Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual Gifts

The Body of Christ


Cal Poulsen

Scripture Insights


Christ will evaluate each person’s contribution (work) to the life of the church, and the judgment day will reveal the sincerity of each person’s work. God will determine whether or not each person has been faithful to Jesus’ instructions. Good work will be rewarded; unfaithful or inferior work will be burned up.

1 Corinthians 3:13 

Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

1 Corinthians 3:14 

If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

1 Corinthians 3:15 

If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Christ will evaluate each person’s contribution to the life of the church, and the judgment day will reveal the sincerity of each person’s work. God will determine whether or not each person has been faithful to Jesus’ instructions. Good work will be rewarded; unfaithful or inferior work will be burned up.

1 Corinthians 12:1

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

1 Corinthians 12:2 

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

To contrast the work of the Holy Spirit, Paul reminded the believers of the influence of evil spirits (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). When they were pagans (non-Christians), they had been led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols.

Evil spirits had done the “influencing.” Evidently, in the cult religions, evil spirits “spoke” through their followers in what was called “ecstatic” or “inspired” speech. Evil forces were at work in the world, and the Corinthians would need to understand that what they had experienced as “tongues” or “inspired speech” in their pagan religion was completely different from the “speaking in tongues” that the believers might experience through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 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.

1 Corinthians 12:4 

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:5 

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

Paul was concerned that the Corinthian’s focus on any particular gift, such as “tongues,” or ecstatic speech, would tear them apart. While the specific question is unknown, Paul clearly wanted the believers to understand that tongues had their place but should not be sought by everyone.

In the broad context of spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues was just one gift. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, different kinds of service in the church, and different ways God works in our lives. God’s people receive many kinds of gifts, and no one gift is better than another. All the gifts come from one source and are to be used for one purpose, the building up of the Body of Christ.

These gifts are just that, gifts. They are not earned. They are not given to believers asking for a specific one. They are not chosen by people. God alone administers the gifts among his people. God, not believers, controls the gifts. Each believer, then, is responsible to seek God’s guidance in discovering his or her particular gift(s) and then discovering how best to use them for God’s purposes.

1 Corinthians 12:6 

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

1 Corinthians 12:7 

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

1 Corinthians 12:8 

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

People may think they have all kinds of wisdom and knowledge, which leads to pride, but true wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ alone. But to some people the Spirit gives extraordinary knowledge. This could mean a special knowledge of spiritual realities (1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 1 Corinthians 14:6) or knowledge given to teachers who are training others in Christian truth.

1 Corinthians 12:9

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

All Christians have faith because the faith that brings a person to salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Some people, however, have the spiritual gift of faith, which is an unusual measure of trust in the Holy Spirit’s power. This kind of faith is a supernatural trust in God’s miraculous power.

1 Corinthians 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:

1 Corinthians 12:11 

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts, and they are to be used for God’s divine purpose. Because the Holy Spirit alone decides which gift each person should have, there is no place for rivalry, jealousy, or pride among believers regarding their gifts. God, through his Spirit, gives to every person in the community of believers exactly the right gifts for him or her to provide the needed services for the church.

1 Corinthians 12:12 

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

What gives believers their unity is the one Spirit. The very same Spirit who also gives their diversity through the many and varied gifts. As believers live out their diversity through the gifts, they must never forget the basic fact that unites them—they have all received the same Spirit. All believers receive the same Holy Spirit at the time of their conversion. This distinguishes them from nonbelievers and unites them with one another.

1 Corinthians 12:14 

For the body is not one member, but many.


The Gift of Speaking in Tongues:

1 Corinthians 14:1

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

The gift of prophecy should be desired more than the gift of tongues because the ability to speak in tongues does not help other people since they won’t be able to understand you. The “tongues” mentioned are not earthly languages (such as the gift described in Acts 2:4-12). Instead, this refers to a heavenly language, unknown to the speaker or to anyone else. Through this special gift, the believer talks to God but not to people; talking to God primarily involves prayer and praise. Because “tongues” is a true spiritual gift, the speaker is speaking by the power of the Spirit, but the words are mysterious.

As wonderful as this gift is, Paul wanted the Corinthian believers, in particular, to stop overemphasizing it. They needed to keep its value in perspective. Paul’s goal, as always, was the unity and edification of all the believers. In light of this, Paul made several points about the gift of speaking in tongues.

1. The gift of speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians  12:28; 1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 14:39).

2. Speaking in tongues is a desirable gift, but it is not a requirement of salvation or of being filled with the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:30-31).

3. The gift of tongues is less important than prophecy and teaching (1 Corinthians 14:4).

4. The gift of tongues must be accompanied by some rules regarding its best use in public settings (1 Corinthians 14:26-28).

Although Paul himself spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18), but he stressed prophecy because it benefits the whole church. In context, speaking in tongues primarily benefits the speaker. Public worship must be understandable and edifying to the whole church. The purpose of “prophecy” is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them, and the one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. Through prophecy, believers are taught more about the Lord and their faith so they can grow as a body.

The person who speaks in tongues, however, is strengthened personally in the Lord. Such personal edification is truly a blessing for the one who has received this gift, but a person who prays in a tongue for personal edification should not be doing so in public worship because, while it strengthens him or her, it does not strengthen anyone else.

1 Corinthians 14:12

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

When spiritual gifts are properly used, they help everyone in the church. Much of the controversy over spiritual gifts today is because the gifts have been abused in some Christian circles (strikingly similar to the Corinthian problems), while at the same time they have been almost completely ignored in other Christian groups. In your church, seek balanced biblical teaching.


Your questions and comments are always appreciated.

Scripture Insights

2015 – 2016

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *