In the realm of Christian experience, there is one whole continent of truth still largely unexplored, and that is the Holy Spirit. In spite of much that has been written, there is dissatisfaction with many doctrines about the Spirit of God. Christians cannot remain satisfied with vague aspirations and pious platitudes, for there is a rich field of spiritual territory that ought not to remain unexplored and left uncertain. It should be boldly surveyed and accurately charted so Christians may know what is truly theirs in Christ.-Donald Gee₁
I am thankful that in todays church, there is an increased interest in the gifts and manifestations (Greek: phanarosis “a shining forth”) of the Spirit.
We will begin this portion of our study in 1 Corinthians 12, starting with verse 1.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
At one time, that seemed to be one of the things that the church was most ignorant of. But praise God, that is changing!
Ephesians refers to what are commonly known as the Fivefold Ministry Gifts (Greek doma or domata). These are giftings for leadership in the church which are given personally by Jesus, so they are not technically spiritual gifts in the same sense we are discussing here. Similarly, Romans 12 describes what are commonly called “motivational gifts,” which include things such as service, mercy and administrations. While these are certainly important topics for study and while there is a degree of overlap, our study will primarily focus on those gifts listed in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14.
Some of you may notice that the word “gifts”here is italicized in some of your translations. That is because the word was not in the original Greek text, but it was added by the translators for clarification. The Greek word used, pneumatikos, would be better worded “concerning spiritual thing”sor “things pertaining to the Spirit.” But as we read further, several verses do use the Greek words charisma (singular) and charismata (plural) which do in fact mean “gift.”As theologian J. Rodman Williams points out, the word is used 17 times in the New Testament in a variety of contexts. It can refer to:
Salvation and eternal life (Romans 5:15-16; 6:23)
Other particular blessings (Romans 11:29, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 2 Corinthians 1:11)
Gifts in reference to the service of others (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, 1 Peter 4: 10-11). This is the focus of our current discussion.²
Now on to verse 2:
2Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
3Wherefore 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.
4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
Notice that there are “diversities” of gifts. While we normally think of nine specific gifts discussed in this passage that we will get to shortly, it is better understood that there are nine subcategories of these diverse gifting.
5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal (“manifestation of the Spirit” comes from the Greek expression phanerosis which means “a shining forth of the Spirit).”
8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit (notice here that “gifts” is plural. This in itself shows that there are more than nine gifts);
10To 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:
11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
While it is true that we cannot determine truth by experience, I do believe that a person is not qualified to teach on the gifts who has never operated in them. Imparting correct knowledge in these areas requires an insider’s perspective.
There are those who try to categorize the gifts in strictly humanistic terms, saying that those with the gifts of healing are doctors, or those who speak in tongues are foreign language interpreters. Those are obviously noble professions, but that doesn’t fit the context of these verses. The gifts being described are supernatural, imparted directly by the spirit of God.
Here is a brief explanation of each of these gifts that are listed here:
Word of Wisdom (logos sophias)- Proverbs tells us that wisdom is the principle thing. But as important as human wisdom is, the gift of wisdom is more than that. This gift is when God gives supernatural wisdom into what to do in a given situation. Remember when Mary and Joseph had to hide in Egypt when Jesus was a baby and Herod was trying to kill him? An angel supernaturally revealed to Joseph when it was safe to go back home. The word of wisdom operates very similarly to that. Another example would be in Acts 6 when the early church received special guidance on how to care for widows who were being neglected. Friends, God is practical and He has provided supernatural wisdom for His church if we will listen to Him.
Word of Knowledge (logos gnōseōs)- The word of knowledge is very similar in some ways to the word of wisdom. It is God revealing secret knowledge about a particular situation. Colossian 2:3 tells us that “…all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden with the Lord,” and this gift gives us a special look at that. A biblical example would be Jesus talking with the woman at the well and receiving special insight into the womans life that transformed her dramatically.
One very touching modern account of this gift was a minister receiving a word that young lady in the congregation had been hurt when her boyfriend had neglected to get her a Valentine’s Day card. Sure enough, a teenage girl responded and received ministry. Isn’t that beautiful? God cares about our lives more than we can ever imagine, amen?
Faith (pistis)- This is a gift that we must be very careful how we define. All Christian have to have faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith, so without this kind of faith you cannot be a Christian in the first place. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith we cannot please God. So this kind of faith is a non-negotiable part of the Christian life.
The gift of faith is different. It is a special anointing of exceptionally strong, unshakable faith that God gives in specific situations for special purposes. For example, in 1 Kings chapter 18, we see Elijah’s dramatic showdown with the prophets of Baal. This took faith if anything ever did. But in the very next chapter, we see Elijah fleeing for his life and praying to die. So apparently, the faith that sustained him against the false prophets was a special endowment that was lifted afterward. Elijah then had to re-learn to trust God in a more day-to-day manner.
Gifts of Healing (charismata iamaton)- Of the ministry of Jesus we have recorded in the Gospels, roughly two thirds of it involved divine healing. We see it continue mightily through the Book of Acts in the early church.
All Christians can and should minister healing to the sick. Again, Jesus said in Mark 16 that would be a normative sign to follow believers. The Book of James further instructs the elders of the church to pray for the sick. But again, there are those who have a special anointing to minister in this manner.
Now there are some misunderstandings about how the gifts of healing operate. Sometimes people say “If you believe in healing, then go empty out the hospitals.”. But keep in mind that even Jesus Himself could not operate in this gift at will. Mark 6:5 tells us about a situation where He could do no mighty works because of the people’s unbelief. So the recipient’s faith is a factor in his/her ability to receive their healing.
This does not, in any way, preclude the use of doctors and medical science. God used a physician named Luke to write two books in the New Testament. Many believe he was one of the early medical missionaries. So God has provided several ways to get healing to His people, and the gifts of healing recorded here are an important part of that.
Working of miracles (energēmata dynameōn)- The gift of working of miracles is, in some ways, closely related to the gifts of healing, but it is broader in scope. Not all healings are miracles, and not all miracles are healings. A person gets a cold. They go to bed, eat their chicken soup and in a few days they get well. That may not be classified as a miraculous healing, but it is no less a gift of God. He is simply working through the natural healing mechanisms that He put into our bodies when He created them.
But when God acts in our lives in a way that supersedes or overrides natural law, that does fall into the category of a miracle. An airplane can fly because the law of lift overrides the law of gravity. That is the key to understanding miracles. God created natural law and He can supersede it as He wills. A biblical example would be Jesus walking on water. Another one would be when He stilled the storm.
Prophecy (prophetēia)-1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us that the gift of prophecy is speaking under special revelation from God words of encouragement and comfort. It can, but doesn’t always, deal with future events.
Of all the gifts, this is probably the one that is most easily abused. Lets look at a few things that it is NOT:
The gift of prophecy is NOT a Christianized version of the psychic hotlines you used to see on late night TV. There are web sites where you can go get a so-called prophetic word. Dont pay any attention to that kind of nonsense.
The gift of prophecy is NOT adding to the Bible. The canon of Scripture is closed, and anyone claiming to give prophecies on par with Scripture (i.e. Joseph Smith) should be firmly rejected as a false prophet. Also, personal prophecies cannot be sources of doctrine. This got Benny Hinn into trouble once for saying that the godhead has nine members. To his credit, he did repudiate that, but you see the danger that poses.
Operating in the gift of prophecy does NOT mean a person operates in the ministry office of a prophet. The five-fold ministry, including the prophet are recorded in Ephesians 4:11 and are special leadership gifts to the church that are by divine calling only. But 1 Corinthians 14:31 says that all believers can prophesy under very strict guidelines.
1 Corinthians 14:29 says that prophesies are to be judged. This tells us that this gift is primarily to be used in a church setting under accountability to the churchs leadership. Have you ever encountered a parking lot prophet who comes up and claims to have a word for you? If someone ever does that, tell them to come with you to find the pastor or a trusted Christian leader to judge the prophecy. If they wont do that, dont give them the time of day.
Lives can be devastated by this sort of thing. I am reminded of one minister who I feel handled this situation quite well. When asked by a woman if he “had a word from the Lord for her,” he opened his Bible and said “Yeah, read yours!”
Discerning of spirits (diakriseis pneumatōn)- This gift deals with the ability to see supernaturally into the spirit realm. Youll notice that when Jesus ministered to people, He had special insight into what was going on behind the scenes. If a sickness was caused by a demon, He would cast it out. If it was some other factor, He knew how to deal with it. This is the gift of discernment in action.
Remember in Acts 16, there was a girl following the disciples around, shouting that “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved!” What she was saying was absolutely true. But as it turned out, she was a fortune teller and was demon-possessed. Paul saw that and cast the demon out of her. I believe he got that revelation through the gift of discerning of spirits.
The Bible tells us that, in the last days there will be an increase in demonic activity, false miracles and lying signs and wonders. In light of that, the gift of discernment is more important than ever.
I find it ironic that many anti-charismatic ministers claim to be acting under the guise of “discernment,” while they deny that this gift even exists today.
I will combine the final two gifts since they operate in conjunction with each other.
Speaking in diverse kinds of tongues (genē glōssōn), in this setting, is a supernatural utterance in a public assembly. 1 Corinthians 14:5 tells us that, when combined with the gift of interpretation of tongues (hermēneia glōssōn), it is equal to prophesy so it must be subject to the same guidelines as prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:22 further tells us that tongues are a sign to unbelievers.
People sometimes ask what is the greatest gift?or Which is the most important of the gifts? The answer is simple: Whichever one is needed at the time. If you need supernatural wisdom, then the word of wisdom is the most important in that instance. If you need a healing, then that would be the greatest of the gifts.
So there you have a brief overview of the gifts, all of which are available to us as Spirit-filled believers.
Keep It Real,
NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
1.Gee, Donald. Pentecostal Experience: The Writings of Donald Gee. 193. Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, MO. P. 33.
2. Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology, Volume 2. 1990. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.
3. Huggins, Larry. Spiritual Gifts Newsletter. “Diversities of Gifts.” The King’s Embassy, Washington, DC. 2015.
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