B.C.P. Trinity 10 : I Corinthians 12:1-11
I Cor 12:1 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.
It was Joe's birthday. He came down and excitedly examined various parcels. He shook one, sniffed the other, held another up to the light. He managed to work out what all of his presents were apart from a mysterious present from his father. He didn't know what it could be. He suspiciously eyed the unusually shaped present and pushed it to one side. So Joe opened all the other presents and began to play with them. He never got round to opening the mysterious present and in time it began to shrivel and wasted away to nothing.
We are examining part of a letter to a church. We have to read between the lines to understand something of that church in order that we can apply this to our church today. The Corinthian church was divided, following different teachers, and with rich and poor Christians. Some of the church thought that they had made it. They were spiritually superior, and this entitled them to do what they wanted with their bodies. They put too much value on certain spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues .
We are going to ask some questions relating to Spiritual Gifts and answer them from this passage.
What are spiritual gifts ?
The word translated 'spiritual gifts' is 'charismata' in the original Greek. It comes from the word 'charis' which means grace or undeserved favour. We are saved by grace, God's undeserved favour shown to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Something that we celebrate and proclaim in our service today.
'Charismata' could be translated as an undeserved gift from God. It is an expression of God's favour to his chosen people. It is a gift and, therefore, not earned or deserved. So there should be no pride if God has given a gift to us or jealousy if he has given a gift to someone else.
We see from verse 5 that the gifts are for serving the Lord, not about status. Read : There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
Next week we will be dealing with this in more detail, but the type of gift you have does not reflect anything about your spiritual maturity, intelligence, good looks, or inside leg measurement. We are all equally loved and valued by God and gifts are given by his Spirit who lives inside every Christian. Read verse 11 : All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
We get the word charismatic from 'charismata' meaning 'spiritual gifts'. Some people may think of charismatic as associated with lively or repetitive music, dancing in the aisle or speaking in tongues, but this is wrong. Eveyone who is a Christian is charismatic. We are saved by God's grace, charis. We are equipped by God's grace, charismata.
We read in verse 6 that the gifts are about God working in us. This does not mean that we don't have to try or exert any energy ourselves, for example you have to open your mouth and speak for the gifts of tongues, interpretation, and prophecy. It does mean that we have to be open to God's Spirit. Spiritual gifts are about God working in us, not about achieving an emotional high. So these gifts will lead to God's achieving his purposes. If they are genuine gifts thay should have results. So someone with a gift of healing will be able to heal people through the power of God. Someone with the gift of evangelism will be able to lead people to Christ through the power of God, and so on. Verse 6 : There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
This then is what spiritual gifts are. They are undeserved gifts from God the Holy Spirit. They are God working in his people. They are for service, not status.
Who gets spiritual gifts ?
Every one who is a Christian gets at least one spiritual gift.
Read verse 7. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Every person here who is a Christian has a gift from God. Therefore, we are all equally important in the life of this church. We are also all equally responsible for the life of this church, too. This means that Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is not just about turning up on a Sunday to be entertained or to get emotionally charged up. It is about every Christian exercising their God-given ministry in the power of God.
I have recently been encouraged by the number of people from our fellowship that have visited our brothers and sisters that have been in hospital, or ill at home. This is one way that we can be involved in caring and sharing the love of Jesus with one another.
In the early 1980's I attended a Baptist Church in Peterborough. The Pastor there declared that his ambition was that the church should be able to run without him. By using the gifts if the Spirit and the other talents that God gives to people there is no reason why his ambition should not have been almost realised. Unfortunately there is an attitude that the Minister gets paid to minister and some people sit back and do little or nothing. This is sinful. It is a waste of the gifts of God... Just like Joe wasted the gift given to him by his, loving father because of fear, or an interest in other things.
It is not only a waste of the gifts that are not exercised. It is also a waste of the gifts that are not exercised fully. For example, someone may have a gift of administration, mentioned in verse 28. But if they also have to pastor, preach, provide regular worship and maintain the church building then this gift will not be fully used, and nothing will be done as well as it could. Such a scenario could lead to people leaving the church because they are being inadequately pastored and taught. It could also lead to the church roof leaking, or the heating system breaking down.
All because one person is doing too much, and others are not fulfilling their God-given tasks. This leads us onto our next question...
Why are spiritual gifts given ?
Verse 7 : Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
The gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good. That is to say for the building up of the church. Not that these gifts are inward looking. They include outward looking gifts like evangelism. They are gifts that lead to growing :
Growing in maturity;
Growing together in community;
Growing outwards in service and evangelism;
Growing more in numbers;
What spiritual gifts are there ?
The list of gifts in our reading today is not the only list found in the New Testament. There are some later on in this Chapter, and some in : Ephesians 4; and Romans 12.
We should also be aware that God gives what we may call 'natural' gifts, and these, too, should be used in the power of the Spirit for the service of God. We will be giving a handout that lists and defines these gifts.These handouts are for everyone to take home, read and pray about to see what gift or gifts God has given to each of us. They include a suggestion of how we can seek what gifts God has given to us. This procedure involves : coming before God in pentitence and faith; asking him to speak to us about the gift/gifts he has given us; we may also want to ask Christians who know us well if they are aware of any gift that God has given to us; once we discover what gift we think God may have given us we then need to try it out ! There are some questions that we can ask ourselves about what gifts we have, and if we are using them.
If God has gifted us then this will be evidenced by results. Clearly this will involve us in making mistakes, but we are a forgiven people, and should be a forgiving people. It may take some work before we are fully competent in carrying out what God has gifted us in. But it is better that we explore the gifts that God has given us, mistakes and all, than to sit back and do nothing. We should use it, not lose it. Use it, don't lose it.
God gives power in weakness. What we have to do is to ask and be ready to receive. Jesus said, '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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him' ( Luke 11:13 ).
Pray about your Spiritual Gift(s)
Begin by focusing on God in praise, perhaps with a song or Psalm.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that is displeasing to him. Confess this, and accept God's forgiveness and cleansing.
Submit your ideas, thoughts, and feelings to God, and resist the devil.
Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you and to direct your prayers.
Relax and listen to God, expecting him to speak to you about the gift or gifts he has given you.
Be willing to exercise the gift(s0 that God has given you.
Sometimes a spiritual gift may be linked to your personality.
You may want to ask another Christian who knows you well if they are aware of any gift(s) that God has given you. Either to confirm what God has given to you, or to give you something to pray about.
Write down what you believe your gifts are.
Write down how you are using, or how you might use these gifts in the church, and in the world.
Is there anyone you know in the fellowship who you think has been given a gift from God ? If they are not exercising this gift share this with them for their own prayers, If they are exercising this ministry then share this with them for their encouragement.