1 Corinthians


8. Speaking in tongues, 12:1-14:40

i] The gifts of the Spirit


Paul now turns to the subject of tongue-speaking; "now concerning spiritual speaking, I do not want you to be uninformed", 12:1. Paul goes on to deal with the subject of tongue-speaking in chapter 12 by looking at spiritual abilities in general. His argument is simple, tongue-speaking is but one of many spiritual abilities available to the individual believer through the Spirit for the upbuilding of the church. To concentrate on one ability at the expense of the vast number of abilities available through the Spirit, is to deny the congregation the diversity of the Spirit's ministry. The church is one body with many parts, not one body with one part.


i] Context: In dealing with the exaggeration of tongue-speaking within the Corinthian church, Paul first explains that tongue-speaking is but one of many spiritual gifts, and is most likely a lesser gift, 12:1-31. Tongues should not be given a status over other gifts. Paul then goes on to encourage his readers to seek the greatest of gifts, namely love, 13:1-13. Love is the gift that underpins all the gifts of the Spirit. Then in chapter 14, Paul goes on to limit the use of tongue-speaking within the church and to encourage tongue-speakers to seek the higher and more edifying gift of prophecy - "be eager to prophecy." Paul does not "forbid the speaking in tongues", but rather that only "two, or at the most, three should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret." Paul wants the congregation to be built up, and to this end he argues for intelligibility and order.


ii] Background: See 7:6-9. It seems likely that the Enthusiasts in the church at Corinth have taken up tongue speaking, and that this has brought further disorder to church.


iii] Structure: The gifts of the Spirit,

The proper use of tongue speaking in Christian worship #1:

Topic: Speaking in Tongues.

Introduction, v1-3:

The genuine item is easily discerned.

Argument, v4-10:

The principle of diversity under God, v4-6:

Allotment of spiritual abilities for the common good, v7.

Diverse ministry gifts (important to the less important??).

Conclusion, v11:

Paul restates the principle of diversity.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul's opening argument establishes the Lord's desire for his church that believers understand and apply the diversity of spiritual abilities found within the membership, rather than focus on one particular gift, namely, speaking in tongues. It is the Spirit's task to give to individual members of the congregation abilities that can be used within the group to enable each individual to enrich the practical and spiritual lives of the other members of the Christian fellowship. Paul establishes that from one God there is a diversity of gifts for the common good, and that therefore, the Corinthian believers should focus on this diversity rather than a single manifestation of the Spirit, namely, tongue speaking.


The manifestation / gifts of the Spirit, hJ fanerwsiV tou pneumatoV. "The gifts of the Spirit", refers to the equipping of believers for service. This gifting by God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is a product of the direct and intimate invasion of the life-giving Spirit of Jesus into the very being of a believer. The disciples had discovered Jesus as their friend and he had become for them a "spring of water welling up to eternal life." In leaving them, they would be "orphans" for a time, but Jesus promised to come again to them at a more intimate personal level. "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." The bestowal of the indwelling Spirit of Christ is promised to all who put their faith in Jesus. "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him", Luke 11:13. It is to all who repent. "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The bestowal of the Holy Spirit in a believers life brings with it the manifestation / gifts of the Spirit. This gifting is commonly described as being "filled with the Spirit", a filling that enabling the exercise of ministry - in particular, proclamation.

The following can be said of this gifting by the Holy Spirit, of being "filled with the Spirit":

IAlthough the term "filled with the Spirit" sometimes refers to "the baptism / reception / gift of the Holy Spirit" (of being born anew), it is primarily used with the Old Testament sense of the application of, or release of, the Spirit's power for gifted ministry, particularly in proclaiming God's word.

IA number of Old Testament personalities were filled with the Spirit, as well as John the Baptist, Zechariah and Elizabeth. This infilling is therefore not new.

IAs part of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people", the infilling of the Spirit is available to all followers of Jesus. For this reason Paul is able to say, "you have been given fullness in Christ", Col.2:10.

IBeing filled with the Spirit is an ongoing occurrence in the Christian life, not a once only experience. Luke describes numerous fillings of the Spirit for the first disciples, eg., Acts 4:8, 4:31, 13:9.

IPaul says, "be filled with the Spirit", Eph.5:19. He prays, "that you might be filled to the measure of the fullness of God", Eph.3:19. Therefore, the filling of the Spirit is something that should be sought.

