Have you ever learned something new, and then realized that it confirmed something that you were already aware of ? Maybe you didn’t know that two people at your church were related, but when you learned that they were, past conversations made more sense. Maybe you learned some new math or science, which explained a principle that you had previously known (but didn’t understand why it worked).
In the second chapter of Hebrews, we find this verse, talking about the salvation that Jesus described:
God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Hebrews 2:4 NIV
We may be familiar with the miracles that Jesus performed. At a simple level, these are good stories that children learn, about people being healed, fed, and freed. As we study them more, we find that they weren’t just haphazardly done, nor were they examples of Jesus “showing off”. Instead, they validated that Jesus was indeed sent by God (the source of these miracles’ power), and that Jesus is indeed God.
Furthermore, the miracles weren’t the only thing that confirmed Jesus’ message of salvation. The fulfillment of dozens of prophecies from centuries before Jesus’ birth further testified that He was the promised Messiah. In addition, God gave some pretty dramatic signs during Jesus’ ministry (like speaking directly at certain events in Jesus’ life, and tearing the veil in the temple at Jesus’ death), further affirming Jesus’ identity.
These are indeed amazing, and even a small subset of them would be enough for many rational people not only to accept the teachings of Jesus, but also to believe in Him and let Him become their Lord and Savior.
However, there’s one more thing that the author of Hebrews includes in this verse: “gifts of the Holy Spirit”. These are typically recognized as special abilities that the Holy Spirit provides to believers1, for the purpose of helping the church remain healthy and achieve its goal.
We can read some “lists” of these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13. There are different ways to group and categorize these, and I personally don’t believe that we must consider these as limiting definitions of ways that the Holy Spirit enables followers of Jesus to serve. However, as we read through them, I think that we can see what the author of Hebrews was talking about: these gifts, when practiced by Christians, further testify (on God’s behalf) as to the truth of salvation through Jesus. Whenever a Christian teaches the message of Jesus truthfully, with the backdrop of their life that has been positively transformed by letting Jesus take charge of it, the reality of salvation becomes more clear. When one who is gifted by God with the ability to help others in a specific way, takes that gift and uses it selflessly in Jesus’ name, the special way in which they are able to show God’s love to others confirms that God loves people. This generosity, spiritually “enriched” beyond what is produced by those who haven’t experienced the freedom of salvation, testifies to the validity of the life transformation that Jesus offers.
If you follow Jesus, and have given your life over to His “management” (since He’s much better than us at that, anyway), I am confident that God has provided you with a blessing that you can use to serve others. By using that gift, you are not only honoring Him and helping others (especially the fellowship of all Christ-followers), but I believe that you are also testifying to the salvation of Jesus. That’s a great privilege, indeed.
Even the gifts of the Holy Spirit testify to God’s message, so let’s use ours to get the word out today, whenever and wherever God directs us to do so.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- I understand that there is some debate as to whether certain gifts of the Holy Spirit still exist today. Regardless of the doctrinal subtleties of this healthy debate, it seems clear to me that God has provided capabilities within the Body of Christ to achieve its purpose of Christ-commanded discipleship, and that this has continued even to the present day. ↩