Listen:  144.6

I wholeheartedly agree with you that 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that “God gives individual gifts to individual persons,” but I don’t believe that 1 Corinthians 14 contradicts that teaching by implying that “everyone has all gifts.” Let’s take a look at both chapters.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 reads, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (NKJV). These words are simple and clear, teaching us that each individual believer has been blessed with a spiritual gift and that a believer does NOT possess all gifts. This is confirmed in verses 29-30, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have the gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (NKJV) These questions all demand a “No” answer, so here too we are taught that there is not an individual who is endowed with all gifts.

When we come to 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul is concerned, in particular, with the obsession many of the Corinthians had with the gift of tongues. In this chapter he seeks to shows the church at Corinth that what matters above all else is edification in the church. This is borne out in verses 1-3, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”  When Paul encourages the believers at Corinth to “desire spiritual gifts” he is NOT implying that an individual believer should desire to have all gifts or that he can choose them. Rather he is teaching them that they should DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR THEIR CHURCH, and especially gifts that will result in edification, exhortation, and comfort. If we were to read through the chapter we would see that Paul is concentrating especially on two gifts, tongues and prophesying. Because the Corinthians had become so enamored with the gift of tongues, Paul is basically scolding them for desiring a gift that has no profit for the church.  He wants them to desire the superior gift of prophesying which yields many spiritual benefits for the church.

Perhaps the inquirer also had verse 26 in mind which says, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (NKJV). Again, this is NOT teaching us that when the church came together EVERYONE had all those gifts mentioned. I believe he is speaking of how one person would sing a psalm, another taught a doctrine, another person would speak in a tongue, another person would interpret, and another had a fresh revelation from God. So, instead of EVERYONE HAVING ALL GIFTS, this is teaching us how EACH INDIVIDUAL USED THE GIFT THEY HAD. In 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul told Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” May we too use the gift God has given us, and may it “be done for edification.”  144.6  (DO)