1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12:1-3… Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
When one thinks of the worst possible church that ever existed one need go no further than the church in Corinth in the 1st century. There were divisions, sexual escapades, law suits among believers, rampant divorce, racial/social distinctions, and an abuse of the spiritual gifts given by God to all believers. On top of all their immoralities they were an out-of-control group of charismatics who left their minds, wits, and logic outside the church doors. They had abandoned proper doctrine found only in the Scriptures for the occultic ecstasy found in the mystery religions of their day – religions that promoted the speaking in ecstatic utterances, shouting prophecies while calling attention to themselves, and “worshipping” in utter confusion.
So now Paul addresses the next concern on his agenda – that of “spiritual things [gifts].” Since this was another abuse in their church Paul did not want them to be “unaware” (Greek agnostic) – a word that refers to ignorance. This is the quest of any pastor/Bible teacher, for it is their passion to keep those under their pastoral care informed and educated in the Scriptures.
In v. 2 Paul refers back to the former state of the Corinthian believers prior to their conversion to Christ. Back when they were “pagans” they were led astray to “dumb” idols. The word for “pagan” in Greek is “Gentile” referring to those who believe in many “gods” as opposed to the Christian and Jewish singular “God” (Yahweh; Jehovah). These pagan “gods” (idols) were “dumb” (Greek aphonos) – a word that doesn’t refer to intelligence but rather to muteness. These “gods” couldn’t answer prayer, heal, save, or even speak. They were “dumb,” but they were the gods the Corinthians formerly worshipped and were “led astray” by – used in reference to prisoners being taken away for execution. So it was that the Corinthians were also “led astray” by the deceptions of Satan into believing in false gods. It was that life they were saved from. It’s ironic that non-Christians (pagans) actually believe they are free and/or have a freewill when in fact they are bound in spiritual chains with one destination: eternal destruction.
It appears from Paul’s words in v. 3 that there were professed believers in the Corinthian church who were cursing Jesus while at the same time manifesting gifts of the Spirit. Of course anyone who did such was not speaking from God, but the Corinthians were so far from God they couldn’t tell the difference. It is very likely that they were judging the validity of the spiritual gifts based upon how spectacular they were as opposed to the content they espoused. The more hyped and euphoric the message was at the “worship” gathering the more they were convinced it was from God. But no can say from the heart that “Jesus is Lord” without having the Spirit, and no one could “curse” Jesus by that same Spirit. To admit that Jesus is “Lord” is simply to admit that Jesus is God Almighty. Those who can’t do that are not speaking by the Holy Spirit.
Food for Thought
Don’t be duped by some of today’s churches that boast about their magnificent worship apart from the preaching of God’s Word. Many today, without actually knowing it, are cursing the name of Jesus Christ through their ecstatic utterances they call tongues. Even in the music of many churches today Christ’s name is slandered by well-meaning people through unorthodox lyrics. Make no mistake, there is a right and a wrong way to worship God. Preaching and teaching from the Bible and obeying the doctrines it espouses is what true worship really is.
1 Corinthians12:4-7… Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
In v. 1 Paul turned his attention to “spiritual things,” and in v. 4 the “things” are clearly in reference to spiritual “gifts.” The word for “gifts” in the Greek text is “charisma” – referring to “a gift of grace.” Of the 17 uses of this word in the New Testament 16 of them are connected to God as the giver (gifts of salvation, blessings, etc.). Not to be confused with talents, of which even pagans possess, spiritual gifts come to ALL Christians, supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of equipping them to minister to others, especially to other Christians. If they go unused by even one believer then God’s work is often hindered. Each believer makes up the body of Jesus Christ (who is the “head”), and all gifts are intended to come together to do just that. The spiritual gifts are the focal point of 1 Cor. 12-14, and Paul addresses their abuse.
In v. 4 Paul says, first of all, that there are a “variety” of gifts. This word refers to “division; distribution.” In other words there are many gifts (“charismata”), but they all come from the “same Spirit” – that is, the Holy Spirit. So, spiritual gifts are given by the third member of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. He distributes different gifts to different Christians.
In v. 5 Paul continues by saying, “there are a variety of ministries.” The word for “ministry” (Greek “diakonia”) is the same word used for “deacon; service; servant” in the Bible. Jesus came to earth to do ministry, for he said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Now the “variety” of ministries as they relate to the spiritual gifts means that there are variations within the spiritual gifts. For instance, one who possesses the gift of teaching may be real good at teaching adults and not-so-good at teaching children. The converse is true as well where one person may have the gift of teaching children while not being so good at teaching adults. One person may have a heart and a passion for encouraging prisoners (the gift of exhortation) while another has the same gift of exhortation and desires to encourage pastors. The point being that ministries are many, but all of them derive from “the Lord.”
In v. 6 there is also a “variety of effects, but the same God.” The word for “effects” is literally “energema” from whence we get “energy.” The word refers to “deeds; working; activity.” It is God the Father who provides the “deeds” of the spiritual gifts and the ministries of the Lord, and it is He “who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). And v. 7 shows that each Christian is given the “manifestation” of the Spirit “for the common good.” In other words, God’s Holy Spirit has set forth plainly His gifts to Christians “to be beneficial” – for the good of the body.
Food for Thought
Notice that the Godhead, the Trinity, comprised of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, deals out and controls the gifts of the Spirit, the “charismata.” These gifts derive from the Spirit, the ministries from the Lord (Jesus), and the effects of them derive from the Father. The Triune God works cohesively as a unit. Now in the same way that God works, so too must the church work – as a cohesive unit. Each member of Christ’s church also has a function. When we come together and share our gifts to work as one cohesive unit only then do we fulfill God’s purpose. When we stand apart from other Christians, failing to come together for the better of each member, we stand divided. Let us share our gifts with one another, and let us bless each other with our gift(s) God has given to us for that very reason. Let us glorify Him in that.
1 Corinthians 12:8… For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit.
Paul explains a handful of the spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit in vv. 8-10 (see also 14:28; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11). This list shows the varieties of gifts – all from the same Spirit.
First, the “word of wisdom” in v. 8 (logos sophia). Wisdom was readily sought by the Corinthians, and Paul clarified what true wisdom was in relation to their corruption of the term in 1:17-2:16. They believed wisdom came from worldly knowledge, but Paul said that true wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit – from understanding “Christ crucified.” So, on one hand, the gift of wisdom is given to all true Christians because only they understand the message of salvation. But wisdom also refers to a speaking gift – such as when a prophet received direct revelation from God. Now today with the written Word given to us that particular ability has ceased. It does manifest itself, however, as a unique ability of pastors/teachers who possess a knack to apply truths gained from the Word and who can make skillful and practical application of those truths.
Second, the “word of knowledge” is a spiritual gift. Knowledge is one of three gifts in 1 Cor. 13:8 that Paul says will end along with tongues and prophecy. “Knowledge” (Greek “gnosis”) refers to things known. Since knowledge can be attained through study of the written Word (as opposed to just “attaining it”), and since it will “pass away” in 1 Cor. 13:8, knowledge as a true spiritual gift has likely ceased. What it referred to in the apostolic era was the ability of the apostles and prophets to impart God’s “gnosis” through His divine revelation to them and its relation to Jesus Christ to the masses. They heard Jesus teach, but after his death/resurrection it all came clear to them, and their message changed the world. God gave them the necessary knowledge, they imparted it, wrote it down (the Bible), and the gift “passed away.” Today true knowledge is attained through study of the Scriptures and grasping their meaning which stems from true wisdom given to those who have wisdom – a gift itself not earned but granted.
The third gift is “faith.” This is not to be confused with saving faith, of which a measure has been given to all Christians (Rom. 12:3). This gift has to do with the ability to trust God in ALL situations and manifests itself in unusual deeds of trust (i.e., moving mountains in 13:2). Whereas God provides the faith for Christians to believe in the cross of Christ – given to all Christians, faith is also in a separate listing as a spiritual gift. Christians with this gift are clearly identified because they have no fear of life’s difficulties. In good times and bad times – in health or in torment – they have full faith in God that His will is unfolding just the way He intended for it to unfold. They never question God or wonder why bad things happen to them or anyone else. They have an unmoving faith wherewith other Christians are molded, sustained, and blessed.
Food for Thought
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have true wisdom. You may be uneducated or simply ignorant of worldly matters, but you have great wisdom in understanding that God died for you on a cross. This concept is foolish to unbelievers, but it is the power of God for those who believe. Furthermore, the knowledge once given to the apostles was written down in the Bible for all to read. It isn’t just given anymore, it is attained through discipline and study. All Christians have this. But do you know someone with the gift of faith? If not, you might try attending a Bible-believing church where that gift is given to many. Just listening to those with that gift is uplifting, encouraging, and downright wonderful. If you have that gift, bless someone with it today by standing firm in your convictions that God knows exactly what He’s doing.
1 Corinthians 12:9-11… And to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy.
The fourth gift in the list of spiritual gifts is “healing.” This gift must not be confused with the so-called faith healers today. True healing in the NT was about bringing the dead back to life (cf. Acts 9:40; 20:9), healing the sick, and casting out demons. Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:12 that signs, wonders, and miracles were “marks of the apostles,” and the true apostles (those who actually saw the risen Lord Jesus alive after death) are all of course dead today. Hence, this gift as given to men was also temporary. However, the Greek text, in speaking of the gift of healing, literally says, “gifts of healings” as opposed to “faith healers.” The plural “gifts” shows varieties of healings within the gift itself. The revealing of the gift (the “manifestation” of the “charisma”) is given to the person who does the healing of the sick person. And the plural ‘charismata,’ in the words of Dr. Gordon Fee, himself a charismatic, “…probably suggests not a permanent ‘gift,’ as it were, but that each occurrence is a ‘gift’ in its own right.” In other words, healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons are not acts that are normative for the church today. This gift comes and goes through any given Christian at any given time. We must never believe that God no longer heals, however, but we would do well to maintain that the so-called television “faith healers” of our day are predominately charlatans. If they were true healers then they’d empty out the local hospitals and have documented proof of the dead raised the life. They don’t.
The fifth gift is the “effecting of miracles” (literally “the working of power”). This gift includes the gifts of healings, but it involves all other supernatural manifestations and activities that go beyond healing the sick. This phrase is clearly a general phrase referring to the abnormal ability to perform great signs – a gift that Paul said was exclusive to the apostles in 2 Cor. 12:12.
The sixth gift is “prophecy” (to speak forth). Prophets were the ones who received and spoke God’s message. They taught God’s people what God wanted them to know. At times they predicted the future, but most often they simply spoke God’s Word as He revealed it to them. Prophets received God’s Word through revelation directly from God, and teachers (another spiritual gift) simply teach that same revelation as it is recorded in the Bible. The church of God was built upon the message of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20), and since the foundation is in place there is no longer any need to lay that foundation again. We simply build on it through teaching, for prophecy was also one of the gifts that Paul said would “pass away” in 1 Cor. 13:8.
Food for Thought
Faith healers today make many fantastic claims. Oral Roberts and others have claimed to have raised the dead and seen amputated limbs grow back, but there is no documentation to prove such claims. These people make lots of money with their claims, but the “healings” they espouse look nothing like those found in the NT. The emotionalism found in their “worship services” – designed to set the tone and work people out of their wits – was never a ploy used by Jesus or the apostles. Others claim to work all kinds of miracles – claims of elevation with no support under one’s feet and of “having tea with Jesus” – are foreign to the Bible. These messengers of heresy today claim to be modern-day prophets who receive their words and power straight from God Himself. But to receive extra revelation can only be heretical. For extra words from God ADDS to the Scripture. Contradictory words make the Scriptures into a lie. And words that simply repeat what’s written in the Bible are unnecessary. All three options are forbidden (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Pro. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19) and prove that modern-day prophets are a sham.
