Spiritual Gifts, Part 1
1 Corinthians 12:1 – Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
We have a lot of ignorance associated with spiritual gifts. A lot of foolishness is associated with the use of spiritual gifts. There seems to be two sides of the coin with this whole issue. You have those who deny that there are any spiritual gifts for today or those who worship spiritual gifts. You either have being slain in the Spirit or no spiritual gifts and no emotions. There isn’t too much of a narrow road, just one extreme or the other. You have teaching that everybody should speak in tongues, and those who condemn anybody who speaks in tongues. In the Assemblies of God, in order to be a preacher, to go to the preaching school or to preach in a church, one of the requirements is you have to speak in tongues. Of course, in the Church of Christ, if you speak in tongues you would not be permitted to preach from the pulpit. There are extremes on both sides and we don’t want to be ignorant. We want to come before God and ask him what it means to have spiritual gifts and how we walk in those gifts. What is appropriate and not appropriate? We want to be a people worshiping the giver and not the gifts that he brings. We want to be a holy people. Jayme was asking me earlier today, “What is the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift?” If you have a talent to do something, it is just the added measure of the Holy Spirit. It is just the presence of God. . .the Lord is in it.
Let’s begin to look at spiritual gifts. The first thing that Paul does is to encourage us not to fear this whole issue of spiritual gifts. As you begin to talk about this, people automatically just see the word “tongues” and that’s all they can see and are locked in on that point. I have explained tongues to people and when I’m finished they say, “Well, what about tongues?” Many just are frozen on this whole issue and become afraid. Paul says:
1 Corinthians 12:2 – You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
He is saying that spiritual gifts are a realityeven when you were a pagan and didn’t follow Jesus Christ, or worship the Lord. You were still influenced and led astray to mute idols. In other words, there was a spiritual dimension happening to youyou worshiped things that you shouldn’t worship, had a sense of God being there or coincidences that would add up, but they actually led you in the wrong direction. God works in the spiritual realm with his gifts and Satan does the same thing. Paul says, “Now look, there is a spiritual dimension out here. Don’t say there are no such things as spiritual gifts or that there is no spiritual dimension. We are locked in the middle of a spiritual battle. We are physically planted in a place where two spiritual battles are going on, against us or around us, and we have to decide which side we’re going be on.”
1 Corinthians 12:2 – You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
Somehow it happened. Somehow it took place. There were circumstances, individuals, feelings, dreams, visions, ideas, and concepts. Someone we met had all kinds of dreams and visions. He dreamed that he was going to be in the military and be on the battlefield for the Lord. There would be dead bodies lying around and he would walk by and raise them from the dead in the name of Jesus Christ, and bring the army back up to fight for the Lord. He really believed these things and was sure they came from God. He had all kinds of dreams and visions of these types of happenings. Yet, when the cross came to his life, he was able to see those things for the false sin that they are. But, it is foolishness on the part of those people who say there are no spiritual gifts because, we are right in the middle of a spiritual battle. It is like being on a ship and saying there is no water. It is everywhere that you look. You just have to open your eyes and examine.
1 Corinthians 12:3 – 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.
Paul is saying, “Don’t get freaked out about this whole issue. This isn’t so deep or scary. This isn’t a spook film where there are ghosts and demons and that you won’t be able to discern anything, so you can’t venture into this.” He is simply saying:
