Now, About Spiritual Gifts
1. Everybody likes gifts.
a. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like to receive a gift.
(1) Oh, yes, there are some who profess a sort of altruism and object to receiving gifts for the greater good of others - I myself do that from time to time - and while the intention may be sincere - the truth is even we still enjoy receiving a gift.
2. You can probably think back through time and remember some really special gifts, some memorable gifts that stand out as being the best ever.
a. What made those gifts so memorable - so desirable?
b. Because you thought it would change your life.
c. It would make your life more fun, or easier, or solve some problem, or fulfill some need, whatever the specifics and whether you actually thought it through or not, the bottom line is - what makes a gift good, is its potential to change our life for the better.
B. Talk of Gifts in the Church
1. When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's I don’t ever remember hearing about gifts in the church.
a. Apart, that is, from “bringing forth your gifts of money.” You know sermons or presentations or meetings about “giving” - financial contributions.
b. And while there might be the occasional mention of someone having this or that gift, as an example, “She sure has a gift for music,” there never was any discussion about spiritual gifts.
2. In fact, even through Seminary, there was no class devoted to understanding spiritual gifts and there was almost no discussion of the subject.
a. There was a time in the church where this was an important topic in the church, but during the pragmatism of the 19th and 1st 2/3rds of the 20th century the idea of spiritual gifts was all but forgotten.
3. I think this may be, in part, due to our heritage of stoicism — the idea that we should not exhibit any passion, either pleasure or pain, in our lives and especially in our public gatherings such as worship.
a. This is why the main-line church has been, rather sarcastically called, “the frozen chosen.”
b. Gifts always bring with them emotions, don’t they?
c. Yet, we were created to be emotional beings. God gave us the ability to emote. Even our Lord exhibited the full range of emotions, Anger, Joy, Sorrow, frustration, peace, fear, bravery, etc.
d. So, we should be very careful not to cut off the flow of the natural emotions we have, which are the very reflection of our God.
C. Well, perhaps you have already figured out where I am going with this.
1. Paul tells us that God gives many gifts to the members of the church.
a. In fact when you give your life to Christ, God gives you at least one very special gift.
2. So we move on to chapter 12 (1 Cor 12:1-11) where Paul leads us into a discussion of spiritual gifts.
3. As a side note, I have skipped over the last third of chapter 11. In it Paul gives specific instructions for the Lord’s Supper. I am going to save that section for a more appropriate time, then we’ll come back to it.
II. THE GIVING OF GIFTS
A. Paul Returns to Another of the Corinthian’s Questions.
1. You will remember that this letter is Paul’s response to questions had received from the church in Corinth.
a. He has been systematically answering those questions through this letter and other correspondence.
2. Apparently, there was a problem in the Corinthian church regarding spiritual gifts.
a. There was a misunderstanding as to what they were, how they were to be used and why, and who they were for.
b. Of particular problem was that they were emphasizing and exaggerating the gift of speaking in tongues over and above all other gifts.
(1) Some believed that if you had this gift, it made you special somehow.
c. What was also troubling about this was that some of the that pagan religions also had instances of speaking in tongues and that experience was now influencing the church in negative ways.
B. Consequently, Paul begins the discussion by giving the basic criterion for distinguishing the work of the Holy Spirit from that of other spirits. (Vv. 1-3)
1. That criteria is simply, “who is glorified through the use of those gifts - is it Jesus Christ or is it the individual incorporating them.”
a. It is a criteria that is valid to this day. And in an age where the charismatic movement is flourishing it is vitally important that this criteria be incorporated to distinguish authenticity from charlatanism - for there is much of that going around.
b. But let me tell you, this criteria isn’t just useful for distinguishing authentic charismatic gifts - it is also useful for evaluating the authenticity of all gifts and ministries.
c. So, perhaps the first thing we take from the text today is this simple, but very effective tool for evaluating ministry - “who, or what, is being glorified?”
2. I think if you’ll start using that tool, you will find that much fails the test.
C. But, God does give a variety of gifts, to individuals for the sake of the church. (V.4-7)
1. If a person is given a gift, and that gift enables a ministry or service, then it is from God and for a very specific purpose.
a. This is where we get off track. We tend to believe that if we are given a gift it is for us to use however we want to use it - or not, for that matter.
b. But that is a grave mistake - whatever gift we have is to be used, “for the common good.”
c. I really like the way the NLT has capture the essence of what Paul is teaching.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NLT) 4 Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6 There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.
III. TYPES OF GIFTS
A. Paul then list a variety of the gifts God gives.
1. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts, nor is it meant to prioritize any of the gifts.
2. Rather Paul is merely giving examples.
a. Wisdom, insight, knowledge, faith, healing, prophesy, discernment, glossolalia.
b. All of these are commonly given to the church so that the church can grow and do the work of Christ and that God will be glorified.
3. Now we could spend a lot of time going over each of these gifts, how they work, what their importance is and why they are needed in the church.
a. The gift of healing, for instance, is obvious. But it is not just physical healing that is being referred to here. Today, there is as much, if not more, need for emotional and spiritual healing as there is for physical healing.
4. But, we’ll leave that discussion for another time.
B. For now, I want us to concentrate on verse 11.
1 Corinthians 12:11 (The Message) All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
A. Here is the point.
1. God is the giver of gifts, he loves to give gifts to his children. Jesus makes this crystal clear.
Matthew 7:11 (NIV) If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
2. Let me say it again - when you give your heart to Christ, God always begins to pour gifts into your life.
a. I’m not just talking about blessings.
b. No, scripture is clear, God gives everyone of his children at least one, (sometimes more than one), very specific spiritual gift that is to be used to build the church.
B. This principle has some startling implications doesn’t it?
1. Everybody has a gift - no exceptions, no excuses.
1 Corinthians 7:7 (NIV) 7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
2. Because of their gifts, everybody has a roll to play in the church that is essential.
a. More on this next week.
3. What is my gift?
a. Discovering your gifts.
(1) Usually quite simple to do.
(2) There are specific tools to do this.
4. Am I using my gift to “build up the body?”
1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
a. Stewardship of my gift.
5. Who, or what, am I honoring with my gift?
6. Have I lost my gift?