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There are various gifts and supernatural manifestations from the Lord available to the body of Christ. Some are found liberally in Scripture; others have relatively weak support in the Word of God. But God can be behind both. Those more strongly supported in Scripture can generally be more accepted by the Church, while those weakly supported are less accepted. For example, it is abundantly clear from the gospels and Acts that Jesus and His disciples did not pray for the sick. Instead they healed the sick by exercising their authority in issuing authoritative commands to infirmities and unclean spirits. In the spirit of John 14:12, those who believe in Jesus in this age will do these same works. They will be able to minister to the infirm in the same way that Jesus and His disciples did. Thus if a believer ministers to the sick in this way, it should be generally acceptable to the body of Christ.

However, there are supernatural manifestations from God that occur within the body of Christ which are not found in Scripture. For example, the manifestation commonly known as “being slain in the Spirit” is not seen anywhere in Scripture in the context of a supernatural healing. Yet undoubtedly people have been physically healed in such a way. (We are not including in this discussion instances of people being pushed down or falling down by themselves during “courtesy drops.”) Such manifestations have caused controversy and division in the body of Christ. Some believers and churches accept them without reservation; other more conservative ones from the other side of the doctrinal spectrum either reject them or urge extreme caution. I would conclude that such a manifestation has been a mixed blessing for the body of Christ as a whole even though some individual believers have been powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit in this way. One of its unintended aftereffects has been disunity in the body of Christ.

One can reasonably ask how a genuine manifestation from God can have negative consequences for the Church. To answer this question we should look at God’s people instead of questioning the manifestation. In the ministry of the Apostle Paul, handkerchiefs that had come into contact with his body could bring healing when applied to the infirm (Acts 19.12). I personally would advise against such a practice on a widespread scale today because ultimately uncomprehending people will buy and sell the cloths and misuse them in other ways as well. If a practice or manifestation—even though it is originally from the hand of the Lord—cannot be received by the body of Christ in such a way so as to build it up but rather tends to tear it down or divide it instead, it would be better not to have such a manifestation on any regular basis.

We would do better to follow the Apostle Paul’s strategy: “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Perhaps the same wisdom should be applied also to building up the body of Christ as well. There is also another point to be considered here as well. Unity in the body of Christ can only be based upon Holy Scripture, which along with the Lord Jesus Himself is the basis for our unity. If a manifestation or practice is not soundly supported in Scripture, it may be wise not to pursue it actively in one’s ministry. It should not become the manifestation that we are known for.

Then what should one pursue? I believe it would ultimately be more fruitful to pursue giftings (and their resulting manifestations) that are strongly supported in Scripture. Such a gifting would have a far greater likelihood of being a blessing to the overall body of Christ. God has given us sound minds. With that sound mind we should exercise wisdom regarding under whom we will sit and be taught.

Luke 6:40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

A believer will to some measure receive the “spirit” or “anointing” or “gifting” of the one whom he chooses to be his earthly teacher. Thus it is not necessarily and completely up to God’s sovereign will what kind of gifting we will receive. We have a measure of freedom—and dare I say the responsibility as well—to choose with wisdom and good judgment.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts…

1 Corinthians 14:5 …so that the church may be edified.

We are commanded here to desire and seek the greater gifts. Therefore we have some say in what we may receive from the Lord. The implication is that we can also choose not to desire gifts that turn out not to edify the Church as a whole.