Sep 9, 2012 - 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 ... This is not the ...

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Responding to God in Faithful Living Series: 1 Corinthians Text: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Message 29 (September 9, 2012)


there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. INTRODUCTION 1. We continue our study concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, remembering that spiritual gifts are not the primary focus of our study. Rather, we want to make an effort to understand what Paul is saying to the Corinthians as he answers their questions concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the church at Corinth – and to see and understand the work of the Holy Spirit in Lakeview Church. 2. This is not the first time that I have plowed through this section of Scripture, but I am finding it to be more challenging this time around, evaluating some of the assumptions I have made in the past. Throughout our lives we are taught various things – and that is generally good – but that does often cloud our thinking when we try to read and study a passage. We tend to read in our biases and presuppositions, which in effect prejudges what the text says before we let the text speak for itself. Some of that was challenged this week and is likely to be furthered challenged as we make our way through this section. 3. We will probably get a bit tangled in the various theories and definitions of the gifts. But if we can remember that this is primarily about the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing the church together for the glory of God, that will keep us from much of the frustration that might otherwise result as we try to untangle these things. 4. Last week I tried to make the case that the gifts that are given to us, when properly used, are designed to strengthen the faith of other believers and encourage the effectiveness of ministry toward one another. Paul will begin the instruction regarding 1

the diversity of the gifts in today’s text and then next week we will look at the flip side, the unity of the body of Christ in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit in giving gifts that Paul discusses that in verses 12-26. So, let’s talk about the diversity in spiritual gifts. I. THE TRINITY DISTRIBUTES DIVERSITY (4-6) A. The Lord loves diversity. Look around. There is such diversity – such variety in creation! And look at people – how different we are from one another! It is amazing. As someone has noted, when God sends a snowstorm, no two flakes are alike. We manufacture ice cubes. The Lord loves diversity! B. The Lord distributes - In verse 4, the word “varieties” (or “different kinds” – NIV) could also be translated (preferably) “distributions.” That implies varieties, but it does more. It reminds us that it is God Himself who apportions these graces. The gifts are diverse because He distributed them that way. John Piper writes, Paul clearly wants us to get the message: we are different in our gifts and ministries and effectiveness, yes, no doubt about it; but those differences are not owing to many Spirits, or to bad faith, or to poor obedience. They are owing to "one and the same Spirit." C. Notice the parallel construction here: “of gifts, but the same Spirit” (Holy Spirit); “of service but the same Lord” (Jesus Christ); “of working but the same God” (God the Father). So it appears that the Triune God is involved in the distribution of the gifts for the good of the church and for the glory of God! D. What do we make of this? Paul does not seem to define spiritual gifts too narrowly here. Gifts, service, working (activities) are rather broad terms that would include many responses. (For example, service was a general term for all kinds of involvement that included such things as waiting on tables, working in civil service, receiving collections for the poor, etc.). Working hints at the energy of God operating. (D. A. Carson drew the conclusion that by the use of these terms, Paul “flattens” the distinction between “charismatic” and “non-charismatic” gifts, in the modern sense of those terms). God gave the gifts and they were to be used to build the body of Christ. We can say that the Trinity is responsible for the distribution of such diversity. B. DIVERSITY IS GOOD FOR THE BODY (7-10) A. Verse 7 is transitional, looking back to verses 4-6, but seeing all of these as “the manifestation of the Spirit.” "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit.” One commentator writes, "That's the connection between you and God. God is manifested 2

in your life. God, the Spirit, becomes visible through you. You are to show the Spirit… I would say that is what the whole Bible and all of life is about—showing God, making God as seen as an invisible God…seen (Piper, November 29, 1992). B. Clearly taught here, each believer is given some manifestation of the Spirit, and “there is no warrant for saying that one gift manifests (the Spirit’s) presence more than another.” C. Also clearly taught is that the gifts are not for personal aggrandizement, but for the common good. (It is possible that gifts could be used for the benefit of an individual, ultimately resulting in good for the body of Christ, but certainly not intended for mere self-satisfaction). So, generally speaking, the use of the gifts is for the common good. D. Note the list that Paul gives here (wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, ability to distinguish spirits, various kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. It is interesting to compare that list with what he writes in Romans 12 (prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy). Obviously the lists are not exhaustive otherwise they would surely have been the same. It is also interesting to observe the order of the gifts, which vary considerably. James Boyer in his commentary on 1 Corinthians wrote, Some observations may be made from the comparison. Sometimes these gifts are enablements, sometimes they are persons, sometimes they are offices. Sometimes they are official, sometimes private. Sometimes they are very specific, sometimes very general. Sometimes they are clearly defined, sometimes they are hard to determine. Some are temporary, others are permanent. Apostles and prophets and the confirmatory signs belonged to the first century. Evangelists, pastor-teachers, exhorting, giving, ruling and so on, belong to every age. No two lists are alike; in fact, only one gift finds a place in all of the lists. This would suggest that there is no well-defined list of these grace-gifts of the Spirit. Nor is there any indication in Scripture that the ones named in these five lists are intended to express all of the Spirit’s gifts. Instead, we are led to conclude that the Spirit’s gifts differ at different times and at different places according to needs (p. 114). Again remember that these gifts were given by the Spirit to strengthen faith and increase the effectiveness of individual believers in the body of Christ. So the Spirit gives certain gifts to each believer to accomplish those tasks. 3

E. Dr. Carson offered a few words in his book about wisdom, knowledge, healings, miraculous powers, faith, and the ability to distinguish between spirits. He held comment on prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues for his next chapter. I think it wise for us to do the same – that is to hold comment on those gifts until we get into the discussion in chapter 14. But let’s look at the ones he mentions. 1. Wisdom and knowledge – The emphasis is on the message that issues from wisdom and knowledge. There may not have been much distinction between them. I would guess that these gifts were given in connection with understanding and articulation of the Word of God, but I must confess that I am guessing. 2. Faith – This is not saving faith, but faith to perform some extraordinary work. This gift allows the believer to trust God to bring about something for which he cannot claim some divine promise recorded in Scripture. Some commentators see George Muller as an example of one who had the gift of faith in regard to caring for and feeding orphans in England without any guaranteed supply of food or funds or any advertising of the need. Muller trusted God and prayed and God wonderfully answered. John MacArthur calls the gift of faith the gift of prayer. 3. Gifts of healings – Note that this is referred to as gifts of healings (plural). If God gives you gifts of healing, it does not mean that you can heal at will or that everyone you pray for will be healed. Isn't it interesting that the literal phrase in verse 9 is not "gift of healing" but "gifts of healings"—two plurals? I think this probably means that different kinds of gifts for different kinds of healings are given to various people according to God's sovereign will. This alone would suggest that one person will not have a monopoly on every sort of healing that is necessary. And it suggests that there will be many times when a person with some gifts to heal will not be able to heal. This was Paul's experience. God gave him the grace to heal the crippled man in Lystra (Acts 14:10) and many people in Ephesus (Acts 19:12) and the demonized girl in Philippi (Acts 16:18) and Eutychus when he was taken up dead after falling out of a window (Acts 20:9–10). But Paul could not heal himself from the thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8–9) or from the ailment that he had when he preached in Galatia (Galatians 4:13–14). And evidently he could not heal Timothy from his stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23) or Epaphroditus from his life threatening sickness (Philippians 2:26–27) or Trophimus whom he "left ill at Miletus" 4

(2 Timothy 4:20). Sometimes Paul was given gifts of healings and sometimes he wasn't. God is sovereign in this affair. Nothing is mechanical or automatic. (Piper, March 4, 1990). Here is where I am wondering out loud with you concerning spiritual gifts. Could it be that the other gifts are similar to healing. For example, I think I have the spiritual gift of teaching. I teach often. There is the general command to believers to teach one another, but that does not mean that all have the spiritual gift or teaching. Perhaps even as we teach, God may grant a certain effectiveness in teaching that is the activation of His grace in the lives of the hearers – thus truly the exercise of the gift of teaching – something I certainly desire, but He ultimately controls. So sometimes I might teach, but it is not really using the gift of the Spirit – it is doing what I am doing in my own power and ability. But when using the gift of the Spirit, it would prove more effective. It is just a thought. 4. Miraculous powers – Again notice the plural. (It is appropriate to say that healings are a type of miraculous power, but not all miraculous powers are healings). Miraculous powers (along with healings and tongues and interpretation of tongues) I was taught from junior high that these were temporary sign gifts that were basically active in the first century but ceased after the church was established and the New Testament Scriptures were completed – which took place at the close of the first century. Now that may be true, but it is not easy to prove from the Scripture and I think we need to be careful to presume that these gifts are no longer operative. We will consider this more carefully when we get to chapter 14. 5. Ability to distinguish between spirits – Demonic forces are powerful and quite impressive (i.e. magic arts in Egypt, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 - 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Because of counterfeit Christians and counterfeit miracles, there is a need to be able to distinguish between these and the work of the Holy Spirit. John wrote in his first epistle, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (4:1). Many 5

