The Truth About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14 Concise Exposition)

First Corinthians is a book which has many sections due to how Paul addressed several issues which the Corinthians had asked him about or which Pasul otherwise saw the need to address.  In chapters twelve to fourteen he addresses spiritual gifts.  The three chapters together are one continuous treatise on spiritual gifts.  Since this is a topic over which there is so much confusion and controversy in our time, it is critical to consult what the Word of God actually teaches about it through a divinely inspired Apostle of Christ addressing this matter.  I will read these chapters and give concise analysis occasionally as we go through them.

12:1- This is something which it is not right to ignore, and it is not right to be closed to correction on this.

12:2- Heathen worship corresponds to going with the flow of things like the flow of one’s culture and one’s senses.  True Christianity crosses natural desires and demands that the passions and lusts of the flesh be crucified.  No one can enter into it nor remain in it in God’s sight who just basically does what is expected of them by others or seeks to appease others or is overpowered by the charisma of a religious leader.  Labeling worship as Christian doesn’t make it Christian.  Heathen elements can be mixed into what is labeled as Christianity, thereby corrupting it.  Our messages “The Curse of Emotionalism” and “Why Preachers Should Not be Regularly Screaming at their Audience” are related to these things.  

And consider going forward that even though idols are lifeless and therefore cannot speak nor impart life, it was (and is) nevertheless common for people in Pagan Temples to speak in unintelligible tongues and give allegedly prophetic utterances.  Therefore, it should be evident that speech can be labeled as having divine origin that in reality stems from human contriving, human conditioning, or possibly even demonic influence.  Keep this in mind going forward as the Apostle Paul deals with the things which he deals with in these chapters.

12:3a- This may be a reference to (alleged) Jewish prophets that the Corinthians had been exposed to who seemingly spoke under divine inspiration, and maybe even said some things which sounded holy, yet these nevertheless rejected Jesus as the Messiah and called Him accursed.  Whatever the case, note the principle.

3b- Anyone can call Jesus the Lord, and Jesus made it clear that not every one that says to Him Lord, Lord will enter into His kingdom, but the Apostle means here that there is indeed a supernatural aspect of true Christianity which indeed stems from the true and living God.  Those who say that Jesus is the Lord with adequate understanding of His person and His work of redemption, and who have truly received Him for all that He is, including His Lordship or authority over themselves based upon His Word, these have been led to confession of Jesus Christ through the influence of God’s Spirit (which they could have resisted but they nevertheless arrived at this confession through the Holy Spirit); and they are indeed indwelt by God’s Spirit through their reception of Jesus Christ in truth.  His Spirit is given to all them that obey Him (Acts 5:32).  Therefore, they are indeed eligible for genuine spiritual gifts from God; and they could indeed grieve His Holy Spirit by not exercising the spiritual gifts they’ve received or by adopting and using a counterfeit spiritual gift.  

12:7- Any genuine spiritual gift from God is given for the profit of others.  Period.  A mass amount of confusion is cleared up, and much deception is detected by simply knowing and receiving this basic truth.

12:9a- We must all live by faith in God’s Word and believe its promises, its threats, and all it guarantees.  In regard to faith as a special gift which some Christians have, but not others, this is a reference to confidence in God to work in certain ways for the glory of His name in a way that is more specific than the generalities given expressly in His Word.

12:9b- It is not proper to have an entire church lay hands upon a sick person to pray for their healing.  I’ve seen that happen.  It doesn’t glorify God.  It is not in line with His Word.  His Word does not guarantee healing to even faithful Christians, but if it were God’s will to heal someone supernaturally through the intervention of another, that is not something which every Christian is gifted for.

12:10: Note that it says diverse kinds of tongues.  To many, tongues are a heavenly language which no man understands (that would all be one language).  Biblically, tongues are rather languages of earth.  This will bear out more as we go forward.

12:13: THIS is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit being poured out upon an individual through an authentic faith in Jesus Christ.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not tongues.  If you are born again in Christ, you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit.  And speaking some unintelligible alleged language which some have labeled “tongues from the Holy Spirit” does not prove that you are baptized with the Holy Spirit nor prove that you are in Christ at all.

12:21: Yet there are such things as foreign elements to a body which the body does not need, and which can even be downright destructive.  And there are things a sick body does which a healthy body does not do.  And there are foolish things which one should not do with their body.

12:22-25: When the leader or leadership of the church is consistently the center of attention in a congregation, something is wrong.  That is not a healthy church.  Churches can also easily become places where those who speak (besides the established leader or leadership) are constantly looking towards the leader or leadership for approval.  The focus should rather be identifying the real needs and weaknesses in the church from a Biblical perspective; and ministering to those from a Biblical perspective.  We hear about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 and we can easily assume that the goats kept their physical distance from the least of Christ’s brethren.  Yet you can fail to minister to the least of these by being insensitive to the true needs of your Christian brethren, and those you see in real need whom you do not minister to.  They might be right next to you.  This can be a failure to help materially, but many come to church and hear sermons and interact with other church members who perhaps never really even seek to help the same with the spiritual issues in their heart.  They never even seek to identify those needs and address them skillfully from a Biblical, Christian perspective.

12:26- That is, if the body is operating as it ought to.  However, related to what was just said, this is often not the case- except maybe on the surface in the most obvious catastrophic life events.

12:27- I have heard of times where the Pastor of a church (who was not repentant and born-again) repented (though already the Pastor of the church), got born again, and started preaching Biblically in simply the most basic things like true repentance and faith in Christ, and started addressing the obvious sins among the congregation.  The church was reduced to almost nothing within a short time.  To genuinely even get to this point for a congregation is a lot- and that is only the beginning; the arrival at the starting line regarding a church.

12:29-30: If these are not rhetorical questions which have an obvious answer to each being “no”, then we’d have to foolishly conclude that every Christian is an Apostle.  Not all speak with tongues!  And since there are no Apostles now like there were in the first century, then perhaps some of these other things, including speaking with tongues, are extremely rare now.

12:31: That more excellent way is to seek to meet the needs of others and to edify others.  Covet earnestly the best gifts on that basis.  

Luke 11:5-13: “And he (Jesus) said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?  And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.  I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity (great persistence) he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

If you have an alleged spiritual gift, consider how that gift is actually helping anyone else.  The unintelligible tongues which multitudes equate with the Holy Spirit and His gifts do not help anyone!  Most needs of others are things we don’t need a special spiritual gift to meet, we just need to walk in line with God’s Word ourselves and identify that need as a true need (especially when it’s not obvious) and need to walk obediently in faith to give what we already have to meet that need.  Sometimes though special help is needed to minister to the needs of others.  Yet man’s tendency is to focus on the gift itself and glory in it.  And this is why Paul goes where he goes in chapter thirteen, commending charity (or simply love) in accordance with God and His Word.  And this is why he gives some examples of the spiritual power, as well certain sacrifices which in themselves are not proof of genuine Christianity- things that people get impressed by, glory over, and tend to seek for vainglorious ends.  Note that as we go through chapter 13 and get into chapter 14 that the thought has never changed from the note which chapter 12 ended on.

13:1: “tongues of angels” is probably a reference to eloquence.  More on how people tend to abuse this phrase when we come to verse eight.

13:4: “vaunt” equals boast or show off

13:6- Doesn’t take pleasure in the sins of others.  There are many angles on verse six since rejoicing in iniquity can be done in many ways.  Perhaps the principal thing intended here is not rejoicing in another’s sin due to how this can make the one who has committed iniquity seem spiritually inferior to oneself.

13:7: This is all in relation to long suffering in accordance with God’s Word; not giving up on godly pursuits nor giving up on others due to personal pain, frustration, inconvenience, etc. which is involved in

13:8: Proving that when Paul is speaking of tongues in these chapters, he is speaking of the languages of men on earth; not some angelic heavenly language.  If such a language existed, it would not fail like all things pertaining to earth will.

14:1- Chapter 13 is one big parentheses (practically, even though the parentheses haven’t been put in the Bible) between 12:31 and 14:1.  The thought in 14:1 has never changed from 12:31.

14:2: He speaks in mysteries to his hearers who do not understand his language.  We are commanded to always pray with understanding in verse fifteen of this chapter.  We should not pray or otherwise speak before others in a church congregation when they cannot understand us.  This is all proven as going forward.

14:3: Note the definition of prophecy here.  It is not necessarily a prediction about the future or bringing to light things which were never known before or necessarily anything like that.  It is bringing forth and articulating the mind of God, which is revealed through His Word, for the benefit of others. 

14:4: Again, a reference to praying in a language the one praying understands but which the rest of the congregation does not understand.

