Lesson 33: "Concerning Spiritual Gifts. . ." (I Corinthians 12:1)
I Corinthians 12:1-31
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #33. Welcome again! There are so many things that one would like to say; but, it cannot all be crammed into a lesson such as this. We spent two whole lessons on ch. 11 and I feel we just scratched the surface. So, please do more than just listen to the tape. These lessons are designed as a kind of pathfinder, to just get you down to real study. Many of the more valuable nuggets of bible wisdom are passed over in a superficial study of this kind. Once we have scouted out the territory; you can do much of the more detailed observation on your own. Please go the extra mile! And, beyond that, please recommend those lessons to others and help others to study, as well. Pass it on!
Chapters 12-13-14 are all one big long discussion, on spiritual gifts. Our last section on the Lord's supper covered only 18 verses. The section coming up on spiritual gifts has 84 verses. This section lacks 5 verses being as long as the whole book of I Thessalonians, or in other words it is almost twice as long as II Thessalonians. Yet, we are going to try to cover all of this material in three or four short lessons. This section is Paul's answer to another one of those questions submitted to him. That's the idea in v.l. The question had to do with spiritual gifts. Now, what do we mean by spiritual gifts? Well, first of all, get it deeply embedded into your brain, here and now, and once and for all: the church hi the first century, at the time we're studying, did not have this New Testament library of 27 books you have hi your hand to guide them as we do today. They could not turn to I Cor. ch. 11 and read about the Lord's supper as we can do. The book of first Corinthians was being written at that time, of course. Second Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, the book of Acts and other books soon followed. The books we call the four gospels were eventually added and before the end of the first century (i.e., by AD 100) the entire library of 27 books we call the New Testament Scriptures were ah1 completed. This was done through the work of God's Holy Spirit. In II Tun. 3:16, Paul said "All Scripture is given by inspiration," i.e., through the Spirit of God. Then the next verse, v.17, Paul told Timothy the reason this Scripture was given: "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." I.e., the scriptures provide us with a complete and thorough understanding of all that we need to serve God. It does not, of course, tell us all about Agriculture, or Science, or mathematics, etc.: but, it reveals all you need to know about serving God.
Thus, you must realize that at the time Paul lived, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, was through Paul and others bringing about a transition hi the way Christians were and are guided into all truth. Jesus promised his apostles in John 15:26, "when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeded! from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." Then a few verses down, John 16:7, Jesus continued, "if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." then skipping down to John 16:13, Jesus continued his same speech to the apostles like this: "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth..." Then you know, that just as Jesus promised the Comforter or Holy Spirit to the apostles hi these verses; the apostles "were filled with the Holy Ghost, (or Holy Spirit)" on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4. As Peter began to speak on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:33, Peter said that Jesus, "having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed froth this, which ye now see and hear." As of then, as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost; the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised would guide the apostles into all truth, resided at that time hi the apostles only. However, as the need arose, the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, were passed on to other Christian teachers and other Christians workers hi limited ways as the need arose. For example when a preacher such as Philip, who had been with the apostles, went into Samaria; Philip received a certain portion of miraculous gifts to guide him hi that work (Acts 8:5-6). We have talked about the word "prophet" before. Philip was a prophet, i.e., one who received miraculous power to teach and preach, guided by the Holy spirit, thus Philip did not need the New Testament as we know it. Philip did not have to read, study and dig and sweat hi rightly dividing the word as we must do. Philip was given this information hi a miraculous way. Please don't ask me how this power was transferred from the apostles to others, I don't know. It did not involve hypodermic needles, wires or black boxes, or any other such paraphernalia I'm sure; but, it happened. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, took care of such things. Those entrusted with these powers of the Holy Spirit did not all receive miraculous powers hi exactly the same way. Apparently the Holy Spirit dispensed such miraculous powers on the basis of need. For example, some were apparently given the power to interpret tongues, i.e., foreign languages, but they possibly could not speak the same. Others who were given the power to speak and preach publicly to a foreign audience did not necessarily have the power to interpret or converse with the same people. As I said, it would appear that these miraculous powers of the Spirit were distributed on the basis of need and that such powers were very specialized, again based upon the need, I suppose. Others were given power to heal diseases and to do other miraculous things. But, hi this way the church, i.e., God's children, Christians of the first century, were guided into all truth, just as Jesus had promised the apostles. Prorogating the word to the masses was still done by preaching, just like today. Now, get this! Not all Christians received such powers; as I have said, only as needed and the Holy Spirit decided the need and gave accordingly. You will remember, Simon the sorcerer wanted to purchase this power. Peter told Simon, "Thy money perish with thee." Thus, these "Spiritual gifts" as they are called here hi I Cor. ch. 12, were not a commercial product. I