1 Corinthians 12:3 – Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed.”
You will be able to knowGod will give you the discernment. He will give you the wisdom. If we keep the cross on our back and keep our face toward Jesus Christ, we will be able to have the discernment necessary to know who is speaking by the Holy Spirit and who is speaking by demons or by self. It is not a hard thing. It just requires a little bit of faith. But, it is amazing how many people don’t even have a little bit of faith to discern things or to even believe there are spiritual gifts. My first preaching job was in a church that did not believe in the voice of the Holy Spirit or in the operations of the gifts. I believed in them even at that time and we would have eventually worked up to that, but I didn’t last long enough. They would put forth all kinds of human arguments to increase unbelief. That is, they made not believing in gifts as an act of faith. That is really sinister. One of the stories they told me was about a farmer out in a field. He was on his tractor and plowing away. He saw, up in the clouds, the letters “PC.” He immediately discerned in the Lord that he was supposed to go and preach Christ. He got down off the tractor, and he said, “Amen, I’m going to go out and preach Christ.” He ran to the house, kissed his wife and the horse goodbye, and began to buy all of the Bibles that he could. He went out to preach, and then he died. He stood before God. He reported to God about all of the preaching that he had done and how he laid out the gospel for everybody. God said, “Well, that’s fine! Except, what I meant was to plant corn.” This story was supposed to convince me that nobody could really discern, we really can’t know what is going on and we’re really locked tight. We’re going to be so unsure of ourselves that we can’t move into anything. Paul is saying again:
1 Corinthians 12:3 – 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.
It is just a matter of us getting before the Lord, keeping our eyes upon God, keeping the cross on our back, and continuing to die so we’ll be able to discern things. We will be able to see through those things like being slain in the Spirit, gold dust falling from the sky, all kinds of emotionalism, or the issues of tongues. We will be able to see through those who believe that none of those things exist today, that God doesn’t use spiritual gifts anymore and that we don’t need them. So, it is a matter of us getting to the narrow road, going through the narrow gate, and finding out what it is that God will work and will through us as we move into spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 – 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.
The first thing we have to realize is that God is a God who is active and who is powerful and has spiritual gifts, that he wants to move within the body. He wants to work those gifts as he determines and sees fit. In other words, God is not a Pharisee or a Sadducee. Our religion is just matter of talk and debate. It is a bunch of us sitting around the Book and examining it, taking it apart and then putting our opinions out and discussing them. Our God is a God of power who acts, has gifts and comes in miraculous ways. He gives these gifts and he works them as he determines. No matter how much the Assemblies of God says that everybody has to speak in tongues, it is up to God to work gifts as he sees fit. It wouldn’t matter to God, no matter how much we prayed for spiritual gifts or for miraculous things, if he doesn’t want to work those things, they will not happen.
1 Corinthians 12:5 – There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
If somebody says that there are no spiritual gifts, we have to say that there are no more services or special gifts that God works within the body to make it work in a normal fashion, no miracles.
1 Corinthians 12:4 – There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
It all comes from the same Lord. We need to be able to discern as we see God working and moving in people’s lives. We need to be able to say if that is of God, or if the presence of the Lord is in it, or not.
1 Corinthians 12:5-6 – 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.
Let’s begin to expect his workings, services, and all of the gifts that he works within us. The first lesson is that God works these things, and he comes in a powerful, holy way to people looking for him.
Lessons two and three go hand in hand. Lesson two is that each one of us has gifts that God wants to work in our lives, and lesson three is that he works those gifts for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7 – Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
God wants to work a manifestation of the Spirit in each person’s life in this body. Maybe you might have several gifts or more than one, but he definitely wants to work in some fashion in order for the common good. He wants it in order to come to make us all more the slaves of one another. He doesn’t want to puff us up. He doesn’t want to give us a gift that exalts ourselves.
1 Corinthians 12:7 – Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
God wants to work his gifts in each person He wants to manifest them in order to build up the whole body to be brought together in Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 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.
We need all of those gifts in order to be a healthy body. In order for me to have a healthy body, I must have two arms and two legs. You can function with one arm and no legs. You can survive, but you won’t necessarily be strong and able to do everything. In the same way, we need all of the spiritual gifts. Let’s go over these quickly.
The first gift Paul mentions is the gift of wisdom. Proverbs 15:23 says the message of wisdom is to speak an inspired instruction, a reply, or an apt word. It is a declared message of understanding that applies to a particular situation or circumstance. That is, you are in ignorance and don’t know exactly what God’s will isyou’re not sure what to do. But, God comes along with a message for that particular situation and this circumstance. You know the reply didn’t come from your own reasoning or ability, but it is God who speaks very powerfully to specific circumstances.
Proverbs 15:23 – A man finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!
