TITLE: Spiritual gifts must proceed from a true Conversion
DATE : 19 /06 /2011
Chapters 11-14 deal with matters of worship . Four issues challenge the life of worship in this church :
(i) A lack of understanding of the role/ function of the sexes. (Ch 11:1-16)
(ii) Abuse of the Lord’s supper ( 11:17-34)
(iii) A lack of understanding concerning the spiritual gifts ( Chs 12 &14)
(iv) A lack of understanding the nature of biblical love ( Ch 13)
We now come to the matter of spiritual gifts
OUTLINE OF SUBJECTS TO BE COVERED UNDER THIS HEADING :
- Spiritual gifts must proceed from the basis of a true conversion (12:1 – 3)
- The source of the gifts and the variation of the gifts ( 12 : 4 –11)
- The application of the gifts : the body of Christ ( 12:12 – 31a)
- The controlling principle in the application of spiritual gifts – LOVE ( 12:31b – 13:13)
- The priority of certain gifts over others ( 14: 1 – 25)
- The importance of order in church worship ( 14: 26 – 40)
Today we will be concerned with establishing a major principle : In order for spiritual gifts to be truly edifying to the church and glorifying to God , they must proceed from a true experience of conversion ! Allow me to take you through the flow and the logic of the argument contained in 12: 1 – 3
- We cannot afford to be ignorant about spiritual gifts :
12:1 “ Now concerning spiritual gifts , brothers , I do not want you to be uninformed. “ Those are the opening words on this subject . They are therefore significant . We must not be ignorant about them , because hey are “spiritual” ( Gr . pneumatikon) in nature – that is , these gifts ( called in v.4 “charismata” - grace gifts ) are from the Holy Spirit. Since they have this holy source , they must not be trifled with !
Allow me to tell you a little more about the history of the Corinthians , and why this subject would be so important to them – and therefore to us . The Corinthian Christians came from a Greek pagan background (12:2) in which they would have been raised under the influence of Greek mystery religions , in which supernatural experiences of a demonic kind were common . The Greeks were no strangers to trances , ecstasy, spiritism or demonism. These experiences were real; they were power manifestations, although compared to the power of Jesus they were as 12:2 suggests, merely “mute idols”. We are reminded that they were steeped in idolatry ( see Ch 8 ; 10:14). Our age knows its own fascination with the occult . As people are getting more and more disillusioned with the shallowness that a materialistic world produces and which cannot fill the emptiness of the soul , many people are looking into alternative sources of knowledge and experience and get sucked into esoteric cults and occultism , witchcraft , astrology etc . Our own continent , Africa and our nation Namibia knows the power of the terrible bondage of being enslaved to witchcraft and ancestry worship . Many people live in fear of these mute idols , these dead ancestors who rule hearts and minds from the grave . There is no positive, uplifting life that flows from this form of slavery . We are led astray to mute idols , and what we need is a true manifestation of the power of God . Even this is not always easy to detect , and so we need to know what “gifts“come from God ( i.e. what is truly from the Holy Spirit ) and what is not .
I am sure that this is the sort of questions that you and I are also interested in. We need firm , wise and corrective advice from Paul , and I don’t think that we will be disappointed.
- The great test : “How do we know who is Spirit –filled?”
With such powerful and confusing claims about spirituality , how do we know who is true ? Who may we believe or listen to? You will be glad to know that the apostle Paul is as consistent as ever in his arguments as he makes the touchstone of this debate the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The great question , then, as it must be today is this : “what do you say about Jesus?”
Follow the argument: “ You know that when you were pagans you were led to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “ Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “ Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit .”
In v. 2 he reminds them that all their “spiritual experiences” of the past were of pagan origin and therefore they were influenced by the wrong spirit and therefore their hearts were connected to mute , speechless idols. Spiritual experiences in themselves prove nothing ( as 1 Cor 13 will show)
This leads us very quickly to v. 3 . Note that Paul puts Jesus at the center of the issue. And the vital question is always this : “what does a person say and do about Jesus ? “
V. 3 teaches us two things : A spiritual ( and therefore a spiritually gifted) person :
a. cannot curse Christ , and claim to have the Holy Spirit at the same time
b. cannot truly confess Christ without the Holy Spirit.
a. A spiritual person cannot say ‘ Jesus be cursed ‘ ( Gr. “anathema Iesous!” ) and claim to be a spiritual person at the same time . Here is your first clue to discernment of these matters . Here is a person who says that they are a Christian and they are claiming to exercise some spiritual gifts or ministry in the church , but you note with great concern that their profession of Christ does not match their deeds . They are immoral or greedy for money , or they lie , and therefore , though they say they do their work in Christ’s name , they actually blaspheme or curse the name of Christ by their deeds . We see this in so many modern ‘anointed’ , gifted preachers or healers – claiming to be something for God , but who by their ungodly lives and examples frequently curse Christ . This is the point that the apostle Paul makes about the religious Jews in his day .
See Romans 2: 17 - 24 : 17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
What is he saying ? Here are these people who claim to know God – but they are breaking the very law they proclaim! What effect does that have ? They are blaspheming the name of God . They are cursing Him. The name of God is dragged into the mud before the gentiles . Coming back to the preacher whose walk and talk don’t coincide : What does that say about his spiritual giftedness? Is it really spiritual giftedness ( operating by the power of the Spirit) or is it just his natural show talent and charisma ?
Do you understand , what the apostle Paul is saying here in the first place? When any person claiming to be spiritually gifted shows by their words or actions a contrary testimony about Jesus and His word , you may safely dispense with them. Their so called spiritual gifts amount to nothing. Don’t even give them a hearing . For this reason , anyone who teaches the Word of God in the church and then disgraces the name of Jesus in words or deed must be dealt with and removed from that office.
b. One cannot truly confess Christ without the Holy Spirit: Nobody can really say “Jesus is Lord” , except if they are born again by the Spirit of God. This does not mean that the average man on the street cannot say , “Jesus is Lord”. It also does not mean that people may not somehow believe that “Jesus is Lord”. They can say that and believe that , but we must remember James’ words in 2:19 : You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. The demons believe , but they do not have a saving faith! People may say they believe , but they may have no saving faith . People may be religious , but have no saving faith. The apostle Paul bluntly asserts in 2 Tim 3:5 that there are people that “have a form of godliness , but deny its power.”
Paul therefore says in effect to the Corinthians : “ Before we enter upon any exposition about the subject of “spiritual gifts “ ( about which I do not wish you to be ignorant) , we must get clarity about the basis from which spiritual gifts can operate . “ You must be born again ; you must be a true Christian. You must know Christ Himself . He is the true foundation for the operation of spiritual gifts .
1. Our discussion about spiritual gifts must therefore begin with the One who gives the gifts. Who do you say that He is? What position does He have in your life? Is your life consistent in keeping with your testimony? Is what you say and do directed out of a real love for Him and for that which He supremely loves – His church ? These are all important questions .
2. Who alone has spiritual gifts? Who alone can effectively minister by their gifts in this local church ? Only born again Christians can .
It is significant that the apostle Paul raises this matter of the place of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life ( your words and your works ) right at the beginning on his discussion on spiritual gifts ! Before we speak about the kinds of spiritual gifts themselves , we must speak about the place of the Giver of these gifts . This is our fundamental principle to effective spiritual work in God’s house .
3. Keep in mind that Satan tries to mimic all the good gifts of God with his counterfeits. In fact , the nine gifts mentioned in verses 8 – 10 may be all imitated by Satan. But Satan does not love Jesus. Therefore the imitations of Satan (as true as they look to the original) cannot promote the work of God and His kingdom.
So we conclude that , Jesus in you makes all the difference as to how truly effective the application of your spiritual gift will be in the congregation. A true spiritual gift will help our church to experience true spiritual changes.
But Jesus must be in charge.
Do you see the necessity for a Christ-centered ministry, Spirit empowered , God-glorifying ministry in the church? Paul believed that it was the only way. Upon this fact he continues to build the theology of spiritual gifts in the church. Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to our church! Amen.