Questions From Readers
Does the expression “gifted with the spirit,” found at 1 Corinthians 14:37, mean that a person has received holy spirit in the sense of being anointed, or does it mean that he has a miraculous gift from the spirit?
In the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, this verse reads: “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or gifted with the spirit, let him acknowledge the things I am writing to you, because they are the Lord’s commandment.”—1 Corinthians 14:37.
A reader could take the phrase “gifted with the spirit” as a reference to the fact that first-century Christians were begotten by the spirit and became spiritual sons of God. Or the phrase could be understood to apply to one who had received a special gift of the holy spirit. This latter meaning is the likely one, as the background helps to show.
The apostle Paul here used the Greek pneu·ma·ti·kosʹ, which has the basic sense of “pertaining to the spirit, spiritual.” Forms of it are used in the descriptions “spiritual body,” “spiritual blessing,” “spiritual comprehension,” and “spiritual house.”—1 Corinthians 15:44; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:9; 1 Peter 2:5.
In those cases, the Bible stipulates the subject (body, blessing, comprehension, house) that “spiritual” describes. But in other cases, the sense and appropriate rendering of “spiritual” must be determined from the context. For instance, 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15 contrasts the attitude of a physical man with that of ho pneu·ma·ti·kosʹ, which logically means “the spiritual man.”
First Corinthians chapters 12 through 14 focus on the miraculous gifts of the holy spirit. God gave these to some early Christians to demonstrate that he was no longer using natural Israel but was now blessing the Christian “Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16) About these gifts, Paul wrote: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but there is the same spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:4) Special wisdom, knowledge, and faith were among the gifts of the spirit, as were prophesying, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.—1 Corinthians 12:8-11.
The Christians in Corinth to whom Paul wrote were anointed with God’s holy spirit. Paul said: “But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11; 12:13) Yes, all had received “the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit.” (2 Corinthians 5:5) However, not all of them received a special gift through holy spirit. And it seems that many were fascinated with speaking in tongues, attaching undue importance to this gift. Paul wrote to correct their thinking and pointed out that tongues would not benefit as many people as would the gift of prophesying. At the end of chapter 12, Paul advised the Corinthians: “Keep zealously seeking the greater gifts.”—1 Corinthians 12:28-31.
Then, at the start of chapter 14, he urged: “Pursue love, yet keep zealously seeking [ta pneu·ma·ti·kaʹ], but preferably that you may prophesy.” Seeking what? Those Christians did not have to seek a spirit anointing, for they already had such. Logically Paul meant “gifts” of the spirit, which he, at the end of chapter 12, urged them to seek. Hence, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures renders 1 Corinthians 14:1: “Keep zealously seeking the spiritual gifts.” Other Bible versions here render ta pneu·ma·ti·kaʹ “the spiritual gifts” or “the gifts of the Spirit.”
With that background, we note that near the close of chapter 14, Paul links prophesying and pneu·ma·ti·kosʹ. As in verse 1, the context suggests that he meant being gifted with the spirit. The New Testament in Modern Speech, by R. F. Weymouth, adopts the rendering: “If any one reckons himself a prophet or a man with spiritual gifts, let him recognize as the Lord’s command what I am now writing.”
Yes, all Christians, whether they had the gift of prophesying or any other gift of the spirit, needed to accept and follow the counsel that Paul wrote concerning how things should take place in the congregation.