1 Corinthians 12:10b-11… And to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
The seventh gift listed is the “distinguishing of spirits.” Distinguishing, or determining, the spirits, was to differentiate the Word of God as taught by a true prophet from false prophets. In the first century, before the NT was complete, Christians had the task of determining whether or not a prophet’s message was indeed from God. The Apostle John wrote the same thing in 1 John 4:1 where he cautioned his readers to beware of false prophets. Christians were charged to “test the spirits” of these prophets to determine whether they spoke by the Holy Spirit or by a demonic one. This is akin to Paul’s later charge in 14:29 to “weigh carefully” what the prophets teach. In the modern-day, however, determining truth teaching is based upon the written Word of God, and it guides us (1 John 2:18–24; 4:1–6). But the church must always beware of false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) by using proper discernment. This gift is actually one given to verify whether all the other gifts are of the Spirit. It must not be confused with the ability that some have to judge the character of another. The gift of discernment manifests itself in people who know immediately when others are speaking non-truths about God and slandering His name.
The eighth gift listed is the one who speaks “various kinds of tongues.” Speaking in tongues (literally “languages”) is simply speaking in a language one has never learned. This gift was as controversial then as it is today. Given what Paul later says about tongues in chapter 14 it is clear that the tongues issue actually spurred his entire argument in chapters 12-14. The fact that he lists so many other spiritual gifts alongside that of tongues proves that the others are as desirable as the gift of tongues – actually far more so, for Paul in chapter 14 says that prophecy is far greater than tongues because prophecy is given to build the church up while tongues only edifies the one speaking them. Throughout the NT tongues mean two things. First, it can refer to the literal tongue in one’s mouth. Second, it refers to decipherable languages. In Acts 2, Peter and the apostles spoke in tongues as a sign that the Holy Spirit had come. Thus began the church age. This made God’s message through the apostles clear to everyone present. So, the gift of tongues is the ability to speak a language without ever having learned that language. It is easy to see why God would grant such a gift since the good news of Jesus Christ was to go out to the entire world – a world that did not always understand the language of the particular evangelist.
The final gift listed is in v. 10. It is the “interpretation of tongues.” Obviously this gift goes hand-in-hand with speaking in tongues. Those that spoke in a language that others could not understand were required to have someone interpret what they were saying. Otherwise the gift would be for naught. A prophet would receive a message from God, speak it in a language unknown to him, and have an interpreter there to reveal the truth from God.
Verse 11 say, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” In other words, Christians can take absolutely no credit for displaying their God-given gifts. After all, it is the Spirit of God who gives them as He wills.
Food for Thought
We are blessed indeed in the modern day. We have no need for ecstatic utterances from God. We have the Bible – His complete Word to us. We are to measure all teachings against the teachings of the Bible. God used prophets and tongues-speakers in the days before His Word was complete, but today they are no longer needed. The final authority is always the Bible.
Speaking Gifts – First Peter 4:11 places these under the general heading of “prophecy.”
1. Teaching: This is simply to communicate in a clear and defined way so as to portray God’s Word with the goal of producing an understanding and love for God’s Truth. Teaching is to clarify God’s Word (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11).
2. Exhortation: To argue God’s case before men with the goal of motivating them to obey the truth and to encourage them in their obedience. Exhortation is application of the truth that came through teaching (Romans 12:8; 1 Cor. 14:3).
3. Consolation: To give hope and comfort to others in settings such as small groups and/or one on one counseling (1 Corinthians 14:3).
4. Evangelism: Making the core message of salvation, Jesus Christ, clear to the unsaved. This gift is given in abundance to some as some see much more fruit than others, but it is the responsibility of all Christians (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:4).
Gifts of Service – Gifts of Service is mentioned in 1 Peter 4:11, and people who work with these gifts are known as “deacons” or “ministers.” Both words mean “one who serves.”
1. Discernment: The ability to determine if the spiritual gifts people have and their messages derive from the Spirit of God or from an evil spirit (1 Cor. 12:10).
2. Faith: This is a special gift of insight and trust beyond that common to all Christians. It might be characterized by living consistently on the edge of God’s promises and seeing abundant fruit in prayer (1 Cor. 12:9; 13:2).
3. Helps: This is the ability and desire to lend a helping hand in physical tasks for the sake of the body of believers and individuals (1 Cor. 12:28).
4. Mercy: Characterized by an extraordinary love and compassion for those who are unlovely or unlovable. This gift comes with a self-sacrificing desire to help these kinds of individuals through any and all circumstances in their lives (Romans 12:28).
5. Giving: The ability to see a financial need and a strong desire to share one’s material possessions for the sake of God’s Kingdom. It typifies the “going above the call of duty” with no ulterior or selfish motives (Romans 12:8).
6. Administration: This is the ability to work in harmony with others w/the ability to organize efficiently the workings of the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Romans 12:8).
Sign Gifts – This is a category of gifts that were related to the accreditation of the apostles (2 Cor. 12:12) who were the first ministers of the good news about Jesus Christ to unbelievers.
1. The Gifts of Indirect Power – Gifts confirmed the one giving the message.
¨ Healings (1 Cor. 12:9) The restoration of the sick back to health.
¨ Miracles (1 Cor. 12:28) This gifts includes works of power; raising of the dead.
2. Gifts of Direct Revelation: These gifts made known the will of God before the completion of the New Testament which completed the Word of God for today (Rev. 22:18; Hebrews 1:1-2).
¨ Knowledge: (1 Cor. 12:8) Insight into truths directly ministered by the Spirit.
¨ Wisdom: (1 Cor. 12:8) This is the application of biblical truths to life.
¨ Prophecy: (1 Cor. 12:10) Receiving the direct revelation from God.
¨ Tongues: (1 Cor. 14:22) The ability to speak in unlearned languages.
¨ Interpretation: (1 Cor. 12:30) The ability to translate unlearned languages.
The Mystery Religions
- Hypnotic chants
- Semiconscious euphoria
- Dances, incense, chants, etc.
- No discernment/nobody cared
- Hindu yoga; Buddhist Nirvana
- All false religion judged (Rev. 17)
- Began at Babel when the languages were (Semiramis)
- Tammuz (Ez. 8:14); mourn for 40 days (Lent); celebrate his rez
- Ishtar of Syria; Astarte of Phoenicia; Isis of Egypt; Aphrodite of Greece
- Sex sins, baptism for salvation, pilgrimages, paying of penance, etc.
- Word of wisdom (temporary, yet applicable today)
· Comes to all Christians who understand “Christ crucified.”
· In apostolic age it referred to receiving revelation
· Today it refers to the ability to understand Scripture and apply it
· Examples: apostles; pastors/teachers
- Word of knowledge – (can be trained or untrained)
· Perceiving/understanding God’s truths
· Used for direct revelation from God
· Saints who study and understand God’s Word have this gift
· 13:2 says, “who know all mysteries and all knowledge”
· Examples: writers of Scripture; pastors/teachers
· All Christians possess faith in God (Rom. 12:3)
· One whose faith in God is extraordinary (can “move mountains”)
· Examples: Paul in Acts 27; Abe in Rom. 4; Hudson Taylor, etc.
- Gifts of healing/effecting miracles (power)
· Given to Christ, the apostles, and the prophets (2 Cor. 12:12)
· Casting out demons, raising the dead, etc.
· Used to authenticate the message of Christ
· Paul used it sparingly (not himself, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Tromphimus
· No need today for God to authenticate His Word
· Specifically receiving God’s Word and proclaiming it
· Generally it is a speaking gift of telling others what God has said
· Foundation of the church built upon apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20)
- Distinguishing of spirits
· Judges all the spiritual gifts; protects the church from error; church discpline
· Distinguishes b/t right and wrong theology
· Example: Jews of Berea (Acts 17:11); Paul’s rebuke of the slave-girl (Acts 16:16-17)
- Tongues/Interpretation – speaking in unlearned languages/interpreting the message.