Gifts of the Holy Spirit

We recognize that Scripturally and historically every congregation will have unique aspects of ministry within the larger body of Christ, as the Holy Spirit wills and gives; just as individuals receive and manifest various gifts of ministry and service within the congregation, as the Holy Spirit wills and gives.

The AALC receives with joy this diversity of individuals and congregations. We urge upon congregations and their leadership (both clergy and lay) to also rejoice in this diversity and be diligent in exercising faithful and sound teaching, (as we confess in our Statement of Faith), guidance and correction as needed in all areas, always subject to the Scriptures, letting all things be done decently and in order, always governed by love.

We will attempt to provide study materials, guides and bibliographies to cover the Scriptures and various perspectives. As a beginning we suggest the following Scriptures:;

  • Mark 16:14-17
  • Ephesians 4:11-16
  • Romans 12:4-13
  • I Peter 4:10-11
  • I Corinthians 12:13-14

We believe that by the Providence of our Heavenly Father we have formed The American Association of Lutheran Churches. We came together because of our common conviction that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and for the sake of proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the world and the only rightful and reliable Lord of life.

In the course of our brief history we have now found it needful to form a statement concerning the Holy Spirit and His gifts in order to build and encourage the unity we have in Christ Jesus.

1) We affirm the incarnation, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ as the central truth of the Scriptures. We further affirm that salvation comes by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Appendix 1.A. - The Holy Spirit and His Gifts

Because Christ is the fullness of the Deity, those who belong to Christ have everything He gives to them, including the Holy Spirit. Any emphasis on the work of the Spirit that treats the saving work of Christ as only initiatory or partial must be rejected. Since the message of the Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ, (John 16:14,15), that is our message as well. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit did His convicting and convincing work. The Spirit has come to exalt Christ, not to draw attention to Himself.

2) We affirm that the Scriptures are the only inerrant and infallible Word of God and the only rule and norm by which teachers and teachings are judged.

All Scripture is God-breathed (cf. II Timothy 3:16). It therefore stands as judge of all contemporary movements and theologies. God's Word judges experience and not vice versa. Because the Bible encourages us to understand spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:1) and to desire them (I Corinthians 14:1,39), we reject any kind of dispensationalism which says that the gifts of the Spirit are not for today. While we have seen abuse of the gifts, we would correct it not with rejection but by proper reception and stewardship. We heed the balanced admonition of St. Paul who writes, "Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:19-21, RSV).

The only prophecy that can claim inerrancy is the prophecy of Scripture itself (II Peter 1:20,21). The gift of prophecy as rightly received today neither supersedes nor contradicts the Word of God - it uplifts it.

3) We affirm that the sanctifying work of the Spirit is a daily exercise of the saving life of Christ, and that this work will continue until the return of Jesus Christ.

Christians are both saints and sinners and will not be perfected this side of eternity ("homo simul justus et peccator") cf. Book of Concord, Tappert Ed., 35:7, 130.166ff, 417.54, 432.86, 543.22. The gifts of the Spirit (charismata) are given sovereignly by the spirit and are received and exercised by faith. The fruit of the Spirit is developed in believers as they live in obedience to Christ. The development of the fruit of the Spirit, rather than the reception of any spiritual gift, is a mark of growing maturity.

Gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:7). Gifts are not a necessary evidence of the Spirit's infilling.

4) We affirm that faith includes knowledge, assent, and heartfelt trust. Faith, according to Luther, takes us beyond an explanation of God to an experience of God. Luther speaks of the trust that moves beyond intellectual "faith," which the demons have (James 2:19), to a personal experience (Luther's Works, Volume 22, "The Gospel of St. John," p. 369). A theology that properly understands experience is not only helpful - it is essential.