believers are gullible but some must be able to see through the facade and sound the warning to others concerning that which is true and that which is false. And God has provided some with the gift of discernment of spirits. Again, remember that the goal of the gifts is to strengthen faith and increase the effectiveness of believers in order to build up the body of Christ. So the Triune God distributes a variety of gifts to every individual believer to be used to meet a variety of needs in the maturation process of the body of Christ. God knows our needs and He has made a way for those to be met through the exercise of these gifts toward one another. III. DIVERSITY IN THE GIFTS IS AT THE DISCRETION OF THE SPIRIT (11) A. The Holy Spirit empowers the gifts 1. In the final analysis it is not the gift but the Spirit behind the gift that accomplishes the work of transformation. The Holy Spirit does that work. He is the one who empowers. 2. Again, this is my thinking, but let me suggest a possibility here. I proclaim God’s Word every Sunday from this pulpit. Sometimes significant growth happens in the lives of various people. I think that is an example of the Spirit empowering – of the Spirit working. He is the one who works in the person whom He has gifted and He works in the person to whom the gift is shared. He empowers the use of the gift and He empowers the effect of the gift. And the results are the glory of God. B. The Holy Spirit apportions the gifts 1. No one is gift-less. The Holy Spirit works with individual believers apportioning the gifts as He wills. He wills to give each a gift – and He does. He gives gifts as He determines. 2. I used to assume that at conversion each believer received a gift – and that may well be true. He may also provide additional gifts as needed throughout our lifetimes. Again, He is the one who determines what gifts are given and I presume He also determines when these gifts are received and how these gifts are used. 3. We should not read any favoritism or special blessing in possessing a particular gift. He determined what to give to whom and then holds the recipients responsible to use what was given for His glory and for the good of His church. Conclusion 6

1. We are all different. That is good. We are all gifted by the Holy Spirit. That’s good. We are responsible to use our gifts in obedience to Him. We then need to trust Him to use us to strengthen others’ faith and increase their effectiveness in building the body of Christ. And in the end, He is glorified because His church is conforming to the image of Christ. And that is the objective! 2. I don’t have, for example, the gift of encouragement. I am more “Johnny Raincloud” than I am “Smiling Sunshine.” I think I have been given other means to minister to the body, through teaching for example, but I need to learn some lessons from those who have the gift of encouragement. I may never do that very well, but by observing them and receiving from them I may be able to do good and not harm with reference to the reputation of the Lord Jesus and His church. 3. I was getting a haircut a couple of weeks ago. I go various places, so I doubt that any of the hair stylists know who I am or remember me from an earlier visit. I go to have my hair cut. I do not go to have a detailed conversation about my life, my weekend plans, my favorite hobby or my current physical condition. Just cut my hair! 4. This past time the stylist says, “Is there something wrong with you?” Now that’s a loaded question for which I considered a snappy comeback, but exercising surprising control, I answered, “No. I’m fine.” “No really”, she says, “I am quite good at analyzing people. There is something bothering you. What is it?” “Nothing. I’m fine” (or at least I was when I came in – now I am having second thoughts). Anyway, as I am leaving she says, “I hope you get over whatever is bothering you and that you try to have a good day.” I was thinking I would like to have the gift of rebuking – but then I thought, “Is it really that bad? Do I come across that negative – that sour, that joyless? I need to learn something about encouragement. I gathered by her comments that she had no clue about Christianity, but I did nothing to elevate the Lord Jesus in the conversation – and certainly offered no concern or compassion toward her. So in the end I pretty much blew any opportunity to honor Christ in that exchange. I could have used a lesson from an encourager! So, what is the point? 5. Use what you have from the Spirit to bring God glory. Learn from others who have gifts you do not possess and watch what they do and try doing the same. It is very likely that you will see something else as well. You will begin to see the Holy Spirit transforming your life into the image of Christ! In other words, show the Spirit! 7