After the birth of the Charismatic Renewal Movement over a half century ago, understanding of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit was restored. With an overemphasis on the gifts, however, there is the danger of neglecting what Jesus taught and commanded his disciples in the gospels well before Pentecost.
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did not negate what Jesus taught in the gospels. Rather it emboldened the disciples to obey his command to preach the gospel. A prime instance of this is Peter, who overcome by fear at Gethsemane denied knowing Jesus three times. But immediately after the Spirit came upon him at Pentecost, a transformed Peter boldly preached the gospel to an astonished crowd.
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.”
To help the Church to mature and to grow up in all things to be like our Lord, we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual gifts are for the common good of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). They are for the purpose of building up and edifying the Church.
1 Corinthians 14:12 …Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
But to what end do we build up the Church? Is it an end in itself? Yes, prophecies can certainly encourage us, but what is their ultimate purpose in the life of a believer?
Ultimately, they equip us to fulfill God’s purpose for us as witnesses of Jesus Christ—for the Church to fulfill the Great Commission by preaching the gospel in the whole world and making disciples of all nations—a prerequisite for the return of the Messiah.
And how did Jesus teach and command his disciples to preach the gospel?
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.
Then in Luke 10:9, Jesus commanded his 72 disciples to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
This power & authority was for the specific purpose of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to those who had not heard the gospel. As they proclaimed the gospel (and even before sharing the gospel), the disciples were to heal the sick miraculously and cast out demons as irrefutable evidence to the lost that Jesus is the Messiah.
This supernatural power & authority to be used in the context of preaching the gospel to outsiders was clearly separate and distinct from the gifts—which were not available until Pentecost and moreover for the purpose of building up of the Church, that is, for ministering to believers in the Church.
Acts reveals that after Pentecost when great harvests were reaped by the disciples among the gentiles, powerful miracles confirming the gospel were most often the overriding reason for so many turning to Christ. And these miracles were not done using the gift of healing or the gift of miracles, but clearly through the use of the authority and power Jesus gave his disciples in the gospels well before Pentecost. In fact, there is not a single instance of miraculous healing in Acts which is clearly identified as resulting from a manifestation of the gift of healing.
An examination of Acts reveals that with regard to frequency of occurrence, power & authority rank high. Their occurrence can be identified when an authoritative command is given and/or physical contact is made usually through the laying on of hands. By contrast, instances of the gift of healing in Acts, while likely present, are not at all clearly identified.
Today, however, the focus on healing in charismatic circles is exclusively on the gift of healing—which is primarily for ministering to sick believers. In contrast, power and authority—to be used in preaching the gospel—are almost never taught.
There is therefore serious imbalance within the Church regarding gifts versus power & authority.
The consequence of this imbalance has been the crippling of foreign missions to gospel-resistant people groups—regions subjugated by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, idol-worship, and witchcraft. According to Scripture, compelling miraculous works as evidence of the gospel (especially to such people groups) are to be done through the use of power and authority, and not primarily the gifts. But the Church, having lost the knowledge thereof, does not teach disciples how to heal the sick and cast out demons using power and authority. Ironically—and very sadly—the very weapons Jesus gave his disciples for preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God effectively and fruitfully to those who never heard have been left unused during this current era of modern missions.
During these Last Days when the Great Commission must be fulfilled, the scriptural and essential balance between gifts versus power & authority must be—and is—being restored.