There is much disagreement concerning the nature and current applicability of the gifts of the Spirit. In this study, we will substantiate the claims in our Statement and attempt to shed light on the spiritual gifts. Our appeal will be to the Word of God, not to guesswork, wishful thinking, personal experience (easily misinterpreted), or the testimony of others (often inaccurate, exaggerated or fabricated). Certainly, memories of personal experience and testimonies have their place, but doctrine must be determined solely on the basis of the only totally dependable source: the written Word of God.
Distinguished from Gifts Given to All Believers
There are certain blessings from God that are referred to as gifts and are endowed to all believers: salvation, eternal life, the Holy Spirit, justification, perhaps others. However, spiritual gifts are distinguished from the above gifts in that the spiritual gifts are distributed among believers: one in this manner, and another in that (1 Corinthians 7:7).
3. Distinguished from a Natural Gift
Three things should be noted:
a. A natural gift is one that a person is endowed with genetically, such as musicality. It is present at birth though it needs to be developed into a talent or skill. A spiritual gift is one that is endowed by God at the new birth.
b. Some natural and spiritual gifts may appear the same outwardly, such as the gift of teaching; but a believer may have the natural gift of teaching without having the spiritual gift.
c. Spiritual gifts may be expressed through natural gifts. If one has the natural gift of musicality and the spiritual gift of teaching, he or she may use his gift of teaching through the writing and singing of songs that teach biblical truth. Many of the Reformation hymns are of this nature.
Distinguished from an Office
An office is a formally recognized position in a church or congregation, such as teacher. One may have the gift of teaching and even teach informally without holding a teaching office. One may evangelize informally without holding the office of staff evangelist.
1 Peter 4:10 tells us that each one has received a gift. The same point is made in Romans 12:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 11. Every member of the body receives at least one gift; and, as we shall see, some receive more than one.
If each one has received a gift, then it is clear that all believers receive at least one gift at the moment of salvation. Also, no passage indicates that a believer may receive a gift subsequent to salvation.
What are we to make of 1 Corinthians 12:31, then? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. Why should believers desire the greater gifts if they cannot receive any more? The answer lies in the fact that Paul was exhorting the church as a unit, not the individual believers in it (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). 1 Corinthians 12:28 names eight gifts in descending order of greatness, naming those gifts first that are most essential for the establishment and health of the body: And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. If the Corinthian church was lacking in ministry from those holding the greater gifts, they were to draw out such ministry from those so gifted among them, or invite such ministry from elsewhere in the body.
Six passages are helpful here:
1-3. 1 Corinthians 8:6: there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things. Romans 11:36 and Hebrews 2:10 make the same point.
4. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: 4. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all [persons].
Note that the three verses are constructed in a parallel manner: varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; varieties of ministries, and the same Lord [Yeshua]; varieties of effects, but the same God [the Father]. Each Person is somehow related to the preceding aspect of the gifts named.
5. 1 Corinthians 12:11: But one and the same Spirit
works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
6. Ephesians 4:8: Therefore it says, "When He [Messiah] ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men."
Now, to draw some conclusions:
1. The Distribution of the Gifts
1 Corinthians 8:6, Romans 11:36 and Hebrews 2:10 show God the Father to be the source of the gifts; Ephesians 4:8 identifies the Lord Yeshua as the giver of the gifts; and 1 Corinthians 12:4,11 and 18 name the Holy Spirit as the distributor of the varieties of gifts. Now, Psalm 40:7 and John 6:38 show Jesus to be Servant to the Father, and John 16:13-14 shows the Spirit to be Servant to Jesus. We can deduce, then, that the Father entrusts the gifts to Yeshua who, in turn, entrusts them to the Spirit, who distribut[es] to each one [member of the body] individually just as He wills.
2. The Placement of
the Gift Holders
1 Corinthians 12:5 declares that the Lord Yeshua is in charge of the ministries of the Spirit. As the builder of the church (Matthew 16:18), He decides where each of the living stones (1 Peter 2:5) is placed in it. He decides exactly where in the worldwide body of Messiah each individual believer with his particular gift or gifts is placed. It seems likely, as well, that the sovereign Builder decides exactly when in the Church Age each one of us, unique as we are, are placed in His spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).
