Cooperating with the Holy Spirit and His Gifts

In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul lists nine manifestation gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are supernatural in nature. They are not natural talents that we can develop by learning or study. They are supernatural graces given by the Holy Spirit.

It is important to note however, that these gifts require human participation. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He releases these gifts. He does not just “take over” a person and make them do things. The gifts flow through His people as they yield to Him.

We see this cooperation between the Holy Spirit and believers at the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Bible says it this way: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). They spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. They did the speaking as the Holy Spirit gave them the words.

This is how the gifts function. They are given to an individual, and the individual must cooperate and yield to what the Holy Spirit is doing.

Cooperating with the Spirit  

One of the misunderstandings about the gifts of the Spirit is the fact that they require human participation. Some seem to have the idea that the Holy Spirit will overtake a person and force them to prophesy, speak in tongues, give a word of knowledge, or manifest some other gift. It is true that at times the Holy Spirit may come powerfully upon a person, but the will of that person is always involved.

When the Apostle Paul was establishing order in the Corinthian church, he gave these instructions:

 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
-1 Corinthians 14:27-32

It is clear from this passage that the gifts function in participation with the believer. Paul states that a person can choose to give their word in tongues or keep silent. Prophets can prophesy one by one in turn. They could not be disorderly and then use the excuse that Holy Spirit made them do something.

The Holy Spirit may give you a word of knowledge, but you must speak it. An anointing for healing may come upon you, but you must step out and pray for the sick. The Lord may stir you to give a word in tongues, but you must speak the words. Do you see how this cooperation works?

Don’t Quench the Spirit

Our role is to desire spiritual gifts, be sensitive to the Spirit’s moving, and step out as He moves in us. We cannot force the Holy Spirit to move, but we must cooperate with Him as He does. It is possible for us to “quench the Spirit” when He desires to move among us (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Just like it is possible to be out of order with the gifts, it is also possible to diminish His work by not obeying His promptings or cooperating with what He is doing. The key is yielding ourselves to Him that He may flow through us in a way that glorifies Jesus and builds up the church.

May we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and see His gifts flow through us, that His love and power may be displayed!

Questions: Have you ever resisted the Holy Spirit when He was prompting you to do something? How does this cooperation with the Holy Spirit play out in the life of the church?


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