This article looks at Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 with the special focus on the matter of spiritual giftsprophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing. The article also answers the question of whether the gifts were temporary or permanent.

Source: Lux Mundi, 2004. 11 pages.

Church with Charisma

Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-19

Read Text: Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11


In the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, a discussion is afoot about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The one seeks charismatic renewal. The other raises an eyebrow at the Alpha course. As yet there is little detectable direction. But the subject is very much alive. See, for example the link to “the work of the Holy Spirit” at the website of the Nederlands Dagblad ( There is a need to carefully consider what the Bible says. Rev. Gunnink, of the Reformed Church (Liberated) in Amersfoort-West, preached two sermons on the theme “how are we a church with charisma?” The sermons are completely available on internet ( The message is structured with the use of ten theses.

1. More Biblical attention for the person and work of the Holy Spirit is enriching🔗

What is charismatic, in fact? If we talk about charisma, we usually mean: personal aura. You could say that a charismatic congregation is one with much aura or character, but the original meaning of the word charisma is something else. The Greek word charisma originally meant just gift. In the New Testament, faith is called a gift, and charisma, but also acquittal and eternal life (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 5:15-16; 6:23). In this sermon, charisma means a gift from the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has given a wide variety of gifts to the church, which help in the building up of the church – the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, the gifts of speaking and service; the gifts of leading and teaching. People who give themselves in the service of the gospel are also gifts of the Spirit, such as apostles, prophets and teachers (1 Cor. 12:28, cp. Eph. 4:11). The New Testament also knew gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, and wonders.

It is the Charismatic Movement which draws new attention for these last gifts. The influence of this movement is not only to be found concentrated in Pentecostal churches but in just about every sort of church. The question this movement puts to the churches is this: have you not forgotten something essential in the building up of the churches? Read the first letter to the Corinthians! The church is standing in the way of the Holy Spirit’s work! Especially three gifts have been heavily neglected, according to Charismatics: the gift of healing, the gift of speaking in tongues and the gift of prophecy.

Let us not be negative, let us not start by turning away. Is it not much better to let yourself be challenged and stimulated: what is useful today, according to the Bible, and what not? Let us now first agree together, how enriching it is to become aware who the Spirit of God is and what he wants to mean to you! The Holy Spirit himself is God’s greatest gift. His coming at the day of Pentecost meant a new start for the church. Time and again Christ promised to his disciples when he was on earth: later I will go away, but I shall not leave you as orphans. A full Substitute for me will come to you, the Comforter. This is even the reason for a far reaching statement from Jesus: it is better that I go. It must really be a fantastic Replacement, if even Christ says of him: you are better off with him. It is better that I go, because only then can I give you that great present (John 16:7) It is better! We are better off with God’s Spirit at hand than the disciples were with Jesus close at hand.


This is the profit I want to make sure we register – it is good to be amazed about that gift. You always come across such shyness when it comes to the Holy Spirit. We can often imagine much more when it comes to God the Father, we can imagine much more of a person. By God the Son, truly a man, we can also imagine so much more. If I then ask: what does the Holy Spirit mean in your life, and someone says: well, I don’t really think about that, is that not poverty? And can this poverty not be found amongst young and old?

By way of contrast, it is so fine to hear this: reverend, I really used to believe, but so much of it was in my brain, just in my head, and there was little in my heart. But just lately, I see that God has come so much closer to me, faith has started to come alive. I am much more aware of the Spirit of Christ who lives in me.

This is the question I want to ask at the same time, is it not offensive for God’s Spirit, when in practice, we do not find him so important? Of course, nobody would say it like that out loud but if in your thoughts and actions you give the Spirit of Christ such a minimal place, you should be glad with the room for deepening and enriching which has come, thanks to the new attention for the Holy Spirit.

He wants to live in you, to renew your life, comfort you, you are never again alone, and he always wants to remain with you. Let us not only realise the richness of the gift during Whitsun, but live every day of our journey in dependence upon the Travel Guide in our heart.

Yes, but, somebody might say, is it right to place the Spirit so much in the centre? Is God’s Spirit not typically discreetly at work in the background? It is not typical of the Spirit of Christ to want nothing else than to bring you to Christ and keep you there? It’s all about him! This last word is true. Just as God the Father has a plan with you, and is set upon guiding and protecting your life, so that you come to Christ, so too, is God the Holy Spirit working so that you are bound more and more to Christ. He, the Comforter, shall glorify me, said Jesus (John 16:14). But does that mean that the Holy Spirit himself, only wants to stay quietly in the background? We do not say this of God the Father. God’s Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, wants to be worshipped and glorified by us (Nicene Creed). He, the third Godly person of the Trinity, the contact Person who keeps us connected to the Father and the Son, is God’s greatest gift to those who believe! How can you cry this down?

2. The gifts of the Spirit cannot be shut up in the time of the New Testament. All these gifts are special, thanks to their special origin🔗

God’s greatest Gift gives out gifts to us now. He is both Gift and Giver, as we sing in the Hymn ‘He has come, the Holy Spirit’. Much is said about this in the first letter to the Corinthians. In the Reformed Churches, you often come across a way of thinking, whereby an invisible line is drawn between the New Testament times, and the times which follow. It is said that there were many gifts given in the Apostles’ time, but when the Bible was available, some of the gifts which the Spirit wanted to give to us, finished. The ‘normal’ gifts remained, but the Spirit does not want to give us the so called ‘special’ gifts anymore. In the special category, we think of speaking in tongues, the gift of healing and the gift of prophecy.

On the other side, you have the Pentecostal Movement which is saying: where does the Bible say that? Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and unto eternity (Heb. 13:8)! So why would Jesus not want to give us exactly the same gifts through his Spirit? But no, Reformed Christians say in their turn: ‘special signs’ were just boosters at the start. For example, when a ship is launched you see an enormous splash and troubled water, but once the boat has started sailing, the water settles down again. What an upheaval surrounded the signs which the disciples performed! Now the ship sails calmly onwards, on the motor of the Word alone.

launched ship

There is something good in this way of thinking, and let us stick to it: that in the Bible, the Word of God’s Spirit, we have everything. What God gave as wonders and signs at that time, he does not have to repeat. God confirmed the gospel with signs and wonders long ago, God’s Word is truly reliable and finished. We do not need anything more, and if Pentecostals then say: is Jesus not the same today as two thousand years ago, we agree with them wholeheartedly, that is what we hold on to. But it is something else to go from saying he is the same to he does the same. In many ways God does things differently in the New Testament times than in the Old Testament times. And, after the day of Pentecost, many things happen differently than before. And also after Pentecost, you see God active in many different ways. Rome is not Corinth. You cannot make a mission church the same as a church which exists longer. And our time and culture are different to the times in which the Apostles lived. On that point, I agree with the person who said: today you do not see people dropping dead in the church as Ananias and Sapphira did.

And yet, we want to listen to the Bible! Where does it say that certain gifts were special and temporary and other gifts were normal and would remain? Paul names nine gifts in the text of 1 Corinthians 12:

  1. proclamation of wisdom;
  2. conveying of knowledge;
  3. (great) faith;
  4. gifts of healing;
  5. powers to do wonders;
  6. prophecy; and along with that
  7. the ability to distinguish between what is and is not from the Spirit;
  8. speaking in tongues; and with that
  9. interpretation of tongues.

I believe that we by distinguishing the so called special gifts from the more normal, and setting them against each other, discredit Paul’s words in two ways.

  1. We say: those normal gifts are just normal. If somebody says wise words, we call that normal instead of seeing God’s Spirit behind those words and saying: thank him! Paul wants to make us glad because of so many good things in the church ­ if somebody can lead well, or, if someone can present knowledge well, that is something to thank God for. Otherwise we discredit those gifts.
  2. If we say: the special gifts cannot be given anymore, then we also discredit God’s Spirit. Who am I to tell God’s Spirit what he can do?

Paul adds: remember, no matter how different the gifts are, it is all about one and the same Spirit who gives those gifts as He wishes (see Heb. 2:4). Paul says nowhere that there are normal gifts which remain and special gifts which will stop. We hear of a thoroughly Reformed professor, Lucas Lindeboom, at the Theological School in Kampen, that he had the gift of healing. Many people noticed that those whom Rev. Lindeboom visited and prayed with, were healed in unusual ways, against all medical expectation. Many believers and church officers witness that sometimes God intervened in a remarkable way and granted recovery. If I read something like that, must I immediately start haggling, looking glumly, saying: that’s not possible? Who am I to say what God’s Spirit can and cannot give and do now? We must beware of a sort of reaction way of thinking against believers from Pentecostal circles.

