The Great Spiritual Gift
Intro: My testimony
How could the Spirit of God be living in me while I so blatantly live contrary to His unlimited power and influence? If the Holy Spirit indwells all believers, then his influence over them must be visible and apparent? In my life it was lacking. It was absent because my confession was not genuine and my body was vacant of the Spirit’s presence.
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
We now begin looking at a few chapters of some of the most controversial and debated topics in Pauline theology in the church. Nowhere else in the Bible, do we see this topic addressed and so chapters 12-14 are pertinent to the discussion and belief in spiritual gifts. Remember that chapters 11-14 deal broadly with order in the church, not disorder. Paul has already dealt with the disorder associated with the abuse of roles in the home and church between men and women. He also dealt with the disorder surrounding the abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Now in chapter 11-14, it will focus on disorder regarding spiritual gifts.
In verse 1, Paul states “now concerning spiritual gifts.” Now the word gifts is not found here in the Greek and so translators add that word because of context. Paul says the same word in 1 for 14:1
1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Most literally, the word in both verses simply means spiritual things and these spiritual things occur from the Holy Spirit acting in and through spiritual people. One author defines this subject of spiritual gifts as simply:
“Concerning the forms of action which proceed from the Holy Spirit and make manifest his agency” H Meyer
We must understand that the subject matter of spiritual gifts has to first be clarified, as occurring in true believers, who are in dwelt with the Holy Spirit's activity within them. Even though there are unbelievers in the church in Corinth, the overall message from Paul has to do with the spirits work in individuals who belong to a corporate body of believers. The Holy Spirit then gives gifts to the these individuals in order to serve and bless the church.
Before Paul gets into the issue of spiritual gifts and the problems and practice of them in the church, he begins with solid ground for the church as it is unified in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. He wants believers in Christ to see that the Holy Spirit unifies them to Christ and to each other, and there should be no reason for division or conflict between them.
Therefore his main purpose, in verses one through three, before, addressing the problems in the church of Corinth, is to point them to the great gift that the Holy Spirit gives to all believers – our confession of faith.
1. A Natural Confession of Faith
1. A Natural Confession of Faith
If we are truly saved by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the son, then we understand and see clearly the life that we lived before Christ saved us. There is a glaring demarcation point that reminds us when we were changed. For some people that point of transformation seems more gradual even though in reality salvation comes in a moment of time. We are not always aware of that moment, but looking back, we know that it has occurred because we have been transformed from who we were before Christ to who we now are in him.
Paul’s point in these three verses remind us before the Holy Spirit transforms us, two new babes in Christ, we are bound captives to the beliefs and practices of Satan himself. Paul does not want there to be any confusion about a person that exists without the Holy Spirit. He states in verse 2,
2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.
This verse summarizes, the pre-Christian life. He uses the term Ethnos in the Greek which translates here pagans or Gentiles. This is the same word that Jesus used when he said, go and make disciples of all nations, because the people of those nations from different ethnicities represent those who are outside of the kingdom of heaven, who do not belong to Christ, and who need the gospel preached to them. Here Paul uses the same term simply to refer to lost people or pagans as my translation reveals.
Paul ask the Corinthian believers to remember their paganism and their lostness. He says you know that when you were pagans meaning you remember the lifestyle of sin and rebellion against God. There is no blurry lines when it comes to obedience to Christ and a rejection of him and his word. Before Christ saves and changes us, our life without him includes bondage, hostility and deadness
When a person is lead away, it implies that they are under some form of bondage. Shackled men are led away by prison guards to their execution. The bible tells us that Jesus was led away to the cross for his execution. Therefore Paul is stating that a person’s life before Christ is a life of captivity.
Titus 3:3 (NASB95)
3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
Captivity to what?
Paul explains further that in a life before Christ, a person is led astray to idols. He clarifies that these idols are mute or meaningless. They do not speak because in the Greek context, they were just statues. But Paul has already stated that idolatry finds its foundation in demon practices. In other words, idolatry and false religion is rooted in the work of Satan and the demons that serve him.
19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
Paul's point here is that a life before Christ is not an innocent life. Instead, it is a life of captivity to demonic philosophies, and a kingdom that is diametrically opposed to the kingdom of heaven. This means that the world that does not believe in Christ do not rest and some neutrality against God but instead, they are enemies against God. All of our life is spent serving our own desires of our flesh-popularity, acceptance, feeling good about ourselves in some
All of us before Christ were enemies of God and we're living in and standing upon error that opposed God's sovereignty and his Holiness in our lives.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
This passage in Romans teaches us that Christ comes to save sinners, and those sinners are not neutral observers of the war against God, but according to verse 10, they are enemies of God, active in the war that opposes him.
Billy Joel chorus of his song My Life says this,
“I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm alright. I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home. I don't care what you say anymore this is my life. Go ahead with your own life leave me alone”
Although these were written as words to a friend, in reality, these are words we live out against God. This is the nature of sin in all of us and it stands us up against God as the Lord and ruler of our lives.
This leads us to consider secondly, that our life before Christ is also hostility towards God as well as bondage to sin. But lastly, not only does our life before Christ reflect bondage, and hostility but finally spiritual deadness. The Bible teaches that we are not led by the spirit of God because before Christ, we all spiritual corpses. Again, not spiritually neutral, wavering between right and wrong. Instead, Paul helps us understand that without a transformed heart in Christ, we are spiritually flatlined.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
See the contrast with me. Believers once lived according to the flesh, indulging in our desires (that is the bondage), children of wrath (that is the state of hostility towards God that deserves his final wrath against sin). In v1 and 5, we are told that before Christ, we are dead and must be made alive. This is the most profound truth of the human condition in sin. Sin came into this world and brought a spiritual separation and deadness between God and man that only a new life in Christ can remedy.
Paul is making this distinction in Ephesians and Romans, and every other of his letters because the foirmula of the day was to try and get to God by good works and merit. But spiritally dead people have no spiritual merit.
BUT GOD WHO IS RICH IN MERCY.
This is the hinge verse that shows us the spiritual change needed. God comes to the rescue.
2. A Supernatural Confession of Faith
2. A Supernatural Confession of Faith
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now to understand the context, Paul is leading into the idea that only by the Holy Spirit can a person truly say Jesus is Lord and only without the Holy Spirit, will a person live or speak in defiance towards Christ. There is a clear distinction. A believer’s life in Christ means that he is transformed from speaking and doing evil towards Christ into being satisfied and celebrating Jesus’ lordship over them. Only by the Spirit of God living within a person can a person submit to Jesus as their king or lord.
To say Jesus is Lord with all truthfulness is to submit to his rule and reign over your life. He has displayed his power and perfection in his life on this earth and his death and resurrection from the grave. He has proven He is the Son of God, promised Messiah, and King over all.
Therefore, we must submit to him but we cannot do so on our own. This is Paul’s point. To declare Jesus is Lord is by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. To trust in Jesus for the salvation of our sins is because the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to believe in Him. Without the spirit, we curse Christ but with the Spirit we submit to him.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
In this text in Ephesians, you may have heard in the past a improper explanation of it. Many have said that this verse is saying that “grace is the gift of God.” But grace is not the meaning of the word “it.” Instead, the more logical understanding is the last word used -faith. Faith in Christ is teh gift of God to us. This contrasts boasting in our own works so that God receives all glory for our salvation. This salvation was not only accomplished fully in Christ but also His Spirit gives us the faith we need, in our deadness, to be awakened to believe.
This was Paul’s testimony to Timothy
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
Notice that Paul compares his former life before Christ to a new life which he was given both love from God and faith in Jesus, to counteract his unbelief. Of course we know this story as Paul was going his merry way as a persecutor of the church and the Lord chose him, opened his eyes to see Christ as truly the Lord and Savior.
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
One last verse, is Paul telling the Philippians that faith in Christ is not only something given or granted to us but suffering for his name is also given to believers as well. Neither we long for but but are gifts of grace that bring glory to Christ.
This takes us back then to Paul’s statements to the Corinthians that a new life in Christ confesses Jesus as Lord by the power of the Spirit of God.
I have a friend who belong to a wayward church with wayward theology. They believe that to be confirmed in your salvation, to have assurance that Jesus has saved you, you have to have some radical emotional experience where you feel the weight of sin and it drives you to sobbing and heart palpitations and then will you know the Spirit of God bringing you to salvation. They have made this unbiblical salvation experience, not rooted in God’s word, but driven by their imagination. Therefore, my friend who is sorry for his sin, who sees Jesus as the only hope of salvation, prays for this experience so that he might be saved.
Let me ask you, who gives him the desire to be saved by Jesus? Who shows him that the only hope for forgiveness and grace and freedom from God’s wrath is found in the Son of God? He doesn’t have such a desire and understanding on his own. The Spirit of God gives us that understanding and therefore, we can know we are saved when we genuinely desire that Jesus saves us from sin and we submit to Him as Lord over all.
No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit and the spirit does not gift that ability to submit the lordship of Jesus except to those whom he has made an abode within them as those possessing faith in Christ.
Friend, this is your assurance of salvation when you understand that your confession that Jesus is Lord is a gift from God that is only gifted to those who believe in Him. You are not to assume some out of the ordinary mystical experience will fall upon you. It already has if Jesus is truly your King.
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Friends and family of Tensley, her confession of faith has been evaluated by the elders of this church as well as her family. He hear her say he trusts in Jesus for the salvation of her sins and we have looked in her life to see evidences of that. Because we see those evidences, she comes today to be baptized publically for all the world to see.
That baptism represents her old life before Christ and her new transformed life in Him. This is symbolized by her dying to sin (going under the water) and being raised to new life (coming out of the water).
Similarly, we must understand these verses in light of the lost world around us. When we so desperately want our friends and family to know Jesus, we share the gospel faithfully with them, but there is no convincing someone to trust Christ. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit and so when we pray for their salvation, we must ask that the Lord give them faith to believe.