The Nine Gifts of the Spirit

T. J. de Ruiter, Pentecostal Pastor & Bible Teacher in The Netherlands
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It is very clear that the early christians - read e.g. the book of the acts of the apostles and the first letter to the church at Corinth - knew the functioning of special abilities that were of supernatural origin, the Spirit of God. Many spoke in languages they never learned, others healed the  sick though they never had studied medicine and then there were those that had often supernatural insight and wisdom.

The apostles Paul enlists in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 nine gracious, supernatural gifts of the Spirit.. We can divide them into three groups as follows:

Manifestations of wisdom and knowledge through the Holy Spirit

    1. The gift of wisdom, verse 8
    2. The gift of knowledge, verse 8
    3. The gift of discernment, verse 10

Manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit

    4. The gift of faith, verse 9
    5. The gift of healing, verse 9
    6. The gift of working of miracles, 9

Special inspirational utterances through the Holy Spirit

    7. The gift of prophecy, verse 10
    8. The gift of tongues, verse 10
    9. The gift of the interpretation of tongues, verse 10

Let us briefly look at the nature and power of each gift of the Spirit of Christ as distributed amongst the believers.

1. The gift of wisdom, verse 8

"To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom." This is a correct translation of the Greek, (RSV).

Definition of this gift: A manifestation of wisdom, of which the Spirit of God must be recognized as the source, because it could not have been produced or uttererd by human wisdom.

This Spirit-given wisdom gives undoubtedly the best solution of a conflict or a problem. It gives the best and effective answer to a difficult question, the best way of acting in a problematic situation and the best possibility to apply practical knowledge in a very direct way.

Paul is clearly not referring to natural wisdom, that grows with the years through experience and learning, but to instanteous wise utterances, that solve a difficult matter to the glory of God, defeating unholy and evil intentions of men. Looking back on such a wise utterance one has to say:"This was an answer, that I had not prepared and reached by deep and profound thinking. It was given me in that moment I needed it and I contribute that wise utterance to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."
2. The gift of knowledge, verse 8

"And to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit."

A definition of this gift: Speaking with such a knowledge and insight, that it must be said that it was supernatural, given by God and could not have been thought of by the human mind.

This spiritual knowledge is in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, true, factual, trustworthy and pure. These utterances have usually to do with human matters or problems. Examples Exodus 31:3; 35:31; 1 Kings 7:14; 2 Chronicles 1:10-13; Isaiah 11:2; Daniel 5:12; Colossians 2:3.

 The apostle Paul was not referring to natural knowledge, that was built up through or gained through learning and experience and even not to instinctive knowledge. He is speaking of knowledge of which it must be said that it could only be known by divine inspiration. 

3. The gift of discernment, verse 10

"To another the ability to distinguish between spirits."

Definition of this gift: The ability to discern the hidden source of spiritual power through which a person is thinking or/ acting and which could not be discerned by human insight. This gift makes it clear if a person is either acting out off his own spirit or through a superhuman evil spirit or through the Spirit of God, (read also 1 John 4:1-6).

 We must discern this gift from:

 (1) Psychological insight in the nature, psyche and hidden motives of men.
 (2) Insight through occult practices as channeling en fortune telling.
4. The gift of faith, verse 9

"To another the gift of faith by the same Spirit."

Definition of the gift of faith: A strong conviction or certainty, not reached by human reasoning or feelings and that expresses itself in a prophetic utterance or a word of authority and power, that makes things happen, in and through which God in the Name of Jesus is glorified.

This kind of faith knows that with God all things are possible and that everything is possible for him that believes. This faith knows no doubt with regard to the coming into being of the thing that is proclaimed or prophesied. There are many instances in the Bible in which we see the gift of faith in operation.

The Greek word for faith is 'pistos.' This word means in the first place a strong and sure conviction and certainty. But it has also has the meaning of faithfulness, evidence, faith, or an oath.

 The gift of faith cooperates often with the gifts of the working of powers and healings. Study the example of Acts chapter 3 when you deal with the gift of the working of miracles. For a clear insight it is important to discern how this gift of faith can operate.
5. The gift of of healing, verse 9

"To another gifts of healing by the one Spirit."

In the first place do I draw your attention to the Greek language here. The word 'gift' and the word 'healing' are both plural in the Greek text. Consequently we should translate 'gifts of healings.' There are two main teachings about this 'gft of healings.'

a. The apostle teaches that there are believers that received the special gift to communicate the healing
    power of God through His Spirit to the sick. Some evangelists and pastors claim to have received such a gift.
    But most pastors, elders and evangelists who see people healed by their word of faith and authority or by
    laying on of hands or anointing with oil will affirm that they have no special gift to heal, but that God does the healing.

b. That the apostle Paul used two plurals in this verse indicates that he saw the healings themselves
     as gifts of the Spirit and that he is not teaching that some have a spiritual gift to heal..

