The subject for today, the eighth Sunday in Pentecost, is The Gifts of the Spirit, and on looking at the appointed readings they seem to me to be almost an inspired juxtaposition of Old Testament reading, epistle and gospel.
In the Old Testament reading, we heard the wonderful story of the dry bones of Israel coming together, being breathed upon by the Spirit of God and coming to life again to become a mighty army (Ezekiel 37:10). Now Ezekiel’s vision was a true one. It came to pass exactly as God showed him, for in his day the ten tribes of Israel and many of the House of Judah with them had been taken into captivity for their sins, never to return to their own land (2 Kings 17:5–23).
But that was all in the plan of God for, seven or eight centuries later, these people who no longer knew who they were, who no longer spoke Hebrew or kept the Sabbath day — who were totally ignorant of the fact that they were the lost tribes of the House of Israel — these people were among the very first to respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so they became Christians.
Now you understand why Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), for He came to “visit and redeem His people” — Israel (Luke 1:68). The new covenant was to be made with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31). At the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is the new testament in My blood” (Matthew 26:28). So when Jesus died on the cross and shed His precious blood, that was to redeem Israel and to save the world. That is what we are remembering, what we are celebrating, in the Eucharist this morning.
Now, what happened? Jesus died on the cross, but on the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven. But Jesus promised to return again “so that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3) or — “wherever you are, I will be”. He would be with His disciples by being in them.
Now, you understand what happened on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had said to His disciples, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), and before He ascended into heaven He told them, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The Greek word here for power is dunamiV, from which we get our English words dynamic and dynamite.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4). So the Holy Spirit was outpoured and the confused, frightened, cringing disciples were filled with the Spirit and went out to turn the world upside-down.
That was the greatest event in the history of the world. It was the coming to life again of God’s Israel people. The nation was born in a day (Isaiah 66:8). It was the birth day of the Church.
Now, that is the greatest thing in the world, to know who you are, to receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour, to be a Christian, to be filled with His Spirit and to have His power in your life, to preach the gospel and heal the sick and cast out devils, and to do the same works that Jesus did, “and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).
So you see what I mean by the inspired juxtaposition of the three passages of scripture we heard earlier — the prophecy in Ezekiel of God’s people coming to life again and becoming Christians by receiving His Spirit; then in the epistle Paul telling us about the gifts of the Spirit which every truly converted, baptized, Spirit-filled Christian can receive; and then the Gospel, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount.
That is what we should look at first. Because, if we are to have God’s power in our lives, we must first have God’s love in our lives.
The gifts of the Spirit: we find three chapters in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians which deal expressly with this subject. They are chapters 12, 13 and 14, which I trust you will look at sometime. We are all familiar with chapter 13, which, of course, is Paul’s great message on love, but we tend to take it out of context, not realizing that it lies between chapter 12 and chapter 14, and that in all three chapters Paul is talking to us about the different gifts of the Spirit, and when he uses the word “gift” the Greek word is carisma, from which we get our word charismatic.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Therefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:1–6).
It is very interesting that we have the Trinity there: the Spirit in verse 4, the Lord in verse 5 and God in verse 6.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:7–11).
So there are nine gifts of the Spirit. If you find difficulty in remembering what these are, they split up very neatly into three groups of three: the gift of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, the gift of prophecy — three gifts of speaking; the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the gift of miracles — three gifts of doing or acting; and the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and the discernment of spirits — which are three supernatural gifts of knowing. And in every century and in every age, we have seen the gifts of the Spirit at work, and today, through the charismatic movement, sprung from the Pentecostal movement and the ministry of great healing evangelists, our churches have again become aware of this dimension of the Spirit’s activity.
Now Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples after His resurrection: “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned [judged]. And these signs shall follow them that believe; in My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” And then it says, “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:15–20).
So, do you speak in tongues? Are you a worker of miracles? Does the gift of healing work through you? Do the signs follow your ministry? Do the gifts of the Spirit work in your Church? Well, they should do, because, as Paul says, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (1 Corinthians 14:7). There are no exceptions. Nobody is excluded. The humblest church member is able to receive one or more gifts of the Spirit. They are not given, of course, for personal aggrandizement or so that you will appear to be important to everybody else. They are given for the building-up, the edification, of the Church, and to enable the Church to fulfil its ministry in the world.
For us to understand the gifts of the Spirit, we must first understand who Jesus was, and what the Church is. We remember that before Jesus began His ministry He came to John to be baptized, and “the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). He embarked on a ministry of preaching, teaching and healing which turned the world upside-down. Wherever Jesus went, the people gathered together to hear the gracious words which fell from the lips of the Master, and great numbers came to see Him and to be healed of their afflictions.
His healing hands were laid on the sick and suffering. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, the lame walked, cripples leapt for joy; He cleansed the lepers, cast out devils, raised the dead. The Bible tells us “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Truly it was a mighty manifestation of the power of God.
And if you ask what is the Church, the Bible tells us that the Church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) — “the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Ephesians 5:25). “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Acts 20:28). So, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, the power of God worked through the Lord Jesus Christ in His physical body, and after He returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit was outpoured, then the Church of God came into being and the Church of God is the body of Christ. And that means that the Church is here on earth to do today exactly what Jesus did. The Church is the habitation of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit alone is the giver of these gifts.
Let me tell you just very briefly four things about the Church:
Everything that God was, He poured into Jesus. “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
and in order to do that, the Church is empowered by the same Holy Spirit, and so it has the ability to work the same miracles, to exhibit the same gifts of the Spirit that worked in the ministry of Jesus. The Church is here today as His body, filled with His Spirit, to demonstrate the same miraculous works that Jesus did, for “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
So, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father” (John 14:12). And Paul teaches us in these three chapters of 1 Corinthians that we are all members of the body of Christ and that all can do the works of Christ. That is what the gifts of the Spirit are for.
“But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (1 Corinthians 12:11–17).
And then He goes on to say, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:27–31).
This is where chapter 13 begins: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–2). This is Paul’s great sermon on love, and I ask you to notice that he is not contrasting love against the gifts of the Spirit. He is not saying that love is more important than gifts or that love is the only thing that matters. He is telling us that the gifts of the Spirit operated without love are useless. So chapter 13 ends with Paul saying, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Then chapter 14 begins with him saying, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts.”
So, what we really need before we have the gifts of the Spirit at work in our churches are the fruits of the Spirit. Before we can show forth the power of God we must show forth the love of God. Before we have the power of Christ, we must have the character of Christ. Before we manifest the gifts of the Spirit, we must bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. That is where we go wrong.
Now, there are nine gifts of the Spirit, and there are nine fruits of the Spirit. Paul tells us about those: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 6:22–23). Another word for temperance is self-control. If we have the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, then in our lives as individuals, as a Church, as a community, the gifts of the Spirit may be able to work among us.
The very first thing that we read in today’s Gospel is that we are to love our enemies: “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27–28). Now this is a tall order. But the great law of life is “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). And so, if you hate your enemy, you are only going to reap hatred in return.
And then He went on to say, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them who do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same” (Luke 6:29–33). In other words, what the Lord is requiring of us is something far above the way in which we ordinarily behave to those whom we like and love.
“And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:34–36). In the New English Bible, “be compassionate”. The best thing is compassion.
And then, says Jesus, if we want the gifts of the Spirit to manifest in our lives, here is to me the crux of the matter: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:37–38).
Now it is so easy to read these words. All of us are familiar with them, but how difficult they are to put into practice, because we all complain, criticize and condemn, and then we wonder why the gifts of the Spirit never work in our lives and in our churches! So, the great secret is: the faults I most observe in others are always my own — that’s why you recognize them; you do not recognize anybody else’s faults unless they are your own faults. So, the faults I most observe in others are always my own, therefore I will never complain, criticize or condemn anyone or anything ever, least of all myself.
So if you do not want people to condemn you, you don’t condemn others. If you don’t want people to criticize you, you don’t criticize others. If you don’t want people to complain about you, you don’t complain about others. And as we try to extend to other people the same love and compassion and freedom that we would like to enjoy, then we suddenly find how wonderful other people are; we really begin to love them and they to love us. So the fruits of the Spirit begin to manifest in our lives. The Spirit of God begins to work in the hearts of His people, and we begin to see the operation of the gifts of the Spirit.
So much more we might say here. Jesus says, “Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other” (Luke 6:29). I don’t know whether any of you has ever had a parking ticket. I see one or two wry smiles from members of the congregation! But a few years ago, I parked my car in a certain place in a carpark in Glastonbury for the second day running, left it there not knowing that I was committing any offence, blithely unaware that I was breaking the law, and I duly got a letter informing me that I was being fined £6 for a parking offence.
Most of us don’t like falling foul of the law, and getting a parking ticket is an annoyance to say the least, and I was very annoyed. I was very angry about this, because I was not aware of having done anything wrong. And I fumed about this and was so cross about it; for a day or two I could get no peace. And then suddenly it came to me what I should do. So I wrote to the magistrates and I said, “Dear Sirs, I am sorry if I have committed an offence. I had no idea I was not allowed to park there. As I parked in the same place the day before, here is £12.” And they wrote back and said, “Dear Mr Williams, That is all right.” And they sent my cheque back!
So, turn the other cheek. Go the second mile (Matthew 5:41). If people complain, criticize or condemn you, you do not need to respond in the same manner.
