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1 Corinthians 12
Every Christian has
spiritual gifts.But few really
put them to use.It's time to
thaw them out...to defrost what God has given us and get to work!But first we need a clear understanding of this controversial area of
ill.--A man from Illinois decided to travel to Wisconsin to go duck hunting. He shot and
dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer’s field on the other side of the
fence. As the flatlander climbed over the fence, a dairy farmer drove up on
his tractor and asked what was going on. The hunter said, “I shot a duck and
I’m retrieving it.” The old farmer replied, “This is my property and you’re
not coming over here!”
Well, this made the hunter mad so he said, “If
you don’t let me come over the fence I’ll call my
lawyer and I’ll sue you.” The farmer smiled and said, “Apparently you don’t
know how we do things up here. We settle disagreements with the Wisconsin three-kick rule. I’ll kick you three times, and
then you kick me three times, and so on, back and forth, until someone gives
The Illini liked this challenge because he thought he could
easily take the old farmer. The Wisconsin Badger climbed down from the
tractor and planted the steel toe of his heavy work boot into the man’s
shin. The man fell to his knees. His second kick went directly to his
stomach, knocking the wind out of him. The farmer than landed his third kick
to the side of the hunter’s head. The disoriented man slowly got up and
said, “Okay, you old codger, now it’s my turn!” To which the farmer
responded, “Nah, I give up. You can have the duck.”
The whole topic
of spiritual gifts has been a battleground for many years, going back to the
church at Corinth.
This tension can result from an overemphasis on certain gifts, or it can
come because we like to pick fights with those who are wired differently
than we are.
Before we jump into our text in 1 Corinthians 12, let’s
set the context. The Corinthian church was beset with many problems and
difficulties. The church was filled with division, arguments, lawsuits, and
immorality. On top of that, there was confusion about marriage, food
sacrificed to idols, worship, the Lord’s Supper, the Resurrection, giving,
and spiritual gifts. In particular, some people thought they were more
important than others because they had some pretty spectacular gifts. When
Paul wrote this letter to the church he specifically addressed these issues.
Chapter 12 gives us six directives to help us defrost our spiritual
1 Be Informed About
This is a topic that is too important for believers to be uninformed about
and it’s certainly too critical to fight about. John MacArthur writes, “No
local congregation will be what it should be…until it understands spiritual
gifts” (“The Church,” Page 136).
Definition of gifts. Let’s begin
by defining what a spiritual gift is. One of the best definitions I’ve come
across is from Bruce Bugbee, founder and president of Network Ministries:
“Spiritual gifts are divine abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit to
every believer according to God’s design and grace for the common good of
the body of Christ” (“What You Do Best in the Body of Christ,” Page 52).
Difference between spiritual gifts and natural abilities. It’s important to
recognize that a spiritual gift is given by the Holy Spirit at conversion,
whereas a natural talent is something we’re born with. While we must yield
our talents and abilities to the Lord’s work, we must pay particular
attention to unleashing our spiritual gifts for the good of the body of
Christ. While there are many ways to categorize the gifts of the Spirit,
I like the one suggested by Chuck Swindoll. He sees three gift groupings.
Based on 1 Peter 4:11, there are two primary areas of distinction: speaking
and serving. The third category would include the “sign gifts,” which are
more temporary in nature. 2 Corinthians 12:12 says that these gifts were
given to the apostles and were critical to the church in its embryonic
2 Corinthians 12:12 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were
wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
These gifts were especially
important in the first century, before the canon of Scripture was put
together. 1 Corinthians 13:8 suggests that many of these kinds of gifts will
cease to function:
- Speaking Gifts: Word of
wisdom, prophecy, evangelism, pastor-teacher, and teaching
Gifts: Administration, exhortation, faith, giving, helps, serving, and mercy
-Sign Gifts: Distinguishing of spirits, miracles, healings, tongues,
Gifts. If you were to add up all the distinct spiritual gifts, you’d
come up with about 20. Since each of the lists does not appear to be
exhaustive, there may even be more. These gifts are found in four books of
the New Testament: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4.
Distribution of Gifts. As
we study this topic of spiritual gifts, it’s important to keep in mind that
we’re commanded to do much of the things that are also listed as spiritual
gifts. For instance, while some people have the gift of giving, all of us
are to be givers of our resources to kingdom purposes. Likewise, we aren’t
excused from our responsibility to witness just because we might not have
the gift of evangelism.
Be Influenced by the Holy Spirit In verses 2-3, Paul challenges us
to be influenced exclusively by the Holy Spirit.
When we come to the topic
of spiritual gifts, our focus must be on the Giver, not on the gifts
themselves. Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit is often neglected in many
churches today. Paul reminds us that before we were saved we were led astray
by our emotions and false doctrines. Now that we are believers, the Holy
Spirit empowers and energizes us for ministry.
