GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH
SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR ALL BELIEVERS
1Cor. 12:7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
GENERAL PERSPECTIVE. The Holy Spirit is manifested through a variety of spiritual gifts given to believers (1Cor. 12:7-11). These manifestations of the Spirit are intended for the edifying and sanctification of the church (12:7; 14:26). They are not the same as the gifts and ministries mentioned in Rom. 12:6-8 and Eph. 4:11, whereby a believer receives the power and ability to minister in a more permanent manner in the church. The list in 1Cor. 12:8-10 is not necessarily exhaustive and the gifts may occur in various combinations.
(1) The manifestations of the Spirit are given according to the will of the Spirit (1Cor. 12:11) when need arises and according to the earnest desire of the believer (12:31; 14:1).
(2) Some gifts may be manifested through an individual on a regular basis, and a believer may have more than one gift to minister to particular needs. The believer ought to desire “gifts,” not just one gift (1Cor. 12:31; 14:1).
(3) It is unscriptural and unwise to assume that because someone exercises a spectacular gift, that person is more spiritual than one who has less spectacular gifts. Furthermore, possessing a gift does not mean that God approves of all a person does or teaches. Spiritual gifts must not be confused with the Fruit of the Spirit that relates more directly to Christian character and sanctification (Gal. 5:22-23).
(4) The Spirit's manifestation through gifts may be counterfeited by Satan or false workers disguising themselves as servants of Christ (Mat. 7:21-23; 24:11,24; 2Cor. 11:13-15; 2Thes. 2:8-10). The believer must not believe every spiritual manifestation, but ought to “try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1John 4:1; cp. 1Thes. 5:20-21; see Acts 10:44-45).
INDIVIDUAL GIFTS. In 1Cor. 12:8-10, the apostle Paul lists a variety of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. Though he does not define their characteristics here, we can learn from other passages of the Scriptures what they might be.
- WORD OF WISDOM. This is a wise utterance spoken through the operation of the Holy Spirit. It applies the revelation of God's Word or the Holy Spirit's wisdom to a specific situation or problem (Acts 6:10; 15:13-22).
- It is not, however, the same as having the wisdom of God for daily living. This is obtained by diligent study and meditation on God's ways and Word, and by prayer (Jas. 1:5-6).
- WORD OF KNOWLEDGE. This is an utterance inspired by the Holy Spirit that reveals knowledge about people, circumstances, or Biblical truth. It is often connected closely with prophecy (Acts 5:1-10; 1Cor. 14:24-25).
- GIFT OF FAITH. This is not saving faith, but rather a special supernatural faith imparted by the Holy Spirit that enables the Christian to believe God for the miraculous and extraordinary. It is a faith that removes mountains (1Cor. 13:2) and is often found in combination with other manifestations such as healings and miracles (see Mat. 17:20, note on true faith; Mark 11:22-24; Luke 17:6).
- It also may refer to a special gift by which one inspires faith in other members of the congregation.
- GIFTS OF HEALING. These gifts are given to the church to restore physical health by divinely supernatural means (Mat. 4:23-25; 10:1; Acts 3:6-8; 4:30). The plural (gifts) indicates healing of various illnesses and suggests that every act of healing is a special gift of God. Although gifts of healing are not given to every member of the body in a special way (cp. 1Cor. 12:11,30), all members may pray for the sick. When faith is present, the sick will be healed (see Mat. 8:16-17). Healing may also occur as a result of obedience to the instructions of Jas. 5:14-16.
- MIRACLES. These are deeds of supernatural power, which alter the normal course of nature. They include divine acts in which God's kingdom is manifested against Satan and evil spirits (see John 6:2; Mat. 12:28).
- PROPHECY. We must distinguish between prophecy listed in 1Cor. 12:10 as a temporary manifestation of the Spirit from prophecy cited as a ministry gift of the church in Eph. 4:11. As a ministry gift, prophecy is given only to some believers, who must then function as prophets within the church. As a spiritual manifestation, prophecy is potentially available to every Spirit-filled Christian (Acts 2:17-18).
- Concerning the second of these two forms of prophecy, observe the following:
- Prophecy is a special gift that enables a believer to bring a word or revelation directly from God under the impulse of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 14:24-25,29-31). It is not the delivery of a previously prepared sermon.
- In both the 0.T. and the N.T., prophecy is not primarily foretelling the future, but proclaiming the will of God and exhorting God's people to endurance, righteousness, faithfulness, and encouragement (14:3).
- The message may expose the condition of a person's heart (14:25) or offer edification, exhortation, comfort, warning, and judgment (14:3,25-26,31).
- The church must not receive such prophecy as an infallible message, for many false prophets will enter the church (1John 4:1).
- Therefore, all prophecies must be tested as to their genuineness and truth (1Cor. 14:29,32; 1Thes. 5:20-21) by whether it conforms to the Word of God (1John 4:1), by whether it promotes godly living (1Tim. 6:3), and by whether it is uttered by one who is sincerely living under the Lordship of Christ (1Cor. 12:3).
- Prophecy operates under the will of God and not man. The N.T. never indicates that the church actively sought revelation or direction from those who claimed they were prophets. Prophecy was given to the church only when God initiated the message (1Cor. 12:11; 2Pet. 1:21).
- DISCERNING OF SPIRITS. This gift is a special ability given by the Spirit to properly discern and judge prophecies and to distinguish whether an utterance is from the Holy Spirit or not (1Cor. 14:29; 1John 4:1). Towards the end of the age when false teachers (Mat. 24:5) and distortion of Biblical Christianity will greatly increase (1Tim. 4:1), this gift will be extremely important for the church.
- KINDS OF TONGUES. Concerning “tongues” (Gk. glossa, meaning language) as a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit, the following must be pointed out.
- Tongues may be an existing spoken language (Acts 2:4-6) or a language unknown on earth, e.g., “tongues... of angels” (1Cor. 13:1; 1Cor. 14; Acts 2:4).
- Such speech has not been learned and is often unintelligible both to the speaker (1Cor. 14:14) and to the hearers (1Cor. 14:16), and should always be interpreted.
- Speaking in tongues involves the spirit of man and the Spirit of God intermingling so that the believer communicates directly to God (i.e., in prayer, praise, blessing, or thanksgiving), giving expression or utterance at the level of one's spirit rather than the mind (1Cor. 14:2,14) and praying for oneself or others under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit apart from the activity of the mind (cp. 1Cor. 14:2,4,15,28; Jude 20). Speaking in tongues with interpretation may at times contain a revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching for the assembly of believers (1Cor. 14:6).
- Tongues in the congregation must be accompanied by a Spirit-given interpretation that communicates the content and meaning of the utterance to the community of believers (1Cor. 14:3,27-28). When interpreted to the congregation, they function either as a form and directive to worship and prayer or as prophecy. The entire body of believers can then participate in this Spirit-inspired revelation. Interpreted tongues can thus be a means of edification as the whole congregation responds to the utterance (cp. 14:6,13).
- Speaking in tongues within the congregation must be regulated. The speaker should never be in “ecstasy” or “out of control” (1Cor. 14:27-28; Acts 2:4).
- INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES. This is the ability given by the Holy Spirit to understand and make known the meaning of an utterance given in tongues. The gift may be given to the one who speaks in tongues or to someone else. Those who speak in tongues should pray also for the gift of interpretation (1Cor. 14:13).
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