The Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 12-14

I plan to teach the fifth and last lesson on The Holy Spirit tomorrow for an adult elective class at The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, Missouri. Mitchell Bland is our pastor.

These lessons are drawn from my newest book, The Holy Spirit: A Commentary. The book was published in 2020 by the Pentecostal Publishing House, and it is available in hardback and as an e-book at It is also available as a Kindle download at and also as an Apple Book. In addition, I discovered this past week that it is available as an audiobook on the Apple Book app.

The study guide for tomorrow’s lesson is posted below, and I plan to post the video from the class by Monday, February 1.

If you are interested  in the previous four study guides and videos, they are all posted on this blog as shown on these dates:

Lesson 1: The study guide was posted on January 2 and the video on January 3.

Lesson 2: The study guide was posted on January 8 and the video on January 10.

Lesson 3: The study guide was posted on January 15 and the video on January 17.

Lesson 4: The study guide was posted on January 22 and the video on January 24.

The Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 12-14

January 31, 2021

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

Twitter: @danielsegraves

Beginning at least in I Corinthians 7:1, Paul answered questions from a letter the Corinthians had written to him. Some of their questions required a lengthier response than others, and the most comprehensive seems to be their questions about spiritual gifts. Paul’s answer required three chapters, I Corinthians 12-14.

[2] Paul’s response begins in I Corinthians 12:1. His statement in I Corinthians 12:3 shows that the terms “Spirit of God” and “Holy Spirit” are synonyms: “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” We first discussed this verse in Chapter Two, “The Deity of the Holy Spirit,” and we recommend reading that discussion before moving on to the remaining references to the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians.[1]

[3] Paul’s opening response to the Corinthians’ questions about spiritual gifts continues in I Corinthians 12:4: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . 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 . . . . But one and the same Spirit works in all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (I Corinthians 12:4, 7-9, 11). The failure to link each of the nine gifts with the Spirit does not mean that those not linked—the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues—do not bear the same relationship to the Spirit as the others. This is a stylistic issue only. As I Corinthians 12:11 has it, “all these things” are the work of “the same Spirit.”

[4] We can also see from this opening summary that each member of Christ’s body is gifted. This is reiterated in the analogy of the human body that follows in I Corinthians 12:12-27. Just as each member of the human body has a specific purpose, so all members of the body of Christ are gifted so as to be equipped for their specific function as it relates to spiritual gifts. This does not mean their only function in the Church is found in the exercise of their spiritual gifts, but it does mean there is a function that can be fulfilled only by their spiritual gifts.

[5] The next time the Spirit is mentioned is in I Corinthians 14:2: “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.” Neither the KJV nor the NKJV render the word “spirit” here as “Spirit,” but some translations do. There is nothing in the Greek text to demand one reading or the other, but since one can speak with tongues only as the Spirit gives utterance (Acts 2:4), it seems best to recognize that this is a work of the Holy Spirit. Even though no one can understand what this person is saying—without an interpretation, whether by the exercise of the gift of the interpretation of tongues or by translation given by someone who knows the language being spoken in tongues, as on the Day of Pentecost—it is still useful to the person speaking with tongues.[2] This person is, after all, speaking to God, and that is a good thing.

[6] Since it is more helpful for others to understand what has been spoken in tongues, Paul wrote, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied: for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (I Corinthians 14:5). We need to keep in mind that the context here is about spiritual gifts, one of which is “different kinds of tongues,” not the speaking with tongues that occurs upon baptism with the Holy Spirit. Although both uses of speaking with tongues may seem the same to those who are first introduced to this practice, a close reading of Scripture indicates this is not so. The speaking with tongues that accompanies Spirit baptism does not conform to the guidelines found in Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts, and they are not for the same purpose. As it relates to the gift of different kinds of tongues, these languages should be interpreted. Therefore, “let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret” (I Corinthians 14:13). In addition, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (I Corinthians 14:27-28).

[7] On the Day of Pentecost, at the household of Cornelius, and among the disciples of John the Baptist, no one exercised the gift of the interpretation of tongues—although some present who were not baptized with the Spirit understood the languages spoken—and all who were baptized with the Spirit spoke simultaneously. The speaking with tongues that occurs upon being baptized with the Spirit is the sign that the baptism has taken place. The speaking with tongues when the gift of different kinds of tongues is exercised is for the edification of the church, and this occurs only when the “message” in tongues is interpreted by someone with the gift of the interpretation of tongues. These two gifts together accomplish essentially the same thing as the gift of prophecy.

[8] When we read I Corinthians 14:13-15 together, we see that it is useful to an individual to pray and sing in tongues, just as it is to pray and sing in a language one knows: “Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”

[9] The final reference to the Spirit in I Corinthians is in I Corinthians 15:45, which we discussed in Appendix 3.[3]


  1. Paul’s preaching included the demonstration of the Spirit and power so that the faith of the Corinthians would not be in human wisdom but in the power of God.
  1. The Spirit is a teacher, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things because the natural person cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit of God.
  1. The temple of God is the temple of the Spirit, showing that the Spirit is God and God is the Spirit.
  1. Both the name of the Lord and the Spirit are involved in regeneration.
  2. Much of I Corinthians, beginning at chapter seven, consists of Paul’s answer to a letter written to him by the Corinthians.
  1. Three chapters of I Corinthians are given to instructions on the identity and use of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians had all the gifts, but they abused them in such a way that minimized their effectiveness in edifying the church.

[i]Daniel L. Segraves, The Holy Spirit: A Commentary (Weldon Spring, MO: WAP Academic, 2020), 9.

[2] One of the things that convinced Andrew D. Urshan of the legitimacy of the Pentecostal movement is that he observed Abraham, a young Persian man, fall into a trance after fervent prayer, and then begin to speak fluently in the ancient Syriac language, which he did not know. Urshan, however, knew the language and was able to interpret what Abraham said. See Daniel L. Segraves, Andrew D. Urshan: A Theological Biography (Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2017), 38-39.

[3] Segraves, The Holy Spirit, 247-264.