I was recently reading through 1 Corinthians 12-14, which primarily deals with the subject of spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, and the letter is full of encouragement, correction, and insight.
As I was meditating on these particular chapters I noticed that Paul emphasizes four prominent truths regarding the gifts of the Spirit.
Though Paul lists nine manifestations—or gifts—there is one Holy Spirit. (Click here to read my definition of the nine gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12).
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
-1 Corinthians 12:11
Paul is emphasizing that though there are a variety of ways that the Holy Spirit may manifest in the church, it is not as though there are different spirits at work. This is in contrast to the pagan practices that commonly have a different god for different purposes (For example, a god of healing or a god of prosperity).
There is one Holy Spirit, but He gives many gifts. And each gift can operate in various ways.
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
-1 Corinthians 12:20-21
Paul compares the church to a human body. Just as the human body has many parts, each with a corresponding function, each member of the body of Christ has a distinct purpose.
The gifts of Spirit are given to the members of the body of Christ according to the function they are to perform. Just like the eye has a completely different role than the foot, different members of the church will have a different grace for specific tasks.
Some parts are more visible, but all are important.
Many times1 Corinthians 13 is quoted at weddings because of the eloquent way that Paul describes love. But did you know that the context is spiritual gifts?
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-2
Paul emphasizes that the gifts are meant to operate out of a heart of love. If we walk in great power but do not have love, we are missing the point. If we move in spectacular spiritual gifts but don’t have God’s heart, we will not produce the fruit that God desires.
This does not mean we should not pursue to walk in the power of God or have gifts of the Spirit. We should “pursue love and desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Much of 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of exercising spiritual gifts within proper order. Paul mentions several times that a primary purpose for the gifts of the Spirit is the edification of the church. “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (1 Corinthians 14:12).
Spiritual gifts have the potential to bring great blessing, but if they are exercised in a disorderly manner, they can cause confusion instead of edification. Paul laid out some specific guidelines so that the gifts would have a maximum impact and not cause confusion. For example, in a public setting speaking in tongues must be interpreted (see 1 Corinthians 14:27-28).
Paul closes this section on spiritual gifts by saying “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). We must embrace both sides of this statement. “Let all things be done”: welcome all of the gifts of the Spirit and make a place for all of them. “Decently and in order”: follow the guidelines of Scripture and have the proper order in place.
As we embrace the gifts of the Spirit, walk in love, and follow God’s order, many people will benefit from God’s power working through us to the glory of God.