Title Page. Lesson Ten. I Corinthians 12:1-4. I Corinthians 12:1-4 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
I Corinthians 12:1-4
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:5-9
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
I Corinthians 12:10-12
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
I Corinthians 12:31
But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
God gave spiritual gifts to the body of Christ to edify, and they should be active today.
God’s church is a vibrant body, composed of lively, Holy Ghost filled members. (See I Peter 2.) Different cultures, personalities, ages, and traditions find common ground in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate—all stand side by side in the kingdom of God. Through the centuries, this unlikely collection of human beings has held at bay the power of kings, stopped the spread of deadly diseases, rebuked evil forces, triumphed over imposing armies, and conquered the spirits of darkness on every continent on this planet.
This diverse group is so powerful because the people are empowered and appointed by God. Jesus described the empowering when He told the crowd, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Paul explained the appointing when he wrote, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (I Corinthians 12:18). The strength of the church resides in its members individually submitting to the Holy Ghost for power and position within the body.
It is natural for people to avoid being used in the gifts of the Spirit. What could be more foreign to our carnal natures than an invisible force compelling us to attempt impossible things? To submit to the Spirit is to ignore the natural senses that warn of rejection, failure, and ridicule.
When a person is taught the purpose of the gifts and realizes that they are essential to God’s plan, the higher purpose becomes obvious and obeying the Spirit comes more easily. When the members of the church are walking in the Spirit, the body of Christ is at work in the world.
There Are Different Gifts
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:4).
God’s great power and creative mind are displayed in the things He has made. Not only did He design a variety of plant and animal life, but He made them to flourish under different circumstances and during different seasons. Some species display their glory in the heat of summer, while others thrive in winter’s cold.
The forest by day is a different world than it is at night. After dark, a new set of wildlife with its unique sounds and habits owns the woods. The stars and planets testify of things He has done and planned that we have yet to comprehend. When observing God’s handiwork, one must agree with the words penned by Mark in his Gospel: “And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37).
Nothing that God created is within itself more diverse than the human race. Made in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), men and women come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. Moreover, each one is uniquely equipped by his peculiar culture and environment. To minister to the needs generated by this ever-growing population requires many ministers with differing natural abilities who are empowered by God with different spiritual gifts.
One of Paul’s main concerns as he wrote to the believers in Corinth was that the church understand this important concept. He introduced the subject of spiritual gifts by first explaining the many differences, but equal value, of each member of the body. Comparing God’s church to the human body, Paul wrote that while one member may possess a gift that brings public recognition, he is no more important than the one whose gift operates quietly in the background. The source of every gift is God; therefore, no person has any right to boast if his or her gift is used in spectacular ways.
Contrary to our way of thinking, God’s greatest honor is often given quietly and without fanfare, and those members we seldom consider are often the ones most needed (I Corinthians 12:22-23). Just as a person values every part of his or her own body, every person and every gift in God’s church must be given the utmost respect by every member. None is useless and none is without specific purpose.
There Are Differences in Administration
“And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (I Corinthians 12:5).
While the spiritual gifts are not dependant on natural abilities, one may conclude from Paul’s instructions that the nature of the gifted person is involved in the process. (See I Corinthians 13:1-3; I Corinthians 14:28-32.) Because their natures are different, people will operate, or administer, the same spiritual gift in different ways, reflecting their uniqueness.
God did not set specific rules for the application of each gift; rather, He chose to work through the peculiarities of each person’s personality and nature. Spiritual gifts are time and place specific. God chooses who will work the gifts at what time and place, His own design and reasoning unfettered by human logic. Administrations and applications may differ, but they all originate with the same Lord.
The work of the Spirit cannot always be neatly categorized under a specific spiritual gift. According to M. D. Treece in his book The Literal Word (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1995, 284), I Corinthians 12:5 intends to “include other workings of the Spirit through the saints which are not listed in the present categories. The moving of the Spirit of God upon the worshipper may perform a service in a spiritual capacity which would be difficult to describe in the course of normal reason.”
All the works of the Spirit, whether easily defined as one of the listed spiritual gifts or not, are ordained by the same Lord. Some works of the Spirit do not fit neatly inside a defined category.
