Origin of Spiritual Gifts (12:4-6)
Having called for discernment, Paul begins to explain about spiritual gifts from the true God.
"4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (12:4-6)
God is the author of all true spiritual gifts, even though there may be great differences between the gifts. As we'll see, the Corinthians tended to value speaking in tongues much too highly, and thus denigrate or ignore some of the other gifts. Notice the synonyms Paul uses in verses 4-6:
Vs. 4 Gifts same Spirit
Vs. 5 Service same Lord
Vs. 6 Working same God
These spiritual gifts can be thought of as gifts, as service, and as working. "Gifts" is charisma, plural, charismata (from which we get our word "charismatic," gifted). Charisma means, "that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift," from charis, "grace, unmerited favor." It is important that we understand that spiritual gifts are not given to us as a badge of righteousness or spirituality. They are a gift given in spite of ourselves, to fulfill God's own purposes, not to enhance our spiritual portfolio.
"Service/s" (NIV, NRSV), "administrations" (KJV) is diakonia, "service," here, "functioning in the interest of a larger public, service, office," of the prophets and apostles. This is not just an act of service, but an assignment to serve. The so-called "five ministry gifts" of Ephesians 4:11 might be thought of in this light.
"Working" (NIV), "activities" (NRSV, ESV), "operations" (KJV) is energēma (from a root which underlies our word "energy"), "activity as expression of capability, activity." You might think it is a gifted person working, but it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit working through him or her.
Notice the words "differences, diversities, varieties" that appear in verses 4-6. The Corinthians seem to have fixated on speaking in tongues, and undervalued other gifts. One of Paul's tasks in chapter 12 is to help them appreciate the wide range of gifts that the Holy Spirit has distributed, not just one or two gifts, as he says in verse 11.
"All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." (12:11)
Their unity, Paul is saying, is not found in uniformity of the gifts exercised, but in the one God who distributes the wide variety of gifts.