1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Welcome back to my study/review of 1 Corinthians. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.


Paul introduces a list of the gifts of the Spirit (not to be confused with the fruits of the Spirit discussed in Galatians chapter 5.)

each = ἕκαστος hékastos, hek’-as-tos; as if a superlative of ἕκας hékas (afar); each or every:—any, both, each (one), every (man, one, woman), particularly.

manifestation = φανέρωσις phanérōsis, fan-er’-o-sis; from G5319; exhibition, i.e. (figuratively) expression, (by extension) a bestowment:—manifestation.

common good = συμφέρω symphérō, soom-fer’-o; from G4862 and G5342 (including its alternate); to bear together (contribute), i.e. (literally) to collect, or (figuratively) to conduce; especially (neuter participle as a noun) advantage:—be better for, bring together, be expedient (for), be good, (be) profit(-able for).

We’ll look first in Ellicott’s Bible Commentary for its note on verse 7:

(7) But the manifestation of the Spirit.—These gifts which flow from one source are intended to flow towards one object, viz., the benefit of the whole Church. If it were only for a man’s own benefit it would cease to be a “manifestation”—it would be sufficient for the person to possess the spirit consciously to himself. But the object of light is to give light to others. The object of the spiritual light is to make manifest to others.

This section is a bit tricky, as some of these gifts might seem to be present in people who are not Christians. How does one discern between supernatural gifts and natural talent? Can an unbeliever have a Spiritual gift? How does one explain supernatural abilities sometime present in people under demonic possession? (Acts 16:16-19)

If you look at the text of verse 7, the word manifestation seems to provide a big clue. The ability comes not from the person, but from the Spirit. It is not learned or taught. The other clue is that it is for the common good. A spiritual gift is supernatural and a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit helps other people. The passage in Acts indicates that supernatural gifts are also possible, resulting from demonic possession, but when those things manifest, they are not for the common good. In those verses, we see that the girl’s gift of divination was used for her master’s profit.

We’ll dive into that discussion more below as we go on. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

1 Corinthians 12:8

The word of wisdom… the word of knowledge. In modern usage, “knowledge” is the learning which we by use and effort acquire; “wisdom” is the insight which gradually dawns upon us from thought and experience. In the language of the New Testament, the distinction between the two words is not so clearly marked, but” wisdom” seems to belong more to the human spirit, and “knowledge “to the intellect. The “discourse of wisdom” would be that which sets forth the truth of the gospel persuasively to work conversion (1 Corinthians 2:61 Corinthians 2:7); the “discourse of knowledge” would be that which enters into the speculative and theoretical elaboration of systematic theology. The first might find its illustration in the ‘Imitatio Christi;’ the second in the ‘Summa Theologiae.’

utterances / the word = λόγος lógos, log’-os; from G3004; something said (including the thought); by implication, a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension, a computation; specially, (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (i.e. Christ):—account, cause, communication, × concerning, doctrine, fame, × have to do, intent, matter, mouth, preaching, question, reason, + reckon, remove, say(-ing), shew, × speaker, speech, talk, thing, + none of these things move me, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.

wisdom = σοφία sophía, sof-ee’-ah; from G4680; wisdom (higher or lower, worldly or spiritual):—wisdom.

knowledge = γνῶσις gnōsis, gno’-sis; from G1097; knowing (the act), i.e. (by implication) knowledge:—knowledge, science.

How does the Spirit manifest wisdom or knowledge supernaturally? Imagine being in a conversation and having unlearned insight, or unlearned knowledge, regarding a situation. Someone trained in philosophy might have a natural or intellectual approach to a matter. Someone who has studied something might have naturally obtained knowledge. When the Spiritual gift of Wisdom or Knowledge is manifested, the Holy Spirit communicates information to someone who then speaks that information aloud.

One example of Spiritual Wisdom, which we see in the Old Testament, is through the person of King Solomon:

Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So, give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (1 Kings 3:7-9)

Solomon is able to see to the truth of things, not through his own natural abilities, but through a gift of God. We see an example of the Gift of Knowledge in the Old Testament, in the Book of Exodus:

31 The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze,

So far, the Spiritual Gifts would be pretty familiar to the Church in Corinth who were Jewish converts. There are a lot of examples in the Old Testament of these types of things. Continuing on in The Pulpit Commentaries to verse 9:

1 Corinthians 12:9

To another. Various attempts have been made to classify the gifts thus enumerated, as:

1. Intellectual.

(1) The word of wisdom;
(2) the word of knowledge.

2. Pertaining to exalted faith (tides miraculosa).

(1) Healings;
(2) miracles;
(3) preaching;
(4) discrimination of spirits.