Now let me share with you what the gifts of the Spirit are, and how they work. Every miracle that we find, whether Old Testament or New Testament, is a manifestation of the miracle-working power of God, it is a manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For the sake of convenience we can look at them in the order we suggested earlier, beginning with tongues.
The gift of tongues is supernatural utterance in a language or languages which one has never learned. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are entirely supernatural. Speaking in tongues is not learning a foreign language; it is not studying a language so that you can preach when you go overseas.
Now, you will find all the gifts of the Spirit in the Old Testament, but not speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Jesus said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; in My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). Then, on the day of Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4), and Peter could say, by revelation of the Spirit, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). Joel prophesied in the Old Testament that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28–29), just like Ezekiel prophesied that the dry bones would come to life!
So, speaking in tongues is a distinctive sign of the Holy Spirit, and when the Holy Spirit was outpoured on the Gentiles “they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:45–46). And at Corinth, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:5–6).
Paul said, “Forbid not to speak in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:38), “I would that ye all spake with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:5). And then he said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). The Bible says, “The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil” (James 3:8). So you see why speaking in tongues is a sign of the Holy Spirit really beginning to transform our lives — it is the Spirit taking control.
The first time I ever heard speaking in tongues was in the home of Cyril Plater at Margate. I asked what it was, and was told: “Tongues, Brother.” One time Cyril was quietly praying aloud in the worship service. Afterwards someone sitting close to him in the congregation asked him what part of Wales he came from. Cyril had been praising the Lord in Welsh, a language he didn’t know. In fact I don’t know that he ever visited Wales in his life. I know of many other instances in which people have spoken in tongues and the language has been recognized.
In 1960 during our crusade in Greenock, Scotland, we had the pleasure of meeting W.F.P. Burton and Mr and Mrs James Salter, pioneers of the Pentecostal movement and founders of the Congo Evangelistic Mission. Mrs Salter was the daughter of Smith Wigglesworth. Brother Burton told us many extraordinary stories of their adventures on the mission field. One time they were having a prayer meeting under the great forest trees. He specially noticed a young lad, Ziba, praying with his eyes closed and his lips moving rapidly. He tiptoed to where the lad sat, and listened. Ziba was speaking in tongues and Brother Burton was astonished, because he could understand every word of it. The lad was speaking in perfect English about the return of Christ, and what moved Brother Burton so much was that this miracle seemed to be for his benefit alone. The lad could never have heard English spoken, much less learned it. You can read Brother Burton’s account of this and many other miracles in his book Signs Following (Elim Publishing Co Ltd, 1949).
In 1967 we had a mission at Plymouth Guildhall and stayed in the home of Edgar Trout. Edgar had a prayer meeting in his home every week, in which people used the gifts of the Spirit. He told me that one sister, when she spoke in tongues, seemed not to speak in a recognizable language, because she made a lot of clicks with her tongue. He was dubious about it until one evening a visiting missionary from South Africa came to the prayer meeting. The sister spoke in tongues with her accustomed clicking, and the missionary was excited. He understood the message. The language was Xhosa (and the X is pronounced as a click!)
The experience of tongues came into my life in October 1956. Pentecostal friends — Cyril, whom I have just told you about, and Fred the barber — sensed the call of God on my life and urged me to seek the Baptism in the Spirit and not give up until I had it. Shortly afterwards, as I knelt by my bedside one night, pouring out my soul in love and thanksgiving to God I began to speak in tongues, and I have spoken in tongues every day of my life since. This prayer-language of the Holy Spirit is deeply precious to me and a channel of Jesus’ love and blessing in my life.
There have been times in my life when I have been burdened and have not known how to pray, but I have prayed in tongues and then the answer has come. Paul says, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). When you pray in tongues, the Spirit in you is praying, bypassing the mind: Paul says, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” And so he says, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:14–15).
That is the private use of tongues. There is also the public use of tongues, which is what 1 Corinthians 14 is mainly about. Paul says that messages in tongues may be given, but the gift has to be regulated, no more than two or three messages, and someone to interpret, but if there is no interpreter then people should not use the gift in public (1 Corinthians 14:26–28). In my experience I have heard many supposed messages in tongues and rather banal interpretations. But I have heard other people who were really anointed and have used this beautiful gift with great blessing in the Church.
I have laid hands on hundreds of people in our meetings, including Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and seen them receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues. One time I was preaching at Chelmsford. Some unconverted people came to the meeting, heard the Word, and got saved. That same evening I baptized them by immersion, and as they came up out of the water they began speaking in tongues!
There is also the gift of the interpretation of tongues, which is the supernatural ability to interpret that which is spoken through the gift of tongues. Notice that it is an interpretation and not a translation, although on numerous occasions someone who has been present and has heard both the message in tongues and the interpretation has testified to its accuracy. It is not learning a foreign language and so being able to translate what has been spoken in tongues.
A vicar’s wife did not believe that Brian was a true servant of God. Several times she tried to trap him. He was present in a meeting at the vicarage one night when someone gave a message in tongues. There was a long wait. No one, it seemed, had the interpretation — except Brother Brian. So he gave it, simply, tellingly, in not a great many words. Afterwards the vicar’s wife spoke to Brian approvingly, led him to the vicar — who had not been present — and asked him if he could remember the interpretation and repeat it for her husband’s sake. This he did, absolutely perfectly. Some time later Brian and the vicar’s wife were again in a meeting when she announced, rather loudly — he was at the other end of the room — that if anyone gave an interpretation of tongues and afterwards could remember it, it was not a true interpretation. Unfortunately she had forgotten the discernment of spirits and the gift of miracles!
There is also the gift of prophecy, which again is inspired speaking. The gift of prophecy is inspired, supernatural utterance. It is not preaching — though all true preaching should be inspired. It is not foretelling the future, though that is often part of it. It is not to be confused with the ministry of the prophet, which is a ministry in the Church. Paul asks the question, “Are all prophets?” (1 Corinthians 12:29) Obviously not. But then he says, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. ... For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:1, 31).
Paul says, “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:39). So the gift of prophecy is one which any believer may have. The gift of prophecy is more or less the same as the gift of tongues and interpretation. It is like an interpretation without a foregoing message in tongues. But it is limited to “edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3). Prophecy is not infallible, and so it must always be judged (1 Corinthians 14:29).
The person exercising the gift of prophecy is not a prophet. The ministry of the prophet is far greater than the gift of prophecy in the Church. You can see the difference in consecutive verses in Acts 21. “The same man [Philip] had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. ... There came down from Judaea a certain prophet named Agabus” (Acts 21:9–10).
The gift of prophecy is one of forth-telling rather than foretelling. It is speaking forth the mind and purpose and will of God. On the other hand, a prophet is specially called of God. He is a prophet because the three gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom and the discerning of spirits are all combined. He lives in the realm of the supernatural. The ministry of the prophet is to bring “Thus saith the Lord.”
In April 1954 God spoke to his servant and said, “I have called you as a prophet to the nations. You shall go wherever I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” In August 1956 God spoke to him again and said, “By My power you will heal the sick.” In 1962-63 he was shown the coming judgment on Britain and told of all the calamities we are seeing at present; he published these in Judgment on Britain. In March 1965 he was sent to Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia with the Word of the Lord. It all came to pass. The emperor was overthrown. Later he was murdered.
Many times over the years Brian has brought the Word of the Lord to people in high places and all walks of life. The Word has unfailingly come to pass. In Moscow in 1973 he spoke of the forthcoming collapse of the Soviet Union from within and published this in Inside Russia — a Report. When every teacher on Bible prophecy was saying that Britain would never join the Common Market, Brian alone said we would — but we shouldn’t. In April 1975 God’s servant spoke of a united Germany in What Saith the Lord on the Referendum?
The Bible says, “Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20). God has blessed those who have believed His servant in wonderful ways.
One time we were in Ghana. Brother E.K. Quartey invited us to his home in Accra and prepared a sumptuous feast for us. The next day a man who had owed Brother Quartey a large sum of money for many years came and paid him back in full.
We moved on to Nigeria. Chief E.K. Odeyemi of Abeokuta invited us to his home, where he had prepared for us a most lovely meal. He had a cement business and asked me to pray for him. All the time we were in his house I was praying, “Lord, bless the cement; Lord, bless the cement.” Chief Odeyemi had been owed a substantial sum of money for many years, which he had never been able to get back. The day after he entertained us, the person concerned repaid all the money he owed him.
Another time we were in South Africa. I was conducting a crusade in Durban. A dear brother, Clifford Hulley, travelled a long distance to collect us and drive us to his home, where we spent a most delightful day, before driving us back to Durban in the evening. Brother Hulley had committed a precious and irreplaceable document to the post seven years before, which had been totally lost. The day after he entertained us in his home the document mysteriously appeared through his letterbox.
Jesus said, “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).
The gift of faith is the supernatural impartation of faith which brings about a miracle. It is not the faith by which we are saved and come to know that our sins are forgiven (Ephesians 2:8), though of course that is itself the most precious gift that God can give us. It is not the fruit-of-the-Spirit faith, the daily dependence on God, the assurance we have that He is really with us and that He will supply all our needs. It is a supernatural knowing, a sudden certainty that a desired miracle will happen.
Jesus said, “What things soever ye desire, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). Paul says, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). But often our faith is tested.
