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1. We are looking at what the New Testament teaches us about the church. There is no way that we are going to say everything that can be said about the church of Jesus Christ (in fact, I can already think of things that should have been said in previous messages that did not get said …). But Pastor Bell and I are trying to zero in on the most important matters as we see them given to us in the New Testament.
2. We have considered the identity of the church – disciples, the purpose of the church – worship, the mission of the church – make disciples, the first ordinance of the church – baptism, the second requirement after baptism for believers – membership in the church. We spent three four looking at leadership in the church – pastors/elders/bishops and deacons.
3. Today – gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church.
a. The most detailed teaching regarding spiritual gifts in the NT is found in I Corinthians 12 – 14.
i. The most prevalent problem in the church at Corinth was disunity/division. We see it referred to in 1:10, 3:1-4, (Note that in chapter 5 the Corinthian church is very much united in their treating sin in the church as a small thing, while fighting over other things not as important) 6:1,8, 11:18. When Paul concludes his Letter to them the last instruction he gives them is – 16:13-14 … .
ii. This problem of division had infected the Corinthian church in its understanding and practise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It had become such a problem that they asked Paul to teach them on this matter.
(1) We see the disunity in the matter of the gifts in verses 12-13, 15, 21, 26, 27. And especially verses 28-31
(2) The most famous text in all the Bible regarding love is in fact God telling the church at Corinth (and all churches to follow) that there is something more important than what gift a believer has. Love is more important … . Don’t focus on the gift that you or others have. The world will not know that we are the disciples of Jesus because of the gifts that we have. It will know that we are His disciples because of the love we have for one another.
(3) The problem with their understanding of gifts was that had exalted one gift in particular above all the rest – the gift of tongues. This, Paul addresses in chapter 14. The key verses for understanding what Paul is getting at when he teaches about tongues and prophecy are – verse 5, 12, 19, 22, 24-25. 9Chapter 14 closes with some practical instruction regarding how things ought to be done in a church service of worship in terms of tongues and prophecy.)
I 12:1-3 – Spiritual Gifts and Sound Doctrine
1. Verse 1 – “now concerning”
a. This tells us that Paul is responding to a question put to him by the church. See also 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12. See Paul also using this technique in I Thessalonians 4:9; 5:1; II Thessalonians 2:1
2. Verse 1 – “spiritual gifts”
a. Lit – “spirituals” – The context tells us what “spirituals” are being referred to. It can either be spiritual people or spiritual things of some sort.
i. Bonus point – The undisputed champion most important principle to pay attention to in understanding a text of Scripture properly is … context. If you want to interpret a piece of Scripture properly you must familiarize yourself with what is said before, and after it. In this case what comes before 12:1 is not related but we know that the “spirituals” being referred to in verse 1 are gifts because of what we read in verses 4, 9, 11.
3. Verse 1 – I do not want you to be uninformed
a. See Paul’s use of this phrase in 10:1, 14:38, II Cor. 1:8, 2:11, Rom. 1:13, 11:25, I Thess. 4:13
b. We should be informed about spiritual gifts.
i. Let us not just breeze over this comment. Keep it in the front of your mind. We are going to see its importance in just a minute.
4. Verse 2 – “You know” – oida – to know from experience – “you know the experience you had as non-believers…”
a. “Were led astray” – the force of the verb is such that it means that these Corinthians can remember the times before they were believers when they were under the influence of something other than the one true God. Paul is reminding them that before they were saved they were led astray to the worship of gods who were unable to speak.
i. Why bring that up here? What has their former idolatry got to do with the proper use of gifts in the church? Remember that the problem in the Corinthian church regarding gifts is that they exalt the gift of tongues above the other gifts. It is an amazing gift. For someone to be able to speak in a language (yes – a real language) that they have never learned. Pretty spectacular. But why bring that up here? Because Paul is reminding them that if it is the ability to speak in untaught tongues that is the mark of being in Christ, then they were in Christ before they were saved!
ii. Verse 2 – to mute [lit – without speech] idols – why refer to these idols as speechless?
(1) The important thing is not what we say or in what tongue we say it. The important thing is that we now serve the God who speaks. The issue is not your speech. The important thing is not what YOU say or in what language you say it. The important thing is that you say what God says. The issue is Him – supremely NOT you. The issue is not what gift you have. The issue is that He has given it to you for His sovereign purposes – see verse 18. The crucial thing is that we have a God who speaks. What matters first of all is not what we say. It is what we hear. And the gods they used to serve cannot be heard at all – for they are mute, dumb, speechless.
(2) Dear ones – we get all caught up in what OUR GIFTS are. The primary issue is not our gifts. The primary issue is our God. The primary issue is being in a right relationship with our God through faith in the eternal Son of God. The issue is listening, not speaking.
(3) So – the first and most important lesson about gifts in the church is – Hear the voice of God. The most important thing regarding gifts is – know your Bible. Hear God speaking in the inspired Word of God.
5. Verse 3 – Second thing to know – there is no gift which does not honour Christ. Gifts that come form the Holy Spirit will honour Christ, focus on Christ, hear Christ, give the Gospel of Christ, point to Christ and be faithful to what the Scriptures say about Christ.
a. Why does Paul say this? Why does he say “No one speaking by the Spirit of God …” Why does Paul find it necessary to warn them about what some people say about Christ?
i. Because they have been influenced by people who deny the truths of the Gospel. Why are the Corinthians being deceived by this? Because the heretical words are accompanied by miraculous gifts. “What they say must be true”, the Corinthians reason in their minds and in their cell groups and in their services. How can they be wrong when they speak in Tongues, heal people, perform miracles …?
ii. Dear ones hear this and burn this in deep and permanently: People who are not believers can have ecstatic experiences, speak in tongues, perform miracles, heal the sick, … . We are not to be led astray by such things. What matters is what they think and believe and teach about Jesus.
iii. I have been quoting Colossians 2:8 in this church for a very long time. See to it that no one takes you captive … How are we able to be taken captive? According to Paul here we can be taken captive by the spectacular display of miraculous or incredible events.
iv. And the deception does not just happen in the field of who Jesus is and what we say about Him, although that is the primary issue. Could we not also say that no one talking by the Spirit can say – “there is not trinity”, “salvation is by works” … ? Of course. Paul here is merely making reference to what people have actually said to the Corinthians. “Jesus is cursed” they say and then they go on to perform a miracle of some sort. But they could also have as easily said “the Bible is ot the Word of God”, or “salvation by works” or “grace means no rules” or a hundred other things. Dear ones – do not be deceived.
v. What Paul is getting at is that there is a test for orthodoxy that is greater than experience. Seeing is not always believing. See II Thess. 2:9-12
II 12:4-11 – Many Gifts, One Giver, For the Good of the Church
1. Verse 4-6
a. Gifts come from the triune God. Do you see the trinity here dear ones? It is not a coincidence that Paul refers to the trinity of God here, and make no mistake, that is exactly what he does.
i. Verse 4 – gifts of the Spirit.
ii. Verse 5 – varieties of service of the Lord [Jesus].
iii. Verse 6 – varieties of activities of God [the Father].
b. Note the three words in verses 4-6 that are used to refer to gifts.
i. Verse 4 – Gifts = charismaton – the word stresses the freeness of the gift. It comes from the word “Charis” meaning grace and stresses the fat that gifts are, well, gifts. They are not “earns”.
(1) Where is boasting dear ones, when it comes to gifts? It is gone. It cannot stand in the face of how we have our gifts. They are gifts – not earns. See I Cor. 4:7
ii. Verse 5 – service = diakonion – from the word for servant or deacon. This emphasizes the purpose of the free gift. To serve others. Gifts are not to show off with. They are not to brag about. They are not for looking down on those who have different ones. This is a major problem in the Corinthian church. See verse 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. They have turned gifts into earns and servanthood into lordship.
iii. Verse 6 – activities – energematon – the emphasis is on what is produced. The point here is that we use our gifts but it is God who makes them accomplish something. Gifts benefit others. They produce effects in others that are beneficial. This is their purpose. But the Corinthians have made them as attractions to themselves. They do not focus on what is produced but on who produced it, how well it appeared to be used, how spectacular it is, how great the one with the gift must be.
iv. See how this addresses the most glaring sin in the Corinthian church; division
2. Verse 7 – the purpose of a gift in each believer is to benefit the church. See I Peter 4:10, Romans 12:4-5
a. There are no gifts given for the sake of personal edification
b. For the common good
i. Dear ones, look around you. What do you see? In terms of I Corinthians 12 you should see people whom you are to bless with your gifts.
ii. You are to see them in terms of Phil. 2:3-4, Romans 13:8, John 13:14, Gal. 6:2, …
(1) “But Ken”, you say, “those texts are not talking about the use of our gifts”. They do not mention gifts dear ones but they do talk about how we are to serve one another. And that is why we have the gifts that we have.
(2) This whole concept is so oft repeated and we need to know that this is where the really important things are.
(3) Dear ones – there are people in this church who do ot need to know what marvelous gifts you have. But they do need to benefit from your use of them. They need to be helped, encouraged, prayed with, prayed for. Some may need to be corrected – and that is when you use your gift in the spirit of Ephesians 5:15-16.
(a) And can I say this? Just because you have a dream about someone does not necessarily mean that God is telling you some secret about someone else. Be very careful about this. Before you ever talk to someone about some impression or dream or feeling – pray, pray, pray.
c. But that is not what we want is it? We want to show the world what our gift is. We want people to see ME. No dear ones – we want them to see Him. That is where Paul begins to take these people when he starts talking about the gifts. They must see Jesus.
3. To each one – If you are a believer then you have been given a gift from God for the common good of this church. So here is what needs to happen.
a. You need to be baptized – God is not calling you to use your gifts at TBC if you are not walking in obedience to the first command to every believer. Why should we believe you that God wants to use you here if you are not even willing to obey Him in something that is abundantly plain? Acts 2:42
b. You need to join the church, confessing the statement of faith and church covenant as your own. Acts 2:42
c. You need to be in regular attendance for at least one corporate church event a week (Hebrews 10:25) Acts 2:42
d. You need to commit yourself to not missing the Lord’s Supper and only miss it when absolutely unavoidable. Acts 2:42
e. You need to pray with other people from this church at least once a week. (Sunday a.m. before church, Wednesday evening, Tuesday evening, Tuesday morning, at a Bible study with others).
f. You need to submit yourself to the authorities of the church. I Thess. 5:12-13, Hebrews 13:17
g. You need to support the efforts of this church – II Corinthians 8:8
h. You need to use the gifts that God has given you for the good of this church
I am not going to tell you that God has given you a gift and you had better get to using it. That is not what the NT implies or teaches. It teaches that those who believed were baptized, added to the church, taught the Scriptures, fellowshipped together, prayed together, broke bread together, grew together, put themselves under the elders as their spiritual leaders and authorities in the church and demonstrated love for their fellow believers through the use of their gifts.
1. Well, that’s a good start. But it touches on the crucial elements of the use of gifts in the church.
a. Don’t be deceived by what appears to be great movenents of God but which are denying the cardinal truths of the Word of God.
b. Know the Scriptures.
c. Know the cardinal truths of the Word of God.
2. Use your gift for the good of the church
a. Show that God is calling you to use your gifts here by your commitment to the work and ministries of TBC