Just as no one can
confess the Lordship of Christ apart from the Spirit’s leading, so too, it
is impossible to improve your serve without being led by the Spirit.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit blows like
the wind through surrendered lives. We have been sensing a movement of God's
Spirit on our church lately.God
is doing a work here!
John 3:8 8
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is
every one that is born of the Spirit.
Let’s continue to allow Him
to move us into worship and the work of ministry.
3 Incorporate Diversity in your
Paul next challenges us to incorporate diversity
in our understanding of spiritual gifts in verses 4-6:
I want you to notice that
all 3 members of the Trinity is involved with the giving of gifts: the
Spirit, the Lord Jesus, and God the Father. These verses help us see how the
entire Godhead is involved in the giving of gifts.
The key word in
this passage is the word “different.” We all have different kinds of gifts,
there are different ways to serve, and there are different workings. There’s
not just one gift that fits all believers. The word “gifts” comes from the
Greek, “charismata,” which is the root for the word “grace.” It makes us
think of the Charismatic movement, but should it?Many of them put most of the prominence on the sign gifts...and then
call themselves 'Full Gospel!"
Grace gifts are those
divine abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds
of “service.” This word speaks of opportunities for expressing our spiritual
gifts in practical ways. The word “worketh” in v. 6 refers to the results or
accomplishments that come when we use our gifts in meaningful service.
Whether or not we are able to see the results, God does. We get the word
“energy” from this Greek word. When we serve according to our giftedness,
God gives us energy and we in turn energize the church through our service.
Philippians 2:13 reminds us: “For it is God who works in you to will and
to act according to his good purpose.” Because God is at work within us, we
can accomplish His purposes. The Corinthians had elevated the more
spectacular gifts and were giving more attention to the spiritual
superstars. Paul challenges them, and us, to incorporate diversity in our
understanding. We minister differently because we’ve been gifted
differently. The same God is at work in us, but He customizes His work
through us for His ultimate glory and the strength of the church.
Suppose at dinner tonite someone dropped a plate full of dessert on the
floor. This is how people with different gifts would respond...
Gift of prophecy That’s what happens when you’re not careful.”
of service Oh, let me help you clean it up.”
· Gift of teaching The
reason that it fell was because it was too heavy on one side.”
of exhortation Next time, maybe you should let someone else carry it.”
· Gift of giving “Here, you can have my dessert.”
· Gift of mercy
“Don’t feel too bad. It could have happened to anyone.”
· Gift of
administration “Jim, would you get the mop? Sue, please help pick this up.
Mary, could you get him another dessert?”
By the way, some gifts
clash at times - Ruling & Mercy
-Teaching & Exhortation- Prophesy & Everything
We’ve all been gifted
differently and so we act differently and we serve differently. Friends,
this church has every gift that is needed in order to function as a biblical
1 Corinthians 1:7 7 So that ye come behind in no gift;
waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
This verse is written to
the entire church at Corinth.
Even with all its problems, this community of faith did not lack any
spiritual gift. Likewise, GBC has just the right amount of spiritual gifts!
I’d love to lose the
clergy/laity [pastor/people] distinction that is way too common in churches
today. Call me Bro. Jerry.Not
Reverend!We’re all ministers
and priests according to 1 Peter 2:9.
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the
ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Here’s an exciting truth. You have
permission to minister in this church! In fact, you are saved in order to
About 20 years ago, when SaddlebackChurch in Southern California
had grown to approximately 500 people, Rick Warren, the Senior Pastor, said,
“Folks, I’m out of energy and the church is getting so big that I can’t do
much more. As I read the Bible it doesn’t say I’m supposed to do it
anyway…I’ll make you a deal. If you’ll do the ministry God’s gifted you to
do then I’ll do my part which is to make sure you’re well fed.” Warren said they then “shook hands” and made a
pact together. It was after that the church began exploding with growth
(From Rick Warren’s sermon, “Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts”).
we make the same deal? We Pastors will serve faithfully in our area of
giftedness and responsibility if you will serve in yours. Can we shake on
4 Identify Your
We’re to be informed about spiritual gifts, be
influenced by the Holy Spirit, and incorporate diversity in our
understanding. Next, we’re to identify our spiritual gifts. Look at verse 7.The word “manifest” means to make plain. Spiritual gifts are given to
make plain the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
This verse teaches us two
things. First, every born again believer has been given the manifestation of
the Spirit. Notice the phrase, “every man.” Every Christian has been given
at least one spiritual gift.
1 Corinthians 7:7 7 For I would that all men were even
as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this
manner, and another after that.
