Let's turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Let's pray: Father, we want to thank You tonight for Your goodness. Lord, You are - You're good! The Lord is good, His mercy endures forever. Let's just say that: 'The Lord is good, His mercy endures forever'. Lord, what does 'forever' mean, only forever? You're good forever, and Your mercy is forever. We thank You that we come to a God tonight who never ends in mercy and goodness. Lord, Your goodness knows no bounds, it is beyond our comprehension. When we look at Jesus, we realise how good You are. Lord, we just pray for the Spirit of God, Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, to come and reveal Christ to us by the power of the Spirit tonight. We need help in understanding Your word, some of these things are difficult. We just pray that You will come, open our eyes of understanding that we may be enlightened. Lord, we just need You to minister in a very deep way to all our hearts. We pray, Lord, that we will not be talking about You, tonight, and Your Holy Spirit, but actually meet You, and we will experience what it is to be moving under the anointing of the Spirit, and to experience even these gifts of the Spirit in our midst. Lord, I have no plan for tonight, so we just turn it over to You - and whatever You want to do, Lord, we surrender to You. So we wait upon You now in the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray - everybody said 'Amen'.
Now, I hope you've got your fingers with you, because you'll be needing them! We're going to be looking at a lot of scriptures tonight, it's a Bible study, isn't it? So we want to study the word of God, and make sure that we lay a biblical foundation. We could launch into this from a thematic perspective alone, because a lot of you are already on the same page, I think, regarding whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today - that's what we looked at specifically last week. But it's important that we lay a biblical foundation for everything that we're saying. Tonight we're going to be looking specifically at three gifts of the Spirit, we'll do another three next week, and - God willing, if you still stick with me to the end - we'll do the last three, there are nine mentioned here, we'll do the last three the final night.
So tonight we're looking - and they're not all in order, but I'm clumping them together as I see fit - the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. OK, so let's look at chapter 12, we're going to read down at least to verse 11 to begin with. Paul writes to the church at Corinth: "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed", or 'anathema' is the word, "and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" - you know that, don't you? No one can come to faith in Christ except through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills".
Now we touched on this a little bit last week, that Paul - as he writes to the church at Corinth, which were a very charismatic church, but we saw also a problematic church in their execution of these gifts of the Spirit - he writes to clear up a few things. Now we see right at the very beginning of this chapter in verse 2: 'You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led'. First of all, Paul wants to clear up the inherited confusion from their pagan backgrounds - their inherited confusion from their pagan backgrounds. In fact, when you look at verse 1, 'Now concerning spiritual gifts' - who in their translation of the Bible, whatever your translation is, who has the word 'gifts' in italics? Put your hand up if the word 'gifts' is in italics - well, it should really be in italics, the reason being: that word is added by the translators. Now, it should be there in the sense that it does give us an understanding of what Paul is talking about, but really as you would be reading it literally in the Greek, it would be 'Now concerning spirituals', 'Now concerning spirituals'. You could translate it 'concerning spiritual things', or 'spiritual phenomena'.
So there is a very generic term being used about spiritual stuff, Paul is saying 'Concerning spirituals, I don't want you to be ignorant. You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to dumb idols, however you were led'. So they had a pagan background in spiritual things, this wasn't new to them. It's a bit like missionaries that go to the East now, or to parts of the world that are animistic where they are engaging in idol worship. You see last week? We wouldn't have to do last week for them - you know, 'Do spiritual things exist in the world today, whether for good or evil?'. They are already sold on that, they believe all that, because they've grown up in an environment where the spiritual realm is very real to them. These guys were the same in Corinth, and Paul is coming and saying: 'Concerning spirituals, spiritual things, you know that you were led to dumb idols'. Now 'dumb' doesn't mean 'duh', 'thick', it means 'dumb' as in 'mute'. 'These gods that you used to worship don't speak', but our God is the God who is, as Francis Schaeffer said, and is not silent. Our God is the God who speaks - I hope you believe that! He speaks today, as He always did speak - now, of course, let me say this, we'll maybe go into this further in subsequent studies, the primary way He speaks is through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the written word of God. Nobody is in any way casting doubt on that to any degree, yet the very book that we celebrate, the written word of God, is what teaches us that God can speak in many and varied ways, including through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So we revere the Bible, and if we believe it's our foundation we have to agree with what it teaches, and it teaches that once, perhaps in our past, we may have worshipped gods that didn't speak, but we have a God who reveals mysteries from heaven. He speaks with the voice that wakes the dead.
Just to apply this to us today, really, what we take out of verse 1 and verse 2 is that we need to all be aware of our backgrounds. That could apply to the teaching that we have imbibed over the years, even since we have become Christians; we need to also be aware of the experience that we have in our past concerning spiritual things, and how those can relate and bear upon our understanding of spiritual gifts. Yes? For instance, most people in the West have a materialistic background, and that simply means that you have been educated and our culture is such that it is materialistic - i.e. that generally it only considers things to be real if you can see them, if you can touch them, if you can taste them, if the senses can engage with them. So the whole realm of the invisible and the spiritual dimension is not considered real, it's fantasy - that's perhaps our background. Of course, the background of the pagan folk that Paul was writing to, they were probably more superstitious - and you get that as well, where everything is spiritual, you know, nothing can happen that isn't of some spiritual significance, and that's where often you can get into the whole area of divination and getting some kind of 'will of God', or 'the gods', through what is going to happen, even through your tea leaves! Superstition can come through that vein. What Paul is saying is that we have to realise that all of us, no matter how neutral we think we are, all of us have got backgrounds of teaching or experience, good or bad, that have affected how we consider spiritual gifts.
Paul is wanting to establish a broad principle of how to discern spiritual things, how to discern whether something spiritual is of God or not. So he gives us that litmus test in verse 3, you would do well to learn this verse: 'Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed'. Now that should be elementary and obvious to us all, nobody should stand up and say 'Jesus Christ is anathema, cursed of God', that obviously is not from God, is it? No one does that by the Spirit of God, no matter what they claim to have experienced themselves. Equally, the converse of that, 'No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit'. Now that's very specific, but really what you're getting is a broad principle of how to discern spiritual things, and it all comes down to this: does this, what I am witnessing or partaking of or party to, does it glorify the real Jesus? Is it glorifying Jesus, but the real Jesus that we find manifest in flesh on the earth and in the Holy Scripture testified to - because, of course, that's what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do. In John 15 and John 16, 'He will testify of Me, He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you'.
So, if you want to know if something is really of God, or if spiritual gifts are genuine: they will promote not the Holy Spirit as such, or not the person engaging in the gifts, but they will primarily glorify Jesus Christ. True ministry of the Spirit, to put it another way, will be according to the nature of Jesus. Let me repeat that: true ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, will be according to the nature of Jesus. If it doesn't smell, taste, look like Jesus, it's probably not from Jesus. Verse 3 also would instruct us to not get so obsessed with the gifts that we forget about the Giver. We saw last week in Ephesians 4 that there are the gifts of Christ to the church - apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, teachers - those gifts are people, and I omitted to say to you last week that character is vital for those gifts, because those gifts are people. Do you understand? It's important for apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, teachers to be of a certain character. You go to the pastoral epistles, and you find out the type of people that we're meant to be if we are in any of those categories. Those are the gifts of Christ to the church, but the gifts of the Spirit, by the way, and this is interesting, don't require character. I'm not saying character isn't important, in fact you want to develop your character if you've got gifts. Part of the problem when gifts are abused in the church, in Corinth or modern day Christendom, is when people are operating in gifts, but don't have the character to match their gifts. But the reason why that can actually exist is because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, they are irrevocable - that means, if God gives gifts, He doesn't necessarily take them back if you mess up. So you could be living in adultery and still operating in spiritual gifts. You could be leading thousands of people to Jesus, but living in sin. You could be engaging in a prophetic ministry, as some people have done, and their life is an absolute mess - they are alcoholics, or living in sexual immorality. This is the reason for this. You might say: 'Well, that doesn't seem right'. Well, if God was waiting for us to be perfect in order to have these gifts, none of us would get them - do you understand?
So we need to recognise that it's about the Giver and not the gifts. We need to glorify the Lord Jesus. So Paul intended to clear up inherited confusion from their pagan background, but I want you to see in verses 4 through to 7: he also wanted to clear up confusion caused by Corinthian disorder, the disorder that was actually going on within this fellowship as they were exercising these gifts. We saw last week that there was a bit of a competitiveness going on, some of them were wanting to be heard over one another - that's why Paul says 'Let only two or three of you speak, one after the other, and there has to be interpretation with tongues'. There was resentment, it would seem, and there seemed to be jealousy among them as to: 'Oh, I don't have the gift he has or she has, and I want that'. Paul is coming in to emphasise, and you've seen this repeated in our reading tonight: it's the same Spirit, it's not about you as individuals, it's about the same Spirit that all of you are operating with - the same Spirit, the same Lord. Look at verse 7, because this is a key verse in the passage, 'But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all'.
Listen carefully to what I'm going to say: 'charisma' or 'charism' - 'charis' is the Greek word for 'grace', these are 'grace gifts' - they are given by God's grace. Romans 12 verse 6 puts it like this: 'Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith' - so it's given to us by grace, yes? So you can't be jealous of what somebody else has, because God has given it to them. They have been given a certain grace to minister in that gift, and they have to minister through faith in it; and you've been given a certain grace and gifts to minister a particular way, and you have to minister by faith through it - but it's the same Spirit that gives the grace, it's the same Lord that has gifted it to you. We're not meant to be jealous of each other! We are actually in one body - it's like your head being jealous of your feet, or vice versa, it's ridiculous! This is why Paul is saying: 'Why are you split up like this in division?'. Verse 7: 'works all in all... for the profit of all', look at verse 11, it's the same idea, 'one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills' - He's in charge! So this is not about selfish enjoyment, do you understand?
Now, don't misinterpret what I'm saying, there is a certain satisfaction and pleasure that you get when you're ministering in the Spirit, and doing the will of God, and being fulfilled in the ministry that God has given you. We're not saying that it's got to be hard and excruciatingly difficult, we're not saying that; but we're saying that the chief objective is not so that you get a kick out of it, or people see how wonderful you are - but God has intended that it should not be selfish enjoyment, but for the profit of all. A key word that we will see as we go through these weeks, particularly in chapter 14, is the word 'edification'; that the gifts of the Spirit are for 'edification'. A very basic understanding of the word 'edification' is 'to build up' - they are here to build up the church.
