1 Corinthians 12:10 is the end of Paulís list of gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts in this list are not human skills. People cannot do these things unless the Holy Spirit is working in their lives. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to encourage Godís people and to make them stronger.
So, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit when God works powerfully among his people. He does things for them that would be impossible by natural means. When God answers the prayer of a Christian, God acts powerfully on that Christianís behalf. A prayer is not a wish. Prayer is an appeal to God, to do something wonderful.
In the Bible, to Ďprophesyí means to speak words that come from the Holy Spirit. (Sometimes the word can also refer to words from an evil spirit, but the Holy Spirit is the subject here). Usually, a personís words come from their thoughts or their imagination. However, a Christian prophesies when he speaks by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the purpose is to tell people a message from God. On rare occasions, that message may be about future events (Acts 21:10-11). Sometimes the purpose is to speak words that give honour to God.
As I have said, sometimes evil spirits imitate the work of Godís Holy Spirit. Anyone can recognise a message from an evil spirit if that message insults Christ (12:3). However, it is the nature of an evil spirit to lie. Evil spirits often speak words that are not sincere (Mark 1:24). They try to gain attention for themselves, and so to take attention away from Christ.
In such circumstances, it may be impossible for the human mind to know whether a message really is from God. However, Christians do not need to be afraid. Godís Holy Spirit can show them whether a person really is speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That, too, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. God gives to his people everything that they need in order to serve him properly. However, he does not give all these gifts to every Christian. He shares them among Christians. His purpose is that all Christians should depend on each other (12:12; 12:27-31).
The word Ďtonguesí means Ďlanguagesí. However, Paulís subject is the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives (12:8). We must not, therefore, confuse this gift with a natural skill to learn languages. That is very clear when we read Acts 2:4-12. In that passage, the first Christians spoke in languages that they had not learned. They did it by the power of the Holy Spirit.
After that event, the Bible refers to similar events in Acts 10:45-46 and Acts 19:6. 1 Corinthians chapter 14 shows that similar things had happened both to Paul and among the Christians in Corinth.
In fact, the Christians in Corinth were speaking in tongues and prophesying very often. They did these things so often that Paul had to advise them about the proper use of these gifts. We will learn more about tongues, and the gift to interpret tongues, in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.