Introducing the verbal gifts of the Holy Spirit to the 21st Century

By Steven H Puffpaff

Steve & Kim Puffpaff The Puffpaff's are the founders of the City of Refuge ministry to the homeless children of Jamaica. It is made up of two homes, in two very distinct locations on the island of  Jamaica. The first home is located in Content Gap, 12 miles northeast of the City of Kingston, in the lovely Blue Mountains. The second home is located in Christiana, in the center of Jamaica. Both locations offer the benefit of a home-style environment where children are taught the basic principles of a Christ-centered family life. The City of Refuge is incorporated as a company with the Government of Jamaica. It is licensed as a children’s home organization with the Child Developmental Agency of Jamaica and can receive children from infancy through thirteen years of age.
Steve & Kim Puffpaff
Steve and Kim Puffpaff presently serve with Caribbean School of Theology. They served in Jamaica for twenty-four years. They are the founders of the City of Refuge children’s home in Jamaica.


The story of King Jehoshaphat going to battle with the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites is intriguing (2 Chron. 20:1-29). Jehoshaphat faces a huge army, which came to remove the nation of Israel from its land. The invaders expected to settle in the land. They brought their families, flocks, and possessions (Tenney 1975, 426). Jehoshaphat, alarmed, called the country to a time of fasting and prayer (2 Chron. 20:3, 4). The Lord spoke prophetically through a man named Jahaziel during the corporate prayer time (2 Chron. 20:15). He told Israel that they would not have to fight this battle, “For the Battle is not yours, but the Lord’s” (2 Chron. 20:15).[1] The Israelite army marched into battle with confidence the next day. The Lord brought victory, and the conquering armies were in disarray. The Lord set ambushes in the midst of the enemy troops, and they killed one another. As promised by God, the Israelites did not have to fight the battle.

What was the distinguishing factor in the situation? What turned a sure defeat into an astounding victory? It was the prophecy given by Jahaziel. A previously fearful army marched assuredly in battle. This story accentuates the value of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly prophecy. Miracles are accomplished when God speaks to His people prophetically. Faith is manifested in the hearts of believers.

Many Pentecostal churches today do not place great value in the verbal gifts of the Holy Spirit. Numerous young pastor have mega evangelical churches, which do not make room for the expression of verbal gifts, as their model (Bullock 2009, 11). Adverse experiences with spiritual gifts have created the mindset that the gifts are a hindrance and not a blessing. In most services, spiritual verbal gifts are not urged, nor is time for them provided. Therefore, new believers do not know what they are missing. The moving of the Holy Spirit has been replaced by human ingenuity (Horton 1976, 13). Yet, the purpose for the spiritual gift remains the same (Bullock 2009, 13). They are viewed as cute Christian axioms, when in reality they are dynamic and powerful for transforming lives (Sumrall 1993, 32). Many young pastors, however, have experienced too much of the authenticity of the Spirit to be comfortable denying the supernatural power (Bullock 2009, 12).

The importance of the gift of prophecy cannot be overestimated. George Wood states, “As Pentecostal people, let’s not settle for for an atmosphere where everything is programmed. Let’s leave room for the spontaneous expression of the vocal spiritual gifts (Wood 2009, 12). Schatzmann declares that nothing affects the spiritual wellbeing of the Church more than prophecy (1987, 21). He quotes Dunn as saying, “without prophecy, the body of Christ cannot exist. It is abandoned by God (Dunn , 1987, 22)”.

This paper provides an overview of the verbal gifts of the Holy Spirit and explores their importance to the Church today. The focus of the discussion will be on the gift of prophecy, because of its supreme value to the body of Christ. Practical teaching will be provided for children and adults to become involved in becoming God’s instruments for the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Balance between the operations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and other elements in the worship service are discussed as well.

The Gateway to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gateway to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit is baptism in the Holy Spirit (Bridges 2004, 10). There is a yielding to His presence in a believer’s life when he or she is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to pray through the believer’s life in a language unknown to that person (Rom. 8:26-28). Peter’s explanation for people praying in a language unknown to them was that it was a fulfillment of Joel 2:28 and 29 (Keener 2001, 56). He is saying if one can speak in a language unknown to him, then He can speak as a prophet in a language known to him (Keener 2001, 56). The same principle of yielding to the Holy Spirit when praying applies to yielding to the voice of the Lord.