There Are Different Workings
“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (I Corinthians 12:6).
The diversity of needs requires the diversity of operations (or workings). That God alone is the mastermind behind the work of the Spirit is emphasized even more strongly in I Corinthians 12:6. The gift is from God and the gift is the work of God. It is God working through the gift, but it is also God working in the believer.
Some gifts of the Spirit involve communicating God’s message. Other gifts demonstrate God’s power. God uses some gifts to reveal things that are hidden from man. While God may choose to have someone operate the same gift repeatedly, the spiritual gifts are not permanent endowments inside the believer, which he is able to use at will. God chooses the time, the place, and the person. Together, these gifts provide God a comprehensive set of tools that He uses to minister to and through His church.
Gifts of Revelation
Word of Wisdom
Delivering a specific declaration of advice or direction for a specific situation is the purpose of the word of wisdom, which is one of the spiritual gifts. This word does not originate inside the educated mind of a person well-schooled in the matters being discussed, but it comes directly from the mind of the Spirit as the believer expresses what the Spirit impresses. The fact that this utterance is a gift from God indicates that a person could not acquire this wisdom on his own.
Paul experienced this gift while on one of his missionary journeys when he told the sailors; “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives” (Acts 27:10). This message from a tentmaker advised the seasoned seamen to delay their departure. Not being spiritually minded, they ignored Paul’s warning and lost both vessel and cargo. (See Acts 27:11-24.)
Instructions are usually valued based on the teacher’s experience, knowledge, and training. Such requirements cannot be used to appraise the correctness of a word of wisdom, however, because God does not use our standards to decide whom He will use. Every member must be spiritual so that both the one speaking and the one obeying are in one accord. (See Acts 2:1; I Corinthians 14:29.)
Word of Knowledge
When God revealed to Peter that Ananias and Sapphira had conspired against the Holy Ghost, He did so by the gift of the word of knowledge. (See Acts 5:1-10.) God told Peter the things Ananias and Sapphira had plotted in private, and the punishment that was theirs for lying to the Holy Ghost.
This gift operates when God passes knowledge of a specific nature to an individual who does not know it by natural means.
Discerning of Spirits
Strong’s Concordance includes the words “judicial estimation” as part of the definition of the word discerning, which creates the image of a judge presiding over matters displayed before him. God, as judge, uses the gift of discerning of spirits to expose evil spirits and improper intentions.
The discerning of spirits is a gift that Paul also experienced firsthand. A woman followed him to prayer daily, shouting that he was sent from God to bring salvation. Paul discerned that she was possessed by an evil spirit and rebuked it. From that moment, the woman was free. Paul’s action, however, displeased those who were carnal and who profited from the woman’s evil spirit, and they imprisoned him. (See Acts 16:16-24.)
A believer used in this gift will display keen supernatural insight with regard to spirits.
Gifts of Power and Action
The gifts of healing are the various ways that a human body is miraculously cured of disease, injury, illness, or other imperfections through the direct prayers or actions of a believer.
The healing of the cripple at the Gate Beautiful is an example of this gift in action. (See Acts 3:1-8.) Since this man was carried to this spot every day, it is possible that Jesus passed him when He visited the Temple. Many disciples, including the apostles, probably had walked past him on their way to worship, but apparently none had stopped to pray for him. This time, however, the Spirit compelled Peter to speak words of faith and healing to this man who had never walked.
What was different about this particular visit to the Temple? Why had Jesus earlier chosen not to heal the beggar? The text does not reveal the answers to these questions, but everyone who was at the Temple that day witnessed the miracle and heard the message of salvation preached. The Holy Spirit orchestrated the entire event and the impact rippled beyond the Temple walls. (See Acts 4:1-23.) The Scriptures may not answer all our questions about the matter, but we can be confident that God achieved His divine purpose.
An individual can receive healing in various ways; thus the Scriptures identify this gift in the plural form: gifts of healing. James called for the elders to anoint the sick with oil and pray for them (James 5:14). Jesus put clay on a blind man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:6-7). James taught that healing can be connected to confession of sins and errors (James 5:16). Peter simply spoke in faith to the lame man in Acts 3. Since God is the source of both the gift and the healing, He chooses the method by which the gifts operate and healing is given. An obedient response to the Spirit will complete the work.