would presume from my limited concept of this that only a very few Christians (percentage wise) ever received such "spiritual gifts." Some hi that large congregation at Corinth had received such "spiritual gifts." This, of course, is strange to us; hi that after the New Testament was complete and could thoroughly supply all the instructional truth that a Christian needs; this "spiritual gift" system was done away, as we shall learn hi these passages. I am acutely aware that half of my time has passed and I haven't read a single verse. But, I think it needs to be said also, before we move on, since this is a strange phenomenon to us; that, these "spiritual gifts" did no hi any way change the person other than the fact that they had information or miraculous abilities they did no have before. It is just like you reading the Bible and learning something today. It doesn't make you any taller, or any shorter. We are just as ugly or just as pretty after as before we learned what ever it was. Our personality is the same, or should be. You must admit that when some people study the Bible and learn a few things today they get stuck-up so-to-speak. They think everyone else should look up to them and they sometimes lose their servant attitude. In a similar way, it would seem that some who were given "spiritual gifts" back then got a little stuck-up also. You see, it's hard to stay humble isn't it? But, the point I'm trying to make is that a boastful spirit didn't have to do with the spiritual gifts given, it had to do with the person(s), you see. Some one has said, an humble person realizes that it doesn't matter how many trophies or how many awards you are given; the size of your funeral will depend upon the weather that day. And, remember God controls the weather. So, don't let it go to your head. It would appear from the things the apostle says here that some at Corinth who possessed spiritual gifts were boastful and competitive with those possessing some other spiritual gift and some thought themselves superior for this reason. If you can comprehend this thought; then, you have the key to understanding I Cor. ch. 12-13-14.
So., lets's read! Lefs begin hi v.l and read down through ¥.11, Got it? Here we go, v.l. "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of god calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the work of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but ah1 these worketh that one and the selfsame Spkit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
Alright, back to v.l. I would tend to think the question submitted to Paul had something to do with respect due those exhibiting spiritual gifts. In other words, which gifts were the greatest? So, Paul says he wants them to be informed about spiritual gifts, i.e., miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit as we talked about earlier. Most, as least, of those that Paul was writing to were former Gentiles and former idolaters. Paul emphasized those idols that they formerly worshipped were dumb; i.e., senseless. In contrast the Holy Spirit gave knowledge and provided understanding. Spiritual gifts such as healing and speaking hi tongues were proofs also as to the genuineness of die Christian religion in contrast to the dumb idols that still polluted the city of Corinth. The word "diversity" hi v.4 means: different kinds or various kinds. So, in v.4-5-6, Paul was saying spiritual gifts varied. They were Administered differently and provided different services and operations or that which was accomplished varied. Yet there was one Holy Spirit, one Lord Jesus Christ and one God. Yet, (v.7) what was accomplished through these spiritual gifts given through the Holy Spirit were for the benefit of all. No gift of the Spirit was merely for the personal benefit of the one so endowed with that gift. These gifts all emanated from a common source. Then in v.8-9-10, Paul shows by a listing just how diverse such spiritual gifts were. There are nine gifts listed in v.8-9-10. The first: "word of wisdom" had to do with the ability to reveal divine truth. Knowledge is just a mere collection of facts; but, wisdom (the word here) means to so arrange facts as to make them meaningful and useful. Second, was "the word of knowledge," i.e., to provide the factual information itself. Then Paul emphasized (end v.8) these both, i.e., knowledge and wisdom came by the same Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Third, is in v.9, "faith," i.e., miraculous faith, not faith in the ordinary sense, not faith that comes by hearing. Again, Paul emphasized by the same Spirit. Fourth, was "the gift of hearing" or restoration of health. Again this was by the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit of god. The contrast here is with polytheism, i.e., the many so-called heathen gods that the Gentiles worshipped. They had a god for everything. Paul emphasized that all the spiritual gifts emanated from the same God. Fifth, is "working of miracles." Sixth, "prophecy," seventh, "discerning of spirits," eighth, "divers kinds of tongues," ninth and last, "the interpretation of tongues." Again Paul repeated in v.12, these were all from the common source of the Holy Spirit and that they were for the benefit of all.
Then in v.12, as Paul's style was, Paul began to illustrate. Let's read Paul's illustration. We'll read the rest of the chapter 12; although, we won't have time to discuss it much in this lesson. Are you ready, beginning in v.12, let's read.
"For as the body is one, and hath many members and all members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? And now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts. And yet show I unto you a more excellent way."
Alright, as I have already said, we'll have to hold the discussion of Paul's illustration until lesson #34. So, before you lay down your book; why don't you re-read this a couple more times, take a few notes for next time and see what you get from Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts and his illustration of how spiritual gifts fit together for the good of all at Corinth. In the minute I have left; may I remind you that ch. 12-13-14 all go together. Many people have memorized ch. 13, usually referred to as "the love chapter of the bible" and don't have the foggiest idea of the context of spiritual gifts and it will mean a whole lot more. Have a good day!