Summary: A study of 1 Corthians 12:1-11, introducing spiritual gifts and the Holy Spirit’s goal in giving them.

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1. Nobody Rides the Pine

I’ve always loved the special joy in a pick up football game as the quarterback. The reason: you can take advantage of incredibly diverse abilities in football. There’s always a player the other team quickly forgets about. It could be the token girl or, it could be someone’s little brother. These people are perfect for trick plays:

- give the ball to the little guy and have him run behind student body right. Or…

- have your studs go deep and little Billy is all alone for the easy 10 yard pick up.

In these situations, I’ve watched a Billy or a Susie run back to the huddle after the big gain or the score, with a special look on their face. This is what I realize in those moments: They are beaming on the inside because they know that who they are was important for the success of the team.

In other words, they realize that if they were somehow different, bigger, stronger, faster, a different gender, the play wouldn’t have worked. THE PLAY NEEDED THEM AS THEY WERE, NOT AS THEY WEREN’T. It’s this dawning sense of value: I’m useful as me, not as someone else. Who I am is important. I don’t have to be anyone else to be needed.

As Christians, and MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S BODY, we’re each needed as we are. There is something about our unique SHAPE, that is required for success in the local church. When Christians not only realize this, but then make their unique contribution, the same thing happens, they beam with an internal glow that says, “wow, God used me.” Lives are changed, eternities are changed society changes and God gets the glory, pinch me it doesn’t get any better than this…

Friends, this incredible picture happens when we realize what it means to play on God’s Team. And that’s what Paul spends the last half of his first letter to the Corinthians talking about (series). Let’s read:


1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

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.

The first thing I want to draw your attention to is that the thing Paul doesn’t want them to be ignorant of is not merely spiritual gifts – those special divine enablements that all Christ followers get – it’s something much broader. The word “gift” is added in the English to make it congruent with the following verses that get more specific but it’s not in the Greek. A very literal translation of verse one would be:

Brothers I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual things, or spirituality.

In other words, as the New Living Translations puts it: “I want you to know how to discern what is truly from God.” Before you can be a player on God’s Team, men and women, you must have an accurate understanding of godly spirituality. Now let me give you some context:

Here’s the situation: Corinth was the San Francisco of the first century world. It was the red light district in Amsterdam, it was Greenwich Village in New York, it was South Central L.A. You get the picture? To live like a Corinthian was an nickname for anyone who lived in total moral laxity. It was a place where people have just given way to anything that feels good, sexually, spiritually, relationally – self is the total focus.

So guess what? When Paul planted a church there, there were some problems. Snobbishness, division, sexual permissiveness, were all problems in that church which spawned this letter - but there was one specific problem which is the reason for Chapter 12:

The Corinthian believers were saved out of the ancient pagan mystery cults. So they were very “spiritual” people BEFORE they became Christians. The theology they embraced was basic paganism or mysticism, which says that spirits inhabit the rocks and trees and the gods be they evil or good can come upon you and move you.

In fact, in these cults spiritual experiences were common and very strong. The Corinthians before they became Christians, would be used to being “moved” by some supernatural force into a state of trance or into ecstasy or to do something strange or weird. So spiritual experiences were expected as the proof that something truly supernatural was happening.

Now that’s why Paul reminds them of their former life. The Corinthians knew all too well there was SOMETHING behind idol worship because there was a powerful spirituality surrounding them. Paul doesn’t deny this, because he says it had the power to influence or lead astray - but when he calls them dumb he means simple they were pointless, they didn’t lead to anything.

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