Sometime around the 1960s the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church—a “movement” known as the Charismatic Renewal. It was a very refreshing time in contrast to the dry, traditional evangelicalism which had prevailed in the evangelical church prior to that. The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit as taught in 1 Corinthians 12 were “rediscovered” for the common good of the body of Christ.
It was a time during which dry and discouraged believers were supernaturally built up and edified through the operation of these nine gifts bestowed on the Church by the Lord. But sadly over the decades since then the Church appears to have forgotten the very purpose behind those gifts.
As the spiritual descendants of Abraham, we are “blessed by the Holy Spirit to be a blessing” to the nations (Genesis 12:3, Galatians 3:8-9,14). This is a reference to the Church’s calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all creation and to fulfill the Great Commission. But being human, we have neglected the paramount purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost and, unwittingly perhaps, ended up receiving God’s blessing for our own personal benefit instead. It might not be a stretch to say that the Great Commission today is mostly an afterthought for most “Spirit-filled” believers.
Because we were so personally blessed by the Holy Spirit after being baptized in Him and then through the operation of His supernatural gifts in our lives, we have forgotten what Jesus entrusted to His disciples in the gospels for the effective and fruitful preaching of the gospel to all creation—even before Pentecost when the Spirit descended.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
This power and authority over demons and diseases given by Jesus to His disciples specifically for confirming the truth of the gospel to the lost has essentially been neglected if not forgotten by the Renewed Church. Because of the emphasis and focus on the gifts of the Spirit, we no longer minister with that power and authority—especially when proclaiming the good news to the lost.
It is as if this power and authority given in the gospels has been supplanted by the gifts, especially the gifts of healing and miracles, after the Spirit came at Pentecost.
But a close examination of most of the miraculous healings (and casting out of demons) done through the disciples in Acts reveals that this is patently untrue.
In Acts the disciples continued to use the power and authority which Jesus gave them in the gospels prior to Pentecost. The difference between the gospels and Acts in terms of power and authority consisted of the degree of boldness and faith with which the disciples ministered, whether preaching the gospel or healing the sick and demonized. But clearly the exercise of power and authority by the disciples in the gospels continued on into Acts as they preached the gospel to those who never heard. The difference was in the extent and magnitude of the miracles after they were baptized in the Spirit as recorded in Acts.
During these Last Days it is time for the Church to redress the imbalance between the gifts of the Spirit on the one hand and power and authority on the other. Because of the emphasis on supernatural gifts of the Spirit like the gift of prophecy over the past half century, the Church has indeed been blessed and built up. But now we must wake up and remember for what purpose we have been blessed. It is to be a blessing to the nations through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The difference in function between the gifts and power & authority
According to Scripture, in the preaching of the gospel to the lost we are to minister to the sick and oppressed not primarily with the gifts of the Spirit, but rather with authority and power.
Matthew 10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. …7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
By contrast, the nine gifts of the Spirit are clearly for ministering to the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good [that is, for the common good of the body of Christ].
During these Last Days when we must preach the gospel to all creation and make disciples of all nations before Christ can return, it is time for the Church to stop focusing on blessing herself, and instead to focus on the Great Commission.
To fulfill the Great Commission during these Last Days, we must now focus on the authority and power over demons and diseases the Lord has given us for proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost. We must redress the sad and unscriptural imbalance between the supernatural gifts of the Spirit on the one hand, and authority and power on the other.
As imperfect human beings we have reacted to dry traditional evangelicalism in typical fashion. When the Spirit began to renew us, we left and ran all the way to the very opposite extreme to major in everything the Spirit had for us after Pentecost—and neglecting what had already been entrusted to the disciples in the gospels. But now that we have been abundantly blessed by the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, let us focus on the very reason why we have been blessed by the Holy Spirit—to be a blessing to the nations through the preaching of the gospel.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The ultimate purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming on the disciples at Pentecost was for them to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit within the Church was therefore to edify and prepare the Church to preach the gospel to the world as witnesses of Jesus Christ: “blessed to be a blessing.” The blessing for us was clearly not to be an end in itself. Practically speaking, however, the message we hear all too often in the teaching of the Renewed Church is: God loves you personally and wants to bless you abundantly on earth as well as in heaven. Period.
Authority and power, by contrast, are not given for the personal benefit of the believer, but rather for the benefit of the lost through the sharing of the gospel. The fruitful preaching of the gospel is to be accomplished by exercising the Lord’s miraculous power and authority over diseases and demons as evidence to the lost that our God is the only true God and that Jesus Christ is the only way to Him.