Second, we’ve been
given at least one spiritual gift for the “common good,” or profit of the
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted
by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in
the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of
itself in love.
Gifts are given so that
they can be given in service to others so that the church will be fortified.
Remember that gifts are received, not achieved. The gifts of grace are given
to you so that as each part does its work, the church can be built up.
v. 11God chooses our place more than the pastor!
If you need some
help in figuring out your spiritual gift, you could check out our
on-line assessment tools. Examine the different gift lists in the New
Testament and then experiment with some different ministries. The Holy
Spirit will lead you because He is the one who gave you your gifts in the
5 - Implement
Your Gift in Service
While it’s important to identify your
gifts, it’s not enough. Gifts are given to be used. Verses 12-30 describe
how the church is like the human body, with each part playing a critical
role in the functioning of the body. You’ve been given gifts and a key role
to play in this church. Until each of us implement our gifts, our church
will not mature in faith. Look at verse 14: The foot needs the hand, and the
ear needs the eye. Likewise, we all need each other. If you’re hoarding your
gifts and not using them, the entire body is handicapped.
Actually, most of the church is the
'hands', but many do their best to try to be the head and the heart.
The church at Corinth
had elevated some of the sign gifts and had relegated the “lesser” gifts to
second-class status. If Paul were to write a letter to us today, he would
say something like this: "Brothers and sisters, say one of you owned a set
of tools. Would you spend all your time counting them, naming them,
organizing them, polishing them, and putting them on display? Would you not
simply use them? So it is with the gifts of the Spirit: they are tools not
to admire, but to use. They are not medals to be won, or trophies to be
displayed, or treasures to be guarded. Use them! It is as you serve that God
by His Spirit will reveal the gifts He has given you."
Peter 4:10 10 As every
man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another,
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Paul’s concern for young
Timothy was that he not only be able to identify his gift, but that he would
1 Timothy 4:14
14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee
by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Timothy 1:6 6 Wherefore
I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in
thee by the putting on of my hands.
Do you need to allow the
Spirit to fan your gift into full flame? Are you burning bright for Him, or
are you just flickering or smoldering?
A well-known conductor was
holding a rehearsal one night with a vast array of musicians and a
hundred-voice choir. While the mighty chorus sang out, the horns blared and
the cymbals clashed. Sitting far back in the orchestra, the piccolo player
thought to herself, “With all these loud instruments, it doesn’t matter what
I do. They don’t need me.” And so she stopped playing. Suddenly the
conductor stopped the music and looked right at the piccolo player and said,
“It doesn’t sound right without you. If you don’t play, the concert’s off.
We need you.”
You’re needed in this church! God has gifted you and
now He wants to use you. Don’t allow yourself to think you don’t matter.
Nobody is a nobody in the body of Christ. No one can do everything, but
everyone can do something!
Intensify Your Love
One of the lessons we can learn from the
church at Corinth is this: having spiritual gifts does
not necessarily make you spiritual. It’s possible for a church to have all
the gifts that are needed, and for every believer to know what their gift
is, and still miss the mark. In the last verse of 1 Corinthians 12, we’re
reminded that there is something far greater than even our divine abilities:
1 Corinthians 12:31 31 But covet earnestly the best
gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
While 1 Corinthians 13
is without doubt the best explanation of love ever written, we do a
disservice to Paul’s intention when we only read it at weddings. This love
chapter is sandwiched between a discussion of spiritual gifts in chapter 12
and chapter 14. Paul recognizes the dangers of defrosting our spiritual
assets when they are divorced from love.
Notice the gifts that are
listed in verses 1-3: After elevating
the supremacy of love over every spiritual gift, Paul then describes how
love should be the marinade that provides the distinctive flavor in our
serving: “Love is patient, love is kind…” Then, beginning in verse 8, Paul
contrasts the cessation of prophecies, tongues and knowledge with the
never-failing aspect of love. Love will never fail or cease to exist.
I believe that ignorance related to spiritual gifts is not our basic
problem. More basic is the problem of not desiring to strengthen other
people’s faith by being patient and kind, by refusing to boast, by not being
easily angered and by keeping no record of wrongs (see 1 Corinthians
13:4-6). Human nature is more prone to tear down, than it is to build up.
We’d rather kick people than labor in love with them and for them. Jonathon
Swift once said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not
enough to make us love one another.”
According to verse 7, a servant
who loves “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always
perseveres.” In other words, as we focus on living out the Great Commandment
by intensifying our love for God and for others, then we will want to look
for ways to defrost our spiritual assets and serve others.[much info. from Brian Bill]
NOTICE! Our sermons are free to download,
copy and paste, edit and use as you see fit...but only our free subscribers get
the newest messages, featured sermons, and some free gifts we shower on them
from time to time!