So, to summarise: a worship gathering should lift up the Lord, build up the saints, but not puff up individuals. Did you get that? Lift up the Lord, build up the saints, but not puff up the participants. Yet, there was division in this body. Now, we know there was division from the get-go, if you go to chapter 1 you see that - we'll maybe not read it, but you'll see it there - verse 10: 'I plead with you... that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment'. He goes on to say how he has had reports that there are contentions and divisions among them, some are saying 'I am of Paul', 'I am of Apollos', 'I am of Cephas', 'I am of Christ', and so there is this party, sectarian spirit that has come in. But now, as we come to the portion to do with the gifts of the Spirit, we see that these supernatural giftings are actually - rather than bringing unity - are fuelling division among them, because they're becoming jealous of one another.
So Paul uses the body analogy. He's basically saying that if the members of our body declare independence, we are in big trouble. So, if my leg decides to become independent of the rest of my body, I'm going to be double-minded and going in two different directions, yes? If an organ in my body decides to declare independence, it's going to die, isn't that correct? That's exactly what was happening in this body. Division in the body causes weakness and pain; when, in fact, these gifts were for the purpose of unity and health. So gifts - and this is fundamental, before we get into the nitty-gritty of what they're all about - gifts are not to set you apart for adulation, but gifts are to build one another up and unify us, because we're all part of one body. Look at verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 12: 'For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many'.
Now we're getting to the fundamental level of the operation of spiritual gifts is for edification, and therefore the motivation - the motivation - of the operation of these gifts must be love. Love for Jesus, who is the Body; and love for the members of the body, one another - that has got to be the motivation in seeking the gifts of the Spirit, and using the gifts of the Spirit. Let me remind you, because it is fundamental, of chapter 13 - sandwiched in here between these two technical chapters to do with the gifts of the Spirit, particularly tongues in chapter 14 and prophecy - right in the middle you've got this purple passage on love. Verse 1: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels', that's the gift of tongues, 'but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy', self-explanatory, 'and understand all mysteries', that's wisdom and knowledge, 'and all knowledge, and though I have all faith', the gift of faith, 'so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing'. Do you understand? Love must be the law by which these gifts operate, love lasts - isn't that what the end of chapter 13 says? Look at the end of it: 'And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love'. Love lasts, and whatever love does will last.
Now we're not to fall into the trap of saying: 'Well, there you go, I just put all this 'gifts of the Spirit' stuff on the shelf, because the most important thing is love'. We saw this last week, you know, where some people will pitch the fruit of the Spirit against the gifts of the Spirit - but no, no, no, that's not the biblical balance. Both-and are necessary, look at verse 1 of chapter 14: 'Pursue love', the more excellent way is love, 'Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy'. So it's not either-or, it's both-and.
Now you may have picked up verse 13 of chapter 12, and I don't want to look as if I'm ignoring it, where it says: 'By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body'. There is a difference of opinion on the doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit, and I'm not going to enter into this - I have my own thoughts on it, but I don't want to enter into it tonight. But I will say this much: whatever your view on the baptism of the Spirit is, whether you believe you're baptised into Christ in the Spirit when you're converted, or whether it's a subsequent experience later on - you might call it by another name, 'the fullness of the Spirit', or 'the sealing of the Spirit', or 'the baptism of the Spirit' - I particularly take Billy Graham's advice on it when he said: 'I don't care what you call it, just get it!'. Yes? Amen? So let's not get into semantics and miss the whole point of the power that we need to live the Christian life. I think the point of verse 13, whatever the doctrine is that we take out of it, is the commonality of the Spirit's immersion of every New Testament believer: that is normal Christianity. That's what they operated under in the Acts of the Apostles, and that's what we are meant to drink from - we're all drinking into one Spirit, the verse says, we're all consuming that one Substance. But I will say this: whatever your view on the baptism of the Spirit is, it doesn't change the facts of these gifts of the Spirit. They don't just all of a sudden fall off the radar if you take a different view of the baptism of the Spirit, they're still here, we've still got to deal with them - what are they?
Let me say - before I launch into the specifics tonight of the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits - that, for some of the gifts of the Spirit, particularly the ones we're going to look at tonight, they are only mentioned once, and they are only mentioned in this passage. So I think we have to be careful when we're interpreting things that are only mentioned once within Scripture. There are, even among those who believe in the gifts of the Spirit, differences of opinion to some degree in how we interpret these gifts. For instance, some see the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge as not miraculous gifts - I'm not saying not supernatural, they are supernatural, but not miraculous; in the sense that God is supernaturally enhancing the knowledge that we have, or the wisdom that we have. They believe that a lot of what is spoken of as words of wisdom and words of knowledge, and claimed to be today, is in fact the gift of prophecy.
