05/22/94 and 10/19/08
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.
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;
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.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s largest gift is the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. The world’s smallest wrapped gift was a opal which was wrapped by a lady in Prague. She put the opal in a box measuring 3x4 mm and wrapped it using tweezers and a magnifying glass. When she was done, you could put the gift on your smallest fingernail. But whether large or small, we all like gifts. We like to receive good stuff from people we know and love.
God loves us, and we have received gifts from God—spiritual gifts. In I Cor. 12, the Apostle Paul tells us something about these divine gifts.
The second gift he mentions, in v8, is “the word of knowledge.” This is the supernatural revelation of divine mystery. It is a knowledge of that which is not learned through the efforts of the natural mind, but by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. It may be described as the mind of Jesus being given to and permating the mind of the believer (ICR2:16).
The gift of “the word of knowledge” is the basis of the first spiritual gift, which is “the word of wisdom.” “The word of wisdom” has to do with application of knowledge. It is knowing what to do with the natural and supernatural knowledge that we have.
It is interesting that Paul regards these as two separate gifts. Having knowledge and knowing what to do with knowledge are not the same thing. Thus, it is good to seek knowledge, both natural and supernatural, but we should also pray for the gift to know what to do with it when we have it.
The third spiritual gift is faith. Hebs 11:1 says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”—which means that faith is now, or it is not faith at all. Some people would say that these gifts of the spirit are the kind of thing that we will have in heaven, but we do not have now. Not so. If we do not have faith now, we are never going to see heaven. Faith is believing before seeing. It is the evidence of the soul, that is to say it is the proof to the soul of things unseen. ICR12:9 speaks of faith as a gift. People are always asking me: How do I get more faith? We must turn to God and pray to God and act like we have faith and the Holy Spirit will pour faith and power into our lives. (MT17:20).
The fourth spiritual gift is healing. This is a continuation of the healing ministry of Jesus. Now most everyone is interested in the gift of healing because the need for it is so great. People are suffering and dying, and if we have any love at all, this is a gift what we would love to have, and we can have it.
There is a spiritual power to heal. This is not to say that we should not use all the efforts of modern medicine heal the sick and alleviate suffering. But I also believe that there is a real power that is invoked by the prayers of God’s people to heal and help with all kinds of sickness.
The fifth spiritual gift is miracles. A miracle by definition is an event that seems to override or contradict the so-called Laws of Nature. I say “so-called” because modern science no longer uses the term “laws of nature.” Physics today descrdibes events in terms of probabilities, not laws. For example, according to old Newtonian physics, the first law of motion was that a body moving in a straight line continues to move in a straight line unless acted upon by some outside force. Modern physics says that is not a law, that is only the most probable outcome. That is something like what believers say about miracles. We say that the so-called laws of nature are simply the way things usually work, but it is not absolutely necessary that they work that way and sometimes by the power of God they can work differently. The physicist says that the way things ordinarily work is the most probable outcome, but there is a possibility of the least probable outcome. What Paul is saying then is that by the power in us through the Holy Spirit that we can alter probabilities to achieve the least probable outcome. We can do miracles.
Now you may think, Wait a minute. It is one thing to say that maracles happened a long time ago in the Bible, but it is something else to say, I can do miracles now. But you can. In John 14:12, Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” Jesus said, You think I am doing wonderful things. When you believe on me, you will be able to do stupendous things.
The sixth spiritual gift is prophecy. Prophecy is the ability to speak the mind of God. It is the ability to know the will and purpose of God. Prophecy is communal gift. By its very nature, it must be shared with the people of God. In ICR12 Paul lists prophecy as the sixth spiritual gift. In ICR14, he lists it as the best spiritual gift, and he tells us why—because it educates, exhorts, uplifts, and encourages God’s people. That tells us something about prophecy—it is that which educates, exhorts, uplifts, and encourages the church. If it does not do that then it is not prophecy and it is not from God.
