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Randy Clark: "The Spiritual Gifts Debate"

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:1-4)

When we look at Acts 2:1-4, and study the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we should note that the tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each of those who were present in the upper room. Other translations have used the phrase “divided tongues.” Only in God’s Kingdom can divided tongues be intended to produce unity—but this is one of the benefits that Pentecost was purposed to unlock: supernatural unity throughout the body of Christ that reveals Jesus to the world (see John 17:22-23). 

Though Jesus had ascended into heaven before leaving Earth, He spoke of One coming who would be a glorious “advantage” to those who would receive Him. Read how Jesus was preparing the disciples to receive this advantage, the promised Holy Spirit:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7 NKJV) 

At that moment in time, the disciples’ minds could not fathom the possibility of an advantage. They could not consider a reality greater than having Jesus physically present with them. And yet, Jesus Himself informed them that it was “for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7). 

Even today, believers mistakenly long for “the good old days” or the “one day” of the future. We either wish we could have been among the disciples who were present during Jesus’s time on earth, or we look forward to a future day when we will be able to visibly see Jesus in all of His glory, either in heaven, during the millennial reign, or whatever our theology dictates. 

Here is my question to you: What about today? What about now? We must navigate the importance of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives today. This topic raises great controversy in the body of Christ. But remember, controversy in the Kingdom is only attached to truths of vital importance. Any controversy that may arise is evidence that there is great truth that needs to be rediscovered. 

The wrong approach is to see controversy as an invitation to disengage from the conversation entirely. No. While our call is not to angrily fire back at those who question the validity of the Spirit’s power today, we must constructively search the Scriptures in order to navigate this debate for ourselves. 

Remember, divided tongues were not given for the purpose of dividing the church. They produced a supernatural unity in the early church that changed the spiritual landscape of society. It was unity that prepared the disciples’ hearts for the Spirit’s coming on that day, as they all met in one accord (see Acts 2:1), and it is likewise unity that the Holy Spirit has come to produce in today’s church. Paul exhorts us to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). 

We must approach this topic with great sensitivity. It is just as dangerous for us to become hypercritical as it is for us to remain ignorant—both approaches assault Christian unity. We are addressing the issues for one key purpose: to constructively advance in our Christian lives, operating in every grace, gift, and endowment that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit scripturally offers us. 

John 14–17 represents Jesus’s farewell address to the disciples. In this context, He prepares them for what is to come—His death, but also the provision of the Holy Spirit. Consider these stirring words from the Savior as we press on toward unity in the Spirit and maximum effectiveness in advancing His Kingdom. As Jesus prays for all believers throughout all generations, He says to the Father: 

"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." (John 17:22-23 NKJV) 

The only one who makes this incredible reality possible—Christ in you and Christ in me—is the Holy Spirit. In order to live this out, let’s do our best to wade through the controversies. It goes without saying that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, and the very member of the Godhead who has come to abide with us on earth, is certainly of the most vital importance for our lives today! 

- Randy Clark, author of The Essential Guide to the Holy Spirit


Christian Rafetto

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