Now I'm only saying that because there can be a bit of confusion about these issues that we're going to look at tonight, particularly the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. But I found it very helpful, something that Derek Prince said, he said: 'Beware of drawing hard fast lines between these gifts'. You remember I mentioned this last week? I don't think these nine gifts of the Spirit are nine specific gifts that start and finish with this list. I believe the spectrum is far greater in the gifts of the Spirit, these are general pinpoints if you like of the kind of gifts that God's Spirit gives. He would agree with that, and says: 'Beware of drawing hard fast lines between these. They are like the colours of the rainbow - violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red - it's easy to discern the different colours in a rainbow, but there is not one single point where you can say, for example, 'Violet ends and indigo begins', or 'Indigo ends and blue begins'' - isn't that right? They blend into one another, they are there, but they blend - therefore, we can't always say often 'That's where word of knowledge ends and that's where word of wisdom begins'. There will be times when you might wonder: 'Now, was that a word of knowledge, or a word of wisdom, or a word of prophecy?'. I'm just saying: but don't worry about that - and this is the reason why I'm saying don't worry, because it's all the one and the same Spirit - yes? As long as it's from God, it's not that important to have to categorise and put a label on everything. We are obsessed with that! These are just general descriptions of the 'spirituals', plural, the 'spirituals' - what happens when God's Holy Spirit starts to work and manifest in His operations within the church. So let's not get hung up on terminology, but let's try to recognise biblically what these might look like. OK?
So let's look first of all at 'the word of knowledge'. Now, very simply, the word of knowledge is a small part of God's total knowledge - yes? He's all-knowing, you know that, don't you? Omnipotent. This is just a small part of His knowledge that is supernaturally imparted to us as human beings by the Holy Spirit. So - this is my conviction anyway - when we're talking about the word of knowledge, we're not talking about natural reasoning, it's got nothing to do with your education or any training or experience that you've had. It's under God's control, where He gives you a gift of a knowledge about something supernaturally. It's a bit different from the word of wisdom, as we will see later on - sometimes they're very hard to differentiate - but, if you like, a word of knowledge gives facts, whereas a word of wisdom shows us what to do with those facts. So knowledge equates to facts; wisdom, what to do with the facts.
So let's look biblically at where we can find this, and this is where you need your fingers now, OK? So the first one we want to look at is Jesus, He's the perfect example, isn't He? Before we go on to that, let me just pause for a moment, because I hope you understand this: Jesus was God, yes, He is God, He always shall be God, we believe that; incarnate Deity. Yet Philippians 2 teaches us that when He came into the world, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God - He thought it not something to be grasped at, to use His divine attributes. In other words, He wasn't walking around on the earth like God, He was walking around on the earth like man. He was God, but He didn't pull in His Divine power and attributes to do certain things, we believe He laid those voluntarily aside in order to live totally dependent, as the Son of God, upon Father God. Now that's very important, because a lot of people, when they see Jesus doing wonderful things in the Gospels, they automatically think: 'Well, that's because He was God', or 'that's His Deity'. Now some were signs of His Deity, but generally speaking He was doing what He was doing by faith in the Father. John 5 says He only did what He saw the Father do. He didn't go off on His own volition to do certain things because He was God, He only did what He saw the Father do - so He was listening for the Father's voice.
So He is a perfect example, isn't that right? He said in John 14:12, I quoted it last week: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, that he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. So what's the pattern of the word of knowledge in the life of Jesus? Well, turn to John chapter 1, and we see it in Nathanael's experience. John chapter 1, Nathanael, some of you will know this passage, others won't be familiar, but you'll get the gist of what we're teaching - verse 47: 'Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!''. OK, so He's looking as if right into his heart, an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. 'Nathanael said to Him, 'How do You know me?'. Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you'. Nathanael answered and said to Him, 'Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!''.
Now we see right away that this word of knowledge, it produced conviction in Nathanael, and you will see that this is a common fruit of the word of knowledge. People fall before the revelation that the Holy Spirit is giving of themselves, and they are convicted by it. We see it again in Jesus in John chapter 4, a few more chapters, the woman at the well - you remember this one, the Samaritan woman? In verse 15 Jesus has been talking about water that she should drink of, and she will never thirst again; and in verse 15 'The woman said to Him, 'Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw'. Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come here'. The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband'. Jesus said to her, 'You have well said, 'I have no husband', for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly'. The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet''. That was effectively a word of knowledge, wasn't it? Again, what did it bring? When Jesus said 'You said right that you have no husband, you've had five and you're living with a fellow', it brought conviction to this woman: 'I perceive You are a prophet'. It brings a person - it happened with Nathanael, it happened with the woman at the well - it brings them from the natural to the supernatural. Do you understand? One moment Nathaniel says: 'How do You know me?'; she thinks she's wiping Jesus' eye by saying 'I have no husband', but in that moment of revelation all of a sudden the power of the Holy Spirit, as it were, the conviction of the other world comes upon that individual.
If you go to Acts chapter 5, it's not just reserved to Jesus of course, Acts chapter 5 - you see Peter with Ananias and Sapphira. You know the story? Verse 1: 'But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart'' - did you know that Satan can fill the heart of a Christian? I'm just throwing that in in passing. Some of you have read that for years, and you've never actually come to terms with how Satan can fill our hearts when we give ground to him. They kept back some of this money: 'Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own?' - it was theirs to do with as they pleased, but they lied by making out that they gave everything to God, when they kept back some of the money. It wasn't that they didn't give everything to God that was the problem, it was what they told the church they were doing and they didn't do. 'After it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God' - and, of course, they both subsequently fell down dead in the presence of God as a judgement that brought fear upon all the church. But Peter had a word of knowledge - it wasn't that somebody slipped him a note, you know, in the wee back room, to say 'Ananias and Sapphira have been thieving'. It was the Holy Spirit gave him this word, and look at the result: a supernatural intervention and great fear coming upon the whole church at that time.
