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1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14

Spiritual Gifts

by Dr. Chuck Missler


The Spiritual Gifts are among the richest blessings for Believers, and yet also remain among the most divisive topics within the Christian community. 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 reveal more about the work of the Holy Spirit than do any other passages in the Word of God. Our challenge will be to blindfold our prejudices and carefully examine what the Word tells us.

The Holy Spirit is a person, repeatedly referred to as “He.” He is clearly a member of the Trinity and every major event in the Bible is specifically ascribed to each member of the Elohim as is highlighted in Table 1.

Works of Elohim

Father

Son

Holy Spirit

Atonement

Isa 53:6,10

Eph 5:2

Heb 9:14

Death of Christ

Psa 22:15; Rom 8:32; John 3:16

John 10:18; Gal 2:20

Heb 9:14

Resurrection of Christ

Acts 2:24; Rom 6:4

John 10:17,18;
John 2:19

1 Pet 3:18;
Rom 8:11

Creation of the Universe

Ps 102:25

Col 1:16; John 1:1-3

Gen 1:2; Job 26:13

Creation of Man

Gen 2:7

Col 1:16

Job 33:4

Incarnation

Heb 10:5

Phil 2:7

Luke 1:35

The Indwelling Presence

Eph 4:6

Col 1:27

1 Co 6:19

The Work of Sanctification

Jude 1:1

Heb 2:11

1 Cor 6:11

Believer’s Safekeeping

John 10:29

John 10:28; Rom 8:34

Eph 4:30

Resurrection of All Mankind

John 5:21

John 5:21

Rom 8:11

Inspiration of the Scriptures

2 Tim 3:16

1 Pet 1:10,11

2 Pet 1:21

Minister’s Authority

2 Cor 3:5-6

1 Tim 1:12

Acts 20:28

Table 1: Works of Elohim

Notice the Individual Distinctives of each member of the Trinity:

  • Equal in nature
  • Separate in person
  • Subservient in duties

The Holy Spirit even enjoys special protection.[1] (Yet, He never speaks of Himself;[2] and He is always represented as an “unnamed servant.”[3])

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

  • Beginning with creation;[4] He is the source of knowledge;[5] He has a mind;[6] He has a will;[7] He loves us;[8] He was given a special assignment during our Lord’s absence;[9] and He abides with us forever.[10]
  • Three Greek prepositions are used to describe our relationship with the Holy Spirit:
  • Para, “with”: The Holy Spirit works with us to convict us of sin and lead us to Jesus Christ.
  • En, “in”: Once we’ve accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells in us;[11]
  • Epi, “upon you”: There are some events where the Holy Spirit comes upon us.[12]

But is there something more?

Indeed, He even gives us special “gifts.” I do not believe that any of the “lists” of gifts are intended to be complete, only representative. No one should boast of having received a greater gift. No servant is greater than his master.[13] Notice this list: Wisdom is first; tongues last. (!)

  • Wisdom (sophia): Divine wisdom, contrasted with human wisdom;[14] is one of the “Seven Spirits” of Isa 11:1,2; fulfilled in Christ;[15] given to Steven,[16] and available to us all.[17]
  • Knowledge (gnosis): This depends, not on intellect, but on love; an intimate personal relationship. (Contrast Peter’s rhetorical performance prior to Pentecost with his two sermons after)![18]
  • Faith: Not simply “saving faith,” but an unshakable trust that God will perform miracles. As Peter and John in opposing the Sanhedrin, preaching the gospel, healing the cripple;[19] Paul’s call to Rome,[20] his behavior during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea.[21] Even Elijah was “a man like us.”[22]
  • Healing: Not a permanent gift, but a sovereign manifestation of the Spirit.[23] Even Paul’s own “thorn in the flesh” went unhealed.[24] Furthermore, he indirectly admits that he lacked the ability to heal either Epaphroditus,[25] Timothy,[26] or Trophimus.[27] Yet, we should not cease asking.[28]
  • Miracles: Miracles were the distinctive mark of an apostle.[29] They were used to confirm the message of the gospel.[30] More miracles took place during Jesus’ ministry, than at any other time in Biblical history. The supreme one being the resurrection, which is the subject of Chapter 15.
  • Prophecy: “Forthtelling,” a key element at Corinth (as seen in Chapter 11), sometimes predictions (Agabus,[31]) or to interpret God’s Will to the church.[32] Prophetic utterances are always to be judged by Scripture.[33] God’s Word is always the standard.
  • Discerning of the Spirits: Satan, often as an Angel of Light,[34] communicates false information and deceit, as with Eve.[35] The prophet Micah revealed to the kings of Israel and Judah that a lying spirit spoke through the mouths of all the prophets of Israel.[36] Jesus discerned the voice of Satan in Peter;[37] Paul recognized Bar-Jesus as the son of the devil,[38] and the fortune-telling of the slave girl.[39] John instructed us to test the spirits.[40] In the end times, Satan and his cohorts will work miracles.[41] There will be false teachers also.[42]
  • Tongues: It seems that the church at Corinth had become extremely preoccupied with the gift of tongues. The exercise of this gift also generated so many problems that an entire chapter (14) is devoted to them.

The Gift of Tongues in the NT

At Pentecost;[43] when the Lord Jesus was saying farewell to His disciples, He said, “these signs shall follow them that believe…they shall speak with new tongues.”[44] Following Peter’s address in the house of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit fell upon those assembled there and they spoke with tongues.[45] When Paul came to Ephesus he found a few believers who were unrecognizable as Christians. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit and they said they had never heard of it. They then received the Holy Spirit and we are told that they spoke with tongues.[46] Speaking in unknown tongues often accompanies the epi relationship.[47]

The Key Admonition:

“…dividing to every man severally as He will.”

1 Corinthians 12:11 KJV

No one received all the gifts and no one is without a gift. The Spirit neglects no one and all is the result of His divine prerogative. We each can have all of the “graces” but we cannot have all of the “gifts.”48

Are the Spiritual Gifts for today?

Throughout this passage, Paul speaks in the present passive indicative (“is being given”) to convey that God continues to give these special gifts to His people.

  1. The Holy Spirit is immutable: He changes not.
  2. Where does it say they are to terminate? In Jesus’ Upper Room confirmations, He makes no mention of their termination.
  3. Peter’s Declaration is definitive: “This is that which was spoken of by Joel”[48]—for the last days (which began at Pentecost) and this doesn’t end until the last days!!!

There are some that maintain that these gifts only continued until the “canon” was complete (leaning on 1 Corinthians 13:10, “when that which is perfect is come” or complete); however, no doctrine can be based on the “completion of the canon” due to the omission of the seven thunders in Revelation 10:4, as well as other considerations.

Paul gives us three directives:

  1. First, pursue love (in many ways this concludes in Chapter 13). The fruit of the Spirit, love,[49] is more important than gifts. (I believe we do better as “fruit inspectors” rather than “gift inspectors.”)
  2. Second, desire (“strive eagerly”) for the spiritual gifts; God’s sovereignty does not cancel man’s responsibility. It’s interesting that there appears to be a commitment on our part. We must ask.[50] (Paul uses the word “pursue” eight times in his letters.[51] The verb requires intensity and determination.)
  3. Third, especially that you prophesy. Prophecy is preferred, repeatedly.[52]

Desire the greater (higher) gifts. (Chapter 14 will relegate tongues to the last on the list; extolling prophesying—forthtelling the gospel.)

Yet Paul will show us “a more excellent way”: Chapter 13. Love is not a “spiritual gift” but rather a complete way of life.[53]

[A challenge: Substitute “Jesus” in the places where Agapè appears; it fits beautifully. Then substitute your own name: it will highlight a profound “shortfall…” Pray about it.]


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