1 Cor. 12:1-11 Paul teaches the new believers about the different kinds of spiritual gifts that God bestows on those who are filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:4, 4:31, 8:14-17, 10:44-48, 11:15, 13:52 & 19:1-6). “The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom, and the same Spirit gives another the ability to speak with knowledge. The same Spirit gives faith to one person. And, to another, that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. The Spirit gives to another person the power to do miracles, to another, the ability to prophesy. And he gives to another the ability to know the difference between good and evil spirits. The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak in different kinds of languages and to another the ability to interpret those languages” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
“The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom..."
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Paul describes nine different spiritual gifts which believers may receive from God when they are filled with the Holy Spirit. These spiritual gifts were common amongst early Christians, and Peter and Paul expected all new believers to use at least some of these gifts from God (see Acts 8:14-17).
Wisdom means heavenly inspiration beyond ordinary human wisdom (see Acts 13:1-3 & 16:6-10).
Knowledge refers to information about someone or something revealed directly by God (see Acts 9:10-19 & 11:27-28).
Faith signifies the kind of firm belief, given by God, that is strong enough to ‘move mountains’ (see Acts 9:40-42 & 12:5-10).
Healing includes the use of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal the sick (see Acts 3:1-10 & 5:12-16).
Miracles means using the power of the Holy Spirit to do things that seem impossible in order to bring glory to God (see Acts 4:30-31 & 13:11-12).
Prophesy means speaking God’s message about the Good News of Jesus (see Acts 2: 14-41 & 4:8-13).
Discernment indicates the ability to know the difference between those who are using gifts from the Holy Spirit and those who are not (see Acts 8:18-23 & 13:9-10).
Languages signifies speaking in heavenly languages (‘tongues’) or earthly languages that have not been learnt (see Acts 10:44-46, Romans 8:26 & Acts 2:4-12).
Interpretation involves interpreting these heavenly or earthly languages in order to share their message with others (see 1 Corinthians 14:27-29).
Gifts shared among the body of believers
1 Cor. 12:12-31 Paul explains that, like the body of Christ, the body of believers is made up of lots of different parts. Each believer has different gifts and believers should respect each other’s gifts. “In the church God has given a place first to apostles, second to prophets, and third to teachers. Then God has given a place to those who do miracles, those who have gifts of healing, those who can help others, those who are able to govern, and those who can speak in different languages” (1 Corinthians 12:28).
Teaching theology in Kenya (Africa Inland Mission)
The greatest gift
1 Cor. 13:1-13 Paul says that the greatest of God’s gifts is self-sacrificing love. (The Greek word agape that Paul uses for ‘love’ means ‘self-giving’, not sexual attraction).
“I may speak in different languages of people or even angels. But if I do not have love, I am only a noisy bell or a crashing cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1)
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not boast, and it is not proud. … Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always remains strong” (1 Corinthians 13:4 & 7)
Paul explains that a believer’s understanding of God’s ways is only partial in this life. “Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
More about gifts from the Holy Spirit
1 Cor. 14:1-25 Paul explains more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He urges all believers to seek these gifts, especially self-sacrificing love and the gift of speaking God’s message (‘prophesy’). “You should seek after love, and you should truly want to have the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Paul reminds them that some gifts are useful in individual prayer while others may be of more use during collective worship. “I wish all of you had the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages, but more, I wish you would prophesy. Those who prophesy are greater than those who can only speak in different languages – unless someone is there who can explain what is said so that the whole church can be helped” (1 Corinthians 14:5).