Tongues; and
(2) their interpretation.

These attempts are not very successful. St. Paul probably uses the phrases “to one” and “to another” (ἂλλῳ δὲ … ἑτέρῳ δὲ) merely for variety of style (as in Hebrews 11:35, Hebrews 11:36), with no very definite classification in view, as he does not mention all the charisma (see 1 Corinthians 12:28). Faith. Faith in its highest energy, as a supernatural power; the faith that removes mountains (Matthew 17:19Matthew 17:20). The gifts of healing. Not, that is, by medical knowledge, but by supernatural power (Mark 16:18Acts 5:15Acts 5:16James 5:14James 5:15).

Verse 9 discusses the Gift of Faith and the Gift of Healing.

faith = πίστις pístis, pis’-tis; from G3982; persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

Abraham’s faith is presented in the Old Testament as special, though the text does not state that it was supernatural. An example of the idea of a gift of faith can be viewed in the Gospels, though.

Mark 9: 23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more.

The father here requests supernatural faith. His mind knows that he needs to believe, but his mind doubts its own capacity, such that he requests supernatural help. All believers by definition have some amount of faith. Supernatural faith is when that amount overcomes the capacity of a person’s ability on his or her own.

Job appears to be an example of a person with supernatural faith though again that is not stated in the text explicitly. If it is true, though, ithen it places the “contest” between God and Satan, in that book, in a different light.

Job 13:15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Continuing on, do we see supernatural healing in Scripture? Yes, quite often. One example occurs in 2 Kings chapter 4:

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

Elisha does not mix a poultice or perform some type of natural resuscitation of the child. The healing occurs supernaturally. The ministry of Jesus was filled with these occurrences.

Continuing on to more gifts, in verse 10, in Ellicott:

(10) Prophecy.—Not in its modern and limited sense of foretelling the future, but forthtelling truth generally.Discerning of spiritsi.e., the power to distinguish between the workings of the Holy Spirit and of evil and misleading spirits (see 1 Timothy 4:11 John 4:1). On the gifts of tongues and interpretations of tongues, see 1 Corinthians 14:0.

Also from The Pulpit Commentaries:

1 Corinthians 12:10

1The working of miracles; literally, active, efficacy of powers; such as “the signs of an apostle,” to which St. Paul himself appealed in 2 Corinthians 12:12, which included “wonders and mighty powers” (comp. Romans 15:18). Prophecy. Not “prediction,” but elevated and inspired discourse; the power of preaching to edification. Discerning of spirits; rather, discernings, or powers to discriminate between true and false spirits. It was necessary in those days of intense enthusiasm and spiritual awakenment to “test the spirits, whether they be of God” (1 John 4:1). There were such things as “deceitful spirits” which spoke “doctrines of devils” (lTi 2 Corinthians 4:1Revelation 2:1Revelation 2:2; see 1 Corinthians 14:29). Divers kinds of tongues. There is no need for the word “divers.” The particular variety of the ecstatic, and often entirely unintelligible, utterance known as “the tongue” differed with the individuality or temperament of the speaker. Recent lines of research, by that historical method which can alone furnish correct results, have led to the conclusion that, whatever may be thought of the “tongues” on the day of Pentecost, the “tongue” spoken of (for the most part with relative disparagement) by St. Paul as a charism of the Spirit was closely analogous to that wild, rapt, unconscious, uncontrollable utterance which, with varying details, has always occurred in the religious movements which stir the human soul to its utmost depths. The attempts to explain the word “tongues” as meaning “foreign languages,” or “the primeval language,” or “poetic and unusual phraseology,” etc., are baseless and exploded. The notion that by this gift the early Christians knew languages which they had never acquired, is not only opposed to the entire analogy of God’s dealings, but to every allusion in the New Testament (except a prima facie but untenable view of the meaning of Acts 2:4) and to every tradition and statement of early Christian history. The apostles (so far as we have any record of their missionary work in the New Testament) had not the slightest need to acquire foreign languages. Since Palestine was at this epoch bilingual, they could all speak Aramaic and Greek, and therefore could address Jews and Gentiles throughout the civilized world. Every single allusion which St. Paul makes to this subject excludes the possibility of the supposition of a miracle so utterly useless and meaningless, so subversive of every psychological consideration, and so alien from the analogy of all God’s methods, as the talking in unacquired foreign languages by persons who did not understand them. The interpretation of tongues. Sometimes, but not always (1 Corinthians 14:13), the speaker, on relapsing from his ecstasy, was able to express his outburst of unintelligible soliloquy in the form of reasoned thought When he was unable to do so, St. Paul ordains that another should convey in ordinary language the impressions left by the inspired rhapsody (1 Corinthians 14:27-29).

miracles = δύναμις dýnamis, doo’-nam-is; from G1410; force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself):—ability, abundance, meaning, might(-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle(-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work.

prophecy = προφητεία prophēteía, prof-ay-ti’-ah; from G4396 (“prophecy”); prediction (scriptural or other):—prophecy, prophesying.

discerning / distinguishing = διάκρισις diákrisis, dee-ak’-ree-sis; from G1252; judicial estimation:—discern(-ing), disputation.

of spirits = πνεῦμα pneûma, pnyoo’-mah; from G4154; a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit:—ghost, life, spirit(-ual, -ually), mind. Compare G5590.

various kinds = γένος génos, ghen’-os; from G1096; “kin” (abstract or concrete, literal or figurative, individual or collective):—born, country(-man), diversity, generation, kind(-red), nation, offspring, stock.

tongues = γλῶσσα glōssa, gloce-sah’; of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication, a language (specially, one naturally unacquired):—tongue.

interpreting = ἑρμηνεία hermēneía, her-may-ni’-ah; from the same as G2059; translation:—interpretation.

We see many examples of miracles in the Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments. There are many examples from the life of Elijah in particular, in 1 Kings 17 alone. Here is one example:

1 Kings 17:14 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”

Elijah also demonstrates the Gift of Prophecy several times as well.

1 Kings 21: 20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

2 Kings 9: 30-37 30 When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window. 31 And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?” 32 And he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. 33 He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her. 34 Then he went in and ate and drank. And he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” 35 But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. 36 When they came back and told him, he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel, 37 and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.’”

(Things did not end well for Jezebel.)

Discerning of Spirits is sometimes a tricky gift to deal with in the modern church. The Enlightenment period forward saw much of Western Christianity, particularly among Protestants, move away from the supernatural in favor of other explanation. However, 1 John gives us some insight as to what Paul means here:

1 John 4: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

1 Timothy also gives some teaching on this point:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons

We see an example of this gift also, in the ministry of Paul, described in the book of Acts:

Acts 13: But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.

We can see through these examples that the purpose of this gift is the acknowledging and confessing of Jesus, correcting error in teaching, defeating the teaching of demons, and revealing and delivering from demons.

This gift correlates strongly with the practice of exorcisms because one cannot rebuke or cast out a demon if one cannot discern its presence. This brings to mind, then, the origin of exorcisms. We know that Jews were practicing exorcisms in the time of Jesus, but there appears to be comparatively little evidence of this practice in the Old Testament.

1 Samuel 16 describes a story that sounds similar to an exorcism:

14 Now, the Lord’s Spirit had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 Saul’s officials told him, “An evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Your Majesty, why don’t you command us to look for a man who can play the lyre well? When the evil spirit from God comes to you, he’ll strum a tune, and you’ll feel better.”17 Saul told his officials, “Please find me a man who can play well and bring him to me.”18 One of the officials said, “I know one of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem who can play well. He’s a courageous man and a warrior. He has a way with words, he is handsome, and the Lord is with him.”19 Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.”20 Jesse took six bushels of bread, a full wineskin, and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul. 21 David came to Saul and served him. Saul loved him very much and made David his armorbearer. 22 Saul sent ⌞this message⌟ to Jesse, “Please let David stay with me because I have grown fond of him.”23 Whenever God’s spirit came to Saul, David took the lyre and strummed a tune. Saul got relief ⌞from his terror⌟ and felt better, and the evil spirit left him.

In Matthew, we get evidence that Jews were practicing exorcisms prior to the ministry of Jesus:

Matthew 12:24-28 But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “It is only by Be-elzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Be-elzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

The extra-Biblical Jewish Book of Tobit also describes exorcism:

When they had finished eating, they escorted Tobi′as in to her. As he went he remembered the words of Raphael, and he took the live ashes of incense and put the heart and liver of the fish upon them and made a smoke. And when the demon smelled the odor he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him (Tobit 8).

Josephus confirms the practice of exorcism among 2nd Temple Judaism, in his work Antiquities viii. 2, § 5:

I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal, in the presence of Vespasian and his sons and his captains and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down, immediately he abjured him to return into him no more, still making mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done the skill and wisdom of Solomon were shown very manifestly.

We may get into this particular gift more, going forward, but it is important to understand that this gift has roots in Judaism. The first century audience would have understood what this gift is, why it is supernatural, and that some people have it while others do not.

The last two gifts listed by Paul are the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues.

tongues = γλῶσσα glōssa, gloce-sah’; of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication, a language (specially, one naturally unacquired):—tongue.