We’re talking about having a specific word of instruction from the Lord at a particular moment that is very quick and direct. When we come together as a body and if somebody has a message of wisdom, that doesn’t mean necessarily that we all stop what we’re doing for the person to stand up and give the message of wisdom. Sometimes it happens when we fellowship. Maybe you are fellowshipping with somebody, you mention something about a circumstance in your life, and that person has a messagean understandingof what applies to that circumstance. Most of the time it is going to be something very quiet, something you need to test. This is how God chooses to work, to communicate his will. Esther 1:13 gives us a little bit more understanding of that.
Esther 1:13 – Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times.
People that I know understand matters of law. They understand justice. They understand Scripture and ink on paper. But how do you apply that to a specific situation in your life? A man can stand up and talk about the beatitudes, he can preach about what Jesus preached and lay it all out, telling you about the culture and what took place. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to get up out of your seat and know how that applies to you directly. A message of wisdom applies to you in a particular situation and what you need to walk in at that point. It is a message of wisdom and understanding directly from God as to what you should do in your life. We need to be on the lookout in the body. We need to examine. Everything needs to be tested, but let us also be eagerly looking for these kinds of gifts to work so that we might know what we should do in the Lord.
The next thing Scripture listed was a message of knowledge. Look at 2 Chronicles 1:10. A message of knowledge is to explain that which is unexplainable, to say it in such a way that it makes perfect sense. It’s like a light bulb that goes off, an epiphany, an understanding, and it explains something that excites the mind. “To love the Lord your God with all your mind” is an example. Solomon comes before God and says this in his prayer:
2 Chronicles 1:10 – Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?
It is a message of understanding a long-term goal or something that you’re working toward. In other words, a message of wisdom is for that moment or what you need to do in that particular time period. Whereas a message of knowledge can be something that is much longer in terms of how it is going to be applied and where you’re going to go and what your goal is. It is like Solomon praying before the Lord saying, “Give me knowledge, understanding, and what it would mean to lead these people.” We came before the Lord asking, “God, you’re working in my life with this particular individual. Give me the long-range goal of what we are to go for in this situation. What is the cross for them?” The message of wisdom helps along the way. The knowledge is where you’re heading to, what God is going to do, and what his plan is. The wisdom is how you get to that point.
Scripture also says that faith is a gift. All of us are to have faith. In fact, all of us have some measure of these fruits or gifts in our life, but we’re talking about that extra measure where God gives a particular gift and somebody has this particular faith over here. God uses that to encourage the faith of us all. In Philippians 1:14 shows within Paul a gift of faith.
Philippians 1:14 – Because of my chains…
There are people you know who go through all kinds of hardships and difficulties, yet they seem to have a joy that you don’t have. They seem to have a trust in God that you are missing. God brings people in our lives who are facing difficulties. They seem to rise above them and encourage us to come out of our petty little problems and to trust God. We say to ourselves: “If they can trust God in that situation, surely I can trust God in this situation.” The gift of faith is to excite and to encourage our faith. God says to an individual, “I’m going to work a gift of faith in your life.” That doesn’t mean a new home or a new car. It may mean a prison cell that would encourage everybody else to have a little more faith.
Philippians 1:14 – Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
You would think it would have the opposite effect. If somebody came in and arrested someone here in this body, put them in chains, you’d think everybody would shut up. But, it was the nature of how Paul took on the chains. It was his faith as he was arrested. When he was put in chains, it caused other people to say, “Well, if he can trust God and find the grace to speak, then if God calls me to chains I will be given the same grace, also.” God puts certain individuals through trials in order to encourage the rest of us that he can be trusted. He puts us through certain things in our lives that other people will watch and say, “I see God working and delivering.” He manifested himself so that we might be encouraged to have more faith, that we might fan into flame the faith and the gifts in the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t the chains that encouraged people. It was Paul rising up and rejoicing in the Lord for what he was going through.
Scripture also says there are gifts of healing. We will come back to more of that later. But, for now, we all know what healing is.
Another gift is one of miraculous powers. You really don’t see this gift in the church anymore. It seems like the only “gifts” left are being slain in the Spirit, which is not listed in Scripture, and speaking in tongues. I haven’t seen anybody do miraculous powers yet. 2 Kings 6:2 gives us one example of this. The prophets need a bigger place. So, they begin to build.
