Summary: Learn about the Context, Motivation, and Operation of the gifts of the Spirit as we study this chapter. Learn the four keys to living life as a part of the body of Christ.
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Spiritual gifts probably causes more controversy among Christians today than almost any other topic. On both sides of the issue we have stereotypes – the wild-eyed charismatic who throws his hands out to heal people and they fall down into the waiting arms of an attendant while others marvel at the power this man seems to possess. Then there is the steely-mouthed conservative who claims God’s Spirit does not move in supernatural ways today. I want to submit to you that both are wrong – both extremes miss what the Holy Spirit is about in the lives of His people.
Chapters 12, 13, & 14 are really one unit. Chapter 12 talks about the context of the Holy Spirit’s work through the believer. Chapter 13 the motivation in using Holy Spirit gifts, and chapter 14 the proper operation of those gifts.
There are four areas of focus in chapter 12:
1. The gifts come from God. Source & Focus of the gifts (vs 1-11) God is the source of all gifts.
2. The gifts are to be used in a corporate body. Makeup of the Body of Christ (vs 12-26) (All are one – & interdependent)
3. All the gifts are useful and equally as important. How the Spirit works through that body (vs 27-30) All have gifts – not all have all gifts
4. Every gift should have its motivation love. The real purpose of the Spirit gifting (31) The power of love – not the love of power
1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
Apparently the Corinthians were ignorant about spiritual gifts. Their services were chaotic, with people fighting each other over expressions of prophecy and tongues – and the same sort of power struggle that came out in other areas existed in the area of gifts – some people considered themselves more important by nature of their gift – and thus they felt their place in the body must be more important.
It’s important that we not be ignorant of spiritual gifts as well. Why? Because it is the key to doing God’s work. Without God’s gifts we are powerless.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
The power to be a witness for Jesus comes from the Holy Spirit. So what are spiritual gifts? I would define them as “anything that God gives you are uses in you to do His will.” That’s a pretty broad definition – but I think it makes sense when you read this chapter – coupled with chapters 13 and 14.
But first Paul must clear up a serious misconception.
2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
First let’s get one thing straight – no true believer is going to utter a prophecy that goes against God’s Word or against the person of Jesus Christ. We don’t know, but it almost seems as if that must have happened.
And conversely, only those that are true believers can acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.
We should feel okay that as long as we acknowledge Jesus as Lord – we aren’t being led by anything but the Spirit. That’s not to say that everything you say will be as if God said it – you can make mistakes. But Paul says “don’t feel insecure – the Spirit is leading you so go ahead and step out.”
So in this context, Paul begins the argument:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Because it is the Holy Spirit who decides who gets what gift and how they are manifested – it is not up to the individual and doesn’t mean you are any more special than any other because you have a certain spiritual gift.
This listing in verses 4-6 has always intrigued me. What is interesting about it is the three different words Paul uses: gifts, service, and working.
Gifts is charisma which means “a free gift”, service is diakonia – we get the word deacon or servant, and working is ener’gema or “effect.” We get our word energy from this root word.