(1 Corinthians 12:7)
This single verse presents Christians with a few interesting questions. It says,
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – (1 Corinthians 12:7)
First, what is the “manifestation” of the Spirit? Second, who is it given to and how do you get it? And finally why is it for the “common good?”
The answers to some of these questions can be seen when looking at the original Greek words from which this verse is translated, but others of these questions require a more extensive search to gain an understanding.
Let's start with the third of the points mention above. The ESV bible and the RSV translate the Greek as “common good.” Another version I have translates as “to the profit of all.” One of the Greek inter linear versions I have translates it as “withal.”
However when we look at the Greek word (sympheron) it is a combination of two other Greek words, “syn (or sym)” and “pheron.” Individually they mean “together” and “bear” respectively, or “bear together.”
It is worth considering this for a moment. The work of the Holy Spirit predominantly is to transform us as individuals into the image of Jesus Christ. As we walk with Christ there are many times we suffer either external persecution or the internal wrangling with the sinful nature of man within us and the passions of the flesh that lead to sin.
There are many, many times in our walk that we need to “bear” these burdens and stand in the faith we have in Christ Jesus.
But what I take from this verse is that we do not bear these things alone. Christ is with us, always, but so too we receive the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to help us bear these things as we walk with Jesus. And better yet we see that we do not bear these issues alone. We “bear together” and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit helps us to bear when we are in need of His support.
This is the essence of walking in the Spirit. That is, when we apply the teachings of the Lord with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to overcome the passions of human nature and to stand against all forms of opposition. The Holy Spirit bears together with us so that we have the victory in Jesus Christ.
Who Receives the Manifestation of the Spirit?
This brings us to the second point, who is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and how do you get it?
Now the first thing we should understand is who were the audience that Paul was writing this letter to? It was to the church in Corinth. The Corinthian church were clearly aware of the Holy Spirit and what the manifestation of the spirit was. It was evident also from the way Paul wrote to them that those he was addressing already had the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
The scripture begins saying “…to each is given the manifestation of the spirit.” The Greek word translated as “each” (hekastoi) is referring to everyone. All of the people, men and women, he was addressing in the letter were whom Paul was referring to. Everyone of them had received the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
And so too the offer to receive the manifestation of the spirit still exists today since the gospel has not changed since Jesus Christ died and established the new covenant. But I will come to that in a moment.
The Manifestation of the Spirit
So now we come to what exactly IS the manifestation of the spirit?
To make something manifest is to make it known. Something that is not known or is hidden becomes manifest when it comes to light for all to see and recognise.
And so too when a person receives the manifestation of the Holy Spirit it is obvious to them and to all that it is the Holy Spirit and cannot be anything else. What is it?
Recall when Jesus spoke to the disciples while He was alive saying,
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – (John 14:16-17)
The Holy Spirit was WITH the disciples while Jesus walked on the earth with them, but Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would be IN them in due course. When did this take place?
We know that the disciples received the Holy Spirit after Jesus had died on the day of Pentecost. How was the Holy Spirit made manifest to both the disciples themselves and also to all who came together at that time? There were three key manifestations of the spirit.
- The sound of rushing winds
- Flames of fire alighting on the disciples
- They all spoke in other tongues.
It was important that the receiving of the Holy Spirit be so dramatic the first time it happened so that all people would know it was the work of God. By receiving the Holy Spirit in this way it fulfilled the words of the prophet Joel that God would pour out His Holy Spirit on all mankind.
But as time went on we see that other people received the Holy Spirit without the fire and rushing winds. Two such examples stand out when the Gentiles first received the Holy Spirit and also when Paul laid hands on the disciples at Ephesus to receive the Holy Spirit. Although there were no fire or rushing winds, in each case they still received the “manifestation of the Spirit.” Note what the scriptures say,
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. – (Acts 10:44-46)
And at Ephesus,
1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. – (Acts 19:1-6)
In each of these cases the people who received the Holy Spirit and those who were with them had no doubts that these people had received the Holy Spirit. Why? Because they heard the manifestation of the spirit as they all spoke with tongues. There were no sounds of rushing wind or flames of fire but ALL of the people who received the Holy Spirit in every case spoke with tongues.
The manifestation of the spirit in each of these cases was speaking in tongues. But is this correct? Is this so in ALL cases where people receive the Holy Spirit? To answer this consider the words of Jesus to Nicodemus.
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – (John 3:5-8)
When Jesus told Nicodemus that if anyone wants to enter the kingdom of God that they MUST be born of the Spirit, He also explained how you would know that someone IS born of the Holy Spirit. Jesus used a parable to explain to Nicodemus about the manifestation of the Spirit.
Jesus said that EVERYONE who is born of the Spirit will be like the wind. He said you know the wind is blowing because you can hear the sound of it. Using this parable He shows that EVERYONE who is born of the spirit you would also know by hearing the sound of the spirit. This is the manifestation of the spirit spoken of by Paul and it is evidenced in EVERYONE who is born of the Holy Spirit. What is the sound of the Spirit that is seen in every case where people received the Holy Spirit as detailed above? Speaking in tongues.
If you ask Christians you meet whether they have received the Holy Spirit they will answer in many ways. Most Christians believe that they have but don't really know for sure. But everyone who has received the gift of tongues knows emphatically that they have indeed received the gift of the Holy Spirit because the gift of tongues is the manifestation of the spirit that proves it.
Some people today believe there is no point to tongues today. Others believe they were only manifested in the early church for the purpose of spreading the gospel.
Both these ideas are wrong. God did not give gifts that were without a point or a reason. Every gift from God is given for a reason. Every part of the new covenant is as relevant today as it was 2,000 odd years ago. As for needing tongues to preach the gospel, that is incorrect. The standard language of the Roman Empire at the time of Christ was Greek and all who had to trade spoke Greek. It was the universal language of the time so there was no need for tongues to spread the gospel. And besides, when we fully understand the way tongues work and the purpose of tongues, it makes such a suggestion ridiculous. It is simply an idea put forth by those who do not speak in tongues and have no idea of what it is for.
To add to this point, and cover the point I alluded to earlier, the promise of the Holy Spirit is still available to all today as is the gift of speaking in tongues. In fact if we are to fully follow in the path Jesus set before us, speaking in tongues is not a “nice to have” gift, it is essential.
I am not saying that those who do not speak in tongues will not be saved. Salvation is not based on tongues or any other gift of God. Salvation is by faith in the working of the grace of God through the sacrifice Jesus made for us. But receiving the Holy Spirit is necessary to complete the work of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.
After the disciples first received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter stood and addressed the crowds. When they realised that they had killed the Lord and saviour they were cut to the heart and asked the disciples what they could do. In his address Peter made these statements as to whom the promise of the Holy Spirit with the gift of tongues was actually promised to. He said,
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” – (Acts 2:37-39)
Note the last verse. The promise was first to the people there and their children and all who are far off. In the simple statement of stating the promise was to those there and their children, Peter is talking about the promise going down to generations far off.
We are those who are far off in generations and time. So the promise is to us today as it was to them.
But Peter did not stop there. He added these words, the promise is offered to, “…everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
While some may believe that speaking in tongues was only for those days to spread the gospel in the early church, no one can deny that people are still called to God today. And if they are still being called to God, then the offer of the Holy Spirit and tongues are still on offer to all who come to Him
So here are a few questions all Christians and especially you should consider deeply and carefully.
- Have you been called to God?
- Have you received the Holy Spirit?
- If you believe you have, have you received the manifestation of the spirit as indicated by Paul and Jesus?
Think deeply and carefully on these matters and feel free to comment or send me a private email if you wish to know more.
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