Summary: A look at the difference between manifestations, ministries and offices’ of a certain gift, and whether we should desire and focus on certain gifts (as we are often encouraged to do)

Gifts of the Spirit 8: Gifts, ministries, offices and “greater gifts” 1 Cor 12:27-31 WBC 3/10/4pm


Paul has spoken about

- not wanting them to be ignorant of ‘spiritual things’, the ‘spiritual dynamic’ and ‘what makes a person spiritual’ (v1)

- He’s spoken about the kind of things that happen when the Lord shows up and manifests Himself. V7 (‘manifestations of the Spirit’).

o How things, spontaneously, start happening

He then moves on to talking about PEOPLE

- the body of Christ. It’s diversity

- the roles & ministries of PEOPLE.

- How people can so regularly have certain manifestations that they are said to have the office of ‘helps’, ‘apostle’, prophet etc

A good understanding of this is important as many of us get confused or intimidated by thinking of ourselves or someone as ‘prophet’ or ‘apostle’

- clam up and don’t exercise the manifestation, thinking ‘I’m certainly not a prophet, so I’d better shut up’

- poo poo someone saying ‘they’re not a healer’. ‘I didn’t get healed’

So- Paul draws up another short-list and teaches us from it

- it contains some manifestations mentioned earlier

- plus some newies: helps, apostle etc

Aim: to give some examples and show the diversity of roles people have

He puts them in some kind of order:

- either order of priority or time. Amounts to much the same.

o It’s very possible he’s correcting the hierarchy the Corinthian church had established ( of elevating the zappy ones)

- So he’s saying: ‘look, churches are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20)

o Apostles go in and start them. Prophets come in and speak the word of God to them. Explain the prophecies of the past and bring God’s alive word, now

- Then teachers come and build them up. Then God does stuff among them in healings and miracles..

- Then people help… administrate….

Illustr: Pastor Elijah in Sheregesh. “I’ll go. We’ll proclaim God’s word on the streets. Some will get healed. Then we’ll start a church and people will get involved in that”

So- the order is not so much an order of importance (as he’s just taken 27 verses to explain they are all equal and necessary!)

- it’s the order and priority to ‘get the job done’

Now: here’s the thing. We can look at this list and it can make us cynical or freeze up. “I know no prophets”. “That’s not me”

- truth is: these are probably not any of us! Well-maybe some administrators or helpers

o but none of us are Apostles or Prophets with a capital A & P

- most of us are still in the v7-11 experience

o we have occasional manifestations of these things and are growing in them

o but not to the point where we hold the ‘office’ of Prophet

Gosh- doesn’t this set your mind at ease: I’m not a prophet, yet- so I’m gonna make mistakes, and have to step out in faith… and nobody’s gonna stone me if I get it wrong!

You see: there are different levels of operating in these things:

- the occasional spontaneous manifestation, given by God

o (IT has YOU)

- regular manifestations of God’s Spirit in a certain way to the point where OTHERS may say of you: “you’re developing a ministry, there”

- high maturity and development to the point where others may say “They’re a prophet, apostle, healer’ etc. “They hold the OFFICE”

And it’s the ‘office’ that’s being spoken of, here

- so, relax. We’re not in this realm!


So-Paul speaks of the office of Apostle:

- those who saw the risen Jesus (Paul: 1 Cor 9:1). Who did miracles with regularity (2 Cor 12:12).

- Who were ‘sent’ by Jesus and the early church to establish churches (Cf Paul & Barnabas? Acts 13)

o That’s what ‘apostle’ means, lit

- Those whose words were of equal authority to OT and wrote NT

o (1 Cor 14:36. Paul’s word were on a par with scripture)

And there are no more Apostles in that sense

- no more scripture to be written

But there are still people to be sent, churches to be planted, people with regional ministries

- ie those who exercise apostolic MINISTRIES

o restoration movement has sought to restore these to the ch. (all ministries of Eph 4)


There aren’t any more prophets like the OT

- so: no laying starkers on your side for ages like Ezekiel did. Or cooking your food over poo. Or marrying a prostitute as an enacted parable

- but also: no stoning if you get it wrong!

o That kind of accuracy was for the prophets and apostles (ipsisima verba, exact words)

o Now: prophecy is released generally to all: sons and daughters. And it’s ‘ipsisima vox, exact sense’

In fact: prophecy is manifested amongst us fairly regularly… and some are beginning to develop a ministry there

- but I’m not sure I’d even describe Paul Cain as having the office


Maybe that’s different! Those who take God’s word and expound it

Workers of miracles and gifts of healings

Said something about this in sermon 6 last sun pm

- fascinatingly it’s the same terms

- so, even though Paul is speaking here about people who hold offices: STILL they hold the ‘gifts of healings’, showing that God is the one who gives the gifts of healings

o He is the healer. Not the one with the manifestation, ministry or office.

o SO: technically there is no ‘office of healer’- that’s God’s!

o But there are those who manifest and channel this gift regularly

There are others:

- Helps (boy, how we need them!)

- Administration (lit kyberneseis- helmsman. A whole lot more than admin)


And, of course, those who speak in tongues

- placed last. Not because it’s insignificant: they’re all needed and significant

- but to rub it in for the Corinthians (and there’s more rubbing in to come!)

So he asks all these rhetorical questions: Are all apostles, prophets, miracle workers… do all speak in tongues?

And what’s the answer? – NO

Now- traditional Pentecostals have answered this by saying : “no to the public gift of tongues… the kind used in services that must be interpreted” (more in 1 Cor 14) “but YES to private gift. In fact all MUST. It’s the evidence of the HS”

But the whole point that Paul is making is that there is no one gifts or manifestation that all have!

- The body may have 2 hands (so some are more common, like tongues). But the body isn’t ALL hands

- And there is no one ‘manifestation’ that proves infilling of HS

o (apart form maybe love, worship and witness?)

So- relax! The whole point here is celebrating diversity not enforcing conformity!

And now let me really put the cat among the pigeons


It seems Paul finishes with a command… an imperative “but eagerly desire the greater gifts” (v31)

But what I’d like you to think about is whether this is a command or a ‘telling off’. Whether, maybe, the charismatic movement has distorted things, here!

Why is he telling them to eagerly desire (covet!) ‘greater gifts’ when he has just spent ages explaining that they are all equally valid in God’s eyes?

- why is he telling them to ‘hunt something’ when he has clearly explained ‘the Spirit distributes these manifestations as He wishes!”? (v11)

The imperative (command) is how the charismatic movement has presented this, here. But note the NIV footnote.

- it could be translated “but you are eagerly desiring (coveting) ‘greater gifts’”

o ie it’s indicative

o it’s a telling off!: You are coveting what YOU think are GREATER gifts”….

…but they are NOT greater… in fact love is greater… really there is no greater… and covet or not: God gives as HE wishes and there is maturity and great blessing in knowing this… accepting this.

Do you see the difference? I’m not alone in asking this question. Many commentators do as well

- and it tallies with my experience (ah! Dangerous thing!) – but think about it for a mo:

- how many people do you know who are disturbed and restless because someone told them to seek certain gifts

o and 20 years on they’re STILL feeling 2nd rate because they have never been used to heal, for example

o and their real gifts have lain unwrapped on the floor!

The charismatic movement is v good at getting us restless for things that lie beyond our influence:

- revival. Certain manifestations etc. (These things lie in the sovereignty of God!)

The whole point of this passage is:

- God HAS given you gifts. He dictates

- Accept them. Grow them. Don’t stay static. AND develop skills on top of that

“But what about Ch 14:1?”, you may say

1CO 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.

Well- firstly it uses the GENERAL term, there. “eagerly desire pnuematika” (get sermon 1)

- “be hot for the things of the Spirit. The spiritual dynamic. To be a spiritual person”

o it’s NOT the word at end of ch12 that they may be being given a dressing-down over (charismata)

- so: it’s desiring ALL the moving of God….

- … especially the gift of prophecy: in our midst

and you may say “that is encouraging me to hanker after prophecy”

- yes: but ALL CAN prophesy… to one degree or another 14:31

I’m presenting this interpretation as a possibility. A good one. Not a certainty

Illustr: elders wed pm. God with gifts wrapped on shelves. All we have to do is ASK. But- they were wrapped. God knew what He was giving, not us!

So- some closing thoughts.

desire the GIFTS. Desire ‘spiritual things’. ASK. REALLY! But:

1) Don’t have a hierarchy (like Cor ch did)

- If you do- when you get these gifts > arrogant (cf St A’s VCF!)

You stoop lower to get these gifts, not higher

F.B. Meyer said, "I used to think, that God’s gifts were on shelves - one above another, and the taller we grow, the easier we can reach them. Now I find that God’s gifts are on shelves - one beneath another and the lower we stoop, the more we get!"

2) ASK- and ACCEPT what God has given you

- find peace in it… and GROW from there (gift> ministry > office)

- be open to anything…. And getting the whole lot- and by all means ask once, twice, 3 times

- but don’t put yourself above God by dictating what gift the giver should give you. He knows better. Best

3) Grow your gifts through love (ch 13) and humble serving of the BODY. (ch 12)

- that’s the way it’s presented, here

- rather than restless, covetous, STRIVING

- (has more to do with status than serving)

Let God have His sovereign way among you, us


Dear Lord and father

There must be more than this


I have heard so many songs

Here I am once again