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Paul's Hierarchy Of Gifts

Admin User11/20/2012In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives the hierarchy of importance for spiritual gifts, from apostle all the way down to healing and tongues.  Apostles, or missionaries, was considered to be greater even than a prophet.

The word "apostle" comes from the Gree word apóstolos, meaning "one who is sent away", from στ?λλω ("stello", "send") + απ? (apo, "away from"). The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto ("send") and ex ("from").

The general meaning of the word is translated into Latin as 'missio', and from this word we get 'missionary.'  The Friberg Greek Lexicon gives the definition as one who is sent on a mission, a commissioned representative of a congregation, a messenger for God, a person who has the special task of founding and establishing churches.  This was a spiritual gift according to Paul.

Starting at verse 28, Paul gives the hierarchy:
  1. God has appointed in the church first apostles, 
  2. second prophets, 
  3. third teachers, 
  4. then miracles, 
  5. then gifts of healing, 
  6. helping, 
  7. administrating, 
  8. and various kinds of tongues.
Paul goes on to say that not everyone has the same gift.  He asks, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"

Having one gift does not imply that a person has all of the spiritual gifts.  Paul describes the body of Christ as having many members, and all working together to form the Spiritual Body of Christ.

Then, Paul tells us that none of these gifts are worth a single thing without love.  The greatest gift that God has given us is love.

Paul goes on to tell us in Chapter 13 that without love we are nothing.

He says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I haveprophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Paul tells us how to know if we have love.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love is the most enduring gift that God has given us.  Paul describes it as everlasting, love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

As Christians, we should ask ourselves:  Do we strive for the greatest gift?  Do we strive for love, one for the other?