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First Corinthians 12--The variety of gifts, part 5

Jun 20, 2017

In speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:9,

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit.

Paul says that there are “gifts of healing,” as if there is more than one kind of healing gift, yet these gifts are “by the one Spirit.” He does not explain this further, but in the gospels we can see various kinds of healing that Jesus did. The man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:1-9 received healing in the body. Likewise, the man born blind received healing in his physical eyes (John 9:1-7). Jesus also healed lepers.

These physical infirmities, however, were prophetically connected to deeper infirmities in the soul and spirit. Blindness is also a spiritual problem, caused by some rejection of the word of God in times past. Such blindness is passed down generationally, such as when Israel refused to hear the word at Mount Horeb in Exodus 20:18-21. So Isaiah 42:19 says,

19 Who is blind but My servant, or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, or so blind as the servant of the Lord?

Those who remain in a servant relationship with God are blind in some manner. A servant is one who is supposed to be obedient. He is not consulted, nor is he given understanding of the bigger picture. Jesus said to His disciples at the end of their training period in John 15:15,

15 No longer do I call you slaves [or servants], for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

We see, then, that God’s servants are blind to that which the Master is doing. He has little or no understanding of the divine plan. He just does as he is told. He knows what to do, but understands little or nothing—and often has little desire to know such things. Hence blindness is a way of life for the majority, though Scripture suggests that we ought to upgrade our relationship to that of “friends.”

Healing one’s physical eyes, then, is done by one gift of healing, while healing spiritual blindness is by another gift of healing—yet both are done by one Spirit.

To this, we could add the gift of healing the mind. Some are mentally ill, schizophrenic, or paranoid. Others are simply wounded emotionally from bad relationships or traumatic experiences, and their wounds have never healed. Some have the gift of healing such wounds, and it is by the same Spirit that this is accomplished.

We need all of these “gifts of healing,” because whether the wounds are spiritual or soulish, they both affect the body and can even cause bodily illness. If we merely heal the body, but leave the soulish or spiritual condition, we find ourselves treating symptoms and not the cause.

Miracles

Paul speaks of the next spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 12:10, saying, “…and to another the effecting of miracles.”

Healing itself is generally thought of as a miracle, but Paul uses the term miracle to cover other things, such as parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21) or drying up the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:19). Some classify raising the dead as a miracle, but although such a thing is certainly miraculous, it should probably be considered part of the gift of healing. To overcome death is the ultimate act of healing, prophesied every time Jesus healed a leper. (Leprosy represents mortality in Scripture.)

In the end, every use of a spiritual gift is miraculous in a general sense, but Paul speaks of miracles here in a more focused sense.

Prophecy

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 12:10, “… and to another prophecy.” Paul will have much more to say about this gift in chapter 14, along with tongues and interpretation of tongues. The prophetic gift often manifests in conjunction with the word of wisdom or knowledge, as Paul shows us later. His example in 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25 says plainly that when someone prophesies to an unbeliever, he does not merely learn about “end times,” but rather “the secrets of his heart are disclosed.”

Obviously, prophecy can cover a wide variety of manifestations, ranging from intensely personal to long-term revelation of the divine plan. Likewise, personal prophecy can also reveal what will happen in the big picture, because people are often microcosms of the earth itself. In such cases, people become prophetic types revealing greater things yet to come.

An interesting case is John the Baptist, whom Jesus affirmed to be a prophet (Luke 7:24, 26). Yet “John did no miracle” (John 10:41 KJV). A prophet does not need to perform miracles to be a prophet, but some prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, did many miracles. Prophets come in a variety of ways and exercise their gift in many different ways—some simply with a needful word that is preached to the church, as seen most often in Baptist circles.

Every true revelation from God has the power to transform the hearts of men in a miraculous way, great or small. Any word that contributes toward a person’s transformation into the image of Christ can be considered prophecy in the general sense, whether it is a word of edification, exhortation, or consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3).

Distinguishing of Spirits

The seventh gift that Paul mentions is “the distinguishing of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10). Paul uses the Greek word diakrisis, which means “distinguishing, discerning, judging.” The word is from diakrino, “to separate thoroughly, make a distinction, discriminate.”

Having the ability to distinguish gives us understanding, for without seeing one thing in contrast to another, there is no understanding of how things relate. There is good and bad diakrisis, because some separate when they should not do so, and some unite when they should distinguish.

For example, we ought to know the difference between good and evil, right from wrong. The word of God is a sword that divides soul and spirit. It “judges” (kritikos, “discerns, separates, distinguishes”) the thoughts and intents of the heart. This is a good thing.

In Acts 15:9, speaking of Jews and non-Jews, Paul says that God “made no distinction [diakrino] between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” In Paul’s day, it was common for Jews (and even Christian Jews) to wrongly discriminate between the two, largely because the dividing wall in the temple had been imprinted upon the culture itself. That dividing wall in the outer court of the temple allowed only Jewish men to be close to God, while women and “gentiles” had to remain farther away from God on the other side of the barrier wall.

Hence, Paul says in Ephesians 2:14 that Christ “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” This, then, is an example of distinguishing that is not good, for it unlawfully treats non-Jews in a discriminatory fashion, violating the law of impartial judgment as well as the law of love.

In particular, the gift of discerning of spirits is specifically about dealing with evil spirits in people, where it is often helpful (and even necessary) to discern the type of spirit before one can deal with it properly. Personally, God has always required me to discern the name or type of evil spirit, whereas many others attempt to force the evil spirit itself to reveal its name. It is even more important, however, to be able to discern the presence of the evil spirit, for until that is revealed, one can hardly deal with it.

Hence, the gift of discerning of spirits, I believe, is more about discerning the presence of an evil spirit than having the ability to distinguish between various types of spirits. For this reason, I believe that Paul’s reference is better translated “discerning of spirits,” as it appears in the KJV, rather than “distinguishing of spirits,” as the NASB renders it.

At any rate, this particular gift is necessary to do any kind of deliverance ministry. Jesus’ ministry included such ministry, and the situation is no different today.


This is part 64 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in First Corinthians


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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones