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Building up believers and the New Testament church

Meeting With God

Manifestations of the Spirit

In John 17, Jesus spoke about the Spirit of truth "whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." He goes on to say, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." In the 21st verse, referring to those who keep the commandments of the Lord, who love the Father, He says, "I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." We make ourselves available to the Spirit of God by our individual relationships with Him. Then as we come together, we know His working and leading. We know when He wants to speak and manifest Himself. Then we must step on out in faith to speak the words He has given us--words that will edify, encourage, stimulate and comfort the body.

The manifestations of the Spirit are distinct from the five ministering gifts that God has given to men, to encourage and bring us to a oneness of faith, to maturity, and to the full stature of Christ. Each has its place and purpose. The five ministering gifts are described in Ephesians 4: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."

The Spirit of God in our midst enables God to meet with us and manifest Himself as He said He would do. Paul says in I Corinthians 14:26, "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." He goes on to lay down the order for functioning of the utterance gifts, so that everything will be for the building up of the body of Christ. He emphasizes again and again, "for the edifying of the body." We don't just function to edify ourselves; the gifts are for the edification of the whole body.

The manifestations may include prophecy, tongues with interpretation, a word of knowledge, word of wisdom, or word of faith, as listed in I Corinthians 12:7-11: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

The utterance gifts are prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues. These vocal manifestations are given to the church for "edification, exhortation and comfort." "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (I Cor. 14:1-5).

We need all of these gifts. We cannot lay aside what God has provided and end up with just preaching and teaching. We need everything God has provided for us, and I don't believe we can emphasize one against another. The Spirit is in our midst to reveal and to accomplish all that God desires to do. He may also use a "word of knowledge." This may come through a prophecy, a tongue and interpretation, or other means, but it is primarily a "word of knowledge." God uses "a word of wisdom" for those times when we may have knowledge, but not the wisdom or timing for how it is to be used. The non-vocal manifestations--faith, healing, miracles, and discerning of spirits--are given for purposes other than addressing the church directly.

As God's word comes as a manifestation of the Spirit to the churches, it will have the authority of Christ. It is the Lord that is manifesting Himself, revealing His purpose, and searching the hearts of the believers. The Holy Spirit is the only one that can bring balance to our lives, so that as we meet with God, He can speak to us, edify us, encourage us, strongly stimulate and comfort us in any specific situation we find ourselves in. We cannot hope to be what God wants us to be, "built up a spiritual house" (I Peter 2:5), without God in our midst. Yes, we need apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers--each of them has their appropriate place and function in the body of Christ. But we also cannot do without the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. The Spirit moves on different members of the body of Christ "severally as He will." Each of us must make ourselves available to God, to see this happen.

If we become cold or indifferent, the Spirit of God is not free to move and guide us as He desires. The church at Laodicea said, "We have need of nothing. We are rich." God said, "You are naked, poor and blind. Come buy of Me" (Rev. 3:15-19). This is what we need to see today. Too many have reverted to listening to one or two men with a spoken ministry, rather than knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit moving through a many-membered body to edify, to exhort and stimulate us into movement and growth. God doesn't want to write His commandments in stone, but on our hearts. It is life and fellowship that He desires with His body, the church.

We must be careful not to let these manifestations of the Spirit become common or "familiar" to us. We should constantly move in faith and be aware that God is in our midst to speak to us. Rather than just seeking the Lord in our time of need when we cannot find the answer in any other place, we need to know God all along the way. We need to be alive in Him. We need fervency for fellowship with Him and with each other as we meet with Him.

If a member is "in the flesh," trying to bring manifestations of the Spirit in his own natural ability, he should be judged properly, for his own good and for the good of the body. This is what we would call "strange fire" (see Leviticus 10 and Numbers 3). God is not interested in strange fire; He wants the real thing. As we have possessed the Holy Spirit and as He witnesses within our hearts, we can know what is real and what is not. We can have confidence, and move with purpose together. We can move in love in all situations.