What the Corinthian letters have to say about the charismatic gifts

What the Corinthian letters have to say about the charismatic gifts November 29, 2013

Of course for many charismatics 1 and 2 Corinthians are among their favorite books of the Bible. If I may be allowed to make one comment as I introduce these verses, it would be instead to ask two questions. If these verses do not apply to us today, why are they in the Bible?  And, on what basis can we determine which other verses also do not apply to us?  I have already posted verses that speak to this matter from Acts, the Gospels, and the OT.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (1 Corinthians 1:4-7)

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:22-23)

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. (1 Cor 3:10)

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:17)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)

1 Corinthians 12-14 should be read in it’s entirety, but here are just a few highlights in the form of bulleted extracts:

  • Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers,I do not want you to be uninformed.
  • no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
  • there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
  • For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom . . .to another gifts of healing . . . to another prophecy . . . to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
  • The same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
  • all were made to drink of one Spirit.
  • the body does not consist of one member but of many.
  • The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,”
  • That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
  • 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
  • earnestly desire the higher gifts.
  • If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
  • Prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease;
  • We know in part and we prophesy in part
  • When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
  • We see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
  • Then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
  • Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
  • One who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.
  • One who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
  • The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
  • I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.
  • If with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.
  • If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.
  • I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
  • In church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
  • If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
  • When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.
  • Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
  • You can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged
  • The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
  • God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
  • Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
  • All things should be done decently and in order.

He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:5-9)

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Adrian –

    As I noted in another of your articles (the article discussing the debate between Michael Brown & Sam Waldron), I don’t think it is always as simple & perspicuous as saying: It’s in the Bible, so I believe it.

    There are plenty of examples of things stated in Scripture which we don’t walk out today:

    – head coverings (I don’t think NFI mandates this, though others do)
    – foot-washing in any strict sense
    – slavery (the Bible never condemns it, but actually allows for it)

    There is an important hermeneutical principle to remember called trajectory hermeneutics, which notes that a particular trajectory is being set forth in Scripture and we need to wisely follow it through. It’s not fully laid out in the pages of Scripture itself, but one can see we are headed towards a particular point. This is why, though Scripture never says slavery is not God’s will, we can discern wisely that it is not the will of God. I think Scot McKnight shows this well in his book, The Blue Parakeet.

    Now, I don’t think this hermeneutic applies with regards to particular spiritual gifts. There is too much biblically, theologically and historically to cast aside these gifts as ceased (whether in general or in whole). One has to do a lot of gymnastics and denial to say they have ceased (because we now have the full testimony of Scripture, etc).

    But my whole point is that I’m not sure this statement offers anything definitively: If these verses do not apply to us today, why are they in the Bible? And, on what basis can we determine which other verses also do not apply to us?

    Of course, many evangelicals get a bit nervous with the idea of trajectory hermeneutics. But we actually ALL apply it. It’s not inherently evil. And, of course, such is abused (just like spiritual gifts). But with the Spirit of God, Scripture, the church historic, the church current, leadership, etc, we can wisely and reasonably discern how to deal with theology and the issue of trajectory hermeneutics.

    • It seems that “trajectory hermeneutics” are moreso a way to interpret the present (and/or history), rather than how to interpret Scripture. To the 1st-century reader, there’s no reason to think they would have read Paul’s letters and thought that slavery “is not the will of God.” In fact, Paul commands slaveowners directly concerning slaveholding, and doesn’t even approach condemning the practice altogether. Evangelicals are wary of TH for a variety of reasons, but for those committed to Scripture as God’s revelation, they are wary because TH only works for Christians living in (and by way of TH, catering to) societies that have long since abandoned traditional values—which is probably for the better if they weren’t grounded in individual Christian faith.