See, this is teaching us, isn't it, what Hebrews chapter 4 verse 13 declares: 'There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account'. So when a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom comes forth in the body of Christ, it is showing us that God knows, God sees, His eyes run throughout the earth going to and fro. You can't hide from God. Is there somebody in the meeting tonight, and you are hiding from God - now, you're being ridiculous, and you probably know that, but if I was to say to you tonight (generally this is not the way it works): 'God could out you, God could'. That's not generally the way those gifts are used, I just want to emphasise that, but here in Acts chapter 5 - it's just to let you know that God knows, to mark your card and let you know: you might be hiding from your wife, you might be hiding from your kids, but God knows.
If you come to Acts chapter 10, you see it again in the life of Peter, this time in the house of Cornelius - a word of knowledge. This is fascinating, Peter has a vision on the housetop, Acts 10 verse 19: 'While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him' - the Spirit speaks, you know - ''Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them'. Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, 'Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?''. Now this is instructive, for me at least, because sometimes people might hear a word of knowledge and think: 'What was the point of that? Like, what was the point of that, other than showing that you know something about somebody? What was the point of that?'. Well, what was the point of this? The Holy Spirit says to him on the housetop: 'There are three guys at your front door', and he comes down he finds out there are three guys at the front door. Why didn't he just come down and find out there are three guys the front door? Because God wants him to know that 'These three guys at the front door are there from Me' - that's what it's all about: to put this divine stamp on things, to let you know God is on the case. Do you understand? That's what the point is.
There is an element of wisdom with this as well as knowledge, because there was an instruction of what to do - so it's more than just a word of knowledge here, it's a word of wisdom as well, there was something to do. I want you to turn to the chapter before, to chapter 9, because some people get the idea: 'Oh, yes, Jesus did that, and there's Peter doing it, and some other apostles will be doing that - but what about me? Little old me, a Christian just now in the 21st-century?'. Well, if you look at chapter 9, you find out in verse 10 about a guy called Ananias. In verse 10 it says: 'Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias' - note that it doesn't say 'apostle', it doesn't even say 'prophet', it just says 'a certain disciple'. 'And to him the Lord said in a vision' - he had a vision, an ordinary disciple, he gets a vision, God speaks, 'Ananias', He knows his name. 'And he said, 'Here I am, Lord'. So the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight'.
Now, two verses, and look at the amount of information that is in those two verses - it's incredible. The Holy Spirit, through a word of knowledge, actually gives Ananias, an ordinary bog standard disciple, a word of knowledge, and gives the name and address of the place where Paul is staying. Of course, it was a word of wisdom as well, because what did the Holy Spirit say? 'When you find him at that address - he will be there - lay your hands on him that He might receive his sight' - so it wasn't just knowledge, facts, but what to do about the facts - do you understand? I could show you more, I could show you Acts 20, Acts 21 - but we'll not do that, we need to move on. We see that conviction comes through this Holy Spirit gift, yes? It will also confirm something, perhaps, that God has been showing through other means - that's an important thing. It will also, perhaps, prepare us for something that is still to happen - these words of knowledge. OK: conviction, confirming, and preparing us.
Let's move on to the words of wisdom, which is quite similar. Again, just like the word of knowledge, this is a small part of God's wisdom - the all-wise God, the all-knowing God. It's supernaturally imparted by the Holy Spirit to us, these facts, the knowledge gives the facts, but the wisdom shows us what to do. We see this again in the life of the Lord Jesus - do you remember the great catch of fish? Look at Luke chapter 5, do you remember this? Jesus is a carpenter, remember, and Peter is a skilled fisherman along with a few of the other disciples, OK? 'So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch'. But Simon answered and said to Him, 'Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing'' - and I wonder, subliminally there, was there a little voice 'You're carpenter, I'm a fisherman, I know what I'm doing, You haven't a clue' - but, ''nevertheless at Your word'' - and that's the key with any word that God is going to give you of knowledge or wisdom, listening to the word of God, and even if it seems totally idiotic, going with it - ''At Your word I will let down the net. And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking'.
The catch of fish, and do you remember what happened to Peter? He is convicted, and he says: 'Depart from me, for I am an evil man!', a wicked man - conviction comes again! But something practical, they got fish out of it - let's not bypass that! There is a practical outcome of this, but something more: there is supernatural guidance, there was a revelation to read of this. This is a word of wisdom, and Jesus teaches them: 'Fear not, for from this time you will catch men'. There is something greater than just an imparting of knowledge, there is wisdom and a revelation coming, taught through this.
