Saturday, August 13, 2016

P1 - An outline 1 Corinthians 12-14, God's Supernatural Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:1 "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware."

In previous posts we have considered how the spiritual gifts function as a means of demonstrating the activity of the true and living God in the world and in the local church. God, by the Person of the Holy Spirit, exercises Agency in the distribution of the gifts. The Person of the Holy Spirit divinely and Sovereignly disperses the gifts as He so chooses (1 Corinthians 12:8). The Person of the Son administrates the ministries in which the gifts will operate (1 Corinthians 12:4). The in conjunction with the Spirit and the Son, the Person of the Father affects the ways in which each gift, working through each Christian, will accomplish the counsel and shared will of God that is expressed through Him and the Son and the Spirit. 

We have also considered as well how every Christian is gifted by God to do His will. Thus far we have attempted to establish Paul's stated intentions for writing 1 Corinthians 12 (as well as 13 & 14) when it comes to this vital subject of the gifts. Today, we want to consider a possible way of outlining these three key chapters of 1 Corinthians. Today's post will focus on outlining part of 1 Corinthians 12. It is hoped that the proposed outline below will aid readers in the study of these chapters.

1. Every Christian is Supernaturally Gifted by God. 1 Corinthians 12:1-7

a. The gifts are given at salvation. 12:1-3

b. The gifts are given to show forth God 12:4-6

c. The gifts are given to serve one another 12:7

So we see that every Christian is supernaturally gifted by God. How then do we define and categorize the gifts of the Spirit. Theologian Wayne Grudem has defined a spiritual gift as a supernatural ability given by God to do a specific ministry or task. Other writers, such as the late Dr. John Walvood, Dr. Charles Ryrie and Dr. Charles Stanley have identified the various lists of spiritual gifts found in the New Testament, along with a method of categorization. Below, I list four categories of spiritual gifts that in one way or another are drawn from observations of several major Christian thinkers. 

2. Defining the Supernatural gifts of God. 1 Corinthians 12:8-12; 28-31

a. Motivational Gifts (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
Note: These include evangelist, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, leading, speaking. In many situations, we will find these motivational gifts combined with the leadership gifts (see below). For example, pastors can preach with a prophetic gifting that exhorts a church or the church at large to be reignited to seek after God in a specific way. These gifts can also partner up with the service gifts (see below). Hence, a pastor can be an effective mercy shower to those in the community that are in need.  

b. Leadership gifts (1 Cor 12:28-30; Ephesians 4:11
Note: These include pastor, teacher, administrator, leadership. Much like the motivational gifts, we find the leadership gifts often in combination with the service and motivational gifts.

c. Service gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Peter 4:11)
Note: These include the gifts of service, mercy, giving, helps. As we have noted in the prior to categories of gifts, service gifts can also work in concert with leadership and motivational gifts. 

d. Sign gifts (occasional gifts) (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 29-30, 4:11)
Note: These include Apostle, Prophet, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. It can be also noted that not all are in agreement concerning the operations of these gifts with respect to their continuance today. Whereas most would classify the first three categories of the gifts above as "normative" or "regular" occurring gifts, the sign gifts occur infrequently, are for specific occasions and, in some cases, may cease all together for the sake of the other three categories of gifts. 

The last two gifts in the list are most fully treated in 1 Corinthians 14: namely "tongues" and its associated gift of "interpretation of tongues".  The gift of tongues in particular is considered the least of the sign gifts and must be approached with great caution, attention to scripture and precise definitions.1 

3. Spiritual gifts: the finger prints of God's activity. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Note: When I say that spiritual gifts are likened to fingerprints, I mean the way in which the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts in various mixes and clusters among individual Christians and churches. The first thought regarding "spiritual gift fingerprints" has to do with how God so-gifts individual Christians, hence...

a. Spiritual gift finger prints apply to individual Christians. 1 Corinthians 12:12-23a

This idea can then be expanded to include God's spiritual-gift finger print for local churches, hence...

b. Spiritual gift finger prints apply to churches. 1 Corinthians 12:23b-26
It would seem that if a church-body can identify the make-up of spiritual gifts in the church body, then the "spiritual gift finger-print" for that church has been identified. Such information can go a long way in seeing how to structure the church around the needs and gifts of the membership and more importantly, to understand how God has gifted that local church to fulfill a particular God-preferred future (i.e vision) for that area. 

thus, in apply these thoughts, we can note...

c. Spiritual-gift fingerprints define God's vision for the believer and the church. 1 Corinthians 12:27

which entails...

i. God has given the right mixture of gifts to result in uniquely gifted Christians. 

ii. God has given the right mixture of gifts to result in different looking churches.

note: When we consider the six places in the New Testament where the gifts are mentioned, it seems that each church was gifted by God to achieve whatever vision God wanted for that area. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:8-10; 12:28; 12:29-30; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11. 

4. God's love coursing through the gifts.  Corinthians 13

a. Problem of exercising the gifts without His love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

b. Power for the gifts is associated with His love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

c. Purpose of the gifts is found in God's love. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

5. Gaining a right perspective on the gifts. 1 Corinthians 14
Note: It is in this chapter that Paul devotes space to the issue of tongues, interpretation of tongues and having the right perspective on the gifts. The latter emphasis ought to be focused upon more so than the gift of tongues. Paul's point in this entire chapter is to issue forth a need to not emphasize the gifts too much nor avoid them all together. If anything, Paul is ending his section on the gifts of the Spirit by correcting the excesses and abuses of gifts in 1 Corinthians 14 whilst beginning his discussion by raising awareness of them in 1 Corinthians 12. The middle chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 serves to maintain the proper perspective by emphasizing God's love manifested and ministered by the gifts. 


1. For now, further elaboration on this point will be reserved for future posts. A definition of the gift of tongues, as so understood from studying passages such as Acts 2; 8; 10; 19 and 1 Corinthians 12 & 14, refers to a supernatural ability to speak a previously unlearned language in instances of evangelization of unreached people groups. It appears that this particular gift's use ranges from extreme infrequency (for who is anyone to limit God) to total disuse as one goes further away from the apostolic era. 1 Corinthians 13:8 hints at this general pattern with respect to Biblical defined tongues.  

As a general pattern, once the Gospel has sufficiently saturated a given people group, more typical methods are employed by God: such as Bible translation and missionaries that are trained to go to such areas. The so-called "gift of tongues" practiced in both Pentecostal and Charismatic church bodies is a different sort of phenomena all-together. Pentecostal believers associate tongues as a form of prayer language; whilst Charismatic believers view "tongues" as an initiatory experience into the full-range of the miraculous gifts. 

These trends and interpretations of tongues is different from the tongues we see in the scripture, and thus, for this author at least, would suggest that whatever we may call the phenomenon it is not strictly speaking the Biblical gift of tongues. In other words, it would seem far less probable to see a genuine exercise of true Biblical tongues and its attendant gift of interpretation in today's world, given that God employs either more ordinary methods of propagating the Gospel or other spiritual gifts to achieve the Great Commission. 

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