IThe filling of the Holy Spirit expresses itself in the Christian life primarily in powerful proclamation:

At Pentecost the disciples were filled and "declared the wonders of God."

John the Baptist was filled for his prophetic work, Luke 1:15.

"Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and in a loud voice she proclaimed", Luke 1:41-42.

"His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied", Luke 1:67.

Peter before the Sanhedrin "filled with the Holy Spirit said...." Acts 4:8.

The gathered disciples "filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly" Acts 4:31.

Peter was filled and preached, Acts 9.

"Saul filled with the Holy Spirit.....said...." Acts 13:9.

IThe scriptures promise the infilling of the Spirit. "Do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matt.10:19-20.


Speaking in Tongues: It is clear that the improper use of this gift is causing problems in the Corinthian congregation, and so Paul addresses its misuse in chapters 12-14. As a form of ecstatic prophecy, tongues may range from the intelligible to the unintelligible. Paul uses the same word to describe the Corinthian experience as Luke uses in Acts, yet he doesn't seem to describe exactly the same experience. In Acts, tongues are understood by different language groups, although the content is mysterious. In Corinth it doesn't seem to cross over between different language groups, but is clearly ecstatic (mysterious) and it is for this reason that Paul is critical of its use in worship.

In 1Cor.14:20-22 Paul actually describes it as a sign of judgment upon God's people. Using the prophecy of Isaiah 28:9-13 he points out that a people who have failed to listen to a clear word from the Lord will end up hearing meaningless sounds. Sav lasav sav lasav, kav lakav kav lakav is a word of judgment, not blessing. Jesus used parables in the same way with his own generation, cf., Matt.13:11-17. Parables were a form of judgment upon a people who failed to respond to the clear word of the coming kingdom. So, Paul gives instructions as to the proper exercise of the gift of tongues, namely with a word of interpretation, or even better, their replacement with a clear prophetic word.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.


Spiritual gifts: i] Introduction - The topic of speaking in tongues in relation to other spiritual gifts, v1-3. Paul now addresses his next topic of concern, namely, "spiritual matters." It is likely that Paul has in mind "spiritual speaking" and therefore, "speaking in tongues." Paul says it is easy to distinguish the genuine from the imitation, since the genuine article gives recognition and praise to Jesus, while the Satanic form curses Jesus.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here a major step.

peri + gen. "about" - concerning. Reference / respect: "with respect to."

twn pneumatikwn (oV) adj. "spiritual gifts" - spiritual, spiritual matters / things [brothers]. The focus of chapters 12 through 14 is on tongue speaking. A proper translation would be something like "spiritual matters" or better still "spiritual speaking." "Spiritual gifts / gifts of the Spirit" is a poor translation and is not justified by the text. The passage actually uses the term "manifestation of the Spirit" as the technical descriptor for the so called "gifts of the Spirit", spiritual ability that enables Christian ministry. The Gk. "spiritual matters" is certainly difficult to translate. Tongue-speaking is at the center of Paul's discussion in these chapters, so, although most translations open with the words, "now concerning spiritual gifts", we would be better served with "now concerning speaking in the Spirit / speaking in tongues."

agnoein (agnoew) pres. inf. "to be ignorant" - [i do not want you] to be ignorant. The infinitive is usually classified as complementary, but it also forms an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul doesn't want; "I want you to realize what the position really is", Barclay.


oJti "that" - [you know] that. Serving to introduce a dependent statement of perception expressing what the Corinthians know; "you know, that when we were pagans."

o{te "when" - when [you were gentiles toward the mute idols]. Temporal conjunction serving to introduce a temporal clause.

wJV an + imperf. "somehow or other" - whenever. A temporal construction; most likely serving to indicate iterative (repeated) action by the two imperfect verbs, "influenced and led astray", so "constantly ....". "You were ever and again swept away to the worship of dumb idols", Barclay.

hgesqe (agw) imperf. pas. "you were influenced" - you were being led . This imperfect passive verb probably describes a state of ecstasy. Paul notes that the Corinthians were once senselessly and unconsciously led by the nose to worship idols - things without power in themselves. There is a hint though that Satanic powers were at work in holding them to these mere material objects. Presumably Paul's point is that under this influence they had practiced a form of tongue-speaking - the babble of religious ecstasy - but now that they were Christians and practicing something similar, it is important that they be able to identify the genuine article. "Constantly carried off into the ecstasy of pagan religion."

apagomenoi (apagw) pres. pas. part. "and led astray [to mute idols]" - you were being carried away. Possibly just an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "you were influenced", as NIV, but it seems to function by itself, presumably with an assumed verb to-be, and so a paraphrastic construction; "you know that when you were Gentiles, during the years you were being led astray by irrational impulses, you were being led astray to (proV = in orientation toward) dumb idols."


dio "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential.

uJmin dat. pro. "[I want] you [to know]" - [i make known] to you. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul wants them to know.

lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "who is speaking" - [no one] speaking. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "no one", or, taken with oudeiV, "no one", it may be classified as a substantive.

en "by" - [speaking] in = by [the spirit of god]. Probably instrumental, "by means of the Spirit, as NIV, although locative is possible, "in the Spirit.

anaqema (a) "cursed" - [says jesus is] anathema. Predicate adjective. Although used sometimes of something reserved for a deity, here, as the LXX, of something apart, opposed to the deity, an accursed thing, something doomed to destruction. A person in an ecstatic state (tongue speaking) cursing Jesus is not doing it under the influence of the Spirit. Paul implies that demonic powers can produce an ecstatic state similar to a believer speaking in tongues. "Will never curse Jesus", CEV.

eipein (legw) aor. inf. "[can] say" - [and no one is able] to say. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "is able."

KurioV (oV) "Lord" - [jesus is] lord. Predicate nominative. Lord as master, ruler, as divine being. The common term for Jehovah used by the Jews was "Lord".

ei mh "except" - This construction establishes an exception, as NIV.

en "by" - in = by [the holy spirit]. Here instrumental, expressing means, "by", as NIV.


ii] It is the one Spirit who allots the many gifts, v4-7. These verses present Paul's central point. There is not just one spiritual ability, but a variety of spiritual expressions in the Christian life, all of which finds their origin in the one God. All these spiritual abilities should be widely diffused within the Christian church.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional; "now there are varieties of gifts", ESV.

diaireseiV (iV ewV) "different kinds" - [there are] differences, variety / distributions, allotments. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. BAGD opts for "apportion" or "distribute". Fee suggests "difference" or "variety", as NIV, while Barrett opts for "allotments." "Spiritual (possibly understood, but not in the text) gifts" are allotted by one and the same Spirit. All gifts have the same source. Note how Paul presents the concept of allotting gifts within a Trinitarian formula: spiritual endowments (gifts) from the Spirit; ministrations (service) from Jesus; powerful outworkings (power) from God (the Father). "There are different apportionings of gifts", Thiselton.

carismatwn (a) gen. "of gifts" - The genitive is somewhat unclear, possibly verbal, objective, but better adjectival, partitive; "there are distinctive gifts of grace", Berkeley, "spiritual gifts", CEV.

auto pro. "[the] same [Spirit]" - [but the] he, she, it = same [spirit]. Here meaning "same", "one in the same", that which is identical to something. Possibly with reference to origin, "but they all come from the same Spirit", CEV, but more likely with reference to the unity of the godhead as opposed to the diversity of the distributions of the "gifts".


diakoniwn (a) gen. "of service" - [and there are different kinds] of ministry. The genitive, as above, adjectival, attributed; "there are distinctive ministries", Berkeley. There is a variety of different ministries (ie. ways of serving the Lord), but all derive from, and are apportioned by, the same Lord. "There are (different) distributions of service and (but?) the same Lord", Barrett.

kai "but" - and. Paul changes the formula slightly from de, "but", to kai, "and." Most translators stay with "but".

oJ kurioV (oV) "the [same] Lord" - Often referring to "the Lord God" (LXX), but also, as here, "the Lord Jesus."


energhmatwn (a) gen. "working" - [and there are different kinds] of operations, performance. The genitive, as above, or attributed; "there are distinctive activities, but the same God who empowers them in everyone." Of effort applied to accomplish something. There may be different accomplishments, but it is God working in us that achieves their end. "There are different apportionings of what activates effects", Thiselton.

oJ energwn "works" - [but/and the same god] the one working. The participle is adjectival, modifying "God"; "it is the same God who achieves his purposes", Phillips.

ta panta "all of them" - all things. Accusative direct object of the participle "working". "The whole of everything", Fee, here referring to the "different kinds of working", so "every kind of working."

en pasin "in all men / in everyone" - in all. Local, expressing sphere. Possibly "in every case", but more likely "in all believers."


The point of v4-6 was that the unity of the Godhead works as one in the giving of a diversity of spiritual abilities to the individual members of the church. The point of this verse is that the various abilities given to individual memers has a common end, namely, the good of the congregation (upbuilding, edification).

de "-" - but/and. Possibly adversative here, "but", or better just transitional; "now to each one is given ..."

ekastw/ dat. adj. "to each one" - to each. Dative of indirect object.

hJ fanerwsiV (iV ewV) "the manifestation" - [is given] the manifestation, disclosure. Nominative subject of the verb "to give." An observable demonstration of the Spirit. We could use the word "gift" for a physical manifestation of the Spirit enabling a believer to exercise a ministry within the Christian fellowship. We all know what "spiritual gifts" are, even though the term derives from a poor translation of 12:1. So, the term "manifestations of the Spirit", is best understood as, the operation (demonstrative activity) that manifests the Spirit, or spiritual abilities that show forth the Spirit, or just simply "spiritual gifts."

tou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "of the Spirit" - The genitive may be verbal, subjective, of a manifestation expedited by the Spirit, or objective, of the power to manifest the Spirit, or ablative, source/origin; "the visible effect which the Spirit produces", Barclay.

didotai (didwmi) pres. pas. "is given" - Present tense indicates ongoing action (durative), while the passive indicates God as the agent (a divine passive).

proV "for" - to, toward = for. Here expressing purpose, aim, as NIV.

to sumferon (sumfew) pres. part. "the common good" - the bringing together. The participle serves as a substantive, "for common advantage", Thiselton, in the sense "to be used to help all believers", TH, but a more general sense is possible, "for some useful purpose", REB.


iii] A sample list of allotted gifts, v8-10. Paul now lists some of the various operations of the Spirit (along with the gift of tongues) that are given to individual Christians to enable them to serve the Lord for the upbuilding of the congregation ("the common good"). The first set of gifts are personal abilities that enable an understanding of the mind of Christ for the exercise of a Word ministry. From v8 to 11 the Greek presents as one sentence.

gar "-" - for. Probably explanatory in that the following verses expand on the idea that the Sprit is given for the common good; "for to one is given ...", ESV.

men ..... de ... de .... "-" - Adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand, ..... but on the other hand, .... but then on the other hand, .... etc."

wJ/ dat. pro. "to one" - Dative of indirect object; "to one person."

dia + gen. "through" - through [the spirit is given]. Instrumental; "by means of."

sofiaV ... gnwsewV gen. "[the/a message] of wisdom [... the message] of knowledge" - [a word] of wisdom, [and to another a word] of knowledge. The genitive, "of wisdom" and "of knowledge" may be either subjective, the communication of a wisdom / knowledge derived from God, or objective, the communication of a wisdom / knowledge about God, or even better, adjectival attributive, limiting "word"; "wise speech", "knowing speech." These are the first two "manifestations of the Spirit" listed by Paul. It is difficult to distinguish between these two "gifts", but Paul does seem to place the first on a higher plane. ie., the first is given "through / by" the Spirit, whereas the second is given "in accordance with" ("by means of", NIV). The gifts are probably a spiritual insight or comprehension of the mind of Christ. They are obviously gifts necessary to be able to exercise a ministry of the Word within the congregation. Possibly the first for prophecy and the second for teaching. Note that Bruce is honest enough to state that "Paul presumably intends some distinction between sofiaV and gnwsewV, but the distinction is not clear to us." "To one person is given the divine power to communicate mysteries and to another person the divine power to communicate knowledge."

kata + acc. "by means of" - according to [the same spirit]. Expressing a standard, "in accordance with", so "in agreement with the same Spirit", Berkeley, but, given the context, an instrumental sense is possibly intended, as NIV, although rare.


The next set of manifestations of the Spirit fall under the heading of "faith", v9-10. Two demonstrative outworkings of the gift of faith are the ministries of "healing" and of "wonderful works". Then follows the gifts that Paul is primarily concerned with; the gifts of "prophecy" and "tongues". Prophecy is the ministry of powerfully proclaiming the word of God. Tongues is a similar ministry, although the content of the message is not easily understood because there is a lack of clarity in the language used, ie., it is a form of ecstatic prophecy. It is for this reason that there is an associated ministry of Interpretation. The gift of "the ability to distinguish between spirits", may be an ability to discern whether the words of the prophets and tongue speakers are of the Lord, or are of natural man, or are even demonic.

