Summary: Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12 regarding some foundational truths about spiritual gifts.
Text: 1 Cor 12:1-11, Title: Cursing in the Church, Date/Place: NRBC, 10.23.11, AM
A. Opening illustration:
B. Background to passage: Paul seems to calm down a bit after his passionate commands regarding the love among the family of God and the Lord’s Supper. And he goes back to answering questions regarding issues the Corinthians had raised in a previous communication with him. The entire section of chapters 11-14 deals with public worship, so the problems related to spiritual gifts are specifically with the gifts of tongues and prophecy, which chapter 14 bears out. However, many applications to church life other than in worship related to spiritual gifting can be made. There is much confusion in the pews of the evangelical world regarding these things, and we will go into more detail about the gifts themselves and their use later. Today, Paul just begins to lay the groundwork for the solutions to follow regarding the issues raised of the confusion in the worship service related to spiritual gifts.
C. Main thought: Some foundational truths regarding spiritual gifts
A. Nature of the Problem (v. 1-3)
1. Not having the previous communication regarding the details of the problem, we must guess to it exact manifestation based on the answers Paul gave. So some of these issues are clearer than others, but they are many, and we can well see the confusion. 1) Import of pagan practices into Christian worship. Ecstatic utterances, trances, convulsing, drunkenness, and sexual immorality were all a part of the pagan cults of the day. 2) Another problem is the lack of discernment related to the practices in church. They must have had people in these self-induced trances that were saying that Jesus was cursed! And what’s worse is that they needed someone to clarify that was bad! They needed help with discernment of what was and was not of the Spirit. 3) One of the root problems in Corinth was that people in the church were using these “manifestations of the Spirit” to exalt themselves to a higher status in the church. This is the main problem in view in this and chapter 14. Even though we are going to spend some time talking about the spiritual gifts themselves, Paul’s point is not really that. Kinda like his point with the Lord’s Supper was not the Lord’s Supper, but their behavior and lack of love toward one another. Explain the “no one…
3. Illustration: Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola,
4. Just like last week, when the church was importing Greco-Roman social customs of class divisions, with former/other religious practices, we must consider them with care. Obviously some can be outright rejected at first glance, but some can’t. And the more dangerous ones are the subtle ones that seem to work well (more crowds, money, etc.) but don’t really jive with scripture. What sorts of things have we brought into the church from our culture that may or may not be biblical: Robert’s Rules, democracy, youth ministry, membership, pew-pulpit design, holiday celebrations, fundraisers, buildings, employees, super bowl parties, certain music, clothing, or maybe things that our culture causes us to leave out: real relationships in place electronic communication, etc. Not that any of these things are wrong or sinful, just asking the questions about where they come from is a part of discernment. We need to ask these questions when we write policy, when we begin ministries, structure church, when we think about outreach. And that doesn’t even touch what we import into our personal lives culturally!
5. Spiritual gifts shouldn’t be divorced from spiritual fruit. But they also shouldn’t be divorced from scriptural evaluation. Prophecy was to be judged, preaching and teaching now is to be scrutinized, not in a hypercritical spirit, but for truth. Content is one of the main criteria for any demonstration of spiritual gifts. This is why we must be well-trained. Wise counsel from leaders is also helpful at this point. And you always side with the bible if there is a conflict between it and experience.
6. Spiritual gifts are not for personal self-gratification nor for self-exaltation. You didn’t earn them, they were given. You can’t empower them, someone else does. And if you used them and they truly serve their purpose, it is because God did it. Pride, ego, and status in the church (whether it is related to spiritual gifting, money given, length of time here) always hurts unity. Respect from others is good. Demanding special status or treatment is bad.
B. Nature of the Gifts (v. 4-11)
1. These are foundational to all the truths that we will learn about spiritual gifts and giftings over the next few weeks. 1) First Paul says that there are lots of gifts, and only one Giver. The Trinity is witnessed to here, but the point is not the Trinity, but the fact that God is the one who is giving, empowering, and using these gifts. The point is affirmed in that “by the Spirit” is repeated after these example gifts. Probably the point here is that the gifts of tongues and prophecy are not necessarily elevated above all before the Lord. He is working at the above problem, and will come back and deal more with it in coming weeks. And just another note: He gives sovereignly to whom He wills. 2) Next Paul gives the purposes of sp gifts: exalting Christ, and edifying the church. The former is implied in the first three verses of the chapter. The latter is taught in verse 7, for the profit of all. This is also very explicit in chapter 14.