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Gifts of Grace
I Corinthians 12:1-11
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” I Corinthians 12:4-6
This fall we have been taking some time to look at the Mission Statement of The Seed. Our Mission statement is simple, but it is not easy. Our Mission Statement is filled with action words like: know, grow, go and sow! When we founded The Seed seven years ago, we felt called to “Know God’s Love, Grow in Christ’s Grace, Go in The Power of The Holy Spirit and Sow Seeds of Faith.” Know! Grow! Go! Sow!
Over the past six weeks, we have looked at the powerful “In Christ” statements found in the Bible. We have looked at the fact that we are “found in Christ and have faith in Christ.”: We have looked at the joy of knowing that we are “forgiven in Christ and we are forgiving in Christ.” We also discovered that we will “finish in Christ because we are God’s masterpiece in Christ.” Found In Christ! Faith In Christ! Forgiven In Christ! Forgiving In Christ! Finish in Christ! God’s Masterpiece In Christ! When we come to know who we are in Christ and to whom we belong in Christ, we grow in Christ’s grace.
Last week, Pastor Jeff Carver gave us a wonderful message on the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of The Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the identical twin of the Jesus. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John that He must leave so that He can give us the Holy Spirit to be with us always. The truth of the Bible is that Holy Spirit has come into each heart of every person who believes Jesus is Lord.
Let us turn in our Bibles today to I Corinthians 12. Before we come to God’s living Word, let us come to our Living Lord in prayer. “God of all grace, come and shower us anew with Your grace. Help us to see not only with our hearts, but with our minds Your limitless gifts of grace. Amen”
I Corinthians 12:1-11
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.[i]
In my research this week, I read of an extraordinary manufacturer who gave each of his employees a hanging mirror and a handsome reproduction of the head of Christ for Christmas one year. The Christian businessman presented the gifts personally with these instructions: “Hang the mirror on one side of the room and the picture of Christ directly across the room, so that when you look in the mirror you will see the face of Christ along with yours.” Then this pensive admonition: “It’s going to take both to get you through.”[ii]
To be honest with you it will take the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to get us through. Today, I want to take a few minutes and look at the ministry and mission of the Holy Spirit.
Let us set this passage in context today. When Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, the church was struggling. Some in the church looked down upon others in the church. There were divisions in the church between the rich and poor, the slave and the free, the Jew and the Greek and those who thought they were the gifts from God and those who thought they had no gifts at all. The members of the church were looking at one another and were placing value judgments on one another based on performance, competence, and charisma. Some of the members had more “impressive” talents, skills, and gifts than others, and the Corinthian obsession with power and status was causing them to overvalue some members’ contributions and to undervalue the contributions of others. Paul is writing to teach that each person has been given gifts of grace by the Holy Spirit and all these gifts are given for building up the body.
Well, I could say that things have not changed in 2000 years.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts …” (v. 1). The word pneumatikon here is different than the word for gifts in verse 4 (charismata). Paul wants the church to not be uninformed about God’s gifts. This is Paul’s “so what” and it could be ours. God wants us to be informed about His gifts of grace.
Gifts of Grace
In our reading today, Paul’s discussion of “spiritual gifts” may sound odd, especially to skeptics. What in the world are spiritual gifts? Does God actually bestow, grant, confer or give Christians gifts, talents, and abilities?
“Spiritual gifts” is the word that is used for these gifts of grace. These gifts of grace, or “Spiritual Gifts” are outlined in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, I Peter 4 and Ephesians 4. I believe that many times, we misunderstand “spiritual gifts.” Some believe that these gifts of God are primarily miraculous in nature. Some believe that these gifts are only given to a few people. Some believe that the gifts given by the Holy Spirit stopped long ago with the Apostles. Some believe that these gifts are for a person’s own benefit and glory.
I like how D. A. Carson defines “spiritual gifts.” Carson says that “spiritual gifts can be translated as ‘grace gifts.”[iii]
Spiritual gifts are not something on top of grace or better than grace, but are manifestations of God’s grace to his people. At their core, spiritual gifts are gifts; they are given. One cannot merit or earn a spiritual grace gift. It is something that is given that one does not deserve.
