December 2007 - Vol. 14
Gifts and Graces for All 

- Part III

The Spirit of God works in us so that 
we can be a people after God’s own heart

by Steve Clark

The Root of Jesse, print by Jeanne Kun

The Gift of the Spirit Himself
The first kind of gift that we receive is one that we have already discussed, the gift of the Spirit himself. This is the chief gift we are given. When we have received the gift of the Spirit, we have
God himself abiding in us, giving us life and working in and through us.

As we have seen, the gift of the Spirit brings us new life, and as a result of that life, the fruits of the Spirit should grow. To be sure, life needs feeding and this fruit comes through exercise
or practice. Some people who have received the Spirit or been baptized in the Spirit do not seem to have received much spiritual life or to have become very spiritualized. Nonetheless, spiritual life and the fruit of the Spirit become possible, in principle, through the gift of the Spirit.

The life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit in us makes it possible for us to be effective. If we were not alive, we could not do anything. Therefore, without the spiritual life the Holy Spirit gives, we cannot do anything or have any effect as Christians. However, considering the gift of new life in the Spirit and the way he works to enable us to develop greater likeness to God in our character does not cover all his gifts. He also gives us gifts that equip us to be effective in serving him or in acting to advance his kingdom, and those are the focus of this chapter. Here we do not need to do any more than call to mind the basic gift of the Spirit so that we can see the overview.

Gifts and Graces for All
Some gifts of the Spirit seem to be for everyone, the kind of spiritual equipment that comes with being a Christian. The prophecy in Isaiah 11:1-5 has been traditionally understood to be a description of such gifts:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist,
and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.
This is a prophecy about the coming Messiah, delivered toward the end of the eighth century B.C. The royal house of Judah, the house of David, here referred to by mentioning Jesse, the father of David, is like a large tree that has been cut down. Only the stump remains. But a new shoot or branch will grow out of it. That shoot will be the Messiah, that is, an anointed king. In other words, at a time when it will look as if there are no kings left, a new king will arise.

According to the prophecy, this promised Messiah will have the Holy Spirit rest on him—that is, come into him in an abiding way in order to equip him to be an effective king. The same thing, in other words, will happen to this descendant of David that was described in 1 Samuel 16:13 as happening to David himself: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”

In other words, David was anointed by Samuel to be the king, and then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in a powerful way to equip him to be king. The Spirit needed to remain with him and work through him in an ongoing way, because he was to be king for over forty years, all day long and all year long. David did not receive a particular working (inspiration) or help when he was anointed but a spiritual equipping that lasted “from that day forward.”

According to the prophecy, the Holy Spirit would provide different kinds of spiritual equipment for this king and, as we shall see, for us. There are some different interpretations of the set of words that describe this equipment, but the following is a helpful one:

Wisdom and understanding: 
These correspond to what we might call mental formation, the mental formation that allows us to know basic truths like the nature of God, the creation of the world, and basic morality—that is, what is right and wrong. A king who has these gifts should be able to understand what he is about in the light of an overall grasp of the world and its relationship to God, of human life and how it can arrive at what God created it to be. The Spirit of God works in us to teach us, to so form our minds that we can understand foundational truths in a spiritualized way.

Counsel and might: 
These are equipment for action. Counsel is good judgment about what to do as different situations present themselves to us. Might is the strength to do what we need to do, especially the ability to handle difficulties or obstacles that might turn us away from doing what we judge is the right thing to do. The Spirit of God works in us to make us effective servants (agents) of his.

Knowledge and fear of the Lord: 
These concern our relationship with God. Knowledge in this context probably refers to the personal experiential knowledge of God and what he wants of us. It is “knowing him and not just knowing about him.” Fear of the Lord is obedience to him. The Spirit of God works in us so that we can be in a good relationship with God.

His delight is the fear of the Lord: 
His delight is the fear of the Lord seems to be a concluding summary statement. A godly king should be someone who delights to do what God wants, whose inner orientation is to do what God wants in everything. David was described as a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), not meaning that God had affection for him but that David wanted what God wanted. The Spirit of God works in us so that we can be a people after God’s own heart.

Irenaeus, a second-century father, described the Spirit in his book Against the Heretics (III, 17) as the Holy Spirit, who descended upon the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, the spirit of the fear of the Lord, and to whom he in turn gave to the Church, sending the Paraclete from heaven unto all the earth.” Irenaeus saw the seven “gifts” as seven ways in which the Holy Spirit himself operates in us. The prophecy in Isaiah 11, then, was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord to equip him to save us and to bring the kingdom of God to the human race (see also Luke 4:16-21). But it was also poured out on him for us, so that when we are baptized and baptized with the Holy Spirit, we too are equipped as he was.

God, then, gives certain gifts to all of us. He allows us to participate in the gifts that Christ, the Messiah, was given so that he could advance the kingdom of God in the face of spiritual opposition. We all therefore have been equipped with gifts that allow us to receive and grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding, so we can understand basic truths about reality and morality; counsel and might, so we can act more effectively; and knowledge and fear of the Lord, so we can be in a good relationship with the Lord. We can be a people whose delight is in the fear of the Lord, so that we live as his servants, to advance his will and his kingdom. If we have confidence that God has done these things in us, we will be able to advance his kingdom more effectively.

[Steve Clark is President of the Sword of the Spirit. This article is adapted from the book Charismatic Spirituality: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Practice, copyright © 2004 by Stephen B. Clark and published by Servant Books, a division of Saint Anthony Messenger Press. Used with permission.] 

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