Some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are more subject than others to misuse and abuse. Holy Scripture provides instruction in the use of some of these. Wisdom regarding the others provides insight into their employment. We want to suggest guidelines for the employment of some of the gifts.
Devotional Use of Tongues. The expression of tongues may occur in the private devotional life of the believer in the form of prayer and/or singing (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). This may result in his personal edification (1 Corinthians 14:4) for more effective ministry. Praying or singing in a tongue is not to be considered a substitute for the devotional praying in one’s native tongue which also results in edification (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). The manifestation of the devotional use of tongues in the public service is to be discouraged (1 Corinthians 14:28).
Public Expression of Tongues. The New Testament forbids the manifestation of tongues in the public service unless it is accompanied by interpretation. The leader of the service should ascertain whether one is led to interpret when another desires to give a message in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:28) and then never more than two or three. The leader should seek a stance of openness and expectancy less he quench the Spirit in forbidding the speaking in tongues, but maintain proper order in the service (1 Corinthians 14:39b,40).
This gift of prophecy may be manifested within the congregation when the Holy Spirit inspires a revelation that serves to edify, encourage, or comfort the hearers. While prophecy is “revelation,” it makes the mind or will of God clear–it must never be exalted to the level of biblical revelation. Prophecy may illuminate the meaning of the Scriptures, but it can never replace it. In such prophetic utterances, the prophet does not have license to say whatever he wants and then to defend it as coming from the Lord. It must meet the tests of serving to build up, encourage, and comfort the church (1 Corinthians 14:3), and its validity will be attested by the body.
Claiming inspired utterance while haranguing the fellowship or individuals within the fellowship is false and may be the result of demonic pressure. This is not to say that reproof would necessarily be altogether eliminated. We should be careful of personal directive prophecy outside the ministry of a mature and submitted child of God. Extreme caution should be used in receiving any alleged directive or predictive prophecy.
It must be remembered in the exercising of the gifts of tongues and prophecy that the person speaking is in control over the gift (1 Corinthians 14:32).
We encourage the application of the instructions of James 5 regarding prayer for healing, including confession of sin, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and the prayer of faith. We recognize that there will be instances in which healing as we expect it may not occur. In such cases we commit those needs to the all-wise and understanding God.
It must be stressed that Scripture nowhere forbids the use of normal means of professional medical care and the natural healing processes in the treatment of sicknesses and disease. Indeed, God utilizes these methods in effecting healing.
The distinguishing of spirits may be manifested in two broad areas:
The recognition of “truth and error” or wrong attitudes harmful to the fellowship. In such a case a word of reproof or correction will need to be spoken by the one receiving the discernment.
In relation to evil spirits or demon possession of an individual. This may involve exorcism of a spirit or spirits (Acts 16:16-18; Luke 8:26-39) which must be undertaken discreetly and only after much prayer with other mature believers.
Demon possession must be carefully distinguished from mental or physical disorders or human failures that may be the result of temptations of human weaknesses common to all people. On the other hand, there is release in the name of Christ for those who are possessed.
Care is to be exercised in the use of these and all other spiritual gifts so that improper attention is not called to the gift and the Holy Spirit at the expense of glorifying Christ (John 16:13,14).
In the exercising of spiritual gifts, there must be the recognition of established authority. Paul writes, “if any one thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Corinthians 14:37,38). There is the responsibility of each Christian bringing himself into subjection under those in authority over him. This is true even in the area of the spiritual gifts which he knows to be given him by God through the Spirit.
There is also an awesome responsibility on the part of him who is in authority. He must recognize that he indeed must issue what is “a command of the Lord” and not his own personal prejudices when he either limits or allows the expression of spiritual gifts within the fellowship.