14:5: Paul wished that everyone in the church spoke many languages.  Consider how convenient and potentially productive that would make everything.  Sometimes at the store I work at there’ll be a call over the intercom for a Spanish speaking employee to come to a certain place to help with a Spanish speaking customer.  An interpreter is needed.  And just knowing English and Spanish, or just knowing any two languages in which speakers of both languages commonly interact, is a productive skill and potential benefit.  And yet, speaking the Word of God faithfully for the benefit of the church is an even greater thing.

14:6: Paul is basically saying  “If I don’t edify you by God’s Word through my multilingual abilities, then what profit is it for me to even demonstrate them among you?  I am just showing off and wasting your time in that case.”

14:8: This applies to our communication in a language we are fluent in with others who speak that language too.  Some preachers, many preachers I believe, try to preach about how damnable sin living in sin is, but they also preach unconditional eternal security doctrine.  No one is going to fight the Christian war and run the Christian race successfully because of such preaching!  

14:9: And some things are hard to receive even though they are easily understood.

14:12- Back to 12:7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is for every man to profit withal.”  

There is no such thing as a genuine Christian spiritual gift which is only for the edification of the one who receives it.  

14:13: Not just speak to the congregation in a language which is foreign and hope that somehow someone will be able to interpret what he says.

14:14: Meaning that the one praying understands his prayer, but that understanding is unfruitful to those who hear which don’t understand the language they are praying in.  Those who speak in unintelligible language, thinking that’s the gift of the Holy Spirit, have no understanding at all of what they are saying since they are speaking nonsense.  What they are saying cannot edify anyone else since it cannot even edify themselves!  But when it comes to a language of earth, someone who speaks it can pray out loud in that language and be edified on a personal level, yet their prayer which is prayed based upon good understanding is unfruitful to those who hear them who cannot understand the language which they are praying in.  

14:15: If anyone had any doubts about what Paul meant before.  He is not validating some nonsensical prayer language- even in private!

14:16-17: Remember that spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the church, so just allegedly exercising them in private is out of bounds here too.

14:18: Paul knew more languages than any of the Corinthians knew.  He was truly a highly educated man.

14:19: He is going to seek to edify others at the church, not waste their time speaking in a language which they don’t understand.

14:21: The Hebrew Scriptures are foundational to Christianity.  The principles taught therein are eternal, even though there are certain rituals and ordinances which were for Israel as a nation and are not imposed upon Christians now (this is detailed much in several of our other studies).

14:24: Because truth is going forth with precision that inevitably speaks to his own heart.

14:26: “All things” are to be done unto edifying.  It’s amazing how many churches don’t even get this, let alone actually succeed at being edifying.

14:27-28: The one who is to interpret should be identified as able to do so beforehand.

14:29-32: The meeting should not be a free-for-all.  Only a few people should be speaking at it; no one needs to interrupt anyone (unless it’s the leadership protecting the flock and interrupting someone saying that is just plain destructive and significantly misleading).  If someone is going to speak, they should let the previous speaker finish.  The speaker shouldn’t ramble, especially to the point where people have lost the ability to listen to the next speaker.  Not more than one person needs to speak at once.  Basic, but then and now people get deluded on these matters!

Verses 34-37: What Paul said is based on what was already set forth in the Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures).  It’s the Word of God.  Yet not all speech is necessarily taking authority through giving directions and teaching the church.  There’s always a ditch on the other side of the road opposite the ditch which is more commonly driven into.  I’ve seen it where women couldn’t even share prayer requests when the leadership invited the church to share requests.  The woman literally was whispering into the husband’s ear so he could relay what she said to the church word for word.  That seems unnecessary.  And I sure don’t want any church I’m part of to not have the benefits of insights which faithful women have.  There must be a way for the church to get those yet not violate what is said here.  (Our message “A Few Really Obvious Ways to Spot Certain False Teachers” deals with this topic in detail).

Verse 38: Paul is obviously not saying to let anyone violate these principles in the church.  That would contradict everything he had been saying!  I think it’s reasonable to conclude he meant something more along the lines of “Don’t go chasing people who refuse to follow these sound principles of Scripture.  Let such start their own churches and prove what is being said by the mess that they become.”  Also, beware then that many churches now are the products of such people.  It’s pathetic.

14:39: According to the principles and boundaries which the Apostle has just taken the time and effort to set forth.

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]