When it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is easy for Christians to think of some kind of special power to walk on water, healing people miraculously, or even the dead being raised. Christians often sound like we want to change the world for God through extraordinary means. And yet, what we find in the New Testament with the close of the apostolic era is a Spirit who is changing the world through very ordinary means and gifts. Here are five overlooked gifts of the Holy Spirit that God uses to change the world.
1. The Church’s Constitution
Just as modern states have laws and constitutions, God gave his people, the church, a constitution that governs all she says and does—the Bible. Through the extraordinary ministry of the prophets and apostles in Jesus’ day, the Spirit delivered Christ’s rule inscribed in an actual book: the Bible (inspiration). This unique Word of God is the preeminent gift of the Spirit. This Word now constitutes the new covenant community, the church. The new covenant community gathers around a new mediator, Jesus, who has broken down all the boundaries that we see in the Old Testament. We no longer make ourselves holy through ceremonies or being descended from a certain family line. We are made holy by the blood of Christ which washes us through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word through the power of the Spirit.
Through the ordinary ministry of pastors today, the Spirit guides the church by opening our hearts through what is already written by the preaching of the Word (illumination). The Spirit shapes this fellowship of believers by this written constitution that has unique authority over our lives for all our beliefs and practices.
2. The Church’s Elders
The Spirit brings Christ’s official roles as prophet, priest, and king to us by the Word of God through ordinary ministers, deacons, and elders. The elders uniquely rule the church of Christ; yet, they are in no way mediators to God. They serve Christ, the only mediator, as they serve the people of God.
Christ directs their authority according to his Word—the constitution that frames their appointed rule. They merely relay the wisdom, mysteries, and salvation of Christ to guide and direct the people of God in the salvation he alone has provided.
3. The Church’s Ministers
The particular offices of minister and elder have been given by the Spirit of Christ to equip all of the saints in their vocations and callings.
We are equipped through them to be prophets, priests, and kings in the world, declaring Christ’s work, battling sin, living to righteousness, and bringing God’s Word to our neighbors. The pastor is the shepherd who assists the elders in their rule and is sent by the Lord to teach and instruct, building up the household of God as servants of the Word of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
4. The Church’s Deacons
Christ does not merely rule our hearts but our bodies as well. He is equally concerned for our physical needs and wants. The gifts of the Spirit, therefore, include the ministry of the diaconate, serving the temporal needs of the saints.
In order that the apostles might give due diligence to the task of prayer and the preaching of the Word, the diaconate was created so these important tasks would not be forgotten.
The deacons allow ministers to give themselves to prayer and God’s Word, and they allow the elders to care for the spiritual government of the church. The diaconate serves as a reminder that Christ is still fully human in heaven and cares for us in body and soul.
5. The Church’s Unity
No believer is an island, isolated from the church. Similarly, no local church or denomination is the one catholic church apart from sister churches. They are only one and catholic as they exist together in Christ through the faithful preaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments.
In this communion, the gifts of the Spirit are used by Christ to care for the temporal and eternal welfare of his commonwealth and colony of heaven, uniting us to himself and to each other.
This unity spans history, as well as every niche demographic of our day, connecting us to the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This unity of doctrine and practice binds us in our faith, hope, and love as we long for the day when the Spirit rolls the heavens back at the coming of Christ.