eJterw/ adj. "to another" - As with allw/, "to another", dative of indirect object of the assumed passive verb "to give."

pistiV (iV ewV) "faith" - Nominative subject of the assumed verb "to give." This is not saving faith, but the faith that produces miracles and martyrs. The listed ministries that follow require such faith.

en + dat. "by" - by [the same spirit]. Here obviously instrumental, as NIV; "by means of."

iamatwn (a atoV) gen. "of healing" - [and to another the gift] of healings, cures. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "gifts"; "healing gifts." The word is plural and therefore, possibly refers to the healing of different classes of sickness, either miraculously or naturally. "Various kinds of healing", Thiselton.

tw/ eni dat. "that one" - [in = by] the one [spirit]. Interesting move from "same" to "one" with the likely sense being "the one and the same Spirit."


allw/ dat. adj. "to another" - [and] to another. Dative of indirect object.

dunamewn (iV ewV) "[miraculous] powers" - [workings, operations] of powers. Again plural. Commentators are divided on whether the genitive is subjective or objective, although adjectival, attributive, seems best; "wonderful works." These could possibly be the ability / power to exorcise demons, or more generally to work miracles; "the working of miracles", NJB.

profhteia (a) "prophecy" - [and to another] prophecy. Presumably Paul has in mind the "prophecy" he refers to in chapter 14, that which is a counter to "tongues." Yet, even with all the information available in chapter 14 it is unclear whether Paul has in mind primary revelation, in which case many would argue that prophecy ceased with the publication of the New Testament, or secondary revelation in the terms of the exposition of scripture. He may even have in mind the Agabus style of prophecy, an immediate miraculous word addressing a specific situation.

pneumatwn (a atwn) gen. "[distinguishing] between spirits" - [and to another discerning, judging, discriminating, distinguishing] of spirits. Again a tricky genitive, possibly adjectival, partitive; "distinguishing between spirits." The phrase is usually taken to refer to a gift that enables a believer to distinguish between a "manifestation" of the Holy Spirit and that of an evil spirit. "Discernment of what is 'of the Spirit'", Thiselton.

glwsswn (a) gen. "different kinds of tongues" - [and to another kinds] of tongues. The genitive is adjectival, possibly attributed, "various tongues", or partitive; "the gift of speaking in tongues of inspiration of this or that sort", Cassirer. Often understood as different languages, but certainly ecstatic language utterances. How we would love Paul to explain what he means by genh, "different kinds", different in what way? "The gifts of different kinds of ecstatic speech", Barclay.

ermhneia (a) "interpretation" - [and to another] interpretation, translation, explanation [of tongues]. Intelligible articulation of what is spoken in tongues", Thiselton.


iv] Conclusion - The same Spirit allots the many gifts, v11. All these abilities come from the Spirit and He gives them as He wills. He gives variety, and apportions them within the sovereign will of God. There is a variety of gifts given to the members of Christ's body, the church, yet the individuals so endowed make up one organic whole - unity through variety, v12. Note the A B A structure of v4-11.

panta "all" - The position is emphatic.

tauta neut. pl. pro. "these things" - "All these manifestations."

energei (energew) pres. "are the work" - works, energizes [the one and the same spirit]. Often used of the wonder working power of God. "All these effects are produced by one and the same Spirit", Moffatt.

diairoun (diairew) pres. part. "gives" - distributing. The participle may be adjectival, attributive, limiting Spirit, "who apportion to each one individually", although being anarthrous it may wall be adverbial, modal, expressing manner. NIV "gives" is too general. Given that the Spirit apportions the gifts as he wills, there is no ground for vanity, and certainly no ground to claim that there is but one worthy gift, or one that all must possess. If there is one gift that we must all possess then it is "love". cf., chapter.13. The fact that the Spirit apportions as he wills, does not stop us from desiring a range of gifts. In fact, the Spirit may well apportion in proportion to our desire, but of course, he will do so with a total awareness of our capacity and the needs of our church. 7:7, 14:1.The Spirit "distributes them to each individual", Barclay.

idia/ dat. "to [each] one" - to [each one] separately, individually. Dative of indirect object. "The Spirit individually allocates the gifts to each person as he determines."

kaqwV "as" - as, just as. Here with the sense "to the degree that."

bouletai (boulomai) pres. mid. "he determines" - he wills. The gifts are given as the Spirit wills, irrespective of our will in the matter. The Spirit "decides which gifts to give to each of us", CEV.


1 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]