3. The Operation and Results of Gift Usage
Strong's Concordance gives the definition of the Greek word translated effects (above, in 1 Corinthians 12:6) as operation, working. Thayer's Greek Definitions proffers: (1) thing wrought (2) effect operation (sic). In other words, the verse tells us that God the Father operates the gifts through believers and brings about the results of the operation.
To sum up, the Father gives the gifts to Yeshua, who gives them to the Spirit, who distributes them among believers as He sees fit. Yeshua decides where in the body each believer is placed, and the Father operates the gifts through believers and brings about the results.
Romans 11:9 declares, The gifts and the callings of God are without revocation. In context, the declaration applies to the God given gifts and callings of Israel; but as a general principle it applies to all gifts and callings, and includes the spiritual gifts and callings to ministry of all believers.
The spiritual gifts are irrevocable.
The most inclusive statement as to the purpose of the gifts is Ephesians 4:11-16:
11. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12. for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Messiah; 13. until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15. but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16. from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Two classes of gift holders are mentioned here. The first is composed of leaders responsible for the delivery of the Word of God: apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers (verse 11). The second includes all gift holders in the body (the we of verse 15, and the every joint and each individual part of verse 16), which includes those of the first group and all others. The first is given for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, that is, for the training and enablement of all believers to function in their gifts. The all inclusive second group is to the building up of the body of Christ (verse 12), that we may grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head even Christ (verse 15), to the building up of itself in love (verse 16).
Four ultimate purposes are given:
1. the building up of the body of Messiah (verse 12) in numbers and maturity
2. that we may all be established in the unity of the faith (verse 13), which refers to sound doctrine
3. in the knowledge of the Son of God (verse 13),
4. and in love (verses 15, 16).
Some of the same points may be found in 1 Peter 4:10; and 1 Corinthians 14:4,12.
A closer look needs to be taken at the phrase, to the building up of the body of Messiah (Ephesians 4:12). Each one's gift serves not only the local body, but the entire body of Messiah from Pentecost to the Rapture. Which of us today has not benefited from the work of the first century apostles or the great teachers and exhorters of the Reformation? How many have been saved on the foreign mission field because of the generous giving of those at home? Our gifts serve those who have come before, as well, as we help to develop or complete what they have begun. They also serve those who will come after us, just as those who came before us served us.
Also with the entire body in view, Dr. Charles Ryrie points out, "not every congregation need expect that it will have all of the gifts represented in it. . . . God knows what each group needs and will see that it is supplied accordingly." Similarly, "not every generation may necessarily expect to have all the gifts" (Ryrie, Dr. Charles C. Basic Theology, p. 369. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1981). These assertions will be addressed.
"The Gifts of the Spirit" is no minor doctrine. Without the functioning of the gifts one wonders whether a soul would have been saved on the Day of Pentecost or whether there would be a body of believers on earth today. The proper functioning of the gifts is critical to the building up of the body of Messiah (Ephesians 4:12) and to a healthy witness to the unsaved. I have therefore decided to examine each gift in depth, hoping to ascertain a clear understanding of its nature and present availability - and I must say, once again: not on the basis of guesswork, wishful thinking, personal experience (easily misinterpreted), or the testimony of others (often inaccurate, exaggerated or fabricated), but solely on relevant passages in the Word of God.
1. The Gifts Named in
Paul names nineteen spiritual gifts, and they are identified as gifts in five passages, some in more than one passage.
a. Romans 12:6-8: prophecy, serving (ministry), teaching, exhortation (entreaty, encouragement), giving (sharing), leading (ruling, administration, presiding), showing mercy (comfort, sympathy, consolation).
b. 1 Corinthians 7:1,7: celibacy (singleness, eunuch for the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 19:12]). Celibacy is not named in these scriptures, but is clearly implied. A secondary implication is singleness as to the marital state.
c. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11: wisdom (word of wisdom), knowledge (word of knowledge), faith, gifts of healings (gift of healing, healing, healings), workings of miracles (miracles, working of miracles, effecting of miracles), prophecy, distinguishing of spirits (discernment of spirits), tongues (speaking in tongues, various kinds of tongues, diversities of tongues, languages, diversities of languages, glossalalia), interpretation of tongues (interpretation of languages).
Gifts are not named as such in Ephesians 4:11, but in terms of the people who are endowed with them: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers. The same applies to some of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30. The people who possess the gifts are named as gifts to the body, and they often hold the offices named by their title. However, it's the spiritual gifts that are our focus, and I have named the gifts that the possessors hold. All four of the Ephesians 4:11 gifts include the effective delivery of the Word of God.