As far as that is concerned, I think the end of Mark 16 is very convincing. Here it says that all sorts of signs shall follow believers, also speaking in tongues. It does not say that these signs shall follow only the apostles, but the believers. Nor is there a time limit given. Yes, that is a promise of God for all times, that God can still do these things. But it does not mean that God will keep doing them. One fellow Bible exegete (Jakob van Bruggen) comments by this text: as the gospel travels round the world, the following signs will travel with the believers, they are signs which guide believing preachers during the advance of the gospel and you could possible think especially of missionary situations. But that they will only happen in a missionary situation, is not what is written and reduces these things too easily to a‑something-happening-far-away-situation. Above all, I can not keep track of these things. I prefer to be glad about all the gifts which God gives to us here and now, and they are all special.

gift of healing

I see Paul saying emphatically, in Rome and Corinth: people, just be glad with the gifts you are given and handle them well. Not: ah, poor soul, you haven’t received this or that gift. He does not write to the church in Rome: you miss some of the gifts Corinth has, go and get them. No, he writes: see what sorts of gift there are in your church and use them in the church to be a church with an aura. Thus, Corinth cannot be a sort of model church for us today.

3. The church in Corinth is no model church🔗

It sometimes seems as though the charismata (the Greek plural to charisma) as they were given to the unique and very young church – the church existed for just 5 years when Paul wrote this letter – should also by definition be given to all the churches today. There is that “must” element again, instead of that relaxed - God’s Gift and all his gifts thereafter, that will do for you. If God’s Spirit wants to give more, yes please. If not, that is good as well, because he himself in Christ is enough for us.

As far as the gifts are concerned, Corinth was more of a chapter apart within the New Testament than that this one church be a sort of blueprint for the church for today. If, for example, we read the apostle Peter about the gifts of the Spirit, you come no further than two sorts of gifts which he distinguishes: the gifts of the word and the gifts of service. The one can bring the message, the other can cook well. In the Alpha Course, you see these gifts of word and deed, hand in hand (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

It is instructive to also look at the list of gifts in Romans 12:4-8. Paul names six gifts there:

  1. prophecy;
  2. serving (thus as Peter – word and deed);
  3. teaching;
  4. encouragement
  5. giving or showing mercy;
  6. leadership.

When you put the list of gifts from the church in Corinth next to the list of gifts of the church in Rome, you can say two things:

  1. The lists of gifts in the New Testament are open. They are not closed lists, as a sort of characteristics that we all should have before it is acceptable.
  2. God gives a church in a certain situation what is necessary. You cannot say: hey, they don’t speak in tongues there, thus there is something not quite right. Paul does not say that to Rome. Also further in the New Testament (e.g. in the letters to the seven churches of Revelation), that a gift is missing, for example, the gift of healing, is never reason for a rebuke. Let us praise God’s wisdom, which through the Spirit, prepares the churches as he wants. God’s Spirit is free in this.

Let us be glad with the gifts which God’s Spirit has given to our own church. It can be good in times when people can be disappointed about the state of the church, to make super positive lists, just as Paul did, of what God has given us. Does everything in the church have to remain as it was? Is it wrong to desire more?

4. It is wrong to set ‘living from forgiveness’ and ‘desiring more’ (Eph. 5:18) on opposite sides. Which “more” are you searching for?🔗

When the work of the Holy Spirit and desire to experience more of the power of God’s Spirit in our lives, are being discussed, you often hear (also lately): let Christ’s mercy be enough for us. Is that not what we hold on to – that the forgiveness for every sin is to be found in Christ’s blood time and again? Is the choice between God’s grace is enough, and you desire more? No, this is absolutely not the choice! God’s Word and the confessions are full of it, we need both the blood (the mercy) and the Spirit of Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism shows these two repeatedly as being inseparable: Christ’s work of salvation is the work of his blood AND of his Spirit. Lord’s Day 26 shows this inseparable combination, where the expression can be found three times! Lord’s Day 44 says: continually pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to be renewed more and more after God’s image.

The question is not if you are allowed to desire more, but how you do so! Do you desire more, apart from Christ, or do you pray along with the baptism form: Holy Spirit will you give to me, what Christ has earned for me? True, if Christ is no longer being glorified, if it is all about your kicks, your experience, you at the centre of attention (as in Corinth), then it will go wrong. Or when you think that God’s Spirit in this life of all believers will save you from sin and that illness must be to do with having too small a faith.

golden teeth

Rev. Th. J. Havinga, former missionary, wrote, after a visit to Pentecostal churches in Brazil: “in the many services I have visited, I have heard little of the gospel of God’s grace for sinners. I have heard all the more of the message of the power of God’s Spirit who can change everything here and now, in one go. The prosperity theology has slained and slains her thousands in Brazil”. It is good to hear this clear warning. Believe! – and the Spirit will grant you a great life up to and including the amazing appearance of golden teeth. If I read that, I think: poor people, who are promised golden teeth or mountains of gold. But do not be diverted by excesses in Charismatic circles. Now that secularisation is being poured over the world by the lorry load, we need more than ever, to know what it is that God has poured out over us, and there is more necessary, than to reject the excesses of the Pentecostal movement alone.

Because, when desiring more means that you want to focus attention on the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, and in a stronger experience of God’s nearness to us, a stronger experience of what we confess, in practising godliness, in a stronger expectation of God’s power in our lives, then this is only profit.

And that, while the awareness of God’s Spirit in our lives is so necessary, in order to keep going as Christians in our heathen world. The awareness that God’s Spirit comforts us, makes us strong, and truly changes us and teaches us to lead a life of listening and praying. Does that live enough for you? Do we desire the fruits of the God’s Spirit?

5. Without the fruits of the Spirit the gifts of the Spirit cannot flourish (1 Corinthians 13, Romans 12, Galatians 5:22🔗

We have looked at the nine gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and at the six gifts in Romans 12, but how are these words meant to be understood? In Romans as well as in Corinth, they come under the framework of: desire to use the gifts which God has given you correctly. Correctly is – for the upbuilding of each other. In Romans, Paul compares the church to a body and Paul makes everybody down to size: cherish no thoughts which do not become you. Do not look jealously at someone else’s gifts, but be glad about all the different gifts within the one church of Christ. And after having named the distinguished gifts, he goes on to talk extensively about the first fruit of the Spirit, love (Rom. 12:9ff).

This is also what Paul does in the letter to the church in Corinth. He praises the variety of gifts which have been given and says: think about the unity of the body. Let that be your desire, to serve each other and to love each other. Just as in Romans 12, Paul goes on to praise that first fruit of the Spirit, love, in that famous Bible chapter 1 Corinthians 13. The nine gifts of God’s Spirit in Corinthians lose their way if the nine fruits of the Spirit do not grow. You find these fruits in Galatians 5: 1 love; 2 joy; 3 peace; 4 patience; 5 kindness; 6 goodness; 7 faithfulness; 8 gentleness; and 9 self-control. What does this mean in relation to speaking in tongues?

In Corinthians, Paul writes about speaking in tongues: ‘for anyone who speaks in a tongue, does not speak to men but to God’ (1 Cor. 14:2). The gift of speaking in tongues in Corinth is a gift of prayer, an intense form of worship of God in inexpressible joy. It is such intense prayer and thanksgiving, that there are no human words for it (14:13­-19). In chapter 13, Paul speaks about the language of angels. Does this mean maybe, that these sounds are the language of heaven? Whatever the answer, when speaking in tongues, you communicate in full with heaven. It goes beyond your own comprehension (14:14)! It is beyond anybody else’s comprehension. That is Paul’s point, if this gift has been given to you, let it be up-building. Because a gift from God’s Spirit without the fruit of God’s Spirit is a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Paul himself, spoke in tongues. No bad word about this good gift does he utter. But he adds: in the church, I rather speak five sensible words than a thousand words in a tongue (14:19).

speaking in tongues

In verse 39, the conclusion is very clear. Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. The one gift is thus better than the other. Prophesy is better. Strive for that! And as to speaking in tongues, you do not need to focus on that nor should you forbid it. For example, what do you do, if God now, during a prayer meeting, wants to let one of those present speak in tongues? Personally, I would not pray for the gift or seek it, personally I do not desire to have it, but if this gift should be given to a Christian whom I esteem, should I then automatically be negative and oppose him? I would say clearly, please ensure that you have a translator, so that I, and the rest, can understand as well, or otherwise, use this gift only in private (1 Cor. 14:18-19; 28).

Speaking in tongues is a jammer in meetings, if what is said, is not explained in understandable language. If we are together, you want to share and there is no place for ego-tripping, in the form of tongues without translation. Why? Because it is the clear message of God’s Word which must be heard in the meetings of the church and let us be glad about this fantastic gift from God’s Spirit to his church – the understandable language of the gospel. A church with charisma is a church which lives from God’s Word and from God’s Spirit. That is what God’s Spirit wants you to do, to shelter by God’s words, to let your heart and life be enlightened by that word so that this word can shine in every way. This is why Paul finds the gift of prophecy so important! But what is prophecy?

6. The most important gift is that of prophecy🔗

Let us be glad about the understandable language of the gospel. According to Paul, it is for this reason that the gift of prophecy is so important and he says: strive especially for the gift of prophecy. But what is that then?

There are various Bible words, which have become general sayings. Eg. “Test everything and keep what is good”. People who get involved in what they would have been better off leaving well alone, can defend themselves with: doesn’t it say in the Bible “Test everything and keep what is good?” But if you look at this text properly, you realise that it does not mean that you have to look into the workings of a gambling machine or try your hand at the lottery. Nor does it mean, that you have to have a go at being drunk for an evening (because ‘you just have to have experienced that’).

So what does Paul mean then? He is afraid that Christians quench the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is thus, compared with fire. Putting it out, blowing it out is something which you do when there is a threat of fire but not if you want to warm yourself by a lovely open hearth. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God is that heartwarming fire which began to burn. A fire, as you know, wants to spread! This fire too, is a fire which wants to break out! There were tongues as of fire, which were visible above every head (Acts 2:1) Gods great deeds will travel the world like a spreading fire. And God wants the personal prophetical involvement of all of us. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophecy”. Old and young, employer and employee. Pentecost is the feast of prophecy, the ‘speaking’ feast of the church, in which process we are all involved. This is a clear difference between the gifts of leadership, teaching, tongues or healing. It is one great gift of Pentecost for all of us.

Do not quench the Spirit, says Paul. Do not throw water on the fire in the church. Do not let the church be a burnt out church where there is much talking and little said. You should hear the conversation directly after the service. Your response: “hey, did Ajax score?” Full of God’s Spirit or full of the football scores? Do not quench the Spirit. After the service, do you throw water on the fire? Do not think: speaking words from God is just for the minister; or: I’ll leave that to the grownups.

mooring ring

In Corinth and also in Thessalonica believers spoke, often via direct revelations of the Holy Spirit. This was a very important supporting pillar for the church. Why? Because they were always concrete, relevant words. Paul says: “he who prophecies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort”. Prophetical is not theoretical. You think, this is just what we needed to hear! Or, you reject it.

There were members of the church who had received this gift very powerfully. They were called prophets: members of the church who spoke on behalf of God via direct revelations. In Acts we come across the prophet Agabus more than once (Acts 11:28; 21:10ff), somebody who predicted a famine and later, Paul’s arrest. If you remember, that Pentecost means: everybody shall prophecy, then you can understand, that this gift is the most important of all the gifts. In the list of gifts of the church in Rome, this gift is at the top. And Paul says to Corinth: let this gift be the most important. Strive for prophecy! For this reason, in the New Testament, the prophets are mentioned directly after the apostles! God gave apostles – and then come the prophets (Eph. 2:20; 3:5; 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28)! While the apostles told the gospel especially to unbelievers (directed at expansion) the prophets were the men whom, in the wake of the apostles, took care of the internal church building. The text, 1 Thessalonians 5, shows how important this gift is: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.” Apparently, not taking the prophets seriously, was not unthinkable.

7. Blessed is he who reads the word of the prophecy and keeps it (Rev. 1:3)🔗

But now the key question, if this is so important – if it is charisma number 1 from the Spirit, above all, the charisma for every Christian, what is left of this gift now? Or do we quench the Spirit? Corinth, Thessalonica, Amersfoort-West then?

But then you would be forgetting something important. Does the work of the Apostles have to be repeated? NO. Does the work of the prophets have to be repeated? No. They laid the foundation. Paul says this clearly in Ephesians 2:20: “members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” The basis has been laid! Within the New Testament, you see that the direct revelation from the Holy Spirit moves to the background. The written word of God moves into the foreground, the “prophecy of Scripture” (2 Peter 1:20). We now have a full Bible, full of prophecy! The book of Revelation says, finally, that there should be nothing added or taken away from the words of the written prophecy (Rev. 22:18-19).

Somebody asked: how can you categorically say that there are no more direct revelations today? Is that only on the basis of this text? I want to say two things about this:

  1. No direct revelations now? I would say that that would be a bit too easily dismissed. This would be true if you mean that the Bible, the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets is finished. But not true, if you mean that God can no longer make things clear to you in a direct way, especially if this is about guidance in your life.
  2. And: no, that God’s word being complete, is really not only based on that last text in Revelation. Closer to the core, as far as I am concerned, is the question: who is Christ for you? He has not only finished everything, but also said everything that you need to know about your salvation, either Himself, or via his apostles. Think about a text like Hebrews 1:1-2: ‘God has spoken to us in these last days by his Son’. Christ, the highest Prophet, has completely revealed to us the hidden plan of his redemption. We have everything in Him! Everything which He has done has been enough and everything that He has said (personally or via messengers) has been enough.


From the first moment, the church has had to resist people who said, no, the Bible is not enough. First it was the Montanists, in the first century who went in search of new revelations alongside the Bible. And the most famous are the Anabaptists. They said: do not quench the Spirit! And they shouted: now it’s all about the gift of prophecy. But for them, the Bible became an outward book, a dead letter. They sought direct words from the Holy Spirit via dreams, visions, prophesies. For Thomas Munzer, the prophet of the Anabaptists, a normal sermon in the church was not enough. He said: ‘God has revealed His purpose through the inner word, in the depth of my soul. I know more about him than a scribe, even if he has eaten 1000 Bibles!’ Along with Guido de Bres, writer of the Dutch Confession of Faith, we believe that the Bible is complete and that it is fanaticism to think that what our Prophet has taught us, needs to be added to. It is also dangerous. Think of those people who call themselves apostles or prophets, and who, with an absolute authority, control or terrorize a sect, and do so saying: God is speaking through me, obey me!

This is why it is so important not to forget Paul’s addition: test everything, test all prophecy. Even the most prophetic sermon you hear or the most prophetic contribution during the Bible study, is not necessarily above criticism. It is so wrong to think that you are the only one who has the Holy Spirit. It is even noticeable, that Paul so often says: you must not just accept any old prophecy. To Corinth he says “the others should weigh carefully what is said” (1 Cor 14:29). And to the church in Rome: the gift of prophecy cannot be without the measure of the faith of the church. This avoids people calling themselves prophets and misusing the authority that accompanies that.

But, somebody interrupts, when prophecy was the great gift of Pentecost, should we not be talking about more than: keep God’s word?” It is surely more than be careful with an old Book? Surely the Living God speaks to us still today. Certainly, see the following point:

8. Prophecy is not only the explanation of God’s Word but also the gift of applying the Bible to the need of the moment🔗

The course which many people intend to follow in the coming year, begins with tips for Bible study. It is noticeable in this that Bible study does not remain Bible study, it is more. The writer, Rev Philip Troost says: pray at the beginning if God now, through this Bible passage, will speak to you. Or, if He will help you to understand His voice in what it means for you personally. That is what we are talking about. Not only: the Bible as study book, but as prophecy, in which God speaks to you now. And you, in turn, speak about that. It is praying listening. You pray: Lord let me meet You myself, that You speak to me and that I realise what You want to reveal to me and what you require of me in my life.

This is nothing new. Maybe it looks like a big leap, from Philip Troost in our times to Calvin. But it is no great leap. Do you know what Calvin said about prophecy? Calvin came to this description of: prophecy is not only the explanation of the Bible but also knowing how to relate it to the moment. And, said Calvin, this knowledge can only come through revelation. Amazing! Calvin does not shut the Bible up in the past and he shows how important the gift of prophecy is today. It is not only about explanation but about the gift of making clear that God says this today, in this situation! And that can only be given to somebody. Through the Spirit, God can make this clear, or, give revelation.

In the encouragement to strive for prophecy, there is a warning against technical reading of the Bible. The words Bible study makes you think of students who, through hard study, manage to understand a certain subject. And sure, it cannot be emphasised enough – love for God’s Spirit can be seen indeed, in application to reading and study of God’s word. The more the better! The late Professor Benne Holwerda once wrote: the spiritual sense of a Bible passage cannot be scientific nonsense. With this he meant: the Holy Spirit is not happy when we pull texts out of their context and only ask: what effects me, what does it do to me? What effects you, must stay and it is an impoverishment of the Bible when we only find one theme important: God and the soul. But, if there is only study, this is not good either, as though the Bible is a text book for a certain study direction.

praying and Bible

God speaks to us today, to you, to me. Pray: speak Lord, your servant is listening, not to an ancient book, but to your living voice today. Eagerly desire prophecy! Do not despise prophecy. Pray and listen to what God says to you. Somebody asked me: would you please say something about the interrelationship between prayer and Bible reading, praying and listening, listening and praying. Reformed people are becoming interested in this. Yes, I would say, a good thing too! Because this is a strong desire to read the Bible as though it speaks, as prophecy, and through that to be moved to such an extent that you start to prophecy yourself. Not pompously, but driven by God’s Spirit. What does it mean here and now in 2003 and 2004 to follow Jesus?

Do not quench the Spirit of God. Pray that we all read the Bible today as a book that speaks to us, most relevantly. Pray that there are ministers, who can translate God’s word concretely in its meaning for today. No, that is not only a question of knowledge and ability, but just as much guidance and revelation from the Spirit of God. Example: as minister, you can prepare your sermon well at home, but sometimes, in the pulpit, God can lead you further in what has to be said. Or, you are talking to somebody and you realise that the Holy Spirit is giving you the words to say, something which is really to the point. That is prophecy. The Holy Spirit wants to give you that at certain moments.

When two of our church members were killed in a fatal accident, I preached having had no longer than five minutes to think about what I would say. But God gave the words. He helped us, according to the needs of that moment. It is fantastic to experience that in all the sorrow of the moment.

Sometimes, somebody can say something from the Bible, during a Bible group discussion, or a minister during a sermon, which is so relevant ... you recognise it. You say: this is it! This is what we all needed. That is prophecy, thanks to God’s Spirit.

9. Not quenching the Spirit and the gift of prophecy are bound up together. This is not true of the gift of healing and speaking in tongues🔗

I now want to say something about speaking in tongues and about the gift of healing. In the text, Paul shows a clear link between quenching the Spirit and despising the preached word of God in the church, the prophecy. He does not lay the same connection between speaking in tongues or healing. He does not say: keep the Spirit’s fire glowing by striving for the gift of tongues or healing. Nor does he say: do not quench the spirit by not desiring to speak in tongues.

The question has been asked: can you disconnect the two? Can you desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit without desiring to speak in tongues? My answer is: yes! Listen to what Paul says in the text. Here there is no connection with tongues. He connects it with prophecy! Also in Ephesians 5, where Paul says: ‘be filled with the Spirit’, he makes no connection with speaking in tongues. Paul does make a link with: address each other in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, sing and praise the Lord with all your heart. If Charismatics make speaking in tongues the characteristic of being filled with the Spirit, that is not what the New Testament says!

Paul also makes no connection to the gift of healing. Why? Because he does not value the gift? No, because one gift is not the same as another. We must strive for the highest gifts: prophecy and judgement of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:31). Without the gift of healing there can still be a completely living church; without the gift of prophecy, this is impossible. I value the Alpha course for many points, but when Nicky Gumbel says the charge to go and heal is for all of us, this is not what I read in the Bible. I read in the New Testament that at Pentecost, we all received the gift of prophecy and not the charge to go out and heal.

As soon as you say that speaking in tongues and healing should be part of a normal Christian life, you make something which was a free gift of God to one certain church (Corinth), a norm for all churches. Is it up to us to interfere with God’s generosity? You suggest you are poor and you say, for example, of the church in Rome, that this was not a normal church. Pray for God’ Spirit yourself, focus on Him. Do not quench the Spirit. Then He decides what is good, and that is, especially prophecy.

Somebody asked: is it not strange that speaking in tongues and healing hardly ever happen in our churches? This question is too suggestive for me, as though in order not to quench the Spirit, we must have all these gifts. I read nowhere in the New Testament a rebuke for a church where certain gifts were missing. Should we then rebuke the churches in the Netherlands? When you receive gifts, your attitude should not be: haven’t we received too little? A more appropriate attitude is: count your blessings! And that the gift of healing is seldom in view does not mean that God does not heal miraculously in our churches. In His sovereignty, God gives to us what is good for us. God is mighty. He is also omnipotent. Trust his wisdom!


Somebody else wrote to me: “A friend in India evangelizes amongst Hindus. My daughter had an email with her about the recent events there. While the evangelist is preaching, the most wonderful things happen. There was a woman, pregnant, but heavily poisoned. She was prayed for and healed on the spot! The local doctor could not understand it because the amount of poison was really deadly”. Thank God, I would like to say! But do not force God. Somebody else wrote about this:

I went along to a Pentecostal church where there was to be a service for healing. There was a lot of singing, many praise songs, the mood was whipped up. There was a young woman in a wheelchair, and if we now prayed for this woman, the wheel chair would no longer be necessary. After much prayer in Jesus name, if she was taken out of the wheelchair and if the church started to praise God, she would be able to walk. The poor woman was taken out of the wheelchair and had to show that she could walk. It was in the summer on grass, but she fell repeatedly; again more prayer and singing, but the woman had to be put back in her wheelchair. Let us not tell God what He has to do because He gives to whom He wants. Nor should we have low expectations of God because He is always greater than we think!

I have to agree with that and I am glad about that last comment: let us not think too little of God, because he is always greater than we are. Such tales are a warning to us. But we also must watch out: this story suits us, to say it a little undiplomatically. God is greater than the way we think. It would really be a shame if excesses become an excuse for us not to expect great things from God and not to pray for them. God’s Spirit is a spirit of surprises, keep expecting this.

10. Belief in answered prayer is believing in an answer from God, with or without words🔗

Recently, I visited a couple in the church. Their son had taken his own life, after a long struggle. There are no words for this. His mother told me with tears in her eyes, that after that terrible day, she had a very difficult night and that one great question kept whirling around her head, one great fear. She could not sleep. “If I may know that my child is with you in heaven, then I will have peace. Then I can move on.” She prayed, and prayed, and prayed. And then, words suddenly came to her from a hymn (Gereformeerd Kerkboek, Hymn 24 ‘De dag van onze Vorst brak aan’, stanza 4, with a reference to Rom.8:34-35 and John 14:1-3): “who will contradict Him, who is interceding for us and takes us after trouble and hardship into the Father’s House?”. Then she knew, she said. God had said to her: he is alright, in the Father’s house. And it was good. She could move on. God gave her peace. She experienced it like this: I heard God’s voice, He made something clear to me. If I hear that, then surely I can only be glad. At that moment it must not even enter my head to say: everything we need to know is in the Bible.

Christ is living reality now! Then I can only say: when we believe in answer to prayer, then we also believe that an answer will come, often without words, but if God wants it like that, then also with words. This is a part of what the sung version of Psalm 25 calls ‘walking with God day by day’ (Book of Praise, stanza 6). This walk with God has nothing to do with adding things to the Bible, but everything to do with living close to God, on intimate terms, through His Spirit.


One person will say: God has made something clear to me; another says: God spoke to me. You mean the same. And that has everything to do with trusting God’s guidance in your life. Psalm 25 teaches us to pray: Lord, reveal to me your ways, teach me all your paths. What is the point of this prayer if God does not make anything known? Are these additions to the Bible? No! But fulfilment through God’s Spirit now, so that you let yourself be led by God. Let us not limit the Holy Spirit to a mere power which only supports us. He is a Person! He wants to open our eyes to the Bible, but also for the way we must go.

When, because of these two sermons about the Holy Spirit and his various gifts, you move closer to Him, and want to become full of the Spirit of Christ, my goal has been achieved. Let me close with the question in Psalm 25: who is the man that fears the LORD? Who is the woman that fears the LORD? Which boy, which girl fears the LORD? For those who do, there are great promises. The first promise is in Psalm 25:14: The LORD confides in those who fear him. And the other promise can be found in Acts 2:17-18 (see Joel 2:28-32): then you will prophesy. You will be prophets and prophetesses, who cannot be silent about God’s love.​


  • Website Nederlands Dagblad: ‘Het werk van de Heilige Geest’.
  • Gunnink, Onwijs rijk, Bijbelstudie over de eerste brief aan de Korintiërs, Barneveld: Vuurbaak, 2003; see especially chapters 8: Gemeente met charisma and 9: De taal van de liefde.
  • Drost, Gods huis – open huis. Van harte gereformeerd en missionair, Bedum: Woord en wereld, 1997 (Woord en wereld, 37).
  • ​L. Floor, De gaven van de Geest in bijbels-theologisch perspectief, Heerenveen 1999
  • J. Douma, Christelijke levensstijl, Kampen: Van den Berg, 1992 (Ethische Bezinning, 5); see chapter 2 about living with God).
  • J. van Bruggen, Ambten in de apostolische kerk, een exegetisch mozaïek, Kampen: Kok, 1984; p. 33ff a.o. about ‘prophets’.
  • J.P. Versteeg, De Geest en de gelovige, Kampen: Kok, 1976 (Apeldoornse studies, 11).
  • Philip Troost, Open Lijnen. Een cursus in omgaan met God en met elkaar, Kampen: Kok (2002).
  • The Greek word charisma originally meant just gift.

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