Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 3:1-9

In 3:1 Paul tells the believers at Corinth, “And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshy, as to infants in Christ.” The fact that Paul refers to them as infants indicates that they had not grown in life after receiving the initial gifts of the divine life and the Holy Spirit.

If the saints in a particular locality are short of the growth of life, they cannot have the proper church life. Actually, the reality of the church does not exist among them. Yes, they are a local church in name, but they do not have the reality of the church. The church exists as a gathering of saved people, but it cannot be considered a reality in the growth of life and in the experience and enjoyment of Christ. Furthermore, where the growth of life is lacking, the believers’ Christian life will be a mess, the church life will be damaged, and the Body life will be destroyed. This was exactly the situation in Corinth. Although the Corinthian believers had received the initial gifts, they had not grown in life. Instead, they merely had the divine life and the Holy Spirit sown into them as seeds. Because they did not have the normal growth in life, they did not have the proper Christian life, church life, and Body life.

Realizing the situation among the Corinthians, Paul does not speak of the church in a doctrinal way, but in the way of life, in the way of feeding, watering, and growing. Only if the Corinthians grew in life could the reality of the church exist among them through the experience of Christ and only then could the Body life be built up.


In 1 Corinthians there are three kinds of gifts: the initial gifts in chapter one and the miraculous and the mature gifts in chapters twelve and fourteen. Again and again we have pointed out that the initial gifts, the gifts believers receive at the time they are saved, include the divine life and the Holy Spirit. Miraculous gifts include such things as healing and speaking in tongues. When Balaam’s donkey spoke a human language, that certainly was a miraculous occurrence, a true instance of speaking in tongues. A creature that did not even possess human life actually spoke a human language. The tongues-speaking in chapters twelve and fourteen refers to the speaking of an actual language which a person has not learned. Suddenly, under the divine power, a believer miraculously speaks another language. This is genuine tongues-speaking. This kind of miraculous gift does not require the growth in life as the mature gifts do.

Genuine tongues-speaking is different from the so-called speaking in tongues practiced today, where people utter sounds and syllables which have nothing to do with any actual language. If these sounds were recorded and analyzed by a linguist, it would be proved that they are not part of any language or dialect.

In chapters twelve and fourteen Paul mentions both speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Among Pentecostal and charismatic groups, there are many supposed instances of speaking in tongues with interpretation. However, in many cases these are not genuine. For example, in a meeting someone may speak certain sounds or syllables which will then be interpreted in a particular way. In another meeting the same person may utter the same sounds; however, they are given a different interpretation. Thus, the same sounds have two interpretations. Such a thing is not a genuine miraculous gift. On the contrary, it is natural and of human invention.

There can be no doubt that healing is a miraculous gift. The gift of healing mentioned by Paul is truly miraculous. But in the healing campaigns conducted by Christians today there are many false healings. In many of these campaigns, there is not one case of a genuine miraculous healing.

In chapters twelve and fourteen we also have another category of gifts, the mature gifts. Prophesying is one of these mature gifts. To prophesy is better than to speak in tongues because speaking in tongues does not build up the church, but prophesying does build up the church (14:4). We all should seek those gifts, especially prophesying, which build up the church.

If we would prophesy for the building up of the church, we must have the experience in life. Our ability to prophesy depends on our experience. If we do not have the proper experience in life, we shall not be able to prophesy to build up the church.

The gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians is different from that commonly practiced in charismatic groups today. For example, many years ago some prophesied that a great earthquake would destroy the city of Los Angeles. Usually, such so-called prophecies conclude, in Old Testament fashion, with the words, “Thus saith the Lord.” But in 1 Corinthians prophesying means to speak for Christ and even to speak forth Christ. If we would speak forth Christ, we must first experience Christ. Only when we have the genuine experience of Christ can we minister Him to the church. Thus, to prophesy by speaking forth Christ requires experience. Among the Corinthians there may have been a number of miraculous gifts, but they were short of the mature gifts, such as the gift of prophesying for the building up of the church.

In 1 Corinthians we also have the gift of ruling, or of taking the lead. Such a gift is based on maturity. We cannot expect that a young saint should be able to be a leading one. Taking the lead requires a certain amount of maturity. Actually, this gift is related to eldership. An elder is one who is not a babe. On the contrary, he must be a person with some maturity.

The believers at Corinth were lacking in the mature gifts. In particular, they were short of the gift to speak forth Christ that the church may be supplied and built up, and short of the gift of proper leadership. They had received the initial gifts, but not many among them had grown in life. As a result, there was neither the proper gift of prophesying nor of leading that can build up the church.