These next three chapters are all about the things of the Ruach. David Stern puts it this way, “Sha’ul first deals with the diversity of gifts in the one body of Messiah (12:1-12:31a), apparently addressing the problem of the people’s taking pride in having this or that gift from the Spirit, or feeling inferior because they don’t have it. In the ‘love chapter’ (12:31b-14:1a) he describes the ‘best way’ to live a Messianic life, even better than possessing spiritual gifts. Finally, in 14:1b-40 he addresses the problem the Corinthians had with disorderly use of the gifts of the Spirit in public worship.”[i][Read 1 Cor. 12:1-10] [ii]
Things of the Spirit
(Vs. 1-3) Sha’ul begins by affirming that as part of the congregation, the Corinthian believers are family, “brothers and sisters.” This was their current status. he does this because he needs to remind them from where they have come. Here in verse 2, Sha’ul indirectly confirms that his audience were “not from a Jewish but from a pagan background.”[iii] Previously, Sha’ul had been addressing the idolatry in which many of them had participated, and now he focuses specifically on the point that these idols can not speak. My children learned an interesting historical fact about how steam was used to make the stone idols and temple doors move “automatically” as a way to amaze the people. The concept of being “led astray” includes the sense of being tricked or fooled, so Sha’ul begins this discussion with a method of spiritual discernment. No one can truly say, “Yeshua be cursed” by the Ruach Elohim. This also applies to the common practice in Israel of saying “Yeshu” instead of “Yeshua.” “Yeshu” is an acronym made up by the Rabbi’s that literally means, “May His Name Be Cursed.” By the same token, when we declare, “Yeshua is Lord!” we are acknowledging that He is seated at the right hand of Adonai. This is similar to the spiritual test given in (1 John 3:23 – 4:8).
(Vs. 4-7) It would appear, especially from Chapter 14, that the congregation in Corinth valued speaking in Tongues, as the greatest gift. Sha’ul makes every effort to show that all the gifts are of equal value and none of the gifts make anyone more valuable. What is also interesting, is that the “gifts come from ‘the same Spirit’, ‘the same Lord’ (cf. ‘Jesus is Lord’ in v.3), and ‘the same God.’ While we tend to talk only about the ‘gifts of the Spirit,’ they are fundamentally the gifts of the triune God.”[iv] We see from (Vs. 7) that all of us receive a gift from the Ruach, but in every case, it is “as the Ruach wills.” This is confirmed in (1 Pet. 4:10-11) where it says, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of the many-sided grace of God. Whoever speaks, let it be as one speaking the utterances of God. Whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies. So in all things may God be glorified through Messiah Yeshua.” Every gift is for the purpose of edifying the Body of Messiah. “Those believers who proudly display their gifts for their own glory rather than for the glory of God are misusing their gifts.”[v]
Gifts of the Spirit
(Vs. 7-11) Now that we have gone over this background, lets go into the nine gifts listed here in detail: Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, Faith, Gifts of Healing, Working of Miracles, Prophesy, Discernment of Spirits, Speaking in Tongues, and Interpretation of Tongues. Sha’ul does not rank these in any specific order, however it is interesting that Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues are mentioned last since these gifts were abused in the congregation of Corinth, as we will see later in Chapter 14.
Word of Wisdom
(James 1:5) says that anyone “lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who give to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him.” Wisdom is the application of knowledge, and shows us “how to solve a practical or spiritual problem.”[vi] (Ps. 111:10 and Prov.9:10) both state that the “Fear of Adonai is the beginning of wisdom.” The Scriptures make a distinction between the wisdom of this world, and the wisdom that God gives. (1 Cor. 1:19-21) The wisdom of God makes the wisdom of this world look foolish. Therefore, Yeshua says in (Matt. 10:18-20) that we should “not worry about how or what you should say” when we are taken before rulers and judges. But in that hour, it will be given to us what we shall say. For it is not us speaking but the Ruach of our Heavenly Father speaking through us. This is God’s wisdom.
Word of Knowledge
Adonai can reveal knowledge that is relevant to understanding a situation. This could be a simple as praying and having the Lord reveal where a lost item is hidden. It could also be when Adonai reveals some hidden secrets that expose sin or bring healing. This is a very useful gift in the context of prayer ministry and counselling. This can also be useful in a witnessing environment when the Ruach reveals the hidden things of the heart to bring an unbeliever to repentance.
Faith (or Faithfulness)
The faith referenced here is not simply the faith we demonstrate when we initially accept Yeshua (Ephesians 2:8). Nor is it just the trust that continues to grow between us and Him. Rather this is the Faith that Yeshua said could move mountains (Matt. 17:20). This is also the faith spoken of in (Heb. 11:35) that not only raises the dead to life again, but also gives strength to the martyrs as they “obtain a better resurrection.” This faithfulness required to follow Yeshua to the end, is part of this Gift of Faith.
Gifts of Healing
One of the ways that this gift is exercised in in (Jas. 5:14-16) where it says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of Messiah’s community, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your offenses to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” The Scriptures do NOT teach that God will heal every illness this side of eternity, and there are many Biblical examples of people of faith being sick. However, the Scriptures do teach us that Adonai will supernaturally heal some people.
Working of Miracles
This gift would include “signs and wonders,” unusual miracles, and the casting out of demons. Many of the signs that Yeshua did in the Good News of John would fall under this category. There are many stories of food lasting far longer than normal, or in the case of Corrie Ten Boom, the bottle of vitamins lasted several months even though she shared it with everyone.
The difficulty with both Healings and Miracles, is that there are counterfeits that are not from God. The Scriptures record several other times when other demonic spirits and even Satan performs these signs, (Matt. 24:24, Acts 16:16-19, 2 Cor. 11:14, 2 Thes. 2:9, Rev. 13:1-4, 12-15), not to mention fakes and impostors. However, there would not be a counterfeit unless there was an original. No one makes a counterfeit $30 bill, Why? The original does not exist. Also, healings and miracles were a massive part of Yeshua’s ministry, and He said that we who follow Him would do “even greater works” (Jn. 14:12). If only there was a gift of discernment to know the difference.
Most people think of predictions when talking of prophesy, and that is part of it, however it mostly refers to spontaneously speaking forth the powerful Word of God.[vii] The majority of what the prophets did was to call the people back to repentance through declaring the word of God and reminding the people of the Scriptures. Many warnings have come through the gift of prophecy as shown in (Acts 11:27). Even though the words of the prophets are no longer recorded in the Bible, (Deut. 18:20-22) should still be a warning to the gift of prophecy today.
Ability to Judge Between Spirits
This is popularly called the discernment of spirits, and is vital in determining whether a healing, miracle or prophecy come from the Spirit of God, a person’s own spirit, or a demonic spirit.[viii] (1 Thes. 5:20-21, 1 Tim. 4:1, 1 Jn. 4:1) all show that this gifting is needed to test all things of the spirit realm to determine if they are from God. It is also necessary for anyone who is used by the Lord to expel demons.
Ability to Speak in Different Kinds of Tongues
The New Testament seems to mention or imply at least four different kinds of tongues:
- Speaking in ordinary human languages other than those one has learned (Acts 2:4-11, 10:44-46, 19:6) as a sign that the Ruach HaKodesh has come to dwell with His people.
- Speaking in ordinary human languages other than those learned, not as a sign, but as a miracle from God. (My example in Nepal at the Temple)
- Speaking publicly in a worship service in a language one has not learned. In (13:1) we see that these could be human or angelic languages, and we will be addressing this more fully in Chapter 14.
- Praying privately to God in a language one has not learned. Sha’ul makes this distinction in Chapter 14 as well.
In all these cases, the unlearned language is not beneficial to the congregation without the next gift.
Ability to Interpret Different Kinds of Tongues
The ability to interpret, as we will see in Chapter 14, is necessary so that the people are benefited. This can be either a supernatural understanding of the unlearned language, or the knowledge of that language previously. Ed Miller, recalls both of these events in the revivals in Argentina about 50 years ago.[ix] In Chapter 14 we will also see that Tongues + Interpretation = Prophesy.
Application and Conclusion
The discussion about the gifts of the Ruach can become very heated, but there are basically 4 different camps:[x]
- Narrow Charismatics – These believe that there is a second experience distinct from salvation know as immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit that is available to all believers. These often hold that speaking in tongues is evidence of this experience. In some extreme cases, they regard Non-Charismatics and Anti-Charismatics as second-class citizens or even as non-believers.
- Broad Charismatics – Similar to #1, but do not see that speaking in tongues is necessarily the sign of being filled with the Ruach. They do believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today, but are generally tolerant of Non-Charismatics and receive them in love.
- Non-Charismatics – They can be similar to #2, but they themselves have not experienced the infilling of the Ruach, or they may disagree that the experience of Charismatics is legitimate, but still see them as brothers and sisters in Messiah, and treat them with love.
- Anti-Charismatics – These believe that the gifts of the Ruach ended in the first century, for “when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away with.” (1 Cor. 13:8-10) The “perfect” is seen as the full Canon of the New Testament, therefore the gifts are not for today. In extreme cases they regard Charismatics as second-class citizens and even as non-believers.
All four positions have strong proponents, but many times the emotions that are stirred up by the debates between the positions are NOT holy Nor are they gifts of the Holy Spirit![xi] Regardless of where we stand, let us all remember the next chapter (13), and treat one another with love.
Story about Faith
There is a story
about Thomas Bilney who lived during the Reformation. The first time that he
was arrested for studying the Bible in Greek, he had “wilted under the fierce
threatenings and had renounced his errors.”[xii]
He was so ashamed that he had denied Yeshua that he went out and, like Peter,
wept bitterly. He eventually overcame the guilt and “resolved that he would
intentionally get arrested again.” The night before he was executed, a friend
came to visit him. He pointed to the open Bible where is said, “when thou
walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame
kindle upon thee.” Then, with a steady hand, Bilney stretched out his finger
into the small candle, and his friend, Matthew Parker watched in amazement as
his timid friend resolutely held his finger perfectly still as the flame burned
the flesh from his finger. We don’t know whether Bilney felt the searing heat
of that flame, but we do know that God gave him in that moment the grace to
bear it. The next day he walked resolutely to the fire, pulled himself to his
full height, and firmly declared, “Good people, I am come hither to die.” He
held his head high as the flames rose in full intensity around him and cried
out one phrase in Latin, “Jesu, credo.” – “Yeshua, I believe.”
For another perspective, please listen to this teaching by Ed Miller about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
[i] Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, pg. 476.
[ii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[iii] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, pg. 363.
[iv] Ibid, pg. 364.
[v] Ibid, pg. 365.
[vi] Stern, pg. 477.
[vii] Expositor’s, pg. 365.
[viii] Stern, pg. 478.
[x] Stern, pg. 480.
[xi] Stern, pg. 480.
[xii] Thomas Bilney: The Flame Shal Not Kindle Upon Thee, John Huffman, http://discerninghistory.com/2016/10/thomas-bilney-the-flame-shall-not-kindle-upon-thee/