One does not deserve or earn a gift!
This is difficult for individuals to understand because of the achievement-focused cultural context in which we live. Although we seem to understand the language of gift, we do not live in a culture where a pure gift is understood. Think of it this way, many celebrations that include gifts typically reflect the idea of achievement, attainment, accomplishment. “Gifts” are given to people to mark out their achievements. Children receive “gifts” at Christmastime for being nice as opposed to being naughty. Graduating seniors get “gifts” to mark their success in completing a program. Our grandchildren received a gift for making the honor roll.
“Gifts” are given at weddings, promotions, and even at retirements. Come to think of it, acts of kindness that are not attached to achievement are rare and strikingly beautiful.
In our society today, meaning is found in what is achieved, won, and earned, and achievement gives us a sense of accomplishment, and winning assures us that they are special. So often in our society when we earn something, it assures us that we have rights and are entitled to special privileges. Because our lives are filtered through an achievement-centered culture, even encounters with gifts are marred by our performance. “Gifts” are seen as things that can be achieved or earned. When we come to this reading today, we need to see a gift as a gift. Not something we could earn or deserve, but a gift of grace.
I would like to give you a gift today! No strings attached. (Hand out little wooden crosses)
I encourage you to hold on to this little cross today. Think of the gift that God has given to you through His cross of His One and Only Son, Jesus.
What Paul is saying in verse three is that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Our faith is a gift! We didn’t choose this gift! We didn’t earn this gift of faith! We didn’t deserve this gift of faith, it was all given to us as a gift. Our spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit are not worked up to, but are lived into. Our Spiritual Gifts are not things that we can earn, but things that we are and become. Spiritual gifts are grace gifts.
Different Kinds of Gifts!
Paul teaches us in verse four through six that there are different kinds of gifts! Listen again to how Paul explains it to the church in Corinth; “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”
“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.”[iv]
I am kind of a goofy trinitarian person. I honk the horn three times when I lock my car --- one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. I usually knock three times --- one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. I put three scoops of sugar on my cereal --- one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. I convince myself to take three cookies --- one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit.
But honestly, do you see the trinitarian formula in verses four through six?
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all.
The Spirit gives, the Son serves, and God the Father energizes and fills His people with great power to serve the common good. The Greek word that Paul uses for the “work” that God is doing is “ἐνεργέω energeō” In the Greek this word is a verb! It is a present active particle which means that that action never stops. The work of God never stops! God does not retire! God works and works and works! The word “energeo” can be translated with words like; to be at work, to work, to do; accomplish, brought about, effective, effectually worked, performs … work, working, and works. It is God who energizes, works in each one of us through the Holy Spirit.
The Son sends the Spirit; the Father sends the Son; the Spirit gives life and gives gifts. One of my Greek professors would explain it his way. It is like a Holy dance between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father says look at my love for you! Look at my Son. God the Son says to us, look at God the Father’s love for you. When you have seen Me, you Have seen the Father. The Son says to us look at the Holy Spirit whom I will give you to teach you, guide you, correct you, fill you, gift you and use you for the Father’s glory.
This Holy dance is given so that we can use our gifts for the common good.
So What?
We have put on our website a link or icon for a Spiritual Gifts test. I encourage each and every one of us to take a few minutes this week and take the test. We all have been given gifts of grace. Not just a wooden cross, but we have been given gifts to be used for the common good! The truth that Paul is trying to teach to the Corinthians, and to us, is that our community here at church should reflect God’s nature. God is a giving God; therefore, we should be a giving people. We are called to share our time, talents and treasure, because everything we have is a gift from God. Our money is a gift from God. Our talents are a gift from God. Our time on this earth is a gift from God.
