Diversities of Spiritual Gifts 1 Cor. 12: 1-13 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In 1 Cor 12:1-31, Paul dealt with the body of Christ and the diversities of spiritual gifts that are given to the members of his body. In this passage, he shows us that:
Spiritual gifts require spiritual understanding – 1-3 – Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to be ignorant about spiritual gifts [v.1]. Their former idolatry had made them “dumb” concerning the Spirit of God [v.2, Ps 115:4-8]. So, Paul gave them a couple of spiritual “tests,” like John gave in 1 Jn 4:2-3, to discern the Spirit. A man speaking by the Spirit of God doesn’t call Jesus accursed. And a man won’t say “Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost, [v.3].”
Spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit of God – 4-7 – the diversities of gifts don’t indicate that there are diversities of spirits who give those gifts; it is “the same Spirit, [v.4],” just like the different administrations come from the same Lord [v.5] and the different operations come from the same God [v.6].
Every man is given a spiritual gift or gifts [v.7] and his gift manifests the Spirit who gave it. In other words, you can see the gift and you can tell that it came from the Spirit. His gift is given “to profit withal.” In other words, it benefits him so that he can perform his calling for the Lord.
Spiritual gifts differ according to purpose – 8-11 – several gifts are mentioned in verses 8-11. They are:
- The word of wisdom – the ability to perfectly apply scripture to counsel
- The word of knowledge – the ability to show precisely what the scripture says
- Faith – Eph 2:8-9 applies to all who get saved; but then there is faith for particular works, as in 1 Cor 13:2. Moses and Elijah are given faith, and therefore power, to perform miracles [Rev 11:4-6].
- The gifts of healing
- The working of miracles – Acts 14:3
- Prophecy – 1 Cor 13:2
- Discerning of spirits
- Divers kinds of tongues
- The interpretation of tongues
Though these gifts differ, they all come from the same Spirit. And the Spirit divides them “to every man severally as he will.” That is, the Spirit gives these gifts to whom he chooses and for the purposes that he intends. And each man gets his own gift(s) [“severally”].
Spiritual gifts are like the different body parts – 12-27 – The body of Christ can be compared to the human body, in that each is one body made up of many members [v.12]. We all became members of one body when we were baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ [v.13]. This happened when we were born again; not when we were baptized in water. To understand “to drink into one Spirit,” see the cross references in Jn 6:63 and Jn 7:37-39.
Paul describes the relations of various parts in our natural bodies to emphasize the following:
- As God set the members in our natural bodies, so he sets the members in the body of Christ [v.18]. Both are his design.
- One member’s gift differs from another member’s gift but that doesn’t mean that one is a member of the body and the other is not [v.15-16].
- If all the members had the identical gift there would be many unmet necessities in the body [v.17]. We wouldn’t be a body [v.19]. Yet, we are a body of many members with many gifts [v.20].
- As the members of our natural bodies are interdependent, so the members of the body of Christ are interdependent [v.21], even the more feeble ones [v.22].
- As we give more attention to some members of our natural bodies than others, so the Lord has given more honor to that part of his body which lacked that there should be no schism in the body [v.23-25]. All members should care for each other, suffering and rejoicing together [v.26-27]. For instance, we give a lot of attention to our hair, though it’s feeble by comparison to the function of our eyes. And, though our little toe is seemingly insignificant, it gets plenty of attention when we drop a hammer on it or stub it.
Spiritual gifts are necessary for the body to function – 28-31 – God set different members with different gifts in the body to perform different functions. He first set apostles in the body, then prophets, and then teachers. Then he gave these gifts: miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues. Then he asked if all were apostles, if all were prophets, if all were teachers, and so forth. The obvious answer to these questions is, “No.” Therefore, those who preach you must speak in tongues to manifest the Holy Spirit in you are wrong. Not all speak with tongues, yet all are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ [1 Cor 12:13].
Paul concluded this chapter with the admonition to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” Certainly the best gift appears to be prophecy [1 Cor 14:1, 39]. Yet, Paul said there is a more excellent way. The more excellent way is charity, which Paul covered in chapter 13.