The Gifts of the Spirit

“The most-lengthy discussion of the gifts of the Spirit is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14.”

A Diversity of Gifts

                The “first thing we learn about the gifts of the Spirit is that they are diverse [1 Cor. 12:4]. Paul also teaches that the purpose of the gifts is the edification of the whole body [1 Cor. 12:7; 14:3].” Thirdly, all the members of the church of God “have been empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry [1 Cor. 12:11-13]. This text formed the root of a Reformation principle – the priesthood of all believers,” which teaches, “that even though certain individuals hold the office of pastor, elder, or deacon, the ministry of the church is not restricted to a handful of professionals. The whole body has been equipped by the Holy Spirit to participate in the mission of the church.”

One Body

                In 1 Corinthians 12:14-19, “Paul labors the point that each portion of the body of Christ has a specific task to perform and has been given the ability to do that task in order to help meet the full mission of the church, just as individual parts of the human body have specific functions to fulfill for the well-being of the whole body.” Paul “is addressing those who wanted to make the gift of tongues the supreme test of spirituality in the life of the church. Paul is saying, ‘If you want to make tongues the only significant gift, that is no different than saying that the whole body should be an eye.’”

                Paul then makes it clear in 1 Cor. 12:29-30, “that not everyone in the body of Christ has been gifted with tongues.”

The Gift of Prophecy

                In 1 Cor. 13, Paul “makes it clear that the gift of love is far more important to the people of God than these more spectacular gifts: ‘Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease’ … [see vv.8-10].”

                In 1 Cor. 14:1, “when Paul encourages people to prophesy, he has in mind the ability to articulate the truth of God. The preacher preaching and the individual Christian bearing witness to his faith are prophetic actions, but not in the sense of giving new revelation to the community of God, as the Old Testament prophets did.”

The Gift of Tongues

                In 1 Cor. 14, Paul gives “strict instructions for how the gift of tongues was to be used in the early church.” He “instructs that gatherings are not to be interrupted by tongues unless there is an interpreter present, someone who can make it intelligible. Great sensitivity is to be exercised when an unbeliever comes into the meeting and has no idea what is going on.” There is no edification or “profit to the people of God without the intelligible content of the truth of God being communicated to the people.”

                There are manifold records of tongues-speaking “among pagan religions and cults such as Mormonism,” and there is no discernable difference between their ecstatic utterances and the ecstatic utterances of contemporary Pentecostals.

[Adapted from chapter 35, Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]