Grace For The Journey
For the last several days we have been examining Spiritual Gifts. We have covered those gifts listed in Romans 12 and similar gifts mentioned in other passages. In today’s blog, I want us to examine some truths in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 and deal with the practical aspects of discovering and using your spiritual gifts. Much of what people commonly understand about spiritual gifts is based in experience and not on what the text actually says. Our goal should be to live according to what God actually says and not on what people say based on their experiences.
Paul introduces the topic of Spiritual things in 1 Corinthians 12:1 in response to some question they had, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” Paul is explaining to them about the “pnumatikon” – “the spiritual things.” The word “gifts” is not in the text, though the general idea of it is implied in the context. That is why your Bible has “gifts” in italics. We might be better to just translate this as “spirituals” or “spiritual things” because as soon as we add “gifts” our thoughts tend to center on them and they are not in the focus of Paul’s discussion that starts here and continues on through chapter 14.
His interest here is more on their being
Spiritual as opposed to being carnal.
They have gifts that are spiritually given,
So they should use them for spiritual purposes.
They are part of a spiritual body, So,
They should live according to spiritual priorities.
The Corinthians were not ignorant concerning the spiritual gifts themselves, for in 1:7 Paul had already told them that they “were not lacking in any gift.” Their ignorance was in the purpose of those gifts and how to use them.
In verse 2 and 3, Paul reminds them of their past in paganism and how they came to Christ, “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. 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.” Why does Paul remind them of this? Because much of their problem in this area is similar to the problem they were having in other areas. They were dragging their old ideas and practices of paganism into the church. Notice how Paul puts it, “When you were pagans, you were carried away to these dumb idols, even you were led.” This pictures the pagan mystery religions’ practices. The worshipers would be carried away in the emotional hysteria of either the ecstatic state or the mystical experience of enthusiasm.
The pagan worship in Corinth gave great value to the state of ecstasy, and the person that entered it was held in high esteem as having achieved the ultimate in their religion. This condition was viewed as a supernatural, sensuous communion with a deity. Through frenzied hypnotic chants and ceremonies the worshipers experienced semiconscious euphoric feelings of oneness with the god or goddess. The ecstasy might take the form of either a trance or trance like state, or in the case of the worship of Aphrodite, unrestrained sexual orgies. To help a person achieve this state, various practices could be used including vigils, fastings, the contemplation of sacred objects, chanting, and even drunkenness. Physical exertion in whirling dancing and such could also be used to help to produce the state of ecstasy.
Similar to ecstasy, and sometimes accompanying it, was a condition termed
“enthusiasm.” The participant would become involved in divination, revelatory dreams, and visions. Plato and Virgil record the scenes of these practices in which the people would be so caught up in emotional hysteria that they would begin shaking, fall down, and babble in ecstatic speech. All these practices are still common in many pagan religions today.
Because these things appeared to be supernatural, even if bizarre to our minds, the practice had a strong attraction to people, and some of the Corinthians confused the miracles of the Holy Spirit with their pagan practices. Satan always seeks to mimic and soon many of these Corinthian Christians were bringing their pagan practices into the church. And as the next verse indicates, if a person was supposedly in one of these spiritual states, they even tolerated them saying things that are blasphemous.
Verses 3 says, “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 Spirit.” Apparently there were those who were supposedly speaking by the spirit in whatever manner, but were in fact blaspheming the name of Christ. Incredible! They were doing that while supposedly under the control of the Holy Spirit. Paul says, “NO!” The Spirit will not allow such a thing. Paul is not saying someone cannot physically say “Jesus is Lord,” unless the Holy Spirit is present. He is saying that the Spirit promotes Jesus and glorifies Him. Someone who is “in the Spirit” will also glorify Jesus. They will not be blaspheming Him.
Origin And Purpose Of Spiritual Gifts.
Starting in verse 4, Paul turns his attention to the question of spiritual gifts themselves. In verses 4-8, Paul tells them where the gifts, ministries, and effectiveness of those ministries come from. We have looked at these verses before, but they bear repeating before we get to specific gifts given as examples in verses 8-10.
Verse 4 states, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” “Gifts” here is “charismaton” from which we get the word “charismatic.” It means “gift of grace.” The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians, but He gives different gifts to different people. Every Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to serve the Lord. There are all sorts of spiritual gifts, as we have seen over the several blogs, but
whatever gift it may be, it came by the Spirit.
Verse 5 says, “There are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord.” The Lord is the same for all Christians, but He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a variety of ministries as He chooses. We have already seen this in the many gifts we have already studied. Ministries vary in the age group they are used in (children, youth, adults, elderly), the setting they are used (public, private), and in their particular expression.
Verse 6 declares, “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.” God is the same for all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts
used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING TO GOD. The gift and ministry will vary in how many people are affected by it. It could just be a few people at a Bible Study, or with more people at a church service, or it could be used regionally, nationally, or even internationally.
