V88For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;. There is no man who can convey a certain gift to another person. The source, the origin of all the gifts is not found in a man, but in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives and distributes. The gifts come from Him. Thereby the Holy Spirit considers the natural abilities of the believer.
A beautiful illustration of that you find in Matthew 25 (Mt 25:1515To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.). In the parable of the talents the Lord Jesus is telling there, He compares Himself with a man who went abroad and gives talents to his slaves. These talents represent the gifts each person receives to work with. You see that there is a distinction in the number of talents that each person receives, just as there is a distinction in the gift that each person receives from the Spirit.
Then you read further that these talents are given “each according to his own ability”. That refers to the natural abilities that each person is born with. As long as a person is not converted, he uses that natural ability for himself, to his own glory. After his conversion he can use that natural ability to serve the Lord, while he constantly ought to be alert not to take the credit for using his abilities.
A person, who is naturally capable to put something well into words, might receive the gift from the Spirit to serve others with the Word. A person who is caring and considerate will receive in many cases a pastoral gift from the Spirit. There are many examples like that, whereby the spiritual gift is related to the natural ability. In most cases it happens like that.
I can hardly imagine that, if you have no ability to work with children, you would receive a task to do children’s work. Nevertheless, in this respect we should not try to control the freedom of the Spirit in distributing to whom He wants. I believe that you might have a gift, which, according to your feeling, doesn’t directly connect to your natural capabilities. I know of somebody who thought that he had no ability to work among children. However, once he began this work, it became apparent that he, on the contrary, could deal very well with children. By opening up yourself to His guidance you will discover which gift you have.
The gifts that are mentioned in verses 8-108For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;9to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,10and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another [various] kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues., are not a complete list of all gifts. It is important to pay attention to the sequence of these gifts. Paul summarizes the gifts according to their importance for the edification of the church. The Corinthians were proud of the so-called miracle gifts, especially speaking in tongues, which they held in high esteem. However, Paul doesn’t start with the miraculous gifts, but puts speaking in tongues and their interpretation at the bottom of the list. In chapter 14 he will deal with speaking in tongues in great detail and will clarify that this gift is not that important as the Corinthians thought it was.
The first gift that he mentions is “the word of wisdom”. In the church there may be situations, where it is not always clear what ought to be done. Wisdom is then the only way to deal with it. The definition of wisdom is, the capability to discern between good and evil and then to choose the good. Someone with this gift will then be able to tell the church what to do.
Another person has “the word of knowledge”. The believers of the church need to learn God’s thoughts, otherwise they will operate on their own understanding and the church will lose its character as a church of God. You can gain knowledge by being zealous in studying God’s Word.
V9-109to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,10and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another [various] kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.. “Faith” is another gift. It is about a gift to a believer here; thus it cannot possibly refer to the saving faith. The saving faith is not a gift that is given to only a few. A believer who has the gift of faith, will always firmly trust in what God has said in relation to a certain task He has given, in spite of how many obstacles may come his way, while others would have given up a long time ago.
The “gifts of healings” and the “effecting of miracles” served to confirm the Word of God (Mk 16:2020And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.>; Heb 2:3-43how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,4God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.).
“Prophecy” is the gift to pass on God’s thoughts concerning the church, with regard to the present and the future. The basis of prophecy will always be the Word of God and will never contradict it. Therefore prophecy will never be based on speculation or imagination, but will always be testable to the Bible. In chapter 14 this gift is compared to the gift of speaking in tongues.
Another person may have the gift of “distinguishing of spirits”. You may relate this to what happens in the church. A person with this gift will be able to discern whether something comes from the Holy Spirit or comes from demons. In the last section you have seen that it is often quite difficult to determine from which source a certain message comes.
Speaking in “tongues” was important in case a stranger joins the gathering of the church. When such a person would suddenly hear a person speaking about God and the Lord Jesus in his own language, that could be his salvation for eternity, when he may be converted. The “interpretation of tongues” was necessary with a view to the church, because otherwise people would not understand anything about what is said. After all, the gifts were given to the profit of the whole. As it is said, in chapter 14 Paul deals in great detail with speaking in tongues in church.
V1111But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.. You see that there are many diversities of gifts and yet there is still a unity. That’s because one and the same Spirit works all these things. He distributes to each one individually as He wills. He determines which place each person has in the body. No theological training can work this. Only the Holy Spirit determines that.
One more thing. You can learn from the last three words of verse 1111But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. that the Holy Spirit is God, for in verse 1818But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. the same thing is said about God. Thus He is a Person, and surely a Divine Person, and not just an influence or a power, for only a person has a will.
V1212For even as the body is one and [yet] has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.. In this verse an example of a body is given to clarify what is previously said about the diversities of the gifts. A body has a couple of characteristics. Two of them are brought forward here. Firstly, a body forms a unity. Secondly, a body consists of a number of different members.
You might then expect it to be written: so also is the church. After all it is about the church. However, it is said “so also is Christ”. This makes it clear that Christ and the church are one. What goes for the church also goes for Christ.
Saul, later called Paul, had already got to grips with that aspect when he was still a persecutor of the church. In Acts 9:44and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” is told that, while he was on his journey to Damascus in order to bring the disciples of the Lord bound to Jerusalem, a voice from heaven said to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” By persecuting the church he, in fact, persecuted Christ in heaven. In such a unity Christ is with His own on earth.
V1313For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.. All members of the church form together the one church. Each member of the body has its own function. It is about the unity of the body and about the many members, wherein Christ is seen on earth. As a member of the body your origins or social status are insignificant, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”.
Into that same Spirit you were made able to drink, in order to exercise your function in the body properly. From your own you have no power to function. Only when you let your life, as it were, be permeated with the Holy Spirit and when He totally infuses you, you will be able to function in your own place in the church.
Now read 1 Corinthians 12:8-13 again.
Reflection: Who is the Holy Spirit to you? How do you experience His presence in the church?