Luther experienced justification by faith. Believing the objective truth of the Word of God leads us into the personal experience of the Word of God. Experience must grow out of the Word and must be tested by the Word. Sometimes the Church has looked suspiciously on experience, relating it only to subjectivity. Experience is not synonymous with emotionalism. True experience is initiated by God and brings us into relationship with God. Jesus experienced the Spirit's fullness at His baptism (Mark 1:10; Luke 4:1, 4:14).

5) We affirm the historic Lutheran understanding of the Theology of the Cross. Baptism according to St. Paul means both death and resurrection. The cross without the resurrection leads to a sentimentalizing of suffering, while the resurrection without the cross produces a superficial triumphalism. Luther calls us in his Small Catechism to live out our baptism by daily drowning through repentance so that the new man can rise forth.

6) We affirm belief in the sacrament of baptism. Baptizing is an essential part of the work of making disciples (Matthew 23:19).

We recognize the work of the Spirit throughout the life of the believer "as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church." The ongoing work (sanctification) of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is an outworking of what He does in Baptism (Acts 2:38).

7) We affirm the priesthood of all believers. Christians baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are recipients of the Spirit and His gifts and are called to share them for the common good.

We therefore affirm those ministries which take seriously this Biblical truth and seek to call forth the people of God to do the work of God. We affirm the work of the Spirit in giving His gifts to the Church. (I Corinthians 12:1-11)

However, we reject any emphasis on spiritual gifts:

a) that treats them as marks of maturity,

b) that urges people to seek after gifts at the expense of seeking the Giver,

c) that makes a technique out of the work of the Spirit ("the wind blows where it wills"),

d) that "makes pridefully subjective" what is given for the common good, or

e) that tries to manipulate the Spirit rather than yield to Him.

8) We affirm belief in a God of power, a God Who through His Word encourages us to pray for the sick in order that they may recover (James 5:12-16). We therefore affirm prayer for healing as a Biblical mandate. However, we reject prayer which would seek to control God rather than yield to His Word and His will.

9) We affirm that our faith and confidence in Jesus Christ provides us with hope and assurance of eternal life and its endless blessings. We reject any teaching which claims that every future blessing from God in eternity is ours to receive now. According to the Scriptures, we taste of the world to come, but we receive only a down payment of what will come to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13, 14). Suffering for righteousness' sake is a mark of the cross-life, not a sign that we have missed some blessing of God. Prosperity may be a token of God's favor, but not a necessary condition. St. Paul knew how to live with much or with want.

10) We affirm the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church. We rejoice in the work of the Spirit down through the ages. We appreciate the historical roots of the Lutheran Church, its theological emphasis on the work of the cross, the authority of the Word, the need for dependence upon the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments. We also appreciate its rich music and liturgy.

We, therefore, rejoice both in our participation in the Lutheran Church as well as our partnership in the larger body of Christ. We reject any pride or provincialism which would separate us from all who truly stand under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We reject any spiritual elitism, such as that manifested in the Corinthian community, as contrary to the Spirit of the Church. We place a high priority on unity, but not unity at any price, because truth is a higher value than unity.

Divisiveness which arises from pride is opposed, but division that comes from the sword of Christ must be received (Matthew 10:34). The work and gifts of the Spirit are given to express the unity in diversity of the body of Christ. God's gifts are not divisive - but sometimes God's people are. Where the fruit of love is present, the gifts of the Spirit edify the body (Ephesians 4:3; I Corinthians 13).

11) We affirm the work of the Holy Spirit down through the centuries as well as in the Church and the world today. We see movements arising throughout the Church's life to call it back to its roots.

While we recognize the presence of such movements, we in no way isolate the work of the Spirit to our day. Such a notion we would reject as anti-historical and myopic in vision.

We therefore take St. Paul's exhortation to walk with meekness, "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . . until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:3,13).

On the basis of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions (The Book of Concord), we affirm the following:

1) Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8; Augsburg Confession, Article IV).

2) The fullness of the Holy Spirit is experienced through the Word and the Sacraments received by faith in Christ (Ephesians 3:16-19; Augsburg Confession, Article V; Smalcald Articles, III, VIII 10).

3) In this life, even in Christ, we are at all times both justified and sinners (Romans 3:21-24, 7:21-25).

4) Baptism, including the Baptism of infants (Matthew 19:14; Colossians 2:11-12), is an authentic and powerful activity of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).

5) By the Lord's Command and the Spirit's prompting, Baptism must lead to continuing instruction in the commands of Christ (Matthew 28:19,20).

6) Through Baptism sin is forgiven, the rupture between God and man is bridged, new life begins, the heavenly inheritance is given (Titus 3:5; Augsburg Confession, Article IX, Small Catechism, 345.6).

7) We affirm our confidence in the Holy Spirit's ability to generate new life in Christ through Baptism (as new birth and daily renewal: Romans 6:4, Titus 3:5, Small Catechism 349.2-24) and in the Holy Spirit's sustenance of Christians through the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 12:13, Small Catechism 352.5-8).

8) We need to be open to and desirous of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 14:1).

9) We are confident that the Holy Spirit bestows the appropriate and needed gifts upon Christ's Church in each generation, including ours, but only as He wills (I Corinthians 12:11).

10) The Holy Spirit bestows His gifts in harmony with God's thoroughly reliable revelation of Himself in the Sacred Scriptures (II Timothy 3:15-16).

11) There is the ever-present danger of quenching the Holy Spirit in His gracious work (I Thessalonians 5:19).

12) The persistent intention of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ and thereby to edify the Church (I Corinthians 12:7, 14:26) and to evangelize the world (John 14:26, Acts 1:8).

13) We need to test the spirits by a careful study of the Sacred Scriptures in order to hold onto what is good and to avoid every kind of evil (I Thessalonians 5:19-22).

On the basis of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions (The Book of Concord), we reject the following teachings of Pentecostal/Holiness theology:

1) We reject the notion that speaking in tongues should ever be equated with justification before God (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Ephesians 2:8).

2) We reject the teaching that salvation is assured to those receiving the Spirit's gifts (Acts 4:12, Romans 10:10).

3) We reject the concept that infant Baptism is spiritually insignificant or even a hindrance to the work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 18:10).

4) While not denying the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, we reject any "second blessing" or "second baptism" theology which would detract from the all-sufficient work of Christ or would teach that the Holy Spirit is not fully given in Holy Baptism. Only Baptism, the Lord's Supper and God's Word are the external means through which the Holy Spirit has chosen to work among us in grace (Ephesians 2:8, 4:3-6; Romans 3:22-24).

5) We reject any spiritual pride that would regard any experience or gift of the Spirit as a "step" above or beyond justification by faith in Christ. All Christians 'gather at the foot of the Cross,' which is 'level ground' for us all (Luke 10:17-20, 18:9-14; I Timothy 1:15; I Corinthians 14:18-19).

6) We reject the thought that faith enables a person to appropriate (demand) the fulfillment of his prayers (Matthew 26:39; II Corinthians 12:7-9).

7) We reject the notion that every gift of the Holy Spirit as listed in the New Testament is necessary for the fullness of the Spirit in the congregation.

8) We reject the concept that the fullness of the Spirit for an individual Christian requires speaking in tongues, etc. (Ephesians 3:17-19).

9) We reject the idea that anyone can come to God, be enlightened in the faith, be justified and saved without hearing God's Word (Mark 4:1-20, Romans 10:17; Epitome, Article II. Free Will, 471.13).

10) We reject any teaching that regards the Sacraments as optional in Christian living (Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:24,25).

11) We reject the concept that Christians can always live without illness, or that all illness can be overcome by perfect faith (II Corinthians 12:4-7,11).

12) We reject the notion that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be produced by human efforts (I Corinthians 12:4-7, 11).

We also reject the view that, following the time of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit ceased bestowing His gifts upon His Church (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true. (Luther, Explanation to the Third Article Small Catechism.)