We will pick up this morning where we left off in our study of 1 Corinthians 12-14. The brothers and sisters in Corinth were constantly in turmoil and they wrote to Paul to ask him for help about various issues that were at the root of the turmoil, chaos, and division in their church. One of those issues was spiritual gifts. We know this because of the opening verse of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul wrote, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” Paul then goes on to write a long commentary on the subject, three chapters in our Bible even though Paul didn’t include either chapters nor verses in his letter to the church. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning and then we’ll see what we can learn.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NIV)
It is interesting to me that the gifts given by God were such a point of contention in the early church because these many years later we haven’t learned a thing, we are still divided and arguing about the gifts God gives to His Church, the Body of Christ, in our own day. There were some in the church at Corinth, and some in our day, who valued some of the gifts given by God more than other gifts. There was also another group who said some of the gifts given by God were not from God at all. There are some today who will say that some of the gifts we will read about this morning were in operation in Paul’s day, but they are no longer in operation.
The argument that is most prevalent in our day is between two groups of people: The Cessationists vs. The Continuationists or the group better known as Charismatics. The cessationists believe that certain “sign gifts” like speaking in tongues and healing ended when the Apostolic age came to a close. One of the verses they use to try and prove their position is found in 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul writes,
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 NIV)
What the cessationist fail to recognize or acknowledge is that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, is talking about when Jesus returns and not when the age of the Apostles came to a close.
The other group that is involved in the squabble today is the continuationists or charismatics who believe that all spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible are still in operation today and given by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s will. We talked last time about the Greek word “charis” which means “grace” and the word “charismata” which means “gifts.” We can see both words used in Romans 12:6 where Paul writes,
6 We have different gifts (charismata), according to the grace (charis) given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)
Seeing this list of gifts in Romans 12:6-8 reminds me that there are several different instances in the New Testament where we find lists of gifts given by God to His people. You can find four different places in the New Testament where gifts are listed and they are 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:10-11. If you were to go through each of the lists and add them up you would find about 20 spiritual gifts that are found in God’s Word. Now here’s the thing, none of the lists are identical and the vast majority of Bible teachers believe that Paul, in listing gifts, has no intention to teach that his lists include all of the gifts God gives to His people.
Here’s a question we need to ask and understand: “Why does God give gifts to His people, to the Body of Christ?” The answer to that question is found in 1 Corinthians 12:7. Read it with me.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV)
There are two things about this verse that are vitally important for us to understand. First, we see that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…” The Greek word for manifestation is “phanerosis” and it means “to make known” or “to make visible.” To make “what” or “Who” known? Paul says to each of us, we have been given the “manifestation of the Spirit.” Chuck Swindoll writes,
When believers exercise their gifts, God’s people become tangible, evident, meaningful expressions of God’s active presence on earth. (Swindoll, Charles. Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians. pg. 182)
There is a second important detail we need to recognize about 1 Corinthians 12:7 and that is that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one “for the common good.” The Greek word translated “common good” (sumphero), means “to bring together.” The word came to be used to describe “helping one another” or “benefitting one another.” The gifts that God has given to you and to me are to be used to make Him known in this world and they are to be used to edify and help or benefit those in the body of Christ. Ciampi and Rosner write,
…if the purpose of the gifts is for the common advantage, then no member is given anything that is not given to the whole body of Christ. Grace-gifts are to be exercised for the well-being of the whole body. Second, gifts are not given to promote an individual’s personal status. Persons should not regard themselves as ‘gifted,’ and the manifestations of the Spirit in their lives should not be used to augment their image, prestige, or station in the community or to downgrade another’s. They should recognize that the source of these gifts comes from a sovereign power outside of them, and love should govern their usage so that the persons manifesting the gifts becomes Christlike (Ciampi and Rosner. pg. 578).
Each and every one of us here this morning, who is a follower of Jesus, has been given gifts, Holy Spirit enabled abilities, and they are to be used to make God visible in our community. They are all, each and every one of the gifts we’ve been given, to be used to serve, unify, and benefit the other members of the family of faith. If only that were happening. Can you imagine a church where every single follower of Jesus recognized they had been gifted by God and then felt compelled to use their gifts for the glory of God and the building up of His people?
I watched the OU/Texas football game last Saturday. That was exciting wasn’t it?! I’ve been thinking about the game this week as I’ve been studying this Scripture from 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Those guys get it. The left tackle was not trying to be the running back. He recognized his “gifting” if you will and he focused on using his gift for the betterment of the entire team. The running back never refused to get in the game because he was enthralled by the spectacular plays the quarterback was making in the second half and decided he just wanted to watch. I never saw an argument break out in the huddle because the linebacker was jealous of the speed of the cornerback. He knew his role, his purpose within the larger framework of the team, and he focused on exercising his gift so that the team objective could be reached. Here’s another thing I noticed, even second and third teamers were begging to get in the game. They weren’t content to just sit back and let everyone else do the work, they wanted in the game.
If we were able to rewind the game and watch it again this Saturday, but this time applying the model of the modern-day American church then we would watch something totally different than what we witnessed last Saturday. We would see about 20% of the members of the team dressed out and ready to go, while the rest of the team sat back, ate hot dogs and nachos, and watched. About 30% of those not dressed out, but on the team would have comments to make about every play. “Why didn’t you…?” “You could have done ‘this’ instead of ‘that?’” “You know, when you were facing 3rd and 8 on our own 40 yard line why didn’t you run ‘Cover 3’ on the backend instead of going “man?” Now, none of those who are questioning every play are in the game mind you, but they sure know what those in the game should have done.
So, 30% were on the sidelines even though they weren’t dressed out and had no intention of getting in the game. There would be another 30% who wouldn’t even show up for the game. Remember, we are using the church model instead of what we actually witnessed last Saturday. The 30% who wouldn’t even show up for the game had other things to do, things more important than the game. Some of the 30% who wouldn’t even show up had extenuating circumstances that kept them away. The day of the game fell on opening day of dove season or deer season or there was another game on TV they wanted to watch. It was raining when they woke up and the roads were slick. Or, it was bitterly cold and who would expect you to play football when the temperature was below freezing?! I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the absurdity of it all. Let me clue you in. If the temperature would have been below freezing last Saturday they still would have played the game. Not only would the players have thought nothing about how cold it was on the field, but every seat in the stands would have still been filled even if it would have been below freezing. Many of those same folks who would sit in the stands and brave the wind and the freezing cold temperatures would have woken up the next morning and decided to stay home from church because it was too cold.
You and I have been “drafted,” we’ve been chosen to be a part of a team that is far greater than either of the teams we watched on TV last Saturday. We’re not representing the University of Oklahoma or the University of Texas–we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We don’t play for Steve Sarkisian or Lincoln Riley–we are called to use our gifts for the glory of God. The gifts we’ve been given are not like the talents of the players we witnessed on the field. The glory of athletes fade, their skills diminish over time, but the gifts we’ve been given are divine enablements that God empowers and uses throughout our lives for His glory and the blessing of His people. Let’s get in the game! Get off the sidelines. Quit making excuses and get in the game!
I want us to go back to 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 so we can understand the source of every gift possessed by the followers of Jesus. Let’s read these verses together.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV)
This is such an important section of Scripture for you and me. Here, we see that the gifts given are not the gifts of the Spirit, but they are the gifts given by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working together in unity to bless the body of Christ. We call the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the “Trinity.” You won’t find that word in the Bible, but what you will find is the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Let me make a couple of things very clear for us. First, we do not believe in three God’s, but we do believe in one God who expresses Himself in three Persons. We don’t believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three “forms” of God like ice, steam, and water. Last of all, we don’t believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate pieces of God, each comprising one third of the Trinity. We believe in one God who expresses Himself in three Persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, here in these verses we see the Trinity working together to distribute “different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service,” and “different kinds of working.” Look at what we have here:
- Different kinds of gifts ? but the same Spirit.
- Different kinds of service ? but the same Lord.
- Different kinds of working ? but the same God.
I want to focus for a moment on the “different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service,” and “different kinds of working.” The Greek word, “diairesis,” means “division, distribution, difference, or distinction.” In some Bibles, like the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version, it is translated, “varieties.” The word really highlights the broad diversity of the kinds of gifts given by the same Holy Spirit. I’ve learned something this past week that has blessed me so much. This Greek word, “diairesis,” is related to the word, “haireis’, which means “faction” or “heresy.” Chuck Swindoll writes,
Whereas hairesis implies a destructive faction (1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1), diairesis, in contrast, connotes a constructive variety. The Corinthians’ problem was that they were turning diairesis into hairesis–turning healthy diversity given as a gift from God into unhealthy conflict caused by the selfishness of humans. Chaos resulted (Swindoll. Chuck. pg. 181-182).
The variety of gifts given to us are part of the purpose and plan of God for each of our lives as well as for the sharing of our lives together. The sad truth is that we don’t like differences. We would rather muddle around in the monotony of sameness than to recognize and celebrate the wide variety of God’s activity in our midst. We see this desire for uniformity, familiarity, and sameness manifest in our churches today. We’ve got older churches, young churches, black churches, Hispanic and Asian churches, white churches, poor churches, churches that are wealthy, working class churches, and the list goes on and on. You can go to church growth seminars and be taught that the way to grow your church is to identify the demographic you want to attract and design your ministry from the ground up to attract that group of people.
We might be attracted to familiarity and sameness, but God loves variety and diversity and that is why He puts His Church together with a multitude of gifts. Our ministry would be so limited if we all had the gift of teaching, or if we all had the gift of administration, or if we all had the gift of…fill in the blank. If we were all given the same gift by the Holy Spirit then we would be so limited in the way in which we could minister to one another and to our community. And did you notice, it is the Holy Spirit who distributes all of the gifts to all of God’s people.
