The Seven-fold Gifts of the Spirit

Many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the term “the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit.” The Lutheran Hymnal uses this phrase in several of its Pentecost hymns. Perhaps this is what St. John had in mind in the Book of Revelation when, by inspiration of that same Spirit, he referred to “the seven Spirits of God” or “the seven-fold Spirit.”

The Bible actually speaks of these seven gifts of the Spirit in only one place: Isaiah 11:1–2. This passage clearly refers to the seven-fold Spirit being poured out, not on us, but on the coming Messiah: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Let us look for a moment at how the Holy Spirit, spoken of in seven ways by Isaiah, was poured out on the Messiah, the Lord Jesus:

1) “The Spirit of the Lord.” This is the only one of the seven terms that stands alone. The phrase is a clear reference to none other than the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit of the only true God, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the eternal Son.

2 and 3) “The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding.” These terms deal with practical wisdom, the ability to see “the big picture.” It is so important for the Messiah to always be able to see the end from the beginning. He therefore knows just the right thing to do for our every situation.

4 and 5) “The Spirit of counsel and of power.” These gifts have to do with military strategy and the ability to carry out that strategy. The spiritual warfare that the Messiah would be involved in for us not only had to include a plan for victory, but also the necessary power to carry out that plan to completion.

6 and 7) “The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” This final couplet refers to both a knowledge of the will of the Lord and also a commitment to carry out that will. Recall that Jesus once told His disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

This fullness of the Holy Spirit, poured out on Jesus the Messiah, led Christ to willingly humble Himself and become obedient even to the death of the cross, so that by His wounds we might be truly and completely healed!

Through the waters of Baptism, this same Holy Spirit has been poured out on us, along with His seven-fold gifts. The Spirit desires that, by His grace, we might know “perfect peace” (see Isaiah 26:3) in trusting in this Spirit-blessed Messiah, our Savior and our Lord. It is also the Spirit’s desire that we might live in His power and blessing each day. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

On that first day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was the Father’s and the Son’s great Gift to His people and has been Their Gift to His people through the Means of Grace ever since. And all to His glory and our great blessing!