Summary: The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn Spiritual Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn
March 19, 2017
We are in the midst of our series, The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn. The elders goal for this series is for us to gain a better understanding of the work of the Spirit in our lives and in the church. We started with the work of the Spirit in our individual lives and then moved to the work of the Spirit in love and unity to prepare us to look at the work of the Spirit in our body through the use of spiritual gifts which we begin today. We are not going to go through every gift but focus on what is called the charismatic gifts.
One of the problems in the church at Corinth can be summed up as a conflict over the overemphasis of the use of the gift of tongues as a badge of ‘being spiritual.’ He has told them already that they are spiritually immature even though they think they are mature (3:1-5). Let’s start by looking at verses one through three where he describes the nature of spiritual people. Now I want to inform you about spiritual matters. Before you became a follower of Christ, a disciple, did not have the Spirit dwelling in you, you were led astray by false gods. Therefore, I want you to understand that on one hand, no one speaking by the Spirit ever says “Jesus is accursed” and on the other hand, no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Spirit (1-3). His point is that people who have the Spirit are centered on Christ because the role of the Spirit is to point to and glorify Christ (Jn 16:13-14). Spiritual people are not recognized primarily by giftedness but by their faith in Christ as Lord, making much of Christ. Faith in Christ recognizes the Lordship of Christ in a culture of many gods. In Corinth, there were many idol or gods for every area of life. Coming to faith in Christ was recognizing his Lordship over every one of those areas of life. So, we do not have physical idols as they did but we have idols none the less. Our idols revolve around what we think about, where we go for happiness, to deal with life, or spend our time. So unity is found in our being unite around our one Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the hero here. Then he tells them that unity is also found in the diversity of gifts (4-6). The goal of spiritual gifts is not uniformity but diversity.
First, we see that the Spirit distributes a variety of gifts as he wills (11). Second, there is a variety of ways of serving the Lord Jesus. All forms of serving is serving Christ. And third, there is a variety of ways God empowers us to serve by using our gifts. Notice that each phrase mentions a member of the trinity with the word same: same Spirit, same Lord, and same God. This diversity anchored in unity flows from the very nature of the triune God, the one God made up of three distinct persons. God is a perfectly united tri-unity of three persons, working together with a diversity of roles. Then Paul moves on to give examples of this variety of gifts (7-11).
The Spirit gives to every member a gift(s) as a manifestation of the Spirit in the body. Everyone who is a follower of Christ, a disciple, has one or more spiritual gift that is meant to be used to build up the body (12:7; 1 Cor 14:12; Eph 4:12-16). Notice a gift is given to each, meaning all of us have gifts to be used when we gather throughout the week. That does not mean that every time we gather everyone must use their gifts but that all the gifts make a necessary, valuable, contribution so that the body functions well.
As start I want to make some preliminary observations:
• The lists of gifts are only examples and are not exhaustive.
• Gifts are displays of grace and not a badge of spirituality or superiority.
• Gifts are not listed in any particular order, except tongues which are always last.
• Gifts are sovereignty given but we are also commanded to seek spiritual gifts (14:1).
• Paul saw the value of limiting the use of gifts or gifted individuals (14:28-35).
• The seemingly insignificant gifts are often more significant (12:22-26).
• Paul expected all the gifts listed as part of normal body life.
I want us to look at the gifts of speech in the rest of our time today. The first spiritual gift he mentions is the word of wisdom. Wisdom dominates the first three chapters of this letter because the Corinthian church, in worldly wisdom, rejected Paul and his gospel (2:10-14). So he takes their word and redefines it. In the first three chapters, he contrasts the wisdom of this world with the wisdom of God found in Christ crucified, foolishness to those who do not believe (2:6-16). So a word of wisdom centers around a gospel perspective on life (2:1-2), applying a biblical perspective and truth to life. This wisdom can come through training, study, life experience, reflection, or revealed by the Spirit, though these are not mutually exclusive.