“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. (1Cor.12:1)”
It really is somewhat amazing how Paul wants the Churches not to be ignorant about spiritual things, (yet if you look at the Church today), you can see that there is still a lot of confusion about this very subject and how some have misunderstood or misused Paul’s teachings.
From the very beginning starting with Genesis we see the Spirit of God moving in the earth; and throughout the scriptures the Spirit is moving in the background. So the first thing we need to know about Christianity is, nothing has changed; it’s spiritual and supernatural from its very beginnings and we can see it continuing to the end of the book of Revelation.
Paul’s letters, though written to specific Churches, were to be circulated and read among all of the various Churches.
There is no reason to think that only in the Corinthian Church was the Spirit moving and that it was only here where troubles arises concerning Spiritual matters. What we do know is the Corinthians did write to Paul and asked him some questions; and this could be why it appears that Paul singled them out concerning the Spirit (and knowing that his letters would reach others as well.)
“How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:26)”
We can see by Paul’s statement, the Spirit of God was moving mightily among all of the people, (no shortage here.) The problem wasn’t a lack of the Spirit, but rather it was an over abundance with no structure or sense of doing everything in an orderly matter.
The word “gifts” in v. 1, is not in the original Greek, but was added by the translators; the HCSB Bible says it this way: 1Co 12:1 About matters of the spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.
Paul starts out his discourse here; not directly about the gifts themselves, but rather starting with the Spirit himself. Then he speaks of the working or the manifestation of the Spirit of God (all Spiritual things in general).
Paul wants the people to know that the Spirit is at work in their midst and he does not want them to be unaware of the operation and manifestations of the Spirit; as well as, their own interactions with the Spirit through their use of the gifts or communion with God.
There are usually two extremes: Either people totally ignore the spiritual realm or they feel as if they are just pawns being pushed around by the good or bad spiritual forces, with little or no say in how these spirits operate within their lives, where they live more in superstition than truth.
Verses 2-3 in chapter 12, Paul reminds them that they were followers of idols in the past; something (or someone), whether it was spiritual or a supernatural event had convinced them that their idols were gods. (After all, an idol can not talk for itself, it being dumb or mute; so something or someone was speaking for it to convince them of this idea that their idol was a god.)
Paul does not say that there is nothing spiritual (a spirit) working within idol worship. But, what he does say helps the people to know just how to tell the difference from the operation of the true and the false, so they will not be led away or fall into error.
Paul also doesn’t say that any of them was operating by a false spirit or using a false gift, but rather he was showing how the Holy Spirit and the people he influences operates differently within the Church, than in idol worship. (A different mindset.)
Paul tells them the Spirit of God was the one who convinced them or gave them the faith that Jesus was Lord and without the Spirit’s revelation revealing this to their heart, they could neither say he was Lord, nor make him Lord of their lives.
It is this same Spirit who will always be at work in them; always pointing to Jesus as Lord, the Spirit will never change his message. He will never point to someone else, nor will he point away from Jesus or call him accursed.
So whether by a spirit or a prophet speaking by a spirit; you will know them by their message and not by their gifting’s (spiritual manifestations) alone. If the message changes or if Jesus is somehow diminished, then the gift is being abused or used to promote the wrong person or ideas; possibly a lying spirit is at work, if Jesus isn’t the focus of the message behind the gift.
Verses 4-7, Paul let’s them know that there is variety within how the Spirit of God works or how he manifests himself within the Body of Christ; yet it is the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God working through it all.
Also, unlike other religions; the Spirit of God lives in and manifests himself through every believer, he is not in or using just one person or a few specially selected people.
In the next few verses Paul uses two Greek words where each is translated “another” in the English. (allos and heteros)
The Greek word allos means: Another of the same kind (as the comparing of two separate apples as the same kind of fruit.)
The Greek word heteros means: Another of a different kind (the comparing of an apple to a pear, both are fruit, but each is a different kind of fruit.)
Another example of allos would be: one male (man) and another male (man), both are the same when speaking of mankind.
Example of heteros would be: one male and another being female, both may be human, but each represents another facet or part of mankind.
Jesus said: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another (allos), Comforter that he may abide with you forever; (John 14:16)”
This word (allos) would make the Spirit of Truth (the comforter); more than just a presence from God and it would also prevent us from seeing him as being the same person (Jesus).
When comparing the Spirit with Jesus, this would make him another (different, but of the same kind of) person!
When Paul uses the words “allos and heteros”, he show that two people who are the same, whether two men, or two females, or two Pastors, or two teachers; that the Spirit of God may choose to operate in them each differently, giving them different gifts; but it is still the same Spirit working in them both.
He also shows that there can be the same gifts working within different offices; such as, a Pastor and a Prophet may both operate in the same gift (prophesying, gifts of healing,…) and it will not create confusion.
Through this Paul by the Spirit destroys most religious models which would try to restrict the gifts of the Spirit to just one class of people; the gifts or manifestations are for the whole Body of Christ, not just an elite few.
However, these gifts will function according to the persons placement (calling) in the body or as they are needed. Some gifts even appear more available depending on one’s calling; such as the gift of prophecy, may work more often through a prophet than in a Pastor.
In Rom. 12:3 Paul exhorts the people, not to think too highly of themselves; but operate in the measure of the gift and faith given by God.
A Teacher is not a Pastor, though both may have the ability to teach; only the Pastor will be given the right to govern or lead the Church he is over.
A teacher may have the ability to pastor a church, but that does not make him a Pastor over the church. (Unfortunately we live in a world where everyone thinks (too highly) they should be a Pastor or the leader, when they shouldn’t.) The Church is full of “want-a-be” (Apostles, Prophets,….)
The body needs to be able to distinguish between learnable abilities and the gifts and callings (the use of the supernatural gifts and the ministry gifts or offices); too many people are being led by their learned abilities, thinking that they are called to be a Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist, Prophet or Apostle, when they are not (or they are confused, to which calling they are called to, because of the learned or natural talents they have.)
Since we all are called to take the gospel to the lost through the “Great Commission of Christ”, everyone will have some ability to teach, some ability to pastor, have some ability to evangelize or prophesy; however, that does not place us into the “office” of that same ability.
As we read Paul’s letter in chapter 12:8-10, he is pointing to the Spiritual gifts; the supernatural empowerment from the Spirit of God that works along with the ministerial abilities of the believers.
These are not learned talents or natural abilities. Not only does Paul use two different words for the word “another”, but he also uses three different Greek words which are translated into the English word, “by”.
The first word is: “dia”, which means; the channel by which something comes through; or in this case, “through” the operation of the Spirit.
The second word is:”kata”, which means; to come down from, or down upon, such as coming down from a high place to a lower place; in this case it means something that has come down from the Spirit.
Thirdly is the word, “en”, which means; in, as being in a place of rest or remaining in place; in this case it would mean; “being in the Spirit” or in the influence of the Spirit.
Through these three words we can know for certain that these gifts are not learned abilities, they are the supernatural moving of the Spirit of God through a person; where something is done through the Spirit or the Spirit has come upon a person or the person is in the Spirit.
Therefore the gift of healing is not the practicing of medicine or the works of a doctor; which he went to school and learned how to practice medicine. Nor is prophecy or prophesying just a motivational speech that can be learned.
So these are not natural talents of the person or learned abilities; such as you learning a different language so you can communicate to someone in a foreign land.
And, the gift of different kinds of tongues, this is not the ability to learn different languages; nor would the gift of interpretations of tongues, be the ability to learn how to interpret different languages.
These are not something that you can learn, but they must be given by the Spirit or done under the influence of the Spirit.
Therefore, one of the problems I see today is; the church can not distinguish between learned abilities and “anointed or Spirit empowered” abilities.
Many of the full gospel churches of today have pulled back from believing for the power of God, due to the lack of power in many of our leaders or the lack of control over what happens by the Spirit; even the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and the “Speaking of Tongues” is being rethought or forsaken altogether.
The problem isn’t with the Spirit; what has happened is the church has settled for learned abilities, (not that being learned or being skillful in your abilities is wrong; for Paul was also a man of deep erudition and David choose skillful musicians to play before the Lord; but these learned abilities are not to be a replacement for the power or grace of the Spirit.)
Paul teaches us that the Spirit of God is very involved in the church, not just a presence within us, but he also gives us power; a power to help us to communicate the gospel and enables us to present the reality of God to an unbelieving world.
Not only should we have a message of hope, but there should be a Spiritual power demonstrated to show the reality of God; which energizes that hope, which either changes the person and/or changes that person’s situation, (such as a healing or deliverance, the reality that God can really make a difference in them or for them; not just a pipe-dream.)
Paul shows it is by the Spirit that we are placed in our position in the body, and then he empowers us to be in this position, as well as, he reveals the nine supernatural gifts; Paul shows how this charisma works within the charisma. (How the Spiritual gifts works within the calling or the placement of a person in the body of Christ.)
The word used and that is translated “gifts” by Paul, is the Greek word “charisma”, which means; something given or something that is a result of grace. Paul uses this word in Rom. 12:6 as well as here in 1Cor.12; in Romans 12:6, Paul is referring to an ongoing grace that is given in order for each of us to operate within the normal course of our callings (offices) or our position in the body.
In 1Cor.12:8-10 is a list of manifestations of the Spirit or gifts, which are for a specific moment in time, where the Spirit will manifest the reality of God’s presence that breaks through the normal course of our lives for a special purpose.
In most cases, God will guide us through his written word or by the leading of that small still voice of his Spirit in our hearts. However, there are special moments where he may want to completely and abruptly change our course or direction; so in this case, he may give us a special word of knowledge or wisdom to accomplish this abrupt turn around.
Or there may arise a special moment where he wants us to witness to an unbeliever (or believer); and in order to show that God’s presence is in fact with us and he sent us to them, he may reveal something that only God himself would know about that person or a demonstration of power, in order to get that persons full attention.
Paul started his discourse in chapter 12, not wanting us to be ignorant and then he brings it to a close in chapter 14; Paul says, “But if any man be ignorant…” (1Cor.14:38) It appears that if someone wants to be willfully ignorant, then there is nothing else to do, but let him do so.
Some will never see beyond themselves, where they try to make God’s grace an occasion to make themselves the center of attention and not seeking the edification of the rest of the body.
Each position in the body is important and every gift is needed to fulfill God’s call. Paul knew that these Gentiles needed their minds renewed; coming from a world of idol worship and being translated into a different Spiritual environment. (God’s love and grace thinks and operates very differently, than that of idol worship.)
Unfortunately in the Corinthian Church, some were still using the same old mindset as they entered into a new way of operating in the Spirit of God; their focus was in the wrong areas causing confusion and discord. It’s interesting that God’s gifts were operating in a great measure in the Corinthian Church, in spite of all negative things happening in that Church.
Paul had heard some troubling things about this Church; yes, no doubt God was operating within this Church, but so was an old mindset that didn’t follow after or was guided by love. A position in the Church or and Spiritual gift without love misses the mark. Love helps in keeping things on track, we don’t have to sacrifice any gifts or choose one over the other; in fact Paul wasn’t trying to stop any gifts from working, because he said,”let all things be done”…”and in order”.
Paul didn’t say choose between love or the gifting of the Spirit either; they are to work together. But we are to understand that one day the gifts will no longer be needed to prove God’s reality.
I leave you with the words of Paul on spiritual matter:
” If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. (1Co 14:37-40)”