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 .
OUTLINE OF SUBJECTS TO BE COVERED UNDER THIS HEADING :
- Spiritual gifts must be Christ-centered (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)
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) 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 ?