12:4-6 Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us.NLT The answers that Paul has given to the Corinthians’ questions thus far in this letter have focused on unity among believers, order in the church, and exaltation of Jesus Christ. So with the concern about spiritual gifts, Paul was concerned that the Corinthians’ focus on any particular gift, such as “tongues,” or ecstatic speech, would tear them apart. While the specific question is unknown, Paul clearly wanted the believers to understand that tongues had their place but should not be sought by everyone. In the broad context of spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues was just one gift. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts . . . different kinds of service in the church . . . different ways God works in our lives. God’s people receive many kinds of gifts, and no one gift is better than another. This may also have been a problem in Corinth—some believers may have been belittling some gifts. This chapter explains that all the gifts come from one source and are to be used for one purpose. The one source is the Trinity—God the Father, the Lord Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The one purpose is the building up of the body of Christ—which happens as the gifts are used to their fullest potential, as the people serve the Lord and one another, and as God works through his people.
These gifts are just that—gifts. They are not earned. They are not given to believers asking for a specific one. They are not chosen by people. God alone administers the gifts among his people. God, not believers, controls the gifts. Each believer, then, is responsible to seek God’s guidance in discovering his or her particular gift(s) and then discovering how best to use them for God’s purposes.
|LIFE APPLICATION – SPECIALIZATION|
|God is completely involved in the giving, using, and empowering of gifts. Specific gifts, places of service, and activities vary, but they all have their best effects when they build up the body of Christ—the church. God creates a unique place in the body for every believer. Gifts and ministries may overlap, but each believer has a specialized, God-designed role. Part of the exciting adventure of following Christ involves discovering one’s service contribution and then making it available to God. Make serving God and his people your motive as you utilize your gifts.|
12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.NLT Every believer has at least one spiritual gift—a spiritual gift is given to each of us. The gifts are not to cause division among the believers, jealously regarding who received a particular gift when another person desired it, or rivalry over the use of similar gifts. Instead, God graciously gives spiritual gifts as a means of helping the entire church. Spiritual gifts are not for private use or as a badge to be worn proudly; instead, they are to be used publicly to build up the church. Some gifts help those in the church to grow closer to Christ. Other gifts bring outsiders into the church. Others help to encourage those in the church who are carrying burdens. All these gifts are needed, for different needs require different kinds of service.
What Paul stressed was the manifestation of the Spirit, the great variety and diversity of the gifts of the triune God (12:4-6), and the importance of using the gifts to help others.
12:8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom.NIV To illustrate that there are a wide variety of gifts from the Holy Spirit, Paul gave a list. This list was not meant to be exhaustive; it merely illustrates many of the different kinds of spiritual gifts. The Spirit gives many gifts; the Bible contains no definitive list of all the gifts.
To one person, explained Paul, the Spirit gives the message of wisdom. The problem of wisdom (human versus divine) was a hot topic in Corinth. At the beginning of this letter (1:17–2:16), Paul spent several paragraphs explaining the difference between God’s wisdom and human “wisdom.”
All believers are given wisdom from the Spirit (2:15-16), but some are given the ability to give the “message of wisdom.” This may refer to the promise of Christ (see Luke 21:15) that the Spirit would give special wisdom to those facing adversaries and persecution. Based on Paul’s argument in chapter 1, it most likely refers to recognizing Christ crucified as the basis of God’s true wisdom, and proclaiming Christ in this way. That this particular gift does not occur on any of the other lists of gifts has led some scholars to think that this gift was especially important (and more prominent) for the believers in the Greek city of Corinth, where the issue of “wisdom” was causing much discussion.
|LIFE APPLICATION – GIFT LIST|
|Like other lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament (see 12:27-31; 14; Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:11-13), it appears that Paul meant this list to be suggestive rather than exhaustive. The list provides us with a starting point. We must recognize, however, that God’s purpose in giving gifts has little to do with self-esteem. We cannot ask for gifts in order to feel more powerful, important, or significant (James 4:3). When we make it our goal to be available to God and to seek to serve others for Christ’s sake, our spiritual gifts will come to the surface. We may need the insight of others to recognize our specific gifts. Consider these steps:|
|1. Ask God to increase your usefulness.|
|2. Seek opportunities of service.|
|3. Observe how other believers serve.|
|4. Ask those you’ve served and those who serve with you to help you discern your spiritual strengths.|
|5. Practice those gifts even more.|
To another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit.NIV Another person might be given the message of knowledge. As with “wisdom,” the Corinthians also believed they had special “knowledge.” People may think they have all kinds of wisdom and knowledge, which leads to pride, but true wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ alone. But to some people the same Spirit gives extraordinary knowledge. This could mean a special knowledge of spiritual realities (see 13:2, 8-12; 14:6) or knowledge given to teachers who are training others in Christian truth.
12:9 The Spirit gives special faith to another.NLT All Christians have faith because the faith that brings a person to salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Ephesians 2:8 nlt; see also Galatians 5:22; 1 Timothy 4:12-14). Some people, however, have the spiritual gift of faith, which is an unusual measure of trust in the Holy Spirit’s power. In 13:2, Paul describes this gift further: “If I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move . . .” (nlt). This kind of faith is a supernatural trust in God’s miraculous power for specific situations. While the next two gifts, healing and doing miracles, are listed separately, this gift of faith is surely connected to the ability to do such acts through the Holy Spirit. This gift of faith could also be manifested in believers’ willingness to face persecution and martyrdom without renouncing what they believed.
To another gifts of healing by that one Spirit.NIV The next two gifts (healing and miracles) are visual manifestations of the Spirit. The gifts of healing had been manifested through Peter, Paul, and the other apostles (see, for example, Acts 3:6-8; 5:15-16; 9:33-34; 14:8-10). The gift of healing is given, not to the person healed, but to the person who does the healing. Some people want to say they have received the gift of healing for an illness they have, but the gifts are given to be used to benefit others.
12:10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles.NLT As with the gifts of healing (12:9), the Spirit will give to some an extraordinary power to perform miracles. While performing a healing would be considered a miracle, the inclusion of this gift separately from healings refers to other miraculous manifestations of the Spirit (see Galatians 3:5).
And to another the ability to prophesy.NLT The rest of the gifts mentioned in this passage focus on verbal manifestations of the Spirit. To some people, the Spirit gives a special ability to prophesy. “Prophesy” does not just refer to predicting the future; it can also mean giving a message received from God to the community of believers: “One who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them” (14:3 nlt). The prophet Joel had written the words of the Lord, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28 nlt). As with the gift of faith, the ability to share one’s faith with power is available to everyone (see 14:1-5), but to some the Spirit gives a special measure of this gift. Paul wrote in Romans, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you” (Romans 12:6 nlt). Some have interpreted “prophecy” to be fulfilled in various sermons throughout church history. Others, however, say that prophecy is not always a sermon, but a spontaneous, Spirit-inspired message that is orally delivered for the edification and encouragement of the body of Christ.
He gives someone else the ability to know whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking.NLT Because there are many false teachers who claim to “prophesy” for God, some in the church are given the ability to know whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking. While some believers have a special gift to discern what is really from God’s Spirit and what is not, all believers are expected to have discernment: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 niv; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). But since the gift mentioned here is also described in 14:29 (“Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said”; nlt), this kind of spiritual discernment pertains specifically to oracular manifestations in Christian meetings. Paul’s mention of this shows his concern for the protection of the truth in the worship service. Those given the gift of special discernment can help separate truth from error.
Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, and another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.NLT Opinions differ over exactly what Paul meant by unknown languages. Some believe that this refers to earthly languages that a person did not know before (the same as the gift described in Acts 2:4, 7-8). Other scholars say that this refers to an “ecstatic” language, a “heavenly” language. Most likely the second view is correct. Probably the only time that the word “tongues” refers to other earthly languages is when describing Pentecost (Acts 2:4, 7-8). The rest of the time in the New Testament, the word refers to ecstatic languages unknown to anyone—”tongues of angels” (13:1). Speaking in tongues is a legitimate gift of the Spirit. The exercise of the gift demands some guidelines (as noted in chapter 14) so that the purpose of the gift—to help the body of Christ—is not lost. Those who speak in tongues should follow the guidelines; those who do not speak in tongues ought not seek the gift as a sign of salvation or as a sign of special closeness with God, for it is neither. It is a gift of God, given only to whomever God chooses. If a person has not experienced the gift of tongues, he or she ought not seek it but seek what gifts God has given.
12:11 It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.NLT This verse repeats the point made in 12:1, 4-6—that the source of all the gifts is the one and only Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts (again emphasizing the diversity), but they are to be used for God’s divine purpose. Because the Holy Spirit alone decides which gift each person should have, there is no place for rivalry, jealousy, or pride among believers regarding their gifts. God, through his Spirit, gives to every person in the community of believers exactly the right gifts for him or her to provide the needed services for the church and for God’s kingdom.
Whatever the practice of different churches, believers must realize that the Holy Spirit does not submit to any view of methodology. He cannot be limited or confined to cultural or contemporary views of propriety. All believers need to be open to God’s gracious power in their lives and in their worship.
|LIFE APPLICATION – THE GIFT GIVER|
|No matter what gift(s) a person has, all spiritual gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit decides which gifts each believer should have. We are responsible to use and sharpen our gifts, but we can take no credit for what God has freely given us.|
|Note that discussions about spiritual gifts usually create difficulties when two central points are overlooked: (1) Properly used, spiritual gifts are not self-serving but serve the whole body of Christ (cf. verse 7); (2) each gift becomes practically useless when used without love (as Paul will make clear in chapter 13). As we seek to identify and utilize the gifts, let us make the love of God and the love of fellow Christians our highest motives.|
Source: Life Application Bible Commentary