Speaking languages, unnaturally acquired, and understanding languages without acquiring the language, is another gift of the Spirit. This is among the more controversial gifts, so I will proceed with what I hope is received as care and respect.

We first see “tongues” in the New Testament in the Book of Acts:

Acts 2: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

Some might be surprised to know that this verse has an Old Testament antecedent:

Genesis 11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

In Genesis, we see the supernatural creation of disordered speech, spread to the whole known earth. At Pentecost, we see the supernatural creation of order within speech, spread to the whole earth (the book of Acts describes visiting Jews from the same nations described in Genesis 10 and 11, surrounding the Babel story.) Thus, the manifestation of the Spirit, through the gift of tongues, is an undoing of the Babel event.

The gift of tongues allows one to understand/interpret a foreign language one has not been taught, or to speak a foreign language one has not been taught. It’s purpose is to crate order from disorder, as the Kingdom of God spreads to the world. What then about the charismatic movement’s non-human application of the gift of tongues?

For those that are unfamiliar with what I mean, I have embedded an excerpt on Pentecostalism from Britannica below, but the link is HERE:

Pentecostalismcharismatic religious movement that gave rise to a number of Protestant churches in the United States in the 20th century and that is unique in its belief that all Christians should seek a post-conversion religious experience called “baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Recalling the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the first Christians in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, or Shabuoth (Acts of the Apostles 2–4), this experience appears to have been common in the Christian movement during its first generations.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit is believed to be accompanied by a sign, usually the gift of tongues. This “speaking in tongues” occurs as glossolalia (speech in an unknown language) or xenoglossy (speech in a language known to others but not the speaker). Speaking in tongues is considered one of the gifts of the Spirit described by St. Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 12), and Pentecostals believe that those baptized by the Holy Spirit may receive other supernatural gifts that purportedly existed in the early church, such as the ability to prophesy; to heal; to interpret speaking in tongues; to receive dreams, visions, and words of wisdom; to perform miracles and exorcisms (casting out demons); and even to raise people from the dead. Faith healing is an important part of the Pentecostal tradition, which reflects patterns of faith and practice characteristic of the Baptist and Methodist-Holiness churches—the Protestant denominations from which most of the first generation of Pentecostals came. Like them, Pentecostals emphasize conversion, moral rigour, and a literal interpretation of the Bible. However, Pentecostals never formed a single organization; instead, individual congregations came together to found the various denominations that constitute the movement today.

The greater part of the controversy over this type of practice concerns glossolalia, (from Greek glōssa, “tongue,” and lalia, “talking”), which is speaking in an unknown language. As the verses above from Acts indicate, the listeners at Pentecost heard *known* languages, though they were unknown to the speakers. This indicates that what was happening at Pentecost was xenoglossy (speech in a language known to others but not the speaker.)

Pentecostalism embraces glossolalia. Rather than spend a lot of time on it (because we will come back to it extensively later in 1 Corinthians 14), I will try to briefly explain, first with a link you to a Q&A video from a charismatic pastor HERE.

Defenders of glossolalia will cite Acts 10 as an example of tongues being spoken in an unknown language:

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acts 19 provides another example of tongues being spoken:

19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

In neither example are we told that the tongues being spoken are a known foreign language. We are also not told directly that the tongues spoken are something other than a known language. The case for a non-human heavenly language is most strongly bolstered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:

14 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

There are two (perhaps more) potential interpretations of this verse. One is that the mysteries uttered are a language unknown to all humans because it is a non-human language. The other potential interpretation is that Paul is saying the speaker of tongues utters mysteries in the Spirit, because he does not known the language he is speaking and the lack of an interpreter (Paul refers to the gift of tongues alone) makes this a mystery to the hearers as well. This is why Paul here says the gift of prophecy is preferable. We will get to that debate and more fully flesh it out in chapter 14, but I wanted to give both sides of that debate some room to make their introductory arguments.

Alright, having now gone through an introduction to each of the gifts of the Spirit listed, we’ll return ot the text and finish this section with the note from Ellicott at verse 11:

(11) But all these.—Again, in striking contrast to the great varieties of gifts, the common source of them all is emphatically repeated. The Corinthians estimated these gifts variously, according to their variety in operation. The Apostle estimates their common value as proceeding from the One Spirit, distributed according to His will. Those who valued men more or less according to the kind of gift they possessed were really, if unconsciously, criticising the giver.

Paul reiterates that even though there are a variety of gifts, they come from the same source – the Spirit. As a result, we should understand that these gifts are not in opposition to each other, but in unity with with each other. Remember that Paul’s overarching message in 1 Corinthians centered on the need for unity within the Church body. Paul gives that reminder explicitly in the next set of verses.