Secondly, Paul tells us “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.” The Greek word for “service” is the same word from which we get our English words “servant” or “deacon.” All of the gifts given are to be used to serve others. It is interesting that Paul writes that the various “kinds of service” all come from the “same Lord.” That Greek word we were just talking about is used by Jesus when He told His disciples that it’s not emulating the big shot, but the servant that should be their goal. Then Jesus said,
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NIV)
Jesus’ ministry was an act of service. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. We are called to follow in His steps, to use our gifts in service to God and to one another. Let’s take just a minute and look at some other places in the New Testament where this Greek word, “diakoniai,” appears. In the “gifts list” found in Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes,
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV)
So Jesus has provided His Church with a group of people who are gifted by God to “equip his people for works of service.” And what is the purpose of these “works of service?” That’s a great question and I’m so glad the Lord hasn’t left that question up to us to determine the purpose. These people are to use their gifts to prepare other followers of Jesus for works of service, “so that the body of Christ may be built up…” When we use our gifts as an act of service the entire church body is edified, encouraged, built up, and God is honored. Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 9:12,
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Corinthians 9:12 NIV)
One of the problems they had in the church in Corinth and one of the problems that is still present with us today is “gift arrogance” and “gift envy.” Some in Corinth who had the more spectacular gifts became arrogant. They saw themselves as better than the other believers who had what they considered more mundane, less impressive gifts. We’ve not evolved beyond gift arrogance in our day. Something else that I’ve seen happen again and again in the church is gift envy. “I wish I had his gift or her gift.” “They are so much better at doing ‘that’ than I am so I don’t think I’ll volunteer to help.” God has gifted you not to compare your gift to anyone else, but He has gifted you so that you might use your gift as an offering to Him. The more we are aware that gift arrogance and gift envy are real things, very real threats to each of us, then the more likely we will keep our attention on the Giver and not the gifts. Afterall, you didn’t choose the gift you have and I didn’t choose the gift He has given me.
Last of all, let’s turn to the last phrase, which is found in verse 6, where Paul writes,
6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:6 NIV)
The New International translation of the Greek New Testament translates the Greek word, “energema” as “working.” If you have a different translation then your Bible might read, “activities, operations, or effects.” John MacArthur writes,
The One who provides the spiritual gifts also provides the energy and power, as well as the faith (Romans 12:3b), to make them effective. Just as spiritual gifts are given supernaturally, so they are energized supernaturally. Christians, no matter how well trained and experienced or how unselfishly motivated, cannot exercise their gifts in their own power…Both the bestowing and the empowering are the Lord’s exclusive domain (MacArthur, John. MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians. pg. 292).
God is the one who makes us effective as we go about using the gifts given to us by the Spirit. This is so important for us to understand because we often confuse effectiveness with success. Do you know what I’m talking about? If I know the Lord has called me to use the gift He has given me, but I don’t experience success then I can easily conclude that I’ve not been effective. Effectiveness is not a synonym for success. Let me give you an example.
Simon Peter was chosen by God to preach the sermon at Pentecost where tens of thousands of Jews had gathered from near and far for the annual observance. All devout Jews were commanded to travel to Jerusalem three times each year for the observance of three feasts: Passover, the Feast of Weeks, what we call Pentecost, and Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. After Jesus’ resurrection, while the Jews were gathered in Jerusalem, Peter stood up and preached the most powerful sermon and 3,000 people believed his message and became followers of Jesus (Acts 2:41). By the time we get to Acts 4:4 the number of the followers of Jesus had grown to 5,000. What an amazing start to Peter’s ministry! Do you know Peter never saw numbers like that respond to his invitation again? Had he lost his effectiveness? Not at all. Peter continued to serve the Lord, to use the gifts he had been given, and he used them faithfully until he was executed for being a follower of Jesus. Please don’t confuse our society’s definition of success with effectiveness or you will most surely become discouraged and convince yourself that you don’t have any gifts worth using.
One last thing before we have to finish our time together in God’s Word. We now know the source of the gifts we’ve been given. We are the stewards of the gifts we’ve been given by God. We also know the purpose of the gifts He has given to us. We are to use them to glorify God and to build up His people, the Church. We also know who empowers us to work effectively with gifts we’ve been given. God is like the electricity that causes the light to illuminate a dark room. The light bulb can’t do that on its own–it needs to be empowered. Last of all, just who possesses these gifts that we are studying? Should we look to those who are highly educated, have great resumes, and charisma oozing from every pore? Oh, if they are followers of Jesus then they most certainly have been given gifts to be used, but don’t confine your search to only those who you think are gifted. God has gifted all of His people, every single one, even those you would think are least likely, with gifts.
How do you receive a gift from God to be used in service to His people? Well, if you have never become a follower of Jesus, then that is the first and only step. When you make that bold declaration that you desire to surrender your life to Jesus, to follow Him as Lord and Savior, then He gifts you in order that you might serve Him. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
October 17, 2021
1 Corinthians 12:4-6