Turn to Matthew 21, you remember the borrowed donkey, do you remember that? Verse 1 of Matthew 21: 'Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me''. Just pause for a moment, you know, we read these things because we have read them - a lot of us - for a very long time, and we read them oblivious to the reality of what this would actually look like. You know, if I said to you: 'Now, I want you to go up the road there to number 25, and there is a Mercedes sitting there. The car door is open, and the keys are lying in it. I want you to go up there, I want you to sit in, turn the ignition, and drive it down to me' - what would you say? 'And if anybody says to you about the Mercedes, just tell them, 'David Legge needs it!''. That's what the Lord said here, 'If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them'' - of course, it's the Lord - but ''immediately he will send them'. All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying' - and he quotes [Zechariah 9:9]. The only explanation for such a hare-brained suggestion is that God told Him about this - but I want you to note this, I want you to understand: this word of wisdom arose out of Jesus' knowledge of Scripture. He knew [Zechariah 9:9] had to be fulfilled and the word of wisdom came through that.
Now, I cannot emphasise this enough, this is the more sure word of prophecy: if you want to move in the supernatural, you need to get into the word of God. There are a lot of people, airy fairy folk, floating about, froth and bubble, candy floss Christians who want to move in the supernatural but won't bother their backside to read Scripture at all in the space of a week. It doesn't work like that. Dallas Willard wrote an amazing book on hearing God years ago, he's now with the Lord - and I highly recommend it - but I remember hearing him interviewed. He was asked by a guy who was a young father: 'How do we teach our children how to hear God?'. This really spoke to my heart, he said: 'The best thing you can do to teach your children to hear God, is teach them Bible stories' - because that's how God has spoken to us. Do you know what will happen? He said: 'In later life, when you've sown the seed of the stories of the word of God into their life, the Holy Spirit will take those principles and bring them back to speak to them'. It's the whole basic principle of computing: input-output. If you don't put it in - now the Holy Spirit can give you verses you've never learned, that has happened to me, but that is the exception rather than the rule - don't test the Spirit, but get into the Word.
Acts chapter 8, Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, you know that story, don't you? Turn with me to it, Acts chapter 8, you're not getting tired reading the Bible I hope! Acts chapter 8 verse 26: 'Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip' - angels speak, and angels can speak to people. We're not worshipping angels, and we're not looking for them, in one sense, but they can show up and they can speak. He said to Philip: ''Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza'. This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip' - OK, so how do you know when it's an angel, how do you know when it's the Spirit? Well, the Spirit then said to Philip: 'Go near and overtake this chariot' - so it's all in stages here, He doesn't give him the whole story. 'So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?''.
Isn't it interesting, it was on the point of obedience that he then knew what to do next. It was at the point of obedience that God then revealed to him what to do next, and sometimes you have to execute these words of wisdom before God shows you any more. But it was through this obedience to a word of wisdom that God opened someone's heart. I'll tell you better than that: it wasn't just the Ethiopian eunuch that came to Jesus, that Ethiopian eunuch went back to Ethiopia - and we know, historically speaking, that he was probably the first preacher of the Gospel in Africa. He brought the Gospel to the African continent through a word of wisdom through Philip the evangelist - that's prophetic evangelism if ever you had it.
Look at Acts 16, Acts 16, words of wisdom can produce open doors. Do you need an open door? I must be the only one needs an open door! Acts 16 verse 6: 'Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia'. Have you ever been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to do anything? Have you ever been forbidden to preach the word by the Holy Spirit? If you said that, people would say 'Oh, the Holy Spirit doesn't forbid people to preach the word' - well, here you have it. Verse 7: 'After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us''.
Now this is fascinating, because this word of wisdom opened doors, but it also closed doors. I want you to see that they were prevented from going into Asia by the Holy Spirit, but watch this: later on, Paul was led into a city called Ephesus, which was a chief city of Asia, and he had an incredible experience of many people coming to faith in Christ - that's why you've got the Epistle to the Ephesians. But previously, the Spirit wouldn't let him go there. Here's something: words of wisdom and wisdom from God is all about timing, timing. Ecclesiastes, you know that famous chapter, don't you? Ecclesiastes 3: 'To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven' - and part of words of wisdom is knowing when the time is right, and when you're giving the wisdom about what needs to be done, or receiving the wisdom about what needs to be done, and understanding the timing of that as well. I was reading this week in 2 Chronicles 12 verse 32, about the sons of Issachar, and it says of them 'They had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do'. Do you see it? Understanding to know what Israel ought to do.
So, do you need wisdom? Who of us doesn't? In James chapter 1 verse 5 we read: 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to everybody with great liberality, and does not scold' - that's what it literally means - 'does not scold'. In other words, He's not there with a big stick saying 'Oh, you didn't do what you should have done with the wisdom I gave you the last time', He's a gracious loving God with whom there is no shadow of turning, or turning of variableness. We can trust Him, and if you need wisdom - fellowship here tonight - if you need wisdom on how to go into the future, God's got skip-loads of it. You need to go to God, you see that's what we don't do, we don't go to God. We try to work the thing out ourselves by our own ingenuity, that's why you've got churches led by businessmen - and I'm not against businessmen - but often the psyche in the church is 'Oh, he's good at running a business', or 'he's a solicitor', or 'a lawyer', or 'a doctor' or something, 'a teacher - make him an elder'. Now they can make good elders if they are Spirit-filled Christians, and they are gifted in that way, but we often use human wisdom - and that's what Paul had to actually say to the Corinthians, that the wisdom of men is foolishness to God, and the folly of God - I love that - the foolishness of God, did you know God has got foolishness? Now, I know it's an exaggeration, but if I had said that I would've got shot down - but that says it in Scripture: the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.
