The Nine Spiritual Gifts of 1 Cor 12:1-11
The key given by God to interpret these gifts is in 1 Corinthians 12:7. In this verse the
gifts (that are given) are called manifestations of the Spirit. Manifestations of the Spirit
come and go, so the gifts of the Spirit come and go, for the Spirit is the One who gives
these manifestations. They are called gifts because the Spirit gives them.
Gifts of the Spirit are not permanent presents given by God to be used by us at any time
we choose. The Apostles could only do supernatural things as they were moved by the
Spirit. Peter did not heal the lame man (recorded in the third chapter of Acts) the first
time he saw him. He no doubt passed by him many times before he was moved by the
Spirit to heal him. Acts 2:42-47 reveals the fact that the Apostles had a church
established in Jerusalem, and that they met daily in the temple, long before this lame man
at the gate was healed. Although Acts 3:2 says they laid the lame man at the gate of the
temple daily. The lame man was not healed until Peter was moved by the Spirit to heal
him. The Apostle Paul did not cast the devil out of the fortune teller the first day she
followed them. Acts 16:16-18 says, “This did she many days.” One day Paul was moved
by the Spirit and turned and said, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come
out of her.” Paul did not move until the Spirit moved him, for he did not have a
permanent gift. He said, “I labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me
mightily” (Colossians 1:29). Jesus said in John 5:17, “My Father worketh hitherto and I
work.” Jesus is saying, while my Father is moving me I must work, for it is my Father
that dwelleth in Me that doeth the works.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know
him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth
us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known
me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew
us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the
words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he
doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else
believe me for the very works’ sake.
Paul says, “It is God that worketh in you both to will, and to do of his good pleasure”
(Phillipians 2:13). It is easy to see that the gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, that come
and go, and are not permanent presents given by God.
Another fact that should not be overlooked is that the Gentiles, who were heathens, had
these same manifestations in their worship around their dumb idols, but they were
produced by a demon spirit. That is the reason Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1-3:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye
were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give
you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God called Jesus accursed: and
that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
The Apostle Paul is warning these Corinthians to be sure that their manifestations are
produced by the Holy Ghost and not by some false spirit. To call Jesus Lord is to
acknowledge His virgin birth. For Him, being begotten by the Holy Ghost is what makes
Him Lord. We cannot call Jesus Lord, only by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the
One that produces these manifestations, or gifts.
An Exposition of the Nine Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
1. “For unto one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom.” Because you have had the
word of wisdom does not mean that you are the wise man of the church. But it does
mean that you have a wise God within you that produced wisdom. Wisdom is the right
application of knowledge, it means to say the right word at the right time under difficult
circumstances. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a
testimony against them and the Gentiles. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought
how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall
speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you”
(Matthew 10:18-20). “I am the vine, ye are the branches. he that abideth in me, and I in
him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and
upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
2. “The word of knowledge.” Paul is not saying that knowledge is given to us by a
supernatural manifestation of the Spirit. We must study to get knowledge. It is the word
of knowledge that is given to us by the Spirit. The word of knowledge means the ability
to express what we know, so that others can understand. There are multitudes of people
who have obtained knowledge, but cannot express what they know, so that others can
understand. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). “And I myself also am
persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all
knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).
3. “Faith by the same Spirit.” Great faith is not something we carry around with us. It is
a manifestation of the Spirit and must be given each time something great is to be
accomplished. The Apostles learned this secret from Jesus in the following lesson. A
father brought his son to Jesus for healing (Mark 9:14-29). Jesus said to this father, “All
things are possible to him that believeth.” The father said, “Lord, I do believe, help thou
my unbelief (or weak faith).” The Lord Jesus gave him the faith that was needed, and his
son was healed. The Disciples came to Jesus privately and asked Him, “Why could not
we perform this miracle?” Jesus said, “Because of your little faith. How be it this kind
goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Jesus is saying that it takes special faith for this
kind of a miracle, and He is saying the extra faith only comes through special prayer. The
Apostles remembered this experience and always waited for the moving of the Spirit
before they attempted great things. All things are possible to him that believeth, but it is
impossible to believe for great things unless God gives the faith.
4. “The gifts of healing by the same Spirit.” This scripture teaches that healing is a gift
each time someone is healed. It is God that performs the healing, and if He doesn’t, there
is not a man on earth who can. No man has a permanent gift of healing, so that he can
heal anyone at any time. Contact must be made with God for the one who is sick,
because healing is a manifestation of the Spirit. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is
given to every man to profit withal” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
5. “To another the working of miracles.” A miracle is that which is above the regular
established law of nature. It takes the Spirit of God to perform a miracle. No man has a
permanent gift of performing miracles. It takes a manifestation of the Spirit, and a
manifestation must be given each time a miracle takes place.
6. “To another prophecy.” To prophesy, one must speak under the impulse of the Spirit
words of edification, exhortation and comfort, whether they are fore-telling future events,
preaching a sermon or giving a testimony. What we call a testimony meeting, Paul called
a prophecy meeting. “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and
exhortation, and comfort. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all
may be comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:3, 31).
7. “To another discerning of spirits.” Many false spirits are in the world, and most of
them are very religious. Therefore, John says, “Try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). Many
religious leaders are possessed with the wrong spirit. That is the reason we have such
erroneous interpretations of the Bible today! The way to try the spirits is by the Word and
by the Holy Ghost.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because
many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that confesseth the Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every
spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is
that spirit of anti-christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now
already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them:
because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
1 John 4:1-4
Peter did not get discernment on Simon the sorcerer right away. The Bible says that
Simon himself believed and was baptized and continued with Philip (Acts 8:13). Peter
had to wait for God to give him discernment, for he did not have a permanent gift. When
Simon tried to buy the gift of God with money, the Spirit moved Peter and he was given
discernment (Acts 8:18-24).
8. “To another different kinds of tongues.” The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians
14:18, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all.” Anyone who has been
filled with the Spirit to the extent of speaking with tongues realizes that it is supernatural
and gives God all the glory. When I was filled with the Spirit, and spoke with tongues, it
seemed that all Heaven had moved into me. While I was seeking and yielding myself to
the Spirit, and spoke with tongues, it seemed to me that the Holy Ghost was a machine
within me, making “Hallelujahs” faster than I could get them out. The more spiritual joy
you have, the closer you are to being filled with the Spirit and speaking in other tongues
as the Spirit gives the utterance.
The Apostle Paul gives the only explanation of the tongue question that is in the Bible.
No man has a right to put his own private interpretation on the examples of speaking in
tongues. For it is the examples in the book of Acts that the Apostle is explaining. Paul
uses the same scripture that was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. “For with stammering
lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11). Then he said, “This
shows that the gift of tongues is intended as a sign, not to those who believe but to the
unbelievers” (1 Corinthians 14:21, 22). A businessman does not have to look at the sign
on his store to know that his store is stocked with merchandise. The sign is for the one
who doesn’t know. On the Day of Pentecost they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and
began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them words to utter (Acts 2:4). The
Spirit giving them words to utter is what makes tongues a gift of the Spirit, for tongues
are always Holy Ghost produced (if they are of God). The Spirit must give us the words
we utter, whether we speak in tongues one time or a thousand times. No one can speak in
tongues only as he is moved by the Spirit.
Speaking with tongues was given for three purposes:
1. For self edification. “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he
that prophesieth edifieth the church. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye
all” (1 Corinthians 14:4, 18).
2. For a sign to unbelievers. “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and
other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the
Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe
not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (1
Corinthians 14:21, 22).
3. To edify the church when a message is given in tongues which demands interpretation.
I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he
that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church
may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what
shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by
prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or
harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or
harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the
battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how
shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so
many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if
I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and
he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous
of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him
that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
1 Corinthians 14:5-13
Speaking with tongues for self edification for a sign to unbelievers does not need to be
interpreted. The theory that speaking with tongues is the first evidence of receiving the
Holy Ghost is man-made. It is doubtful if the Apostle Paul ever heard of such a doctrine.
He did not say anything about it in any of his Epistles, and they were written for the
purpose of explaining church doctrine. If that doctrine was true, it would be explained in
the Epistles. Let us not be wise above what is written. We will do well to take Paul’s
explanation of the tongue question. If you really want to know what the first evidence of
the new birth is, read 1 John 3:14. It says, “We know that we have passed from death
unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are
ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or
figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree
bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt
tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,
and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Anyone who has been filled with the Spirit, to the extent of speaking with tongues, has
one of the greatest experiences this side of Heaven. With this filling comes more love,
more joy, more peace, more freedom, more power to witness, more boldness, etc. You do
not get more of the Spirit, but the Spirit gets a greater possession of you. The Holy Ghost
works like liquor. First one drinks the liquor and then it possesses them. It is the same
with the Spirit. You receive the Holy Ghost first, and then the Spirit fills you as you yield
yourself to Him. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the
Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). “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” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The filling of the Spirit always comes from within.
9. “To another the interpretation of tongues.” To give a true interpretation of tongues,
the interpreter would have to speak in his own language, as the Spirit gives him words to
utter. Otherwise, it would only be an imagination of his own mind, and not a true gift of
the Spirit. No one has a permanent gift of interpretation, for it is a manifestation of the
Spirit, and must be given each time one interprets.
Churches or individuals that do not have these manifestations of the Spirit do not need the
twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. These chapters were written to churches that were
spiritual enough to have these gifts in operation. You do not need to tell a paralyzed child
to stay out of mischief.
When Paul asked the question in 1 Corinthians 12:20, “Have all the gifts of healing, do
all speak with tongues, do all interpret,” he is saying that they are not for all. Paul said in
1 Corinthians 14:4, 5, “I would that ye all speak in tongues.” He also said in 1
Corinthians 14:31, “For ye may all prophesy one by one.” James 1:5 says God will give
wisdom to any man who will ask. God gives these manifestations severally as he will.
“But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as
he will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). That is, He may use you one time and me another time.
All of God’s people can have one or all of these manifestations (or gifts) of the Spirit if
they are filled with the Spirit to the extent that they can be produced.
When Paul said, “Covet the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31), it is another way of saying,
“Seek the gift you need, when you need it.” The gifts are not given as good, better and
best. The one you need at the time is the best one. If someone is sick, healing is the best
gift. If your own soul needs edifying, tongues is the best one. If a devil is trying to get
into the church, discernment is the best. If you have a problem to handle, wisdom is what
you need. Remember, it is God that worketh in you. Both to will and to do of His good
So be sure and work according to His working that worketh in you.
No man has the power to impart these manifestations (or gifts) to others. They are
manifestations of the Spirit and are only given by the Spirit.
The Apostle Paul is not regulating the gifts of the Spirit in the fourteenth chapter of 1
Corinthians as some say. Neither Paul nor anyone else could regulate the manifestations
of the Spirit. Paul is explaining what these manifestations are for.
Think of how many puffed up bigots there are running around preying on the public,
claiming to have one of these gifts as a present, given to him by God. You often hear
these words, “I fasted forty days for this.” In other words, see what I am. I would have to
be something great for God to give me a permanent gift like I have. If you will watch
people like that, you will find that most of them are “has beens.” Their prophecies never
come to pass. Their tongues are a habit, they say the same words over and over. Their
interpretations are imaginations of their own minds. They build the people up on what
God is going to do. Of course, it never comes to pass but the people are supposed to keep
on believing it.
What we, as God’s people need, is to be filled with the Spirit to the extent that God can
give these manifestations as they are needed.
These gifts are not given by God to a select few, as permanent presents; rather, they are
manifestations of the Spirit that come and go.
Faith (that is, the faith that we are saved by), hope and love abideth continually. “And
now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1
Corinthians 13:13). The greatest of these is love, for love is the first evidence to an
individual that they have received the Holy Ghost. “We know that we have passed from
death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in
death” (1 John 3:14). Love is also the evidence to the world that we are Christians. “A
new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye
also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples. If ye have
love one to another” (John 13:34, 35). It should also be noticed that all the fruit of the
Spirit is based on love. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”
(Galatians 5:22, 23).
The fruit of the Spirit is divided into three sets of three’s:
1. Love, joy and peace is an inward state and is the first evidence of the new birth.
2. Longsuffering, gentleness and goodness is the way we show our love to our brother.
3. Faithfulness, meekness and temperance shows our love to God.
It is impossible for a sinner, or a mere professor, to produce this fruit. Wherefore by their
fruit shall ye know them (Matthew 7:15-20).
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