Close Menu X

The gifts of the Holy Spirit

“Earnestly desire the best gifts” 1 Corinthians 12:31

 "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all." 1 Cor 12:4-6

It seems here that Paul makes a distinction between the gifts (v4,) services (v5,) and works/activities (v6.)

Verse 4:  The Greek word for gifts is Charisma from the root charis (grace) so these are pure free gifts given by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 5: The Greek word for services is Diaconia, from which we get the word "deacon" and these services are assigned by the Lord Jesus.
Verse 6: The Greek word for activities/effects is Energma from which we get the word "energy," and these activities are assigned by the Father.

Rules about the Gifts:

The Gifts are given to EVERY believer. 1 Cor. 12:7
The Gifts are meant for the edification of the church. 1 Cor. 12:7
The Gifts are to be practiced in love. 1 Cor:12:31
The Gifts of the Spirit to be sought after. 1 Cor. 12:27-31, 14:1
The Gifts are to be practiced in order .1 Cor 14:26-33

Word of Wisdom:

This is a supernatural wisdom given through the Holy Spirit to act in certain situations.

Joseph’s advise to Pharaoh. Genesis 41:33-38
Paul  “Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 3So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.”Acts 27:31-32

Word of Knowledge:

This is when God reveals secret things.

2 Kings 6: 8-12
Acts 5: 1-11

Gift of Faith:

Faith is the only thing that is both a gift of the Spirit and a fruit of the Spirit.

Faith as a supernatural gift is when you know that miracle is going to happen.
For example, Luke 17:6 "He replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.'"


Healing is provided for in the atonement and Jesus’ death on the cross. Matt. 8:16-17

Healing and miracles is Jesus’ promise to all those who believe in Him. John 14:12.
Gifts of healings are gifts that the Holy Spirit give to some believers as their primary way to edify the body of Christ.


This gift is when God uses the believer to overturn the rules of nature. Like when God used Moses and had the earth to swallow Korah and his company (Numbers 16) or like when Joshua spoke to God and stopped the sun and the moon to obtain victory at Gibeon (Joshua 10:12.)

Other examples:
Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira falling dead. Note that the gift of miracle acted upon a word of knowledge.
Acts 13:4-12 Paul and Elymas


Supernatural revelation of upcoming events, like the Biblical prophecies about Christ, destruction of Jerusalem…etc.

Other examples:
Acts 13: 1-3
Acts 21:11

Discerning of the spirits:

That is to know the force/reason behind what is happening.

Examining prophecy. 1 Cor. 14:29
Knowing the cause of a sickness; if it is natural or demonic.  Compare the following two verses. In Luke 11:14, the muteness was because of demons.  But in Matthew 15:30,  the muteness was physical sickness.   


We are going to take a moment here and study a bit more in depth about tongues.  This is due to the sheer volume of Scripture in regards to tongues, as well as the controversial nature that surrounds it.

I. Tongues is primarily a prayer language.
II. Is tongues as a prayer language for all believers?
III. The importance of praying in tongues.

I. Tongues is primarily a prayer language.

We are going to look at the passage 1 Cor. 14:1-33.  The purpose of this passage is why, in the church, prophecy is more edifying to the church than speaking in tongues, unless there is interpretation.  (Before we analyze this passage, remember that the purpose of all the gifts is to edify the church as whole. 1 Cor. 12:7)

Now, let us see what we learn from this passage about tongues.

"For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries."  1 Cor 14:2.   So from verse two, we know he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. So speaking in tongues is actually praying.

"He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself. " 1 Cor 14:4   From this verse we learn, that he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.

So the question is, isn’t the purpose of all the gifts to edify the church? 1 Cor. 12:7.  The answer to that question is tongues can be either a prayer language or a gift. When the individual believer prays between himself and God, that is the prayer language, he edifies himself. But when the believer prays out loud in the church in tongues accompanied with interpretation, that is the gift of tongues, that edifies the church. Paul explained that in verse 5.  (1 Corinthians 14:5)

Now let's look at verses 12-20. (1 Cor 14:12-20)  This part deals specifically with tongues in a church gathering.  Paul is not discouraging praying in tongues, but rather using praying in tongues with interpretation for the edification of the church rather than the individual believer.

In verses 14-17 (1 Cor 14:14-17) Paul clarifies that there are two different kinds of prayers:

Praying in tongues: which is the same as praying in the Spirit.                
Praying in understanding: which is the normal prayer in our own language.

This is essential to understand what Paul was referring to when he spoke about “praying in the Spirit” in other scriptures.

Let's continue on to verses 20-25 (1 Cor 14:20-25):  Paul seems to contradict himself in these verses. First in v20-22, he says that tongues is a sign for the unbelievers, but then in v23-25, particularly v23, he says that tongues hinder the unbeliever.

So we need to take a closer look at these verses:
v 21: Paul is quoting Isaiah 28:11-12. In that passage in Isaiah, God is telling the children of Israel that He will use another nation that speaks another language to punish the children of Israel and through that, Israel will know that God doesn’t tolerate their sin. In the same way, God will use tongues to bring unbelievers back to Him. We see an example of that in Acts 2.  The unbelieving Jews heard the disciples “speaking the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:11 Note how in v2, Paul says that he who speak in tongues “speaks to God and not to man,” and in Acts 2 that is exactly what happened. Unbelievers heard the disciples praising “the wonderful works of God,” i.e., the disciples were speaking to God, praising Him. That was the sign to the unbelievers.

v 23: Paul argues that if the whole church is speaking in different tongues, and an unbeliever visits,  the unbeliever, not understanding the language, will think that the church members are out of their minds. I guess we see an example of that, as well in Acts 2, when some of the unbelievers thought the disciples are drunk.

II. Is tongues as a prayer language for ALL believers?

Yes.  In Acts 2, we see that there were a 120 disciples praying in the upper room when the Holy Spirit fell. In v4 we read, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Every single one of the 120 was filled with the Holy Spirit and every single one of them spoke in tongues.

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul lists “praying in the Spirit” as one of the weapons of the full armor of God. If we are going to argue that tongues as a prayer language is not for all believers, then by virtue of being faithful to the text, we must argue that the full armor of God is not for all believers. 

Question: But how about in 1 Cor. 12:10 where it says, “to another gifts of tongues?  Also in 1 Cor. 12:30, “do all speak in tongues?” Don't these scriptures prove that tongues isn’t for everyone?

Answer: It seems like Paul makes a distinction between a private use of tongues as a prayer language, and the public use of tongues as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Cor. 12:10,  Paul is talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit which the Holy Spirit distributes according to His will. These gifts are used publicly and edify the church and must be interpreted.   But in 1 Cor. 14,  he is asking that if there is no interpreter that the believer keep TALKING TO GOD privately and EDIFY HIMSELF.

1 Cor. 12:28-31, “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”

Note how Paul switched from Gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes to ministries that God the Father appoints.

v 28.  It seems that all these ministries/gifts are only for public service. In the context of public ministry, tongues isn’t for all. But that doesn’t mean that tongues as a prayer language isn’t for all.

III. The importance of praying in tongues. 

There are many spiritual benefits for praying in tongues: 

1)  When you pray in tongues, you glorify God in an unknown language.  Take a look at these scriptures:
Acts 2:11 “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
Acts 10:46 “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”
1 Cor. 14:17 (when you pray in tongues,) “ For you indeed give thanks well.”

Have you ever been worshiping God and felt so overwhelmed by His goodness that you said “Lord, there is no words deep enough to tell you how much I love you.” That is what tongues is for. When our human language fall short to ascribe majesty to God, tongues of fire from above come down to glorify His name.

When I was in Uganda in 2013, I was in a small church preaching. I heard the guy who was leading the service saying in pure Arabic, my mother tongue, “To You belong the majesty, to You belong the honor.” He kept on saying that many times. I thought to myself, “Wow, I didn't know he spoke Arabic.” After the service, I told him, “You didn’t mention to me that you speak Arabic.” He replied, “I don’t. I don’t know a word in Arabic.” Then I knew that he was praising God in tongues.

2)  When you pray in tongues, you pray according to God’s will.

Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." 

The context of these two verses seems odd. In Romans 8:18-30, the whole passage talks about our suffering as christians in this life, and how we long for the day when Jesus comes and all this suffering ends.  In that context, Paul is saying in v26-27 that we don’t know exactly what we should pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays in us according to the will of God.

What Paul was saying that maybe in our “understanding” we pray that the suffering would end soon. But when we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit prays that the suffering would last a bit longer for our own good.

3) When you pray in tongues, you pray effectively against the powers of darkness.

In Ephesians 6:12-13, Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Then he commands us to be “praying always in the Spirit” Eph. 6:18.  Paul knew that praying in the Spirit is a mighty weapon against the powers of darkness.

Interpretation of Tongues:

Tongues + interpretation = Prophecy. 1 Cor. 14:5

It is okay for the person who gave the message in tongues to give the interpretation. 1 Cor 14:13

It is interpretation of tongues not translation of tongues.



Click here for prinatable version and refrences