What are spiritual gifts? Are the gifts for today? What does the Bible say about the gift of tongues? The Apostle Paul addresses the controversial topics associated with the mysterious “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” in his first epistle to the Corinthians.
Chapter 12 of Paul’s letter teaches that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to each of us, spiritual gifts, supernatural gifts, but nobody gets the same gifts. That’s very important. If we have a spiritual gift and do not exercise it, we defraud the body, for the gift was not given for us, but for the body of Christ. One of the greatest adventures is to discover our spiritual gift because that’s a clue to what our ministry will be. Diversity of service but one church; diversity of gifts, but one Spirit; diversity of members but one body – this is the essential message of chapter 12.
Chapter 14 deals with the abuse of gifts. The greatest of the gifts is prophecy. It most edifies the church, it most convinces outsiders, but its use should be orderly. The discussion of prophecy is a counterbalance to the over-emphasis on tongues. Is the gift of tongues for today? Yes, but there is a lot of nonsense going around. The answer to the questions of spiritual gifts is right between 12 and 14: All these gifts, whatever they are, are valueless without love.
Chapter 13 speaks of the utter necessity of love, the moral excellency of love, and the abiding supremacy of love. The Holy Spirit is looking for fruit – we should be inspecting fruit, not gifts. Paul said:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling 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, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”
What counts is good done in response to the Spirit. The first three verses give us the characteristics of love.
• Love suffereth long, and is kind;
• Love envieth not;
• Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
• Doth not behave itself unseemly,
• Seeketh not her own,
• Is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
• Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth
• Beareth all things, Believeth all things,
• Hopeth all things, Endureth all things
We can learn the character of Christ by substituting His name for “love” in this passage – Christ suffers long and is kind, Christ envies not, etc. What happens when we put our name in place of love? The disparity is embarrassing, but as we grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that disparity narrows, because His goal is for us to fit that description. We grow by walking moment by moment with the Holy Spirit. So follow after love.