The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Series
Gifts of Power
Tue, 16 Jul 2013 - 11:00 AM CST
Gifts of Power
Part 3 in a series on Spiritual Gifts in the Church Today
By Douglas A. Oss
The power gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12:9,10 — “faith,” “healings,” and “works of power” — are usually associated with the “signs and wonders” language of the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 12 the discussion centers on their function within the body of Christ, although this setting does not exclude the possibility of healings and other miracles functioning as a witness to unbelievers who are present during a gathering of believers for corporate worship (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:20–25).
Definition Of Power Gifts
• “Gift of faith” (pistis) in this list does not refer to saving faith but rather to the miraculous faith that can work miracles (e.g., faith that can “move mountains”1). Faith in this sense is foundational to working any sort of miracle but is distinguished from healings and works of power. Faith here is the divinely imparted and unwavering trust that God indeed will work in a particular circumstance and demonstrate the might of His glory through a supernatural act, totally apart from ordinary or merely human means. Faith is distinct from other miracles in the sense of its definition, but with regard to its function, it is an integral part of healings and works of power.
• “Gifts of healings” (charismata), in this context, refer to physical miracles of healing. Granted, the transformation of the mind and spirit starting with the washing of regeneration (e.g., Titus 3:5–7) and continuing through renewal (e.g., Colossians 3:10,11) is at times associated with the idea of healing (e.g., 1 Peter 2:24,25). But in this setting, it is more likely that Paul had in view the kind of sign miracle that manifests the power of God (e.g., Acts 10:38). In the Greek, both “gifts” and “healings” are plural, which may indicate that each healing is a distinct gift. Deliverance from sickness is God’s infinite grace and power entering into cursed creation to show that He alone brings new creation to Adam’s race. Furthermore, while physical healings are temporal in this age, in the age to come new creation will be eternal (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:44–57).
• “Works of power” (energemata dunameon; alternate translation: “miraculous powers”; “workings of miracles”; “workings of powers” probably includes all miraculous deeds other than healings. In the New Testament most common among these is the casting out of demons. As with healings, works of power are acts of God’s infinite power in His creation to manifest in tangible and supernatural fashion His glory and Kingdom to humankind. Both these terms are also plural (“workings of powers”) in the Greek, which again would indicate the possibility that each miracle is viewed as a distinct gift.
How Power Gifts Contribute To Ministry
In contemporary worship settings power gifts are increasingly evident, which adds some urgency to the question of how they contribute to ministry.
1. Miraculous events bring glory to the Creator (as with all creative acts of God, e.g., Psalm 19:1–6). With regard to ministry, power signs grasp the observer’s attention with their amazing and overwhelming force — placing the observer’s attention on God’s glory and commanding immediate response. Often the response of the observer and/or recipient is to glorify God (cf. Mark 2:1–12; John 2:1–11; 9:1–41; 1 Corinthians 14:24,25), in stark contrast to the general response of humankind toward the Father (e.g., Romans 1:18–32).
The response of those who witness God’s glory is not always to acknowledge that it is God at work. Often in their rebellion, the religious of Jesus’ day would denounce Him as a demonically empowered heretic (e.g., John 8:1–9:41), even though He did great signs and wonders in their midst, thus setting in clear relief their own spiritual pride and blindness (John 9:39–41).
2. Miraculous deeds confirm the gospel. Increased focus on the gospel message is evoked by miracles, providing increased opportunity to lead people into the kingdom of God through faith in Christ. Miracles increase attention on the Lord Jesus in whose name and for whose glory the miracle occurred. The hearts of unbelievers who are present are opened to receive the Spirit of Christ through the power of the miracle.
3. Miracles encourage and build the faith of God’s people. Miracles assure us that God works on our behalf in His capacity as the all-powerful and sovereign Lord of the universe. We are increasingly aware of His presence among us in the light of His powerful working on our behalf. Miraculous deeds result in increased joy, loftier worship in praise, and intensified commitment to Christ and His gospel.
How To Receive Power Gifts
The common principles set forth in the previous article in this series apply equally to power gifts.2 In addition, there are some considerations that are especially important for this particular gifting. While in Ephesus, the place of Paul’s greatest miracles, he learned what was required in order for the power of Christ to be manifested through him.
The vital lessons Paul learned in Asia are summarized in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. It is necessary for those who would be used by God in works of power to be entirely abandoned to God (read 2 Corinthians 10–13)—to seek to know Him above all else and to do His will alone. Furthermore, they must allow God to sift them until Christ is all in all and they rely exclusively on the power of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8–10). It is only in weakness that God’s power is manifested. When we become nothing, then He can work powerfully through us — we rely on the sole sufficiency of His grace and power.
There is a cost to walking in the power of God. The price is absolute surrender of self and the temporal world.3 The power of Christ is manifested exclusively through surrendered vessels.
God wants His people to walk in power, preaching the gospel boldly with signs following. There is no New Testament concept of the presence of the Spirit without the manifestation of the Spirit in works of power. The earliest Christians would not have conceived of the Spirit apart from miracles, signs, and wonders; it was an integral part of their common experience in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4). God wants the same for His people today. We still live in the last days, and we still need last-days power.
Douglas A. Oss, Ph.D. is professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri.
1. First Corinthians 13:2; cf. Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1981), 601–02.
2. See Enrichment, Fall 1997, 91.
3. I recommend you read Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray.