The Spirit's Mission & The Spirit's Gifts
What's the point of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Now, before anyone get’s too worked up that I would ask such a question, let me just clarify a bit what I mean. I’m not questioning the importance of the gifts. Gifts find their value in their giver (just imagine the difference in value a doctor might place on a gift from a pharmaceutical company and a gift from his beloved wife). And so if the Giver of these gifts is the Triune God, then they must be of great value to us.
My question isn't about the value of the gifts, but about their purpose. You see, sometimes as Pentecostals and charismatics we can be so concerned with valuing the gifts that we don’t take time to consider their purpose.
And that can cause problems. And one of those problems can be missing out on the full value of the gifts.
So what a out the purpose of the gifts then? Well, first lets start with something more fundamental. The gifts are the work of the Holy Spirit, so if we want to understand the gifts, we need to know about the Holy Spirit’s work. And what is that work? What is the mission of the Holy Spirit?
Let me suggest a two-fold answer. Jesus, toward the end of His earthly ministry spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit and His mission in the world. Jesus would send Him, and He in turn would send people to Jesus. What does that mean? Well, firstly Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would glorify Him, “for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). So the Holy Spirit sends people to Jesus by revealing the truth of Christ and pointing to the glory of Christ.
Secondly, just before His ascension, Jesus said “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me” (Acts 1:8). So the Holy Spirit sends people to Jesus by empowering Christians to tell people about Jesus.
So there we have the mission of the Holy Spirit in the world summed up in that He sends people to Jesus. And He does this in two ways, by glorifying Jesus and empowering evangelism.
Now then, back to the gifts of the Spirit. If the gifts are the work of the Holy Spirit, then we should expect them to fit in with the Spirit’s mission. And that they do!
We can see that in Hebrews 2:3-4. There we read that God uses the gifts of the Spirit to bear witness to “so great a salvation”. The gifts of the Spirit testify to the message of salvation (i.e. the gospel). That shows that they are part of the Spirit’s mission in empowering and equipping our evangelism. The gifts of the Spirit aren't just something to bring blessing to Christians; they are a blessing that goes beyond us to others as they bear witness to the gospel.
But Hebrews 2:3-4 doesn’t only tell us that the gifts testify to the gospel message. It also tells us that they testify to the greatness of the gospel message: to “so great a salvation”. They not only bear witness to the message, but also to the grandeur of what Christ has done. In other words, the gifts glorify Jesus. And that's the other aspect of the Holy Spirit’s mission!
So then, what's the point of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? The point of the gifts of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus and equip us for mission. The point of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is not to fascinate us with the gifts, nor with those who receive them, but instead to point us to Christ and to His mission for us through the Spirit in the world.