1 CORINTHIANS 12
12:1-3 The Test of Speaking in the Spirit
1Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
As Paul dealt with the imperfections of the church in Corinth, he sought to correct problems with their worship. He discussed head coverings and the Lord’s Supper. Now he moves to the expression of spiritual gifts. The gift that will be discussed the most will be that of speaking in tongues. Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts will stretch through chapters 12, 13, and 14, and will all be in the context of appropriate worship and life in the body of Christ.
Paul does not want the Corinthians to be ignorant, or uninformed, about spiritual gifts. They had been led astray to idol worship before, and he does not want them led into error now. This is a good instruction for all of us, but especially for those today who embrace every weird phenomena as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the weirder the more spiritual.
It is evident that the Corinthian church members were speaking in tongues and had questions about it. Paul’s first instruction is about limits on speaking in tongues and judging if it is really an exercise of the spiritual gift. He said no one can say Jesus be cursed and claim to be speaking by the Holy Spirit or using his spiritual gift. This is a sort of statement on the Trinity. The persons of the Trinity are in perfect harmony. One will not degrade the other. The Holy Spirit will not lead you to do anything that dishonors Jesus. So, if you ever have that urge, you can know it is not from the Holy Spirit. In John 15:26, Jesus said “when the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the father, the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” In John 16:14, Jesus said “he will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”
So, if you hear someone standing and speaking in tongues and bringing dishonor to Christ, rather than honor, he or she is not exercising a spiritual gift, but is being used by some other spirit.
12:4-6 Many Gifts, One Spirit
4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
There are many gifts, there are different kinds of service and there are different kinds of working. We see this all the time. Some have the gift of prophecy, but not all. Some have the gift of discernment or faith, others do not.
But there is one Holy Spirit. Different gifts do not come from different spirits. There are many ways to serve, but we all serve one lord, Jesus Christ. Three are many ways to work, but there is one God working in men and women. Notice again the Trinitarian statement.
A DIGRESSION ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
Joel 2:28 prophesied the pouring out of the Spirit. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit. See John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7-15; Acts 1:5, 8.
The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. See Acts 2:1-4. Notice here that the speaking in tongues, or languages, allowed the people to hear the mighty works of God in their own tongues, according to verse 11.
In Acts 2:17, Peter applied the prophecy of Joel 2:28 to this event.
But, remember that the Holy Spirit did not come into existence at this time. The Holy Spirit is God, an equal member of the Trinity, existing for all eternity. Genesis 1:2 tells us that, in the beginning of the world, the Spirit was there. The Old Testament records several instances of the Spirit being upon a person and Exodus 31:3 speaks of the Spirit filling a man.
Romans 8:9 tells us that all believers have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
12:7-11 Describing The Gifts
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
First, we see that each believer is given a gift as the manifestation of the Spirit. It is not just a few privileged ones who get a gift. There are those in the Pentecostal camp who say that speaking in tongues is the manifestation of the Spirit, but this does not seem to be the case, since Paul goes on to list several different gifts.
The Assemblies of God take this position in their statement of fundamental truths:
8. The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.
Acts 2:4 [KJV/NIV]
The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.
1 Corinthians 12:4-10 [KJV/NIV]
1 Corinthians 12:28 [KJV/NIV]
This comes from the 2nd chapter of Acts, where the apostles spoke in tongues when they received the Holy Spirit. This is repeated in Acts 10:46, after peter preached to the men with Cornelius the centurion. The Jewish believers were astonished that Gentile believers received the Holy Spirit, as they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. There is one other example, in Acts 19:1-7. Paul came to Ephesus and found disciples who had received only John’s baptism. Paul preached Jesus to them and they were baptized into the name of Jesus. Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
It is not, however, in the description of the activities of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. Paul does not tie speaking in tongues to salvation in his letters, either.
The gifts are given for the common good. That is, the Spirit distributes gifts for the benefit of the church, not the individual. It is not so that you can be famous, it is so the body can be built up. Ephesians 4:11-12 say this clearly. [Read it.]
Definition: A spiritual gift is the God-given capacity of every Christian to carry out his function in the body of Christ.
Here is the list:
1. the message of wisdom;
2. the message of knowledge;
5. miraculous powers;
7. the ability to distinguish between spirits;
8. the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues; and
9. the interpretation of tongues.
Wisdom – spiritual insight
Knowledge – an acquaintance with sacred things (Calvin)
Faith – beyond ordinary faith, that produces miracles (Calvin); the supernatural ability to trust God (Deffinbaugh)
Miraculous powers – Calvin thought this applied to defeating demons
Prophecy – unfolding the secret will of God
Tongues – speaking in another language
interpretation of tongues – interpreting a foreign language into the native language
In verse 11, he reiterates that the one Spirit gives all the gifts and He determines who will get them. We do not determine it. The Spirit is sovereign, as are the other members of the Godhead.
12:12-13 One Body
Paul used the human body to illustrate the Body of Christ. The human body is one living organism composed of many parts. The parts do not exist independently. If you don’t believe, cut off a body part and watch it die.
Because there is one Holy Spirit into whom all believers are baptized, we become one body. It does not matter what race we are, what gender, what national origin. Once you receive Christ, you become part of his one body with everyone else. This is even true of Jews and Gentiles. They are one. There is not one body for Jews and one for non-Jews. There is one body.
Galatians 3:26-29 says “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (ESV)
Romans 12:4 says “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
This is yet another call for unity, as Paul began in chapter 1. Divisions and disunity and selfishness are blemishes on the bride of Christ.
12:14-21 Many Parts
The body is one organism, in unity through the Spirit, but it is composed of many parts. Those parts are the individual believers. You don’t get to choose this, by the way. Verse 15 tells us a believer cannot say “I am not part of the body” because he does not play the part he wants. The fact that you say “I am not part of the body” does not make it so. You are a part of the body if you are a believer. You may be a non- dis-or malfunctioning part, but you are a part.
The body needs all its parts. The body of Christ needs you! You are needed. You may not feel it, see it or believe it, but it is so.
Remember, this is within the context of gifts. God has given you a “gift”, which is an ability to serve the body of Christ in a certain way, and the body\church needs you, your gift and your service.
Just as you can’t say I don’t need the body, I am not part of it, the other members of the body cannot say they don’t need you. The really noticeable parts cannot tell the less noticeable parts they are not needed. They are needed. Paul uses the image of the eye telling the hand it is not needed. The gift of prophecy cannot tell the gift of service it is not needed. It is. God said so.
John 15, using the image of the vine and the branches, taught us that we must be connected to Christ to produce a fruit. Now, 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that we must be connected to each other if we are to function as God designed and intended us to.
12:22-24 Honor to the Less Honorable
Verse 22 tells us that we may see the more spectacular appearing gifts as being more necessary, but, in fact, those gifts that appear “weaker” or more discrete are given more honor. The Corinthians put a great value on tongues speaking. It was showy, flamboyant and noticeable. But, Paul said the less showy gifts were indispensable. You cannot get much done without those who serve or give or encourage.
Baptists don’t do much with speaking in tongues. But, we give great honor to singers and preachers. Yet, the scripture tells us those gifts are not more honorable than the less noticeable ones.
Verse 24 tells us that God composed the body. We saw earlier that the Spirit gave out the gifts as he willed. God gave greater honor to the parts of the body we might not honor. I think this is especially true with the gifts that bring about service that people don’t notice. God honors it greatly.
12:25-26 Caring For Each Other
God wants no divisions in the body, but all having the same care for each other. We don’t get this done very well in our human nature. But, Paul said we suffer together, receive honor together and rejoice together. If you hurt, I hurt. If you rejoice, I rejoice. We are in the same boat.
12:27-31 More Gifts
Paul restates the gifts, some of which sound like offices. Some seem new, others seem to be re-listed. They are:
We do not all have the same gifts. We are to desire the higher gifts, though he does not say what those are.
In summary, all believers are given gifts by Christ through the Holy Spirit.
-we do not all have the same gift
-the gifts are used in service
-the gifts are used to build up the body and continue Christ’s ministry
-as we serve, our gifts will be recognized by the body and by ourselves
Even so, Paul will teach us a more excellent way than desiring gifts, and that is in chapter 13.