Posted by: Heather | August 25, 2009

"Now concerning spiritual gifts . . "

Sunday I preached on 1 Cor 12:1-11. Here is the text:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
(1) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant.
(2) You know that being led away, you nations were led to dumb idols.
(3) Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is a curse, and that no one can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.
(4) But there are differences of gifts, but the same Spirit.
(5) And there are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
(6) And there are differences of workings, but it is the same God working all things in all.
(7) But to each one is given the showing forth of the Spirit to our profit.
(8) For through the Spirit is given to one a word of wisdom; and to another a word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;
(9) and to another faith by the same Spirit; and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
(10) and to another workings of powers, to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to another kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues.
(11) But the one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing separately to each one as He desires.

I must say that discussing this topic is a bit intimidating for me, as I have not come to many firm convictions about the subject. What I did do – and I would encourage of anyone who wants to study this out to do the same – was two things. First, I read this passage in context repeatedly for several weeks (1 Cor 12 – 15). This is what I call marinading in a passage. Second, I marinaded in the companion passages (Romans 11 and 12 – and Ephesians 4) This was in an effort to absorb the big picture and have a feel for the “whole counsel” of Biblical teaching on Gifts.

So as I began this study, I broke out my e-sword program and began by trying to look up the specific word used for gifts in verse 1, so I could cross reference it with the other uses in the Bible. However, I was a bit surprised to find that in verse 1 the word “gifts” is supplied by the translators. It does not appear in the original context. Not to say it does not belong in the verse, but “gifts” is not the emphasis of the verse. “Spiritual” is. You see, Paul has said “Now concerning” several times in this book. Each time he introduces a new topic of discussion. Some would say it might have been in response to a letter written by the Corinthian church to Paul. We don’t know. But it is clear that this is the phrase Paul uses to introduce a new topic. However, this is a larger change than the previous ones. Everything in this book has been focused externally. From this point on Paul discusses the spiritual side. If we get this right, everything up to this point becomes elementary. The spiritual side is the core that drives the external.

(1) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant.

So the emphasis is the Spiritual. Paul did not want them to be ignorant of the spiritual.

(2) You know that being led away, you nations were led to dumb idols.

Now this is an absurd statement, and I think purposely so. They were led away by voiceless idols. The picture is random and pandemonium.

(3) Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is a curse, and that no one can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.

Now the picture here is of the man standing before an executioner. He is told, “Recant! Curse Jesus!” and what he says next is the result of having or not having the Holy Spirit. So I would say that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” with their life without Jesus. And no one could say avoid “Jesus is a curse” with their life – without the Holy Spirit.

The point is, rather than the randomness of their pagan lives, the life of a spiritual man will have Christ as Lord. So, when it comes to Spiritual gifts, I would say the first point is that Jesus will be Lord over what is taking place.

He elaborates:

(4) But there are differences of gifts, but the same Spirit.
(5) And there are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
(6) And there are differences of workings, but it is the same God working all things in all.

We have the same thing said here three ways. Verse 4 talks in the language of the current topic. Verse 5 points out the Master / Servant relationship. One master, many services. Verse 6 speaks of many workings, and one God working. This word for working is the same word we get “energy” from. The picture is of one power source and many uses of the power.

Why is He working?

(7) But to each one is given the showing forth of the Spirit to our profit.

Which brings us to my second point. First point: Jesus is Lord. Second point: it builds up the body. For more elaboration on this point, see Eph 4. In this passage, after Paul lists several gifts, he says this:

Ephesians 4:12-14
(12) for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
(13) And this until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
(14) so that we no longer may be infants, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the dishonesty of men, in cunning craftiness, to the wiles of deceit.

So when he says in 1 Cor 12:7 that it is for our profit, it is referring to the building up of the Body of Christ.

Let’s recap for a minute. God is not the God of chaos. He is Lord, and every work that is done by Him in the body will work toward that end. The individual giftings will build up the body of Christ.

Now he begins to illustrate by listing some of the gifts. I want to pause a minute and say that I said some of the gifts on purpose. Upon comparing the lists in the 3 companion passages (Romans 11 and 12; 1 Cor 12; and Eph 4) I find that the lists are not the same. Some things occur in each passage, some do not. I do not believe that even a compiling of the three lists would be exhaustive. The emphasis seems to be two fold. One God, variety of gifts. One unified body built up by diversity, but not chaos.

As we look at the list that occurs in 1 Cor, let’s notice the pairing of them here. I think it implies a certain interdependence.

