Thursday, August 11, 2016
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 "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. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
In the church of the living God there is no such thing as the "haves" and "have- nots". Paul's concern is to inform and illumine his readers on the subject of spiritual gifts. At Corinth, the problem that the Christian believers had was the excess of focusing more on the gifts than the Giver - God. In a cultural center of the ancient Graeco-Roman world like Corinth, more was considered to be, well, "more". The Corinthians took a cultural assumption and attempted to apply it to the arena of the supernatural things of God. They though of the gifts as a means to self-promotion, or an avenue by which to display one's power or one's so-called "spirituality".
Indeed, the ditch of excess was the chief sin of Corinth with respect to the gifts. I'm certain that another ditch is to be avoided - lack of emphasis on the spiritual gifts, or at least the hinderance thereof. Oftentimes in our church-world, we conceive of certain Christians as endowed by God with certain giftings. Tragically, many a Christian assumes that they were left out of God's line-up when He was distributing the gifts. I have talked to Christians over the years who took the view that they were a simple, "plain-vanilla" Christian. Such a set of assumptions can greatly constrict how one understands their full-identity in Jesus Christ.
It appears to be one of the devices of the kingdom of darkness to coerce Christians into either the ditch of excess or lack when it comes to the gifts. Both ditches result in a misunderstanding of God or lack of focus on Him. Paul's exposition on the gifts of the Spirit is designed to inform and illumine the Christian's understanding. In today's post, I want to briefly unpack what Paul writes in his introductory remarks to 1 Corinthians 12:1-7. The underlying assumption will be that: "Every Christian is supernaturally gifted by God". So, when we lay forth this key idea, in what way can we grasp the fact that every Christian is supernaturally gifted by God?
The gifts of the Spirit are given to every believer at salvation. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3
This is Paul's first point in expounding on the giving of the gifts of the Spirit. Theologian Wayne Grudem defines a spiritual gift as follows in his Systematic Theology, page 1016: "A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and is used in any ministry in the church." At conversion the gifts are granted. Now certainly, every Christian has the responsibility to discover what has been given to them by God. The process of maturing in the faith includes understanding the way in which God has gifted us. The Apostle Peter spells out this particular point in 1 Peter 4:7-10 "The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
Paul makes it clear that since the gifts are granted at salvation, then by definition, every Christian is gifted. There is no such things as "haves" and "have-nots". We read clearly in 1 Corinthians 12:7 "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." So the gifts of the Spirit are given to every Christian at salvation. Lets consider a second thought related to this notion that every Christian is supernaturally gifted by God....
The gifts of the Spirit are given to every Christian to show forth God.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
God in the Three Persons of the Trinity is the One that dispenses the gifts. As we noted in prior posts, the spiritual gifts function as a demonstration of the reality of the living God in His church and to the world.
With respect to the distribution of the gifts, we discover that the Spirit is the Agent of the gifts. Notice 1 Corinthians 12:4 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit." We find this same thought again in 1 Corinthians 12:11 "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills."
Then secondly, we find that the Person of the Son Assigns the ministries for the gifts. Note if you will 1 Corinthians 12:5 "And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord." Throughout 1 Corinthians, we find this title "Lord" used in reference to the Son, Jesus Christ, when He is mentioned along with the Father in the same passage (see 1 Corinthians 8:6-7). Throughout Paul's letters, we will see this same pattern of "Lord" used as a title to distinguish the Son from the Father (see Philippians 2:5-11). The Son operates in the Executive capacity of assigning ministries and contexts wherein the gifts of the Spirit can operate. For example, we know that the Holy Spirit gifts some Christians to preach and teach God's Word, as seen for instance in 1 Peter 4:7-11. In Ephesians 4:11-12, we discover that those gifts operate in offices such as "pastor" and "teacher" as so assigned by the Son. So, the Spirit is the Agent of the Gifts and the Son is the Assigner of the ministries in which the gifts operate.
We then discover that the Person of the Father affects the operation of the gifts. Notice 1 Corinthians 12:6 "There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons." All three Person of the Trinity exercise together as One God, with One will, as Agent, Assigner and Affector of the gifts. The pattern of distribution of the gifts aims to manifest the Giver. God is One and yet Diverse. He is One in Being and Three in Person. The church of the living God is designed to reflect this wonderful two-fold truth. In showing forth God, Paul is setting up what ought to be a cycle that proceeds from showing forth God to serving others.