This chapter is not an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts (see Romans 12.3-8; Ephesians 4.7-12; 1 Peter 4.10,11 for more examples). There are many gifts; people have different gifts; some people have more than one gift, and one gift is not superior to another. The Holy Spirit distributes all spiritual gifts, and their purpose is to build up the body of Christ’s for the glory of God. These gifts are for Body Building and God’s glory.

In Corinth, these spiritual gifts that were given to build one another up had become symbols of spiritual power and competition that was causing confusion during church services and rifts and rivalries outside of the 4 walls of the church. Some people thought they were more “spiritual” than others because of their gifts. This was a terrible misuse of spiritual gifts because the very purpose of the gifts is always to build one another up and help the church function in unity and for the gory of God, not to divide it.

There are three guiding principles that characterize the operation of the gifts of The Holy Spirit:

  1. The principle of self control. Unlike paganism, the power of the Holy Spirit does not drive people into wild compulsive acts. The fruit of The Spirit is self-control.
  2. The principle that Christ is glorified. All manifestations of the Spirit are given for the glory of Christ, not the exaltation of the instrument.
  3. The principle of unity under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The main work of the Holy Spirit is to bring His people together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

12.1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant (mistaken; lacking understanding).

The English word gifts here is in italics. Meaning that it was added to help understand the text. The Greek word for spiritual is pneumatikos. It should be read, now concerning the things of The Spirit.

So what we are looking at are the things that relate to The Spirit of God and how He endows and empowers the body of Christ to serve Him and exhort one another. Peter explains the ultimate purpose for using these various God given gifts and abilities this way:

1 Peter 4.10,11 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

I would not have you ignorant – I find it intriguing that Paul voices this same desire concerning:

  • Old Testament typology in 1 Corinthians 10
  • the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4
  • the tactics of Satan in 2 Corinthians 3
  • the future of Israel in Romans 11

The very areas about which Paul did not want the church to be ignorant about are the very about which believers in the past and to the present day have had the most questions and heated debates.

12.2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

12.3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

In the sacrificial scheme, for something to be anathema meant alienated from God without hope of being redeemed. Evidently, there was “an utterance” given in some meeting where someone called Jesus accursed. Accursed- Anathema; doomed to destruction.
Paul makes it clear that it is impossible for a person praying in the Spirit to say Jesus is accursed. He then declared that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Let me ask you a few very pointed questions. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is THE Lord? Do you believe that He died for your sins on the cross? Do you believe that Jesus rose again from the dead? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh?

Did you know that the ability to know and believe these things is not because you or I are incredibly smart? That kind of knowledge comes to sinners like myself only one way—through the Holy Ghost Who dwells within us. Therefore, if you can truly say that Jesus is the Lord, you can be assured that the Holy Spirit is residing in you and working through you.

12.4 Now there are diversities (distinctions; varieties) of gifts, but the same Spirit.

The word gifts here in the Greek is the word charisma, from where we get the term charismatic. The Greek word charisma is a form of the word charis, or “grace”—that which is undeserved and unearned. Not only these gifts, but also any and every gift that we have is from God, and they are undeserved and unearned. That is why God hates boasting and spiritual pride.

John the baptizer said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven (John 3.27). John knew he had nothing apart from God. Any abilities, gifts, or ministry he possessed came directly as a gift from his heavenly Father. So, too, if there is any area in which you excel, it is solely because God sovereignly and graciously gave you the necessary desires, abilities, and provisions.

12.5 And there are differences (distinctions) of administrations (service; offices; ministries), but the same Lord.

The word administrations here can also be translated services, offices or ministries. This can point to the different “ascension ministry gift offices” in the church, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, as Paul also described in Ephesians 4 and at the end of this chapter.

12.6 And there are diversities of operations (working), but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

The Trinity is completely involved in the giving, using, and empowering of all spiritual gifts. All three Persons of The Godhead are at work in the appointing and operation of these spiritual gifts.

In verse 4, we see different gifts, but the same Spirit. The gifts are linked to the Spirit.
In verse 5, we see different ministries, but the same Lord Jesus. The ministries are linked to the Son
In verse 6, we see different energies, but the same God. The operations are linked to the Father

I want to point out to you that some of the gifts are ministries or offices or positions in the church, such as apostles, prophets and teachers in verse 28. Some gifts are spontaneous or supernatural outpourings that are given at a particular time and place for a particular purpose.

12.7 But the manifestation (expression) of the Spirit is given to every man to profit (benefit; build up) withal.

Every person in the body of Christ is given a manifestation of The Spirit. These gifts are not to be hidden under a bushel. Nor are they to be used to promote myself. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to promote any man, but to glorify and exalt The Name of Jesus. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit would come, He will testify of Me (John 15:26), and He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you (John 16:14).

To profit withal means to benefit or build up. In other words, any Spirit anointed usage of our gifts will result in mutual edification and stronger disciples for the glory of God. Each particular saint is gifted by God to make vital contributions to the collective life and growth of the whole body.

Let’s look at some Body Building Gifts:

12.8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

The word of wisdom doesn’t come from one’s ability to figure out a situation. It is supernaturally given to answer a question or solve a problem. A word of wisdom is a spiritual utterance at a given moment through the Spirit that supernaturally unveils the mind, purpose, and will of God as applied to a specific situation as shown in Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 23).

Word of knowledge is a supernatural revelation of information pertaining to a person or an event, given for a specific purpose, usually having to do with an immediate need. This was seen in the life of Paul in his shipwreck on the way to Rome in Acts 27:10, 23-26.
Though these gifts are supernatural, they are given to benefit us personally and practically.

12.9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;-

Faith– Every Christian possesses the indwelling Spirit and has a measure of faith. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be saved. This gift of faith speaks of those times when God gives to an individual a special measure of faith to do the will or work of God. The operation of this gift of faith is the ability to step out in response to the leading of the Spirit and do something you would never have done otherwise, as when Peter walked on water.

Gifts of healing– It is always in the plural, and it refers to the various healings that God performs supernaturally by the Spirit. This refers to a special gift that God gives to individuals at a certain point in time to minister healing. The bible does not teach that anyone has a singular gift of healing whereby he or she can line people up and heal them all.

12.10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Miracles are a manifestation of power beyond the ordinary course of natural law. It is a divine enablement to do something that could not be done naturally. Please do not think of what you see on “Christian television.” Many of God’s people are duped into thinking that if they could just see a miracle or two, their faith would soar. Not so. Ask the nation of Israel! Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). For the believer, the way to grow in faith is not to see the miraculous, but to take in the Scriptures. Follow The Word, obey The Word and miracles will happen.

Prophecy is a multi faceted gift. The prophet Joel had written the words of the Lord, Joel 2:28I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.This gift of prophecy most commonly refers to the forth telling of The Word of God as it is expounded in the assembling of the saints. 1 Cor 14.3 He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

But it can also refer to times when The Spirit of God will prophesy of future events as when in Acts 11.28 Agabus signified by the Spirit that there should be a dearth throughout all the world, which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

It can refer to a spontaneous, Spirit- inspired message that is orally delivered either in a church service or outside of a church building for the edification and encouragement of the body of Christ. Since no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, it should be noted that since the canon of Scripture is complete, all such “inspired writings” like the book of Mormon are false and are to be rejected.

Discerning of spirits is the ability to discern the spirit world, and especially to detect the true source of circumstances or motives of people. As when the next to blind prophet Ahijah discerned Jeroboams wife in 2 Kings 14.

Divers kinds of tongues is the gift of speaking supernaturally in a language not known to the individual. The plural kinds allows different forms, possibly harmonizing the known spoken languages of Acts 2:4–6 and the unknown transrational utterances in Corinthians, designed particularly for praying and singing in the Spirit, mostly for private worship (14:14–19)

Interpretation of tongues is the gift of rendering the transrational (but not irrational) message of the Spirit meaningful to others when exercised. This interpretation of tongues is not what took place on the Day of Pentecost. They heard the apostles speak the Word of God in their native language. Nobody needed to interpret for them.

12.11 But all these (all these, not just some of these) worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing (appointing) to every man severally as he will.

Note that it is God Who distributes these gifts. We do not pick and choose which gifts we want. This should quench any potential jealousy, envy or tendency to boast or brag. How wonderful it is to know that the church’s mission is not limited to the abilities of mere human intelligence, wisdom or knowledge. The Holy Spirit has provided these specially designed, distributed, and energized gifts according to His sovereign will and timing.