One time in the very early days of our ministry I was desperately in need of £10. The money was needed that day; tomorrow would be too late. No money came in by the first post. I went up to the bedroom to pray. Kneeling by the bedside I opened the Bible and read: “In the day of my trouble I will call upon Thee: for Thou wilt answer me” (Psalm 86:7). At that moment, I knew that I had the money. I literally jumped up and down and skipped around the bedroom. The money was as real as if I had it in my hand. A little later that morning, a registered letter came, and inside were two £5 notes.
I was preaching to a congregation of a few hundred people in the Methodist church in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), and praying for the sick every night of the crusade. Every night there were remarkable healings to confirm the Word. On this one particular night a man had brought his young son for healing. I asked what the problem was. He said the lad had been born totally blind in one eye. At that moment I knew the lad would be healed. I prayed, as I always do in such cases, placing my hands over both eyes and saying, “Be opened,” taking my hand away, first from the good eye (which could see in any case), then from the blind eye. The young lad could see perfectly through the eye which had been blind from birth.
A little later in the prayer line, the same thing happened: a parent bringing a youngster with one eye totally blind from birth. Again I knew he would be healed — which he was, instantly. Then a third parent came along with a youngster, also totally blind in one eye from birth. He too was instantly healed. When a fourth parent came by in the prayer line a few minutes later it was like a dream. This youngster was totally blind in one eye following an accident. He too was instantly healed, in full view of hundreds of people. To this day I marvel at the working of the Holy Spirit by which four youngsters, all of about the same age, eight to nine, all totally blind in one eye, could be present in the same meeting. The odds against such a happening must be astronomical.
We were in Udine, northern Italy, for a three- or five-day mission which actually lasted seven and a half weeks, so great was the Lord’s blessing. A man came forward in the prayer line, requesting healing for tuberculosis. Seeing that he turned his head to one side when the pastor — who was also the interpreter — spoke to him, I asked the man if he was deaf. Yes, he said, he was stone-deaf in that ear. He had lost his hearing as a soldier in the Second World War. I asked the man if he would like the Lord to give him his hearing back. “Impossibile,” he said. “Never mind,” I responded. I stuck a finger in each ear and said (as I usually do), “Be opened.” And he was healed instantly, able to hear even the faintest whisper. His wife subsequently attributed his healing to St Antony or St Teresa! He remained perfectly healed and the miracle made a great impact.
People often ask me, What is the secret of the power in your ministry? There is no show, no whipping people up into a frenzy, no playing on people’s emotions. But you cannot be in one of our Crusade services without feeling the power of the Holy Spirit. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that it is the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the authority of the Word as it is read and preached.
The gift of healing is not medical science. It is not the skill of doctors and surgeons, much as they are appreciated. It is the supernatural healing of the sick without medicinal aid or surgical intervention. The gift of healing heals those conditions which are totally beyond the power of medical science. It heals the lame, diseased, crippled, the blind, the deaf and the dumb, Aids, cancer, mental illness — every sickness and disease, for “if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 11:23), and “with God, nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
I was speaking one time at a house meeting in St Austell, Cornwall. The room was crammed with people so that I had to speak from the kitchen door. I gave a little message, if I remember rightly, on the coming judgment on Britain. I told the people that I was God’s servant, that I had brought “Thus saith the Lord” and that the Lord would now confirm His word by healing the sick. I prayed for quite a number of people, the meeting was then dismissed and people began to leave. Then a lady came to me and asked would I mind praying for a certain elderly gentleman whom I had not noticed, since he was sitting close to my feet.
I was a bit irritated — why had she not taken the opportunity to ask me to pray for him earlier? I asked what was the matter with him. She said he was deaf. I asked how long he had been deaf. She cupped her hands, put them close to his ear and shouted “HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DEAF?” to which he replied, “It was blasted out in the First World War.” At this point the people who were drifting away began to return. I would have been quite happy for the earth to have swallowed me up. I had not a vestige of faith for the man’s healing; after all, he had not even heard the word I had preached. However, I did as always, put my fingers in his ears, saying, “Be opened.” And the man could hear perfectly, the slightest whisper. The pastor who observed what had happened got up early the next morning to visit the man, just to make sure that he really was healed — which he was!
People sometimes ask me whether I have the gift of healing, and sometimes they tell me they have the gift. I don’t know whether I have or not, but I like to tell this story: The postmaster at Cole Bank post office in Hall Green, where I used to post sackfuls of letters, was Mr Hudson. One day Fred Hudson asked me if I could make use of a portable typewriter, and he handed me an Olivetti Lettera 22. He wasn’t giving it me, he said, but I could have it on loan. I have taken that typewriter with me and used it all over the world, and he has never asked for it back. Now, whose is the typewriter? The gift of healing is like that. It is God’s, but you may have the use of it.
The gift of miracles is the supernatural performance of deeds which are beyond the laws of nature as we understand them. The Bible is replete with miracles. Moses parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21), Joshua commanded the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12), Elijah called down fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:12), Elisha caused an iron axe to swim (2 Kings 6:6). Jeremiah remembered every word of the message God gave him after the wicked king burnt the original (Jeremiah 36:23, 32).
Jesus changed water into wine (John 2:9), twice fed the multitude (Matthew 14:21, 15:38); He walked on water (Matthew 14:25), stilled the storm (Mark 4:39), knew there was money to pay His and Peter’s taxes in a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:27); He raised Lazarus after he had been dead four days (John 11:43–44).
Miracles were common in the New Testament Church. “They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). “God bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (Hebrews 2:4). Peter and Paul raised the dead; the shadow of Peter healed the sick (Acts 4). Philip was miraculously transported from one place to another after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39). Paul told the born cripple to stand upright, and he leapt and walked (Acts 14:8–10). “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11–12).
Several times people have told me that I visited them in spirit during the night hours and ministered to them. I had a letter from a young woman in Kenya, the mother of four children, asking me to pray for her. She was in hospital, stricken with a strange illness. Her whole body was paralysed. She could not move or speak, but she could hear people around her talking. While she lay there helpless, she suddenly saw Brother Brian appear to her. She said, “I saw you kneeling beside my bed, and you said to me, ‘Oh, Thandie, I am praying for you.’” That moment, the power of God came upon her, the paralysis left her, and she began to speak. “Oh, what a wonderful thing,” she said. “Then a girl brought me your letter.” As she pulled the letter out of the envelope, the first thing she saw was the bottom line of the letter, which said, “I am praying for you.” She was discharged from the hospital the same day, completely healed!
We were in West Wittering, Sussex, where I was preaching at the Congregational church. The lady with whom we were staying was a nurse in the local hospital. One of her patients was dying with cancer, so she brought me her nightdress for me to pray over. This I was pleased to do, and we heard later that the patient was completely healed.
On another occasion I was speaking at Caxton Hall, Westminster, and praying for the people afterwards. A Christian gentleman asked if I would lay my hands on him for his mother-in-law to be healed of cancer. I did so and she too was healed.
I was in Glastonbury arranging for our Easter convention in the town hall, when my secretary phoned. Janet had been trying to get me urgently. I was needed back in Birmingham that same evening to help someone; next morning would be too late. But we had no money to buy petrol, and the tank was nearly empty. I looked in my wallet, Freda emptied her handbag, we looked in our pockets. We raided the Money Pig, but he was empty too!
We scraped together £3.65½. The cheapest petrol was £1.32 per gallon, so that bought us 2.76 gallons, but even at 40 miles to the gallon we were not going to have enough petrol for the journey of nearly 130 miles. But — we put everything in that we had got, and trusted the Lord.
We got onto the motorway as usual near Bridgwater. Then I noticed a Big Lorry (or some heavy vehicle — I saw only his tail-light) just ahead of me. As we got nearer, we seemed to get caught up in the slipstream of the vehicle, and were drawn along almost effortlessly.
Just then, I heard Jesus whisper to me, “It will be easier now.” Then I heard Him say, “Tell your partners, It will be easier now.”
It was almost incredible. We drove like that virtually all the way to Birmingham. When we arrived, I looked at the petrol gauge, and we had at least three times as much petrol in the tank as we had before we started.
The word of knowledge is the ability, supernaturally to have information of something that has happened in the past or is happening now. It is a fragment of God’s knowledge imparted to help someone, to bring healing or deliverance. It is not human knowledge; it is not an accumulation of facts. The word of knowledge is always supernatural, something that could not otherwise be known.
Elisha was told where the Syrian camp was (2 Kings 6:8–12). He knew that his servant Gehazi had secretly taken money from Naaman, and told him where he had hidden it (2 Kings 5:25–26). Jesus said that he saw Nathaniel under the fig-tree before Philip called him; he told him he was “an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). Jesus also met the woman at the well of Samaria, told her she had had five husbands, and the man she was living with now was not her husband (John 4:18). Ananias was given the address where the newly converted Saul of Tarsus was to be found (Acts 9:11).
Many times God’s servant has told people coming for prayer the exact nature of their problem and how it was caused, even revealing to them things which they had never spoken to another soul.
In 1960 I was conducting a crusade at Wallisdown Pentecostal Church, Bournemouth. We were staying in the home of Mr and Mrs Harold Horton. Brother Horton was a pioneer of the Pentecostal movement, now elderly, and did not attend the meetings. He gave me a copy of his book The Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Assemblies of God Publishing House, sixth edition, 1960) and inscribed it, “May the Lord Jesus mightily endue my dear Brother Brian with the blessed Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit is the sincere prayer of Harold Horton, June 19th 1960, Bournemouth” and he added a scripture reference, “Acts 15:18–19”, but obviously meant Romans.
One evening during this mission I had just announced that we would sing a hymn when I was moved to say that there was a sister in the meeting whom the Lord had told to give a special offering. I had never done such a thing before, but the word of knowledge was exactly true. The sister had never been in the church before and was amazed when the secret of her heart was revealed. So far as I can remember, that was the first time I ever gave a word of knowledge publicly, but it has been manifested hundreds of times since, and is always unfailingly correct. I believe the Lord answered Harold Horton’s prayer.
There was a time when we kept receiving prayer requests from a Mrs Jones of Acrefair. She was suffering from cancer. We kept praying for her and I even sent her an anointed prayer-cloth, but still she was no better. I was so concerned that I decided to visit her personally and pray for her. At that time I could not drive and we had no car, but a colleague offered to drive us to north Wales to see her. The door was opened by what I can describe only as a walking skeleton. The clothes hung from her body. Clearly she would soon die if the Lord did not heal her.
Suddenly I knew she had not got cancer, and I tried to tell her so. She said it was strange: the specialist had also told her she had not got cancer. “But I know I have,” she said. “Well,” I said, “as God’s servant I can only say to you what the Lord shows me, and I must tell you that you do not have cancer at all.”
I do not know that I ever heard from her again, but a few years later I was holding a short mission at a church in Penmaenmawr, north Wales. A quite plumpish smiling lady in the congregation said to me afterwards, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” I had to confess that I didn’t; I had no recollection of ever having seen her before. She said, “I am Mrs Jones that you prayed for and said I didn’t have cancer.” She was completely healed. Although she did not have cancer, she believed she did: she had stopped eating, and undoubtedly she would have died. Her life was saved by a word of knowledge.
In Birmingham I opened a letter one Saturday morning. The writer was a Mrs Butler. She told me she had undergone several operations for cancer. She now had a recurrence of the problem and had not long to live; she was desperately sick. I noticed her address was in Birmingham, no more than two miles from where we lived. I decided to visit her straight away. During the few minutes’ drive I was asking the Lord to show me the cause of her affliction. Within a couple of minutes of our arrival at her house the Lord showed me exactly what the problem was. She confessed that what I told her by the word of the Lord was true. I prayed for her, and she was healed. I was still in touch with Kathleen 20 years later.
The word of wisdom has to do with that which will take place in the future. It is a fragment of the wisdom of God, supernaturally communicated to the believer. It is not human wisdom. It is not the result of having a university degree. It is not advice or counselling.
Noah was warned of the flood coming (Genesis 6:13–27). Lot was warned of the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:12–13). Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and revealed what he should do (Genesis 41:14–24). The wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod (Matthew 2:12). Jesus told the Jews that Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matthew 23:39). He told Peter that he would suffer crucifixion like his Master (John 21:18). Many times God’s servant has received the word of wisdom, sometimes for an individual and sometimes affecting the whole nation.
Brother Brian is not a financial advisor! But there have been times when the Lord has given him the word of wisdom to prevent someone making a serious mistake. On one occasion he told John, a good friend and supporter of the Lord’s work, that if he went along with a financial proposition being put to him by two friends, he would lose his home. He was not best pleased by the news but obeyed the word of the Lord. Later, the venture failed and subsequently the other two men lost their homes and everything they possessed. On another occasion I was given the word of wisdom for a wealthy businesswoman. She declined it and subsequently lost her business.
The discernment of spirits gives us the supernatural ability to discern the working of spirits, to discern whether this spirit is really of God or whether it is a counterfeit. It is not the gift of discernment. It is not the ability to find fault and criticize. It is not psychological insight.
Jesus discerned that a woman had been bound by Satan eighteen years and cast out the infirm spirit (Luke 13:16). He healed a demon-possessed child by casting out a dumb and deaf spirit (Mark 9:25).
Paul discerned the spirit in Elymas the sorcerer and called him “child of the devil” (Acts 13:9–10). Another time he was followed by a girl, crying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” She spoke the truth, but Paul cast a spirit of divination (puqwn — our word python!) out of her (Acts 16:17). She had a religious spirit, as do many today. How often do the Lord’s people seem to be gullible and taken in, especially by the claims of some wealthy American evangelists.
Many times in our ministry the deaf and dumb have come in the prayer line. The deaf-and-dumb spirit has been cast out and the people have heard and begun to speak. Raymond Curley suffered epilepsy for many years but came to our meeting in Birmingham. Brian cast out the epileptic spirit, and he was completely healed. He never had another fit. We could tell of other similar cases where epileptics have been delivered when the spirit was discerned and cast out.
The discernment of spirits reveals the true nature of all supernatural phenomena. Sometimes it is impossible to know whether mental sickness has a natural origin or is the result of demon possession or oppression. Only the discernment of spirits can reveal the real cause. A lady who was delivered from mental sickness when Brian prayed for her at St Paul’s parish church, Westcliff-on-Sea, wrote afterwards, “Something very, very evil went out of me.” You can read her story and others in my book Christ’s Cure for Mental Sickness — write for a free copy.
Years ago I was speaking at a West Indian church in Brixton, London. A very smart-looking man came to see me at the friend’s home where we were staying. He was a white South African who was being used in a big way in the deliverance ministry, and he invited me to go to South Africa, where he assured me I would minister to even larger congregations than he did. He began holding meetings in southern England. Souls were saved, sick people healed, folk were receiving the Holy Spirit — or so it seemed. Two former missionaries to South America, Jack and Beth Denton, were invited by this man to join him in South Africa, but they had misgivings. They wrote to God’s servant for the Word of the Lord. They were told quite definitely not to go. As a result of this, Brother Brian suffered abuse from the minister of their church for interfering with his flock and giving wrong advice. But God’s servant had discerned the spirit of the man. He was subsequently sent to prison for a very long time for serious offences against his converts.
So that is a little about the gifts of the Spirit and how they work. But it is important to understand that the division of the gifts is an artificial one. In fact they dovetail into one another. Often several of the gifts may be in operation at the same time. Jesus used the word of knowledge when He said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth,” the word of wisdom when He said, “but I go that I may awake him out of sleep,” the gift of faith when He cried, “Lazarus, come forth!”, the gift of miracles when He raised him from the dead, and the gift of healing when Lazarus was healed of the sickness he died of (John 11).
These are wonderful and exciting days for the church, and I am full of a sense of excitement and expectation for what God is going to do. So let us seek to be filled with the Spirit at all times, and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and let us “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31).
To sum up, here are just a few reasons why you should seek the Baptism in the Holy Spirit:
1 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is God’s power for service. Jesus said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). Jesus said, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father” (John 14:12). You need the power of the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life and to serve Him. No Christian can be a confident, loving, powerful follower of our Lord without this dynamic experience.
2 You must receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit because it takes away all fear and timidity. Before receiving this experience the disciples were in fear for their lives. Afterwards they were totally transformed. They “spoke the Word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). They performed signs, wonders and miracles (Acts 2:43, 5:12). They healed the sick and cast out devils. Whole cities turned to the Lord (Acts 8:4–8, 14:1–10). The Church desperately needs the power of the Holy Spirit today.
3 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to speak in tongues. Jesus said, “These signs shall follow them that believe: In My name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). On the day of Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). When Peter preached to the gentiles for the first time, he knew they had received the Holy Spirit, “for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:46).
4 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Jesus filling you with Himself. After His ascension the disciples were deprived of Jesus’ physical presence. But he had promised that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would come and be with them forever. “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit, who is with every Christian, comes into us in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (John 14:15–17, 15:26–27). There is a great difference between having your lunch with you and at midday having it in you. This means that Jesus is as really present with us today as He was with His followers in Bible days.
5 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit makes us prepared for the dramatic and disturbing events which lie just ahead of us. In the escalating tempo of world events it is certain that great convulsions will shake every nation and government of the world, and the Church will not escape. Everything that can be shaken shall be shaken, so that only what cannot be shaken shall remain (Hebrews 12:26–27). There will be a great cleansing and purifying of the Church, and we need the fulness of God’s Holy Spirit if we are to remain true to Him.
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for every Christian, regardless of race, sex or denomination. The disciples of the early Church could not do without this experience, and neither can we. The “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” may be a theological misnomer — for every baptized, converted Christian has received the Holy Spirit — but the experience is real and will change your life.
You too can receive this experience. There is no need for you to wait. If you are a Christian, if you really love the Lord, then you have already received the Holy Spirit. All you have to do is ask for this deeper experience, for the Holy Spirit within you to flow from your belly like rivers of living water, as Jesus promised (John 7:38–39).
If you are not yet a saved, converted Christian, then confess your sins to God, ask Jesus Christ to cleanse you by His Precious Blood and to fill you with His Spirit. Then open your mouth in praise and thanksgiving to God, and He will give you this prayer-language of the Spirit. You will be baptized in the Spirit. God’s love will begin to fill your life, and you will never be the same again.
Write and tell me what Jesus Christ has done for you. I should love to hear from you, to pray for you, to answer your questions, and to help you in any way I can. Do ask for more of my books; they are free.
© Brian Williams 1997
The author can be contacted by email: see contact details on the home page.
All Scripture quotations are from the Authorized (King James) Version, unless otherwise stated.
ISBN 0 902785 43 5
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data: A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.