Text: 1Corinthians 12:1-11
In the first eleven chapters, Paul, who loves the church with God’s own love, has reprimanded, beseeched and instructed the troubled church in Corinth. All of what he has written, and all that they have said and done, reflects their infancy in Christ. They have not comprehended that Christianity is not about outward works, but an inward work in their hearts.
Now, Paul addresses the misuse of the spiritual gifts by the believers at Corinth. He does not exhort as strongly as in the last chapter, but re-teaches them what the gifts are, and Who gives them!
If I were to give this a title, it would be, “The Spiritual Gifts.”
Just a couple of reminders —
— The greatest gift from God is Jesus Christ Himself, and the second greatest is God’s actual love poured out to overflowing in our hearts when we are filled with the Spirit. It is the more excellent way (1Corinthians 12:31)!
— The Father gives the world His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus gives the church the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit gives the church His spiritual gifts.
Now, Paul speaks to the Corinthians (and us) about the gifts given by the Spirit!
Paul begins by saying, concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware (ignorant, not understanding, ignoring through reluctance or lack of enthusiasm). They misunderstand or are ignorant concerning them, despite his prior teaching.
But they are his brothers and sisters in the Lord, so he begins by calling them his brethren. There will always be infants in Christ in the church. They are our brethren, even though there is much they do not yet understand. It is an important truth for those who patiently teach them.
The believers at Corinth used to be led astray (carried away to be put to death) by the mute idols — for idols are nothing, they cannot see or hear or speak (Psalm 115:5-8), but there are demons behind them, as Paul has already taught. It is the same for today’s believers, until Jesus becomes Lord in us! And if you are led astray, you are carried away to be put to death! May it never be!
So Paul gives them, and you, the warning signs to observe, so that no believer is led astray —
—The Holy Spirit will never say “Jesus is accursed (excommunicated, banned, cursed)”
— The Holy Spirit is the only means by which someone says, “Jesus is Lord,” that is, Jesus is —
The King who reigns in my heart
I must add that, “Jesus is Lord,” is said by many, but every time, a believer’s actions speak louder than their words.
Why does Paul begin that way? Who will lead you astray so you are carried away to be put to death? False teachers and false prophets who will always direct you to worship other gods (including yourself), and thus disobey the Lord.
But you will know them by their fruits, says Jesus in Matthew 7:20 — a good tree will produce good fruit (righteousness and purity), but a bad tree will produce bad fruit (lawlessness, which is defined as sin).
Having reminded not just the believers at Corinth, but all of us, that we must be aware and wary of false teachers, he now teaches us about the gifts:
— Who operates them (Verses 4-7), then
— why the gifts are given (Verse 7), and then
— what the gifts are (Verses 8-11).
Why does he need to again teach this to the believers at Corinth, and even to the church today? Many are infants in Christ who possess what appear to be spiritual gifts, the most prevalent of which is the gift of tongues. But they are using them pridefully, boasting about the gifts, which means the Spirit is not the One operating them.
Who gives and works them:
Though there are varieties of gifts (distinctions between them, there are different gifts), the Holy Spirit works all of them (they are His gifts, and it is by His power that they are worked).
Each gift is used differently in ministry (used as a servant to the Body of Christ), but in all cases, the ministry is worked by and for the Lord.
Each gift has a different effect (works differently), but God is the one working them.
Why the gifts are given:
The gifts are given to each one (everyone receives at least one), and each bestowment of a spiritual gift is for the common good — that is, for the total good and profit of the Body of Christ, to bring them together, to bring them to unity of nature with God the Father and God the Son.
All spiritual gifts are to be used for upbuilding! And they will be, if they are truly the gifts of the Spirit, for the Spirit will work them, not you. But if gifts are being used for divisions and factions or one-upmanship or for self-glorification, then it is not the Spirit who is operating the gifts.
What they are:
Verse 8 — Word of wisdom
This gift is defined as a word (something said, an utterance) of wisdom from God, imparted through His Word and also, directly by His Spirit, enabling Spirit-filled believers to counsel with His wisdom as the Spirit gives utterance.
Example: Acts 15:7-11, when God’s wisdom is spoken through Peter at the Council at Jerusalem.
Example: Acts 27:10, when Paul perceives and then tells the captain of the ship that the voyage will be with great loss.
Example from me: A person comes to me asking for spiritual advice to help them out of a difficult situation or out of a spiritual desert. The Lord gives me His wisdom, so I may counsel them.
Once, a woman came to me. I did not know her. She said, “I was in the bathroom, and God said you’d have an answer to my problem.” She explained her situation. She was tangled up in sin. I had no idea what to say, but prayed for the Lord to help me. When I opened my mouth, the Lord spoke through me, and I said, “The Lord says, ‘You have left your first Love; return to Me!’” She wept and repented and was forgiven and healed of her sin!
HOW WONDERFUL FOR THE BODY OF CHRIST TO DO THIS FOR ONE ANOTHER!
Verse 8 — Word of knowledge
A word (something said, an utterance) of God’s knowledge, which is absolute knowledge. It is a word that sets free or convicts.
Example: Peter with Ananias and Sapphira — why do you lie to the Holy Spirit? (See Acts 5:3.)
Example: At a church leadership conference, there was an intercessory prayer group that met before sessions started each day. So on the first morning, I was in the Word, looking for a lead from the Lord on what to pray.
I opened to Matthew 19:9, which says, “Whoever divorces his wife, except or immorality, and married another woman commits adultery.”
That can’t be You, Lord! These are pastors! This isn’t the right venue for such a thing! So I prayed something else.
The next day, the Lord again took me to Matthew 19:9 when I opened my Bible. So, I prayed, eyes closed. I spoke the scripture, and said, “Someone here is planning to divorce his wife, and the Lord says you need to repent.”
Later, the prayer leader came to me and said a pastor came forward and repented, on his knees. His marriage was saved. He had not told anyone about his plans to divorce his wife. So, he knew it was the Lord!
Verse 9 — Faith
This is not the faith we have when we believe, for that is a different kind of gift from God. But it is faith that is given in an instant for a particular situation. Or it can be a conviction of the truth, as it was for me when the Lord gave me faith to believe that Jesus would heal me of secondary progressive MS, and He did, almost 17 years ago!
Example: In Acts 14:10, Paul fixing his eyes on a man lame from birth, seeing the man had faith to be made well (he had received that faith as a gift), and saying, “Stand upright on your feet.” The man leaped to his feet!
Example: Jeff believing I was healed by Jesus when I spoke it to him on September 2, 2001. He was given the gift of faith at the very moment I told him, and he has never doubted (nor has he had cause to doubt)!
Verse 9 — Gifts of healings
I believe this means healing more than one, but it also can refer to more than one type of healing gift — it may be physical, or spiritual, or both.
Example: Peter and John heal the beggar at Gate Beautiful (Acts 3).
Example: Philip in Samaria, lame and paralyzed healed (Acts 8:7).
Example: A woman was having a severe asthma attack. I laid hands on her, prayed, and within minutes, she was healed.
Example: I often get an instruction from the Lord, or a scripture for someone, and the Lord heals in that way, through me.
When Jeff had a heart attack in 2011, the Lord gave me Romans 8:11, and told me He would give life to Jeff’s severely damaged heart muscle, by the Spirit who indwells Jeff.
And then, I received a word from the Lord! On the third day after his heart attack, the Lord woke me and said in my heart, Take your guitar and music, and go and worship with Jeff in his hospital room. I obeyed, and as I began to play and sing, he was healed! The hospital released him to go home later that afternoon, and he never has had a pain or complication.
It took a while for the doctors to catch up to what the Lord had done. They gave him a beta blocker at a high dose. It slowed his now healthy heart, so they put in a pacemaker he didn’t need.
But the Lord is continually glorified in it, because the pacemaker records that he never uses it, thus providing a great opportunity to testify of what He did!
