Paul told the church at Corinth, “Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (l Cor 12:1). God certainly does not want believers today to be ignorant either.
There are many charismatic gifts mentioned in the Bible (Rom 12:3-8; l Cor 12:8-10, 28-30; Eph 4:11). For the purpose of this brief study, we will limit ourselves to a consideration of the nine manifestations listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. To simplify our study of them, we will classify them in three categories:
I. GIFTS OF SPEECH
- Interpretation of Tongues
II. GIFTS OF REVELATION
4. A word of Wisdom
5. A word of Knowledge
6. Discerning of Spirits
III. GIFTS OF ABILITY
- Gift of Faith
- Gifts of Healings
- Working of Miracles
Who May The Spirit Use In The Operation Of Such Gifts?
- Any member of the Body may be used (1 Cor 12:7, 11; 14:26, 31).
- We should not be ignorant concerning the operation of the gifts (1 Cor 12:1).
- We must desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:1).
- We should be motivated by genuine love for the Body “(1 Cor 13) and by a pure desire to edify the Body (1 Cor 14:12).
- We should seek to excel in the operation of the gifts for the purpose of edifying the Church (1 Cor 14:12).
THE GIFTS OF SPEECH
THE GIFT OF TONGUES (l Cor 12:10)
The Gift of Tongues has two functions:
a. To edify the person using it (“devotional tongues”);
b. For the edifying of the whole church, and not merely the individual believer (when used in conjunction with the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues).
Use of the Gift of Tongues should be:
- a. motivated by love (lCor 13:1);
- accompanied by interpretation (lCor 14:5,13,28);
- confined to three utterances in any one gathering (lCor 14:27).
Seek to be yielded to the Spirit. Develop a sensitivity to what the Spirit is seeking to do or say in any particular service. When the Holy Spirit wants to bring a tongue -utterance through you, there will generally be an inner awareness of this for some time before you actually speak. This is often a gentle stirring in your spirit, a growing excitement and anticipation.
Wait quietly for the right moment to speak. The Holy Spirit will prompt you clearly at that time. He will not interrupt what is already happening in the service. He will never cause confusion, for He is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).
Speak in a normal but clearly audible voice. You do not have to shout or bellow. Quietly flow with the Spirit, Who is giving you utterance.
When the utterance is complete, all must wait upon God for the interpretation. Of ten some other believer will be given the interpretation; but when this does not happen, then the one who has spoken in tongues must pray quietly that he may also be given the interpretation (1Cor 14:13).
THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES (l Cor 12:10)
This is the companion gift to that of Tongues, and is always used in conjunction with that gift. It is the supernatural enabling, by the Holy Spirit, to interpret an utterance in tongues into the natural language of the congregation.
Interpretation of Tongues is NOT the gift of translation. The interpreter usually does NOT understand the tongue used in the utterance just given.
By this gift of the Spirit, the one given the interpretation perceives what the Spirit was saying through the tongue, and is able to simply say it to the congregation, so they may receive it and be edified by it.
Who May Use This Gift?
The Interpretation of Tongues is given “as the Spirit wills” (1 Cor 12:11). Any Spirit-filled believer may be chosen and anointed by the Spirit to interpret a tongue.
Initially you may only have the first sentence of the interpretation and a brief idea of what is to follow, when you first begin to speak. Like all other gifts of the Spirit, this one operates by faith too.
As you commence to give forth what the Spirit is giving you, take care NOT to speak “beyond the proportion of your faith ” (Rom 12:6). Strenuously avoid letting any personal thoughts, feelings or ideas creep into the interpretation.
When the interpretation is complete, and you sense that the Spirit has finished all He wishes to say, then stop! Do not begin to tell the people what you think the interpretation means.
Having delivered the interpretation, remain quiet while the utterance is judged by those who sit by. If there are any believers present who are regularly used in the vocal gifts, they should judge whether the words are truly from God. The standard by which one may judge is similar to that which we would use for judging prophecy.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY (1 Cor 12:10)
Simply translated, the words prophesy means “to utter inspired words”.
According to 1 Corinthians 14:31, all believers may exercise this gift at some time, as the Spirit wills.
Everyone may prophesy, one by one, and not more than three in any one gathering (1 Cor 14:29-33).
The purpose of such prophetic utterance according to 1 Corinthians 14:3 is to:
- Edify the Church: This means to build up and strengthen the believers.
- Exhort them: To stir up the believers; to confront and challenge them.
- Comfort them: To speak encouragingly, words of comfort.
Often times a prophecy may include all three of these elements.
THREE MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT PROPHECY
- It should not be confused with preaching. Many today insist that the Gift of Prophecy is the ability to preach well. However, preaching and teaching are usually the result of prayerful meditation on the Word of God, and careful preparation.
In contrast, the Gif t of Prophecy is not the result of careful study. It is a spontaneous speaking-forth by the Spirit (even though the timing of its deliverance is under the control of the prophet).
- The Gift of Prophecy is NOT for foretelling the future. This gift is for forth telling rather than foretelling. Its purpose is for Edification, Exhortation and Comfort -not for seeking to predict future events. Whenever there is an element of prediction within a prophecy, it is usually because there is another gift (Word of Knowledge or Wisdom) working along with it.
- This Gift is NOT for personal guidance. If we are in need of personal guidance, we should ask Jesus Himself for it (James 1:5). We may also seek such guidance in the pages of God’s Word, the Bible. If a prophetic utterance comes to us with instructions for the future, it should only be to confirm what God has already shown us personally.
SCRIPTURAL TEACHING ON THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
- It is for speaking supernaturally to men (1Cor 14 :3) – thus conveying the mind of the Lord to the Church.
- Prophecy requires no interpretation.
- Prophecy convinces the unlearned or unbelieving (lCor 14:24, 25).
- Prophecy functions so that believers may learn (1Cor 14:31).
- Everyone should desire and covet this gift (IC::or 14:1, 39).
- The person operating the gift is responsible for its use or abuse (1Cor 14:32). Prophecy is NOT an uncontrolled utterance. Nor is the prophet under any kind of trance or mind control. He is neither doing anything nor saying any thing against his will.
- Because the human element is fallible, prophecy must be judged (1Cor 14:29).
How Shall We Judge A Prophecy?
A genuine, Spirit-filled prophecy:
a. Will never contradict the written Word of God. Therefore every prophetic utterance should be “tested” by the Word of God. God would never tell you by prophecy to do anything which His Word forbids.
b. It will always exalt Jesus Christ, and never denigrate Him.
c. It will edify, exhort and comfort the believers. It should never leave them confused, distressed, uncertain.
d. It should “witness” with the majority of believers present -especially the more mature ones who are themselves frequently used in operation of vocal gifts.
e. It will not break the spirit of the meeting, though it may change the course of it.
f. If there is a predictive aspect, it will come to pass.
g. The “fruit test” (Matt 7:16). Jesus declared, “You shall know them by their fruit”. We should reject any so-called prophecy coming from one whose life and practice are a reproach to the cause of Christ.
THE GIFTS OF REVELATION
A WORD OF KNOWLEDGE (l Cor 12:8)
A Word of Knowledge is a fragment or small item of God’s knowledge, given to a person by the Holy Spirit.
This information was previously unknown to the person, and the knowledge could not be gained by any natural means. It is supernaturally imparted.
A. In the Ministry of Jesus: John 1:47-50; 4:16-19, 39-42.
B. In the Early Church: Acts 9:10-20.
C. Example from the Old Testament: 2 Sam 12:1-14.
A Word of Knowledge cannot be gained by intellectual learning. It also cannot be gained by studying books or pursuing an academic course of study in a college or university. Nor is it the ability to study or understand or interpret the Bible.
The Word Of Knowledge Used In Scripture
A. To uncover sin (2 Sam 12:1- 10; Acts 5:1-11).
B. To bring people to God (John 1:47-50; 4:16-19, 39-42).
C. To give guidance and direction (Acts 9:11).
D. To minister encouragement in periods of despondency (l Kings 19:9-18).
E. To impart knowledge of future events (John 11:11-14).
F. To reveal hid den things (1 Sam 10:22).
The Operation Of This Gift:
A. It is supernatural in character- not obtained by logic, deduction, reasoning, or the natural senses.
B. It operates by faith – the person receiving the revelation does so by faith.
C. The revelation is received in one’s spirit -not in the intellect or the emotions.
D. It is not a vocal gift (Acts 9:10, 11). It is received quietly and inaudibly within the person’s spirit.
E. It may become vocal when shared with others (John 4:18).
F. Any Spirit-filled Christian who is willing to listen to God may experience the function of this gift.
G. It is a valuable asset in the ministry of counseling.
H. Obedient action and response is essential to the continuing function of this manifestation in one’s ministry.
A WORD OF WISDOM (1 Cor 12:8)
This gift is of great importance. It enables us to speak and act with divine wisdom, and thus ensures the correct use and application of other gifts.
The Word of Wisdom is a fragment of divine wisdom supernaturally imparted by the Holy Spirit. It supplies one with the immediate wisdom to know what to say or do in a given situation.
God frequently gives this gift together with the Word of Knowledge, so that believers can know how to apply that Word of Knowledge correctly.
God revealed to Ananias the whereabouts and condition of Saul (Acts 9) through a Word of Knowledge. He also showed him, by the Word of Wisdom, what he should do in this difficult situation. It is a word (logos) of wisdom, and not the gift of wisdom mentioned in James 1:5.
The Word Of Wisdom is NOT:
- natural wisdom.
- wisdom gained from academic achievement.
- wisdom gained from experience.
- the wisdom to understand the Bible.
The Word of Wisdom IS:
- supernatural in character.
- given as the Holy Spirit wills (l Cor 12:11).
- given for a specific need or situation.
Some Biblical Examples:
Luke 4:1-13; Luke 20:22-26; John 8:3-11; Acts 6:1-5; Acts 15:28; Acts 27:23-24.
The Word of Wisdom is promised to all Christ’s disciples in a time of need (Luke 21:14,15).
DISCERNING OF SPIRITS (I Cor 12:10)
Discerning of Spirits is the third of the revelation gifts; the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge are the other two.
It is a divine gift imparted by the Holy Spirit so we can penetrate the spiritual realm to distinguish between the spirit of Satan (evil spirits), the Spirit of God, and the human spirit.
A. The Function Of The Gift
The gift of Discerning of Spirits gives one a supernatural understanding of the nature and activity of spirits.
Sometimes it is easy to confuse the works of the spirit of Satan with those of the Spirit of God. Satan always tries to counterfeit the works of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 11:14).
Satan is known as the deceiver, the father of lies, and the serpent. All these titles signify the subtle, crafty deceptiveness that he uses to bring about evil whenever he can.
In the account of the girl with the spirit of divination in Acts 16, Paul challenged the spirit that might easily have deceived other servants of God. The girl gave a perfectly true statement when she said, “These men are servants of the most high God who show to you the way of salvation,” but the spirit speaking was an evil spirit.
B. The Operation And Need For The Gift Today
The gift of Discerning of Spirits is absolutely essential if the Church is going to accomplish her full mission and destroy the works of the devil.
There are as many demons in the world today as there were when Jesus walked the earth and in the days of the early Church. Their purpose is as avowedly evil. This supernatural gift is especially necessary for missionaries and workers in heathen lands where Spiritism, Satanism and occultism abound.
C. How The Gift Of Discerning Of Spirits Operates
The first and most obvious function of this gift is to reveal the presence of evil spirits in the life of people or churches.
However, it also functions to evaluate the source of a prophetic message, a particular teaching, or some supernatural manifestation. The person functioning with this gift will be able to tell whether the source of the message or act is demonic, divine, or merely human.
D. Discerning Of Spirits Must Work With Other Gifts
Although the gift of Discerning of Spirits is essential for effective deliverance, it is not sufficient by itself. It must work in concert with the gifts of Faith and Working of Miracles. Those who function with those gifts usually have the greatest success in casting out demons.
THE GIFTS OF ABILITY
- THE GIFT OF FAITH (l Cor 12:9)
Since faith deals with the future and the unseen -things not physically experienced –the Gift of Faith is the special endowment given lo someone called upon to exercise an extraordinary capacity of trust.
God supernaturally empties him of any doubt, and fills him with special faith. This enables him to accomplish God’s purpose despite every contrary and contradictory circumstance of life.
General faith grows from the original seed of saving faith, which God has planted in our hearts (see Romans 1:17). The degree of general faith varies with stage of development of the believer (“little faith,” “great faith,”etc.).
General faith grows as a result of feeding on the Word, being exercised through the circumstances of life ,and the like.
However, the Gift of Faith has superior function to even the highest degree of general faith.
Some translators refer to the Gift of Faith as “special faith”. This indicates a faith bestowed by the Holy Spirit to meet our need in special and extenuating circumstances.
This suggests further that the Gift of Faith is not permanently resident in any believer, but rather that each manifestation is a separate Gift of Faith.
An episode in Elijah’s life illustrates this, when he declares to King Ahab that there will be no rain until he speaks the word and then it will rain again at his word (l Kings 17:1). His Gift of Faith produced the miraculous fulfillment of that prophecy.
In contrast, this extraordinary faith was lacking when Elijah sat under: the juniper tree, fearful, discouraged and wanting to die, because it was not needed a t that time (1 Kings 19:4). He had not lost his faith in God or His Word.
God wants you to know that you can go forth confidently, knowing that when special demands are made upon you, He will supernaturally give you special faith to enable you to fulfill His purposes.
How Does The Gift Of Faith Work?
Daniel’s protect ion from the lions (a passive instance of the Gift of Faith) seems to contrast with Samson’s slaying the lion, which is an example of man’s active involvement in the manifestation of the power of God (this would be an example of the Working of Miracles).
This impression that the Gift of Faith functions passively is because it often works in cooperation with more dramatic gifts (e.g. the Working of Miracles, the Gifts of Healings, etc.).
The Gift of Faith also operates through the speaking of word s of faith – “I believed , therefore have I spoken” (2 Cor 4: 13) – whereby those words a man of God speaks when inspired by the Spirit are backed by God as His own word.
This gift can function in many ways (e.g., for blessing, for cursing, for creating, for destroying, etc.).
There are some notable examples of the Gift of Faith working through the spoken word in Joshua 10:12-14; 1 Kings 17:1; and Acts 13:11.
The Scriptures teach the principle of the word of faith:
Mark 11:22, 23: “he shall have whatever he says” in relation to the injunction, “have faith in God”.
Important Note: We CANNOT, by speaking a word, cause God to do something for us UNLESS:
a) it is God’s will for it to happen, and
b) God has enabled us, through the Gift of Faith, to speak a word of faith in order to make it happen.
If it is not God’s will for it to happen -no matter how we may feel -it will not happen. “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass when the Lord has not commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed?” (Lam 3:37, 38).
GIFTS OF HEALINGS (1 Cor 12:9)
In 1 Corinthians 12:9,28,30, the original reading is charismata iamaton. Both words are plural, making the correct translation of this phrase, “gifts of healings“.
Gifts of healings operate supernaturally to heal diseases and infirmities without natural means of any sort. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that comes upon a person’s body, dissolving their disease, driving out their pains to heal them.
The use of the plural nouns here emphasizes the abundance of God’s healing gifts to afflicted mankind. It may also emphasize that Jesus’ healing will deliver from every sickness, weakness, plague, deformity and affliction. It also implies that there are a great variety of manifestations of this gift (l Cor 12:4-7).
The exercise of the Gifts of Healings does not give the gifted an ability to heal all the sick all the time.
Some have misunderstood this, and have asked why we do not go into hospitals and the like and raise up all that are sick. Even Jesus did not do this: He only went to what may correspond to a modem hospital once -when He went to the pool of Bethesda, where there were multitudes of sick people. Even then, He chose only one from all of them and healed him.
Many times we read of great crowds of sick folk who came to Jesus, and we are told He “healed them all”. An important principle of divine healing is that the person must come to Jesus as an exercise of faith and cooperation.
The Purpose Of Gifts Of Healings
A. To deliver the sick and suffering and to destroy the works of the devil in human bodies (1 John 3:8, Acts 10:38, and Luke 13:16).
B. To prove Christ’s claim to be the Son of God (John 10:36-38).
C. To confirm the Word (Mark 16:17-20).
D. To attract people to the sound of the Gospel (Matt 4:23, 25).
E. To bring glory to God (Mark 2:12; Luke 13:13; 18:43; John 9:2, 3).
Like all other gilts, the Gifts of Healings not only have to be given, but also must be received. Just as there is a principle of faith in regard to how to minister these gifts, there is also a principle that deals with how to receive them.
Hezekiah had difficulty receiving the gift of healing which God sent him. His faith had to be built up in a special way by the miracle recorded in 2 Kings 20:8-11.
Healing often requires a double act of faith: faith to receive and faith to administer the gift of healing.
God’s desire to heal is very abundant. Nevertheless, every sick person does not get healed immediately when they are prayed for; and sometimes a person doesn’t get healed at all in this lifetime.
Sometimes God communicates gifts of healings through the normal healing channels; at other times through extraordinary means, according to His will (e.g., Peter’s shadow, Acts 5:15, 16).
WORKING OF MIRACLES (l Cor 12:10)
The gift of the Working of Miracles comes when God endues us with power by the Holy Spirit to do something completely outside of the range of human ability. He gives it to us at a specific time for a special purpose.
All the gifts of the Spirit are miraculous, but the use of the word “miracle” in this instance refers to acts of power.
MIRACLES GIVE UNDENIABLE PROOF OF THE RESURRECTION
If Jesus were not alive, His name would have no power to heal the sick and work miracles (Acts 4:33). Peter convinced the unbelieving Jews of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and their need of repentance on the strength of the fact that Jesus’ name still had power to heal the sick and work miracles.
The Working of Miracles:
A. Gave boldness to the believers to preach Christ (Acts 4:29, 30).
B. Made believers hungry to have more of God (Acts 4:31, 32).
C. Convinced and convicted men of the undeniable power of God (Acts 4:13-16; 5:28-33).
D. Five thousand were converted in one day through observing a miracle of healing and hearing the preaching of God’s Word (Acts 4:4; see also 5:12-14). ·
E. All the people glorified God for what was done (Acts 4:21).
F. It caused the Gospel to spread quickly (Acts 5:14-16).
Before Jesus started to work miracles, no crowds gathered to Him. He must have preached of ten in the synagogue, for Luke 4 says it was His custom.
But when the miracles in Luke 4:33-37 took place, “the report about Him went out into every place in tile surrounding region“. From then on, the multitudes pressed in upon Him to hear His words and to see His miracles. “A great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased” (John 6:2).
Everywhere the disciples preached, healed the sick, cast out demons and worked miracles, multitudes turned to Christ. You can read about some of these accounts in Acts 5:12-16; 8:6; 9:34,35; 9:40-42; 14:8-18; 28:8,9.
The Working of Miracles is the enabling of the Holy Spirit, giving the believer the ability to work a miracle, in contrast to God working miracles in the life of a believer. Thus many who have never received the gift of working miracles have often experienced astounding miracles that God has wrought on their behalf.
A. Miracles of deliverance, such as Peter’s in Acts 5:17-20 and again in Acts 12:1-10. Also Paul and Silas in Acts 16:15-30.
B. Miracles of transportation (Acts 8:39). “The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more.”
These, and many other instances, are miracles performed by God in the lives of believers, sometimes even without the cooperation of the believer. These are not, therefore, instances where the gift of Working of Miracles was operating. In contrast now are three where this gift was in operation:
- Acts 19:11: “And God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul.”
- Acts 9:36-40: Peter raised Dorcas from the dead.
- Acts 20:9-12: Paul restored Eutychus to life.
Practical Operation Of The Gift
The operation of the Gift of Miracles requires:
A. The anointing of the Holy Spirit to create special confidence and authority.
B. A spoken word of faith and authority. Elijah said that the God who answered by fire should be Israel’s Lord. The fire that came down was an example of the Working of Miracles.
C. A bold act of faith, stepping out in obedience to the Spirit’s leading.
Editor’s Note on 1 Corinthians 12:31 a:
At the very end of the passage, Paul gives a key exhortation to approaching the gifts in a balanced and correct manner. The text reads: “But earnestly desire the best gifts.”
The phrase used here seems to contradict Paul’s earlier statements about the gifts using the analogy of the body (vs. 12-27). In those verses, he forcefully states that no single part of the body is more important than any other part. As each part of the human body plays its part properly, the whole body functions quite well.
The same is true of all the gifts. No one gift should be over-emphasized, over-used, or over-valued in a local church.
Why, then, would Paul seem to imply that there were “best gifts” to be desired?
The Right Gift For The Right Time
A good way to interpret the sentence in 1 Corinthians 12:31 a is: “But covet earnestly the most best gift [fitted for] the right [appropriate) moment of ministry.”
In other words, our desire should not be to simply want God to give us a certain gift to use over and over. Rather, our earnest desire should be simply that God would use us, giving us the correct gift for that particular moment of ministry need!
Prophetic words are wonderful and inspiring; but if someone needs a miraculous healing in his body, a prophecy will not help him! This is a simple illustration, yet it shows how we need multiple gifts for multiple needs. It also demonstrates that we should be open to HOWEVER God wants to use us.
We should not try to predetermine in what way God will use us; only desire that He will use us.
This requires us to be spiritually prepared at all times, but especially in church meetings. It also means that we must be yielded and submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit and willing to step out in bold faith as He guides us.
If that is your heart, be prepared- through prayer and the study of the Bible -for God will use you!