The Expository Files


What Does The Holy Spirit Cause?

1 Corinthians 12:1-7

It is typical of the current religious scene for claims to be made of the Holy Spirit's leading, often accompanied by physical movement and vocal expression. Religious television repeatedly broadcast the stage/audience scene where some speaker, singer or leader has prompted the people to jump, to move, to shout and cry. The claim is, this was caused by the Holy Spirit. I believe great light is shed on these claims of men at 1 Cor. 12:1-7.

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." 1 Cor. 12:1-7.

What are "spiritual gifts?" A gift is something you receive because of the generosity of another (in contrast to wages or pay); in this case, God is the Giver through the Holy Spirit. "Spiritual" is in contrast to ordinary gifts. So spiritual gifts are special powers and abilities God gave to certain Christians, in that age while the apostles were spreading the gospel (see Acts 8:14-25; 2 Tim. 1:6). Such gifts were not essential conditions of one's salvation (like baptism). They were imparted to certain Christians after baptism for the good of all (Acts 8:18, 1 Cor. 12:7). During the time of the apostles, these gifts served the needs of Christians during the time before the New Testament documents were complete and in circulation (1 Cor. 13:8). Paul did not want the members of the church at Corinth to be ignorant about the use of these gifts.

Do people today have these gifts?
If they did, there wouldn't be any need to debate the subject. The spiritual gifts would be manifest in ways that would establish their extraordinary nature. Consider speaking in tongues as one example. If somebody suddenly began to speak in a language they had never learned, that would settle the matter. So, the absence of evidence goes to the conclusion that the spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12 are not present today. In addition, consider that these gifts were transmitted through the hands of the apostles (see Acts 8:18). There are no apostles today, thus no gifts. Yet, we are not left with any avoid, since we have the completed final word of God, "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints," (Jude 3).

What behavior can never be attributed to the Holy Spirit? Here's the deal in 1 Cor. 12. In classic Gentile idolatry, claims were made about extraordinary behavior, as prompted or led by many different gods. In the pagan worship of that time, in their festivals and assemblies - someone would perform in some unusual or entertaining way and their behavior might be associated with one god or another. It was the Gentile, pagan, idolatrous belief, that strange or extraordinary behavior was caused by the many gods they were attempted to appease. In 1 Cor. 12, Paul is teaching - the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not like that! First, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are caused by one source, Deity: "There are diversities of workings, but the same God." Second, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the profit of all: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all."

Once you discover what Paul is doing in 1 Cor. 12:1-7, that discovery puts you in position to better understand the entire section (chapters 12-14), and also puts into perspective the claims of modern Charismatics.

If you could book a trip in a time capsule and go back and look into the festivals and gatherings of the pagans, you would observe very bizarre, extraordinary behavior. You would see people cutting themselves (1 Kngs. 18:28). You would witness dancing and hear strange noises from people falling on the ground in a frenzy. It might be somewhat entertaining, but would supply no edification nor produce any reverence for God!

When you see people today falling on the floor, claiming to be slain in the Spirit, stop and read 1 Cor. 12:1-7. When you are responding to people who place spiritual significance on such behavior and claim the Spirit's presence, read this passage to them and study it with them. There is nothing in that kind of behavior that commends us to God or that provides any instruction about doing His will! Paul in contrasting the pagan variety of "leading" with the objective, sensible, advantageous work of the Holy Spirit.

These gifts were distributed by the Holy Spirit to certain Christians in the apostolic age, "to profit withal," (verse 7). They were not for the selfish use of the individual, not to achieve an emotional high, and not to yield some bizarre dancing and screaming. Confirmation and edification were the purposes.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 13.9; September 2006