There are two prevalent errors concerning the Ephesians 4:11 gifts:
1. The first error is the confounding of the gift holder and the office. One may think that a person with the obvious gift of evangelism is necessarily an evangelist of the local congregation formally representing that congregation in the office of evangelist. New believers often make this mistake; but such a person holds the office only after the leadership formally recognizes the gift holder as one of their staff evangelists. Conversely, some err in thinking that one who holds an office necessarily possesses the supporting gift. Would that it were so; but, unfortunately, it is not. Such people function poorly in their office. One should not be confirmed in an office without holding the supporting gift.
2. The second error is referring to this group as "the fivefold ministry." This error is the result of pastor-teacher being translated pastor and teacher in many translations, causing readers to perceive them as separate gifts. Pastor and
teacher should be rendered pastor-teacher, as will be shown. The group, then, should be referred to as "the fourfold
2. Categories of Gifts
I have sorted the gifts into six categories. Some gifts can easily be placed in more than one, but I have placed each gift into the one category which seems to best represent its key characteristic or ministerial application. I have also sequenced the categories, and the gifts within each category, so that prior explanations lay foundations for subsequent explanations. The categories are of my own conception and are subject to your judgment. They are:
Insight Gifts: knowledge, wisdom, distinguishing of spirits.
Communication Gifts: prophecy, teaching, exhortation, evangelism, tongues, interpretation of tongues.
Power Gifts: workings of miracles, gifts of healings.
Leadership Gifts: leading, pastoring-teaching, apostleship.
Service Gifts: serving, showing mercy.
Enablement Gifts: faith, celibacy, giving.
1) Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). In some circles, the word of knowledge is defined as a direct word from God revealing something about another person, or some other knowledge. Biblically, however, such revelation is not a word of knowledge, but a word of prophecy.
In 1 Corinthians 12:8, the word translated knowledge in word of knowledge is gnosis. The same word is used in Romans 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 8:1, and refers to objective knowledge of the already extant Word of God. It is also used in 1 Corinthians 13:2, in which it is described as the ability to know mysteries, knowledge revealed for the first time in the New Testament. The gift of knowledge, then, is the pronounced motivation and ability to search out and discern the literal meaning of a passage, or related passages, of Scripture. It is the ability to properly understand the truths revealed to the apostles and prophets. Teachers of the Word need this gift.
2) Wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8). In 1 Corinthians 12:8, the word for wisdom in word of wisdom is sophia. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 and James 1:2-8 use sophia in the context of applied spiritual knowledge. The gift of wisdom, then, is the pronounced ability to understand the proper application of the literal meaning of a passage or principle of Scripture. The gift may be applied to one's own decisions or as words of encouragement or exhortation for others. Exhorters, those who preach or counsel to move others to action, need this gift.
A word of wisdom is often misconstrued as direct revelation; but biblical wisdom is based on truth already revealed. Direct
revelation is solely the domain of prophecy.
3) Distinguishing of Spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). In 1 Corinthians 12:10, the word for distinguishing or discerning is diakrisis, which, according to Strong's, means judicial estimation, discerning, and is from diakrino, which is found in 1 Corinthians 14:29, and means to separate thoroughly... to discriminate... discern. 1 Corinthians 14:29 reads, Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment (diakrino). Distinguishing of spirits, then, is the God-given ability to determine the nature of the spirit that motivates a declaration or an action, whether it be of God, the devil, or the human spirit. In Acts 16:17-18, a slave girl publicly declared Paul and company to be the bond-servants of the Most High God; yet Paul discerned the demonic nature of the spirit motivating the girl, and cast the demon out of her. The prophet Nathan's first word to David was neither from God nor the devil, but from his own spirit (2 Samuel 7:1-7, 12-14; 1 Chronicles 17:1-6).
Those with spiritual gifts of communication have the God-given ability to clearly and effectively communicate spiritual truth by
one or more modes of communication, whether it be speech, writing or another mode.
1) Prophecy (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, Ephesians 4:11)
a) The Definition or Nature of Prophecy
In determining the nature of New Testament prophecy, let us note the following:
1] The LORD said to Moses,
20. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name
which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. 21. You may say in your heart, "How will we know the word which the
LORD has not spoken?" 22. When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The
prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
The test described in verse 22 necessitates a prophecy of a near future event that could not be determined by the
observation of a trend or by any other natural means.
2] The innumerable times in the Hebrew Scriptures that those identified as prophets introduced their prophecies by such phrases as Thus says the LORD.
3] The Book of Revelation, which John called the words of this prophecy (1:3) and the book of this prophecy (22:18-19) opens with clear statements that the book was to consist of direct revelations from God (1:1-2, 12-19).
4] The New Testament prophet Agabus prophesied two events that came to pass, the first of which, a famine, could only have been known by direct revelation (Acts 11:27).
5] This is important: The Bible nowhere indicates that the benchmarks of a prophet or a prophecy changed from the Old Testament to the New.
We can conclude, then, that all prophecy of both Testaments consists of direct revelation from God, and that the prophet was endowed with the ability to declare his prophecy inerrantly (without error) and infallibly (with unfailing accuracy). The New Testament gift of prophecy, then, is the ability to receive direct revelation from God and to declare it inerrantly and infallibly.
The prophetic ministry was essential for the writing of both Testaments, though only a minority of the prophets were used in this way. Of the New Testament writers, at least Peter, Paul and John had the prophetic gift, and twenty of the twenty-seven New Testament books were written by them.
b) The Content of Prophecy
Though all professed prophets needed to pass the test of accurate predictive prophecy, not all prophecies were of a predictive nature. At least the following classes of prophecy are found in Scripture, for which I've provided examples from both Testaments:
1] Future Events: details of Messiah's crucifixion (Psalm 22:1-21; Isaiah 52:13 - 53:9); the Rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
2] Direction from God: the call of Abram (Genesis 12:1); Paul's call to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10 ).
3] Newly Revealed Spiritual Principles: God to Abram: I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse (Genesis 12:3), and the nature and test of true prophecy as revealed to Moses, above (Deuteronomy 18:20-22); that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body (Ephesians 3:4-7).
4] A Timely Message for a Nation: Jonah's warnings to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2; 3:2); Peter's evangelistic message to the Men of Israel (Acts 2:22-39).
5] A Timely Message for a Person: Nathan to David (2 Samuel 12:1-12); Agabus to Paul (Acts 21:10-11).
Some say that all who speak for edification and exhortation and
consolation are Church Age prophets; but the verse does not define a prophet: it declares purposes of the gift. Also, the same purposes are met by some with gifts other than prophecy.
For example, the teacher speaks to edification; the evangelist exhorts people to believe the Gospel; the exhorter may also speak for consolation - but none of these gifts necessitate direct
revelation from God as does prophecy. Of all the gifts, prophecy alone requires direct revelation from God.
2) Teaching (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28).
The spiritual gift of teaching is the ability to communicate biblical truth clearly and persuasively. The possessor of the gift is characterized by a great desire to study the Word and teach it. He or she must first be able to search out and perceive the truth of Scripture, and so must possess the gift of knowledge as a foundation. He or she must also possess the ability to think logically and organize clearly, both for their own understanding and the understanding of their audience, which may be hearers, readers, etc. The gift was given considerable emphasis in the early church because of its importance in bringing believers to maturity, and must be given no less emphasis today (Acts 2:42; 4:2; 5:42; 11:26; 13:1; 15:35; 18:11, etc.). Paul's first eleven chapters of Romans is a great example of teaching.
3) Exhortation (Romans 12:8).
In Romans 12:8, Paul named the gift paraklesis. Dictionaries, translators and commentators variously render the meaning either as an appeal to the will (exhortation, persuasive discourse, entreaty), or as a word of comfort (comfort, consolation). Encouragement is another word used that can refer to either meaning. The two basic meanings are hardly synonymous. What did Paul have in mind?
Among those verses that clearly refer to the gift of exhortation, there are a few cases in which paraklesis or its verb
form, parakaleo (to exhort) is used of comfort, consolation or encouragement, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:18: Therefore
comfort (parakaleo) one another with these words; but in the overwhelming majority of cases they are used of persuasive discourse, as in Romans 12:1: Therefore I urge (parakaleo) you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice. In addition, in
1 Corinthians 14:3, exhortation is differentiated from consolation: But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation
(paraklesis) and consolation (paramuthia). Strong defines paramuthia as consolation, comfort, which is the result of the gift of showing
I therefore proffer this definition: When exhortation is used of a spiritual gift, it normally refers to the ability to persuade an individual or group to act on the basis of a word or principle of Scripture; but sometimes it refers to the ability to comfort, console or encourage. Persuasive exhortation is also called preaching, most commonly used in Scripture in regards to the proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 8:25, 10:36, 14:7, etc.).