The gift of faith is obviously more than the fundamental faith required for conversion, or the faith a Christian daily displays as he lives his life for Jesus Christ. Every Christian has faith (Romans 12:3), but the gift of faith is a supernatural gift that empowers a person to “trust in God for a particular need or circumstance” (David K. Bernard, Spiritual Gifts [Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1997], 124).
Paul serves again as our example. Displaying unusual confidence as a severe storm battered the ship in which he was being transported, Paul rested on God’s word to him. “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (Acts 27:25). His supernatural faith told him all was well while his eyes were warning him that his life was in danger. His faith calmed his mind while the wind was fanning his fears. Beyond his trust in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, God enlarged Paul’s faith to see Him at work in the midst of tragedy.
Working of Miracles
While the use of and most of the results of the spiritual gifts could be considered miraculous, the gift of the working of miracles occurs when God, operating through a human being, transcends the laws of nature in a particular situation. Luke wrote of such an occasion when Paul’s missionary team was ministering in Asia. People possessed of evil spirits or sick with diseases were healed when handkerchiefs and other cloths that Paul had touched were given to them. (See Acts 19:11-12.)
God has always used miraculous events to lead or deliver His people. He parted the Red Sea for the people of Israel (Exodus 14:21-22), closed the mouths of the hungry lions for Daniel (Daniel 6:16-17, 22), and made the footsteps of four frail lepers sound like an advancing army (II Kings 7:3-6).
The stories described in the Bible catalog the supernatural events that God orchestrated on behalf of His people. At times, such as when God sent the plagues to trouble Pharaoh, His miracles were widespread and affected many. (See Exodus 7:17–12:30.) On other occasions, such as when the widow’s meal and oil were replenished, only a few knew and benefited (I Kings 17:16). These accounts assure us that God observes the needs of every individual as well as the corporate needs of the whole body, and He is prepared to suspend the laws of nature to meet every challenge.
The supernatural works of the Old Testament were continued in the New Testament. Miracles were a regular part of the ministry of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Acts records many miracles done through the faith of His disciples. Miracles occurred so regularly that they became part of the culture of the early church.
By the gifts of the Spirit, God continues to work through His church. By the gift of the working of miracles, God’s supernatural power provides for His people and reminds the world of His ability and desire to save them.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:17-20).
Gifts of Communication
Because of the ministry of Old Testament prophets, we usually associate prophecy with inspired foretelling or prediction. While prophecy may include foretelling certain outcomes, a more complete definition would be “a supernatural utterance directly from God in the language of the speaker and hearers” (Bernard, Spiritual Gifts, 204). As is often observed, prophecy includes both foretelling and forthtelling.
It is this gift that Paul considered most valuable in public worship because of its ability to edify the whole church (I Corinthians 14:4). While other gifts are to be desired, a person wishing to benefit the entire congregation should pray to be used in the gift of prophecy (I Corinthians 14:1).
Prophecy was common in the early days of the church. Acts 11 tells of a group of men who were recognized as prophets (Acts 11:27). God also chose to use Philip’s four daughters to prophesy (Acts 21:9).
Divers Kinds of Tongues
A lack of understanding has caused much confusion over the use of tongues in the church. Speaking in tongues (speaking in a language that the one who is speaking does not know and cannot understand) is a work of the Spirit designed to get the attention of unbelievers. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (I Corinthians 14:22).
Speaking in tongues is the initial evidence that a person has received the Holy Ghost. This is a spontaneous act of the Spirit and no interpretation is needed, even though it is possible that some observers might understand the words being spoken. (See Acts 2:4-8.) Throughout the Book of Acts, which is the only book that records conversions, speaking in tongues is the common sign given as the initial evidence that a person has received the Holy Ghost. (See Acts 10:44-46.)
The criteria by which the apostles recognized and acknowledged the conversion experience of others was by comparison to their own experience when the Holy Spirit was initially given in Acts 2. (See Acts 11:1-18.) They saw that other believers were speaking with other tongues just as they had spoken with tongues; they recognized that tongues are the initial evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul described the second use of tongues as a man speaking directly to God (I Corinthians 14:2, 14). This kind of prayer strengthens the person who is speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:4), and it is something everyone should do (I Corinthians 14:5).
