Lesson Passage: 1 Corinthians 12-14
Biblical Truth: God wants us to be clued in on how to use our spiritual gift
Life Goal: To understand spiritual gifts, look to love to guide our gifts, and to use our gifts in a way that aligns with Scripture.
My sister, Julie who lives in Rochester, NY, attends a vibrant, evangelical church. Several years back she was having a conversation with an acquaintance concerning herspiritual gift. As they talked this young lady shared that she felt her spiritual gift was the gift of discernment and healing. My sister, a good questionasker, asked what this looked like? Her friend then stated that she had been given the spiritual gift to first discern and then second to heal those around her who had been diagnosed positive with HIV. Fortunately, my sister withheld the next question she wanted to ask, “Well, why aren’t you out healing people?” Reflecting on this conversation, Julie and I concluded that the question “what is your spiritual gift?” is a good question but a better question is, “am I using my spiritual gift in the proper way?” While Julie’sfriend was reflecting Jesus’heart for the lost and least of these, her understanding and application of how her spiritual gift was being applied was confused at best.
Fortunately these questions were also present in the 1st century church and the Bible is not silent concerning the spiritual gifts. There are four passages in the New Testament that discuss the spiritual gifts. They are Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4. The following studies will investigate each passage individually while our Sunday morning service and Small Groups will offer a more comprehensive look at the spiritual gifts.
When my son Judah turned two we bought him a “big” gift for his birthday. His first car a 2009 special edition, Cozy Coup - the very fashionable little red and yellow plastic cars that you see fading on the back porch of homes with kids. It may have been because I had such trouble putting the car together, but I decided to be ornery and mess a little with my first born when we gave him his gift. Instead of giving him the assembled car, I called him into the room and presented him with the Cozy Coup box (replete with pictures). Judah’s first response upon seeing the pictures on the box was exultation but after tipping open the box and seeing that it was empty Judah’s exultation turned to confusion.
For those who are not sure as to what their spiritual gift is, you might be able to relate to Judah. So you’ve been given a spiritual gift, but you don’t know for sure what it is? Kind of like seeing the pictures of a Cozy Coup box, getting excited, and then being confused that the Cozy Coup wasn’t in the box. For others who are more confident as to what their spiritual gift is, we are prone to take a look at our gift and then either set it in a corner and not play with it or use our gift in a way that it was never designed to function. Either way we run the risk of missing out on what God has intended for us and our spiritual gift – how can we as believers be certain that we are maximizing our spiritual gift for the glory of our King?
Would you believe that this is a question the Corinthians had? Chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians are rooted in the Corinthians use of tongues. It seems that the Corinthians were imbalanced. In chapter 12, Paul introduces the spiritual gifts. In chapter 13, Paul encourages the Corinthians to place love above the gifts. In chapter 14, Paul gives ground rules for tongues and interpretation and sets a precedent for how the spiritual gifts should be approached. While we are very familiar with chapter 13 (the love chapter), we often write off chapters 12 and 14 as someone else’s mail; yet it is in these chapters that we are given clear insight as to how we should approach our spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are a special gift of the Spirit given to every believer by Christ and are used to build up the church in unity and the believer toward Christ likeness. Spiritual gifts while distinct from the fruit of the Spirit may or may not overlap with natural talents and abilities.
As we think about the spiritual gifts, we must keep in mind that what makes them spiritual is that they come from the Holy Spirit. What makes them a gift is that the Holy Spirit freely gives them to us so we can use them in serving the body of Christ. Spiritual gifts are not meant to be stored or publicized. They are meant to be used [engaged!] for the service of the body!” (What the Bible Says about Spiritual Gifts, Rose Publishing, 2)
How have you seen God use either your spiritual gift or a given talent to benefit the body?
It’s good to be clued in about spiritual gifts (12:1-3)
An Apostles Warning (vv. 1-2)
Corinth located in ancient Greece was a prominent epicenter of the ancient world. The ancients were very spiritual and superstitious. Greek writers discussed to great lengths ecstatic utterances, superstitious rights, power of healing, the spiritual world – visions, prophecies, etc . . . in 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, Paul clarifies true spirituality.
Translators have differed with their translation of “spiritual” in verse 1. The best translation is probably “spiritual things.” Note when an English text puts a word in italics (“gifts”) this designates that the word has been supplied by the translator for clarity and is not in the original text.
“Now concerning what comes from the Spirit:
brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.
You know that when you were pagans, you used
to be led off to the idols that could not speak.
