Monday, July 4, 2011

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 The Source and Variety of Spiritual Gifts

TITLE:   The  Source  and Variety  of  Spiritual gifts 
TEXT :   1 Corinthians 12:1-11 

DATE :  03  /07 /2011

I remind you  once again that  the Corinthians had a ‘worship problem‘ .  A worship problem exists when  we substitute God  for idols, or  people   ( even  ourselves) ,  or  things . We were made to worship God  our Creator alone .  When we ignore this basic principle , written by our Creator  into our DNA,   we become deeply unhappy , troubled , disjointed, self opinionated , and ultimately alienated from God and  from one another .  That  is always the problem when God  is not at the center .
The worship problem in Corinth manifested itself in a number of ways : Divisions ; questioning of spiritual authority ;  unsanctified  use of the body leading  to  sexual immorality  ; lawsuits among believers ; marriage problems;  participating  in  idolatrous  religious practices  which  God hates  ; despising the Lord’s supper…. and now  in the matter of spiritual gifts .
The Corinthians were taking the spiritual gifts given to them by God  and  they were glorifying themselves by their use  ,  when in reality the gifts were intended to be used to serve others and thereby to  glorify God . I remind you that just because a Christian sins , this does not mean that God withdraws  their gift  immediately when they sin . That is why it is so tragic,  when for instance  a gifted preacher  falls into moral sin  whilst delivering great  and even uplifting sermons ! 
The Corinthian   church members   bragged in having   spiritual gifts , especially the  more spectacular   ones -  healing , prophecy , tongues , but they showed   a lack of  far more substantial  proofs  of  a living faith , such  as love and  a servant spirit  .  

  1. Spiritual gifts must be Christ-centered (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)

Last time  I spoke on this subject , I showed you  that  a proper start in terms of   understanding  the place  and practice of spiritual gifts in the church must  begin  with  the Lord Jesus  Christ .  So you claim to be spiritually gifted ?  But what are you really  saying about Him with your lips and your life ? Paul asserts  that you  cannot  claim to be a spiritual person and  yet curse Him either in word or deed . You cannot  even say  Jesus is Lord“  with  true  authority  if  you  are not a Christian.  Paul asserts  that  we must have a spiritual basis   for doing spiritual work . We cannot  over emphasize this enough . If you are not a true Christian you cannot hope to glorify  God with your lips or with  your life . In order to please God  you must  begin with His Son . Therefore  I must never grow tired to ask you  : Are you born again ?  ( see John 3: 1-8) . One of the great signs of being born again  is  when you discover the joy of confessing Christ  through  your spiritual gift  in the  church – the body  of Christ . It is  primarily in your service  within the body of Christ that your commitment  to Jesus as Lord   will be worked out .  To distance yourself from other Christians  in  gifts , in service , in activities  is to waver in your allegiance to Jesus as Lord , and if we find ourselves in such a position , then this counsel to the Corinthians  is also counsel for us .
Now Paul is ready  to address the matter of  the spiritual  gifts  , about which he does not want them to be uninformed ( 12:1)  . We now pay attention to verses 4- 11  and  we learn that  
(i)                 There are a variety of  spiritual gifts
(ii)               Their  origin  are in  the Triune God
(iii)             They are sovereignly given
(iv)              They are given for the common good

1. A Variety of  Spiritual Gifts
Notice the repetition  : There are varieties ( diversities KJV[1])  of gifts (Gr. charismata)  varieties of service ( Gr. diakonoi) … varieties of activities  ( Gr. energema ) . They all  mean the same thing here  and they  accomplish the same thing  , namely a blessing for  the church . This  is experienced   in terms of changed lives, transformed relationships, congregational growth,  released talents ,increased joy.
God in  His wisdom   has so designed it that  life in the church  should be  ordered  not by a single  person    with  all the necessary  gifts , services and energies, but by a body of  born again people , variously  gifted  working together for the common good . In vv 12 ff   Paul uses  the  analogy of a body to describe  the working together of this variety of  gifts , services  and activities  .

There are  nine  examples  of spiritual gifts listed  here  . We have similar lists  in Romans 12:6-8 ; Ephesians 4:7-11 and 1 Peter 4:7-11 . Together these lists delineate about 20 spiritual gifts .   The important  thing  to grasp about spiritual gifts is that they make  spiritual differences in the congregation .
We have no reason to believe  that this list  is  limiting the  amount  of spiritual gifts that there may be .  Could there  be  a spiritual gift called dependability?  If so, it may be the most treasured gift of all.  That man or woman who consistently fulfills a responsibility is a person who  is highly valued! 
We also  have no reason to believe  that  every gift needs to operate  at all times .   Remember that the Holy Spirit is the Sovereign Giver of the gifts  and  He  may give spiritual gifts to the church as He pleases  and whenever  He pleases . We will discuss this aspect further under the  third  point . I have a sneaky suspicion that the gift of tongues  is not as operational today as  many would have us believe .    I will address the matter  of the  individual gifts listed here in a separate sermon  next week  and the matter of prophecy and tongues when we get to chapter 14 .

