Monday, July 8, 2024

Discerning the Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:10-13)

"… to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:10).

The nature of the gift of prophecy is clearly exhibited in the 14th chapter: “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” “It consisted in occasional inspiration and revelations, not merely or generally relating to the future, as in the case of Agabus, Acts 11:28, but either in some new communications relating to faith or duty, or simply an immediate impulse and aid from the Holy Spirit, in presenting truth already known, so that conviction and repentance were the effects aimed at and produced (14:25),” Hodge wrote. The difference between the apostles and the prophets was that the apostles were permanently inspired, so that their teaching was always infallible, whereas the prophets were infallible only on occasion. Only the apostles were inspired because they alone had the authority to proclaim the revelation of God. This was their commission from Christ Himself.

Because there were (and are) so many false teachers, it was important “to have a class of men with the gift of discernment, who could determine whether a man was really inspired, or spoke only from the impulse of his own mind, or from the dictation of some evil spirit,” Hodge wrote. Discerning of spirits does not mean having the ability to name and identify demons. It is simply the ability to discern true from false spirits.

The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in languages previously unknown to the speaker. The nature of this gift is determined by the account given in Acts 2:4–11, where the apostles spoke “with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance; and the people of all the neighboring nations asked with astonishment, ‘Are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born?’ ” These tongues were not unknown languages, but “tongues” that could be understood either by those who already knew the language or by those given the ability to interpret. Mark 16:17 says the disciples would speak in “new” tongues, Acts 2:4 says they spoke in “other” tongues, and Acts 10:46; 19:6 say they spoke in tongues. All these are consistent with the use in Acts 2, meaning real languages. There is no evidence that this meaning changes in 1 Corinthians 12.

Because views differ on the gifts of the Spirit—especially concerning prophecy and tongues—I recommend that you read a book that clarifies the issues, such as R.C. Sproul’s helpful book The Mystery of the Holy Spirit or John MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos.