Now concerning spiritual gifts, bretheren, I would not have you ignorant. – 1 Cor 12:1
Interesting that God does not want us ignorant of spiritual gifts, no? Indeed, I wonder how thoroughly he would have us to be educated in this particular field?
From this initial statement, Paul goes on for three chapters speaking of powerful dynamics of spiritual gifts. (Yes, three chapters, chapter 13 is not – as some suppose – an interlude from speaking on gifts, it is rather an essential groundwork for appropriately employing them: i.e. dynamics of their working. For the validity of spiritual gifts in our own time see post ‘The Year of the Lord’s Favor‘) I would encourage all Christian readers to (particularly if you are interested in spiritual gifts) spend time meditating on 1 Corinthians 12-14.
The statement from God’s eternal Word is as True for you today, as it was for the assembly in Corinth when Paul wrote the letter: God does not want YOU [Christian] to be ignorant of spiritual gifts. But why? Why would God care what we know about spiritual gifts? The only valid reason is that they must pertain to us (again, see mentioned post).
God wants spiritual gifts to be used in the body:
1 Peter 4:11
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Now I ought to clarify that by ‘THE GIFT’ Peter is speaking really of ALL spiritual gifts for ‘THE GIFT’ (singular) is the Holy Spirit, Himself. Here Peter does not merely imply a spiritual gift that one has, but as in other references ‘the gift of God.’ This is important to note because one of the ESSENTIAL teachings of Paul regarding spiritual gifts is that you can have more than one.
Oh-oh… some of you weren’t ready for that thought. In fact, many teach that people receive ONE gift of the Spirit upon their salvation, and will never operate in any other, but what Holy Spirit initially gave them.
They get this belief from 1 Corinthians 12:11, which says of the gifts of the Spirit:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (In context there are nine listed gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:8-10).)
Following this verse Paul goes on to give a basic description of the church as Christ’s body – His body having different members, different functions, etc.
He then goes on with hypothetical questions as to whether all have the same gifts, (1 Cor 12:29-30 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?) the answer being, clearly: no, not all have the same gifts or function.
But there is, too often, where people stop quoting, the final and generally overlooked verse in 1 Cor 12 says this:
But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. (1 Cor 12:31)
Now, this is an interesting thought. Paul declares that the Holy Spirit divides spiritual gifts to each one according to His own will… yet here Paul tells us – nay, commands us to ‘Covet EARNESTLY the best gifts…‘
Why would Paul – no, rather: why would GOD THROUGH Paul command us to covet earnestly the best gifts of the Spirit, if the Holy Spirit is the one who decides which gift(s) is/are given to whom?
Would God tell us to desire something that He does not intend to give us? Would God entice us to lust, or temptation toward something we ought not to have?
Really, this isn’t a strong enough point just yet, so I will quote a verse or two more. Following our love chapter, the first verse in 1 Corinthians 14 says this:
1 Cor 14:1
Follow after charity [love], and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
Here is a second verse where Paul commands us to ‘desire spiritual gifts’ and particularly the gift of prophesy (some translations render this: ‘especially the gift of prophesy.‘) Thus again Paul declares the second time that we should be desiring MORE spiritual gifts than those we have, and he reveals that the most important of the spiritual gifts (the one we should covet, and desire most) is the gift of prophesy. Interesting illumination!
Paul also declares that ANYONE who has the gift of tongues should PRAY that he would ALSO receive the gift of interpretation of tongues (which is a different gift according to 1 Cor 12:10):
1 Cor 14:13
Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
Yet if these three verses aren’t enough, Paul declares a fourth time within his teaching on spiritual gifts:
1 Cor 14:39
Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
So in one verse within Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts, Paul declares that the Holy Spirit divides to every man severally as He will (12:11). And in three verses, Paul says that we should desire (and pray for) greater spiritual gifts (12:31; 14:1; 14:13; 14:39).
We know that the sovereign will of the Holy Spirit is involved in the distribution of one’s INITIAL gifting. That is, when you receive the Holy Spirit, He will give to you AT LEAST ONE spiritual gift, and that (or those) gift(s) are those which He has specifically selected of His own will to you.
Yet this is only an entry level teaching on receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for Paul makes the declaration of the Spirit’s sovereignty but once, yet goes on to instruct us (not once, but) four times to seek MORE spiritual gifting! It is not only lawful to desire spiritual gifts, we commanded to!
What gifts of the Spirit do YOU have? Will you obey God’s command to desire more, to seek, and pray for greater gifts, and especially the gift of prophecy? Study 1 Corinthians 12-14 carefully, and desire all that God has for you!