When the Holy Spirit works through humans, the outcome will ultimately be the result of a divine – human cooperation. This is a wonderful gift to humanity, but at the same time an equally important challenge. We need to learn to deal adequately with the tensions arising out of this.
Many verses of the New Testament call us to minister to each other with the God-given gifts (c.f. my last article). From experience I can say that in this a wonderful cooperation between God and humans can take place. Especially through the charisms individuals and whole churches are edified, encouraged and corrected. Nevertheless, I have also witnessed that ministering in the gifts of the spirit can lead to wonderment and skepticism.
We must not consider a human to be a channel that receives God’s wording on the one end and passes it on unfiltered on the other end. In fact, such a human rather is a messenger who always passes on what God says according to his or her individual personality, manner and character (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20). Even when the Bible came into existence, God did not turn off the individual authors’ personalities, but made use of them. Therefore, character should always be considered more highly than charisms.
To test and hold on to the good
As early as during the time of the New Testament people understood the necessity to test – even (or especially) when someone has spoken in God’s name (1 Corinthians 14:29). What is passed on by humans is to be judged spiritually so that the good can be kept and utilized (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Thus, no one who serves in the gifts of the spirit should present his or her words as an absolute saying from God. I would also recommend avoiding the expression “Thus says the Lord.” Naturally, the expressions we use are not of utmost importance. One may say: “The Spirit of the Lord has revealed to me….” Another says: “The Word of God has spoken to me….” Still another says: “I have received a spiritual impression….” The wording is not crucial, but it is important not to “sell” one’s ministry in a certain gift as a perfect work of God. In this way one would present oneself as unimpeachable. But those who are not willing to be tested and judged are not entitled to minister in the gifts of the spirit.
This testing should be twofold, concerning content and impact. First of all it needs to be verified if the content of the message is of divine nature – and in this the Bible is the only plumb line (Acts 17:11). Secondly it needs to be tested if this charismatic ministry makes an impact, because God always gives his gifts for a purpose, i.e. in order to have an effect. Gifts of the Spirit only make sense if in the end they prove to be a blessing for people.
To have a big heart
We now see that ministry in the gifts of the Spirit always includes responsibility – regardless if one ministers, receives the ministry or tests it. I encourage everyone to have a big heart, to be willing to learn and to be open for correction. No one of us possesses all wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). The development of our charismatic ministry will never be completed as the development of our personality will never be completed either. The Holy Spirit wants to work through us, and we should allow this and grow in it.