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Spiritual Gifts September 13, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 12:1-11.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that he wants the Corinthians to understand the true nature and purpose of spiritual gifts, so they can distinguish between those who possess them and those who only claim to possess them. Now they need to be instructed on this topic since while they were unbelievers, they were controlled by an irrational, irresistible impulse – causing them to worship mute idols; they did not understand the Holy Spirit at that time. To assist them in this regard, Paul notes that no one can speak under the influence of the Holy Spirit and state that Jesus was justly condemned to die; also, no one can sincerely believe and confess that Jesus is both divine and human unless they are led by the Holy Spirit. Now he also notes that:

  • the Holy Spirit is the source of all spiritual gifts
  • all spiritual gifts should be used in the service of the Lord Jesus
  • God the Father exercises all spiritual gifts in those who receive them.

In particular, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in a unique way in every believer so that the entire body of Christ may be edified. Paul then states that the Holy Spirit is the source of the following gifts:

  • communicating the Gospel as the object of saving faith
  • understanding and communicating the truths that are revealed by apostles and prophets
  • possessing extraordinary faith – enabling believers to be willing to die for Christ
  • miraculously healing the sick
  • performing miracles
  • hearing from the Holy Spirit and revealing the substance of that communication – be it a prediction, guidance regarding faith and deeds, or a previously stated truth
  • determining whether another person is genuinely led by the Holy Spirit
  • praying, praising God and thanking Him using a foreign language
  • understanding the tongue spoken by another believer and communicating those spoken truths to others.

Paul concludes by stating that all of these gifts are exercised in their recipients by the Holy Spirit, and He distributes them according to His will.

Thoughts: In verse 3, we see that one way to determine whether someone truly possesses the Holy Spirit is to see how they speak of Christ. Hodge offers some insights on this thorny issue:

To blaspheme Christ, to say evil of him, was the way in which people renounced Christianity before the Roman tribunals; and saying, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37) was the way people professed allegiance to Christ. People acknowledged themselves to be Christians by acknowledging the divinity of Christ.

Now clearly it is possible for someone to appear to be a believer based on their words and deeds – and then be exposed as a fraud based on their future words and deeds. This conundrum compels me to focus on Hodge’s reference to Roman tribunals; I believe that a person’s genuine beliefs are revealed during times of stress and difficulty. When a person’s external circumstances become dire, more often than not their fundamental beliefs and principles rise to the surface. Moreover, I believe that God causes these adverse circumstances in order to test both believers and non-believers.

In verse 10, Paul notes that the Holy Spirit has given some believers the gift of “speaking in different kinds of tongues.” As expected, this phrase has been interpreted in various ways, and Hodge weighs in as follows:

That is, the ability to speak in languages previously unknown to the speakers. The nature of this gift is determined by the account given in Acts 2:4-11, where it says that the apostles “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” People of all the neighboring countries asked with astonishment, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” It is impossible to deny that the miracle recorded in Acts consisted in enabling the apostles to speak in languages that they had never learned.

My appreciation of the gift of speaking in tongues improved immensely after reading the above commentary. I then pictured myself bursting forth in prayer, praise and thanksgiving to God while speaking Khmer, Yoruba or Quechua. Clearly that would be such a mind-boggling event that I would be at a loss to describe it. Of course, this piques my interest in visiting a Pentecostal church and seeing the gift of tongues being put into practice – could their worshipers be edifying each other using languages that they had never studied?

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