Introduction to the Manifestation Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
“4) Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5) And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6) There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7) But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8) For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9) to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10) and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭4‬-‭11‬
We now come to the list of gifts that are commonly understood as the “Manifestation Gifts.” This title comes from 1 Corinthians 12:7; “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
These are the most misunderstood and controversial of the three categories of spiritual gifts. Before we dive into each gift, let’s have an open and mature conversation about these gifts as I share my personal journey.
Though I work within a broad spectrum of the body of Christ, I do not come from a Charismatic or Pentecostal tradition. Like most evangelicals, I approach these gifts with more caution than the other two categories of gifts and I have an inbreed degree of discomfort when they become the focal point. I share this that you might know the cautions and inhibitions with which I approach this subject.
I graduated from a Bible College that had a negative bias against many of these gifts. It taught that these gifts had ceased with the completion of the New Testament. Those who hold that view are called “cestetionalist.” They teach some gifts have ceased and are no longer needed. I never fully embraced that theory of the Holy Spirit, but understood their biblical reasoning.
At the same time, my Bible College taught solid principles of biblical hermeneutics. Hermeneutics stands for “principles for biblical interpretation.” It was one of my favorite subjects. I absolutely love studying the Bible and want to make sure I interpret it accurately.
This soon resulted in an inner battle. I observed that the professors at my Bible college willfully violated their own principles of hermeneutics when it came to this subject. Some openly taught the gift of tongues was of the devil. Keep in mind, this was the late 1970’s when tension between evangelicals and charismatics was at a peek.
Having memorized the book of 1 Corinthians for Bible Quizzing in high school, this did not set well with me. I knew their position was in direct opposition to the clear teaching of the Word of God. When confronted about their hypocrisy, some conceded theological bias.
But most resorted to a philosophical argument that said; “If the purpose for which a gift was given has ceased, then logically the gift has ceased.” It was a good argument, but then they conveniently assigned the wrong purpose to these gifts.
For example, related to the gift of tongues, they argued the purpose was to confirm the completed revelation of Scripture. Then they turned to 1 Corinthians 13:10 that says; “But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” They then said “the perfect” was the completed cannon of Scripture.
I agree that the revelation of Scripture is complete, but the last 1,800 years of human civilization has been less than perfect. Something has gone terribly wrong! But when Jesus returns and sets up His earthly kingdom, things will be perfect?
It seemed to me they miss applied 1 Corinthians 13:10 by nearly 2,000 years. Think about it, why would God limit the Holy Spirit during the promised age of the Holy Spirit? (Acts 1:4-8) Their whole argument seemed willfully ignorant and irrational.
My rebuttal was that 1 Corinthians 14:2 & 4 says the purpose of tongues was to “speak to God” and for “self edification.” I strongly believe we all agree that “speaking to God” is called “prayer.” Then I would ask; “Has the need for intercessory prayer or encouragement ceased?” Many Scriptures like Ephesians 6:18 reinforced my argument. I respectfully shared that I agreed with their basic argument, but pointed out they were missing the biblical explanation for the “purpose of each gift.”
Some conversations were delightful and ended with a respectful truce. Others did not go well and one professor even gave me failing grades on my papers because he did not agree with my theology. (Hmm… I thought properly applied hermeneutics resulted in correct theology!)
As you can see, theologically I rejected the view that the manifestational gifts had ceased, but I was not a practicing charismatic or Pentecostal because I had another sincere problem. Many in the Pentecostal camp taught an opposite extreme position. The insisted that the sign of being born-again was speaking in tongues. They taught that every true Christan had the gift of tongues.
This also caused inner biblical turmoil because 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 clearly puts tongues in a list of distributed gifts. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, Paul argued that the manifestation gifts are not held in common by all believers, and he included speaking in tongues on his list.
My study of Scripture sincerely left me somewhere in the middle between these two extreme positions. I did not see these gifts as either temporary or mandatory. They were under the sovereign distribution of the Holy Spirit.
In pastoring many churches over the years, we have never had an internal conflict over these gifts because I was willing to discuss them openly. We arrive at mature and mutual understanding of these gifts and our public use of them.
I am grateful that I Corinthians 12:4-7 grants a degree of liberty for each local church to develop its own application of these gifts related to public services while respecting other churches that may take a very different approach. 1 Corinthians 14:20-33 also places clear guidelines and boundaries around the public use of these gifts.
As I started spending time with more and more mature and anointed prayer warriors, I noted that many of them have a prayer language and often pray “in the Spirit.” I am very at home in these circles and believe that intercession is the tragic weakness of the western church.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global