Growing in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE IGNORANT
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Intro: It was almost universally accepted in the 1st century that some people, who were closely in touch with the divine, had special spiritual endowments. At times they behaved in unpredictable ways – throwing themselves around, falling down, and speaking in ecstatic ways. It came to be called “enthusiasm” (meaning “god inside them”). And this unusual frenzy became the mark of the presence of the divine spirit within them. From the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) on, some within the Christian church manifested unusual spiritual gifts. They did things like prophesy and speak in tongues they did not understand. To many early believers this kind of phenomenon became the obvious mark of someone who was “spiritual.” By comparison, the consistent practice of quiet devotion and regular worship attendance seemed to become boring and colorless. Hardly anyone celebrated those things. But the fiery display of any kind of dynamic manifestations became much sought after. This very pattern emerged in the Corinthian church.
The Apostle Paul takes 3 chapters in his 1st letter to them to address this error (chs. 12-14). Paul was clear that the Holy Spirit does not come to only a few outstanding people in the church. He comes to all believers. “…Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, He is not His” (Rom 8:9) and “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14).
Thinking about this past year, 2020, I am far more encouraged than I am disappointed. My family spent more time together than our busy lives usually allow. We ate more meals at home around the dinner table. We acknowledged God more often. Our youngest was drawn to salvation and obeyed the Gospel through faith, repentance, and baptism. Our church reached milestones for yet another year. We enjoyed a taste of spiritual awakening as we celebrated nearly 30 baptisms since August! Even in a tough year financially for many, generosity carried the day, and we exceeded our budget yet again! There are many reasons to celebrate. We continue to receive the favor of God in our church. We continue to experience His grace in our personal lives.
But when I look a little deeper past any façade of religious fervor and regular practices of the congregation, I can still see a gap between what the church is and what we ought to be, especially in our meetings. Sometimes there is a clear disparity between what Christians say and what we do, between what we know and how we live, between what we promise and how much we fulfill.
Preachers teach the Bible and people daydream. Young mothers share their faith with their friends on play dates, but it falls on deaf ears. Lives get broken but rarely get fixed. Bodies are suffering, yet few are healed. Marriages are splintering, and people just give up. Temptations come and sin flourishes into addictions. The poor among us go unnoticed and often unassisted. I don’t mean to sound over-pessimistic or defeated. By several measures we are doing well as a church, but we can certainly have a greater impact for glory and kingdom of God. What is missing? SPIRITUAL POWER. The real problems, the painful struggles and our diminishing impact in the community will not be solved without a fresh infusion of the power of God’s Spirit. This is the kind of power that human flesh cannot produce, and education cannot conceive, and programs cannot strategize. The church desperately needs the power of our Lord and the energy and activity of the Holy Spirit, all of which is currently available to us and already in us!
For the next several weeks we will study and seek to put into practice what Paul taught about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor 12-14.
Here is a list of the sermons I have planned:
Jan 3 1 Cor 12:1-11 I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE IGNORANT
Jan 10 1 Cor 12:12-27 WE WERE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY
Jan 17 1 Cor 12:28-31 EARNESTLY DESIRE THE BEST GIFTS
Jan 24 1 Cor 13:1-13 THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
Jan 31 1 Cor 14:1-5 PURSUE LOVE AND DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Feb 7 1 Cor 14:6-19 LET IT BE FOR THE EDIFICATION OF THE CHURCH
Feb 14 1 Cor 14:20-25 THE SECRETS OF HIS HEART ARE REVEALED
Feb 21 1 Cor 14:26-33 FOR GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION
Feb 28 1 Cor 14:34-40 LET ALL THINGS BE DONE DECENTLY AND IN ORDER
1 Cor 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
Literally, “Now concerning SPIRITUAL THINGS…”
There is some irony here because it is apparent that the Corinthians were well-acquainted with manifestations of the Spirit in their worship. They considered themselves authorities on such matters already, but Paul suggests that they are ignorant!
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF SPIRITUAL IGNORANCE?
Ignorance always brings error. No one lucks into truth. No one stumbles into righteousness. No one blindly finds God.
We must have the Holy Spirit illuminate God’s truth to us, or we will remain in the dark. We will continue in ignorance.
The trouble with the Corinthians is that they were treating the manifestations of the Spirit as signs of their own spiritual sophistication and power.
Therefore, when Paul switches the terms from spiritual things (v.1) to spiritual gifts (v.4), it was a clear rebuke to them.
What they possessed were gifts that the Lord had given them, not skills they had learned and sharpened on their own.
Those who are spiritually ignorant will default to human ingenuity. We will lean on our own understanding. We will make it up as we go. And we will drift away from God as we plunge headlong into sin.
1 Cor 12:2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
1 Cor 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GENTILE PAGANISM?
1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
1 Cor 6:10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Cor 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Cor 12:2 “You know how, in the days when you were still pagan, you were swept off to those dumb heathen gods, however you happened to be led.” (New English Bible)
“carried away to these dumb idols” – to be “carried away” is to be “led away” like a condemned prisoner. Unbelievers are seen not as men freely doing what they want with their lives, but as men under constraint – captives who do not know any better.
There is something pathetic about worshiping anything other than Jesus. False gods cannot answer those who call upon them.