     If we enlarge on this view - which seems to be in accordance with the text - and look at verse 11 in this passage of chapter 12,
     we read that the Spirit gives His gifts as He wants or wills. Here is an answer why so many dear children of God
     are not healed even though many prayed for them. The Spirit grants a healing to the one persom, but withholds
     the blessing  of healing to another - why? He must have a valuable and perfect reason to acts as He does.
    Let us also bear in  mind that in this age demonstrations of God's healing power are only foretastes of His glorious
    healing and  restoring power that will work perfectly in the coming age when His Kingdom will be established on
    earth and evil  powers bound. Till that age we remain in frail, vulnerable and mortal bodies and live in a dangerous
    and evil world.   

6. The gift of working of miracles, verse 9

"To another the working of miracles."

Definition of this gift: "The manifestation of exceptional powers in the Name of Jesus, that can not be ascribed to human strength, energy or workings. With the purpose to intervene in a natural process or condition in order to show the supernatural power of the Almighty God."

The Greek word 'dynameiôn’ - is in some Bibles translated as 'powers' or 'energies, but 'miracles,' or 'wonderful works' is surely the best translation.  

7. The gift of prophecy, verse 10

"To another prophecy."

The Greek verb that in the New Testament is used - 'profêteuô' - has the meaning 'communicating a divine revelation,' or 'communicating something that is hidden,' or 'predicting some future event.'

The Hebrew word for prophet is 'Nabi' of 'Navi' and the verb is 'Naba.' This meaning of this verb is interesting as it originally means 'to bubble up' or 'let words flow in abundance,' or 'singing and speaking under divine inspiration,' and 'speaking as a madman.'

Definition of the gift op prophecy: Speaking under an alleged influence of the Holy Spirit, making known Gods will with regard to a certain person, situation or condition, either in the presence or in the future.

Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:3,4 that in the church prophecy is for the edification of believers, either in exhortation or in encouragement. It speaks for itself that prophesying can be combined with the gifts of wisdom, knowledge and discernment.

The apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 that prophetic utterances must be evaluated and judged by other believers. New Testament or Church prophets should not claim infallibility for their utterances. When they resist evaluation of their prophecies they place themselves above the teaching of the apostle. Such believers are at least lacking in godly humility. This teaching of the apostle makes clear that the prophetic inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit, but the utterance is the responsiblty of the speaker.

8. The gift of tongues, verse 10

"To another various kinds of tongues."

Definition of this gift: "A supernatural utterance by the Holy Spirit in a language not learned by the speaker." The listeners understand seldom the utterance without an interpretation. We could perhaps better translate from the Greek 'speaking in a language as the Spirit gives utterance.'

The apostle Paul knew this gift personally and used it much in his private prayer, (1 Corinthians 14:18,19). He regarded it as a special way of communication with God, (1 Corinthians 14:2).

From 1 Corinthians12:10 we can with certainty derive that Paul, as a spiritual leader, allowed speaking in tongues in church meetings. But he makes it also clear that if somebody speaks in a churdhmeeting in an unknown language, it should be interpreted,1 Corinthians 14:12; 26). The teaching is that in a churchmeeting we should seek primarily the edification of others and therefore it should be understood what was being said, (1 Corinthians 14:5; 13). Speaking in tongues, combined with the gift of interpretation can be a powerful sign to an unbeliever that God is present and speaking to him, (1 Corinthians 14:22-25).

9. The gift of the interpretation of tongues, verse 10

"To another the interpretation of tongues."

This gift is connected to the gift of speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is usually not understood by those present, but the interpretation is understood. Here are three principles to bear in mind:

a. The interpretation can be a translation of the message in an unknown tongue.
b. The interpretation can be a translation of the main content of the message in an unknown tongue.
c. The interpretation can be an explanation of or enlargement on the message in a unknown tongue.

It is possible that there is a significant difference in duration between the message in an unknown tongue and the interpretation.

The person that speaks in an unknown tongue may  - in a church meeting it is even his responsibilty - pray for the interpretation. He himself could receive the translation, (1 Corinthians 14:5,13). Verse 27 in this chapter makes it clear that another person could receive the translation and speak it out in the meeting.

May 2003, last edited June 2011

Translated from our course on Spiritual Gifts in the Dutch language.

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Other interesting articles and pages:
site 1, 'Inspiration &* Insight', since 1997 / update study 27 June 2011 / Pastor T. J. de Ruiter / The Netherlands