Paul has described the operation of these diverse gifts in several ways, but now he points again toward unity, the "common good."
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." (12:7)
"Manifestation" is phanerōsis, "disclosure, announcement, revelation, appearance," from phainō, "to show, become visible." It is through the working of the various spiritual gifts that God "shows up" and reveals himself at work in our midst.
The purpose of the gifts is "for the common good" (NIV, NRSV), "to profit withal" (KJV). The prepositional phrase is pros to sympheron. The object is a participle of the verb sympherō, with the sense, "to be advantageous, help, confer a benefit, be profitable/useful." The Corinthians, however, seemed to be using spiritual gifts for their own benefit, without regard to the needs of the assembled congregation (14:12). In fact, sometimes their use of spiritual gifts hurt the body (14:23). Gifts are given to build up the body and strengthen God's people.
Q1. (1 Corinthians 12:7) What is the purpose of spiritual gifts? What happens when people don't employ spiritual gifts for their intended purpose? What happens when a whole church full of people start using their diverse spiritual gifts?
Numbering the Spiritual Gifts
It's amusing to see how rigidly some teachers have categorized the spiritual gifts. Here are the Nine Gifts. In Ephesians 4:11 are the Ministry Offices. But Paul isn't nearly as dogmatic as some modern-day teachers. He is emphasizing the great variety of gifts, not a limited number. Peter Wagner lists 27 gifts of the Spirit. Others come up with a few less. But when you consider several factors with the gifts, you can come up with a huge variety -- literally billions. Here's the formula:
Gifts x Personality x Context x Passion = infinite variety
You will have a unique "gift mix," particular gifts, ministered a certain way, that characterize your unique ministry.
Before we get into the individual gifts, it's important to note that all Christians can access the God of wonders by prayer. But some find that God often uses them in a certain way; those people probably have a special gift. Over my ministry I've occasionally seen God work through me with a wide variety of gifts -- occasionally miraculous -- but my core gifts probably boil down to two gifts that aren't so spectacular. Perhaps an apostle might have more core gifts, but most people probably mostly use one primary gift, or just a few. That's okay, as we'll learn in 12:27-31.
Finding out what your core gifts are is important to you growing and maturing as a productive Christian.