2 Kings 6:2-5 – Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.” And he said, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water. “Oh, my lord,” he cried out, “it was borrowed!”
Now, we’ll see here in a moment miraculous powers taking placenot gifts of healing, but taking everyday circumstances and problems and turning them into something miraculous. We need to face the problems that each of you has dealt with and turn them into something that is for God’s glory. We need people in the body with these kinds of gifts.
2 Kings 6:6 – The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.
He deals with a problem in a very practical way. He looks at it, examines it, and applies faith to it. He makes the ax head float up out of the water.
2 Kings 6:7 – “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.
I can imagine standing there! As the ax head floats up, at first he’s not going to reach out and touch it, thinking, “I’m staying out of this!” So, he has to be told to reach down and pick up. This is a little bit of a taste of what miraculous powers would be like in the body. It doesn’t mean you walk in on a battlefield and start raising the dead so they can shoot more people. It is an application of dealing with everyday problems.
Then there is prophecy. Prophecy is a direct word from God about the word of God, your life, other people, or the future. It is almost a direct inspiration, whereas knowledge is a general understanding of what God’s will is. Wisdom is a specific application of what should happen. But, prophecy is a communication of the emotion or heart of God and what is going to take place.
Acts 11:27-28 – During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world.
What does it say? “A severe famine.” God didn’t just say there is going to be a regular famine. It is a severe famine, something to get ready and prepare for. When you think of the prophets of old, what do you think? You think of a communication of the heart of God. You think of them declaring in such a way for men to repent, but with tears, pain, and anger. You sense them communicating more the anger, frustration, love, grace, and the heart of God along with the wisdom of God’s word. That’s really what prophecy is. God said there will be a severe famine and it moved people to action.
Acts 11:29 – The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.
Think of prophecy as always moving toward action, moving toward the heart of God and what he feels. We don’t tend to think of prophecy like that. We think of high and noble things, of dreams and visions that we can’t really quite understand. But it really is about the heart of God.
Acts 21:8-11 – Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’“
Agabus predicted the pain that Paul will go through. You see God communicating to the church what it is going to experience and what is going to take place. In fact, if you read on, they tried to keep Paul from going. Prophecy is a much more personal kind of communication than just teaching and knowledge.
The other gift mentioned is distinguishing between Spirits. Distinguishing Spirits is knowing what comes from demons and what is from God. It is an understanding of what the Spirit is and where he is coming and going. It is almost like looking behind the scenes to understand what is taking place. It is not just a declaration that says, “That’s a demon speaking” or “That’s an angel speaking” or “That comes from the Holy Spirit.” It is a deeper understanding about what is going on in the spiritual realm behind the scenes.
1 Kings 22:19 – Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw…”
He sees what is behind in the spiritual realm and that is part of what it means to distinguish between Spirits. You understand what is going on in the background. You understand the spiritual warfare that is taking place.
1 Kings 22:19-24 – Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’ So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked.
Micaiah saw the comings and goings in the spiritual realm. That is what it means to distinguish between the Spirits, what the overall battle is, and what is taking place. We need that within the body. We don’t need just people saying, “That came from Satan” or “That came from self” and just leaving it at that. We need to know why, what is going on, and why is God allowing if to happen.
One time when we were at a conference where a man was preaching. He continued to preach until somebody did finally speak in tongues. Somebody that I knew was able to interpret tongues and that person knew that it was coming from Satan. But, we also knew that the man was trying to force the tongues by trying to make something happen. There was a movement and Satan was going to fill that void. It was more than just an interpretation that said, “That was wrong.” This is a little bit of what it means to distinguish between Spirits. It is to distinguish between a man who would come in and preach the message of the cross, but not have the proper Spirit. We are looking beneath what we see on the surface.
In lesson four, it is crucial for us to understand that God gives these gifts as he determines. Though the Assemblies of God and other groups say that everybody should speak in tongues, God is not going to give tongues to everybody. He gives those gifts as he decides to give them, when he chooses to do so and in the manner that he wills for it to happen.
1 Corinthians 12:11 – All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
We have to have an attitude of being a servant, a slave of all, and eagerly desiring spiritual gifts, but not for selfish ambition, but being content with what God wants to work. We don’t ask for more so we will be puffed up and noticed in the church. All of these gifts must be manifested in a very quiet and humble manner, with no one person being held up as the “spiritual” person. You’ve seen that in every church. I’m sure that there was one person known as the “spiritual” person, usually a lady. Everybody goes to that person for all of the wisdom and insight because of their reputation. We’re talking about God working within a body where no one person is held up as special, but that everybody is needed. There is a big difference.
Lesson number five is that God is one, but we are only one part of a whole. 1 Corinthians 12 addresses this:
1 Corinthians 12:12 – The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts.
You see, that spiritual lady in the church whom everybody goes to is a body unto herself. She has all of the wisdom and understanding and people go to get that information from her. But, we are a body in which each of us have a part of God and each of us have a section of giftsmaybe different gifts, maybe more than one, but the point is, we don’t have it all.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or freeand we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
He is trying to get our eyes off all these gifts that are tantalizing everybody and realize where they are coming from. God gives those gifts as he sees fit. God is not going to fit into your box and give gifts just because you ask or we think somebody should have a particular gift. But, it all comes from the Lord and we are all needed.
Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 12:14 and look at lesson number six. Just because you don’t have a particular gift doesn’t mean that you are not needed within the body.
1 Corinthians 12:14-17 – Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
When people start to talk about spiritual gifts, there is a sense of being exclusive. People will talk and brag about the facts of spiritual gifts they have as if they are somehow set apart and lifted up from the church. It would be as if one day my foot said, “I am the special part of the body. Without me, none of you can do anything else and you have to come to me for everything.” Then, the foot tries to be everything to the body, exalts itself, and goes its own direction. In the same way, if my hand were to say, “No, I’m the exalted part and I’m the one that everybody needs to come to and look at all of the things that I can do.” Then you have the foot and the hand each going in a different direction. There is not that humility that God longs for. That cross not there that says we are all part of one body and we need each other desperately and no one understands this clearly. God does not give complete and full revelation, wisdom, and understanding to any one person within the church. If anybody ever has that attitude, they will destroy themselves and other people. There will be times when I have a partial understanding of what should happen, and somebody else gets a different part of the understanding. It might be the least person in the body that people would think as spiritual, but that’s how God chooses to build up the body and to strengthen the whole church. God’s goal is to look down upon the body and says, “Okay, where are the weakest members of the body? Those whom I am going to give spiritual gifts to pull them into the body so that everybody needs everyone.” There won’t be spiritual people in a corner, hanging out together because they’re the spiritual people, and then, all of the “unspiritual people” hanging out in another corner, starving together, and being left out of the body.
In 1 Corinthians 12:18 again he repeats it and says that God gives gifts as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:18 – But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
How many people there are, in their desire for spiritual gifts, who want a particular spiritual gift? They try to force God to give them gifts that will lift them up within the body and make them noticed within the church. Their motives and desires are wrong. If they get the gift, all they do is please themselves. There is not that sense of humility. Again, it would be as if the nose thought that it was the most important part. The nose can’t pick a single thing up, but the hand can. The nose needs the hand and the hand needs the nose. They are dependent upon one another and we need to have that same sense about the church.
Lesson number seven; we desperately need the weakest parts of the body.
1 Corinthians 12:21 – The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”
That’s what we’re talking about. It is amazing that as he talks about spiritual gifts, he looks at this before he ever talks about tongues or prophecy. He is saying that we need one another God gives gifts to draw us together, be closer to one another, love one another more deeply and be more dependent upon one another. He doesn’t give spiritual gifts to exalt one individual and make that person noticed. He wants to work all kinds of spiritual gifts in all kinds of individuals in the body so that we literally do need one another, that I might give part of a revelation in terms of God’s will, but somebody else is going to get another part of it. I’m always on the lookout for whom God is going to speak through. But, if I say, “I want to hang with the spiritual people,” I’m going to miss it if God might want to speak through the weakest person in the body.
1 Corinthians 12:21 – The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
It is 100% dependent! Do you notice how different they are? The feet are totally different than the brain, and yet they are totally dependent upon each other and yet they are the total opposite of each other. They really have nothing in common, yet each has a different function. Each of us needs to know our limitations. For instance, I don’t even pick up a screwdriver if I can help it. But, how often we don’t want to admit our limitations and we want to be everything to all men and have all of the gifts so that we don’t need anybody. How foolish we are. My brain needs my feet and my feet need the brain with equal concern.
1 Corinthians 12:22 – On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
You need every part of your body to be a whole body. We need every gift and individual that God brings into the body to be whole, complete and strong. There shouldn’t be any people that we consider “the pretty people.” There shouldn’t be certain people that we don’t want to associate with. We only do ourselves harm and weaken the body when we begin to get cliques that develop within the church.
1 Corinthians 12:23 – …and the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.
Paul says you’d better hang around with the people that you don’t like to associate with, or people you don’t have too much in common with so God can speak and work gifts in your life and manifest himself in the body by choosing to work in your life through people that you don’t like to associate with. I’ve seen this even in terms of rebuking one another. There will be somebody that you don’t like in the church and you’ll take a rebuke from anyone but that one person. Who do you think God is going to bring right in your life to deal with your sin? The person you don’t want in your face!
1 Corinthians 12:23 – …and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.
We need to look around the body say, “That is a weaker part of the body,” and give it special attention. Fellowship and pray with them more. If you find people spending more time with you it is because you are an embarrassment. So, the idea is to grow up to get you to be a stronger part of the body.
1 Corinthians 12:24 – while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it.
If God wants to give the body a word of knowledge or wisdom, is he going to pick the spiritual lady? Who is he going to pick in the body? He is going to pick the man or the woman that nobody wants to hang around with. The person whom everybody things is unspiritual, or isn’t quite clean or wears loud ties, or is a little overweight, or whatever it is that we look at and think they are not like us. You need to consider that you weren’t always the “pretty person” that you are today. God does this so we come together as a body, to know each other’s lives, be slaves to one another, to fellowship with and have the joy that Jesus had. God does this so there should be no division in the body. God gives greater honor, attention, and more spiritual gifts to the parts that lack in order that we might have equal concern, respect, and love for everyone in the church. But, when somebody gets spiritual gifts and that person is lifted and exalted, they become puffed up. The reason they may be getting a spiritual gift is because they are a weaker part of the body. They’re unpresentable and need to be more perfected. It is especially true with the attitude toward tongues. There are a bunch of immature people speaking in tongues for the rest of their lives thinking it is the cure for everything. If they get cancer, then they speak in tongues. If in they are in a car wreck, they speak in tongues. They never grow out of it. They think they’re special and the gift is special, so they use it in their little special way to make their own lives a little more “complete.”
1 Corinthians 12:25 – so that there should be no division in the body…
God is seeking to work within the church with spiritual gifts so that there would be no division. Not so that you would have just a word of knowledge, wisdom, speaking in tongues, or miraculous powersGod is trying to bring the church together. It is as if God is saying, “Look, you’re in the body not because of your talents, what you can do, or your IQ, but how my gifts will work and flow within the church.”
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 – so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
God is looking for equal concern, not favoritism within the church.
Lesson number eight. Remember Ephesians 4:8 says that teachers are gifts from God. Right in the middle of 1 Corinthians 12:27, as he is talking about miraculous things and gifts, Paul mentions works of administration and apostles.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Over and over again, he says each one of us has a calling and a purpose. We all will receive gifts. God will work all of these gifts for the common good of the body in every way. Paul emphasizes that we are all to be one body, each doing their work, and being content in it. My foot needs to be content in being a foot.
1 Corinthians 12:28 – And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
He is listing these gifts in order of importance. Notice he lists tongues last, and yet it seems to be first today. It is the gift that everybody holds up, is after, and excited about. Yet, Paul lists it last in all these other things.
1 Corinthians 12:29-30 – Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Let’s read those questions again and answer them. This will put to rest this whole business that everybody is meant to speak in tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:29 – Are all apostles?
Of course not! You don’t go to church and everybody is an apostle.
