Prophecy, Discernment of Spirits, Tongues, and Interpretation:
Now we come to some of the more controversial gifts -- prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation.
"... To another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." (12:10b)
I'm going to defer a detailed discussion of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation to chapter 14, where Paul speaks of them at length. However, let me offer a few definitions here.
Prophecy is a gift whereby God brings a message to an individual or a congregation through a person. Those who are used often in this gift could be termed "prophets." We see prophets referred to in the early church (Ephesians 4:11; Acts 13:1; 11:27-28; 21:10-11). Prophecy is sometimes seen in the Bible as accompanying a filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 19:20-24). I don't see prophecy as the gift of preaching, even anointed preaching. However, I have heard preachers move into prophecy in their sermons occasionally. More often I've seen people receive a "word" for someone else in the congregation, and when that is shared with the person it is often a moving confirmation of what God is saying to them. Some congregations regularly hear words of prophecy brought in the congregation. Is prophecy sometimes abused? Yes. But that is no reason to "despise" it; rather an excellent reason to be discerning (14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23.
Tongues (singular glōssa, plural glōssalalia) is the supernatural ability to speak in another language. It was used evangelistically on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) and was common in the early church (Mark 16:17). Paul probably refers to tongues in chapter 13 when he says, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..." (13:1). Tongues with an interpretation can -- like prophecy -- build up the congregation (14:13). Sometimes tongues and prophecy seem to accompany a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45-46; 11:15-17; 19:1-7), a phenomenon that Pentecostals have built into a doctrine of speaking in tongues as the "necessary evidence" of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul seemed to use tongues as a kind of personal "prayer language" (14:13-18). Can speaking in tongues be abused? Yes. It was abused in Corinth and in many churches today that don't follow Paul's instructions in chapter 14.
Interpretation of Tongues is the ability to interpret speaking in tongues, so that the whole congregation might understand what is being said. We'll discuss this further in.
Discernment of spirits is the special ability to be able to discern the spirits that motivate or oppress a person. Jesus modeled this ability for us in several of his healing miracles. I've found that people who have been delivered from occult practices often have spiritual sensitivities in this area. Sadly, we sometimes encounter people today who are spiritually infected with unclean spirits.
The gift of discernment of spirits is important for at least one member of a team seeking to deliver a person from demonic influence or exorcise an evil spirit.
We've commented on each of the nine spiritual gifts listed here, but, of course, that list isn't exhaustive. And much more could be said profitably. Whole books have been written by people who are experienced in a particular gift. But I hope you find my comments helpful and suggestive.
Note: This is not the time to criticize others' use of spiritual gifts, but to look for positive examples of the use of spiritual gifts.
Q3. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) Has God used you in one of these nine spiritual gifts -- or someone you know? How has this gift help build up and strengthen your congregation or community?