Study of Corinthians – This is how we live – part 13


1 Cor 12:8-11

I hope to answer the following questions in this preach. How many spiritual gifts are there? And what do they mean to us today?


In Paul’s way of writing one can spot the wider scope of Paul’s audience when it came to talking to the church in Corinth. Paul probably had the wider Church in mind when he wrote this letter through which we can benefit in our church practise today.

Some of the topics we’ve looked at so far; disunity; knowledge; leadership issues; food sacrificed to idols; divorce; sexual immorality; social class differences; etc.

One of my lectures in theology used to say that the letters in the NT can be seen as “occasional documents.” Even though the letter to the Corinthians seems to be written with the wider Church in mind, one still has to understand the context of the Corinthian church to which Paul is writing. We can’t just take scripture out of context and apply it the way we like. This is a difficult tasks in which we always have to remain humble enough to admit that we don’t have the full knowledge. That’s why reading and learning from past interpretations can lead us into a better and deeper understanding of the scripture.

So Paul talked about different topics in great detail, but he know changes the topic completely to something that I’m really excited about. “Now concerning Spiritual gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:1) These gifts will be explored in chapter 12, 13 and 14 of the letter to the Corinthians – it would be helpful to read these chapters in your private time as well.

A little bit of background before we go into more detail about the gifts of the Spirit. Corinth was a pagan city; many idols; the people and also the Christians in Corinth thought they knew it all (pride); different spiritualities; “Competitive elitism,” misunderstanding of the spiritual gifts, possibly the most about tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophecy since these are discussed in more details.

  1. Spiritual Gifts

How many spiritual gifts are there? Are the spiritual gifts limited to 9 gifts or are there more?

Do we believe these gifts are still active? Sensationalism?

Besides the 9 gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 the bible talks about other gifts as well in several other letters:

Romans 12:6-8

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

1 Peter 4:10-11

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The gifts described in these scriptures are quite different from the ones we hear about the most but that doesn’t make them less important.

  • Serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading or providing for others, mercy, speaking.

Besides the spiritual gifts given to individuals the Bible also talks about a gift of ministry given to a person which will bless the church and the wider body of Christ. Paul talks about these ministries in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:11-13

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole mesure of the fullness of Christ.

The gifts we will look at today are the 9 gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12 which usually manifest for ‘the occasion.’ God reveals himself through a gift through a believer used by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s read the scripture that talks about these 9 gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 / 8-11

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Having in mind that the Corinthians had quite a background in spirituality we understand the big emphasis from Paul on ‘the same Spirit’ and the ‘one Spirit’ since the Corinthians believed that different gifts came from different spirits. But we believe that all the gifts are from the Holy (set apart, different) Spirit and not some random spirits.

The Corinthians were familiar with prophecy and speaking in tongues only this was more trance based. They would come into some kind of trance because of repetitive music or drum beats. This could be a reason why the church has been so hesitant about musical instruments when you look at church history. Music was related to bad spirituality but I’m happy that most churches have come away from that mindset since music is a great way of worshipping our God!

Quote from David Prior:

“Paul probably is referring to what today is, in a broad sense, called ‘spirituality’ i.e. all the many diverse ways in which we experience spiritual reality.”

  1. The 9 Spiritual Gifts mentioned in Corinthians

These nine gifts can be divided into three groups of three:
1. Revelation / knowing: word of wisdom; word of knowledge; discerning of spirits
2. Power / doing: faith; gifts of healings; workings of miracles
3. Vocal / speaking: tongues; interpretation; prophecy

Word of Wisdom

“Wisdom is directive and knowledge is informative. Wisdom needs knowledge upon which to act and knowledge must be directed by wisdom.”

James 1:5

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Example: John 8:1-11 – Woman caught in adultery

Word of Knowledge

God’s knowledge revealed to someone. This happens a lot when people go out for evangelism or in evangelistic meetings. The knowledge revealed can lead to salvation, healing, encouragement, deliverance, etc.

