Are Spiritual Gifts for Today? (Part 2)

15 03 2009

Continuing on the theme of Spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Today we’ll take a look at verses 7-11.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,  and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.


Paul has just highlighted that the source of the Gifts is more imortant than the gifts themselves. He also stressed that Salvation was the most important gift of the lot. Without that why bother with any gift? Evidently there must have been some division caused by the use of these gifts. Paul has taken pains to remind the Corinthians that they must recognise the source and be driven to use these gifts in worship of the one true God, revealed through Jesus on the cross, and the Spirit of Christ.

Paul now starts to talk about the manifestations of the Spirit. He lists 9 manifestations of the Spirit and I get the impression he is rattling off a list as if these things are common in the church. Note that nothing in the list promotes sub human behaviour or disorder. Paul emphasises that the gifts are given for the edification of the body. He may use common good as a way to refer to the common good of the human race, but I find that unlikely given that the letter was written to believers in the church.  The common good is more likely the preservation of order, and dignity within the church. The kind of order that shows they are not a crazy way out sect or mystery religion.

The common good also becomes clear in the type of gifts Paul lists. Wisdom and Knowledge gifts come in the form of messages to the body. They are not generally private gifts of wisdom, but a way of keeping the interaction going within the church. A message of wisdom and knowledge is something spoken out to others for their benefit, and the benefit of the whole church. They are a way of bringing hidden things out into the open. It’s worth noting that we can’t separate the two of these things. We can’t have wisdom without knowledge, and knowledge without wisdom can be used to oppress rather than build up.

Paul then lists, faith, healing and miraculous powers. The gift of faith is not what you would call saving faith, but perhaps more along the  lines of a deep sense of assurance.  The church always needs people who are solid and secure in their salvation, and able to be teachers and guides to others. Gifts of healing the sick and other miraculous powers do not mean super human behaviour, they hint at restoring a the full of humanity of the people they affect. These gifts would also have a powerful evangelistic content.

Right after these gifts Paul mentions the gifts of prophecy, and distinguishing between Spirits. It’s no acciden that prophecy and discernment are mentioned together. Those who prophecy without discernment are in digging their own grave. If Paul, a devout Jew, knew his scriptures well he knew of the “professional development plan” for prophets in the Old Testament. If you’re wrong the community will stone you to death. Perhaps this is why he urges discernment with prophecy?

Lastly Paul mentions tongues, and their interpretation. Interpeting tongues is an important aspect for Paul. Speaking a thousand words in a tongue can bring no edification to the body if people have no idea what the person is saying. Again Paul mentions these with qualifications, but also matter of factly that it becomes difficult to deny their presence within the body.

Paul ties the section together with another reminder that the same source is behind all the gifts. The unity in the diversity comes from the Holy Spirit.

Three points we can learn from this text:

1. Despite diversity in gifts the source is the same: The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the source and distributor of all gifts. We can’t drum them up ourselves. This also means that not everyone will have the same gift. That should not worry us. If someone has a gift we deem as a greater or more public gift, it will mean they will face greater temptation to use it for their own self advancement, rather than the glory of God. The Lord has made us unique, and each person has their own gifts from the Holy Spirit. We must always remind ourselves of this basic fact of Spiritual gifts. It will help us keep a proper handle on them.

2. The gifts are given for the edification of the body

They are not solely private gifts we use in our own houses and during quiet times. They are there to be used to encourage and edify the church. To help people along their Christian walk. 

 3. The gifts never override our humanity

None of the gifts are associated with anything like the emotionalism we see in pentecostalism. Wisdom, Knowledge, Discernment, Tongues, Interpretation of the tongues and so forth all cry out order and maturity. There is no mention of people falling over, convulsing wildly, or making any sort of animal noises. These are the things that demons do to people when they come into contact with the Living God.

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5 responses

17 03 2009
Mason

Great exposition of Corinthians here. I appreciate the level-headedness you are approaching this with, it is to often lacking on this topic.

“The Holy Spirit is the source and distributor of all gifts. We can’t drum them up ourselves. This also means that not everyone will have the same gift.”

I wish this was taken more seriously. One of the biggest problems I have with the Pentecostal church and most Pentecostals I have interacted with is the insistence that everyone should and can speak in tongues if they had their second baptism.
First of all, I don’t think there is a second ‘holy Spirit’ baptism, seems to be an all at once thing. But that aside it is categorically untrue that everyone must have that gift, and is really offensive as well since I don’t so the implication is I’m some sort of second class Christian.
If the Charismatic movement is determined to take gifts like tongues seriously, they should also take seriously gifts like teaching, wisdom, and discernment and utilize people with those gifts to bring some sort of doctrinal coherence and Scriptural fealty to the type of stuff that goes on.

17 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Yeah I wish there was some more maturity amongst some churches. I do see changes though. The Church I was a part of now says in their statement of Faith that they have an emphasis on Grace, and an emphasis away from weirdness as a manifestation of the Spirit. Thats a big change from where it’s been before. I remember many youth camps and church meetings where so many weird things were happening that it was off putting.

17 03 2009
Mason

Well, youth camps can be weird and off-putting even when they’re not Charismatic lol

17 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

LOL sounds like there is a story there?

4 08 2009
Hampers

Thanks for sharing the information on spiritual gifts. It was nice going through it.

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