(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New King James Version).
Oftentimes, people use the spiritual gifts a person has in judging the person’s standing with God. Thus, the more gifted and anointed a man or a woman is, the more spiritual they are thought to be, while lesser talented and lesser gifted persons are judged to be less spiritual in their walk with God. How does the Bible advise we test people’s spirituality or genuineness? Is the possession of gifts and talents sufficient grounds for determining who is spiritual and who is not? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
Matthew 7:17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 7:20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Matthew 7:22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
Matthew 7:23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
In the passage above, the Lord Jesus gave us the litmus test for ascertaining true spirituality. According to the Lord, to know how spiritual or genuine a person is, look at the fruits of their lives! The fruits of a tree (not its leaves or trunk or branches) are used to identify the tree. In like manner, the truly spiritual are known by the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, and not by the gifts of the Spirit they possess. A prophet or a man of God may prophesy accurately and do mighty signs and wonders in Jesus’ name (all gifts of the Spirit) but, if the fruits of his life do not align with the fruits of the Spirit, then he is either false or carnal (unspiritual). It’s as simple as that! The gifts of the Spirit can be operated by both spiritual and carnal people. However, the fruits of the Spirit are only displayed by those who are spiritually-minded and have, through the Spirit, mortified the lusts of the flesh. A man may have the gifts of the Spirit and still be carnally-minded and live a life of lawlessness; however, to manifest the fruits of the Spirit, one must abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit. Someone who operates the gifts of the Spirit can end up being rejected of the Lord and sent to hell; however, one who lives by the Spirit and bears the fruits of righteousness will receive the blessings and approval of God.
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
John 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
John 15:3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul compared gifts of the Spirit with the ultimate fruit of the Spirit, love, and came to the conclusion that a man may possess all the gifts of the Spirit and end up as nothing, while a man who has and manifests the love of God (the ultimate fruit of the Spirit) in his life will trump all and abide eternally. Prophecy, tongues, knowledge, acts of charity, faith, wisdom and other gifts of the Spirit, as good as they are, may profit the one who possesses them nothing, if they lack the fruits of the Spirit. People may do mighty signs and wonders in the name of the Lord, prophesy accurately in his name, heal the sick and raise the dead, and even speak in the tongues of angels, yet, if they lack the fruits of the Spirit, it will all amount to nothing!
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:2 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, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The gifts of God are without repentance or recall. This means that once God has released his gift to a person, he doesn’t recall them back even if the gift is being misused. Gifts and talents given to people by God will be judged at the end of our life’s journey. Thus, gifts cannot be the only means to judge or validate a person or a ministry as being right with God. Because the bearer of a spiritual gift may live an ungodly life and still manifest the gift (recall the story of Samson who, even after sleeping with a prostitute, would still have the anointing come upon him for exploits), and because even messengers of Satan can be anointed to manifest almost all the gifts of the Spirit, Christians must be careful not to make the mistake of using gifts only to judge people as being of God or not. More importantly, we must take the pains to look for the evidence of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the lives and ministries of servants of God before we conclude they are of God. Unless we follow this scriptural injunction in testing people and ministries, we will definitely be misled! Many false prophets and false teachers are out there in the world performing great signs and wonders that are capable of deceiving even the elects of God! The only way to unveil such messengers of Satan who are masquerading as servants of God is to look beyond their gifts and screen them for the fruits of the Holy Spirit! Though they may have an abundance of “signs and wonders” in their ministries, such false ministers will be destitute of the fruits of the Spirit! That’s the only way to unmask them and show that they are of their father the devil!
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
2 Corinthians 11:12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast.
2 Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
2 Thessalonians 2:10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
2 Thessalonians 2:11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
2 Thessalonians 2:12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Revelation 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Revelation 16:14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Galatians 5:23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
Ephesians 5:9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),
Ephesians 5:10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
Ephesians 5:12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
In conclusion, the gifts of the Spirit are wonderful endowments of the Holy Spirit to display the power of God in the lives and ministries of believers. However, the presence of the gifts of the Spirit does not automatically make a person spiritual or in right standing with God. Gifts can be misused and can be counterfeited by Satan. Therefore, we must look beyond gifts of the Spirit in judging someone’s spirituality. In seeking to know who is approved of God and who is not, we must look beyond gifts of the Spirit and look out for the fruits of the Spirit. It is by the fruits of the Spirit that we know genuine servants of God, not by their gifts. Gifts of the Spirit can be counterfeited, but no one can successfully fake the fruits of the Spirit who is not abiding in Christ!