One of the critical elements in understanding spiritual gifts is relating them properly to the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26) and particularly to love. Many times we have a tendency to think of the work of the Holy Spirit in a chaotic, scattered fashion. Some groups focus on the Fruit of the Spirit, but are not that interested in spiritual gifts and empowerment by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Others are very interested in the power, but show both by words and deed that they are not so much interested in the fruit.
But the Holy Spirit wants to bring all of these elements into your individual life and into the life of your church. He wants to provide comfort, encouragement, holiness, power, and, to put it precisely, the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus works in your through the Holy Spirit. These various elements cannot be separated. If you claim the Holy Spirit is working through you powerfully, and you do not display the fruit of the Spirit, I think there is good reason to question the validity of that ministry.
One of the key passages on gifts is 1 Corinthians 12-14. Now these three chapters are also frequently read as though they were independent pieces. When seen that way, chapter 12 looks like instructions about spiritual gifts, chapter 13 is a nice poem about love, and chapter 14 is about worship services. But as I have been writing on my wife’s devotional list, and saying in my audio podcast, these chapters are in fact closely related, and chapter 13 provides the key point and the connection between them.
Paul isn’t primarily teaching about spiritual gifts at all, though he manages to do quite a good job of that along the way. Rather, he is using spiritual gifts as an illustration of Christian unity. I’m not going to repeat here all of the points that I made in my two other posts. You can go read them as well. But I want to focus on one point.
The guide and the test for living as a Christian and using spiritual gifts is love. Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 13, and in chapter 14 he tries to show love in action in the worship service. In my PowerPoint slides that I use in teaching on spiritual gifts, I use the following slide:
What this slide is intended to show is that it is the Fruit of the Spirit that we carry to the world, guided by love. The power given to us through the Holy Spirit is intended to help us be more loving, gentle, patient, and so forth and serve people more effectively. And the greatest of the Fruit is love!
For more information on the program from which this slide is taken, see: