February 28, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #8: Questions Concerning Christian Worship, 1 Corinthians 11.2-14.40



Lesson 8.3: Exercise of the Gifts of the Spirit in the Church
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12.1-31

Part 1: Paul Gives the Corinthians a Rule with Which They Can Recognize the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 12.1-11

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.



In this chapter the apostle continues to answer questions he had received from the assembly in Corinth. First, he addresses the case of spiritual gifts, which were very bountifully poured out on the Corinthian church. He talks about their origin, that they come from God; their diversity and use, that they were all intended for the same general purpose, the advancement of Christianity and the church’s edification (Part 1: verses 1–11). Second, he illustrates this by using the human body as an example, in which all the members have a mutual relation and subservience, and each has its proper place and use (Part 2: verses 12–26). Third, he tells us that the church is the body of Christ, and the members have been given a variety of gifts for the benefit of the whole body, and each particular member (Part 3: verses 27–31).


Part 1: Paul Gives the Corinthians a Rule with Which They Can Recognize the Spirit of God

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Paul uses the words “now concerning” to introduce the subject of Chapter 12, “spiritual gifts.” (The word “gifts” is not in the original, but is implied by the context—see 4, 9, 28, 30, 31; 14.1). He makes use of a statement he uses many times in his epistles: “I would not have you ignorant.” There is no reason for a believer to be spiritually ignorant, because we have the Word of God, the Holy Bible—a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our pathway. All scripture is inspired, and is profitable. The Holy Spirit is the teacher, and every believer has the Holy Spirit.

In the Greek, the word for “spiritual gifts” literally means “pertaining to the spirit” and refers to special abilities given in some measure to every believer by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church and for ministering to other believers—to enable believers to do extraordinary work for God. Paul did not want the believers to be uninformed (ignorant) about these gifts, but instead, to use them for God’s glory.

It seems that the apostle was made aware of the most amazing things happening in the Church of Corinth through the action of the Holy Spirit, but in an age of ecstasy (supernatural, sensuous communication with a deity) and enthusiasm (divination, dreams, revelations, visions) there can be hysterical excitement and self-delusion as well as the real thing, so he felt it necessary at this time to address the issue of spiritual gifts. Notice that he used the word “brethren” after having made it clear that they do not act very brotherly toward one another at the Lord’s Supper.

2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

Most of the Christians at Corinth were probably Gentiles, but some were Jews: “And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles…And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:5, 6, 8; KJV). The Gentiles in the Church of Corinth were no strangers to ecstatic outbursts from participants in religious rites. The Idols which are “dumb,” excite their devotees, but do not have a proclamation or revelation to give: “They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not” (Psalms 115:5; KJV).

Paul reminds them that before they became believers they were idolaters (unbelievers). The following statement may clarify the meaning of this verse: “You know that before you came to faith in Christ, you were often led to worship dead idols, speechless things, just as you might be led astray from time to time by something new and exciting.” Evidently, in the cult religions, evil spirits “spoke” through their followers in what was called “ecstatic” or inspired speech. Evil spirits were at work in the world, and the Corinthians would have to understand that what they experienced as “tongues” or inspired speech in their pagan religion was completely different from “speaking in tongues” that the believers might experience through the Holy Spirit.

The apostle makes the point that there is a spiritual force (evil spirits) behind these lifeless idols of wood and stone, and spiritually minded believers recognize this force as the devil himself, who works through powers of darkness and spiritual rulers of wickedness in high places. These evil spirits operate through the minds and bodies of human beings. They were present in Corinth in the many false teachers, who were leading astray those who were not truly born again, and they even caused some believers to become carnal. Incredibly, some church members were mimicking certain dramatic and bazaar practices, induced by the frenzied hypnotic chants and ceremonies of the cult religions in which they were formerly involved. The practice frequently included drunkenness and sexual orgies to which the devotees willingly yielded themselves and were led into gross sin. But before they were born again, ALL the believers were carnal and were led away to worship idols by the powers of darkness. The same is true today, even in America: there are many idol worshippers—a little statue of Jesus on a cross, a little gadget, a church building, a charismatic minister, wealth, fame, many things. Behind anything that is an idol, and you can take it to the bank, there is the power of darkness.

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.

“I give you to understand…” (Or “I am letting you know.”). Before the believers in the Church of Corinth were born again, before they left their dumb idols and turned in faith to Jesus, they had no perception of spiritual things because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” But here Paul is telling them how they can test the spirits to tell if they were sent by God. Compare this verse to 1 John 4.1—“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1; KJV). First, John says, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits.” When I hear of some person who seems to have supernatural power, to heal, or to impart a gift, I don’t get excited. Someone asks me, “Why don’t you go hear So–and–so?” Well, I don’t want to waste my time. I am told to test, to prove the spirits. There is a lot of hocus–pocus going on today which I can assure you have nothing supernatural in it at all. It is just camouflaged Christianity. Then John says, “Because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” The “false prophets” are false teachers. Paul used the word that way in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” Prophesy here means “to teach, to exhort, to instruct.” There are many teachers abroad today of whom we need to beware. Right now prophecy is becoming an interesting subject and rightly so. But again, the thing which needs to be said was said very well by Sir Robert Anderson: “Beware of the wild utterances of prophecymongers.” There are many today who are saying more than the Scriptures say so that we need to be very careful. Just because a man comes along saying, “Lord, Lord,” does not mean that we should love him. That may be the man who is more dangerous than a rattlesnake because he may be teaching a false doctrine. He may not be really teaching the Word of God, although he carries a big Bible under his arm.

“…that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed.” (In the original, the phrase of blasphemy is ‘Anathema Jesus!’) And that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” In other words, it is not possible to say a single true word about the Lord Jesus without the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God. Anyone who makes a true confession such as “Jesus is Lord” is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and this work of the Holy Spirit is for one unceasing purpose—and that is to glorify Christ. The Holy Spirit within believers helps them truly believe and publicly confess Jesus Christ as Lord. The words “Jesus is Lord” formed the earliest Christian confession of faith. When Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! No human revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you” (Matt 16:16-17; GW). All who truly have the spirit of God will be able to say that Jesus is Lord of their lives.

In our verse, Paul is referring to the teachers in Corinth who denied the divinity of Christ (John refers to the same group in 1 John 1.1-3.). Those who deny His divinity are still around, as are those who deny His humanity, His incarnation, His ascension, and His anticipated return. Paul makes it clear that born again believers, who have the Holy Spirit, will not curse Jesus—and denying his deity or anything else the Word of God says about Him is the same as cursing Him. A born again believer will not do this.

And no man can from the heart truly confess that Jesus is Lord unless he is motivated by the Holy Spirit, because He (the Holy Spirit) is in the world for only one purpose—to testify about the Lord Jesus—and the natural (unsaved) man cannot confess, from his heart, that Jesus is Lord. Such a confession can be made only by the inducement of the Holy Spirit. Some false teachers may be able to say those words and not mean them, but the truth will eventually come out.

In John 16.12-15 Jesus said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” We don’t know it all. We are to keep growing in grace and in the knowledge of Him. How can we do it? Just reading the Bible is not the complete answer; the Holy Spirit must be our Teacher as we read. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. He will lead and guide you into all truth. He guided the apostles just as the Lord said He would, and we find these truths in the Epistles. The Spirit of God came to the apostles at Pentecost, and He guided them in the truth both in their preaching and in their writing; thus fulfilling the promise that the Lord Jesus made to them in John 16.12-15. The ministry of the Holy Spirit has been to complete the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Epistles glorify Christ and show Him as the Head of the church. They speak of His coming again to establish His Kingdom. The Epistles are the unfolding of the person and ministry of Christ. They also tell of things to come and certainly the Book of Revelation does this. Notice the seven steps that are here: (1) The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, has come; (2) He will guide you into all truth; (3) He will not speak of Himself; (4) He shall speak whatsoever He shall hear; (5) He will show you things to come; (6) He shall glorify Jesus; and (7) He shall receive of mine and show it unto you. Since we have been told these steps, we have a way of testing what we hear and read. I listened to a man on a radio program saying, “We are having a Holy Ghost revival; the Holy Ghost is working: the Holy Ghost is doing this and that.” The minute he said all those things, I knew the Holy Ghost was not working. Why? Because the Lord Jesus made it very clear that the Holy Ghost will not speak of Himself. Then how can you tell when the Holy Spirit is working? He will glorify Christ. My friend, when in a meeting or a Bible study you suddenly get a glimpse of the Lord Jesus and He becomes wonderful, very real, and meaningful to you, that is the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “He shall glorify me.”

The blasphemous phrase “Anathema Jesus!” was frequently used by the Jews. The synagogue prayers regularly included cursing all heretics and apostates, and for those unbelieving Jews, Jesus would be included in those classifications. The Jewish law said, “Cursed is everyone that hangeth upon a tree” (Gal 3.13; KJV), and Jesus was crucified on a rough, wooden cross.  It is likely that the Jews would make those who were friendly with Christians pronounce this curse or be thrown out of the synagogue, as recorded in John 9.22. In Acts 26.11, we are told that Paul said to Agrippa when he was testifying about his former persecution of Christians, “I often punished them in every synagogue and forced them to blasphemy” (Acts 26.11). Bible history tells us that in Paul’s day when believers were gathered for worship and the gospel was being preached, many times unbelievers or hostile persons would enter the synagogue and in the midst of the message these men would jump to their feet and shout out, “Anathema Jesus!” The problem at the Church of Corinth was that sometimes some of the worshippers were seized with emotional frenzy that was so acute they would cry out in the midst of their ecstasy, Jesus is accursed! That is, Jesus be doomed to destruction. They were under the control of demons, and were actually claiming to be prophesying and teaching in the Spirit while demonically blaspheming the name of the Lord whom they were supposed to be worshipping. And historians tell us that the Gnostics demanded that anyone who joined them shout out the same thing. The Holy Spirit manifests His presence in believers by producing a way of life that shows forth His lordship, but he does not generate emotional frenzy.

Compare our present verse with this passage from 1 John: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:2-4; KJV). John is emphasizing the divine fact of Christ’s humanity; but Paul is driving home the truth of the divinity of Christ. It would be blasphemy for one to deny either His humanity or His deity. Now, here is something for which I want to thank the Holy Spirit—born again believers do not need to worry about committing the sin of blasphemy, because “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  If you are one of these, you can be certain He will not lead you to blasphemy the name of Jesus, and He will not lead you to blasphemy Himself. (Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is the unpardonable sin, but a true believer will not commit that sin, because he cannot commit that sin.) Any true Christian can commit the “sin unto death,” but that is the death of the body; it does not affect the soul.

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

The Greek word translated “diversities” literally means kind, sort, class, or different kinds, and here the meaning may be “distribution or apportioning.” The Holy Spirit is the One who apportions (distributes) the various gifts; they cannot be acquired in any other way. And the Holy Spirit has never bestowed a spiritual gift upon anyone, except for the sole purpose of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory, praise, honors, and worship belongs to Him, and the Holy Spirit is very careful to see to it that He receives that which He is due. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:30-31; KJV). Paul is stating here is that “Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God”, is wisdom to us. And in him we are made righteous, and obtain sanctification and redemption. Christ is all of these to us. And since Christ is all of this, He imparts every grace that we enjoy, and bestows every blessing; there is no ground for our glorying in Paul, Apollos or Cephas, but in the Lord alone.

Gifts point to God as the source of man’s abilities; gifts are tokens of God’s grace. Every child of God has been given sovereignly and supernaturally a gift of some kind by the Holy Spirit, enabling them to spiritually edify each other effectively and thus honors the Lord. But it is up to us to discover what our gift is. The categories of giftedness are not natural talents, skills or abilities, such as what is possessed by both believers and unbelievers alike. The varieties of gifts fall into two general types, speaking and serving (see vv. 8-10; Rom 12.6-8; 1 Peter 4.10-11). The speaking or verbal gifts (prophesy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and exhortation) and the serving, nonverbal gifts (leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment) are all permanent gifts that will operate throughout the church age. Their purpose is to edify the church and to glorify God. The list here and in Romans 12.3-8 is best seen as representatives of categories of giftedness which the Holy Spirit draws from to give each believer whatever kind or combination of kinds He chooses (v.11). Some believers may be gifted categorically similar to others, but are personally unique as the Spirit suits each gift to the individual. Miracles, healing, languages, and the interpretation of languages were temporary sign gifts limited to the apostolic age and have therefore ceased. Their purpose was to authenticate the apostles and their message as the true Word of God, until God’s written Word was completed, and became self-authenticating (see 1 Cor 12.9, 10).

5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

The Greek word that has been translated “administrations” is “diakonia,” a word that means service—but does not include the ecclesiastic idea of ministry. Each believer has been given his particular service to render. God has a ministry for every one of His children. He does not expect all believers to carry out their ministry in the same manner or to have the same result—but He does expect all believers to be faithful to Him and to their ministry.

Each believer has a God-given stewardship, to be carried out for one specific purpose: to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved for Christ’s sake, and everything we do is to be done for only one purpose; to bring Him glory. There are some ministries which appear to be great, but most seem small, however nothing we do for Jesus is small in God’s eyes, so whether a ministry is outstanding or humble, each church member is to give himself to that ministry and perform it with all his heart, strength, and mind.

The apostle has in mind here an assembly that has come together to worship and study the Word of God. In an assembly like this there should not be confusion or the temptation for any group to turn to human tradition instead of following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The only way to correct any kind of dissention or disorder within the church is for each believer to humble himself before God, and for the entire congregation to pray fervently unto the Lord for the restoration of the unity that only God can give as each individual believer yields humbly to the Holy Spirit. God is not the author of confusion. He is the author of peace and unity, and where the Holy Spirit has His way in the heart of each believer there is a congregation that enjoys unity and harmony, not one that is torn apart by strife and confusion.

It doesn’t make any difference what gift you have, it is the Lord Jesus who is using it, and He is using it for His glory.

6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

There are many ministries to be performed in the Church of Jesus Christ. Some are very humble; they are not very glamorous at all.  Some are not seen by man, although they are necessary. But whether the ministry is spectacular or humble, it is the same God who accomplishes all of the operations in all of the believers of the entire assembly. There is no division in the Godhead (and there should be no division in the Church). Jesus is the head and foundation of the Church; we are all members of the one body, and therefore we should realize that since there is one Lord, one God, and we are serving one cause—the glorification of Jesus Christ in all that we do, whether humble or great.

If we render service in the assembly which is commendable and praised by man, we have our reward; we are not serving God, we are serving man. But if what we do, however great or small, is done in the right spirit and to the glory of God we will receive a full reward. In the sight of God there are no giant Christians or pigmy Christians; we are all sons of God, we all belong to the same body, and we should all be faithful in doing whatever the Lord gives us to do, whether that task is great or small. God knows our ability when He assigns us to our service, and “He doeth all things well.” The Spirit conveys a gift to each believer for the common good: “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Cor 14:12; KJV). Since all unintelligible speaking (tongues) is worthless, the apostle urges them to seek to edify the church. No gift is given to nurture a sense of pride or self-interest. Each gift is given to be used for others. The apostle is suggesting indirectly that the exercise of gifts at Corinth needs to focus on concern for the brethren.

No one gift is better than another; but the problem in Corinth may have been that some believers were belittling some gifts. The gifts are just that—gifts. They are not earned. They are not given to believers who ask for a certain one. They are not chosen by people. God alone administers the gifts to his people. God, not believers, controls the gifts. Each believer then is responsible to seek God’s guidance in discovering his or her particular gift(s) and then discovering how to use them for God’s purposes.

This reminds me that there is only one God—but He is a Trinity. The Trinity works together; there is a unity. Notice this: The Holy Spirit bestows the gifts; the Lord Jesus Christ administers the gifts; God the Father supplies the power; and He energizes the gifts. All of this is for the one purpose of exalting and glorifying the lordship of Jesus Christ.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

First of all, let’s define a gift. What is a gift of the Spirit? It is a capacity for service. It is a function. This is Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer’s definition: “A gift in the spiritual sense means the Holy Spirit doing a specific service through the believer and using the believer to do it.” To this I would like to add that it must be done in the power of the Spirit of God. To make this personal: I am nothing, I have nothing, and I am of no use to God or man. That is not a pious platitude; it is a fact. But He gave me a gift, and I am exercising that gift. That is, I believe, the only way the Spirit of God will manifest Himself in my life.

The only goal for the entire assembly should be to profit the entire assembly. The Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—operate in divine unity.  They bestow the gifts—and while there are diversities of endowments, there is unity of purpose and effect. And the particular gift which a person receives is not of his own choosing but is determined by the Spirit. That's why; there can be no ground for pride in respect to what is entirely a matter of Grace.

The manifestation brought about through the gift of the Spirit bestowed upon the individual is not the manifestation of human ability, human wisdom, or human understanding; the manifestation of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit should be a time of spiritual profit and spiritual growth for each believer in the assembly at every gathering of the assembly. Every believer possesses his own individual gift according to the will of God; but the gifts of all individuals in the assembly are given to them individually for the profit of the entire assembly: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10; KJV). The Spirit's gifts are the common property of the Christian community; each Christian is a steward for the edifying of the entire assembly. The Corinthians especially needed this reminder, because they were using their gifts selfishly to promote themselves and not to prosper the church.

Spiritual gifts are not for private use and they are not a badge to be worn proudly; instead, they are to be used publicly to build the Church. Some gifts help those in the church grow closer to Christ. Other gifts bring outsiders into the church. Others help to encourage those in the church who are carrying burdens. All these gifts are needed, because different needs require different kinds of service.

8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
Paul begins here to show there are a wide variety of gifts by offering a list of nine of the gifts provided by the Holy Spirit. The list was not meant to be all inclusive; it merely illustrates many of the kinds of spiritual gifts. The Spirit gives many gifts, but the Bible does not contain a specific list of all the gifts. Other lists of spiritual gifts are found in 1 Corinthians 12.27-31; 14; Romans 12.4-8; Ephesians 4-11-13. When you combine all the lists, you end up with nineteen gifts and offices. Since the list in Romans is not identical with the list in 1 Corinthians we may assume that Paul did not intend to present an all inclusive list in either passage. While the gifts named are adequate for the ministry of the Church, God is not limited to these lists. He may give other gifts as He pleases.

Paul explains that the Spirit gives the gift of wisdom to a person. The topic of wisdom (human verses divine) was a hot topic in the Church of Corinth. At the beginning of this letter (1.17-2.16) Paul used several paragraphs explaining the difference between God’s wisdom and human wisdom.

All believers receive the gift of wisdom (that is, we have the mind of Christ.) from the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 2.15, 16—“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:15-16; KJV)—but some are given the gift of being able to communicate the “message of wisdom.” This may refer to the promise of Christ, that the Spirit would give special wisdom to those facing adversities and persecution: “for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay” (Luke 21:15; ASV). This proves that Christ is God, because it is God’s prerogative to give wisdom, and he is the one who made man’s mouth. Note three things about this verse. First, A mouth and wisdom fit together in the service of Christ; wisdom to know what to say, and a mouth with which to say it as it should be said. Secondly, Those that plead Christ’s cause may depend upon Him to give them a mouth and wisdom, with which they are able plead it, especially when they are brought before the courts for his name’s sake. It does not say that He will send an angel from heaven to argue for them, though he could do this, but that he will give them a mouth and wisdom to enable them to answer for themselves, which requires them to use the gifts and graces Christ furnishes them with, and brings even more glory to God. Thirdly, When Christ gives a mouth and wisdom to his witnesses, they are enabled to speak for both Him and themselves the words which will silence and confuse their adversaries. This was remarkably fulfilled through the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples this mouth and wisdom, when the apostles were brought before the priests and rulers, who were shammed after hearing the message the apostles were given; Acts 4, 5, and 6. This particular gift does not occur on any of the other lists of gifts, and that has led some scholars to think that this gift was meant only for the believers in the Greek city of Corinth, where the topic of wisdom was causing a lot of discussion. 

to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
Another person might be given the gift of knowledge. As with wisdom, the Corinthians believed they had special “knowledge.” People may think they have all kinds of wisdom and knowledge, which leads to pride, but true wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ alone: “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2.3; KJV). All that we need is in Christ. If only we could learn that! He is the reservoir of all knowledge. I willingly admit that I don’t know everything—I’m sure you have found that out by now. But I know where to find out, because I know Somebody who does know. Christ has been made unto us wisdom. We need to rest in that. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him—how wonderful this is! But to some people the Spirit gives extraordinary knowledge. This could mean a special knowledge of spiritual realities or knowledge given to teachers who are training others in Christian truth.

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.” The former is the ability to reveal divine truth, even the deep things of God, such as was possessed by the apostles; the latter is the aptitude to teach unerringly what had been revealed to the apostles and prophets, and the capability to put wisdom into practice in daily life—Both wisdom and knowledge are necessary. Both may be given to the ordinary Christian as well as the extraordinary. And a brother or sister can own more than one gift, for example, the same believed may have the gift of knowledge and the gift of wisdom; it is possible for a believer to possess many gifts.

9  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

To another faith by the same Spirit;
Paul does not see faith as something that man can produce, but as a product of divine grace. We are told in the Scriptures that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Some people have the gift of faith. The faith that Paul is speaking of is not saving faith, the faith which all believers have and are constantly exercising. We are told in Romans 1.17 that we live by faith, but the faith Paul is speaking of here is the special gift of faith spoken of in Chapter 13, verse 2, which says: “and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains.”  It is the kind of faith that really produces results—a special type of faith bestowed on a believer which is manifested in the deeds of the believer who has that gift—the supernatural ability to do great things for God; it is faith that moves mountains. This gift of faith could also be manifested in believers’ willingness to face difficulties in life and in some cases persecution and martyrdom without renouncing what they believe.

to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
Healing is a visual manifestation of the Spirit which had been manifested through Paul, Peter, and the other apostles (See, for example, Acts 3.6-8; 5.15-16; 9.33-34; 14.8-10). The gift of healing is not given to the person healed, but to the person who does the healing. Some people say they have the gift of healing for an illness they have, but the gifts are given to benefit others.
Here we must be careful to rightly divide the Word of God. We must distinguish between the gifts of the Spirit which were given exclusively to the apostles, and those permanent gifts which have continued throughout the Church Age. There were some gifts that were given for a specific purpose and existed only during the life of the Lord’s apostles: “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb 2:4; KJV). The Holy Spirit, in doing the will of God, gave special gifts to the apostles, and I believe there were others in the early church who also received these gifts; men like Philip who was an associate of the apostles (see Acts 8.5-7).