(8) For through the Spirit is given to one a word of wisdom; and to another a word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;

Wisdom is more of a common sense idea, more the idea of the ability to apply information accurately. Knowledge is knowing information. We have all known wise people who were rather ignorant, and we have also known educated people who were rather foolish. But both together are a strong team. In this instance, wisdom is given to one, and knowledge to another. The effect is that they need each other.

(9) and to another faith by the same Spirit; and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

I must say, I spent more time on this verse than any other. Did you realize that faith is a gift of the Spirit? Faith is the ability to stick to ones conviction when the going is tough. Do you realize this is saying that to some is given the ability to stick to the truth through tough times? I was praying to God for a couple of weeks about this asking for understanding. What does this look like? Then I went up to Pyramid Lake last Friday and was able to sit at the camp fire with my Dad.

– Now let me insert here that Dad and I were not talking about 1 Cor, or spiritual gifts. This just sort of came out of the blue, but I knew God was answering my prayer as to what this looks like –

Dad was telling me of his struggle with cancer, and how he believes God has directed him to a diet based treatment. The doctors at the VA Hospital think he is crazy for not going with the conventional treatments. However, Dad believes God has directed him another way. Not that he thinks it is wrong for others, just that HE isn’t supposed to go there. Then he said something that I will never forget.

“Craig, the point isn’t whether I live or die. It isn’t about how long I live. It is about HOW I live. I’m not talking about quality of life here, either. (though I think the quality of life is better this way – If I had taken their treatment I wouldn’t be able to go on this camping trip and spend time with my grandson – but that’s beside the point) I have spent my life between a rock and a hard place. God seems to keep me there. That where I can abide with Him. When I get comfortable, then I don’t abide in Him!”

Next to the gift of faith, is the gift of healing. Some are given the ability to abide in difficult times. Others are given the ability to remove the difficult time miraculously. Both are a gift from God! Both Glorify Jesus as Lord and build up the body of Christ.

(10) and to another workings of powers, to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to another kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues.

I think the first phrase of this verse is a summary of the last four items on the list. I think a good companion verse for this would be:

Mark 16:17-18
(17) And miraculous signs will follow to those believing these things: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak new tongues;
(18) they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will be well.

Jesus was speaking of how the Gospel would spread with power. I think this is a reference to this idea. Every time that these things are spoken of in Acts, the purpose of the miracle was to demonstrate the power of the Gospel. Now I believe that the Gospel will still be proclaimed with power by those who have faith. Especially on the “front lines” as I discussed in my previous post about Babel. However, these miraculous signs will not be marked by chaos, they will Glorify Christ – not us, and they will build up the body of Christ.

So, I would pair up prophecy with discerning spirits – as it is biblical to test a prophet. And I would pair up tongues with interpretation. Some are given the ability to speak a language they do not know. Some are given the ability to hear in their own tongue words that were spoken in another language. Both are seen in scripture and both are still happening today. (“Ah ha!
‘you say,
‘So you are not ceasationalist!” Well, I don’t see that the things spoken of as ceasing in 1 Cor 13 as having ceased. Has all prophecy been fulfilled? Do I now know as I have been known? Hardly! – but these are just the thoughts of a Simple Guy – )

So, as our varied body of believers up here in North Idaho begins to delve into 1 Cor 12, 13, and 14; I think it is important that we realize two things. First, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will always point to Jesus as Lord. Second, they will always build up the body.

I would like to leave you with the companion passage in Romans.

Romans 11:33-12:18
(33) O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!
(34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
(35) or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
(36) For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
(1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.
(2) And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
(3) For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith.
(4) For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office:
(5) so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.
(6) And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith;
(7) or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching;
(8) or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
(9) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
(10) In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another;
(11) in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
(12) rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer;
(13) communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality.
(14) Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not.
(15) Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep.
(16) Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits.
(17) Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.
(18) If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.

In Romans 11 Paul has been discussing God’s sovereignty and election which moves him to exclaim: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!

Then he exhorts us in light of this to present our bodies as living sacrifices unto Him. These living sacrifices will be empowered by the Holy Spirit in various ways. This empowerment will be diverse, but unified. It will glorify God and edify the body. When we stop trying to be scientists who examine the gifting, and start being servants who live with the attitude of Romans 12:6-18, this work is accomplished.

May God bless us as we endeavor to obey. Take my life as a living sacrifice unto you my dear Saviour!

Craig

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