4) Evangelism (Ephesians 4:11).
The word for evangelist is euaggelistes, which Strong defines as a preacher of the Gospel.
The gift of evangelism consists of a pronounced burden for the lost and the ability to present the Gospel clearly and in such a manner so that many people come to Messiah. In Acts 21:8, Philip is named an evangelist. In Acts 8:5-40, he preached the Gospel in the desert and in all the cities between Azotus and Caesarea, to crowds and to individuals, with many conversions. Peter and Paul clearly had this gift (Acts 2:14-42; Acts 14:19-21, etc.).
5) Tongues (1 Corinthians
The Greek word used is glossa, the literal meaning of which is tongue. In English and other languages "tongue" is often used to mean a language. The same is true in biblical Greek. In examining the passages that explain or illustrate tongues (Acts 2:7-11; 10:46; 1 Corinthians 14:1-28), three key things may be noted:
1. Acts 2:4,7-11 shows tongues as ordinary languages understandable by earthly people groups:
4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (glossa), as the Spirit was giving them utterance . . . . 7. Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8. And how is it that we each hear them in our own language (dialektos, dialect) to which we were born? 9. Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10. Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11. Cretans and Arabs - we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.
2. The tongue was always unknown in meaning to the speaker. In Acts 2, the languages were known by the hearers, each
understanding his own language (verses 8-11), but not by the speakers (verses 7-8). In meetings of the congregation, as we shall see, the language was unknown to the hearer, as well, and required
one to interpret by the gift of interpreting tongues.
3. There is no passage that plainly shows that the language may be an angelic one, and there is certainly no passage that validates gibberish.
What about 1 Corinthians 13:1: If I speak with the tongues . . . of angels? Was Paul indicating that he was capable of speaking in an angelic language? After all, angels in Heaven do speak. Revelation 4:8: And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within [seraphim]; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY."
The whole tenor of the 1 Corinthians passage is one of hypothesis (if . . . if . . .) and hyperbole, speaking in extremes for emphasis: 2. If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith . . . . 3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned . . . . Consistent with the tenor of the passage, If I speak with the tongues . . . of angels was simply a hypothetic and hyperbolic way of indicating supreme eloquence. A similar hyperbolic expression is found in Acts 12:22 in which The people kept crying out in reference to Herod's oratorical skills, The voice of a god and not of a man!
The gift of speaking in tongues, then, is the God-given ability to speak in an earthly language unknown to the speaker.
Other points to note:
1. The mode of a tongue may be a prophecy, a teaching, a prayer, a song, a giving of thanks, or some other mode (1 Corinthians
2. Tongues were not only spoken by apostles (Acts 2), but by common folk, as well (Acts 10:45-46; 1 Corinthians 14).
3. Tongues were spoken to the saved (1 Corinthians 14) and the unsaved (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 14).
6) Interpretation of Tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
a] The Nature of Interpretation of Tongues
1 Corinthians 14:13 and 27: 13. Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret . . . . 27. If anyone speaks in a tongue . . . one must interpret.
The passage shows that when one speaks in a tongue in the assembly, someone must interpret so that all understand what was spoken. The gift of interpretation of tongues, then, is the God-given ability to interpret a tongue that the interpreter would not understand by natural means. Also, as the two verses show, the interpreter may be the speaker himself, or another.
b] The Purposes of
Tongues and Interpretation
In 1 Corinthians 14:19, Paul said, in the assembly I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
If that's the case, then why does God even bother with the gift? Why doesn't He simply stick to the plain-speaking gifts? Tongues
and interpretation were used for evangelism and the profit and edification of the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:4,6,17,26), but so were the plain-speaking gifts. Were there uses of tongues and
interpretation that the plain-speaking gifts did not have? The answer is yes.
Unique Functions Outside the Assembly:
1. to grab the attention of the hearers (Acts 2);
2. to signal that the message was from God so that the hearers might respond accordingly (Acts 2). In Acts 2, the message was evangelistic;
3. as a sign to the apostles that Gentiles were savable (Acts 10:45-46).
Unique Functions Within the Assembly:
As a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers, and also to ungifted men, those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, that the message is from God, leading to their worship of God (1 Corinthians 14:22-25).
Unique Functions Summarized:
1. Tongues were initiated by God on landmark historical occasions (Acts 2, 10), and at the discretion of any with the gift during normal congregational services (1 Corinthians 14:27-28).
2. It was always a sign except in the assembly when no unbelievers or ungifted were present.
3. It was a sign to the unsaved and the ungifted as well as to the apostles, depending on the circumstance.
4. When it was a sign, it showed that God was affirming a message or a work.
One of the Greek words translated miracles is dunamis, which
Strong's renders as force; specifically miraculous power. The understanding is that special power is released by God for the working of a miracle. There are two miracle gifts: the
workings of miracles, and the gifts of healings. The second is a subset of the first. We will therefore view them together.
1) Workings of Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10, 28) and . . .
2) Gifts of Healings (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30).
The gift of workings of miracles is the ability to act as an agent of extraordinary works of divine power.
Miracles is in the plural emphasizing that there are
various categories of miracles. The word workings is also plural emphasizing that like the gifts of healings, it is not
with a person all the time. It came and went as God willed it.
Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 071:
The gifts of healings is the ability to act as an agent of
extraordinary works of power in the realm of divine physical healing.
"The word healings is plural because there are various classes of sicknesses," and "gifts is also plural.... In the Greek, plural often emphasizes repeated action. The statement gifts of healings shows that whereas with the other gifts, once one had them, it stayed with him and could be used at any time, in the case of the gifts of healings.... it is a gift that comes and goes" (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 071: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, p. 14. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press).
To sum up Dr. Fruchtenbaum's statements: There are various categories of miracles and healings, and neither gift is operative at all times through the gift holder.
Paul used gifts of healings in many an instant, but at other times he could not. Certainly he would have healed his ministry associates of their ailments; yet he wrote, Trophimus I left sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20).
Some workings of miracles were not healings. Some examples are: Paul's calling down blindness on Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:11); Peter's judging of Ananias and Sapphira with death (Acts 5:9-11); Paul's casting a spirit of divination out of a slave-girl (Acts 16:16-19).
Dr. Paul Enns notes,
An examination of New Testament healings by Christ and the apostles is noteworthy. These healings were:
instantaneous (Mark 1:42); complete (Matthew 14:36); permanent (Matthew 14:36); ... unconditional (including unbelievers who exercised no faith and
did not even know who Jesus was [John 9:25 (also Acts 3:1-7; 9:32-34 and 35-42; 20:9-12; 28:8 - N.M.)]); ... subordinate (secondary to preaching the Word of God [Luke
5:15, 16]); significant (intended to confirm Him and the apostles as the messengers of God and their message as a word from God [John 3:2; Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:3, 4]
(also Acts 5:5-11; 13:8-11 - N.M.); successful (except in the one case where the disciples' lack of faith was the cause of failure [Matthew 17:20]); and
inclusive (the supreme demonstration of this gift was in raising the dead [Mark 5:39-43; Luke 7:14; John 11:44; Acts 9:40])
Enns, Dr. Paul. Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 272.
Where Do Exorcisms Fit In?
Just as physical healings are a subset of miracles, so exorcisms are a subset of miracles; also, some exorcisms result in physical healings, and some do not. An example of an exorcism that does not result in a physical healing is Paul's casting the spirit of divination out of the slave-girl (Acts 16:16-19). An example of an exorcism that does result in a physical healing is related in Matthew 12:22 and Luke 11:14. Matthew 12:22: Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Yeshua, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. Luke 11:14: And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. It seems likely, then, that exorcisms that result in physical healings are among the gifts of healings within the broader gifts of miracles, and that those exorcisms that do not effect physical healings are within the scope of miracles, but not of healings.
It must be noted that, just as one without the gift of evangelism can lead people to Messiah, so God may heal a person in answer to the prayers of a believer without gifts of healings (or work a non-healing miracle in answer to the prayers of one without the gifts of miracles); but just as the evangelist is far more effective in evangelism than others, so is the one with gifts of healings far more effective in seeing people healed than others. Also, it is probable that the healings of all those with the gifts of healings will show the same characteristics that those of Jesus and the apostles did (above), whereas the healings effected through the prayers of those without gifts of healings may not show all of the above characteristics; for example, healings that are speeded up, but not instantaneous.