Psalm 115:5 They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see;
Psalm 115:6 They have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell;
Psalm 115:7 They have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat.
Psalm 115:8 Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.
Man-centered; self-centered; individualistic; personally imagined
What is the point? We have all brought pagan practices and worldly thinking into our Christian faith.
“Therefore I make known to you” = BECOMING INFORMED (leaving ignorance)
Also, those outside of God’s family think low thoughts of Jesus. In ancient Corinth, these same kinds of thoughts had crept into the church.
HOW DO WE UNWITTINGLY CURSE JESUS?
Exalt ourselves/our gifts over Christ in the church; using all things spiritual (including our gifting) to only build up ourselves; neglecting His bride while pursuing worldly priorities; despising the message of the cross
The genuinely spiritual person is known by his/her utterances. “Jesus is Lord” was the first saving confession of the church.
The Lordship of Jesus is not a human discovery. It is spiritually appraised. It is a discovery that can only be made when the Holy Spirit is at work in someone’s heart.
Only where the lordship of Jesus is authentically confessed can we know that the Holy Spirit is at work, because a truly charismatic church is Christ-centered, not Spirit-centered!
1 Cor 12:4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
1 Cor 12:5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
1 Cor 12:6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
Paul had experienced God as Trinity, so it is no surprise to see each person of the Godhead listed in Paul’s letters.
Gifts – Ministries – Activities
Diversities – Differences – Diversities
same Spirit – same Lord – same God
“gifts” = “spiritual gifts” (charismata) – the special operation of the Holy Spirit within believers
The Corinthians had evidently regarded possessing such gifts as a matter of pride. They had set one believer against another based on what gifts they employed. They had created division in the church.
Paul insists that this attitude and practice were wrong. It was destroying their fellowship.
Yes, there were different gifts distributed among the members of the church, but it was the same Spirit who was doing all the giving.
And God’s Spirit does not fight against Himself. All the gifts are dispersed for the same glorious purpose – the upbuilding of God’s church.
“ministries” = “service” – regular, behind-the-scenes undertakings that are crucial to any bible-based church.
Everyday acts of service are now set on par with the recognized, supernatural phenomena of the Spirit. Humble, everyday service in the church must never be despised.
“activities” = “workings” – God’s power in action
1 Cor 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
“to each one” is important – every Christian has some gift from God.
All the members of the community receive spiritual gifts, not just the few leaders or spiritually super-endowed prodigies.
WHAT IS THE MAIN REASON GOD HAS GIFTED BELIEVERS?
for the profit of all…
The gifts are not given for competition or rivalry or jealousy but for the common good.
Spiritual gifts are given to be used to edify the whole body of believers. They are not tools for your devotional life. Any kind of private division contradicts the only purpose of the gifts.
1 Cor 12:8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
1 Cor 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
1 Cor 12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues
It is the first two and the last two that Paul expected would get their attention.
Wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnōsis) were precisely the characteristics the leading Corinthians prided themselves in; while tongues/interpretation were targeted by Paul since those were being either abused/neglected in their meetings.
The remaining five appear to be a random list of supernatural workings of the spirit. Presumably, “faith” here refers not to ordinary Christian belief in God, but to the sort of special faith that can “move mountains” (13:2).
illus: faith – George Müller of Bristol, England is often cited as a man with the gift of faith. Müller founded a large orphanage, where he fed, housed and otherwise cared for over 2,000 orphans with no guaranteed income from any source. He trusted God daily for the milk, food, and funds to care for the children. Mrs. Charles Cowan relayed the following story about Müller: I went to America some years ago with the captain of a steamship, who was a very devoted Christian. When off the coast of Newfoundland, he said to me, “The last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, something happened which revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. We had George Müller of Bristol on board. I had been on the bridge twenty-four hours and never left it. George Müller came to me and said, ‘Captain, I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon.’ ‘It is impossible,’ I said. ‘Very well, if you ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go into the chart-room and pray.’ I looked at that man of God, and thought to myself, what lunatic asylum can that man have come from? I never heard of such as thing as this. ‘Mr. Müller,’ I said, ‘do you know how dense this fog is?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘My eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.’ He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder, and told me not to pray. ‘First, you do not believe He will answer; and second I believe He has, and there is no need whatsoever for you to pray about it.’ I looked at him, and he said, ‘Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get an audience with the King. Get up, Captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.’ I got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon, George Müller was in Quebec for his engagement.”
1 Cor 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
HOW ARE THE GIFTS DISTRIBUTED?
“as He wills”
God picks the teams for this kickball game and assigns the positions. We could never get this right because of our biases.
The Holy Spirit does not hand out His gifts indiscriminately but meets the needs of each congregation.
The overall picture of the church that comes from these verses is, to put it mildly, remarkable: “each one” (v.7) is empowered by the Spirit with one of these extraordinary gifts. The church, as a whole, is envisioned as a charismatic community (grace-gift community) in which the power of the Holy Spirit is tangibly and profoundly present, operating through the complementary gifts of its various members. Healings, miracles, and revelatory speech are portrayed as everyday occurrences within this Spirit-endowed community. Paul seems to take all this for granted and expects his readers to do the same! If we hold up this image of a Christian church next to our own, what questions arise? What differences do we see? What is missing?