Verse 10 — Effecting of miracles
Effecting (working) by the Spirit, using Spirit-filled believers to perform miracles, in which God’s power (dumamis) is employed to do something that only He can do, defying natural or scientific laws:
Example: Peter raising Dorcas/Tabitha (Acts 9:40).
Example: Elymas the magician struck blind (Acts 13:11).
Example: Extraordinary miracles from Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:11), handkerchiefs carried to sick ones, and they were healed and freed from evil spirits.
Example: Paul falling upon Eutychus and bringing him back to life when that young man fell from the open window (Acts 20:9-12).
Verse 10 — Prophecy
Prophecy refers to prophetic utterance, both FOREtelling (future events) and FORTHtelling (from the Word of God or directly from the Spirit when ministering to someone).
This is not new revelation from God of a “new truth” — the Bible is complete!
Example: Agabus (Acts 11:28) regarding the coming famine.
Example: Philip’s daughters are prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
Example: Barnabas and Simeon at Antioch, identified as prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1) .
The Lord uses the prophetic gift to exhort the church to return to Him, and to warn the church of an impending crisis. My preaching is prophetic in that I don’t try to figure out what to preach and how to preach it — the Lord instructs me!
And as with the pastor at that prayer meeting, the Lord uses such words to bring an individual to repentance for something no one knows about but them and God. Then they know it is God!
Verse 10 — Distinguishing of spirits
John speaks to us of false prophets and spirits —
1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test [judge] the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
So, the Spirit gives this gift so you are able to JUDGE a spirit — to determine whether it is a good or an evil spirit. Sometimes, the Spirit will show you a physical manifestation that you can see, but no one else can see. Both Jeff and I have experienced such things, even showing both of us the same thing, one time. We cautiously asked each other about it afterwards, and found we had both seen it!
Examples: The spirit of divination discerned in the fortune-telling slave-girl (Acts 16:16ff).
Verse 10 — Tongues
The ability to speak in a heavenly language, or a language you do not know. They may be —
— “heavenly,” “to God” (1Corinthians 13:1, 14:2) or
— foreign languages the speaker does not know (Acts 2)
But remember, Paul says this about tongues —
1Corinthians 14:18-19 I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; 19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Tongues have a place in the church, and they are a gift of the Spirit, so do not forbid them (1Corinthians 14:39). But among the believers at Corinth, tongues are being misused, and some of the believers there are boasting about how much they are able speak in tongues! That is definitely not of the Spirit!
Example: Both Jeff and I spoke in a language we did not know, when we were filled with the Spirit. It was not THE evidence of being filled, but an evidence. The fruit of the Spirit confirms that we are filled (Galatians 5:22-23)! And we still speak in tongues, generally in our private times of prayer and worship.
Verse 10 — Interpretation of tongues
If you have the gift of tongues, Paul exhorts you to pray for the gift of interpretation of tongues, so you are able to translate what is said in a tongue. The church cannot understand your tongues, but if you are able to interpret yours or someone else’s utterance, it is prophecy, and will build up the body (1Corinthians 14:13).
Example: When I speak in tongues, I usually know what I spoke, after I speak it. When others speak something in tongues, I am sometimes able to translate what they have said.
Verse 11 —
Paul reminds the believers at Corinth that THEY do not work and distribute the gifts, but the Holy Spirit distributes them, just as HE wills. I wonder what that says about today’s church, in which you do an inventory to see which spiritual gifts you have? The Spirit turns them on, not you, beloved! And you will know it when He does.
Next time, we will look at Verses 12-31, in which Paul exhorts and re-teaches the believers at Corinth that the unity they need comes only by way of the Holy Spirit.
He will also re-teach them what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, which is the church. And he will re-teach the believers at Corinth regarding the offices of the church (not the spiritual gifts, but abilities given by the Spirit to organize and build up the church to maturity.
May today’s church hear what the Spirit is saying, through Paul’s excellent letter to the church at Corinth!