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Spiritual Gifts: Finding Where you Belong

1 Corinthians 12:4–11

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
  • This post has been taken from CrossPointe Church's BeautifulMess study guides from the Appendix. A special thank you to the CrossPointe WinterPark curriculum writing team for creating this resource for our church. 

The Manifestation of the Spirit

There are many spiritual gifts listed throughout the New Testament, and they all play important roles in the body of believers. Some, like hospitality or teaching, are gifts that shape our personalities and give us natural abilities that can and should be used for the glory of God. These gifts may grow and change over time, but they don’t come and go from day to day or season to season; they’re who we are. The gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 are different and sometimes intimidating, so it’s important to dig a little deeper into what Paul means when he writes about the “manifestation of the Spirit.”

The Gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8–10:

• Utterance of Wisdom

• Utterance of Knowledge

• Faith

• Gifts of Healing

• Working of Miracles

• Prophecy

• Distinguishing between Spirits

• Tongues

• Interpretation of Tongues

Understanding The Gifts 

The following definitions are by no means exhaustive but are included here as a resource to use while studying Paul’s encouragement and instruction to the Church at Corinth. Just like in the church today, some people were guilty of using the charismatic gifts of the Spirit in ways that were not honoring to God.

An easy response to the dangers of misusing gifts of the Holy Spirit would be to avoid them altogether, but this isn’t what Paul instructs. On the contrary, he commands the Corinthians to pursue the gifts, especially prophesy, but to use them with maturity and for the common good. Above all else, they’re to be used for the glory of God and to further his kingdom. We serve a living and active God who has given us his Spirit and invited us to participate in his exciting work.

Utterance of Wisdom / Utterance of Knowledge: Supernatural, spontaneous, and revelatory words to be spoken for the edification of the church. It’s popular today to define words of wisdom as revelatory words of instruction and to define words of knowledge as revelatory words of information, but Paul never assigns strict definitions to differentiate between the two terms. They both refer to God revealing information that would not otherwise be known. When God speaks through his children in this way, it is a blessing and an encouragement to the hearer. It’s less important to precisely define and distinguish between words of wisdom and knowledge than it is to recognize that God still speaks to us today for the building up of our faith and the benefit of the church.

Faith: Three types of faith are mentioned in the New Testament: conversion faith, continuing faith, and charismatic faith. Conversion faith is the faith by which we are saved. It is our confidence in Jesus’ work on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Continuing faith is the faith that sustains us — the faith that God is good and that he can and will work through our lives and fulfill his promises.Charismatic faith is different in that it is not given to every believer. D. A. Carson states that this faith “enables a believer to trust God to bring about certain things for which he or she cannot claim some divine promise recorded in Scripture, or some state of affairs grounded in the very structure of the gospel.” It is the “God given ability, without fakery or platitudinous exhortations, to believe what you do not really believe, to trust God for a certain blessing not promised in Scripture.” This kind of faith is occasional and subject to the will of God. Though the gift of faith will allow someone to trust, with full confidence, that God will bring something about that is not directly promised in scripture (such as healing), it will never contradict with scripture.

Gifts of Healing: Gifts of healings are expressions of divine mercy. Like all gifts of the Spirit, healing is subject to the will of God — just because God wills to bestow on someone the gift of healing at one time doesn’t mean that they can always heal. And just because someone seems to be blessed with the gift to pray healing over a certain ailment doesn’t mean that they will see similar results when praying over other ailments. In scripture, acts of healing are often tied to faith. We should, in faith, pray for God to heal, knowing that he delights in healing. But do not be discouraged if it is not God’s will to heal in a particular situation. He is sovereign and good, and we can rest in his promises even when we do not understand his ways.

Working of Miracles: In Acts 4, the believers prayed for “signs and wonders [to be] performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus,” and the whole room shook from the power of the Holy Spirit, and in John 14:12 Jesus states that “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” While the full weight and meaning of Jesus’ words may be too much for our minds to comprehend, it’s clear from scripture that it is good to pray for signs and wonders that will bring glory to God and further his kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 12, this gift is literally defined as “workings of powers.”

Sam Storms defines miracles as acts that are“Sufficiently unusual to arouse awe and wonder and to evoke acknowledgement of God’s power and activity.” As with the other gifts of the Spirit, the working of miracles encourages believers, builds our faith, and gives glory to the one true God. This gift is also given at the will of God. Sometimes God is most glorified through bold acts of divine compassion, while other times his will is for us to grow through patient endurance.

Prophecy: Like words of knowledge and wisdom, prophecy is a revelatory gift. 1 Corinthians 14:3 explains that “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” Later in 1 Corinthians 14:24–25, Paul suggests that prophetic words can bring conviction and disclose the “secrets of the heart.” Prophetic words are often a reminder that we are not forgotten. They can also teach and offer direction. As Paul notes, a prophetic word should always be tested by mature believers and should never conflict with scripture. Sam Storms sums up the power of prophetic words in this way: “When people are suddenly confronted with the inescapable reality that God truly knows their hearts and has heard their prayers and is intimately acquainted with all their ways, they are encouraged to  press on and to persevere.” With this frame of mind, it is clear why Paul would desire that all prophesy — it’s such a beautiful way to encourage one another and remind each other of God’s goodness, power and love.

Distinguishing between Spirits: The supernatural ability to distinguish between  works of the Holy Spirit and works of other, possibly demonic, spirits.

Sam Storms explains, “Whereas all Christians are responsible to ‘test the spirits to see whether they be of God’ (1 John 4:1), Paul has in mind here a special ability that is fundamentally intuitive or subjective in nature. The spiritual gift of distinguishing spirits or discerning between spirits is probably a supernaturally enabled  ‘sense’ or ‘feeling’ concerning the nature and source of the ‘spirit.’” He continues,  “I can’t think of another spiritual gift that is so desperately needed in the life of the church today. Consider the many instances when it would prove immensely helpful to know whether or not a sin or an addiction or the breakdown in a marriage or a display of what appears to be mental illness is the work of sinful choices, or biological factors, or emotional wounds from an abusive past, or perhaps the influence of a demonic spirit or perhaps even some combination of all of them.”

Tongues: Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:5, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues...,” which tells us that this gift is something we should desire. As discussed further in weeks 12–13 of this study, he also lays out important rules regarding speaking in tongues during a corporate gathering. Tongues are an expression of prayer and worship in the Spirit. It can be described as praying and worshiping beyond what our limited words can express and allowing the Spirit to pray through us. Within a corporate gathering, tongues are not permissible without an interpreter, because words cannot edify and build up if they can’t be understood. In private prayer and worship (or quietly to God during a time of corporate prayer or worship), there are not rules placed on the use of the gift.

Interpretation of Tongues: Interpretation of tongues is the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to translate a public utterance of tongues. This gift brings clarity to the praise, worship, or thanksgiving that was not previously discernable  to the congregation as a whole and, therefore, it can be a great blessing to the gathered body of believers.

Helpful Guidelines

Sam Storms offers these practical guidelines for moving forward as you seek to walk in the Holy Spirit and use the gifts he has given you for the common good:

1. Acknowledge and embrace from the outset that you can do nothing to force God’s hand. Whether or not he reveals something to you for the edification of another is entirely dependent on his will, not yours. If God chooses not to bless you with this gift, rest assured he has other, equally important, plans for you and how to use you  in the life of the church

2. Make this a specific and consistent focus of your prayers. Cry out to God daily that he would bless you with this gifting (1 Cor. 14:1).

3. Monitor your heart’s motivation: be certain that your longing for this sort of gifting is your love for the welfare of others and not the notoriety or attention that such a gift might bring to you.

4. Learn from others who are already operating in revelatory gifts. Identify who they are, seek them out, ask them questions, listen to their story, learn from their mistakes, and be encouraged by their success. In a word, hang out with people of similar passion and who have a track record of accuracy in this gifting.

5. Learn the many ways in which God communicates: dreams, visions, impressions, internal audible voice, symbols, sympathetic pains, providential occurrences, etc.  Don’t be surprised or put off if what you hear seems weird, but don’t be weird just for the sake of being weird!

6. Immerse yourself in God’s Word. Meditate on who God is, what he’s like, and how he communicated to others in biblical history. This will help you discern whether or not it is God who is speaking. He will never reveal anything to anyone that is inconsistent with his character or his ways.

7. Be attentive to the Spirit of God. Listen! Watch! Write down what you think may be the word of the Spirit. Be attentive to the revelatory language that God might choose to utilize for you. He doesn’t always make himself known to everyone in the same way.

8. Share in Confidence. If you think God has revealed something to you for the edification of another, first share it in confidence with trusted and mature Christian friends who can help you process what has happened. There is wisdom in the counsel of community.

9. Be willing to risk being wrong. Step out in faith and humility: “I may have entirely missed this, but I think God may have put something on my heart for you. If this doesn’t make any sense, you won’t hurt my feelings by telling me so.” Resist the temptation to say: “Thus saith the Lord” or “This is the will of God for your life!”

10. Certain things to avoid:

  1. BE careful about sharing negative or critical words (1 Cor. 14:3)
  2. DON’T assume that every random thought that passes through your brain is from God
  3. DON’T rely on revelatory gifts to make routine decisions in life  


2 Resources

D. A. Carson and Sam Storms have both written extensively on the gifts in this passage, and these books are great resources for growing in your understanding of the manifestation gifts:

D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12–14

Sam Storms, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts