MBS071 THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
According as each has received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.1 Peter 4:10
This manuscript on “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” builds upon Radio Manuscript 66, “The Ministries of the Holy Spirit,” therefore, that manuscript should be read first.
I. THE GREEK WORDS
The Greek word for spiritual gift is charismata, which literally means “a gift of grace” or “grace gift.” The root word is “grace,” meaning that the gift is undeserved; a spiritual gift cannot be earned. The power and operation of a spiritual gift is due to God alone. The word charismata is used almost exclusively by Paul. 1 Peter 4:10 is the only place outside of Paul’s writings where this word is found.
The word charismata is used in twelve New Testament passages; eleven written by Paul and one written by Peter. The first passage is Romans 1:11, where Paul expressed his desire to go to Rome so he could share or use his spiritual gift with them. Secondly, in Romans 5:15–16, charismata is used in reference to the gift of justification, because that, too, is a grace gift; in this case, however, it has more to do with the position of salvation than with a spiritual gift to be used. The third passage is Romans 6:23, which speaks of the gift of eternal life as being a charismata or a grace gift. This, too, deals with the position of salvation. Fourthly, in Romans 11:29, the gifts of God are without repentance. If God gives a gift as well as a calling, He does not take the gift or the calling away. In the case of Israel, they received the calling to be the chosen people. Even in their unbelief, that status has never changed. Even so, since believers have been given spiritual gifts, those spiritual gifts are never taken away. The fifth passage, Romans 12:6 states that there is a variety of different gifts. The sixth passage is 1 Corinthians 1:7, where Paul expressed his desire that the Corinthian church not fall behind in any spiritual gift, but have all the gifts. Seventh, 1 Corinthians 7:7 deals with the use of spiritual gifts. The eighth passage is 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30–31, which also deals with the use of spiritual gifts. Ninth, 2 Corinthians 1:11 also concerns the believer’s use of spiritual gifts. Tenth is 1 Timothy 4:14, where Paul encourages the believer to use his spiritual gift. The same point is made in the eleventh passage, 2 Timothy 1:6. The twelfth passage is 1 Peter 4:10, which teaches that all believers have spiritual gifts.
B. Other Greek Words
The word charismata should be distinguished from two other Greek words.
The first word is pneumatikos, which means “the things of the Spirit.” The emphasis of this word is to point out the source and realm of spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit. This word is also used of spiritual gifts.
The second Greek word is doron, which also means “gift.” The doron is a gift in the sense of a present, like that given at a birthday or anniversary. This word has no reference to spiritual gifts, so this study will not be concerned with those passages that use the word doron, but only those where the Greek New Testament uses the words charismata, grace gift, or pneumatikos, things of the Spirit.
By way of definition, a spiritual gift is “a God-given ability for service.” Spiritual gifts are given to believers, and those who are given these spiritual gifts become gifted people. Spiritual gifts, then, are supernatural abilities possessed by individuals, and gifted people are sovereignly placed by God in the Church for the purpose of ministering to the Body.
A. Attributes of Spiritual Gifts
Spiritual gifts have six attributes or characteristics.
1. Sovereignly Bestowed
First, they are sovereignly bestowed (1 Cor. 12:11). God decides who gets which gift. No matter how much one may personally pray for a specific gift, it will not be given based on that. As shall be seen in the course of this study, these gifts are sovereignly bestowed.
2. Given at the Moment of Salvation
Secondly, spiritual gifts are given at the time of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). They are not given at some time subsequent to salvation. The moment one believes and is baptized by the Spirit into the Body of the Messiah, the believer receives his spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12).
3. Given to Every Believer
The third attribute is that every believer has at least one gift. There is no such thing as a believer with no spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11, 27).
4. Differ in Value
Fourthly, spiritual gifts differ in value; there is an order of importance in the gifts (1 Cor. 12:28).
5. Used in Love
The fifth attribute is that these spiritual gifts are to be used in love. Between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, which discuss the details concerning spiritual gifts, is chapter 13, the chapter on love, which emphasizes that these gifts are to be used in love.
6. Distributed in a Specific Order
The sixth attribute is that spiritual gifts follow a specific order of distribution. First, the Messiah is the ultimate source of these gifts. Secondly, the agent is the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, the extent of gift-giving is that each believer has at least one gift.
B. What Spiritual Gifts are Not
In light of the attributes just mentioned, five things should be noted that a spiritual gift is not.
1. Not a Place
First, it is not a place of service; there is no spiritual gift for serving in Africa, Asia, this place or that place. A spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service and can be used anywhere.
2. Not an Office
Secondly, a spiritual gift is not an office, though offices should be filled by spiritually gifted men. The gift of pastor is not the same as the office of a pastor. While every pastor should have the gift of pastoring, not everyone who has the gift of pastor needs to have the office of pastor. For example, according to Scripture, a woman cannot have the office of pastor, but she can have the gift of pastoring. A good place for a woman to use this gift would be in the position of Dean of Women at a Christian college. A spiritual gift is usable apart from the office.
3. Not a Talent
Thirdly, a spiritual gift is not a talent. Talents are innate to all kinds of people both believers and unbelievers, but spiritual gifts are limited to believers only.
4. Not an Age-Group Ministry
Fourthly, it is not a particular age-group ministry. There is no gift for “young people’s work” any more than there is a gift for “old people’s work.” A spiritual gift is simply a God-given ability for service and should be usable with every age level.
5. Not an Indication of Spirituality
Fifth, spiritual gifts are not indications of spirituality. The possession of a spiritual gift is something God grants at the moment of salvation. Spiritual or non-spiritual, carnal believers can have spiritual gifts, and they can use the gift correctly or incorrectly. Hence, rules were laid down as to the proper use of spiritual gifts. The Corinthian church was the most active in the use of spiritual gifts; however, it was also the worst church in the New Testament record.
III. MAIN BIBLE PASSAGES
There are five main passages, which deal with spiritual gifts.
A. 1 Peter 4:10
The first passage teaches three things about spiritual gifts.
according as each has received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1. At Least One Gift for Every Believer
First, every believer has at least one gift. In this sense, every believer is truly “charismatic.” The Greek word for spiritual gift is charismata, from which the word “charismatic” comes. The biblical use of the term charismatic simply meant that one had a spiritual gift, but not necessarily a particular one. It is unfortunate that this word has been overused to describe a specific movement emphasizing one particular gift, the gift of speaking in tongues. But the truth is that every believer has a spiritual gift. For this reason, every believer is charismatic whether or not he speaks in tongues. There is no such thing as a believer with no gift. Every believer, at the moment of salvation, is given at least one spiritual gift. It is a charismatic gift and therefore, in the biblical sense, he is a true charismatic: he is gifted.
2. To Be Ministered Among the Body
Secondly, the believer must minister these gifts among the Body. As will be brought out later, the purpose of spiritual gifts is for building up the Body. Believers have the responsibility of ministering the gifts among believers.
3. A Stewardship
Thirdly, a spiritual gift is a stewardship that God has given to the believer by His grace; therefore, the believer has the responsibility of using it wisely.
B. Romans 12:4–8
The second passage can be divided into two sections.
1. The Body Doctrine—Romans 12:4–5
For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.
The emphasis of these verses is on the Body Doctrine in three facets: unity, diversity, and harmony. First, Paul writes that believers are many members of one single body. Secondly, while believers may all be members of the same Body, believers do not all have the same function. The various spiritual gifts have different functions. Believers are all in one body and, therefore, there is unity. But believers do not all have the same gifts or number of gifts, so there is diversity. However, this diversity should not lead to division, but to harmony. This is the Body Doctrine: unity, diversity, and harmony. Believers are one: unity. Believers have different gifts: diversity. Believers should use them to minister to one another in love: harmony.
2. The Gifts of the Spirit—Romans 12:6–8
In the second section, Paul enumerates some of the specific gifts themselves. Altogether, Paul lists seven of the gifts in this passage.
And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teaches, to his teaching; or he that exhorts, to his exhorting: he that gives, let him do it with liberality; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
In verse 6, he begins by stating the principle that believers have different gifts according to the grace that was given [to the believer]. One believer will never have all the gifts. On the other hand, no one gift will be given to every believer. Rather, God has ordained that believers have different gifts. Believers differ in the number and kinds of gifts they have, but no one believer will ever have all the gifts, and no one specific gift is available to every believer.
a. Gift Number One: The Gift of Prophecy
First is the gift of prophecy. The gift of prophecy was the ability to receive direct revelation. A prophet was one who received direct revelation from God. There are several examples of this in the New Testament: prophets in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1); Agabus (Acts 11:27–28; 21:10–11); and the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8–9). As in the Old Testament, a prophet needed to be tested by giving some near prophecies, which came to pass. The prophecies of Agabus and Philip’s daughters did come to pass, so they were proven to have the gift of prophecy.
b. Gift Number Two: The Gift of Service
Second is the gift of ministry or service. Serving is a specific spiritual gift. Since the office of a deacon is an office of serving, one who holds the office of a deacon should have the gift of serving.
c. Gift Number Three: The Gift of Teaching
Third is the gift of teaching, which is the ability to organize the truth and present it in a clear manner so the audience understands. It is the ability to communicate spiritual truth.
d. Gift Number Four: The Gift of Exhortation
The fourth gift is the gift of exhortation, which is the divine ability to get people to apply the truth. Prophecy is receiving truth by direct revelation; teaching is the ability to organize the truth received and to present it in a clear manner; exhorting is the ability to move people to apply the truth so that they act on it.
e. Gift Number Five: The Gift of Giving
Fifth is the gift of giving. Those who have this gift should do it with liberality. While everyone is responsible to give, those with this gift will be able to give to a far greater degree. Some people who have this gift have given away as much as 90 percent of their income to the work of the ministry.
f. Gift Number Six: The Gift of Administration
Sixth is the gift of ruling or administration. Those who have this gift are to exercise it with diligence. Since the position of elder requires ruling and administering, a person who wishes to have the office of an elder should have the gift of ruling or administration.
g. Gift Number Seven: The Gift of Mercy
Seventh is the gift of showing mercy, a special gift of reaching out and comforting the sick and needy. Those who have this gift are to do it with cheerfulness.
C. Ephesians 4:11–16
The third passage emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit as possessed by individuals, that is, gifted men. It also emphasizes the purpose of the gifts.
1. The Gifts of the Spirit—Ephesians 4:11
In verse 11, Paul begins with the enumeration of the gifts, some of which are the same as those in Romans 12:4–8. The Book of Romans lists a total of seven spiritual gifts. This Ephesians passage adds additional gifts to the list:
And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.
a. Gift Number Eight: The Gift of Apostleship
The first gift mentioned is the gift of apostleship. This was a unique gift, because, in order to receive this gift, one had to meet certain qualifications beyond that of being a believer.
(1) The Qualifications for Apostleship
While all believers were eligible for any other gift, though God alone determined the distribution of the gifts, only certain believers were eligible for the gift of apostleship. There were two groups of apostles.
