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1 Corinthians 12: Gifted for the Good of the Body Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Every person should be using their spiritual gift, or gifts, for the good of Trinity Baptist Church. We expect the pastor to be exercising his gift of preaching/teaching. Perhaps we expect a few others to be using their gifts as well. But why do we not all feel the importance of using our gifts for the edification of the Body? Why isnít there an expectation for all of us to be exercising our gifts to build up the community of faith? My hope is that our study of the gifts this morning and over the next few weeks will encourage us all to be using our gifts for the good of our Church.

Paul addresses the issue of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14. He introduces the topic in 12:1-3. Look at those verses with me. This seems like an unexpected and odd way to begin talking about spiritual gifts, or spiritual persons. But in light of what we have seen in the letter already and the Corinthiansí tendency to elevate wisdom and knowledge and view themselves as having already arrived, it seems that Paul begins in this way to give them a simple way to differentiate between those who are spiritual and those who are not. His criteria is straightforward: do they believe that Jesus is Lord? The idea is not merely can they say the words, but do they truly profess that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Lord over their life? If they can, then they are spiritual, or they have the Spirit, because no one can make and live out such a profession without the power of the Spirit. So then, at the very beginning of his teaching on spiritual gifts, Paul places every believer on common ground. All who say that Jesus is Lord have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, not just certain individuals with certain gifts. Since the gift of tongues will play a particular role in the argument due to its misuse in Corinth, Paul is essentially saying: ĎSpeaking in tongues is not more important than confessing Christ as Lord. All who can do the latter are spiritual people.í

From this introduction, Paul will argue for the importance of the unity of the Church with a diversity of gifts in chapter 12. His teaching could be summarized with this statement: ĎAll are gifted by the same Spirit for the common good.í In our time together this morning I want to break apart that sentence into three sections and show how Paul is teaching each part in the text. Before we jump into Paulís argument in chapter 12, let me make a brief statement about my view of the gifts so that you know where I am coming from. I do not believe that the gifts ceased at the completion of the canon of Scripture. I believe they still function today. However, I do disagree with certain ideas taught by those of the Charismatic movement which I will try to point out as they come up in the text. With that being said, letís consider Paulís teaching in 1 Corinthians 12.

All are gifted (v. 4-6)

Every member of the community of faith has been given a gift or gifts that they can use to edify the Church. Such truth is implied in Paulís use of the Body as an analogy for the Church. Each part of the physical has its own role to play just as each member of the Church has a gift to offer. Paul implies this in Romans 12:3-8 as does Peter in 1 Peter 4:10-11. Thus, we can see that every believer has been gifted by the Spirit.

Paul says as much at the end of verses 4-6. Look at those verses with me. There is a diversity of gifts and services and activities, but all are given by God who empowers them all in everyone. Paul uses trinitarian language to teach unity in diversity. Each is given a gift by God through the power of the Spirit to be used in the service of others. All are gifted.

So then, let me just stop and encourage you with this truth. If you have truly repented of your sins, placed your faith in Christ, and received the gift of the Spirit, then you have been gifted by the Spirit in some way to build up the local Body of Christ. To deny that God can use you to such an end is to question the power of the Spirit. Do not make that mistake. If you are a member of Trinity Baptist Church, then you should be seeking to use your gift to build up the body here.

All are gifted by the same Spirit (v. 8-13)

We have seen repeatedly that division was a problem in the Church at Corinth. They were divided over teachers and grievances and food sacrificed to idols. Just last week we saw that they were divided when they gathered for the Lordís Supper. It seems that they were divided over spiritual gifts as well. So Paul emphasizes repeatedly in chapter 12 the fact that all of the gifts come from the same Spirit. Look at verses 8-11 (we will come back to verse 7 in a moment). Again, Paul notes the variety of gifts: utterance of wisdom and utterance of knowledge (perhaps gifts of teaching or special revelation), faith (not just saving faith that all have, but a special gift of faith for service or activity), gifts of healing (specific gifts of physical healing), working of miracles (specific miraculous gifts other than healing), prophecy (speaking words of encouragement and general/specific exhortation), ability to distinguish between spirits (a gift of discernment), various kinds of tongues (unknown languages spoken to God), and interpretation of tongues (ability to interpret). To be honest, it is difficult to know exactly what each of these gifts refer to, although we can make educated guesses. In context, the issue is not so much the individual gifts, but the fact that all are given by the same Spirit. Whatever gift you have been given to encourage the Church, it was given to you by the Spirit of God. He has sovereignly given a gift or gifts to each person as he wills.

Paul wants the Corinthians and us to know that the same Spirit has gifted us all specifically. He has given us all gifts. He states this again when he introduces the analogy of the body. Look at verses 12-13. When a person repents of their sins, believes in Jesusí sacrifice at the cross, and receives the gift of the Spirit, then they are baptized into one body and are made to drink of one Spirit. We are given the gift of the Spirit at conversion, who then gifts us to serve the local Body of believers. The One Spirit gives us a variety of gifts to serve the Church. Unity of body with a diversity of gifts for the health and growth of the community is what the Spirit gives, which is what leads to our last part of the summary statement.

All are gifted by the same Spirit for the common good (v. 14-31)

Why does the Spirit give us gifts? What is the purpose of spiritual gifts? Paul repeatedly tells us the answer to this question in chapters 12-14. Look at what he says in 12:7. The purpose of spiritual gifts is the building up of the Body of Christ. It is not about who has what gifts or who is particularly gifted. No, it is about building up the community of faith. One of my commentatorís write: ďIndeed, the measure of greatness of any spiritual gift is not its degree of impressiveness, or its apparent miraculous nature, but its usefulness in building up the body of Christ, in love and truth.Ē The purpose of the gifts is the edification of the local Church. The Spirit has given each of us gifts so that we can encourage each other in the faith.

Paul uses the analogy of the body to drive home the point that we are all to use our gifts for the sake of the rest of the Church. He addresses this in two ways, letís consider these.

First, all the parts are needed in the body. Look at verses 14-20.

There are those who seem to be tempted to believe that they are insignificant or unimportant to the local body of believers. Perhaps their gifting is not out front but behind the scenes. Perhaps they are new to the fellowship or unknown by many in the Church. Perhaps they just donít feel like they have that much to offer when it comes to spiritual matters. Anybody ever feel that way? The truth is that all have been given a gift or gifts by the Spirit and all parts are necessary for the health and growth of the local Church. You exercising your spiritual gift is just as important for our health at Trinity Baptist Church as me exercising mine. You cannot say, ĎWell, I am not a pastor or a deacon or a Sunday School teacher, so my contribution is not important.í If we were all pastors or all deacons or all Sunday School teachers, how weird would that be? That would be like a body of eyes or ears or noses. We might be able to see really well or hear really well or smell really well, but we could not do all three. No, we need each one exercising their own unique gift for the healthy functioning of the body. And donít miss that God is sovereign over this, for He has arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. Thus, we should all use our gifts for the common good of the Church.

Second, the body needs all the parts. Look at verses 21-26. Those in the Church who perhaps do have the more up front gifts cannot act as if they do not need the other parts. No, all the parts are needed and necessary. The weaker parts of our body are indispensable. The one with less honor we show more honor. And the unpresentable parts are treated with more modesty. This is how we treat our physical bodies and we should treat the local Church the same. It seems that perhaps those in Corinth with the gift of tongues were looking down on those who did not have this gift. This was causing division in the Church. But Paul is reminding them that God has so composed the body...that there may be no division in the body. Instead, each part should see the other parts as equally important. The eye needs the hand needs the head needs the feet. When one part suffers, we all suffer together. When one part rejoices, we all rejoice together. We laugh together and we weep together. We are one body and we need every part.

Paul concludes the analogy of the body by once again applying it to the situation in Corinth. Look at verses 27-31. We are the body (unity) and we are are each individual parts (diversity). Once again Paul notes Godís role in sovereignly appointing the parts of the body. He gave the various gifts to the body. Note that the list here is not the same as the list earlier, which shows that there is no definitive, all encompassing list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament. Paulís point is not the specific gifts but the truth that there are a variety of gifts. Not all are eyes and not all are apostles or prophets or teachers. Not all are ears and not all have gifts of miracles or healing or helping or administrating. And even though some in certain Charismatic circles have claimed otherwise, not all have the gift of tongues. God did not intend for all to have the same gift or gifts. Rather, there is a variety of gifts and Paul commands us to pursue the higher gifts, probably referring to those at the beginning of the list, namely prophecy and teaching. But before he gets to the controversy over the gift of tongues in Corinth (ch. 14), Paul breaks from his argument to remind the Corinthians again of the importance of love, which we will look at in depth next week. For now, we simply need to see that all have been gifted by the same Spirit for the common good of the Church.

If we all have been given gifts by the same Spirit for the good of the local Church, then let me close with this question: how are you using your gift to serve Trinity Baptist Church? If you have never trusted in Christ as your Savior, then it begins there. He came and gave His life to redeem a Body, a Bride, of believers that we call the Church. If you turn from your sins and believe in Christís death and resurrection, then you will receive the gift of the Spirit who will equip you and empower you to build up other believers. If you have not trusted in Christ, then do so today. If you are a Christian, then how are using your gifts to serve a local body? Are you connected to a local Church through membership? If not, then join with us today. If you are a member here, then how are you using your gift to edify the members of Trinity Baptist Church? If you are struggling with how to do that, then let me encourage you to do two things. First, pray and ask God to reveal to you how you can use your gifts here. Second, ask someone you trust about what gift or gifts they think you have. Then look for ways to use that gift in the Church. It can be that simple. Letís be a Church that believers and practices the truth that all are gifted by the same Spirit for the common good. Amen.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 December 2015 )

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