Monday, June 20, 2011

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Spiritual Gifts must proceed from a true Conversion

TEXT : 1 Corinthians  12: 1-  11
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 :

  1. Spiritual gifts must proceed  from the basis  of  a true conversion (12:1 – 3)
  2. The  source of the gifts and  the variation of the gifts ( 12 : 4 –11)
  3. The application of the gifts : the body of Christ ( 12:12 – 31a)
  4. The controlling principle in the application of  spiritual gifts – LOVE ( 12:31b – 13:13)
  5. The priority of certain gifts over others ( 14: 1 – 25)
  6. 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 
  1. 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.
  1. 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  .
Conclusion :
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.

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