don't know whether they will be able to live a life that is consistent with the testimony of which they would give upon being saved. I have oftentimes told them that they were exactly right, that they would wonder if they could hold out. I can tell them they can't hold out. They may wonder if they could make it. I can tell them they can't make it. They don't need to wonder about it. They don't need to be puzzled about it. They can't hold out, and they can't make it, but they can through faith which is in Jesus Christ which will be produced by the Holy Spirit in every believing life.

A Faith Which Fluctuates

Where the individual walks in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit produces faith and that faith is the faith by which we live. We might say to you that this faith is not a constant thing. It is a faith which fluctuates. There are days when you will have greater faith than other days or perhaps I should say faith in a greater degree than other days. There will be periods in your life of longer than days or months or perhaps extending into years when you could speak of a time when you really could believe God, but you find it very difficult to believe Him. The reason that faith fluctuates, the reason that faith does not remain the same, is that faith is proven. God says so in His Word.

Turn, please, to I Peter, chapter 1, as I remind you of one among many passages of Scripture that the faith which is produced in your heart by the Holy Spirit is put to the test in order that it might be proven and tested, in order that it might grow and mature, in order that you might have the kind of faith that you will need when a real emergency arises. You may be going through a particular emergency at the moment, and your faith may be sorely tried; and you may say to yourself that this is a trial I do not believe I can go through and come out victoriously, but you do. Then you wondered why God permitted such a trial as that. I will tell you why. Down along the road, further on, there is a greater trial. You may not want to hear that this morning. You might feel better if I did not even tell you that, but let me say that if you think it is difficult for you now, there will come a greater trial down along the way. God is preparing you for that greater trial by purifying your faith, by burning all of the impurities out of it through the test of fire which He calls upon you to go. This is brought before us very plainly in verse 7, where we read:

I Peter 1:

7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Then down in verse 21:

I Peter 1:

21Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

The reason that God led you through the testing of trials is to be sure that your faith is on the firm foundation. Sometimes the reason God takes away from you some individual, a personality, a living human being upon whom you have learned to lean, in whom you trust, is so that your faith and your hope might be in God. As long as that certain individual was around, you would lean on him or her and never learn to lean upon God. That individual will not always be around, so he must be removed so that you can lean on God. This does not suggest that you should not have close friends, and this does not suggest that you should not have people in whom you have confidence; but it does suggest to you that your faith and your hope must be in God, for that is the solid foundation.

I can say one encouraging thing to you about faith which fluctuates. That is that faith can be bolstered by prayer. If you will turn, please, in your Bible to Luke, chapter 22, you will recognize when you get to this portion of the Word of God a very interesting experience in the life of the Apostle Peter related to the subject that we are talking about, fluctuating faith . The Apostle Peter seemed to have more faith than most of the disciples. Certainly he was more volatile than the others. He was quick to make the statements without fear of contradiction. In Luke, chapter 22, verse 31, we read:

Luke 22:

31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

The word converted here does not refer to his salvation. He was already a saved man. It refers to this experience through which God was going to bring him, and the Lord Jesus Christ said, “When you have come through this experience, then you will be able to strengthen your brethren in relation to this fluctuating faith which we all have.”

I wonder today if you have stopped to consider that the reason that you are having the difficult time that you are having at the moment is that Satan has asked for you that he might sift you as wheat and God has said to Satan, “All right, you may have him. You may sift him, but you can't go any further than I tell you to go.” If you were quiet enough before the Lord instead of fretting, fuming, and wondering why this had to happen to you, if you are quiet enough before the Lord, you might hear the Lord whisper to you, “Satan has desired to have you. That's the reason for this test. Don't worry I have prayed for you and I am praying for you that your faith fail not.”

Beloved, let me emphasize something today. If the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for Peter that his faith fail not, would it not follow that there is a wide ministry for all of us? Do you see people fluctuating in their Christian experiences? Do you see them up and down? Do you see them one moment victorious and the next moment defeated? Do you see them going through a tremendous test? What is your reaction to that? You find some quiet place that you can get alone with God and pray for them and say in so many words, “Oh God, please, don't let their faith fail. Don't let their faith falter in this important moment.” You see, many individuals might have their eyes on a certain person who is being so tested and if his faith fails, the individuals who have their eyes on them will be hurt almost irreparably. I wonder if, in place of criticism to which we are all so prone, we spent the time in prayer that perhaps the individuals who are doing things that we don't approve of may be doing them because they are going through a special testing time. They may be doing them because Satan has desired to have them that he might sift them as wheat. Instead of criticizing them, instead of talking about it, I wonder if we wouldn't do better to get alone with God and pray that their faith would not fail.

Stop Struggling And Start Trusting

Are you a Christian today who is enjoying the faith which saves? Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? If you have not, let me remind you today that the Word is nigh even in thy heart and in thy mouth. Are you a Christian today who is trying to live by his own effort without realizing that the Holy Spirit has made possible this channel through which He can work, the faith which He bestows upon you by Himself? If what you are doing you have been trying to do in your own effort, why don't you quit it today? Why don't you stop? Why don't you stop struggling and start trusting?

Years ago, I had many conferences with an alcoholic. The man is with the Lord now. Each day that he went without something to drink he thought was a tremendous victory. It touches my heart as I think about it because you who have never been faced with this problem have no idea the battle that people go through. I stayed in a hotel room with this man for two solid days to try to help him. I would give him a little bit to drink because he was in such physical condition it was an absolute necessity. It would be down just a few seconds and he would go to the bathroom and if you will pardon the expression, he would upchuck his toenails, and in two more minutes he would come back for more. This was the struggle he went through. Each day after that was a victory for him, but one day he came into my office thoroughly defeated. He said, “It's no use. I have tried and I have struggled and I have worked, but it is no use.” I said to him this and I believe the Lord gave it to me because I was at my wits' end. I had done everything. Oh, yes, he was a Christian. You say that a Christian has that kind of problem? Yes, but I said to him, “Harry, why don't you stop struggling and start trusting?” I said the same thing to him many times before some way or other, but never quite that way. “Why don't you stop struggling and start trusting?” You know what he said? “Thank you, Joe, and thank God,” and he walked out the office door. I saw him many times after that. He lived a long time, and every time he would see me he would say, “I haven't had another drink, but it is not a struggle now. It's just trusting.”

You may have another problem. Let me remind you that the Holy Spirit produces faith in your heart, so stop struggling. Start trusting, and see what God can do through this faith that He gives.

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