The work of the Holy Spirit in the world has several implications for Christians and their work. Whether working in creation or regeneration, the Spirit constantly empowers us to carry out the callings God places on our lives. There are many stories throughout the Old Testament of the Spirit bestowing gifts of strength, skill, leadership, and speech to God’s people.
So what implications do these stories bear for our work in the world today? There are seven major points to be drawn from these ancient examples.
1. The Spirit gives us power.
Where we have gifts of the Holy Spirit, we have power. We can fail to appropriate our gifts, we can bury them in the ground, and we can fail to fully utilize them. However, when the Holy Spirit gives gifts, they are potentially powerful. Using these gifts is our responsibility, but our failure to do so does not negate their potential power.
2. We shouldn’t separate “natural” and “spiritual” gifts.
It is wrong to depreciate or separate our natural (created) gifts and our “spiritual” gifts. Both are from the Holy Spirit. Although God can give new capacities to people at any time, in most cases he empowers or develops the potential of our created gifts for use in the church or the world.
3. The Spirit helps us reach our true potential.
In both the Old and New Testaments, people need the Holy Spirit to overcome spiritual blindness and apprehend spiritual realities. People in both Testaments needed to be born again, and their hearts made anew. This transformation sparked by the Holy Spirit enables us to develop our potential.
4. The Spirit provides gifts when we need them.
God gave gifts to people in the Old Testament to enable them to lead the people of Israel in difficult times. For instance, the judges were empowered to defend Israel. One of their numbers, Samson, though in many ways unfaithful, was made stronger when the Spirit came upon him. We may be similarly equipped with gifts to lead our families and communities through difficult times, and we can pray that the Lord would provide such gifted people in times of trouble.
5. The Spirit can increase our gifts for specific tasks.
God gave people with artistic skill even more skill through the Holy Spirit, so they could fulfill his plans to build the tabernacle and fashion its utensils. Likewise, God can unfold, redirect, or develop the potential of the gifts he has given us. This applies to people with a variety of skill sets, not just those with artistic gifts. It is appropriate to pray that the Lord unfold withered or partially developed gifts. In Luke 11:13, Jesus promises that just as sinful people know how to give good gifts to their children, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
6. The Spirit’s gifts apply to all contexts, not just spiritual ones.
God gave prophets the ability to speak about future events, but he also gave the ability to speak persuasively about present realities. The Holy Spirit can give people power to elicit trust through their speech. The Spirit can empower effective speech in even seemingly “secular” matters.
7. The gift of leadership applies on many levels.
The Spirit can give leadership not only to judges but also to other leaders in political power as well. This gift of leadership is still present today, and we can ask for the Spirit to grant this power in both the church and the world.
Editor’s note: Read Art Lindsley’s full paper, “Gifts of the Spirit in the Old Testament.”
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