Example: John 4:16-18 – woman at the well

Discerning of Spirits

Discerning when it is the work of the Holy Spirit, discerning angels, demons. This could be a situation when the Holy Spirit reveals that somebody needs deliverance or that a person has bad intentions.

Example: Acts 13:6-11 – Paul and a Jewish sorcerer – blind


The Bible talks about different kinds of faith:

  1. Faith comes through hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17); – coming to Christ;
  2. Faith as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22); (difference between gift and fruit – Christmas tree (sudden) and apple tree (takes a long time to grow and develop);
  3. Faith as a gift of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:9).

The third one is God’s faith given to us for a specific occasion. This faith will result in a ‘knowing’ that something will happen. So it’s not having some positive mindset; it’s not saying things because they sound good; it’s not ignoring reality (denying the situation); it’s not avoiding medical help; it’s not about stopping taking medicine. The faith that Paul mentions here is from God and you don’t have to create it. This is a God given faith which can turn around a seemingly impossible situation!

Example: Mark 4 – Jesus calms the storm / John 11 – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Gifts of Healing

Healing from physical illness; mental health; every illness or sickness that can burden us… Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

The difference between healings and miracles could be described as:

  • Healing is mostly related to a disease, like a cure (sudden or process);
  • Miracle is ‘bigger’ since it creates something that wasn’t there;

Example of healing: Matt. 8:1-3 – Jesus touches a leper.

Gift of Miracles

Some of Jesus’ wonders can be described as nature miracles (e.g. water into wine John 2 or the loaves and fishes John 6);

Other contemporary examples could be metal in body (from an operation) that disappears, a disk in a back miraculously replaced, etc. (mostly sudden). I’ve heard many testimonies from people who experienced a miracle from God in their life.

Gift of Prophecy

This is different from Old Testament King James prophecy where the emphasis is more on punishment and judgement.

Prophecy is meant for the other person whereas tongues is more for yourself. Prophecy should build up the church and prophecy should build up a person.

1 Corinthians 14:3-4

3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church

If somebody gives a prophecy and you’re not sure about it you can tell them straight away that you will think and pray about it. If it doesn’t connect with you can leave it and give it back to the Lord. You can trust the Lord that he will reveal it to you again if he really wants you to do something with it. Don’t walk around with ‘weird’ prophecies! Talk to some wise people if it is bothering you. Talk to the pastor.

Gift of Tongues

Speaking in tongues came after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Tongues is a study in itself but I want to argue that everybody who received the Holy Spirit is able to speak in tongues. It’s like streams of living water (John 7:38) refreshing, uplifting, and renewing your spirit. You don’t have to force anything but have the courage to ask for it; pray about it; read about it.

1 Corinthians 14:4

4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

Gift of interpretation of Tongues

This was Paul’s teaching based on what happened in the churches. Someone would speak in tongues as from God and someone would give the interpretation. See 1 Corinthians 14 for a broader explanation. I’ve been part of meetings where this happened and it is amazing to see this in practise. I wish we should see it more because it comes straight from God. Somebody would speak in a different tongue and not long after that somebody else or more than one will give the translation. The message could be corrective, encouraging; reassurance; revelation; etc.

  1. What do Spiritual Gifts mean to us today?

1 Cor. 12:7—To each is regularly given
The Holy Spirit can give any manifestation through any believer at any time.

But “gifts” are regularly manifested. Note the following:
1. Rom. 12:6—Having then gifts . . .
2. 1 Cor. 7:7—Every man hath his proper gift . . .
3. 1 Cor. 12:30—Have all the gifts of healing?
4. 1 Cor. 12:31—Covet the best gifts . . .
5. 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6—The gift that is in thee . . .
6. 1 Pet. 4:10—As every man hath received a gift . . .


Thought and prayer for the week:

Could it be that the Holy Spirit wants to use you in one or more of His gifts?

Challenge for the week:

Read the scriptures about the different gifts prayerfully and ask the Holy Spirit to use you more in these amazing gifts which are meant to build the body of Christ as a whole but also the individuals in it. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you courage to step out where you feel his prompting.

We probably all agree that we want to see more of His gifts at work right?

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