An Act of Will

The Gift

In a discussion of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, conflict and confusion [strife] sometimes arise in part because the prince of the air would like to prevent God’s Children’s access to this gift. Jesus spoke of the gift in two familiar passages. In John chapter 4, He asks the woman at the well if she would like to have the Gift of God (vs. 10) . . . living water so that she would never thirst again (vs. 14) . . .” but the water that I give him shall be in him a well of water springing into everlasting life.”

The other passage in John chapter 7, finds Jesus in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles saying to the crowd, “If any man thirst let him come unto me, and drink (vs. 37). He that believeth on me as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (Vs. 38)

Did Jesus contradict himself in these passages? Both in the book of John, the latter passage adding parenthetically “But this spake he of the Spirit . . . “ I believe that Jesus did not contradict himself, but was speaking of two distinct gifts, the gift of salvation and the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

He characterized the gift of salvation as a well of water. We understand a well as having limitations in contrast with the seemingly endless flow of a river. The difference is a matter of volume, they are both gifts and they are both water, a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

How do we receive these gifts that God has for us? Jesus appeared to understand this confusion we would have about receiving his gift. He responds in the 11th chapter of Luke’s gospel in the midst of teaching on prayer: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Vs. 13)

An Act of Will

One aspect of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that has caused significant controversy is their manifestation. Much ado has been made of the manifestation: “speaking in an unknown tongue”. This highly visible aspect has been much maligned by the “have-nots” and given undue credence by the “haves”. Much of the imbalance in views were plainly evident in the Corinthian church and for that reason I believe the Lord left Paul’s letters to that church for us to study and appreciate the wisdom by which he approached the subject.

Paul’s discussions of the gifts of the spirit begin in Chapter 12 of the first Corinthian letter. He says he wants the church to understand the realities of those gifts. He discusses in detail the differences in administration of the gifts, how the church as a whole (metaphorically described as the ‘body of Christ’) needs the different gifts not only the manifestation gifts but also the gifts given as offices in the church i.e. pastors, prophets, etc. Barclay’s translation of verse 7 reads, “The visible effect which the Spirit produces in each of us is designed for the common good”. In other words, by whatever means the Spirit manifests himself, it is for the good of all.

God is sovereign and He will make himself known by His power working in the earth i.e. the Holy Spirit in whatever ways he see fit. The spirit world is not limited by time or space so the manifestation of the Spirit as exhibited in biblical times cannot be limited or relegated to those times. We must expect that as God lives, and more importantly, lives in us, His spirit will manifest himself in ways we have seen written in the word and in ways unimaginable.

At the end of the chapter Paul makes an amazing statement. He says “But covet earnestly the best gifts, yet I show you a more excellent way” (vs. 31) How could he ask us to set our hearts on something that we can’t have? I don’t believe that he would, which leads the discussion back to “Ask and ye shall receive” (Luke 11). I believe that all of the gifts are available according to the faith of the individual and how he or she is invested in a ministry that will yield to the Holy Spirit. Are not these gifts to the church as evidence of the love of God and his willingness to edify (charge up), give courage and comfort us?

Yet Paul’s point in chapter 13 is that without the Agape (unconditional love of God), none of the gifts have relevance. All of God’s gifts work by love. Without love they have no context and nothing to act upon. Agape love is the string that ties it all together. It is the beginning of the evidence that one has a well of living water within.