Openness to the Holy Spirit allows His power to flow through the individual. The supernatural and human flesh becomes intertwined (Miller, 2007, 158). A recently heard testimony of a doctoral student at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary illustrates this principle. Kelley Iseman as a student at Hope College (Christian Reformed background) when she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

I was in my dorm room praying and I began to speak in tongues. The next week, God supernaturally healed my knee. I went to a prayer meeting. A lady told me that God would heal my knee tonight (Word of Knowledge). The lady didn’t know about my knee injury. My knee had a torn meniscus, ACL, and LCL ligaments. I always wore a knee brace. I have never worn the knee brace since that day and I even jog (Kelley Iseman, personal interview, July 1, 2013).

The book of Acts is a testimony of the gifts of the Holy Spirit flowing through the apostle’s lives after they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit operating in believer’s lives is normal Christianity (Lim 1991, 47). Lim says, “Prophecy, healing, miracles are only strange when there has not been a involvement of the divine and a merger of the natural and the supernatural (1991, 47). There is a diversity of function expressed in interdependence in the working of the gifts within the body of Christ (Schzatamann 1987, 46). The expression of a verbal gift creates openness in believer’s lives to the miraculous manifestation of God’s power.

CST class in Turks and Caicos Islands.
CST class in Turks and Caicos Islands.

Who Can be Used in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

The prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 makes it clear that every believer is a candidate for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Joel mentions men, both young and old, women, who are recipients of the prophetic anointing, children, and people considered of low esteem by society (Joel 2:28). Schatzamann points out that the “tongues speakers” in Corinth were more likely slaves and harbor workers than the upper class of the city (1987, 30). This is a very important point. One of the abuses in the twentieth century church has been what Schatzmann calls, “Spiritual Elitism” (1987, 30). This is defined as a few people in a given church who always project spiritual gifts (Schatzmann 1987, 30). This select group can develop a sense of spiritual pride (Horton 1975, 47), discouraging other believers who feel they have not reached that high “spiritual plane” (Horton 1976, 47). Many believers will keep silent and allow the more charismatic leader to give the utterance (Horton 1976, 40). The good news is the priesthood of every believer. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts created an ongoing army of prophets. Each believer has the potential to receive and use the Gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12: 7-11).

Overview of the Verbal Gifts of the Holy Spirit

There are a couple of key points needed at the beginning of this discussion. First, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are spontaneous (Schatzamann 1987, 21). They are not prepared ahead of time. Second, the utterance relates to the people present in the assembly and regards situations existing at that moment (Kydd 1984, 2). The verbal gifts capture the idea of communicating revelations from God as a spontaneous utterance (Schatzamann 1987, 22). The gifts will be considered in the order presented in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12. This discussion is limited to the verbal gifts.

Word of Wisdom and Word of Knowledge

Horton defines Word of Wisdom as “Supernatural wisdom by the Holy Spirit of divine purpose, of unfolding of divine plans concerning things, places individuals, communities and nations” (1975, 39). Horton describes the Word of Knowledge as a supernatural revelation from God of certain facts known only to Him (1975, 39). Schatzamann adds that it is an utterance of inspired knowledge for the common good of the body (1987, 36). Lim 1991, R.L. Brant, and G. Raymond Carlson lean toward revelation pertaining to teaching of God’s Word (Bridges 2004, 30). Bridges agrees with Horton and Shatzamann’s position of an inspired utterance not available except from divine revelation (2004, 29). A New Testament example would be the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). God can use this gift in the marketplace to reveal Himself to non-Christians. Charles Self shares the following story in his book Flourishing Churches and Communities,

Over thirty years ago, I was invited to give a lecture on “Divine Omniscience and the Human free will” in a secular community college philosophy class. The professor was a well-known atheist, hostile to religion and happy to undermine the simple faith of college freshman. He told the class, “If God knows the future, and then none of our decision are truly free. Therefore, either God is ignorant or we are mere robots.” The challenge was set: Would I be his next victim or present something that silences his appeals to emotions and flawed logic? I presented well a classic Christian argument for both divine Sovereignty and human free will. As I concluded, I suddenly shouted out, “Bernie, when this class is done, you will walk across the quad, go to the cafeteria get a coke from the machine and sit in the corner table with your friends. Am I correct? The student was in shock. How did you know my name and what I do every time this class is over?” I replied, “The same way God knows all things and you are free to carry on your life” (2013, 52, 53).

The Holy Spirit had given him a Word of Knowledge. A number of students in that class came to faith in the next few months.

Message in Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues

The interpretation of tongues is the supernatural showing forth by the meaning of an utterance in tongues for the common good (Bridges 2004, 110). The tongues are real languages provided through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Bridges 2004, 108). The message in tongues is directed towards God (1 Cor. 14:2), whether it is praise (Acts 2:11), mysteries (1 Cor. 14:2), prayer (1 Cor. 14:15) or thanksgiving (1 Cor. 14:16,17) (Lim 1991, 140). It is a message that the Lord wants the congregation to hear (Bullock 2009, 140). They function as a sign to unbelievers and encourage people to worship (Lim 1991, 140). Believers are exhorted to pray for the interpretation so people may be edified in the worship setting (1 Cor. 14:13). The person giving the message in tongues should be ready to interpret it. In the British Assemblies of God, the pastor is responsible for giving the interpretation if no one speaks forth (Lim 1991, 165). Lim says, “It is reasonable to assume that the spiritual leadership should be able to make sense of what God is saying to the congregation” (1991, 165). In some situations, it might be best for the pastor to say no one has the interpretation so we should move on with the service.

The Gift of Prophecy

Prophecy is considered the most important verbal gift (Schzatamann 1987, 21). It is mentioned five times in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5. Prophecy refers to communication revelation from God as a spontaneous utterance (Schzatamann 1987, 21). Keener expands the definition to involving God speaking through a believer who listens to His voice (2001, 119). The importance of prophecy in the early church cannot be overestimated. Acts 13:1-3 attests to this phenomenon. The confirmation of Saul and Barnabas’ call to missions set the course of the establishment of the Church in the western world and Turkey. Nothing affects the spiritual well-being of the body of Christ more than prophecy (Schzatamann 1987, 21). Prophecy speaks to the people for strengthening, encouraging, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). The ultimate purpose of prophecy is to build up the body of Christ (Gruden 1996, 205). James Hennessey says, “Prophesy is Holy Spirit ideas from God brought to the mind of a humans” (Hennessey, Sermon, Hope Church, Springfield, MO, November 8, 2013). God’s words to people transform lives upon their reception.

Caribbean School of theology class in Belize.
Caribbean School of theology class in Belize.

I have personally witnessed the power of prophecy in my own life. In 1975, I was a student at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. I was going through a time of low self-esteem. One Sunday night, at Evangel Temple in Springfield, Missouri, pastor David Rees-Thomas gave a prophecy. It spoke directly to my heart regarding God’s love for me and His plan for my life. After giving the prophecy, Rees-Thomas said “Steve Puffpaff, that prophecy was for you.” I did not even know that Rees-Thomas knew my name. I held onto that prophetic word. It showed me what God thought about me and drowned out my personal feelings of inadequacy. In 1999, my wife and I were preparing to start the City of Refuge children’s home in Jamaica. We were praying about a facility to accommodate our vision or ministry to homeless children, and had begun our itineration in the United States. During this time, my wife went to a conference in Shreveport, Louisiana. At the end of one of the services, Kim went forward for prayer. She said to the evangelist, “Please pray for God’s will in my life.” The evangelist began to pray. Almost immediately, he stopped and said, “I am visualizing a picture as I pray for you. I see a mountaintop. There are buildings on top of this mountain. One of them is a three-story building that looks like an official building. I see a big house with cracked paint on the sidewalls. I see the ocean, in front of the mountaintop.” Kim and I wondered if God was showing the Evangelist the property for the children’s home. We went back to Jamaica to look for property. A friend of mine told me about a hotel in the Blue Mountains that was for sale. I laughed at the idea of buying a hotel. I commented to him that the cost would be far greater than our budget. My friend persuaded me to visit the hotel. I traveled up a winding road into the Blue Mountains. My friend pointed to a group of buildings on a mountaintop and said, “There is the Pine Grove Hotel.” The first building on the property was a three-story building. It looked like a government building. The next building was a five bedroom, three-bathroom house with all the paint cracked on the sidewalls. The Atlantic Ocean could be seen in front of the mountaintop. I was utterly amazed. My wife and I would never have attempted to buy a hotel for our children’s home. The price was ten times the amount of the available funds. The Lord put Faith in our hearts after visualizing the property described in the prophecy. I will not go into the details of God’s miraculous provision to purchase the property. The City of Refuge children’s home has now been in operation for twelve years. It stands as a testimony of transforming lives of homeless children in Jamaica.

Prophecy involves hearing the voice of God. Believers come to know His voice in their heart through a personal relationship with Christ. A believer should only speak words given by the Holy Spirit prophetically. Schatzamann quotes David Hill as saying, “He should only speak when conscious of his words an inspired and presumably as long as he is confident that God is still speaking through him (Hill, 1987, 22). God uses different personalities and intellect to share prophetically. Different people will share the same essential message, but articulate it differently according to their thought processes. Obviously, prophetic speaking is not infallible (Lim 1991, 43). Prophetic utterances need evaluated (1 Cor. 14:29). The key in evaluation is discerning between the Holy Spirit’s utterance and added human thought (Bridges 2004, 105). The response of the congregation is the first form of evaluation. There is normally a response of praise. This is an affirmation. The pastor and other leaderships should take courage and assume the proper role of evaluation of prophecies (Lim 1991, 66). Another form of evaluation is taking a minute or two to comment of the thoughts presented in the form of a teaching (Bullock 2009, 75). The scriptural pattern is to let two or three speak and then evaluate the utterances. The mention of limits on utterances in a worship service is established so that one or more gift does not dominate the worship service (Lim 1991, 160). A good basis for discerning the prophetic utterance includes: (1) Is it Biblical? Does it edify, encourage, or console? Does the utterance line up with the flow of the worship service? (Lim 1991, 166), and (2) Is there confirmation from other believers who received a similar message? (Lim 1991, 166).

Bigger churches may need to take different measures to ensure the proper operation of the verbal gifts. One bigger church allows only members to be used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Bullock 2009, 28). Elders with a microphone could be stationed at different parts of the sanctuary. A believer with a verbal gift can share it briefly with the elder. He would allow them to proceed if it met the biblical criteria (Bullock 2009, 28).

The church should be the school of the Holy Spirit (Lim 1991, 167). A believer learns to hear the voice of God just as he or she learns to walk. Imperfection in the giving of a prophetic utterance does not mean it is not genuine (Bridges 2004, 89). God uses imperfect people. Prophetic utterances should not be confused with preaching (Bridges 2004, 94). The gifts of the Spirit are spontaneous in nature. Preaching involves study and preparation in advance of preaching the message. The utterance and manifestation of the Holy Spirit can be a combination of gifts (Lim 1991, 204). Kay shares the following testimony;

A man in the military stationed in Japan married a Japanese girl. Everything went well except she flatly refused to accept his Christianity. One evening in a full gospel church in Oregon, a lady spoke in tongues sitting next to her. She said, “you have tried Buddha, now why don’t you try Jesus. She said the lady’s full name in Japanese, which no one in the United States knew. The lady became a Christian (2004, 103).

Instructions in Participating in Prophecy and the Other Verbal gifts

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are a lifestyle that bubbles up in a believer who places importance on worship because God speaks to His people in the worship setting. People need to be able to identify His voice and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are prophecies meant for the whole body and prophetic words for individuals given in times of prayer with other people. The prophetic thought could even be a picture, as illustrated in the story of Jesus and Nathaniel. Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48). This was significant to Nathaniel. Deere wisely advises that people should not give prophetic words on marriage, money, or family (1996, 185).

Children at the City of Refuge children's Home in Jamaica pray over former General Superintendent, Thomas Trask and His wife.
Children at the City of Refuge children’s Home in Jamaica pray over former General Superintendent, Thomas Trask and His wife.

Children can be taught to hear God’s voice. The example of God speaking to young Samuel stands as an example (1 Sam. 3:10-14). My wife and I founded a children’s home in Jamaica called the City of Refuge. After a time of worship, my wife, Kim, would say to the children, “Did Jesus say anything to you during the time of worship?” Very seldom did a child say something unscriptural. Many times, it was a verse of scripture or the verse of a worship song. Sometimes, the thought was something meant for that individual child. Many times, the thoughts from the child were meant for the whole body. They also learned to hear from God when praying for people. A woman on a visiting ministry team shared the following testimony. One of the children said to her during a time of prayer, “The Lord has given me this scripture to share with you, ‘You shall not not die, but live’ (Psalms 118:17). A few months later, her teen-age daughter had emergency brain surgery to remove a tumor. The surgery was intense and the doctors were not sure that the girl would live. The mother held onto the scripture given to her by the child. The girl made it through the surgery and is totally recovered (Amy Yost, interviewed by author, February 7, 2011).

The gifts of the Holy Spirit need to be taken to the market place. Most of the miracles done by Jesus were in public. My wife and I have the privilege of working with a young Chi Alpha pastor in Michigan. He is taking the gifts of the Holy Spirit into the market place. Recently, he felt an impression to pull his car into a certain gas station. He was impressed that a man with a problem in his left knee would in the station. The Lord pointed him to a police officer parked at the station. He asked the police officer if he had a problem with his left knee. The officer said he had many surgeries on that knee and still had much pain. He prayed for him and the pain left the man’s knee (John Mark Baker, interview by author, December 31, 2013). This is not an isolated incident with this young minister. He is simply following Jesus’ example of ministry.


Pastor James Hennessy shared the story of a reservoir of water that existed beneath his church’s property (James Hennessy, Sermon, Hope Church, Springfield, MO, November 8, 2013). The Dallas, Texas area was experiencing a drought. There was no extra water even to water the grass. They had a well dug to tap into this reservoir, and the church had plenty of water. Hennessey made the following application. There is a spiritual drought in the world today. There is a reservoir of supernatural power available through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord needs people to be “sprinkler heads” to release the power of the Holy Spirit to a thirsty world. The history of the growth of the Pentecostal church in the last century has been signs and wonders (Lim 1991, 70). It is no different today. The prophetic gifts pave the way for the other gifts to flow. Moses said in Number 11:29, “I wish that all of God’s people were prophets.” This was not fulfilled in the Old Testament. It was fulfilled in the New Testament with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 (Flattery 2009, 213). Bridge’s quotes Donald Gee, “the Pentecostal movement will absolutely fail if it goes back to dependence upon natural gifts of the work of the ministry (Gee, 2004, 16, 17). Societies around the world are crumbling. The world needs to see the supernatural manifestation of the Living God, Jesus Christ. This generation of Spirit-filled believers needs to take the gifts of the Spirit into the marketplace. Spiritual gifts burst forth mightily out in the market place, among destitute people (Sumrall 1993,33). May God help us, as spiritual leaders, to introduce of the fullness of the Pentecostal experience to the twenty-first century.


Works Cited

Bridges, James K. editor. 2004. Pentecostal Gifts and Ministries in a Postmodern Era. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.

Bullock, Warren. 2009. When the Spirit Speaks: Making Sense of Tongues, Interpretation and Prophecy. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.

Deere, Jack. 1996. Surprised by the Voice of God. How God Speaks Today Through Prophecies, Dreams and Visions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Flattery, George. 2009. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, Luke-Acts. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.

Gruden, Wayne. editor. 1996. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Horton, Harold. 1975. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.

Horton, Stanley M. 1976. What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.

Kay, William K., and Dyer, Anne E. 2004. Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies. Cambridge: SCM Press.

Keener, Craig. 2001. Gift Giver, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Kydd,Ronald A.N. 1984. Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. Peabody, MA: Hendricksen Publishers.

Lim, David. 2003. Spiritual Gifts, A Fresh Look. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.

Miller, Donald, and Yamammori, Tetsunao. 2007. Global Pentecostalism, The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Schzatamann, Siegfried. 1987. A Pauline Theology of Charisma. Peabody, MA: Henricksen Publishers.

Self, Charles. 2013. Florishing Churches and Communities, A Pentecostal Primer for Faith, Work and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship. Grand Rapids: Christian Library Press.

Sumrall, Lester. 1993. The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Tenney, Merrill. 1975. Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume Three. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers.





[1] All Scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are from the new International Version.

3 Replies to “Introducing the verbal gifts of the Holy Spirit to the 21st Century”

  1. Steve, so refreshing to be reminded about the foundations of our Pentecostal faith. I agree we need to battle against spiritual drift and invite the children to participate fully in the Spirit’s gifts.

  2. Hi Steve,

    Great write-up! This past Saturday night I preached on the baptism of the Holy Spirit in church. The gifts are so misunderstood, at least in my country, and we do need some solid, bible-based teaching along with opportunities being created for the spirit to manifest those gifts.

    Some months back, I hosted a Sunday morning forum in Costa Rica where the congregation texted me their Holy Spirit related questions and my panel took turns addressing those questions. It was great, but then we took it one step further allowing for people to seek and experience those gifts. Great job and keep up the good work in Jamaica!


Comments are closed.