I made the long trip over the big pond, a seven-hour journey. It’s too obvious to say, but it would not have happened with only one wing. The same applies to our life in the Spirit. We need two wings to get there, the fruit of the Spirit, the supernatural character of Jesus, and the gifts of the Spirit, the supernatural ministry of Jesus.
The Corinthians were attempting to fly with one wing, and they kept crashing. Paul wrote to them, “You do not lack any spiritual gift…”(I Cor. 1:7). This gave them great potential for ministry. But they proved less than effective because the fruit didn’t balance the gifts. They were divided into quarreling factions. One could see the wreckage of broken relationships and the carnage of unholy alliances. We often think of the word “worldliness” as referring to some kind of sexual compromise. Paul called the Corinthian saints worldly because they didn’t know how to get along: “For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (3:3).
I once invited a young man to teach at our church on deliverance. He did a good job, but an elder who was more discerning than I was said afterwards, “He’s going to mess up if he doesn’t learn about submission.” In fact, Bud saw it clearly. Mark ended up divorcing his wife, leaving town, and creating a trail of problems in the wake. He had not given sufficient time for his character to catch up with his charisma. He was flying with only one wing—and it didn’t work!
Paul made clear in the famous love chapter that tongues without love only produced noise, that prophecy unlocking mysteries or mountain-moving faith amounted to zip without compassion, that sacrifice to the point of martyrdom would prove fruitless if not grounded in love. He concluded that powerful functions disconnected from healthy relationships discredited the action.
Then should we say as some do, “What we really want is the fruit?” Great, but the plane will still not take off. Love alone does not move the mountain of demonic oppression or skin cancer or gnawing depression. We don’t want to simply create noise with the gifts minus the fruit. But neither should we settle for the right motivation without any manifestation. So Paul wrote, “To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (12:7). The Spirit is made evident when the fruit is developed; otherwise it would not be called the fruit of the Spirit. But the power of the Spirit, the sovereign Lord, is likewise made visible when a simple prophecy is shared with pinpoint accuracy or a knotty problem is resolved with divine wisdom.
God-honoring, Bible-believing Christians who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit but tolerate at best or ignore the gifts of the Spirit may think that they are better off than carnal charismatics at Corinth who haven’t learned how to get along. Tolerance is not the same as zeal. Paul makes sufficiently clear that an airlift requires two wings. He even put them together in one verse: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (14:1). It sure doesn’t sound like Paul is choosing the fruit over the gifts. In fact, he takes three full chapters to deal with the question of spiritual gifts that they had addressed to him in a letter. Paul answered abuse not with disuse but with proper use. And that meant exercising the gifts out of a humble heart, one that cared for others and that overlooked offenses.
The Epistles focus much more on the fruit than on the gifts, the explanation rather than the experience. One exception is the letter just referenced. The church was not lacking in gifts, but they did not know how to fly with both wings, and they continually crashed. The communion services morphed into drunken feasts, arguments ended up in civil courts, and sexual boundaries were crossed in ways that embarrassed unbelievers.
The gifts predominate in the Gospels (healing, miracles, raising the dead, casting out of demons, discernment, prophecy) and in the book of Acts. Because the Protestant Church has camped on the Epistles as over against the Gospels and Acts, it has missed the emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. Scholars have said that theology is shaped more from explanation than from experience, so Protestants have generally favored the letters. No wonder, then, that the gifts, and especially the charismatic gifts, are given less attention than the fruit.
Toleration of the gifts does not obey the command to desire them earnestly. But neither do we major in the gifts to the exclusion of love. When the King was in town, the gifts were seen on a regular basis and were motivated by love that produced joy. And when all the King’s men extended the kingdom, the same phenomenon prevailed. Power evangelism grew the church.
The gift of tongues drew the crowd on Pentecost. When Peter preached, 3000 were in the net that he pulled in (Acts 2). A crippled man is healed in the next chapter, followed by more bold preaching, and 2000 more came in. After the sobering death of Ananias and Sapphira, made known through the gifts of knowledge and discernment, “the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12). Two verses later, “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed” (5:15,16) A chapter later we read that “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (6:8). He also exhibited the fruit of the Spirit, especially wisdom and love. The gifts of the Spirit highlighted the love of the Father and produced an unstoppable movement.
If we want to upgrade the gifts, we upgrade our love. “You shall know them by their fruit,” so you do not need to advertise the gifts, just manifest them. The greater the fruit, the greater the gifting. Think Heidi Baker. If you want to see more healing, demonstrate more love. We need the fruit to build relationships. We need the gifts to do the ministry of Jesus. The fruit serves as the foundation for the gifts.
What if you fly with only the fruit wing? A portion of the New Testament is ignored.
The power demonstrated in the book of Acts remains unavailable to you. You desire to help people, but you lack the power. And you give people a distorted view of the Christian life.
What if you fly with only the gifts wing? Heaven records your works as a zero. Relationships are short-circuited in favor of getting the job done. You remain an immature child. You are voting for what will pass away. And you register a preference for the resurrection over the cross.
What fruit is growing on your tree? What fruit is lacking that needs to be developed? If God wants to grow faith for finances on your tree, He will bring tests in which you will be challenged to trust Him for money. If you need peace growing on your tree, He will bring storms to show you that you lack peace, so you cry out to Him.
What gifts have you especially desired? Your answer might give you a clue as to God’s sovereign designation. Desire them with all your heart; pray often for them. Show good stewardship for the gift(s) He gives you, and at the same time move out of the motive of love. Don’t attempt to fly with one wing.
takes time to develop given in a moment
demonstrates the Spirit demonstrates the Spirit
The fruit will outlast the gifts. We won’t need prophecy in heaven, but we will still demonstrate the eternal nature of love. We won’t pray for healing on the other side, but we will worship with overflowing joy. Yet in the meantime we need the gifts. Paul told his friends in Corinth, “You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (I Cor. 1:7). We need the supernatural ministry of the King until the King shows up again. We are doing His business. and we need His power, not simply His love. We need both wings to fly!