So word of knowledge, word of wisdom, we need to go quickly: discerning of the spirits. Let's spend some time on this. What is it to discern? Do you know what 'to discern' means? It basically means 'to distinguish' - so we're talking about the distinguishing between spirits. This is a kind of direct perception from God, where, in the Holy Spirit, we perceive what kind of spirit is in operation. Now, can I just say - and this is a huge subject even in its own - different people perceive in different ways. Some people see more clearly in the Spirit, some people hear in the Spirit, some people feel in the Spirit, some people just get one word or an impression or a compulsion - so it's important to understand that this can operate in different ways with different people; that's why I think it's in the plural, 'discernings', even the word 'discernings' is in the plural, 'discernings of spirits'. There are different ways of discerning these spirits.
But there are generally four types of discernment, OK, or four types of spirits, let's say, that we discern. First of all, there is discerning of the Holy Spirit. Then there is the discerning of angelic spirits. Then there is discerning of the human spirit. Finally, discerning of demonic spirits. So come with me through each of these - discerning of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember in John chapter 1, you might care to turn to this, John chapter 1, John the Baptist had discernment about who Jesus was? It was because he was forewarned by God, look at verse 29 of John 1: 'The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!''. Now, how did he know? 'This is He of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me'. I did not know Him' - now, hold on a wee minute! John the Baptist is categorically saying 'I didn't know Him', 'but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water'. So something happened when he was baptising with water that told him that Jesus was the Messiah. 'And John bore witness, saying' - this is what happened - ''I saw the Spirit'', the Holy Spirit, ''descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He'' - God - ''sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit'. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God''.
Now, has it ever occurred to you that John was the one who saw the Dove light and remain upon Jesus, but the others did not see it? It was a sign to John the Baptist. You may disagree with that, but I think the discernment was given specifically to John and not the others. In Acts chapter 2 this happened in another sense with Peter as he preached at Pentecost, and people were saying: 'These folk are drunk' - they were drunk in the Spirit, obviously - but people thought 'How can they be drunk, it's only 9 o'clock in the morning?'. Obviously they have never come to Ireland! Peter is preaching, and what did he say? 'This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel', Joel 2, and he starts to expound 'Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams, etc, the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh'. But 'this is that', that's discernment - because, you look at what happened on the Day of Pentecost, and you'll not find those type of specifics in the Old Testament. But it took discernment for Peter to take that and say: 'This is what was spoken about' - do you understand?
We need discernment to recognise the Holy Spirit's presence. I grew up in - how would I put it? - a church tradition that was very quick to point at things and say 'That could not be the Spirit of God', because it offended their sensibilities and sensitivities. Be very careful, weigh a thing up, even Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian of revival, talked about ways that we could test whether a thing was of the Spirit or not. It wasn't by how ugly and bizarre it looked, that wasn't the test, because some things in the Bible looked really weird, really, really weird - but it was of God.
Can I say: we need to be able, as we meet together, to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit. I remember years ago - it doesn't happen so much now, because I'm not as much in churches with organs - but years ago, I would have finished my message and there would be a sense of God's presence that would just rest on the gathering, and someone would pronounce the benediction, and then they start playing the organ - and the whole sense of God's presence would just disappear because there was no discernment of the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, you can get that in more, what we might call 'progressive' or 'open to the Spirit' gatherings.
So we need discernment concerning the Holy Spirit. Secondly we need discernment concerning angelic spirits. Come with me to Acts 27 - I know there is a lot to take in tonight, but I'm just giving you both barrels, you must need it! Verse 22 of Acts 27, you remember the boat is about to be shipwrecked, and it says in verse 22: 'And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar, etc'' - basically saying that they would be safe. Now, obviously Paul was the only one that was aware of that angel. I mean, there was a whole crew on board. I'm not saying he didn't see the angel, perhaps he did, but nobody else seemed to see it. So there was a gift of discerning of angelic spirits.
Moving on, the human spirit - remember Jesus to Nathanael, we looked at it earlier, Jesus discerned that there was no deceit found in him. Yet we see Simon Magus in Acts chapter 8, I will quote it to you - Peter says to him, he wanted to pay for to have the power of laying hands on people that they would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he was trying to pay for it, and Peter said: 'Your money perish with you, to hell with you and your money', J.B. Phillips translates it, and he says 'You are bound in iniquity and poisoned by bitterness', and he had that discerning of the human spirit in Simon the Magician to know that that's what his insides were like.
In ministry we need to discern. Some people in ministry, and deliverance ministries, are trying to cast out of people things that aren't demons, it is part of their broken human spirit - and they're trying to cast it out of them, and they're further traumatising people, because they're trying to cast a part of their humanity that needs healing out of them. That's why we need discernment, to know when a problem is a problem of the human spirit, or the mind, or the emotions, or the volition, maybe the demons are all mixed up in it - that could very well be the case, but you can't cast out something of a person, or you're abusing them. So we need discernment of the human spirit.