The seventh spiritual gift is “discerning of spirit.” This is the ability to distinguish between the spirit of light and the spirit of darkness. Many things claim to be from God, and are not. With TV, the internet, radio, telephone, all the news media we have, we are bombarded by the claims of every possible cult, sect, and fad in the world. How do we know who to believe and what to believe. We need the spiritual wisdom that will enable us to distinguish the works of the devil from the works of Christ. That is a gift that we have through the Holy Spirit.
The last gifts are the controversial ones. The KJV says “divers kinds of tongues” and “the interpretation of tongues.” The word “tongues” refers to languages. The question is what kind of languages are we talking about here. Since there must be an interpretation of the language, it must be a language that is unknown to the hearers. This is the position of those churches that we call Pentecostal. Those churches are primarily known for speaking “unknown tongues.” I once asked a Pentecostal preacher: How would you know the difference between a person talking in an unknown tongue and a person just jabbering gibberish. His answer was that you can tell by the interpretation, that the tongue should always be interpreted and the interpretation should be consistent with God and his love.
Now that is fine, but I do not think that Paul ever meant for speaking in unknown tongues to be a major part of a church service. He says later on in ICR14 that he would rather say 5 words that people can understand that 10000 words that they cannot understand. For obvious reasons, when you speak a language tht people can understand, you speak effectively.
In modern times, the unfortunate thing about speaking in unknown tongues is that it has brought division into the church. It has brought whole new denominations into being. It seems that Christians who speak in unknown tongues and Christians who do not cannot get along together, and that is exactly the opposite of what Paul was trying to teach us in ICR12. ICR12 is about Christian unity.
The church at Corinth was a great church, spiritually speaking. It probably was not large in numbers; It did not have a building, but it had spiritual power. It had all these spiritual gifts in rich abundance. And what Paul is doing in this chapter is teaching the Corinthians, and us, to use these gifts for the benefit of the whole church.
There is a major difference between a spiritual way of thinking and a worldly way of thinking. The worldly way is that the more gifts we have the higher position we should have. We should have fame and honor and look upon ourselves better than others. That is the worldly way. Paul teaches another way: No Christian is better than any other Christian, and he adds that you Corinthians ought to know that more than anyone else.
Paul reminds them of where they came from, saying in v2, “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” Notice that Paul does not say that the idols were bad or good, just dumb. And the implication is that the Corinthians were just dumb to have served them. So Paul says to them, why do you think you are so great. Look at how dumb you acted just a short time ago. You were ignorant pagans. You were a wretched, divided, miserable people, but now you have turned from idolatry to the one true worship. More than that, God has given you great and glorious gifts, gifts that the world cannot even understand.
That being true then, you should not put on airs and put down other Christians. That is the way the world acts. One runs to this idol and another to that idol, each claiming superiority for his own idol. But in the church, we embrace the one true God, with one faith and one mind. And we all receive the same grace, the same spirit and the same salvation. Thus, we should give up worldly bickering and start practicing Christian love, for where there is no unity and no love, there is also no Christ.
Thus Paul says in v3, “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.” Now this is the central verse of this passage, and if you get all wound up in the spiritual gifts and leave out this verse, you miss the whole point.
The source for all spiritual gifts is the Holy Spirit. V4 reads, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, the third person of our triune God gives different gifts to different people. Or, to put it another way, when we have the Holy Spirit in our lives we are able to manifest or exhibit these spiritual gifts, for the benefit of the whole church.
OK, Granted that, then who has the Holy Spirit? Or, put it another way, when do we have the Holy Spirit? V3 says that you cannot profess Jesus as Lord without having the Holy Spirit. The definition of a Christian is one who believes on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What v3 is saying is that you cannot believe unless you already have the Holy Spirit. And if you have the Spirit, you have the spiritual gifts. So there is no basis for any kind of division in the church between those who have and those who don’t. The gifts are available to all.
Now it is true that different people have different gifts, but they are all called to work together under the direction of one Holy Spirit to glorify one Lord Jesus Christ. You have spiritual gifts. Your call is to use your gifts to glorify God.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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