Part Three on Ecstatic Speech
by Rev. Robert Liichow
The apostle Paul continues bringing divine correction to the young church at Corinth. Last month we noted how Paul’s entire letter has been one of rebuke concerning many issues in their midst (see 1 Cor. 8:12; 10:6, 7:14; 11:17) and for some strange reason sign-gift enthusiasts want to take the church at Corinth as the example of how the sign gifts are to be used. As we shall see the Corinthians were as wrong about the spiritual gifts as they were concerning the Lord’s Supper, the role of women, their own carnality and divisiveness.
He begins his discourse by saying he does not want them to be ignorant (ἀγνοέω, to lack information) implying that they did not possess the correct information about the Holy Spirit and His gifts. In vs. 3 Paul lays out what I consider a governing principle regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts will always glorify Jesus Christ and not curse His holy name.
It may well seem amazing that the Corinthians should need instructing that such awful language could not be uttered by any one speaking “in the Spirit of God.” It is evident, however, that such expressions had been uttered by persons who were, or seemed to be, carried away by the impassioned impulse . . . So terrible an outrage on the conscience of Christians could never have passed unchecked and unpunished, except from the obvious inability of the young community to grapple with the new and perplexing phenomena of an “inspiration” which appeared to destroy the personal control of those possessed by it. . . They would not like to call any one to task for things spoken in a condition which they regarded as wholly supernatural.1
Obviously some of the Corinthians while in some state of ecstatic bliss were calling Jesus accursed. Such statements never came from the Holy Spirit and never will. Proclamations like these come from the demonic realm or from some fleshly pretender aping what they think is spiritual.
In vv. 4-8 Paul begins to give some clarity to the Corinthians concerning how the Holy Spirit operates and why the gifts exist and he does so in beautiful Trinitarian language. In verse 4 we see there are various (diversities) gifts but they all come from the one Spirit. There are various (differences) of serving others (administrations) but the same Lord. Lastly, verse 6 informs the reader that there are various ways God’s power operates, but it is always the same God who makes it possible.
Verse 7 is very important and is easily lost sight of — the purpose for any spiritual gift is right here: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal (the common good).” Before Paul even begins to list the gifts he has informed his readers that the gifts in all their variety come from God and anyone under the power of the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus Christ in what is said (I might add what is done as well). The reason God gives His children gifts is for the benefit of others! It is not to “bless” the one who has been entrusted with a gift, nor is said gift supposed to be used to “lift up” the gifted individual by that person or those who fawn over him or her.
|Something to Think About
The temptation for self-aggrandizement or hero worship is a genuine danger regarding the “sign-gifts.” Consider in our times people like Oral Roberts or Benny Hinn. These men profess to possess healing gifts and yet neither can independently verify any miraculous healing due to their SINinstry. They have gotten wealthy off the desperate needs of people seeking relief by a fraudulent claim of being gifted when they clearly are not. Imagine what manner of men they would be if they possessed the genuine gift of healing via the power of the Holy Spirit?
Before we consider the gifts themselves, let’s not ignore the underlying context in vv. 8-12 which points to the Person of the Holy Spirit as Initiator. Three times Paul uses the phrase “same spirit” (8, 9, and 11) to emphasize that the gifts and their manifestations are up to the Holy Spirit. It seems that Paul is emphasizing the centrality of the Holy Spirit’s role in disseminating the gifts and then their operation through those He has given them too possibly due to some people claiming that their gift(s) came from Jesus or maybe the Father. This is speculation on my part, but considering the Corinthians earlier claim to be of “Apollos” or of “Paul” (see 1 Cor. 1:12).
The Sign Gifts Themselves
I am willing to give our sign-gift enthusiastic brethren credit where it is due when considering these gifts specifically. They have spent one hundred (100) years trying to discern and define these gifts, more so than any other movement within the Church’s history. However, as an evangelical catholic (aka LCMS) I must confine my comments to the Bible Itself as the authority. Where I agree with the Pentecostals is in the following chart breakdown of the nine sign gifts. It would seem that these nine gifts do seem to fit into a pattern of 3 gifts X 3 categories per se. I love the symmetry, but the Pentecostals depart from the Scriptures in defining some of these gifts.
|The Nine Sign-Gifts As Shown in 1 Corinthians 12|
|The Gifts that Reveal Things|
|V.8 The word of wisdom||Revelation||Bible is silent?|
|V.9 The word of knowledge||Bible is silent?|
|V. 10 The discerning of spirits||Reveals the inner spirit motivating a person. Or demonic activity|
|The Gifts that Say Things|
|V.10 Prophecy||Verbal||To reveal, inform, proclaim|
|V.10 Divers kinds of tongues||Speaks an unknown message|
|V.10 Interpretation of tongues||Reveals what was said in an unknown tongue|
|The Gifts that Do Things|
|V.9 Gift of Faith||Power||Ability to believe the unbelievable|
|V. 9 Gifts of Healing||Healing(s)|
|V. 10 Gift of Miracles||Miracles are not just healing|
When considering ANY of the gifts of the Spirit we must first acknowledge that these gifts are divine in origin. These are not normal human abilities, nor are they nascent seed gifts which develop over time and use. When the genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit are in manifestation, “God” is working immediately in that context of ministry through His chosen vessel.
The Gifts That Reveal Something
The Word of Wisdom
In this listing of the gifts we read about the three gifts that would, logically, seem to reveal something. First we read of the word of wisdom and that is all he ever has to say about this gift! No one knows exactly (1) what this gift was or (2) how it was manifested at Corinth.
Fortunately, Pentecostalism has supplied some definitions to the Church that God seemed to have left out of the bible. These gifts, which have hitherto remained undefined and seldom referenced in two thousand years of recorded Church history . . . came back into the Church via Alfred Howard Carter. Carter was a Pentecostal minister who was in prison in Wormwood Scrubs England as a conscientious objector in 1917. While there he claimed the Holy Spirit revealed to him all nine gifts cited in 1 Cor. 12 and bestowed all nine of them on him. In his books, Questions and Answers Concerning Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Gifts and Their Operation he shares with his readers what each gift is and how is operates. This insight was supernaturally bestowed on him at a time when he admits to almost going insane in prison. Mr. Carter’s definitions were accepted by Pentecostals and to this day his definitions have been parroted by all the other sign-gift teachers:
“The gift of the word of wisdom is a word of God’s knowledge of what is going to take place in the future, a divine revelation of future events.”2
“On the other hand, the word of wisdom always speaks of the future.”3
“this is a direct supernatural act of the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom to a specific believer at a specific time to deal with a specific situation. So there is that kind of general wisdom that we all have, but there are times when God grants unusual wisdom, it’s a spiritual thing.”4
“The definition of The Word of Wisdom is: A Supernatural revelation of the plans & purposes in the mind of God that deal with the future. This is not a Gift of human wisdom or the “wise” kind of wisdom. With this Gift only part or a fragment of information is given. God is all knowing but he only gives us what we need to know at any given time.”5
Pentecostals seem to agree that the gift of the word of wisdom is a revelation by the Holy Spirit of some future event. This is pure speculation on their part. Honestly, we are not told what this specific gift was or what its purpose was. According to their definition this spiritual gift differs little from the gift of prophecy which can be either a (1) foretelling or a (2) forth telling or proclamation. Once Carter came up with a definition then some enthusiastic people began to claim they had this gift; again based on his novel classification.
The Word of Knowledge
Dovetailed with the word of wisdom is the word of knowledge. As with all the spiritual gifts, this gift is spiritual not a natural ability. It concerns itself with some form of supernatural knowing (γνῶσις/gnosis) that is not available under normal circumstances.
“The revelation of the word of knowledge brings is always present tense or concerning something that has happened in the past.”6
“It is part of God’s knowledge, a supernatural manifestation from heaven to a believer that comes into us. It lets us in on information and shows us things the way they are RIGHT NOW. It deals with facts.”7
“The definition of The Word of Knowledge is: A Supernatural revelation of certain facts in the mind of God that deal with the past or present. This is not a Gift of human knowledge or the “smarts” kind of knowledge.”8
This is the only time this phase is also used in the entire Bible. We are given no examples of its use or manifestation in or out of a worship service. Everything written since the death of John the Apostle about these two gifts is conjecture. There is no biblical proof that proves the word of wisdom is insight into the future nor is there anything indicating that the word of knowledge is a revelation of a past or current event.
Let’s confine ourselves to the FACTS. We know these gifts existed and were understood by the recipients of the letter from Paul. We know biblically that there is a distinction between wisdom, knowledge. Wisdom is basically the proper application of knowledge to bring about the best outcome. One cannot be “wise” without the information to discern and act upon. Knowledge is simply raw data, it is the facts. One can possess knowledge but not possess wisdom (i.e. the educated “fool”).
These two gifts of the Holy Spirit granted (as He willed) believers wisdom and/or knowledge for the “profiting” of the entire congregation. How these insights were given is not shared. We do not know if God revealed His wisdom/knowledge in a vision, like Peter or in a dream like Joseph or simply “dropped” the revelation into their minds immediately during the service. Since we do not know really what or how these gifts operated it seems to be the height of hubris to claim that one possesses such gifts! How do they know? What is the authority upon which they base their claims? This much is certain, it is not biblical authority.
The Discerning of Spirits
Many people err from the get-go with this gift. It is not the “gift of discernment,” there is no such “gift” it is called the discerning of spirits.
“The discerning of spirits gives supernatural insight into the spirit world. ‘To discern’ means to perceive by seeing or hearing. Therefore, discerning of spirits is the same as seeing or hearing in the realm of spirits.”9
“Sometimes the person actually physically sees the evil spirit at work in the person or situation.”10
I concur with the above definitions for the most part because they seem to fit the language Paul uses. This gift, when in operation, is the supernatural ability to correctly judge the spirit behind what is being done or said. Unlike the word of wisdom/word of knowledge we have some biblical examples of discerning of spirits:
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? John 1:47
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Acts 8:23
How did Jesus “know” the inner condition of Nathanael? Jesus discerned his spirit as did Peter with Simon the sorcerer. Another example is when Paul, after several days turns to a possessed woman and casts out the spirit of divination (Acts 16:18).
This gift when in operation enables the person to discern between what is of the Spirit of God, the human spirit or a demonic spirit. It is obvious that currently within the ranks of our sign-gift enthusiasts this gift is NOT in operation. If it were, then how do they explain Benny Hinn, the Crouch’s and all the nonsense that is believed and followed by the multitudes of sheeple?
1. The Pulpit Commentary on First Corinthians 12:3.
2. Hayes, Norvel. The Word of Wisdom, Harrison House, Tulsa Ok. P. 3 1979.
5. Hagin, Kenneth E. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts, Faith Library Publication, p. 88, 1991.
6. Hayes, Norvel. The Word of Knowledge, Harrison House, Tulsa Ok. P. 3, 1980.
8. Hagin, Kenneth E. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts, Faith Library Publication, p. 89, 1991.
9. Obtained from http://hannahscupboard.com/ST-discerning-spirits.html