2. The Spiritual Gifts  originate in the Trinity
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit ( Gr . Pneuma) ;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord (Gr. Kurios ) ;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God  ( Gr. Theos) who empowers them all in everyone.
Please note that  the  Trinity- the  Holy  Spirit ( Pneuma)  , the Lord  Jesus ( Kurios)  and God the  Father ( Theos)  are implied in empowering  the church  in terms of her spiritual gifts . They are spoken of  as acting  in unison in the giving of these spiritual  gifts , services and activities  which are designed to bless the church . It is however the Holy Spirit   who moves into the executive role  of bringing  this  work  to   fulfillment in the church.
Let us also take note  that the Lord Jesus Christ , in  His days upon the earth as the perfect man  ( the second Adam) was  the only  man  who has truly  exercised   the spiritual gifts perfectly  . Whatever He did  resulted  in their fullest display of  blessing and power  for the good  of man and for the glory of God .
As we peruse the list  of spiritual gifts  we know that  wisdom , utterance of knowledge , faith , gifts of healing  etc  were  perfectly exercised by Him. Interestingly  enough ,  the speaking in tongues (or  other languages)   was seemingly  never practiced by the Lord Jesus at this stage . This gift seemed to belong to  the establishment of the church . It was a foundational gift . We shall consider this  spiritual  gift more fully when we get to 1 Corinthians 14 .
The important point  we wish to make  under this heading  is that  spiritual gifts have spiritual origins . They are rooted in the Holy Trinity , and therefore they must not be trifled with . They must not be despised ; they must not be abused ; they must not be neglected  ,  for in so doing we  mock the  good gifts of our Lord .

3. The Spiritual Gifts are sovereignly given
This is an important point .   We do not earn our gifts; we do not learn gifts; they are given to us as it pleases the Holy Spirit .  We have nothing to boast about. These are grace gifts – undeservedly given .  Many have assumed that  spiritual  gifts were to be asked for  and desired , appealing to   1 Corinthians  14:1  which  says :  (you) eagerly desire the spiritual gifts”. This verse  has been frequently  misapplied  to mean  that we  should  ask God for  any spiritual gift we  would desire. This has been particularly  applied by Pentecostals to the speaking  in tongues . That is not what the text teaches . It is a   call  to the church (the “you  here is plural)  to desire to have   spiritual gifts operate within the church .  A  careful meditation on our text should persuade us entirely that the gifts not only originate in God  , but that they are sovereignly dispensed to  all true believers  by the Holy Spirit .   Consider the following:
  • A gift in its very nature is given .
  •  The language  affirms it  v. 7 “ To each is given  ; v. 8 “ For to one is given….. and to another (v.9) …to another (v.10)
  • V. 11 clinches it  : “ All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit , who apportions to each one individually as He wills.”
Spiritual gifts  are sovereignly given . Our duty is to discover them  and to use them . Spiritual gifts are discovered:
Ø      By praying ( asking) God to reveal  them to  you  . Ask God to  help you to see  needs that you can meet .
Ø      By studying the Scriptures to discover  their nature and purpose
Ø      Through  examining  your God given desires in ministry
Ø      Confirmed by ability
Ø      Accompanied by blessing
How do you know if you really are exercising a gift and not merely fooling yourself?  Here is the test. 
  • Are you bearing fruit?   
  • Are you enjoying your spiritual ministry ? 
  • Are  you  receiving  affirmation from others ?  

4. Spiritual Gifts are given for the common good
Verse 7 expresses the purpose of these spiritual gifts: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  By common good is meant the common good of the church.  Again and again Paul makes this point that spiritual gifts are given  for the good of the church and not for  personal  fulfillment and self exaltation .  The satisfaction that we gain from  using our spiritual gifts   is in the  help  and  happiness that they bring  to  our church .
Please note  that Paul insists  To each is given…” . Spiritual gifts  are  given to every believer . It  is not related  to maturity  , although gifts must be stirred up and developed ( 2 Tim 1:6)  . If  you have for example  received a spiritual  gift of teaching   then you  can  and must use it as soon as you are converted  by teaching and discipling  another person that knows less than you, whilst  growing  yourself .
We cannot pretend to be a healthy church if we are not  using our spiritual gifts to  be a blessing , and an enrichment  and a source of growth to one another  . What are you doing to help  our  church to  progress   for  our common good and the glory  of God ? 

The subject  of spiritual gifts  is very important . That is why I want to take time  over it .  We have  thus far discovered  that :
(i)                 Spiritual gifts  direct  us  to glorify the Lord Jesus  Christ
(ii)               Spiritual gifts , spiritual service , spiritual activity  comes in a variety
(iii)             Spiritual  gifts  originate  in the Holy Trinity
(iv)              Spiritual gifts are sovereignly given
(v)                Spiritual gifts exist for the common good .

We are now ready next time to analyze  and  to  consider  some of the spiritual gifts in  more detail .
I want  to close  by challenging you to  think seriously  about these things . Thankfully  there are a good number  of people  who are thinking  and acting – particularly in the supportive  ministries  . However our church is at this stage  particularly  lacking  in the areas of leadership . Right now we need more help  in our pastoral leadership . One of our elders is retiring  this month .  Is God calling you  to  step into the gap ?  We need  deacons who lead   and diaconal helpers  to help our deacons  to make the gospel look good in our community . We have identified a number of areas  already where  we could get   stuck in  .   Are you  hearing  what the Holy Spirit  may be saying to you ?

[1] Gr.  diairesis  - dia &  haireo  literally  “to take apart “

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