Therefore I am informing you that no one
speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is
cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,”
except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)
Just because a Christian has a spiritual gift, doesn’t guarantee that it will be used properly. Paul, in verse 1, is concerned that we are not “unaware.” We are to be clued in when it comes to the Spiritual gifts.
1) The ancients were spiritual but were pagans (v. 2).
2) The Corinthians were recipients of the spiritual gifts but prideful and abused their gifts (see entire book of 1 Corinthians).
3) At Trinity Bible Church - we have lots of activity, (good!); but are we being spiritual?
Who do you know that demonstrates a mature faith or true spirituality? What are the signs of their spirituality?
Jesus = True Spirituality (v. 3)
In verse 3, Paul focuses our attention on the second person of the Trinity, Jesus! The litmus test for true spirituality is making much of Jesus. It is not necessarily the manner of our ministry, but the content that is important. “The proof is in the pudding!” We are to make much of Jesus!
Benefits the Body
In verses 4-6 we see “variety” and “same” mentioned three times. The DNA of the body of Christ is unity in the midst of diversity.
“Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person.” (1 Cor 12: 4-6)
The Gifts: Unpacked (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
1) Spiritual gifts are diverse.
2) Every Believer has been given a spiritual gift.
3) Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the body.
4) Spiritual gifts are distinguished from “ministries” and results.
5) Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit – a mark of the Holy Spirit is unity.
The New Testament writers used repetition much like we would use words ending in “est” (great, greater, great”est”). When we see the use of repetition in our Bibles we should give weight to the emphasis.
1) Gifts ~ where we get the term charismatic (“charismata”)
2) Ministries ~ where we get the term deacons (“diakoniai)
3) Effects ~ where we get the term energy (“energemata”)
All are marked by “variety” (or diversity) and each is fueled by the same Spirit, Lord, and God.
Note the Trinitarian formula: Spirit, Lord, and God the perfect example of unity in the midst of diversity.
Who do you know that demonstrates a mature faith or true spirituality? What are the “symptoms” of their spirituality?
Within the person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is often treated as the silent partner. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and is the third member of the Trinity who is active in our lives, drawing us, sealing us, and conforming us to the image of Christ. Yet, we should not be surprised that the Spirit is not found in the spot light. John 14:26-27 specifically states that the Holy Spirit magnifies the person of Christ! The Father sent the Son. It is the Spirit’s goal to magnify the Son. The Son glorifies the Father (John 17).
To one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of languages, to another, interpretation of languages. But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
Paul now turns to the example of the human body and its many parts to show the Corinthians that the members by themselves are useless apart from the whole (vv. 12-26). The unifying force of these members is Christ. Having established the priority of the body, Paul now turns back to give attention once again to the individual members and the Corinthians abuse of speaking in tongues.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other languages? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12: 27-30)
The Gifts: 1 Corinthians gift list #1
1) Much ink has been spilled on the manifestation and meaning of the first gift lists found in 1 Corinthians, yet it seems that Paul’s emphasis leans heavy on the nature of the gifts as a whole (diverse and unifying) versus their practical outworking (v. 11).
2) This gift list is representative not exhaustive in nature.
3) There is an interesting interplay in the Greek: in v. 8 the term for “another” is “allos” ~ “another of the same kind. In vv. 9 & 10 the term for
4) “another” is “heteros” ~
“another of a different kind.”
The Gifts: 1 Corinthians gift list #2
1) The focus of this list appears to be a hierarchy or a divine order of ministries (“first, second, third, then . . .”)
2) In view seems to be the fact that God gives gifted believers to the church, but these gifted individuals are held in tension by the weaker members of the body (vv. 22-24) that are given priority and the preeminence of Christ’s glory not their own (v. 27).
3) Structurally Paul deemphasizes tongues by placing them last, he will unpack this
in chapter 14.
Apostles – established the church (Rom 15:20)
Criteria for apostleship:
1. Had seen Christ (Matt. 10:2) – Paul “the least of the apostles” saw Christ on the road to Damascus
2. Messenger (Acts 14:14, Rom 16:7) often accompanied by signs (2 Corinthians 12:12)
Prophets – associated with revelation, foundational to the advancement of the apostolic church in the same vein of the apostles (Eph 2:20)
Role of the prophet
1. Old Testament (Rom 1:2) – God’s specific message for a specific people in a specific time (usually the nation Israel).
2. New Testament (Acts 11:27, Acts 13:1)
3. Post apostolic age (now) - prophecy is not knew truth, but revealed truth applied – examples: Francis Shaffer; Larry Burkette – spoke prophetically into todays culture in light of scripture
Evangelist – wins converts
1. Example: Philip (Acts 21:8), Timothy (2 Tim 4:5), Billy Graham
2. All called to share their faith (Rom. 1:16-17, Matt. 28:19-20)
3. Often are gifted in teaching others how to share their faith
Pastor – shepherd/leader – often a subset of Teacher (1 Pe. 5:2, Acts 20:28)
Teachers – application of doctrine
1. Qualification of an elder (Greek ~ “bishop”) (1 Tim 3:2)
2. Subjected to a “stricter judgment” (James 3:1)
Better Love than giftedness (12:31 & 13:1-13)
Paul directs the Corinthians past the gifts to “a still more excellent way,” love. We are very familiar with chapter 13 as we hear it in weddings, funerals, and even see it pasted on the décor of our homes, but we rarely associate it with love within the body of Christ.
“But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way. If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
(1 Corinthians 13: 1-3)
Love Looks like
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
Theological: Deep Thoughts
There are three types of love mentioned in the Bible:
1) agape ~ sacrificial love
2) aros ~ intimate or erotic love
3) phileo ~ brotherly love
The term love mentioned in 1 Corinthians is agape love. It is a love that would die for another; it was this love that kept Christ on the cross; it is the love that is to be demonstrated by His followers. It’s a love that says, “it’s not about me, it’s all about you!” This flies in the face of the Corinthians attitude of “it’s all about me!” Paul clearly states in v.1 that ministry service and sacrifice apart from love = “nothing!”
“Love never ends, But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13: 8-13)
What could loving others in the body of Christ look like?
What is one thing you could do this week to better love (“engage”) in the body of Christ?
People are hard to love. We are messy, hurtful, and deeply broken. Yet, while we were sinners, Christ came and died for us (Rom 5:8). We should stop and ponder the much quoted John 3:16 which declares the ultimate expression of love – His death. In a way it is easy to love a perfect God who sent His Son to die for us, yet it is hard to love imperfect followers of Christ. There is no greater indicator of Christ in us than our love for others. The mark of a follower of Christ is love! Jesus states, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). One way we express our love is by engaging our spiritual gift to minister to others!
Gifts: Best when used with order (ch. 14)
In chapter 14, Paul gives specific guidelines as to how the gifts should be handled. In direct contrast to the Corinthians position of favoring tongues, Paul advocates the gift of prophecy as prophecy builds up the body of Christ (see dig deeper: prophecy vs. tongues).
“Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. For the person who speaks in another language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks mysteries in the Spirit. But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church. I wish all of you spoke in other languages, but even more that you prophesied. The person who prophesies is greater than the person who speaks in languages, unless he interprets so that the church may be built up.” (1 Corinthians 14: 1-4)
Paul closes out chapter 14 addressing specific issues that it appears the Corinthians were struggling with. Specifically women of the church being disruptive (vv. 34-36), defending His apostleship which the Corinthians quite likely had at worst called into question and at least challenged (vv. 37-38), and laying down the general principal of order (vv. 39-40). Paul’s point, gifts are to be ordered and diverse. Order in the midst of diversity honors the Lord and brings unity to the Body.
What is one thing that you have learned that you can apply to your life this next week?
The Gifts: Unpacked (1 Corinthians 14)
1) Gifts are to be used to edify the body (vv. 1-5).
2) Tongues in the context of corporate worship should be limited, “in turn,” and interpreted (vv.6-27).
3) Spiritual gifts are to be used in an order outlined by scripture (33-40).
After a good chuckle at Judah’s bewilderment of an empty box, I rushed into the back bedroom to roll out his new gift. I was stoked! I had bought the gift, built the gift, and I would now have the satisfaction of watching him engage his gift.
Judah’s eyes danced with delight as I rolled out the cozy coup into our small apartment. I was so proud as a young father. Judah was delighted. He sat in the car and made rumbling noises, turned the key in the plastic ignition, and discovered the cup holders built into the back window. He immediately jumped up and began to collect his various treasures and cram them into the cup holders. As I watched, I realized that Judah wasn’t as interested in “driving” his car as he was in “enjoying” its amenities. At first this concerned me. As I thought more about his apparent lack of desire to drive I reminded myself that he was still young and as he got older he would better understand how to use his gift to the full potential.
In the same way our heavenly Father delights in our being clued in to our spiritual gift. They are gifts from a loving heavenly Father. Our spiritual gifts have been designed with a purpose and for most we have lots of growing up to do before we maximize the potential of our spiritual gifts – next week we will explore: How do I engage (discover) my spiritual gift?