1 Corinthians 12: 29 – Are all prophets?
Of course not! The answer to that is a resounding “No.”
1 Corinthians 12:29 – Are all teachers?
No, not everybody stands up here and teaches. That is a different calling. Not everybody has that gift.
1 Corinthians 12:29 – Do all work miracles?
The answer is “No.”
1 Corinthians 12:30 – Do all have gifts of healing?
1 Corinthians 12:30 – Do all speak in tongues?
Everybody stops here and says, “Yes.” It is not even logical or reasonable. If my whole body were a tongue, we’d have a problem. We’re each called to different gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:30 – Do all interpret?
The answer, of course, is “No.”
Let’s go over these briefly in a little more detail. “Are all apostles?” Apostles are nothing more than a missionary or one sent out. We think of the twelve apostles as being special, and they are because they were with Jesus. Look at Romans 16:7. Apostles are those who go out and preach the gospel in new areas that have never heard it before. If we were to send out some missionaries from this church, we could call them apostles. They are sent out from us.
Romans 16: 7 – Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
There are apostles beyond the twelve apostles. Then there are prophets. Prophets preach more “Thus says the Lord” than a teacher who is just expounding on the principles and the ideas of God. All of these gifts God works in different ways. Paul goes on to say that there are workers of miracles and others have gifts of healing. I want to stop here and talk about the working of miracles and gifts of healing, because those gifts are really hard work. We don’t tend to think of that because of the nonsense that is going on around us. When you think of miracles, what do you think of? Everybody coming to a crusade. Everybody comes up to get their thirty seconds in the limelight, the guy lays hands on them, and they throw away the crutches and put away the wheelchairs. Scripture says they are “workers of miracles.” Working a miracle is hard work. Then Paul says “gifts of healing.” There are different aspects of the way God wants to work. It is hard to know how God wants to heal in a particular situation. We’re not going to look at it now, but notice all of the different ways that Jesus Christ healed individuals. No two cases were exactly the same. 2 Kings 4:32 gives an example of a worker of miracles.
2 Kings 4:32 – When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.
Elisha had spent some time at this house because this woman gave him a room in which to stay. He had brought a blessing saying that she would have a child. The child died, so she found the prophet and brought him back.
2 Kings 4:33 – He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD.
Elisha is going to have to work at this miracle. It is not a matter of walking in and saying “In the name of Jesus Christ get up and do this.” Look at how Jesus did miracles. He came before the tomb of Lazarus and wept. He went to the tomb, talked to people, preached, and encouraged their faith. He did all kinds of things. If there was a little girl who was sick, he sent people out of the room, rebuked the crowds, or whatever was necessary in order to work the miracle. It wasn’t an easy snap-your-fingers and the miracle was done situation.
2 Kings 4:34 – Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands.
I mention this because if God makes you a worker of miracles or gives you the gift of healing, you’re going to identify very directly with the person suffering. That’s not popular today, is it? People come forward, get their “healing,” and leave. No one barely knows their names. We are talking about being intimately involved with people’s lives. This is why Scripture says to be slow in the laying on of hands because you are literally to be intimately involved with who they are, their suffering and the grace God wants to work. If somebody is sick in this body and God wants to make them well, the people that will lay hands on must intimately understand what is going on in that person’s life, how God wants to work, why they are sick and everything that is going on. It is not as easy as walking into the room, anointing with the oil, casting out demons or doing whatever it is that those people do and say, “Okay, it is over with.” We go to a dead body, to feel somebody’s suffering. We are weeping when they weep. Have you ever thought about that? When Jesus Christ went to raise Lazarus, he stood there and wept. There was no need for him to weep. He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead, but he identified with their suffering and yet he came in to deliver and to work God’s miracles. Those that have the gift of laying on of hands to bring about healing are going to suffer with those people. If one part of the body is suffering, sick, laboring, hurting, they are going be mouth-to-mouth and identify with that person. They are going to take that which is cold and dead, and make it alive.
