Reflections on Spiritual Gifts Panel Last Night: Evil Spirits

Last night at the LR we had a great discussion around the use of Spiritual Gifts. Gabe identified 23 gifts in Scripture that are given by the Holy Spirit (aside from Ephesians 4:11 which says, “Christ gave,” but lets be real here and remember that God is Triune, meaning 3 in 1, so to say Christ gave is essentially the same as saying the Spirit gives, and essentially saying God gives.) :

prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostles, administration, evangelists, and pastors.

 

There is a lot of crossover with some of these, but generally they are unique enough to be specified. If you’re curious as to what Spiritual Gifts you have, or are at least inclined to, feel free to look over this guide and print off and take this quiz

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7W_6y5Zk8S7UFhIWU5nVnRWUUt3QUVzS28xNFJxWDJkV1Vr/view?usp=sharing

and the answer sheet here…

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7W_6y5Zk8S7V24zb01KeW5ZdGdKVGxJclViNXVWcldZVUg4/view?usp=sharing

 

But what I really wanted to share with you was some more thoughts on the final question asked: “are there such things as evil spiritual gifts?”

I agree with Gabe who thought it was a kind of bleak question to end our discussion on, but I had him ask it because I thought it was a question that needed some clarity, and one that many had been asking.

When talking about Spiritual Gifts, I realised that the terminology can be misunderstood much more easily now than it would have in previous generations. We live in a context where the idea of Spirituality is very commonplace, but Christian Spirituality has been dwindling, at least in a lot of mainline Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, etc. Although this is not the case for all and in many of these branches you could say Spirituality is on the rise). Therefore, when talking about Spiritual gifts to people who are non-believers, or new believers especially, we would be smart to remember this.

In fact, there are other spirits that exist other than the Holy Spirit, which is precisely why discernment of spirits is one of the gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 12:10. Some of these spirits are flat out evil spirits out to deceive and manipulate, some could potentially be ‘good’ in a sense that they are not overtly evil and seeking to do harm, but they are still not of the Holy Spirit – they are not of God but something else. And that’s where we have to be careful and open to the wider church for discernment, rebuke, and affirmation. One could easily be led astray by other spirits either posing as the HS or just able to produce good effort, but is still not a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps instead of using the term “Spiritual Gift,” in the church we should be intentional in expressing “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Look at the way Paul opens 1 Cor 12.

1 Corinthians 12 New International Version (NIV)

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

He’s addressing the fact that this community once were influenced by other spirits. Some of the things they did may have even been good things. It’s why Witch-doctors have the ability to heal, and some mediums have abilities to seek answers from other spirits, but both examples can also be used for bad because the power comes from something other than the Holy Spirit.

But, yeah, that’s why Paul says here, in verse 3, “no on can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.

So, I just thought I could share some concerns that have just been impressed upon me around the use of the term “spiritual gifts” in and outside the church. Let’s not be naive! The Western influence on the world we live in very much ignores the spiritual realities of our existence. But the church is built on spirituality. Our whole faith is, really. We live in the midst of a constant spiritual battle; sometimes it’s very personal and in other times it’s wholly communal, and can even become quite physical.

Let’s not be naive in our faith and assume these evil and, for lack of a better word, neutral or lesser spirits don’t exist, because they do. It’s just that our God is much greater than any of these other ones, and the gifts that come from God are given to us by his grace for his glory. Not for any one else’s!

So be careful what think might be a spiritual gift. I want you to become so close to God that there is no doubt that your gift is of the Holy Spirit. I want you to spend so much time in Scripture and in prayer that the Spirit speaks to you vividly and there’s no denying it. And I also want you to be so in tune with the HS that you, along with our whole church community, can help discern the greater goals of the Spirit, and discern who among us might be being deceived. And, perhaps most importantly, if you happen to be one who has been deceived by another spirit, I pray that our community and our relationships can be strong enough to build you back up, and that the Holy Spirit then refill you with His gifts in place of the others.

those are some thoughts of mine. I’d love to hear your thoughts too. God bless you.

Shalom!

-jonathan

  2 comments for “Reflections on Spiritual Gifts Panel Last Night: Evil Spirits

  1. Hugh
    August 14, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Question: is that if a gift is from the holy Spirit it will say jesus is lord , how can you tell if it is not from God when the demons said that jesus was the holy one (mark 1:23-24) can you explain how to know the difference?

    • jonathanbarb
      August 14, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Yeah, that’s a good question. In this specific case I think it’s important to notice that the demon is speaking from a place of confrontation – Jesus is confronting the unclean spirit in this man and the spirit is afraid of being destroyed. What Paul is saying (“No on can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”) is that demons do not proclaim Christ as Lord; Lord meaning King, Saviour, Lord, or owner, or leader of my life. We don’t know for sure what the spirit was saying through the man, but clearly it was something Jesus could discern as untrue or dangerous and cast the unclean spirit out.

      Of course evil/unclean/other spirits know that Christ is God. James 2:19 says that even the demons believe and tremble. That doesn’t mean though that they follow or worship. It’s like saying I believe Satan exists (as a single entity or as an abstract collective evil, I’m not sure) and I tremble sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that I follow Satan. I follow Christ and I trust in Christ as the one who is more powerful than Satan.

      And I think the point Paul makes is that demons and evil spirits will try to win you over in many ways, but they will not allow themselves to declare that Christ is Lord, because they do not worship Him.

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