Question:

Mr. Hamilton,

I have something that came to mind about I Corinthians 13:8-10, in these verses it names three gifts that ended but in chapter 12 there are nine spiritual gifts. How do I explained to someone the other six ended as well?

Thank you.


Answer:

When we deal with a long list of items, it is common to pick out one or two that represents the whole for the discussion, rather than constantly repeating the whole list. It even has a fancy name: synecdoche, a figure of speech when a part is used to represent the whole. For example, when you refer to your car as your wheels, or older men as grey beards, you are taking a feature to represent the whole thing. We also sometimes pick out one item to represent a list, such as your "John Hancock" to represent signatures. John Hancock was just one of number of signers of the Declaration of Independence, but because his signature was notable, his name represented all the others. Or if someone mentions that the mayor of New York is limiting the size of Big Gulp drinks, Big Gulp is the brand name of just one store's serving size, but it represents all large drinks in all stores.

The gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:7-10 are:

  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Faith
  • Healing
  • Working of miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Discerning spirits
  • Speaking tongues
  • Interpreting tongues

Notice that wisdom, knowledge, and faith are all things which people can gain through effort and experience, but not instantaneously. Healing, the working of miracles and prophecy are all things seen to be directly from God. Discerning spirits, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues are all dealing with communication with other people, they are again something people can pick up with effort but are rarely displayed perfectly. Paul selected on gift from each of the three classes to represent the whole.