1 Corinthians 13.10 states, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Therefore, when a believer is born-again into the kingdom of God, and he has the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ, there is no longer a need for signs and wonders. God has declared, “The just shall live by faith,” and faith does not need to see, feel, taste, or handle. Faith believes God simply because He is God; and if God declares it, we can live and die by it. We do not need signs and wonders today, since we have the Bible. We believe it and know it is true, simply because God said it.

Some people think that healing was common and going on in every era, but this is not so. Physical healings are very rare throughout the Old Testament record; only a few are recorded. There was never a time before the coming of Christ when healings were common. Only during His lifetime and that of His apostles was there a veritable explosion of healing. This was due to the unique need to accredit the Messiah, and to authenticate the first miracles of the gospel. Jesus and His disciples temporarily banished disease from Palestine, but that was the most monumental era of redemptive history and called for this type of authentication. To normalize healing would be like normalizing the arrival of the Savior. This gift belonged to the sign gifts for that era only.

The gifts of healing were never used solely for bringing people physical health. Paul was sick, but never healed himself or asked another person to heal him. His friend Epaphroditus was near death (Phil 2.27), but Paul did not heal him. Healings were not the everyday norm in Paul’s ministry, but did occur when he entered a new region, for example, there was Malta, where the gospel and its preacher needed authentication (see Acts 28.8, 9). That healing was the first mention of healing since the lame man was healed in Lystra (Acts 14.9) in connection with the arrival of Paul and the gospel there. Prior to that the nearest healing was by Peter in Acts 9.34, and the resurrection of Tabitha in 9.41, so that people would believe the gospel Peter preached (9.42). In the first century, special gifts of healing were bestowed upon individuals. Acts 20.9-12 reports that Paul not only healed, but he also raised a young man from the dead. But later on he did not use the gift of healing to cure Timothy, Trophimus, Gaius, and many others, even though these were God-called, spirit-filled men. In Acts we are told that Peter raised the dead, “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up…And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive” (Acts 9:40-41; KJV).

Now, why do so many men today claim to have the gift of healing upon them, as it was on the apostles in the early church? Yet, we must admit that no man alive today can raise the dead, as Paul did, and no man has raised the dead in recent centuries. I know that God can heal anyone of any disease, and I know He does heal, because I have been a recipient of His healing several times in my life. Also I have heard the testimony of many, men and women, who claim to have been miraculously healed by the Lord. But I do not believe any man today can truthfully say they have the gift of healing as Paul and Peter had. We are told in Acts 5.12-16 that the sick were laid in the streets “that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” Then it says, “and they were healed every one.” I believe in divine healing, and I pray for the sick every day, but I do not have the gift of healing, and I do not claim that I can pray the prayer of faith that will save the sick. I base my prayers for the sick on these precious verses: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5.15, 15; KJV). And when I pray for the sick I end my prayer with the words of the Savior: “Thy will be done.” God does heal the sick in answer to prayer, but we must distinguish between the rules laid down in James 5 and the temporary gifts of healing that were given to the apostles, which are referred to here and in other places in the Scriptures. I don’t think we need that gift today since we can go directly to the Great Physician. We do not need to go to a man or woman down here and ask for them to lay hands on us or pray for us. Take your case directly to Him. It reveals a lack of faith in Him to go to a so-called healer.

Acts 28.1-9 is the account of Paul healing the entire population of an island of barbarians (unbelievers) and because they were healed he had the opportunity to tell them about the great Physician of the soul. But in 2 Timothy 4.20 we are told that toward the end of his ministry he left one of his best friends sick and went on without him. I have to ask, “Why would he do that?” I believe the only reason Paul would not heal his friend was because it was not God’s will. I thank God for doctors, nurses, modern medicine, and hospitals, but I also believe in divine healing. I believe that only God can heal these bodies of ours.

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:

To another the working of miracles;
The Greek word translated here as “miracles” is the word “dunamis,” and it means unusual power. Some believers are given the ability to do some pretty awesome things that could only be accomplished through a strength and power that is beyond the capability of a human person, so that there is no explanation for them except that it was by the power of God. For example, casting out demons (exorcisms; Acts 19.12), inducing physical disability (Acts 13.11), or even death (Acts 5.5, 9), would probably be classified as a miracle. Miracles, healings, and tongues all belong to what theologians call “the sign gifts” and in a special way they belonged to the church in its infancy. The book of Acts and church history indicates that these miraculous gifts have passed off the scene.

Paul wrote that his own ministry is marked by “mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:19; KJV). Through the power of the Holy Ghost he was enabled to work among the Gentiles mighty signs and wonders; so that they were fully convinced that both his doctrine and mission was divine; and therefore they cheerfully received the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. Signs and wonders were for authenticating Jesus and His apostles; it was their credentials. John 2.11 notes that Jesus did His first miracle in Cana to “manifest His glory.” Acts 2.22 affirms that Jesus did miracles to “attest” that God was working through Him, so that people would believe in Him as Lord and Savior. 

In Paul’s day and for centuries afterwards many illnesses (often all illnesses), and especially mental illnesses, were attributed to the work of demons; and it was one of the functions of the church to exorcise these demons. Whether or not they were in fact real, the person possessed was convinced they were, and the church could and did help him.

Jesus did many miracles, but I believe the greatest were those where he simply spoke and people were saved, which was what happened when he conversed with Nicodemus and the woman at the well. I don’t wonder that He could do it, but I believe it is a miracle when I can lead anyone to believe in Jesus. The salvation of a sinner is the greatest miracle around today.

to another prophecy;
“Prophesy” as it is used here means more than simply foretelling (predicting) the future, it refers to the gift of forthtelling (or telling forth) that which has been foretold. It is the divinely imparted talent to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Paul’s day God gave certain people the gift of forthtelling (preaching), because the early church did not have the New Testament and the Scriptures that we have; they needed preaching that would reveal the mind of God to them. But now we have the Bible which contains ALL the revelation of God to man. There are no prophets around today, since we have everything we need to know revealed in Scripture. Prophesy (foretelling) was for the early days of Christianity and during the transition period. Today, all ministers are prophets in the since that they tell forth the good news that Christ died to save sinners. The prophet Joel received these words from the Lord: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Joel 2.28; KJV). Just like the gift of faith, the ability to share ones faith with others with power is available to everyone, but the Spirit gives a special measure of this gift to some. Paul wrote in Romans, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith” (Rom 12.6; NAB). Everyone has some gift that can be used for the benefit of the community of believers. When the instruction on justification through faith is correctly grasped, the possessor of a gift will understand that it is not an instrument of self-aggrandizement. Possession of a gift is not an indicator of the quality of faith. Rather, the gift is a challenge to faithfully use of the gift which has been received.

Paul values the gift of prophesy (preaching, forthtelling) very highly. “Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious. But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them” (1 Cor 14:1-3; NLT). Here Paul is saying, “Though love is to be the supreme pursuit of life, nevertheless this is not intended to belittle spiritual gifts. Let them be sought, but in seeking, desire above all the gift of prophecy and a capacity to love others.”

to another discerning of spirits;
God gives to some the gift of “discernment” and “discrimination” in order to tell whether what is said comes from God or from Satan, although all believers are expected to exhibit some discernment. It may be that the apostle here refers to those who had the gift of “discerning spirits,” and that he meant to say that they were to determine by what spirit the prophets who spoke were motivated. It was possible that those who claimed to be prophets might err; and it was the duty of all to examine whether that which was uttered was in accordance with truth. And if this was a duty then, it is a duty now; if it was proper even when the teachers claimed to be under Divine inspiration, it is much more the duty of the people now. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Cor 14:29; KJV). I do not think this is a gift that the Holy Spirit passes out today, because the congregation has the responsibility to compare one doctrine with another, to interpret Scripture with Scripture and deliberate on what was spoken, and determine whether it has evidence of being in accordance with the truth.

Some spirits that possess men are not divine, but demonic: “The Spirit says clearly that in later times some believers will desert the Christian faith. They will follow spirits that deceive, and they will believe the teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1; GW). Notice that this says believers will desert the Christian faith by bringing in doctrines which render its essential truths null and void, or denying and renouncing those that are essential to Christianity. A man may hold all the truths of Christianity, and yet cause them to be of no effect by holding other doctrines which counteract their influence; or he may apostatize by denying some essential doctrine. When this gift was not being exercised in the Corinthian Church, grave distortion of the truth occurred (see v. 3, 14.29). Though its operation has changed since apostolic times, because of the completion of Scripture, it is still essential to have people in church who are discerning. They are the watchmen, the guardians who protect the church from demonic lies, false doctrines, perverted cults, and fleshly elements. In the same way that diligent study of God’s Word is required to exercise the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, preaching, and teaching, so it does with discernment.

to another divers kinds of tongues;
There were those in the Corinthian Church who had the gift of tongues; but the same rule applies to “tongues” as applies to the gift of healing in Paul’s day. The Word of God is very clear on this. Tongues were “for a sign”—a sign to unbelieving Jews. We will study this much more fully in Chapter 14. Notice what it says in the verses from Isaiah: “So now God will have to speak to his people through foreign oppressors who speak a strange language.  God has told his people, “Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.” But they would not listen.   So the LORD will spell out his message for them again, one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there, so that they will stumble and fall. They will be injured, trapped, and captured” (Isaiah 28:11-13; NLT). God gave Israel this supernatural testimony; and although it was foretold that this would be rejected, God continued to give this supernatural testimony to His people and maintained a relationship with them throughout the transition period. But such testimony ended when God set aside Israel for the rest of the Church age.

These supernatural manifestations (healing, raising of the dead, tongues, and prophesying) took place during the first twelve years after Pentecost, and such manifestations took place only when and where Jews were present—never in the presence of Gentiles only (See Acts 2.22-36; 8.14-17; 10.45; and 19.2-6).There is no need today for this kind of supernatural manifestation and demonstration, and there are no other references to it in Acts or anywhere in the Epistles. This was the period of transition; it was a time when God was making His final call and giving His last testimony to the Jews.

The issue of tongues was very confused at Corinth. What happened was this—at a church service someone would fall into an ecstasy, and pour out a torrent of unintelligible sounds in no known language, referred to as “a heavenly language” by some. This was a highly-coveted gift because it was supposed to be due to the direct influence of the Spirit of God. To the congregation it was of course completely meaningless. Tongues are not a sign of salvation, nor are it a sign of a special closeness to God. If a person has not experienced the gift of tongues they should not seek it, but seek only those gifts God has given.

to another the interpretation of tongues:
Interpretation was the ability to translate an unlearned, known language expressed in the assembly. Some people have the gift of the interpretation of tongues, but when they were not present to interpret the “tongue talking” to the congregation, there shall be no such talking in the worship service—“But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (1 Cor. 14:27–28; KJV). Not only must there be edification, but there must be order. If someone is going to speak in a tongue, there must be an interpreter, and the message must make sense and conform to the Word of God. If it is otherwise, the Spirit of God is not in it—you may be sure of that. If no interpreter is there, or if two or three have already spoken, the one wanting to speak in a tongue is to be silent. He can go off somewhere and speak by himself.

With the possible exception of faith, all of these gifts were temporary and seem to have been given for the purpose of confirming Christian doctrine and teaching, and establishing the early churches: “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Heb 2.4; NKJV).

11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

“The selfsame Spirit” is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes it clear that no spiritual gift can be obtained by human training, and it is made equally clear that no spiritual gift can be transferred from one person to another. In verse 6 of this chapter we read that “there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” God is at work in all true believers, and for any ministry or service to be acceptable, He must lead. Now we are told “dividing to every man severally as he will.” Here we see the agency of the Holy Spirit; we see that He is equal with the Father and Son, because He does the same thing the Father does. The Godhead works in unity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will only be rewarded for those things we do through the power of the Holy Spirit. The individual as well as the congregation should make sure that every heart is open, and receptive to the Holy Spirit. Man’s ideas and programs should never be substituted for the leadership of the Holy Spirit—and if we will yield to Him we can be sure He will never lead us astray. He will lead us down paths of righteousness as we seek to fulfill the will of God. We do not need to make our own plans, and then expect God to bless us; but when we allow the Holy Spirit to make our plans He will lead us into a place where God can bless our efforts in the Holy Spirit. All believers need to be open to God’s gracious power in their lives and in their worship.

The Holy Spirit assigns each believer his own gift. All the gifts are tokens of God’s grace and allow no basis for jealousy, rivalry, or human pride. Since God gives each gift through the Spirit—and it is the exactly right gift(s) for him or her—there should be no hungering for gifts that belong to others, and it should not be overlooked that all gifts are granted for the common good. There is no hierarchy in the gifts of God. No gift that serves others is little. God uses both stars and candles to light His world.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 “There are only two constants in the world: Christ and change.” —Lyle Schaller