Finally, discernment of demonic spirits. Do you know there are different types of demonic spirits? Did you know that? In Luke chapter 13 we've got a woman with a spirit of infirmity for many years, 18 years wasn't it, something had happened to her 18 years ago - Jesus cast out the spirit of infirmity. In Acts chapter 16 Paul casts a spirit of divination out of a slave girl who was following him around everywhere, and saying 'These are the great servants of the Living God'. She was telling the truth, but it was a spirit of divination, and he cast it out of her. In Mark 9 there is a spirit of deafness and dumbness, muteness - this is a physical ailment. Do you know there are demonic spirits, sometimes, behind physical conditions? You've even got a spirit of error in 1 John 4.
We've got to have the discernings of spirits in order to be able to differentiate and distinguish what is going on. You've got half of the church saying that what the Holy Spirit is doing is of the devil. They even said that of Jesus, 'It's by Beelzebub that He casts out devils' - they say that about me, they do - 'What spirit is it that he is involved with, that he is doing what he's doing?'. So we've got to be able to distinguish between these spirits.
Do you know, as I bring this to a close, you can grow in discernment? In fact, this is relevant to all the gifts of the Spirit. One more verse I want you to turn to, Hebrews 5 and verse 14, this is very important: 'But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use' - if you underline your Bible, that would be a good phrase to underline - 'by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil'. Are those spiritual senses or physical? Well, there could be a bit of a crossover between both of them - but, generally speaking, it's talking about the senses that we pick up things in the spiritual, and it might manifest in the physical, you might see, or hear, or feel things, not everybody does - but that's not the point, the point is: by exercising, activating our gifts, by using them, we actually strengthen our senses to discern both good and evil, to discern spirits.
Do you know what the problem is for many of us? We are perfectionists. Unless we can do a thing perfectly, we're not going to step out to do it at all. Can I say to you tonight: no gift of the Spirit is perfect in any Christian in any age. First Corinthians 13 that we read, verse 9 through 10 says: 'We see through a glass darkly' - isn't that right? Therefore, we shouldn't expect a gift to be perfect, or that those who have them can never make a mistake - but we have to have faith to step out, and we have to have safe environments where you can safely step out by faith; and, if you get a thing wrong, not get completely lambasted or destroyed for it.
Now, I'm finished. Word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discernings of spirits. You might not have any of those, or you may have experienced some of them from time to time - but these gifts are for all of us, so why not ask Him? We will see this in future weeks: earnestly desire the gifts, pursue love, but also the gifts. Will you, now, ask the Lord for what you need? Not for your own gratification - what this fellowship needs. When Paul says 'Earnestly desire the best gifts', he was speaking to the whole fellowship. What does this fellowship need? What is this fellowship lacking? Is it lacking discernment? Is it lacking wisdom at the moment? Is it lacking knowledge? We could go into the other gifts: is it lacking in administration, what is it lacking? Well, it's not about criticising the leadership, and saying 'Oh, you need to...', it's about saying 'Lord, we need this'. What about you standing up and saying: 'Lord, maybe You want to give me those gifts to fulfil that ministry, to plug that gap' - He is the one who gives the gifts, because He is the Head of the church.
Let's pray. I want us to take a moment or two in the presence of God. Now, I know that was an awful lot, I gave you a tsunami of stuff there - but get the recording and go over it. It is important, it really is important, and it's all generally saying - look, it's not complicated - it's just saying: there are the gifts word of wisdom, word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, and they're all in the Bible. That's basically tonight summed up: they are all in the Bible, it's all there, and you need to be open to it - that's basically it.
So, are you? Are you? Are you open to receive? Most people are open to receive a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom - most people. Some people think: 'Oh, please don't come near me', and there are other people where it's like the wee kid in school 'Pick me! Pick me! Please, pick me!', you know? But here's one: are you willing to give a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom? That's a different thing. Who doesn't want one, but are you willing to give it if God should impart something to you? Are you willing?
Let's take a moment to pray, and I want you to engage with God - whatever you have heard from God tonight, whatever He's calling you to do, your availability to the body. Maybe you need to repent about resenting people who are gifted, and you don't feel gifted? Resenting them and their operation of the gifts - you maybe need to repent of that, knowing that God has got gifts for you too. You need to get over yourself, and start moving in what God has for you. Stop trying to copy someone, or being resentful of their gifts, but actually realise: you're unique, you're one-of-a-kind, and God has stuff for you that He wants to do through you that He can't do through anybody else. So maybe some of you need to repent, maybe you need to forgive people - remember we said no gift is perfect, and nobody will operate perfectly in a gift - maybe you need to forgive somebody who has operated in a wrong way in gifts of the Spirit. It's not that the gift necessarily was bad, but maybe they didn't just execute it correctly, and it has hurt you, it has damaged you. Maybe you were shut down by someone because you didn't operate a gift particularly with the etiquette that they thought you should, and that has hurt you, that has closed you down. We need order, OK, so we're going to be talking about that, there has to be order, and we have to be able to be open to be instructed in those gifts - maybe you have got offence in you because you felt that you tried to do something, and it was shut down.
You need to forgive, and you need to move on. It's bigger than you - have you ever got that memo from God? It's not about you, it's not about you! It's about Jesus! It's about His body, the church, it's not about you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lighthouse Fellowship, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit series, titled "Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom and Discerning of Spirits" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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