2 Kings 4:34 – Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm.
This is hard and distasteful work. If you walked into a room and there was a dead, cold body, the last thing you want to do is crawl on top of it. Not to mention staying upon that body until it grows warm. One of the things they used to do in medieval times was a form of torture and execution. If you were sentenced to death, they would take a corpse and would tie it to the person’s back. Slowly, the rot in the dead body would get into the live flesh and the person would slowly just rot to death. Now, you come before people who are suffering and hurting, and you identify with them as if you yourself were suffering. You will learn what it is to suffer with those who suffer. Before we think these grand things puff people up, that you’ll be known as someone who works miracles and has gifts, understand God calls us to be slaves to other people and to lay down our lives for them. I pray for these gifts and for people to have this kind of loveto lie on a cold body until it is warm.
2 Kings 4:35 – Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room…
He is going to wrestle this thing until God gives the victory. He understands what God is doing. Even in his ignorance of trying to figure out what God is doing, he is walking around back and forth.
2 Kings 4:35 – …then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more.
He’s just not going to give up until it’s done. Working miracles and having gifts of healing is very hard work! That’s why you’ve seen people speaking in tongues. That’s an easy thing.
2 Kings 4:35 – The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
Paul goes on to list other gifts, one of them he calls “those able to help others.” There will be those within the body that have more free time than you have because God wants them to be able to help other people. Do not be jealous of the fact that they have free time. Discover what your gift is. There will be those who have more money than you have or a little bit more time. They put forth some effort or are in a position to do some things that will help other people. All of this is for the common good and we need not grow jealous of one another. If somebody is honored in the body, if somebody has a gift of healing, then praise God because when you’re sick we’ve got some means to be made well. All of these things are for the building up of the church.
Finally, he lists those with the gift of administration, those who are able to look a problem, look at the situation, and organize things in such a way that it gets done in most glorious fashion and way. And, that is a gift that comes from God. That is an inspiration that says this is the work that God wants to do and this is how the temple should be built and this is who should do the work and this is who should do the labor and this it how it should be done. Those who are able to administer those things, and put them in places so that the work can done. So, don’t be rebellious when somebody has the gift of administration and you call them “bossy.” Now, if they are bossy, we’ll deal with that. But, realize that there are gifts of administration that mean things need to be done this way and in this fashion and this will glorify God if we do it this way. You may not have the insight! You may never be able to get it. You may not be able to say, “I don’t understand why we’re doing it that way.” That is because you don’t have that gift. Your gift might be just to raise the dead. Everybody has different gifts.
Finally, for tonight, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:31. For us, as a young body, this is what we need to have.
1 Corinthians 12:31 – But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
We need to eagerly desire spiritual gifts. We need to ask for those things. We need to plead before the throne. We need to ask God to work all of these things in the body and then we need to rejoice when we see those happening in other people’s lives. If we’re passed by, let us continue to rejoice. If God sees fit to wait to give you a gift, just be patient and wait on the Lord. Also, if you have a gift and if there is a time that God comes along and he says, “I don’t want you to use that gift,” or he gets very quiet, don’t force the situation. Just be at peace. God is arranging the body and working it as he sees fit.
There was a time, I think anyway, when I had a lot more wisdom about a lot more situations and I would know what to do. I could act very quickly. But, since the body has grown, that is less and less, and I feel more and more ignorant about what to do. Because why? God is working within the body to glorify his name. It wasn’t Tim’s intellect. It wasn’t even who he was. He is seeking to bring the body together so that we all need each other and we can rejoice together in serving God. So, be content with whatever God calls you to have, but also eagerly desire those spiritual gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Before he gets to say anything more about the spiritual gifts he stops and talks about love. What is important is that these things build us up in love, not that they build us up.
Father, we humbly ask that you would work all of these gifts in this body as you see fit; that, Father, you’ll find a rich, fertile field of faith that will receive these gifts. We will eagerly desire them, and pray that you’ll find unselfish love, Father, that isn’t seeking to exalt oneself. We’ll pray for the person next to us to have the gift that will build up the body more than we pray for ourselves to have it. We pray, Father, for the body as a whole. We just want to stand back, Father, and let you work those gifts as you see fit. Remove from us jealousy. Remove from us selfish ambition. Bring us together as one body, Father. Glorify your name and work your gifts, O God. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.