(I Corinthians Chapter 12) The Apostle begins his instructions and exhortations in a very kindly and sympathetic manner, fully conscious of their lack of opportunity and instruction -- for they were only recently converted from heathenism. He recognizes their ignorance concerning spiritual gifts, saying, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you (or remain) ignorant."
UNITY AND VARIETY -- In verses four to eleven, Paul shows them that the same Spirit administers various and different gifts to different people. The Spirit is not divided because He divides the gifts among the different saints. There are several gifts, and many persons to receive them, but only one Spirit. Not all receive the same gift, or gifts. The Spirit who knows the faculties and natural abilities of each one, and the needs of others, knows what gifts and powers are best suited to each. We are not like bricks -- all made the same size with the same gifts for the same purpose or hole in the wall. The Spirit manifests Himself to the individual, and through him to others. Not all have the same administrations or gifts, and could not use them all if they did have them. In every church, different persons do different things as per their gifts, callings, trainings, etc. This is common sense and reason. But all these manifestations or gifts of the Spirit are given to every man to profit withal, for a purpose. They are given for use and profit and not to make a show or to parade the person having them. Different persons have different gifts and responsibilities. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another (not the same one) the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing, by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to (all? No!) another, divers kinds of tongues (various kinds of languages); to another the interpretation of tongues" (languages) -- but all by the same Spirit. The term "another, another, another," is very important here. He did not give the same gifts to all, but divided them up in a most fair, sane, and practical manner.
Then Paul illustrates the various gifts by the various members of the human body. The same Spirit uses all the persons and gifts as members in the body of Christ, each having his own place and work, or function, just as the various members of the body all work together in one body for one purpose, but each has his own purpose.
Please note and remember that He does not give the same gifts to the same person, but different gifts to different persons. He gives the same Spirit to all, but not the same gifts. No one gift is given to all the persons in the Church; neither are all the gifts given to any one person, and he names all the gifts, including the gift of tongues. How can any honest, sincere person get confused and try to cram one gift down all, or all the gifts down one person? How on earth can any person get confused here? The body of Christ is one body, but He has many members and gifts, "divided severally as he will;" not as we will. There is no need of our seeking any gift, for the Spirit divides severally to every man "as he will," "for the body is not one member (gift), but many."
Then Paul supposes a fuss or quarrel among the members of the human body by way of illustration and clarification. He pictures the foot trying to be a hand; the ear trying to be an eye, etc. Then he says, "If the whole body were an eye (tongue), where were the hearing (or ears)" etc? He says it is just as reasonable to try to make a human body out of one member as it is to try to make up the church cf one gift -- tongues. He faced the same problem then that we face now, relative to the gift of tongues. "If they were all one member, where were the body?"
Then he argues that every person and gift has a definite place and purpose in the Church, and that it is just as unreasonable to try to make a human body of one member as it is to make a Church of one gift. In no case or place is the gift of tongues given as a witness that we have the Holy Ghost. We may have one or all the gifts without the Holy Ghost; or we may have the Holy Ghost without any gift. It is more reasonable to demand the gift of preaching (or prophecy) as the witness that we have the Holy Ghost, than it is the gift of tongues, the lowest and least of the catalogue of gifts. The most important gift of prophecy certainly should be a stronger proof that we have the Holy Ghost, if gifts have anything to do with it; but they do not.
In the next chapter, Paul shows us that we may have all the gifts without having perfect love. The proof of our holiness, or perfect love, is revealed in our being patient and kind, without envy and jealousy, boasting, conceit, passionate anger, self-seeking, while we are just and truthful, merciful, and know how to control the tongue we already have in the language we now speak, and with which we may bless or curse others. All these gifts are only temporary and limited, but Faith, Hope, and Love form the foundation of all Christian experience and character, and live on forever. "Love never faileth."
It is just as reasonable to believe that every member of the Church must have any one, or every gift, as it is that all have to speak in tongues. Yea, more so, for the tongue is the last mentioned in order of importance, and nowhere needed except where there is more than one language spoken in one congregation. In our American congregations, there is no need whatsoever for another tongue, when we have and need only the one known language, for "the manifestation of the Spirit (in gifts) is given to every man to profit withal" for "the common good" of all concerned. Why do the Tongues people not preach in the unknown tongue? It would be better if they did. It is child's play for anyone to say that "if you do not speak in tongues you are not of the body, and do not have the Holy Ghost," when there are eight other gifts, and all preferred before tongues. (see 1 Cor. 12:28.) Every one of the other gifts can be used in any and every church, but tongues only in churches where the foreign elements are present. Let us not get mixed in our thinking and interpretation of the Scriptures.
Then the Apostle asks several questions to prove to all that all do not have the same gift, including tongues. Here they are: "Are all apostles?" No! "Are all prophets" No! "Are all workers of miracles?" No! "Have all the gifts of healing?" No! "Do all speak with tongues?" No! "Do all interpret?" No! How can any intelligent, conscientious person ignore this negative reply to every question here -- especially to the last two, since they are placed at the bottom of the list in order of importance three different times in this chapter, and are rarely ever needed?