This personal prayer is apparently what Paul described to the Roman church, and it requires no interpretation (Romans 8:26).
The third use of tongues is the spiritual gift of divers kinds of tongues. Paul was referring to this use in I Corinthians 14:5 when he said, “I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
The gift of tongues is intended to benefit the body of believers and requires that the message be interpreted into a language that those present understand. However, the interpreting is done by someone who does not know or understand the language in which the message is spoken. Through the combination of these two gifts, the church realizes that the message is supernatural and that it comes from God.
Interpretation of Tongues
This gift, while not secondary in importance, is dependent on the gift of tongues being exercised. God’s Spirit then gives the interpretation of what was said through a person who does not know or understand the language in which the message was given. This gift, then, is the “supernatural ability to translate or explain the meaning of a public utterance in tongues” (Bernard, Spiritual Gifts, 196). These two gifts of the Spirit work in tandem to minister to and edify the body of Christ, which also is the ultimate purpose of all the spiritual gifts.
Gifts for Edificationof the Body
One Spirit—Several Giftsto Numerous Individuals
When Jesus commissioned His disciples to take the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:19-20), He was transferring His role of ministry to His church. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
Holy Ghost filled believers are the Lord’s hands and feet, reaching and touching each person with the good news of Jesus Christ and declaring the Word of God at the Spirit’s urging. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). Since the church is now the body of Jesus Christ, it must function with the same motivation and direction that guided Jesus, who made it plain that He did not act on human whim or intuition.
“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:28-29).
The members of the body of Christ are filled with the Holy Ghost, so as they operate in the Spirit, God is directing His own work on earth through them just as He did through the life of Jesus Christ. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). As each believer submits to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the whole body functions properly, and the great commission is accomplished.
Every person operating in the Spirit must constantly be aware of the purpose for the gifts. They are not to be used to express personal opinions or to showcase a particular talent, but they are to edify the church. Paul explained, “Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (I Corinthians 14:12).
One Body—Many Members Working Together
While the gifts of the Spirit originate from one source, they are divided among the whole church. The Spirit assigns to every believer the particular gift that God desires for that person to use at a particular moment. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (I Corinthians 12:11).
If the spiritual gifts are lacking, then the church is limited spiritually, and it may function primarily within the human abilities of the people. Many critical issues have spiritual roots and can be conquered only in the Spirit. The Spirit is the life of the body, and without it, the body grows cold, limited, and predictable. (See John 6:63.)
Paul said that New Testament ministers would minister life by the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:6). The success of each congregation rests upon its members’ willingness to be used and to be sensitive to God, always ready to operate in the gifts of the Spirit.
Because the gifts operate contrary to human reasoning, and because examples of spiritual abuse abound, some Christians are reluctant to participate. The church at Corinth struggled with sin and carnality more than many, yet Paul encouraged them to operate in the spiritual gifts. The New International Version translates Paul’s instruction in I Corinthians 14:1: “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”
When the gifts are operating properly, the attention and honor is focused on God and not the people exercising the gifts. God has purposely designed His plan so that no person has a right to glory or to accept credit for any beneficial results. Paul’s instructions indicate that God chose to spread His gifts among many individuals rather than bestowing several gifts upon a single individual. (See I Corinthians 14:27-30.) It is vital that each member allow the Spirit to use him so that the body of Christ is complete and functioning according to the Lord’s perfect plan.
God is building His church (Matthew 16:18). Because His is a spiritual house, it is built by spiritual means and is not constructed carnally. As a result, those observers who are outside the church do not understand its purpose and function. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).
The church can function as God’s body only when the members are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and they willingly allow the gifts of the Spirit to operate freely as the Lord directs. Each member must allow God to use him as He chooses so that the body is complete and capable of supernatural ministry.
Our carnal natures often oppose the Holy Spirit. Pride, bashfulness, and fear frequently overpower our desire to be publicly used by God. But if we sincerely want to function properly within the body of Christ upon this earth, then we must be ready to allow God’s Spirit to use us as He wills. The gifts of the Spirit should operate freely whenever and however God chooses.