early believers possessed remarkable Holy Spirit powers ranging
from the spectacular gifts of tongues and healing to the less
obvious gifts of teaching and administration. Why were they
given? Are they still available? In this chapter we consider
gifts of the Holy Spirit and their purpose.
1 Corinthians 12
Jesus has given a variety of gifts to his followers, but the
Corinthian believers were treating some of the gifts as unimportant.
Paul wrote to them explaining that there are different
gifts, but all of them are useful. Each gift is given by the
Spirit for the common good.
1. List the gifts mentioned in this chapter. What is the
purpose of each gift?
2. Do you think any of these gifts are present in believers
3. Which of the gifts did the Corinthians most admire? Why?
4. What are the “greater gifts” mentioned in v31?
5. The body of Christ is compared with a human body-each
believer is a part of the body and the various Holy Spirit
gifts helped them carry out their specific tasks. What
different tasks are there in the body of Christ today?
Where do you fit in?
Spirit gifts in the Old Testament
The first century believers were not the only people to whom
God gave extraordinary abilities by the power of his Spirit.
• Bezalel and Oholiab, in making articles for the tabernacle,
were “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability
knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” Exodus 31:1-5
• Moses brought together 70 elders and “he took
of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the 70 elders.
When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” Numbers 11:24-25
• God’s Spirit acted so that ordinary men were
given great wisdom and timid men were made courageous.
e.g. Judges 3:10; 6:34; 1 Kings 4:29-34
• Elijah and Elisha did many extraordinary miracles
including prophesying, raising the dead, causing drought and
healing the sick. e.g. 2 Kings 4:1-5:14
• The prophets sent by God were inspired by the Holy
Spirit to write the Scripture.2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21
Each time the powers of the Holy Spirit were given to men
women, it was for a special occasion to enable them to carry
special work in God’s service. Throughout the Bible,
many examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things
by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Spirit gifts in the Gospels
Jesus possessed far greater powers than any other person.
God’s Spirit descended on him at his baptism and he
miracles and made many prophecies. His apostles were also
given the Holy Spirit power, and so were seventy-two helpers.
Matthew 10:1-8; Luke
As in the Old Testament, these gifts were all given for a
work. On this occasion, Jesus was establishing a whole new
covenant and the work needed God’s special help.
But the work didn’t stop when Jesus died. After his
Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the apostles again-several more times, in fact. John
Jesus had promised the apostles they
would receive further Holy Spirit powers
after he had gone to heaven (Luke
24:49; Acts 1:4-5). His promise was
fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when
the Holy Spirit came down on them in“tongues of fire” and with the sound of
a violent wind. This is described as the“baptism of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). They received the ability to speak in foreign
languages and to do other “wonders
and miraculous signs” (Acts 2:1-13,43). The “tongues” they spoke were authentic
foreign languages. The miracle was to
be able to speak these languages as if
they were native speakers-without any
Again, this was a special occasion. It was the first major
preaching effort of the apostles after Jesus had left them.
was a real need for God to give them extra abilities to cope
this new task.
It wasn’t just the apostles who performed miracles.
mentioned include Stephen, Philip, Cornelius and some disciples at Ephesus.
In fact, the gifts seemed
to have been fairly
widespread. We do not know if everyone had the gifts or if
were always available to those who did have them. But many
first century believers did have miraculous powers at times.
Acts 6:8-10; 8:6; 10:44-48; 19:1-7
Some gifts appear to represent a special ability that is not
in others (e.g. prophecy, healing, interpreting).
Other gifts seem to be a heightened capacity for something that is expected
in every believer (e.g. mercy, faith). Paul even describes
own celibacy as a gift from God. 1 Corinthians 7:7
Paul describes the reason for the gifts as
. . . to prepare God’s people for works of service,
the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:12)
So the gifts at Pentecost and later in the first century were
given to help establish the growing number of believers. They
faced severe opposition from Jews and Romans, they had little
training and no New Testament Scriptures.
As with all other outpourings of God’s Spirit, the gifts
ceased. Historical evidence suggests that by the end of the
first century, they had largely disappeared. see 1 Corinthians
Claims for gifts today
Of course, God can give gifts to individuals at any time,
may have done so since the first century. But the gifts do
seem to have been widespread amongst believers since then.
However, there are several churches that claim to have Spirit
gifts today. In fact, there have always been people claiming
have powers from God, and he has given us a test to determine
if such claims are genuine.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears
among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or
wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken
takes place, and he says
“Let us follow other gods”
you have not known) “and let us worship them, you must
not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The
LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love
him with all your heart and with all your soul.
In other words, even if someone appears to do something
miraculous, if what they preach is not the truth we should
no notice of them.
Furthermore, the churches that claim to have “gifts”
appear to show the same abilities that God gave people in
first century. The “healing” tends to be of relatively
complaints and often temporary, and the “tongues”
known languages as they were at Pentecost.
However, there are still some gifts God gives his children
• God sometimes blesses us financially. 2 Cor 9:11
• We are promised additional strength to serve God.
1 Cor 1:8; Php 4:13;
• We can pray for wisdom and be confident God will give
to us. Col 1:11; 1 Th 3:13; 1 Pet 4:11; Jms 1:15
• We are promised many times that God will give us whatever we ask if we ask according to his will.
Mt 7:7-11; 21:22; Jn
16:24; 1 Jn 3:22; 5:14
While the more spectacular gifts were given for a specific
for a relatively short period of time in the first century,
God does still provide wonderful gifts to us today.
Some Old Testament examples
|Exodus 31:3-5; Numbers 11:24-25; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:5-6,19; 15:14; 1 Kings 4:29-34; 2 Kings 4:1-5:14; 2 Chronicles 15:1-2; 24:20; Jeremiah 1:9; Ezekiel 3:16-17; Daniel 2:19; 6:22.
|Joel 2:28-29; Mark 16:17-18; Acts 2:38-39.
Lists of gifts
|1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11.
• God has given miraculous Spirit gifts at various times,
always for a special purpose.
• The gifts were most widespread during the first century
when Jesus was introducing the new covenant, the gospel
was only beginning to spread, the new believers faced
severe persecution and there were no New Testament
• The New Testament gifts appear to have died out by
end of the first century. People today who claim to have
the spectacular miraculous gifts do not possess the same
abilities as the New Testament believers. They also do not
teach Bible truth.
• God still provides gifts to his servants.
1. Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. This describes the gifts
dying out when “perfection” comes. Is this talking
the kingdom, or something else?
2. Read Mark 16:15-18 and Acts 2:38-39. Do these passages
say that all believers will have Spirit gifts?
3. Do you know of any examples of people who claim to have
the gifts today? How do their claims compare with the
gifts described in the Bible?
4. Does God still give people particular abilities to carry
work for him? Is this any different from Spirit gifts?
1. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-25.
(a) List the problems concerning the gifts that appear to
have arisen in Corinth.
(b) What advice does Paul give about speaking in
2. Read Joel 2:28-29 and Hebrews 6:4-6. Can we expect to
receive the miraculous gifts at some time?
3. Use a concordance to find all the people mentioned in
New Testament who received the gifts. What gifts are
mentioned most often?
• The gifts of the Holy Spirit by Harry Whittaker (published
by the Christadelphian Bible Mission). This small booklet
(18 pages) provides a very good summary of Bible teaching
and a discussion of modern claims for Pentecostal gifts.
• BB Sections 2.3 and 2.4
• Wrested scriptures by Ron Abel (published by The Christadelphians,
Pasadena). Pages 46-56 deal with passages
about Spirit gifts that are frequently misinterpreted.
8. The Spirit of God
51. The fruit of the Spirit
52. Led by the Spirit