Tim Keller, a pastor and Bible teacher, stated it this way, “No one is merely a consumer of services, but everyone is a distributor.” Did you hear that? We are to be a distributor of the gifts that we have been given. I took the test this week. Can you guess what my number one gift is? Teaching. My number one gift that I am to distribute for God is teaching. As a Christian, the challenge and call by Paul is that we all ought to be a distributor of grace gifts and not just a consumer of services
The animated movie Frozen, based on the great Hans Christian Andersen story, has quietly become one of Disney’s best movies of all time. The theme song is about self-discovery, but it needs to be interpreted in light of its context to the rest of the storyline. The song is situated not during the end of the plotline of self-redemption when she is a great heroine, but rather in the moment of her personal fall when she goes out into the mountains to erect a castle as a monument of isolation.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried!
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know!
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!
I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free![v]
The larger story is summed up in that one little phrase by the animated snowman who says, “An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.”
Elsa, the elder sister, who sings the song, thought she was pursuing freedom. “I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do. I’m going to live my life anyway. I’m going to slam the door. I will be free.” Yet she was enslaved, and at the end of the story, which had an ironic and upside-down conclusion, her younger sister Anna, who is the savior figure, is willing to sacrifice her life, an act of true love in order to save her older sister. The coldness of our hearts can only get thawed and softened when there is an act of true sacrificial love rather than the achievement of self-discovery.
It is only through the power of a gift-giving, self-donating Savior that sinners can have their hardened hearts softened and their cold hearts thawed. The amazing power of God’s grace for us is that we get the gift reception Jesus deserved because he got the gift rejection we deserved. [vi]
What are your gifts of grace? I seriously want each of us to take the test, and for you to email it to me: I have a few teachers who have indicated that they will help me organize a flow chart of our gifts. It’s really going to be exciting for me to find out what your gifts are. I also want to help you learn how to DISTRIBUTE your gifts!
Jac’s main gift is prophecy. The Holy Spirit talks to Jac. Jac even dreams about the Holy Spirit bringing her places all over the world. She asked me, “Do you think this happens so that I will be better at passing onto others what the Holy Spirit says?” We had a good talk about how she could better use her gifts. How she could better distribute her gift. Last night we went to Hobby Lobby looking for these crosses. I turned right and Jac said, “They aren’t that way.” Jac went straight and maneuvered in and out of the aisles. She headed for the back of the store. She walked right up to an area that had two types of wooded crosses. No one told her where those crosses were. It was amazing for me to watch her. She was listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and was going to the place where she thought the crosses were. And there they were. Then on our way out, she stopped to take a picture of a book for Ruthie who had asked how much the book was. She then picked up another book, took a picture and texted the picture to a church friend. She said, “This is a book that the Holy Spirit wants you to read.” Jac could have easily walked by that book and done nothing with what she was hearing from the Holy Spirit, but she has listened to me talk to her for hours this week about using and distributing our gifts. Can you see what happened this week in our home? My gift of teaching Jac about what I was studying about the gifts of the Holy Spirit…led Jac to be empowered to use her gift of prophecy. She distributed what the Holy Spirit was telling her about her friend and encouraged her to ask her friend to read a book about fear. Jac knows very little about this person personally but when the Holy Spirit spoke to her, she passed that on. The person responded to her text, “Great. Thanks. I just downloaded it onto my Kindle.” As we go along in this study, we will learn about the gifts. (Say what they are….) and we will learn about how to use and distribute them among the body of Christ—not just the people here but God’s people everywhere. If you ever have any questions, please contact me. The greatest blessing I can ever have is to watch you grow in your faith.
One last thing: it is going to take a trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for each of us to go out into the world and distribute our gifts! It’s going to be a great dance, by the way, when each of us can step out in faith and distribute our gifts to the body of Christ.
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
November 19, 2017
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (1 Co 12:1–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 64). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[iii] D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12–14 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987)
[iv] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (1 Co 12:4–7). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
[v] Idina Menzel, “Let it Go,” Frozen, original motion picture soundtrack, Sunset Sound/Capital Studios, 2013.
[vi] Um, S. T. (2015). 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (pp. 218–219). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
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