The bottom line is that God has gifted
Every believer to serve Him,
But the gift or gifts given,
The ministry that the gift(s)
Are used in, and the
Effectiveness of the gift(s)
Are according to the Lord’s
Will, and not your own.
The purpose of God giving these spiritual gifts and ministries to you is stated in verse 7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” No gift is given for private usage. Every gift is meant to fit in as part of the whole body of Christ and help it. We learn from Ephesians 4:12 and 16 that all gifts are for the building up of the whole Body. No gift is for private edification.
What are these “manifestations of the Spirit,” these outward evidences of the Spirit’s presence? In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a person’s life – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In this text, the evidence is the gift(s) given by the Spirit so that God’s children can serve Him and thereby benefit the whole Body.
Which gift manifests the Holy Spirit in a person’s life? The text here is clear that it is any gift. I will add that any so called “gift” that is not displayed along with the fruit of the Spirit cannot be considered evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Pentacostal doctrine on this issue is simply wrong. The gift of speaking in an unknown tongue is not the “manifestation of the Spirit” or of being “baptized in the Spirit.” It is only one of many gifts that could be given.
Any gift used in any ministry with any effect is a manifestation of the Spirit, and its purpose is for the common good of the whole Body. I cannot stress this enough. There are no insignificant gifts. There are no insignificant ministries. There are no insignificant people in the church. Every person, every gift, and every ministry is needed in order for the Body to be healthy and carry out its God given purposes of worshiping God, caring for one another, building each other up, and declaring the message of salvation from sin by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What are these gifts? We have already studied Romans 12:6-8, which mentions prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and mercy. We have also looked at the gifts of preaching, speaking, helps, and administration that are mentioned in other passages. Again, because of the mention of these various gifts are scattered around the Bible, I do not believe the Holy Spirit intended to give us an exhaustive list of all His gifts. The gifts mentioned are simply examples so that the point can be made
that God has equipped us, and we are to serve Him. I hope that our study so far has helped you think through how God might use you in serving Him.
All spiritual gifts are supernaturally derived according to the will of the Spirit of God. A spiritual gift may use a natural talent, or it may function where there is not natural talent or skill, and a person with a natural skill may not have the corresponding spiritual gift.
The key question
A spiritual gift is:
Is God using you
In that area?
Your gift, whatever it is, will help the rest of the Body become more like Jesus Christ. That includes helping those without that particular gift fulfill God’s commands in that area. For example, a person with the gift of mercy will help others become more merciful. A person with the gift of giving will inspire others to be more giving. A person who teaches will help others fulfill their own obligations in teaching those they are responsible for.
Using Your Gift.
The very practical questions now arises of how do I know what gift or gifts I have, and how do I begin to use them?
1) You don’t need to be that concerned about labeling your gift. Generally, you find out what gift you have after you have been using it for awhile. The primary concern is just serving the Lord.
Serving the Lord must start with your walk with Him. The more you know Him, and the closer you walk with Him, the greater will be your ability to serve Him. The greater the harmony between your will and His will the more God can use you.
2) As you walk closely with the Lord, see what desires He has He placed in your heart. That is the point of Psalm 37 where it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” As you delight yourself in the Lord, your desires change to match His. He then grants those desires because they are according to His will.
You simply need to try and serve Him in some specific area. How can you know whether the Lord has gifted you in an area or not if you have not tried? Too often fear keeps us from the blessings God would have for us if we would just trust Him and step out in the face of our fears.
3) Evaluate your spiritual gifts, your heart or passion (what you really enjoy doing), you abilities, how God has wired you, what experiences have prepared your for ministry, and how the Lord is using you. Have others responded positively to your ministry? Have others become more like Christ because of it? Do other mature believers confirm the effect of your ministry in that particular area?
I did not know God had gifted me to pastor/teach until I was called and challenged to do it. I tried it with some fear and trepidation. I began leading Bible Studies within my your group, then I started youth ministries or worked to strengthen them in other churches, opportunities opened for me to preach at Coffee Houses and my home church gave me opportunities to preach, and the Lord has opened doors for pastoring churches. I saw God use my gifts in the lives of other people, and then those more mature than I confirmed it. Over the years, my part has simply been a matter of being faithful and learning to use this gift as effectively as I know how, but it is God that opens the door to ministry and makes me effective.
The last aspect in determining where you should serve the Lord is what I will call your compulsion-joy level. If we are properly serving the Lord, He will do one of two things. He will either give us a great joy in the midst of the service, or He will compel us to do it. We will either have a sense of pleasure in the serving knowing we are doing God’s will, or we will be like Jeremiah. God called him to a thankless ministry of rebuking the
Hebrews and even told him that the people would not listen. Not surprisingly, Jeremiah did not like that ministry, yet when he refrained he described it as a “burning fire shut up in his bones,” and he was compelled to continue preaching to those stubborn and obstinate people.
What are you currently doing to serve the Lord? As you consider the areas God may have gifted you and your desires to try a new area of ministry, what will the Lord have you do in helping the whole Body of Christ mature? When will you begin doing it?
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”