The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts

When it comes to the so-called miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christians generally fall into two camps. In one camp, you have what are known as cessationists. This group believes that miraculous gifts, like speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, ceased to exist at the end of the first century. In the other camp, you have what are called continuationists. This group believes that the gifts have continued into our present age. The debate between the camps is complicated. To make matters worse, brilliant biblical minds reside in both camps.

Sam Storms has written a helpful book about spiritual gifts that will greatly benefit beginners. He aptly named the book The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Storms, a continuationist, said “I rejected cessationism because, in the solitude and safety of my office, I became convinced that the Bible didn’t teach it.” Before making the theological switch, Storms recalls feeling embarrassed by the behavior of people associated with the miraculous gifts. Although the book does not share further details about his shift from cessationism to continuationism, it does provide a great overview for anyone interested in knowing more about the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Storms begins his book by celebrating the positive things he sees in today’s church. Generally speaking, attendance is up and giving has increased. Also, books about the Bible and Christianity are being produced at rapid speed and Christians are more willing to enter the public arena for the purpose of sharing their faith with others.

Although there are things to celebrate, Storms doesn’t shy away from the areas where the church is weak. To name a few, poverty is flourishing, relationships are broken, and people are suffering from disease and illnesses with little hope for healing. Storms is convinced that the church is in desperate need of power from her Lord and the energy and activity of the Holy Spirit.

Before diving into that energy and activity, Storms provides a chapter containing ten myths and misconceptions about spiritual gifts. He is well aware of the problems that keep people from engaging and seeking manifestations of God’s Spirit. One myth discussed is that, at conversion, a person receives all the gifts they will ever get. Storms cites Paul and his command to Christians to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 12-13, 39). If Paul commanded Christians to “desire spiritual gifts,” then gifts must be available to believers subsequent to their conversion.

Another myth provided by Storms is the notion that if people abuse their gifts they should stop using them altogether. According to Storms (and Paul), the solution to abuse is not prohibition, but correction. Corinth was a church obsessed with spiritual gifts. They excelled in their use of them yet seriously misunderstood their purpose. Surprisingly, Paul didn’t tell them to use their gifts less, but rather, use them correctly while earnestly desiring more!

Chapter 3 is where Storms begins explaining each of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. The gifts mentioned in those verses are: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. It should be noted that other gifts are listed in the Bible; Storms, however, focuses his attention on the nine listed in 1 Corinthians 12 because they are controversial and are the most susceptible to misunderstanding.

For the sake of time, I will not discuss every gift cited in The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts. I’ll just say I believe the entire book is worth your time and would make a great addition to your theological library.

Two gifts addressed by Storms is faith and healing. He links faith with healing because Jesus often healed due to someone’s faith (Luke 17:19; Mark 2:5, 10:52), though not always (John 5:1-9). Storms lists five kinds of faith for healing: (1) faith that God is your sole source for blessing; (2) faith in God’s ability to heal; (3) faith in God’s heart for healing; (4) faith that God does indeed heal; and (5) faith that it is God’s will to heal right now. Furthermore, Storms claims that when “God chooses to heal, He produces in the heart(s) of those praying the faith or confidence that healing is precisely His intent.”

The gift of healing is interesting because it’s actually plural in the Greek, making it “gifts of healings.” These gifts are occasional and are determined by God’s sovereign will. It may be that God uses you to heal in one situation but not another. Regardless, we are commanded to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31). Therefore, we should all pray for gifts of healings.

Miracles are also discussed by Storms. A miracle is a supernatural and often startling event in which an act of God occurs that cannot be explained by human abilities or other known forces in our world. Storms shares a story about a miracle that occurred in Kansas City, MO between April 13th and May 7th, 1983. During that time, Mike Bickle, the charismatic leader of The International House of Prayer, called his church to a 21-day fast to pray for the needs of the city. On April 14th, Mike announced the fast and, shortly thereafter, was approached by a man named Bob Jones, who said: “God is going to send a comet in the heavens that as of today no scientist or astronomer anywhere in the world has discovered or predicted. It will come as a complete surprise to them and will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has called this time of prayer and fasting and that He fully intends to bring revival to this city and country.” Eleven days later, the comet was discovered! That is a miracle. Google “comet on April 25th, 1983” for more information about the event.

Moving on, Storms defines prophecy as “the human report of a divine revelation.” Prophecy is designed to strengthen, encourage, and comfort people (1 Corinthians 14:3). Within the last year, I received a prophetic word from two different people who live in different towns and do not know one another. The words were very similar and encouraged me to take risks in pursuing my desire for vocational ministry within the local church. The words were: “I see you standing on the outside of a circle with clown shoes on your feet. The shoes are prohibiting you from getting into the circle, though you want in. The Lord wants to talk to you about the meaning of the shoes.” In a nutshell, I’ve been too prideful to get into the circle because of my fear of looking silly. Those words were prophetic. They encouraged me to jump in, awkwardness and all.

The last gift I’ll share from Storms’ book is the gift of tongues. A tongue is a Spirit-energized spoken language. The language is unknown to the speaker yet can edify the receiver and glorify God. Furthermore, all believers can and should seek the gift for private prayer. In this case, the believer is edifying themselves in the Lord. Jude 20 commands us to edify ourselves by praying in the Spirit. Tongues should not be used in public worship unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:28).

I merely summarized the book but would highly recommend it to anyone desiring a deeper understanding of spiritual gifts. You can purchase it here.

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