For an introduction to this series, click here.
This chapter is the beginning of a long section on spiritual gifts. This is a widely misunderstood area of Scripture. Paul starts off with something that seems fairly obvious but apparently was a problem:
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus is accursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit." (12:1-3)
Apparently some people in the Corinthian church were opening themselves up to all kinds of influences in their efforts to speak in tongues, even to the point of obvious blasphemy. You shouldn't have to explain to Christians that someone who curses Jesus is not speaking in the Spirit. But apparently it didn't matter to them, as long as they were speaking in a miraculous language.
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues." (12:4-10)
Notice that Paul does not distinguish between these gifts here, the way a lot of people do today. A lot of people who are not Pentecostal will say that the gifts of tongues and healing are not for today, but the gift of faith and wisdom, etc. are. This is a very broad assumption in my opinion. If Paul had taught that there would be certain gifts that would cease and others that would carry on, or even hinted at it, then that would be different. But Paul always treats all the spiritual gifts the same. Therefore, if you believe that some of the gifts have ceased, then to be consistent you must believe that all these gifts must cease. I guess I have less problem with the people who promote all the gifts than with those who pick and choose them.
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free— and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body." (12:14-20)
This passage is in the context of gifts, but I think that it still applies to the church today. God wants us all to work together. The Lord has placed us where we are for a reason, and that reason is not to be abrasive and to create problems. We are to carry forth the work of God with our fellow believers in the church.
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." (12:27-31, ESV)
Here we have the principle I talked about earlier in a more explicit way. Practically all of Protestantism recognizes that the role of the apostle ended when all the Apostles died. Yet in this passage Paul equates the role of the apostle with the gift of healing with the gift of helping.. I think there are serious problems with apostolic theology, but at least they are consistent in this area. You cannot be double-minded in this area. Either all these gifts apply for today or none of them do.