God the Holy Spirit, Paul has told us, grants spiritual gifts to His people for the sake of the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:4–7). In today’s passage, the Apostle proceeds to identify several of these gifts. As we have noted, this list is likely not exhaustive but representative. There are many more gifts that the Spirit gives than are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8–11.
Verse 8 refers to “the utterance of wisdom” and “the utterance of knowledge.” Knowing the exact difference between these is difficult. Probably the “utterance of wisdom” is related to Paul’s assertion in chapters 1–2 that Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. Thus, this gift would be a special ability to explain all matters in relation to the cross or to declare the gospel with particular skill. The “utterance of knowledge” may be some kind of divinely granted insight into the meaning of Scripture or revelation of facts that the recipient would have no ordinary way of knowing.
In 12:9, we read about the gift of faith and the “gifts of healing.” Since saving faith is a common possession of all Christians, Paul cannot be talking about the faith by which we trust in Christ alone for salvation. Likely he means a special endowment of faith for particular tasks, exceptionally strong trust that God will work in a particular situation to bring about good. “Gifts of healing” would refer to the Spirit-granted ability to heal the sick.
The “working of miracles” (v. 10) would be the performance of mighty supernatural acts other than healings. We also read about the “gift of prophecy” in 12:10, which is the supernatural revelation of future events and the authoritative speaking on behalf of God similar to what we see in the Old Testament prophets. “To distinguish between spirits,” also mentioned in verse 10, may refer to the ability to discern true prophecies from false ones. The gifts of “tongues” and “interpretation of tongues,” in verse 10 as well, involve the revelation of God through a language not ordinarily spoken by the one with the gift and the translation of that language by another. Paul discusses tongues and prophecies in more detail in 1 Corinthians 14, which we will cover in due time.
Note especially 12:11, where the Apostle says that these gifts are given by the Spirit as He wills. According to His sovereign plan and purpose, God dispenses His gifts. We should not be discontent with what He gives, for He acts with perfect wisdom (Rom. 16:27).