Summary: Do you have a spiritual gift? How would you know? How would you use it?
Do you have a gift? Do you possess a giftedness in some way that you can attribute it to God and through which you believe you are making a significant contribution to the church? If you are like most Christians, you may be modest about the subject; you may even be troubled by it, because you never have been able to point to a gift that you possess.
That was not the problem for many in the Corinth Church. Gift? Well…as even Paul said, they were not lacking in any gift (1:7). As a matter of fact, they were quite proud of their spiritual gifts, which – since we are on the subject – clearly indicated their superior spiritual qualities, i.e. in their own minds. They did it all – spoke in tongues, interpreted tongues, prophesied, healed, did miracles, uttered wisdom and knowledge. Churches today like to advertise themselves as places of excitement. You come to our church and find excitement; we are dynamic. Corinth could have had some great billboards. Nobody could produce excitement like they could.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
The Corinthians never cease to amaze. I’ve heard the expression “soap opera” applied to them, and that certainly is fitting. Were there actually Christians calling Jesus accursed? There is a lot of speculation, yet nothing certain. But we can get the gist of Paul’s remarks.
Concerning the matter of being spiritual (the word “gifts” is not used, merely assumed; Paul could mean being spiritual persons), let’s get one thing straight. The ultimate test of being let by the Holy Spirit is the glory given to Jesus Christ as Lord. You can be very sincere about what you say; you can go into ecstasy; you can talk in tongues and get “slain in the Spirit,” but if your words (and deeds) are not exalting Jesus as Lord, your experiences are not of the Holy Spirit.
So lesson number one about being spiritually gifted is that our gifts must serve to exalt our Lord Jesus Christ. The next verses give further insight into the source of gifts, the nature of gifts, and their purpose.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
There is one simple truth Paul is teaching. It goes like this. The God of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the one who gives to his people many, many different ways to serve his church. These many ways of serving are valid because they originate from God (through whichever Person may be most directly involved) and depend upon the power of God for effectiveness. There are many gifts, or ways to use gifts, but one source – the three-person God.
Verse 7 then expresses the purpose of these spiritual gifts: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. By common good is meant the common good of the church.
Verses 8-10 give us the first of gifts lists in chapters 12-14.
8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 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.
Paul lists these particular gifts because they are the ones for which the Corinthians took special pride. Back in 1:5, Paul commented that “in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.” What are these gifts?
Consider “utterance of wisdom” and “utterance of knowledge.” All kinds of interpretations are given. Whatever they are exactly, the gifts involve speaking wisdom and knowledge, not simply being wise or knowledgeable. Some have attributed wisdom as a gift for counselors and knowledge for scholars. The Corinthians perhaps thought of them as types of revelation – wisdom or knowledge that only comes through inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is these gifts in particular that Paul has given subtle and not-so-subtle hints that he thinks they are not so gifted as they think they are. If they did possess such gifts, they would recognize and value the wisdom he preaches (cf. chapters 2 and 3); they certainly would recognize his authority.