(a) The First Circle
First was the group of the Twelve Apostles. To qualify for this group, one had to have been a follower of Yeshua (Jesus) from the baptism of John. He was first to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, then to have followed Yeshua, and to have seen the resurrected Messiah and His Ascension. This is seen in the selection of Matthias to replace Judas in Acts 1:22:
beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection.
To be an apostle within the circle of the Twelve, one had to have been a follower of Yeshua from the time of John’s baptism. Paul was not an apostle of the inner Twelve, because he had never undergone John’s baptism.
(b) The Second Circle
But there was a second group of apostles, and the requirement for this group was to have seen the resurrected Messiah. Paul fulfilled this requirement, for he saw the resurrected Messiah on the Damascus Road. On this basis, he defends his apostleship in 1 Corinthians 9:1:
Am I not free? am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
Paul proved his apostolic calling by claiming that he had seen the resurrected Messiah. Paul calls himself an apostle in the first verse of his letters, including Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.
Barnabas was also an apostle of the second circle according to Acts 14:14. James, the half-brother of Yeshua, was an apostle of the second circle. According to 1 Corinthians 15:7, James had seen the resurrected Messiah, and Galatians 1:19 puts him in the category of an apostle. So only those who saw the resurrected Messiah ever qualified for receiving this particular gift. Therefore, this gift was only available to the 500–600 people who saw the resurrected Messiah, and not every one of those received the gift of apostleship.
(2) The Evidence of Apostleship
A second unique aspect of the gift of apostleship was the fact that the gift of apostleship always included the power of miracles. One was qualified to be an apostle only if he had seen the resurrected Messiah, and then the power of his miracles was the evidence of his apostleship. This is the Paul of 2 Corinthians 12:12:
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works.
Paul proved himself to be an apostle in both ways. First, he had seen the resurrected Messiah on the Damascus Road. Secondly, he had the power of an apostle as proven by his many miracles, signs, and wonders.
The same point is made in Hebrews 2:3–4:
how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.
In verse 3, the writer points out that salvation was proclaimed by those who were eyewitnesses of the ministry of Yeshua. These eyewitnesses were the apostles who witnessed His Resurrection and Ascension. They proved their apostolic office by their power of miracles, signs, and wonders (v. 4). Apostles are seen using these powers of miracles in Acts 5:12–16; 16:16–18; and 28:8–9.
b. The Gift of Prophecy
The next gift Paul mentions in this passage is the gift of prophecy. This was discussed earlier as gift number one.
c. Gift Number Nine: The Gift of Evangelism
The third gift listed here is the gift of evangelism. The gift of evangelism is a unique, God-given ability to win people to the Messiah. Some people use the existence of the gift of evangelism as an excuse not to witness, claiming that they do not have the gift of evangelism, so they do not need to witness.
But Paul teaches otherwise in 2 Timothy 4:5. Timothy did not have the gift of evangelism but he had the gift of teaching, so he became a teaching-elder in the church of Ephesus. When Paul wrote, he told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. Although Timothy could not be an evangelist because he did not have the gift of evangelism, he could at least do the work of one, and that was to witness.
Every believer has the responsibility of doing the work of an evangelist; every believer is responsible to witness concerning the truth of the gospel. Those who have the gift of evangelism will be able to enter into this kind of ministry full-time and will have a much higher number of people coming to the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Every believer can and should be leading people to the Lord, though those who do not have the gift will not have the same rate of success as those who do.
d. Gift Number Ten: The Gift of Pastor-Teacher
The fourth gift in this list is the gift of pastor-teacher. Some translations read pastor and teacher, but the word and is not in the Greek text. A proper translation of this should be “pastor-teacher”; it is the gift of pastor-teacher. The gift of teaching was discussed earlier: it is the ability to organize the truth and present it. Not everyone who has the gift of teaching will necessarily have the gift of pastoring. But everyone who has the gift of pastoring will automatically have the gift of teaching, because the two go together.
Pastoring involves shepherding. Shepherding involves guiding the flock, leading the flock, and feeding the flock. The means of feeding the flock is by the Word of God. If someone is guiding, leading, and feeding the flock, he is doing the work of pastoring. But he will only be able to do so by being able to teach the Word of God to the flock.
While not everyone who has the gift of teaching will automatically have the gift of pastoring, everyone who has the gift of pastoring will automatically have the gift of teaching. Therefore, the spiritual gift mentioned here is the gift of pastor-teacher. This is a gift, not an office, though all who hold the office should also have the gift.
2. The Purpose of the Gifts—Ephesians 4:12–14
Paul deals specifically with the purpose of these particular gift:. for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ:
till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error.
a. Building up the Body
In verse 12, he emphasizes the growing process concerning the Body of the Messiah. The gifts are for the perfecting [equipping] of the saints, unto the work of ministering. The definition of a spiritual gift is “a God-given ability for service.” Saints are to serve. In order for saints to be able to serve, these spiritual gifts are given. The spiritual gifts are for the equipping of believers for the work of the ministry. Whether it is full-time, part-time, or as a lay person, all are to do the work of the ministry in the area of serving. The purpose of these spiritual gifts is not for the building up of ourselves necessarily, but for the building up the body of Christ.
b. The Goal of Spiritual Gifts
Verse 13 points to the goal of these spiritual gifts. “How long will the growing process continue?” First, till we all attain unto the unity of the faith; until all believers are united in the one Body; until everyone that is going to enter the Body does so. Paul said in Romans 11:25, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Secondly, until believers attain the knowledge of the Son of God. Believers now only have a dim and partial knowledge. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 13:9 and 12, that there will be a time when believers shall know fully even [as they are] fully known. Thirdly, until maturity is attained. The purpose of the gifts is to help the believer in the growing process. This growing process will continue until the believer reaches maturity, until the Body is complete. Once the Body is complete, it will be removed by the Rapture of the Church. At that point, these gifts will no longer be necessary.
c. The Preventative Purposes of the Gifts
In verse 14, these gifts also have preventative purposes. First, so that the believer will no longer be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. A person is immature if he constantly goes back and forth between this doctrine or that doctrine, or suddenly makes a particular doctrine into a fetish so that is all he can talk about. The gifts are given to mature the believer and give him a well-rounded knowledge; to teach the believer the whole counsel of God so he will not be tossed to and fro [by] every wind of doctrine. A believer must be stabilized in the faith. Only if one is stabilized is he reaching maturity.
The second preventative purpose is to enable the believer to reject false doctrines caused by craftiness and error. Paul used the term wiles, a term that he used in Ephesians 6:11 in reference to deception by Satan. This false doctrine, caused by craftiness and error, comes from the wiles of the devil and emphasizes the satanic counterfeit program. Because a counterfeit program looks like the real program, it would be very easy to deceive a believer if he is not grounded in the Word of God. A person who is not grounded in the Word of God can be caught up in “super spiritual” movements that sound really good and seem to give a great experience. But they are, nevertheless, false.
These spiritual gifts are given to prevent immaturity, instability, and gullibility; and to promote knowledge, discernment, and stability. For these reasons, this passage emphasizes gifted men rather than the spiritual gifts in general. It is men with these particular gifts who are in leadership roles in the local church and in positions to feed the flock in order to stabilize believers.
3. The Means of Maturity—Ephesians 4:15–16
Paul goes on to speak about the means to maturity in verse 15:
but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ.
The means to maturity is “holding the truth” or doctrinal adherence. Doctrine is learned because people with the spiritual gifts of teaching and exhortation are the ones who teach the truth. If a believer holds on to the truth which he has learned from the teachers and has doctrinal adherence, he will grow into maturity. In love refers to holding the truth in right spiritual love. To grow to maturity, one must hold the truth, not as “an axe to grind,” but in spiritual love.
Paul emphasized the building up of the Body by each one using his spiritual gift in verse 16: from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in due measure of each several part, makes the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.
In this verse, the body must be built up by each believer using his spiritual gift or gifts in love. Each member has a gift. With that gift, he has been placed by God in the proper place in the body. In whatever part of the body he may be placed, he is responsible for using his spiritual gift for the purpose of building up the body. Each member, with his gift, is in his proper place and, for that reason, each member is indispensable.
4. Discovering Your Gifts
At this point, it might be wise to discuss something people often ask, “How do I discover my gift?” It is hard, if not impossible; to make use of something which one does not know exists! There are three principles in discovering one’s spiritual gift.
a. Knowing What the Gifts are
The first principle is to know what the spiritual gifts are. Altogether, there are nineteen gifts of the Holy Spirit. So far, ten specific gifts have been discussed. Nine more gifts will be discussed in the following pages. It is important to know what the gifts are, so that one does not seek gifts, which do not exist. A good thing to do is to make a list of the nineteen gifts of the Holy Spirit.
b. Being Actively Involved in a Local Body
A second principle in discovering a spiritual gift is based on the purpose of the gifts: for the building up of the body. The second principle is to be actively involved in a local body. One of the reasons why believers are responsible to become part of a local body and to be in subjection to the spiritual authorities of that body is because it is by means of the local body that believers can discover what their spiritual gifts are. By being involved in a local body, other believers will discern which gift or gifts the individual has and ask him to function in it. In this way, one can discover his spiritual gift.
c. Discovering Other Gifts
The third principle is discovering other gifts in addition to ones, which a believer already knows he has. Frequently, believers have more than one gift. No believer has all the gifts but a believer will often have more than one. The way someone can discover other gifts is by being faithful in using the gifts he knows he has. For example, in Acts 6, Philip was recognized to have the gift of serving and was asked to take the office of a deacon. Because he was faithful in performing the office of a deacon and using his gift of serving, God showed him another gift—the gift of evangelism—and he went to Samaria to evangelize the Samaritans (Acts 8).
5. The End of the Gifts of Apostleship and Prophecy
Of the ten spiritual gifts discussed so far, two were the gifts of apostleship and prophecy. The gift of apostleship was given only to selected people sent by God. In order to be an apostle, one had to have seen the resurrected Messiah and have the power of miracles. The gift of prophecy was the ability to receive direct revelation from God. A prophet could even write Scripture which would be inspired and without error. The Book of Ephesians teaches that these two gifts are no longer available. Paul states two purposes for these gifts.
a. Laying the Foundation of the Church—Ephesians 2:19–22:
So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
According to this passage, the two gifts of apostleship and prophecy in the New Testament were for the purpose of laying the foundation of the Church. The picture is that of Jesus … the chief corner stone. From the cornerstone, two lines of stones were laid for the foundation. One line of stones represents the apostles, and the other line of stones represents the prophets. In this passage, the prophets are not those of the Old Testament, but those of the New Testament. The purpose of the New Testament apostles and prophets was for laying the foundation of the Church. By the death of John the last apostle who died around a.d. 90, the foundation of the Church had been laid.
What is happening now is described in verses 21–22: believers are stones, which are being fitly, framed together, one on top of the other, building up the house of God. That is the purpose for the other gifts. The other gifts are being used to lay stone upon stone in building up the house of God, but the foundation is comprised of the apostles and prophets. The first key purpose of the gifts of apostleship and prophecy was to lay the foundation of the Church.
b. Recording New Testament Revelation—Ephesians 3:1–9
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles, if so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward; how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages has been hid in God who created all things.
It is within these verses that Paul spells out a second purpose for the spiritual gifts of apostles and prophets: to receive and record New Testament revelation, new revelation concerning the teachings on the dispensation of the grace of God. Verse 5 makes it clear which prophets are meant: not the Old Testament prophets, but the New Testament prophets. For Paul said: it has now [in Paul’s day] been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. Just as the Old Testament had to be recorded by Old Testament prophets, the New Testament had to be recorded by New Testament prophets. The apostles also had the prophetic office.
The two purposes for the gifts of apostleship and prophecy were to lay the foundation of the Church, which has now been laid; and to record New Testament revelation, which has now been recorded. With these two things accomplished, the clear implication is that these two gifts are no longer given. In the case of apostleship, people today are not seeing the resurrected Messiah, which was a prerequisite for the gift of apostleship. Secondly, people today are not receiving direct revelation from God. If they were, they could record Scripture. There are many people claiming to receive direct revelation, and therefore claiming to be “prophets of God,” yet none of them are claiming the ability to write inerrant Scripture. Nor are any of them willing to take the test of a prophet according to Deuteronomy 18. If they are prophets and receiving direct revelation from God, they should be able to predict some clear events that would come to pass within a short period of time. Yet not one of them has ever accepted my challenge on this.
It should be kept in mind in discussing the spiritual gifts that of the nineteen gifts of the Spirit, two of them are no longer available: apostleship and prophecy. The purpose for which these gifts were given has been fulfilled: the foundation of the Church has been laid and the New Testament has been recorded.
D. 1 Corinthians 7:1, 7: Gift Number Eleven: The Gift of Singleness
Verse 1 states:
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
Verse 7 states:
Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man has his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.
The gift of singleness is a spiritual gift. Those who have the gift of singleness are those who have their sexual appetites totally under control and would not need to have an outlet in that area through marriage; therefore, they can devote their time entirely to the ministry. A married man can never devote as much time to the work of the Lord as a single person can. A married man with children cannot devote as much time to the ministry as a married man without children. The gift of singleness is given to those people whom God wants to serve Him on a truly full-time basis with no other obligations in the realm of marriage.
The gift of singleness is a specific gift. In verse 1, Paul suggests that singleness is the better option. In verse 7, he states that he himself has this particular gift. Paul was single; he never married; he had the gift of singleness. He desired that everyone would be like him so that everyone could devote all their energies to the work of the ministry, but he realized that was not the way God ordained it. He recognized that not all believers have this particular gift, and he stated as much. Only those who have the gift of singleness should remain single.
E. 1 Corinthians 12–14
The most extensive treatment on the gifts of the Holy Spirit is 1 Corinthians 12–14. These will be dealt with chapter by chapter.
1. The Doctrine of the Gifts of the Spirit—1 Corinthians 12
This passage deals with the Doctrine of the Gifts of the Spirit. While Paul had spoken of spiritual gifts in other passages, this is his most extensive treatment.
a. The Topic of Gifts and the Test—1 Corinthians 12:1–3
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be led. Wherefore I make known unto you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God says, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.
With these verses, Paul introduced his topic of spiritual gifts. He began this segment with the words Now concerning. In Greek, this is known as a “peri de construction,” which is a mark that he is starting a brand new topic—the topic of spiritual gifts.
Two things should be noted about the Corinthian church. First, the Corinthian church was by far the most Pentecostal and Charismatic church on record in the New Testament. But secondly, it was also the most carnal church in the New Testament record. This clearly shows that spiritual gifts are simply grace gifts, which God gives. It does not mean that someone is spiritual because he has a certain gift.
This church showed its carnality in a number of different ways which Paul had already addressed in the first eleven chapters of the Book of 1 Corinthians. For example, this church was split by various political parties and religious divisions. Some were saying: I am of Paul; others: I am of Apollos; still others: I am of [Peter]; and the “super-spiritual” were saying: I [am] of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). In chapter 5, this church even tolerated immorality. In chapter 6, this was the church where believers were taking fellow-believers to court. In chapters 12–14, their carnality was also evident in their misuse of spiritual gifts. Just as their carnality was shown in other areas, their carnality is also seen in the way they treated the area of spiritual gifts.
The problem of the Corinthian church was not that they emphasized the usage of the gifts. Usage of gifts is good. Every church should emphasize the use of spiritual gifts. The trouble was that they emphasized the wrong ones. They played up the less important gifts and played down the more important ones, and by so doing they showed their carnality. This proves one thing: the usage of spiritual gifts is not by itself a mark of spirituality of a local church. One can have a manifestation of spiritual gifts and still be sinful and carnal.
In verse 2, Paul reminds them of their former state. In their unbelieving, Gentile state, they had not experienced what they are now experiencing as believers in the Church, the Body of the Messiah. However, spiritual gifts, especially those of the more sensational type, need to be tested. The test is by the declaration of the Lordship of the Messiah (v. 3). The purpose or result of using these spiritual gifts is for exaltation of Yeshua the Messiah.
b. The Distribution of the Gifts—1 Corinthians 12:4–6
In these verses, Paul points out that the distribution of the gifts is of the whole Triune God:
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all.
The role of the Holy Spirit is in verse 4: He is the One who produces the diversities of gifts. The word diversities is the Greek word which means “distributions” or “apportions” that come from the same Spirit. The point is that these spiritual gifts come directly from the Holy Spirit to the believer. This is why they are called the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The role of the Son is in verse 5: diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. The word ministrations has to do with external offices. As stated earlier in this study, several of these gifts lend themselves to external offices, such as those mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. For instance, the gift of teaching lends itself to the office of a teacher and also to that of a pastor-teacher. The gift of serving lends itself to the office of a deacon. The gift of ruling or administration lends itself to the office of an elder. The gift of evangelism lends itself to the office of an evangelist. While the gifts themselves come from the Holy Spirit, the appointment of a gifted person to a specific office comes by means of the Son. For example, some have the gift of pastor-teacher. The spiritual gift of pastor-teacher was given by the Holy Spirit. Later, if one is placed into the office of a pastor-teacher, the One who placed him in that position is the Son. There are diversities of ministrations, but every appointment to a ministration of office is of the same Lord. The Lord here is the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
Verse 6 gives the role of the Father:
diversities of workings, but the same God. The Greek word translated workings means “powers.” It deals with the results of seeing the gifts exercised. The powers or results come from God the Father. This is the Father’s role in these spiritual gifts.
To summarize: the believer receives his gifts from the Holy Spirit. If these gifts lend themselves to a specific office—not all gifts do—the believer is brought into this office by the Son. The results which come from the use of the gift in a specific office are a product of God the Father. In those cases where the spiritual gifts do not lend themselves to a specific office, the results are still the work of God the Father; it is the Father who brings these results. Spiritual gifts are called the gifts of the Holy Spirit because these gifts come to the believer from the Holy Spirit; He is the One who distributes them to the individual believer.
c. The Gifts of the Spirit—1 Corinthians 12:7–11
So far, eleven spiritual gifts have been listed from previous passages. In these verses, Paul enumerates some other gifts of the Spirit, giving a total of nineteen gifts:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these works the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.
In verse 7, he writes about the one common principle true of all the spiritual gifts: unity. But the unity is not that any one person ever receives all the gifts, nor is the unity that one gift is given to every believer. Rather, unity is seen in that every believer has gifts, and the source of those gifts is always the same, the Holy Spirit. Unity is found in the source of the gifts, not in the gifts themselves. He writes: to each one, to each and every believer, is given the manifestation of the Spirit. While there is diversity in spiritual gifts, the common source of this diversity, the Holy Spirit, unites them all. Paul states that every believer receives at least one gift; every believer has a God-given ability for the good of all.
(1) Gift Number Twelve: The Gift of Wisdom
Having stated the common principle, in verses 8–10 Paul begins to list some specific gifts. First is the gift of wisdom. The gift of wisdom is the ability to use knowledge for the best results; not general knowledge, but spiritual knowledge. Someone with this gift can take the Word, given by the prophet and communicated by the teacher, and apply it correctly in a particular situation.
(2) Gift Number Thirteen: The Gift of Knowledge
Next, Paul mentions the gift of knowledge. The knowledge spoken of here deals specifically with spiritual knowledge. According to 1 Corinthians 13:2, knowledge refers to knowing the mysteries of God. It is the ability to be able to comprehend the Word of God and to see unifying principles in the Word of God. It is the ability to put the doctrines of Scripture into a meaningful whole.
Obviously, several of these gifts are corollary and go together. For someone to have the gift of teaching also requires him to have the gift of knowledge. He needs to know what he needs to communicate. However, not everyone who has the gift of knowledge would also have the gift of teaching. The gift of knowledge is the gift of being able to understand the truth of God, to understand the mysteries of God, to understand the Scriptures. When someone also has the gift of wisdom, he can then apply the knowledge for best results. Those who have the gift of wisdom would naturally also have the gift of knowledge. However, not necessarily everyone who has the gift of knowledge would also have the gift of wisdom. It is quite possible to have knowledge without wisdom.
(3) Gift Number Fourteen: The Gift of Faith
The next gift mentioned is the gift of faith. Obviously, all believers have saving faith. The spiritual gift of faith is not the same as saving faith. While all believers have saving faith, not all believers have the gift of faith. The gift of faith is the God-given ability to trust God in any and all circumstances without a shadow of a doubt.
Perhaps one of the best examples of those to have the gift of faith was George Mueller of Bristol, England. George Mueller was a man of God, a great man of faith who was led to found an orphanage. One day the orphanage was totally out of food; nevertheless, he believed God would provide the food when mealtime came. But when mealtime came, no food had yet arrived. In spite of this, he had the children sit down at the table and proceeded to say grace. No sooner had he finished praying than there was a knock on the door, and there stood a farmer with an abundance of food for the orphanage. Other men who had the gift of faith were Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, and Rabbi Leopold Cohn, the founder of the American Board of Missions to the Jews.
(4) Gift Number Fifteen: The Gifts of Healings
The next gift mentioned is the gifts of healings. What should be noted is that the word gifts is plural and the word healings is plural. The word healings is plural because there are various classes of sicknesses; therefore, there are various classes of healings. But the word gifts is also plural, which was not true of the previous gifts. In Greek, the plural often emphasizes repeated action. The statement gifts of healings shows whereas with the other gifts, once one had them, they stayed with him and could be used at any time, in the case of the gifts of healings, the same is not true. One who had the gifts of healings could not use it all the time, it is a gift that comes and goes.
This explains how Paul, on one occasion, was able to raise someone from the dead but, on another occasion, he was not able to heal one of his disciples of a sickness and had to leave him there in Miletus. 2 Timothy 4:20 states: Erastus remained at Corinth: but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.
Paul did not say the person was sick because he was sinful. He did not say he could not heal Trophimus because he did not have enough faith. Paul was not able to heal him on that occasion because the Bible does not teach that it is God’s will to heal everyone. In those cases where He wishes to perform a healing of some person, He will provide someone with the gifts of healings. It was not God’s will to heal Trophimus, so Paul had to leave him behind, still sick. There are gifts of healings, but this gift came and went; sometimes Paul had it, and sometimes he did not. When Paul did have it, he could proceed to heal regardless of whether or not the sick one had faith. To use the gifts of healings did not require the healed person to have faith. Healing came by the will of the healer. That is important to note: if someone has the gifts of healings at a certain point in time, he could proceed to heal whether or not the person who was sick had faith. Examples of healings based on the will of the healer, not on the faith of the one being healed, include Acts 3:1–7; 9:32–34, 36–42; 20:9–12; and 28:8.
(5) Gift Number Sixteen: The Workings of Miracles
The next gift mentioned is the workings of miracles. The word miracles is plural, emphasizing that there are various categories of miracles. The word workings is also plural, emphasizing that, like the gifts of healings, it is not with a person all the time. It comes and goes as God wills it.
(6) The Gift of Prophecy
Paul then mentions the gift of prophecy, something already discussed earlier in this manuscript as gift number one.
(7) Gift Number Seventeen: The Gift of Discernment of Spirits
The seventeenth gift is the gift of discernment of spirits. This is the God-given ability to identify the true source of a teaching or problem. Whereas most believers have to test the spirits to see if something is demonic or not, someone who has the gift of discernment of spirits will be able to identify immediately whether someone else has a demonic problem or not. Believers with this gift can know right away. Those who do not have this gift must test the spirits.
(8) Gift Number Eighteen: The Gift of Tongues
The eighteenth gift mentioned is the gift of tongues. Tongues is not some kind of gibberish, some type of ecstatic speech, or just the constant repetition of three or four syllables. The Greek word for tongues means “languages.” The gift of tongues is a God-given ability to speak a language, which one has not studied. Someone may have a talent for languages and can easily learn languages, but that is not the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues is a God-given ability to speak a language one has never studied or learned.
The fact that the word tongues simply means “languages” is evident from Acts 2. They were given the gift of tongues and began speaking with other tongues. The Jews, who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world for the observance of the Feast of Pentecost, could hear the gospel proclaimed in their own language.
The one who is using the gift of tongues may not understand what he is saying and probably will not in most cases. However, he is speaking a real, known language with all the rules of grammar, syntax and diction, which every language requires. He is not speaking mere gibberish. The gift of tongues is just one of the nineteen gifts of the Spirit. It is the ability to speak a language one has not studied or learned.
(9) Gift Number Nineteen: The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues
There is a corollary gift, the gift of interpretation of tongues. This is a God-given ability to interpret a language being spoken by someone who has the gift of tongues. In Acts 2, this gift was not necessary because there were Jews from all parts of the world who understood the languages being spoken. But in the case where the whole congregation speaks the same language, for the gift of tongues to be used requires also the presence of someone who has the gift of interpretation.
(10) The Source of All the Gifts
In verse 11, Paul again emphasizes the source of the gifts. The three truths spelled out in this verse should not be missed.:
but all these works the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.
First, the source of these spiritual gifts is the Holy Spirit, something that Paul emphasized earlier. That is why this study is called “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
Secondly, the Spirit sovereignly distributes the gifts as He wills; the Holy Spirit decides who gets which gift. There is no need, nor does the Bible encourage, any individual believer to seek a specific gift. Rather, the Holy Spirit decides who will receive which gift. He sovereignly distributes the gifts even as he will. The words one and the same emphasize two concepts. One is in contrast to the many believers: there is only one Holy Spirit. Same is in contrast to the diversity of the gifts: they all come from the same Holy Spirit. This verse teaches that it is He who divides a reference to a specific division, a specific distribution. The Holy Spirit does not haphazardly distribute the gifts. He knows each individual, He knows God’s calling for each individual, and He provides the necessary spiritual gifts accordingly.
Thirdly, the verse states: to each one severally, which teaches that every person has spiritual gifts. There is no such thing as a believer who has no gifts; at least one gift is given to every believer.
This completes the list of the nineteen gifts of the Spirit.
d. The Body Doctrine—1 Corinthians 12:12–31
In this section, Paul again shows the relationship of the spiritual gifts to the Body Doctrine:
there is one Body and many members. The point is to show the concept of unity in diversity: the one Body and many members.
(1) The One Body—1 Corinthians 12:12–13
For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The point of verse 12 is that there is only one body although it has many members. This emphasizes unity. There is only one Body of the Messiah, and every believer without exception is a member of the Body of the Messiah. Because there are many believers, there are many members. All these many members are not members of “many bodies,” they are all members of one Body, the Body of the Messiah. The Body of the Messiah is the universal, invisible Church (Col. 1:18).
In verse 13, Paul explains the means by which one enters into the Body: by Spirit baptism. The clear point made by this verse should not be missed:
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The clear teaching is that every believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit. The result of Spirit baptism is not one specific gift; such as, the gift of tongues. The result of Spirit baptism is membership into the Body of the Messiah.
Some have tried to make a distinction between being baptized by the Spirit and baptized with the Spirit. This is usually based on the King James Version, which translates some verses as reading “by” and others reading “with.” So they teach that, while all are baptized by the Spirit, only those who speak in tongues are baptized with the Spirit. This distinction of with or by is found only in English translations, and usually in the King James Version. However, the New Testament was not written in English, but was written in Greek. In the Greek, the same word is always used, and no such sharp distinction can validly be made. There is no basis for distinguishing between being baptized by the Spirit or being baptized with the Spirit in light of the fact that, in the Greek, it is always the same construction. It always speaks of being baptized by the Spirit, and every believer, without exception, has been baptized by the Spirit.
The Bible teaches that Spirit baptism is one of the things that happens the moment one believes. The moment one becomes a believer in the Messiahship of Yeshua, he is baptized by the Holy Spirit. The product of Spirit baptism is not one specific gift, such as speaking in tongues. According to the clear teaching of this verse, the result of Spirit baptism is membership in the Body of the Messiah. It is by means of Spirit baptism that one enters into the Body. Without Spirit baptism, one would not be a member of the Body of the Messiah. If all believers are members of the Body of the Messiah, and the Bible teaches that this is so, it also means all believers have been baptized by the Spirit.
The baptism of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is in the context of spiritual gifts, so it also teaches another point. Since it is when one believes that he is baptized by the Spirit into the Body of the Messiah, therefore, it is when one believes that he also receives all the spiritual gifts he will ever have. Whatever gifts the believer has, he received them at the moment he believed and was baptized into the Body of the Messiah. Gifts are not something given subsequent to salvation, after one believes.
If someone testifies and says, “I received this gift five years after I believed,” whatever it was he might have received, it was not a spiritual gift. The moment one accepts Yeshua as his Messiah or Savior—at that moment—one is baptized by the Spirit into the Body of the Messiah and—at that moment—he receives his spiritual gifts.
Remember, the purpose of spiritual gifts is for service in the Body. One is placed in a specific part of the Body when he believes. Therefore, the gifts have to be given at the time one becomes a believer. The result of Spirit baptism is the same for every believer: he becomes a member of the Body of the Messiah. Also at that time, he receives his gift or gifts; however, no one particular gift is given to every believer.
(2) The Many Members—1 Corinthians 12:14–26
(a) The Basic Truth—1 Corinthians 12:14
Next, Paul deals specifically with the many members. The emphasis is on diversity within the unity: For the body is not one member, but many.
The basic truth is that the body—the Body of the Messiah, the Church—has many members.
The basic truth of verse 14 is explained in verses 15–26, and then applied to their situations in verses 27–31. In verses 15–26, he explains the basic truth of the one Body with many members with two illustrations and two applications.
(b) The First Illustration and Application—1 Corinthians 12:15–20
The first illustration of the Body is in verses 15–17:
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; it is not therefore not of the body. And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; it is not therefore not of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
The point he makes in these verses is twofold. First, every part of the body, no matter how insignificant, is nevertheless still part of the body (vv. 15–16). Secondly, the body would never be able to function if it were only one thing (v. 17). If the whole body were merely an eye, it would see well, but it could not hear. If the whole body were an ear, it could hear well, but it could not walk. If the whole body were feet, it might walk well, but would not see where it was going.
He then follows the first illustrations with the first application, in verses 18–20: But now has God set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now they are many members, but one body.
The application is threefold. First, God has placed each one in the Body where He wills (v. 18). Some are eyes, some are ears, some are hands, some are feet. God has placed each believer in that part of the Body where He has willed to place him. Where the believer has been placed is also the basis for what kind of gifts he was given when he believed. Secondly, if all were the same member, there would not be a proper functioning of the Body (v. 19). For the Body to function properly, some believers must be the eyes, the ears, the hands, or the feet. Thirdly, the basic truth is reiterated: there are many members, but one body (v. 20).
(c) The Second Illustration and Application—1 Corinthians 12:21–26
Paul gives the second illustration of the body in verses 21–23: And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary: and those parts of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
In the second illustration, Paul makes two points. First, he points out that one part of the body cannot easily do without another part of the body (v. 21). The hand cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” The head cannot say to the hands, “I don’t need you.” Secondly, the importance of every part of the body is seen in the way the body is treated (vv. 22–23). Some parts of the body may be more important than other parts at certain times. But sooner of later, every part of the body is used for some purpose. All these different parts are needed for a proper functioning body.
The second illustration of the body is followed by the second application in verses 24–26: whereas our comely parts have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked; that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
In the second application, three points are made. First, there is more honor given to those parts that lack, because that is where the lack is felt more consciously (v. 24). When people lose their hands, they are more conscious of their missing hands than they are conscious of the feet they still have.
The second point is that the reason it is necessary to realize that every part of the Body is important is: that there will be no schism in the body. The goal is that members should have care one for another (v. 25). If it is recognized that every part of the Body is important, regardless of what gift or gifts one has or does not have, then there will be no schism in the body, because everyone will be caring for one another. There is a twofold purpose in recognizing the importance of every believer with his spiritual gifts; one negative and one positive. The negative purpose is that there should be no schism in the body. If one believer feels that because of his gifts he is more important than someone else, that he is indispensable but someone else is dispensable, that he is more spiritual and someone else is less spiritual or has less of the Holy Spirit, that kind of attitude will cause church splits and schisms. But if it is acknowledged that every believer is important, not just verbally but honestly and inwardly, then that will accomplish the negative purpose: there will be no schisms in the Body. The positive purpose is to develop a caring attitude toward all fellow-believers. If one really thinks that every believer is important, he will exercise care for that believer.
The third point is the principle that if one member suffers the whole Body suffers (v. 26). For example, when someone slices off a finger, while the main center of pain is in that cut finger, the whole body is feeling the pain. It affects the thinking and actions of the person. Even so, if inferior gifts—the next topic to be discussed in this study—are despised and not used, the whole Body cannot help but feel it. On the other hand, if lesser gifts are emphasized while the greater gifts are ignored, the Body will also suffer for it. It will be evidenced by a lack of maturity. Paul, in the next segment, will teach that there are lesser and greater gifts, yet they are all important for the building up of the Body. If the inferior gifts are despised and not used, it will cost the Church. On the other hand, if the greater gifts are ignored in favor of lesser gifts, the Church will suffer. Paul said if one member is honored, all are honored. If greater gifts are honored and put in their proper perspective, lesser gifts are also honored. If lesser gifts are honored in their proper perspective, so are the greater gifts.
(3) The Order of Importance of the Gifts—1 Corinthians 12:27–31
Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all gifts of healings? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you.
Paul now turns to lesser and greater gifts. Verse 27 contains the application of the truth of the verses 12–26. Now ye are the body of Christ summarizes verses 12–13; and severally members thereof summarizes verses 14–26. Having said this, in verse 28, he next states that while there are various kinds of gifts, which he emphasized earlier in the chapter, not all gifts are of equal importance. There is an order of importance. Notice the numbers: first, secondly, thirdly. These numbers are not mere enumeration; they are orders or rank. A more correct translation would be: “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” This is followed by the word then, meaning, “in descending order.” Here he is giving the order of importance of three spiritual gifts.
The most important gift is the gift of apostleship and the second most important is the gift of prophecy. As was shown earlier, these two gifts are no longer available, because their purposes have now been totally fulfilled.
The third most important gift is the gift of teaching. Insofar as the gifts which are available today, this is the highest, but in order of the nineteen gifts of Paul’s day, it was the third most important gift. Paul next used the term then, meaning that what he lists next is in descending order of importance.
The fourth most important gift is the gift of miracles. The fifth most important gift is the gifts of healings. The gifts of miracles and healings may be more spectacular than the gift of teaching, but they are less important. The reason is in Ephesians 4:11–16, which spoke about those gifts of the Spirit, which were especially useful for the maturing of the saints, a major purpose of the gifts. The lesser gifts do not go as far as the greater gifts in the maturing of the saints. A believer will mature faster by sitting under a person who has the gift of teaching than he will sitting under a person who has the gifts of miracles or healings.
The sixth most important gift is the gift of helps. This is a category of gifts that include the gift of serving, the gift of showing mercy, the gift of giving, and the gift of discernment of spirits.
The seventh most important gift is the gift of governments or administrations, which is the gift of ruling. And the eighth and last gift on the list is the gift of tongues.
What should not be missed is that this passage clearly teaches that the gift of tongues is the least important gift! Yet this was the gift that the Corinthians were emphasizing most. As pointed out in the first three verses, Paul is showing that the Corinthians were exercising their gifts by means of carnality. The Corinthians, because of their carnality, were stressing the lesser gifts and ignoring the greater gifts. This was the reason they were still in a state of spiritual immaturity (1 Cor. 3:1–3), for the gifts they were emphasizing were not those that could mature them, such as the gift of teaching.
Having given the order of gifts and letting it be known that the gift of tongues is the least important, in verses 29–30; Paul shows that not all can have the same gift. The form of the questions in Greek all require negative answers. The New American Standard Bible reflects the Greek the best: All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have the gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak in tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
Every question requires a negative answer. The clear teaching is that no single gift is given to every believer. 1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches that every believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit, and verse 30 states that all do not speak in tongues. Not all can have the same gift. These questions correspond to the illustrations concerning the body: not everyone can be an eye; not everyone can be an ear; not everyone can be a hand or a leg. By the same token, not everyone can have the same gift, be it teaching or tongues.
Their obligation is spelled out in verse 31. He starts out with the word But, which is contrastive. Their obligation is to desire earnestly the greater gifts. In the Greek text, Paul used the second person plural: you all desire. He is not telling them that individual believers should seek a specific gift. He has already stated earlier in the chapter that the Holy Spirit sovereignly distributes these gifts to individuals. He is not speaking about seeking a gift by an individual. The second person plural means he is telling the church that, as a group, as a congregation, as a local church, they should be seeking earnestly the exercise of the greater gifts.
He is not saying they should not use the lesser gifts. But in the case of the Corinthians, they were emphasizing the lesser gifts and ignoring the greater gifts. The emphasis is to be on the greater gifts; they are to seek after higher gifts. Since the gift of tongues has been relegated to last place, what this passage clearly means is that, as a congregation, they should not be seeking to exercise the gift of tongues, but seeking to exercise the greater gifts, such as teaching. Paul then states that what he is about to discuss next is the most important. What follows is chapter 13, which discusses love.
e. Summary of the Doctrine of the Gifts
In chapter 12, several things have been clearly taught. First, every believer has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of the Messiah. Secondly, every believer has at least one spiritual gift, possibly more. Thirdly, no one is to be excluded from the use of his gift. There is a proper way and a place to use the gifts. Fourthly, no one has all the gifts. No one believer is going to have all the gifts because God has ordained the members of the Body to be interdependent. If I had all the spiritual gifts and you had all the spiritual gifts, you would not need me and I would not need you. But I have spiritual gifts that you need, and you have spiritual gifts I need. We are, therefore, interdependent upon one another. For this reason, no one is going to have all the gifts. Fifth, no one gift is given to every believer, for the Body cannot be composed of just one thing. For example, the gift of tongues is not available to every believer, no matter how much one may try to sanctify himself to gain it. On one hand, no one has all the gifts; but on the other hand, no one gift is given to every believer. Sixth, no one should hinder the use of gifts that he himself does not possess. Because I do not happen to have, a gift that you have is no excuse for me to hinder the use of your gifts. On the other hand, because I have a gift that you do not have this is no reason for you to hinder me in the use of my gift.
There is an order of importance in the gifts. Therefore, we can conclude: if you are a believer and you do not speak in tongues, it automatically means that you have a superior gift. So don’t worry about it, do not go seeking after the lesser gift. Instead, discover the greater gift or gifts that you have and seek opportunities to exercise them in the local body. The local church’s obligation is to emphasize the greater gifts, not the lesser ones.
At the end of chapter 12 in verse 31b, Paul introduces his topic in chapter 13. After he told the Corinthian church that, as a body, they need to seek to exercise the greater gifts and not the lesser ones as they had been doing, he then states: And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you.
2. Love and the Gifts of the Spirit—1 Corinthians 13
Whereas the theme of chapter 12 was the Doctrine of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the theme in chapter 13 is love, for love is the means of exercising these gifts. The Greek word Paul used for love is agape, which is “love of the will.” This chapter can be divided into five units.
a. Love and the Gifts—1 Corinthians 13:1–3
In the first unit, Paul deals with love and the gifts. Without love, the exercise of these gifts is pure carnality: If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
If one speaks with tongues and has not love, the speaking in tongues is worth about as much as a clanging sound. The expression: If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, has given rise to the teaching that there is a difference between a human language and an “angelic” or “heavenly language,” so when one speaks in tongues he speaks in a heavenly language.
Actually, in verse 1, Paul does not say that there is a difference between human language and heavenly language. Notice the word If. He is using an extreme hypothetical case to drive a point home. “If I speak in different types of languages, whether heavenly or earthly, and have not love, it profits absolutely nothing.” It is like saying, “I would not marry her if she were the last person on earth.” Obviously, she will never be the last person on earth. Or it might be said, “Even if I had the memory of an elephant …” No one has the memory of an elephant, except an elephant. Yet it is used as an extreme hypothetical example to drive a specific point home. Actually, the language that angels speak and the heavenly language is Hebrew. Angels do not speak a different language than humans do.
All that Paul is saying is that if there were such a distinction, and if he could speak both tongues, it would still be worthless if it were not exercised in love. It is obvious that speaking in tongues is not a heavenly language distinct from human language if we look to Acts 2. In Acts 2, they spoke with other tongues. Was that a heavenly language distinct from human language? Was that a “language of angels” distinct from the language of humans? Not at all. The Jewish audience who came to Jerusalem from various parts of the world were able to understand what the apostles were saying as they spoke with other tongues. This verse does not teach that those who speak in tongues are speaking a heavenly language. If it is the real gift, it will be an earthly language, a real, spoken language. Most of what passes for the gift of tongues today is not what is described in Scripture.
Concerning prophecy, Paul says in verse 2 that even if one has the gift of prophecy and is able to understand all mysteries, it is worthless without the exercise of love. As for the gift of knowledge, in spite of the great achievements the gift of knowledge may attain, it too is worthless without love. As for the gift of faith, one might have the faith to move mountains, and still it would be worthless without the exercising of love.
As for the gift of giving, in verse 3, one might have the gift of giving to the point of being able to give away everything, but still it would profit nothing apart from love.
b. The Attributes of Love—1 Corinthians 13:4–7
Love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not its own, is not provoked, takes not account of evil; rejoices not in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
With that introduction (vv. 1–3), in the second unit Paul then lists the fifteen attributes of love. First, love suffers long, meaning it is patient. Secondly, love is kind; it is a type of love that exercises good manners. Thirdly, love envies not; it is characterized by generosity. Fourthly, love vaunts not itself; it does not boast, but shows humility. Fifth, love is not puffed up; it is not ostentatious or arrogant. Sixth, love does not behave itself unseemly; true biblical love shows respect, politeness, and courtesy. Seventh, love seeks not its own; it is characterized by unselfishness. Eighth, love is not [easily] provoked; it is good-natured. Ninth, it takes not account of evil. Tenth, it rejoices not in unrighteousness; it is characterized by sincerity. Eleventh, love rejoices with the truth, emphasizing the goodness of love. Twelfth, love bears all things; it is willing to suffer in the face of insults and is characterized by graciousness. Thirteenth, it believes all things; it has confidence by other believers. Fourteenth, love hopes all things; it has assurance. Fifteenth, love endures all things; it exercises patient endurance.
c. The Relationship to Time—1 Corinthians 13:8
Love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.
In the third unit, Paul makes a distinction concerning the element of time. In this verse, Paul makes four points. First, love is eternal; this kind of love will be permanent and will last forever. This is not true of the spiritual gifts. Secondly, concerning the gift of prophecy, it will someday be rendered inoperative as shown by the use of the Greek Passive Voice. According to our earlier study of Ephesians 2:17–3:6, the gift of prophecy became unavailable when the New Testament was completed. As for the gift of tongues, it will cease in and of itself, as indicated by the use of the Greek Middle Voice. As for the gift of knowledge, it too will be rendered inoperative, because the Greek Passive Voice is used again. A time will come when these gifts will no longer be necessary, and they will all be done away. But love will remain forever.
d. The Relationship to Maturity—1 Corinthians 13:9–12
In the fourth unit, Paul draws some distinctions in maturity, as he explains why these gifts will not be needed when a certain time comes.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.
In these verses, Paul draws distinctions in maturity to explain that a day will come when all the gifts will no longer be necessary (v. 8). First, the gifts are partial and not perfect (v. 9). They will bring the Church to a certain level of maturity, but they will bring it only so far. A time will come when they have done their job and have matured the Church as far as it could go, and then something else must happen.
When that something else must happen is what Paul deals with in verse 10: when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
The imperfect, that which is in part, are the spiritual gifts of verse 9. But when the perfect comes, that which is imperfect will come to an end.
This verse has become a battleground between pro-Charismatics and anti-Charismatics, between pro-Pentecostals and anti-Pentecostals. The issue is: “What is the perfect that Paul is speaking about?” The pro-Charismatic/pro-Pentecostal claims that the perfect is the parousia, the Greek term for the “return of the Lord.” They interpret the verse to mean that when the parousia comes, when the Lord returns, only then will these gifts be done away. The anti Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal points out that this cannot be, for parousia is a feminine term. However, the Greek term for perfect is a neuter term, teleios, and by the rules and laws of Greek grammar, a neuter cannot modify a feminine. Therefore, it cannot be the parousia that Paul is talking about. On this score, the anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal is absolutely correct. A neuter simply cannot modify a feminine, and therefore the perfect cannot possibly be the parousia as has been taught in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles.
However, “What does the anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal claim the perfect is?” Their answer, in most cases, is that perfect refers to the New Testament. When the New Testament was complete, the perfect came and the “sign gifts,” the gifts of tongues, healings, and miracles, came to an end. Usually the pro-Charismatic/pro-Pentecostal does not know how to answer this claim, because, unfortunately, most Charismatics/Pentecostals never bother to study the Greek language. However, the anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal cannot be correct either, because the Greek word for New Testament is kainei didachel, which is also feminine. So, the reason that perfect cannot mean the parousia, the return of the Lord, is the same reason it cannot mean kainei didachel or New Testament. By the rules of Greek grammar, both the pro-Charismatic/pro-Pentecostal and the anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal are wrong. They both misinterpret the verse. Actually, the anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal is over-reacting to the misuse of the gifts that has become very prevalent in many pro-Charismatic/pro-Pentecostal circles.
If the term perfect, a neuter, cannot refer to either the parousia, return, or kainei didachel, the New Testament, then what is it? As always, the context is the best answer to understanding a specific verse. Paul began his discussion of spiritual gifts with chapter 12, where he dealt with the concept of the one Body with many members. The Greek word for “body” is soma, which is a neuter noun. Within the same context where Paul has been dealing with the soma, the Body, he speaks of the perfect, which, like soma, is also a neuter in Greek. The perfect is the soma, and when the soma—the Body—is complete, that is when these gifts will be done away. “When is the Body complete?” The Body is complete at the Rapture of the Church. When the full number that God has planned to bring into the Church is reached, the Church is complete and removed from the earth at the Rapture. At that point, the spiritual gifts will end.
This verse must not be used to teach that some or all of the spiritual gifts ended with the completion of the New Testament. Unless there are other biblical statements, it must be assumed that all these gifts can still be given. Earlier in this study, it was noted from other biblical statements that two of the gifts are no longer available today: apostleship and prophecy. As for the other seventeen gifts, there is no basis for teaching that any of them have been done away. However, the gifts must always be tested to see if they really are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. While I do believe that God can still give the gift of tongues today if He chooses, it must be the biblical gift which is the speaking of a known language. It must come on the day that the person believes in the Messiah and not some “afterglow” experience.
There is a need for balance in the area of spiritual gifts, and the extremes must be avoided. One extreme is that everyone needs to have the gift of tongues in order to be “spiritual.” The other extreme dogmatically states that the gift of tongues cannot be given today. This view is based on an over-reaction to the former extreme rather than on a sound exegesis of the Word. There is a balance. If it is remembered that tongues is the least important of the gifts, and that a congregation should be striving to exercise the greater gifts, the extremes that have hit the Church in this century can be avoided.
Verse 11 gives the illustration of growing up. A child does childish things; the implication might be that tongues are for young, immature believers. At maturity, he ceases to do childish things; the implication might be that as he matures in the faith, tongues become less important and might be put away. He begins to learn from the greater gifts, and it is the greater gifts that bring him to maturity, not the lesser gifts.
In verse 12, a distinction is made between now and then in relationship to sight and knowledge. In relationship to sight, the gift of prophecy, now we see , but when the perfect is come, we will then see clearly, as face to face. As for knowing, the gift of knowledge, we are now in the imperfect state, so we have partial knowledge. When the perfect is come, we will then … know fully.
e. The Present State—1 Corinthians 13:13
The chapter ends with verse 13 in which Paul discusses the present state: But now abides faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
He speaks of three things, which will abide in contrast to those that will be made inoperative or that will cease of themselves. Even after the coming of that which is perfect, even after the gifts will be done away, three things will abide. First, faith will continue to abide. This is not the gift of faith but salvation faith. Secondly, hope will abide, hope for that part of salvation yet to be accomplished. Thirdly, love will continue to abide. Although all three—faith, hope, love—will continue forever, Paul makes the point that the greatest of the three is love.
3. Practical Rules for the Gifts of Tongues and Prophecy—1 Corinthians 14
In chapter 14, Paul deals with some practical rules for the exercise of the gifts of tongues and prophecy. We will study this chapter in five divisions.
a. The Contrast Between Tongues and Prophecy—1 Corinthians 14:1–5
In the first division of chapter 14, Paul contrasts the gifts of tongues and prophecy, taking the least and the greatest: Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaks in a tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God; for no man understands; but in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he that prophesies speaks unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolation. He that speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. Now I would have you all speak with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy: and greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
The two gifts of tongues and prophecy were the least and the greatest of the gifts available to believers in general of Paul’s day. Apostleship, the greatest gift, was available only to those who had seen the resurrected Messiah. Prophecy was still available during the apostolic period. In relationship to seeking, he says: follow after love (v. 1), which is the love he had just finished dealing with in chapter 13. Then he states: yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts. With this statement, he picks up at the point where he left off at the end of chapter 12.
Again, there is no basis for the individual believer to seek a specific gift. Paul has already said in chapter 12 that the Holy Spirit decides who gets which gifts. In this passage, he is speaking to a congregation; as a congregation, they should desire earnestly spiritual gifts. The emphasis, as he said at the end of chapter 12, should be on the greater gifts and not on the lesser gifts. Paul now details the point made at the end of chapter 12 concerning the desire for greater gifts as over against lesser gifts.
In this chapter, he goes back and forth between the least important gift, the gift of tongues representing all lesser gifts, and the gift of prophecy, the most important gift available to all representing the greater gifts, such as teaching and evangelism. Apostleship was the most important gift, but it was limited to those who saw the resurrected Messiah and was not available to believers in general as prophecy was. In verse 1, the preferable gift to seek as a congregation is prophecy, because it is superior to tongues. In verses 2–25, Paul draws a distinction between the comparative usefulness of the gifts of tongues and prophecy in two ways: first, in relationship to the edification of the Church (vv. 2–20); and secondly, in relationship to the conversion of persons outside the Church (vv. 21–25). Then in verses 26–40, Paul gives specific rules for the exercising of these gifts.
In verses 2–3, Paul draws a distinction between these two gifts in relationship to understanding the mode or means by which they operate. In verse 2, the one who speaks in tongues is not speaking to men, but to God. The reason is that when one has the gift of tongues, he does not himself understand what he is saying. To him and to others, it remains a mystery. Paul writes: in spirit he speaks mysteries. The word spirit is not the Holy Spirit. The Greek text does not have the definite article “the.” So, he is not speaking of the Holy Spirit but of the human spirit.
Some teach that when one speaks in tongues, it is the Holy Spirit who is actually doing the speaking. But if the Holy Spirit were doing the speaking, it would be impossible to misuse the gift. Yet the Corinthians were misusing the gift, and that is why Paul had to lay down certain rules and regulations for when and how the gift of tongues could be exercised in chapter 14. If the Holy Spirit were doing the speaking, then the gift would never be misused, because the Holy Spirit would not misuse His own speaking.
While this gift, like all the gifts, comes from the Holy Spirit, the individual exercises his own will in using the gifts. So, in the case of speaking in tongues, it is the human spirit that is speaking. The spirit in this verse should be with a small “s.” When one prays in tongues, it is the human spirit that is praying and not the Holy Spirit. That is why the individual has control of this gift. That is why he has the choice to use it either correctly or incorrectly. Because it is the human spirit that is praying, and because the believer who has the gift can choose when and how to exercise it, tongues can be used correctly or misused. The Corinthians were misusing it.
On the other hand: he that prophesies speaks unto men (v. 3). Included within the gift of prophecy is edification, and exhortation, and consolation. These three correspond to the three eternal things of 1 Corinthians 13:13. Edification corresponds to faith; it is a new development of or confirmation of the truth of faith. Exhortation corresponds to love; it involves encouragement that is applied to the will. Consolation corresponds to hope; it means “to soothe” or “to put pain to sleep.”
Merely edifying, merely exhorting, and merely consoling is not prophecy. The gift of prophecy means receiving direct revelation from God. One who receives direct revelation from God and communicates it to men does the work of edification, and exhortation, and consolation. But these things without direct revelation from God are not prophecy. That is why there is a separate gift of exhortation, distinct from the gift of prophecy.
Verse 4 deals with the two gifts in relationship to edification. Tongues are for self-edification, but prophecy edifies the church. In chapter 12, Paul clearly emphasized that the primary purpose of the gifts is for building up or edifying the Body, the Church. Because prophecy does so by itself, whereas tongues by itself does not, is another reason, prophecy is superior to the gift of tongues.
Verse 5 deals with the importance of the two gifts and summarizes the results of what has been said in verses 1–4. Paul states: I would [wish] have you all speak with tongues. Some teach that Paul’s statement means that everyone could speak in tongues. Some draw a distinction between the gift of tongues and tongues as “a sign,” claiming that everybody can have the sign of tongues, but they cannot all have the gift of tongues. However, that is only an attempt to get around the obvious teaching of 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul taught that all do not speak in tongues. In this verse, all Paul is saying is that his own personal preference is that everyone would have the gift of tongues and everyone would have the gift of prophecy. That was his personal wish, but in chapter 12, he has already shown that this is impossible.
The way to understand this verse is to go back to 1 Corinthians 7:1–7, where Paul discussed the superiority of the single state as over against the married state. In verse 7, Paul said: Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul said that his own personal preference was that everyone had the gift of singleness. That was his personal wish, but he knew God had chosen not to do that. Here, in 1 Corinthians 14:5, using the same terminology as in 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul said he wished everyone could speak in tongues and have the gift of prophecy. But as he indicated in chapter 12, he already knew that God had chosen not to do that. So, verse 5 should not be used to teach that everyone who is a believer can, if he really had the faith and desire, speak in tongues. Paul was expressing a personal desire in 1 Corinthians 14:5 as well as in chapter 7:7, but he already knew that it could not be so. Furthermore, if he had to make a choice, he would prefer prophecy to tongues, because greater is [the one prophesying] than [the one who speaks in tongues]. The only time tongues are useful for the congregation is when there is the corollary gift of interpretation.
b. Tongues in the Public Assembly—1 Corinthians 14:6–9
The second division of chapter 14 comprises verses 6–19, in which Paul deals with the subject of tongues in the public meeting of the church. This section could be subdivided into two smaller units.
(1) The Necessity for Understanding—1 Corinthians 14:6–11
In the first unit, Paul talks about the necessity for understanding.
But now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they give not a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war? So also ye, unless ye utter by the tongue speech easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification. If then I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks will be a barbarian unto me.
In verse 6, the point is made that tongues are without profit unless it also includes certain things, which are understandable: revelation, knowledge, prophesying, teaching or doctrine. In verses 7–8, Paul gives the illustration of musical instruments. Musical instruments have to make clear notes for them to be harmonious music (v. 7). In the military, there is also a necessity for instruments to make clear military calls so a soldier knows what he is to do: march forward, turn, or retreat (v. 8). Having given the illustration of musical instruments both in orchestral and military terms, in verses 9–11, he then makes the application of that illustration.
Unless one speaks in a clear language, he will not be understood (v. 9). The means of rendering the gift of tongues into a clear language is by the gift of interpretation. The only one who can understand a person speaking in tongues is the one who understands and speaks the language being spoken as the audience in Acts 2 did. Since most local congregations use a single language, someone with the gift of interpretation is needed, who can clearly translate for the congregation what had been spoken in tongues. In verse 10, he states that there are many voices and not any without signification. In other words, no language exists without articulate words. Mere babbling, mere repetitions of the same three, four or five syllables is not speaking in tongues.
In verse 11, he points out that if it remains unclear, the speaker and the one spoken to will appear to each other as being merely barbarians. Therefore, it is necessary that the gift of tongues be understood before it serves any useful ministry of edification of the body. To make it understood, it is necessary to have someone with the gift of interpretation.
(2) The Application: The Usage of the Gifts in the Assembly—1 Corinthians 14:12–19
Having spelled out the necessity of the understanding, in the second unit Paul next deals with the usage of tongues in the assembly itself. So also ye, since ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may abound unto the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else if you bless with the spirit, how shall he that fills the place of the unlearned say the Amen at your giving of thanks, seeing he knows not what you say? For you verily give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank God, I speak with tongues more than you all: howbeit in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
In verse 12, Paul states what the proper aim should be: to seek to speak clearly for the edification of the assembly so that one will not be like a barbarian to another. The proper aim is to edify the church, not the self.
The principle of verse 12 is now applied in verse 13: the one who speaks with tongues should pray that the interpretation be given. He should pray that someone is there with the gift of interpretation.
The reason is given in verse 14: if one prays in a tongue, it is the spirit of the man praying but the understanding [of the man’s mind] is unfruitful. Again, spirit is not the Holy Spirit but the human spirit. When one speaks in tongues, it is the human spirit that is praying, but the human mind remains unfruitful, for the one who speaks in tongues does not understand what he is saying.
If someone has the gift of tongues, he should learn the balance of verse 15, which is the conclusion of verse 14. If one has the gift, he could pray with the [human] spirit and with [the mind] of understanding. In singing, he can sing with the [human] spirit, and he can sing with[the mind of] understanding. Those who might have the gift of tongues should not go overboard by using tongues only. Again, it is the human spirit that is using the gift in prayer and singing. Speaking, praying, and singing in tongues are not separate types of tongues. If one has a specific gift, it can be used in various ways. When one has the gift of teaching, he can use it in a lecture, during praying, and many other ways. The one who has the gift of tongues can use it to speak, to pray, to sing, but it is still the one gift used in various ways.
In verses 16–17, Paul points out that one of the reasons tongues are useless in the assembly apart from interpretation is that without understanding, no one can say the Amen. The word amen means, “let it be true” or “so be it.” The Amen should never be said after someone else’s prayer unless one agrees with what has been said. If someone prayed in tongues, and it is not known what was said, the last thing anyone should do is say the Amen, because one does not know if it is true or if he agrees.
In verses 18–19, Paul provides the preference. Paul himself spoke in tongues more than the others did (v. 18). He does not mean to disdain the gift of tongues; he is not saying that the gift of tongues is totally unimportant. But in the public meeting of the church, in the assembly, it is far more important to speak five words with [the mind of] understanding … than ten thousand words in a tongue (v. 19). Once again, Paul points to the order of priority within the gifts. Some gifts are more important than others are. The proper place for the gift of tongues is in the private domain rather than in the public worship.
c. The Problems of Tongues in the Assembly—1 Corinthians 14:20–25
The third division of chapter 14 deals with some specific problems of tongues in the assembly.
Brethren, be not children in mind: yet in malice be ye babes, but in mind be men. In the law it is written, By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving: but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to them that believe. If therefore the whole church be assembled together and all speak with tongues, and there come in men unlearned or unbelieving, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.
In verse 20, Paul admonishes the readers to act maturely. The Corinthians had become like children, preferring the gifts, which were more amusing and entertaining rather than the gifts, which were more useful. They showed their carnality, their immaturity, by preferring the lesser gifts to the greater gifts.
Having given this admonition, in verses 21–22, he deals with the purpose of tongues and prophecy in relationship to the unbeliever. In verse 21, he quotes Isaiah 28:11–12: By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord.
“What exactly did Isaiah 28:11–12 mean when it was written?” The context of Isaiah 28 speaks of the divine judgment by means of the Assyrian invasion. Isaiah had called and warned the people of Israel to repent, but Israel refused to listen and failed to repent and obey. Israel remained in a state of unbelief to Isaiah’s message. Israel refused to obey the voice of the prophet and chose not to understand. Because Israel remained in unbelief, the judgment God sent was the Assyrian invasion. When the Assyrians came, they spoke their own language, the Assyrian language. When the Jewish people of Jerusalem heard the Assyrian language, they knew that they had been invaded. The Assyrian language was a sign that they were in a state of unbelief and disobedience. Isaiah went on to say that even then, Israel would not obey the prophets, and indeed, they did not.
In other words, had Israel obeyed the voice of Isaiah, there would not have been an Assyrian invasion, and they would not have heard the Assyrian language in the Land. But since they remained in unbelief, God sent the Assyrians against them. When they heard the Assyrian language, the tongue of Assyria became the sign to Israel. It was not to get them to believe, for even then they did not believe. But it was a sign of their unbelief. Because of their unbelief, they heard a new language to show that God had begun working in a new way. Yet Isaiah said they would still not believe. In the context of Isaiah 28, Isaiah is referring to the Assyrian language.
Having quoted Isaiah 28:11–12 in verse 21, he gives the application to the gift of tongues in verse 22. Tongues are for a sign for the unbeliever so they will not understand, they will not believe. Speaking in tongues is also a sign to Israel, but not as a sign to get them to believe; rather, it is a sign of Israel’s unbelief. Israel rejected the Messiahship of Yeshua, and because of Israel’s rejection, God brought in a new entity.
This time the new entity was not an invasion by the Assyrians, but the new entity was the Church, the Body of the Messiah. It is with the Church, in the Church, and through the Church that the gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, are to be exercised. Had Israel accepted Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah, had they believed on Him, then the Kingdom would have been established and God would not have brought in this new entity with its gifts of the Spirit. But the existence of the Church with the gifts of the Spirit shows that God is again working in a new way.
When the Church was born in Acts 2, the primary gift displayed was the gift of tongues, which was a sign to the Jewish unbeliever, but not to bring him to faith; rather, it was a sign of Jewish unbelief. Had they believed in the Messiah, there would have not been this new entity. Because they rejected the Messiah, the new entity came into being. The existence of these gifts is a sign to unbelieving Israel that God is working today in a new way, and with a new group, the Church. In saying this, it must be made clear that God has in no way cast off His people, Israel; but God’s plan or program for Israel as a nation has been temporarily set aside until the Rapture occurs which will remove this entity, the Church. Then God will once again resume His plan for the nation of Israel, until all Israel will be saved.
When Paul states that tongues are for a sign … to the unbelieving, he does not mean it is for the purpose of bringing them to faith, because verse 21 states: not even thus will they hear me. Tongues are a sign of Jewish unbelief. Had Israel believed, tongues would not exist. Since the gift of tongues does exist, it is a sign of Israel’s unbelief. While tongues is a sign for the unbelievers of their unbelief, prophecy is a sign for the believer, because it communicates God’s message to the believer.
In verses 23–25, Paul draws the application for the assembly. Concerning tongues and the unbeliever, in verse 23, if all speak with tongues, the unbeliever who walks into the meeting hall will declare them all to be insane, because they are all speaking that which has no meaning. In verses 24–25, he shows why prophecy is superior to tongues. Earlier in the chapter (vv. 6–19), he showed why prophecy is superior to tongues for the believer who is in the assembly. Now he is going to show why prophecy is superior to tongues for the unbeliever who happens to walk into the meeting of the church. Prophecy is superior to tongues because, if all the unbeliever hears is tongues, he will merely conclude that these believers are insane. But if he comes in and someone receives a direct revelation from God and applies it to him, he will then be convicted of his sin (v. 24). He will be judged as his inner being is searched out. The reasons are given in verse 25. His heart is revealed when his life is illuminated by someone who is receiving a direct revelation from God—the mark of a prophet—and he will then worship God. Rather than declaring these believers to be insane, he will have to admit and declare that God is among you indeed.
To summarize what has been discussed so far, four points should be noted. First, with respect to usefulness, tongues is inferior to prophecy (vv. 1–5). Secondly, without interpretation the gift of tongues becomes entirely useless in the public assembly (vv. 6–15). Thirdly, to exercise tongues without the gift of interpretation creates real confusion and impropriety in the church (vv. 16–19). Fourthly, to emphasize tongues, as is often done, is simply childish and shows immaturity rather than maturity (vv. 20–25).
d. Further Rules for the Gifts of Tongues and Prophecy—1 Corinthians 14:26–33a
In the fourth division, Paul lists more rules for the use of the gifts of tongues and prophecy.
What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speaks in a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most three, and that in turn; and let one interpret: but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. And let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the others discern. But if a revelation be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence. For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.
These rules are frequently disobeyed by those who claim to have the gift of tongues, though few who claim to have the gift actually have the real gift that is described in the Bible.
(1) The Basic Rule—1 Corinthians 14:26
In verse 26, the basic rule is: Let all things be done unto edifying. The basic rule for the use of all the gifts is for the edification of the Body, to build up the Body of the Messiah. That is the basic rule for all the usages of the gifts when the church comes together.
(2) Rules for the Use of Tongues—1 Corinthians 14:27–28
Having laid down the basic rule that all things are to be done for edifying, in verses 27–28, he lays down rules for the use of tongues.
The first rule concerns the number of speakers: no more than two or three people should give a message in tongues during any single meeting of the church.
The second rule is that it should be done in order: one by one. If two or more people are speaking publicly in tongues at the same time, it is a violation of this rule.
The third rule concerns the mode: let one interpret. This rule reiterates that there must be an interpreter. The text says: let one interpret. In other words, there must not be three interpreters for three different people speaking in tongues. Since these gifts are given when one believes, one will know his gift before he uses it publicly in a church. One man, who is known to have the gift of interpretation, is assigned to interpret the message given by the gift of tongues. While there may be as many as three people giving a message in tongues, only one person is to do the interpreting for all three.
The fourth rule is that if there is no one with the gift of interpretation present, those who have the gift of tongues must remain silent. They can speak quietly to God and to themselves, but they must remain silent.
(3) Rules for the Use of Prophecy—1 Corinthians 14:29–31
Having given the rules for speaking in tongues in the public assembly, in verses 29–31, Paul next deals with the rules concerning the gift of prophecy in the assembly.
The first rule concerns the number of speakers: by two or three (v. 29).
The second rule concerns the mode: others are to discern which spirit (v. 29). A person may claim that he has the gift of prophecy when he does not, or he may indeed have it. But even prophets, when they are not being inspired by God, can make mistakes. One key example is the prophet Nathan in the Old Testament. When King David told Nathan that he would like to build God a Temple, Nathan, without consulting God, told David to go ahead. Then God revealed Himself to Nathan and told him to go back to David and tell him not to build the Temple (2 Sam. 7:1–7, 1 Chr. 17:1–6). The prophets were not always under inspiration, so they could make mistakes.
A person who has the gift of prophecy may not, at that time, be receiving a message from God and, therefore, may say something, which is not a message from God. So when there is a claim of prophetic inspiration, others
discern [which spirit]. Those with the gift of discernment of spirits are to determine if the message came as a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit or if he was merely speaking from his own human spirit and, therefore, might not be correct or if the source was even a demonic spirit. The rule is that the words of the prophets must be tested. Just because someone claims to have a message from God does not mean others should automatically obey it. In the assembly, even when a known prophet speaks, his message must still be tested.
The third rule concerns the order: if a revelation is revealed to a second man, the first man should immediately sit down, because the latest revelation is always the purest and most complete. When a person stands, it signals that he has a message and wants to speak. The one who is speaking should take the signal and sit down.
The fourth rule concerns timing: they should not lengthen their discourse in order to give another prophet or two a chance to speak; they should give the message and succintly conclude it.
The fifth rule concerns procedure: all [may] prophesy one by one, that … all may be exhorted (v. 31). The all is the two or three of verse 29. Paul does set a maximum, but all, two or three prophets, should be given the opportunity to speak.
(4) The Principle—1 Corinthians 14:32–33a
In verse 32, Paul gives the principle upon which the rules for the exercise of the gifts of tongues and prophecy are based: the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
This point must not be missed: the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. All these gifts, including the gifts of tongues and prophecy, can be controlled by the person possessing the gift.
Those who claim that they could not help themselves but were suddenly “taken over” by the Holy Spirit to utter tongues or prophecies are contradicting what the Bible teaches. It is the human spirit that speaks in tongues, not the Holy Spirit. The spirit is subject to the possessor. Prophets and those who speak in tongues can and should exercise the control necessary to restrain mere outbursts of so-called “prophetic inspiration.” True prophetic inspiration does not “carry away” the prophet without his consent or against his will.
This is different than the so-called gift of prophecy found in pagan circles and spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:2. What Paul said here in verse 32, is in opposition to chapter 12:2 where, when they were unbelieving Gentiles, they were carried away with dumb idols and gave forth outbursts of demonic prophetic inspiration. The Bible often connects demonism with idolatry. But the biblical gift of prophecy or tongues, or any spiritual gift, does not carry away the person without his consent.
So, prophetic inspiration cannot be used as a pretext to discard the rules of order laid down by an apostle. Those who claim that they could not help themselves, for they were simply “caught up in the Spirit,” are deceiving themselves. It was not by the Holy Spirit in whom they were caught up, but their own human spirit. When they disobey these rules and regulations laid down by the Scriptures, they are sinning.
The evidence of the principle is in verse 33a: God is not a God of confusion, but a God of order. Therefore, all these things can be kept in check and under control so that these rules are obeyed. The principle of the public assembly is that all should be able to participate in the use of the spiritual gifts, but are not to be carried away to the point that it results in confusion. If these rules are obeyed, there will be order instead of confusion.
e. Conclusion—1 Corinthians 14:33b–40
In the fifth and final division of chapter 14, Paul gives some conclusions after his lengthy discussion concerning spiritual gifts, which began in chapter 12:1.
As in all the churches of the saints, let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also says the law. And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church. What? was it from you that the word of God went forth? or came it unto you alone? If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. But if any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. But let all things be done decently and in order.
(1) The Rule of Silence for Women—1 Corinthians 14:33b–35
In verses 33b–35, Paul deals with the topic of women in the public meeting. In verse 33b, Paul states that what he is about to say to this church is true for all churches: As in all the churches of the saints. In other words, he is not laying down rules, which are applicable only to the culture of the Corinthian church. The rules he lays down here are rules to be followed by every church no matter where it is and no matter what its culture. These rules, which were true for the first century church, are still applicable today whether or not certain modern movements like it. The twentieth century church has no right to discard scriptural rules and regulations on the pretense of “culture” or any other reason.
The basic rule concerning women in the meeting of the church is that women are to keep silent in the assembly (v. 34). Because of the context in which this verse is found, the primary thrust is that a woman must not speak in tongues in the assembly. If this one rule were obeyed, that would put an end to a major portion of what has become known as the Charismatic Movement, where this rule is frequently violated to an extreme degree. No matter what modern-day culture may say about this, the rule still stands: in the public meeting of the church, the women are to keep silent. A woman can have the gift of tongues, but she cannot use that gift in the meeting of the church. Even with an interpreter present, women are not to speak in tongues in the church.
But then Paul goes even further with the rule of silence for women to show that he is not limiting the rule only to speaking in tongues in the assembly. In verse 35, he goes on to say that if women wish to learn anything, they are to wait and ask their … husbands at home. In other words, they are not even allowed to ask questions in the meeting of the church. Obviously, a woman would not ask questions in tongues, because she would not understand the language that she is speaking. The fact that she is not even allowed to ask questions in the meeting of the church shows that the rule of silence applies in every category, not only in the area of speaking in tongues. Concerning women then, the Bible teaches that women are to keep silent in the church; they are not to speak in tongues in the church; they are not even to ask questions. It means total silence as far as speaking is concerned.
(2) The Admonition to Heed the Word of God—1 Corinthians 14:36–38
In verse 36, he reminds the Corinthian church that although they have people there with the gift of prophecy, not to them alone came the Word of God. In other words, the Corinthian church cannot follow their own course of action apart from other churches. They do not have the right to put themselves above the rules followed by other churches. The rules the apostle spelled out for the Corinthian church are rules, which must be obeyed by all churches. Since these are rules given in the Dispensation of Grace, these are rules given for the Church Age. These rules which were true of the first century are also true of the twentieth century. One should judge today’s culture by the Word of God, not judge the Word of God by twentieth century culture.
Having stated that not to them alone came the Word of God (v. 36), in verses 37–38, he developed further what the Word of God is, especially as it applies to the spiritual and non-spiritual ones in the local church. He referred to the latter as ignorant. He first discussed the spiritual (v. 37). The spiritual are the mature believers in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 2:14–3:6). These will recognize that what Paul said and wrote is the Word of God. Paul was not expressing just a personal preference or opinion here as he did in two other places in the book. What he stated here are divine commands coming through his apostolic authority. He had the gift of apostleship and, like a prophet, he too received direct revelation from God. The rules he spoke were not rules of preference, but rules, which God Himself gave him, the rules of the Word of God. Those who were spiritual would recognize that what Paul said and wrote is the Word of the Lord.
Here he is addressing those who, on the grounds of a “higher revelation,” might want to change these rules and regulations he has just given as well as those he had given earlier in discussing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Someone in the Corinthian church may say, “I have the gift of prophecy. As a prophet I have authority to change the rules that have been handed down by the apostles.” But that would be totally wrong.
No matter how much higher revelation anyone may claim to have, no matter how great a prophet, even if all his prophecies have come true, he has no authority to change the directions given by God Himself. The test of a prophet was always twofold: first, he had to predict near events that came to pass to authenticate his prophetic office; and, secondly, even if all the events he prophesied came to pass, when he taught things contrary to the written Word of God, he was not to be followed. Paul said that if some of those who have the gift of prophecy in the Corinthian church began to teach things contrary to that which was handed down through apostolic authority, they are not to be believed nor followed. Those who are true prophets and those who are truly spiritual will recognize that what Paul taught is indeed the Word of God.
Then, in verse 38, he addresses the non-spiritual or ignorant: those who chose to remain ignorant are to remain ignorant. Their ignorance will be evident by their immaturity, their carnality, their misuse of spiritual gifts, and their claims of authority to change the rules of the Word of God. They remain in ignorance though they claim to have all knowledge.
(3) The Balance—1 Corinthians 14:39–40
Having said this, he then draws the proper balance concerning spiritual gifts (v. 39) by stating two things. First: desire earnestly to prophesy. The word desire means, “to covet.” As a congregation, this is what they should be seeking. The Corinthian church had become a typically charismatic/pentecostal church in that they had been emphasizing the gift of tongues and de-emphasizing the greater gifts. While the sensational gifts are more amusing, they are not the gifts, which bring believers to maturity. It is the greater gifts, such as the gift of teaching, which bring believers to maturity. As a congregation, they should not be desiring the lesser gifts but the greater gifts.
Secondly: forbid not to speak with tongues. The biblical emphasis on the greater gifts does not mean that the lesser gifts should be dismissed or ignored. They, too, have their proper place. Forbid not simply means “to let it happen,” but does not encourage the seeking of it. Furthermore, forbid not means “it cannot be prohibited” as long as the rules which Paul listed earlier are obeyed. Tongues can be forbidden if the gift is used contrary to the rules of 1 Corinthians 14: if two or more people speak at the same time, it can be forbidden; if more than three desire to speak, it can be forbidden; if a woman is speaking in tongues in the church, she can be forbidden; if there is no interpreter, it can be forbidden to speak. But if all the rules are obeyed, then forbid not to speak in tongues. Let it happen, but do not seek it.
The balance concerning tongues is: SEEK NOT—FORBID NOT. Seek not—because, if you are a believer who does not speak in tongues, then you have a superior gift, so do not worry about a lesser gift like tongues. Forbid not—if there is someone who has the true gift of tongues, and it can be used within the rules of 1 Corinthians 14, then it should be allowed. Seek not; forbid not.
In verse 40, the whole discussion ends with the rules he has been emphasizing throughout: let all things be done decently and in order.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS: