How He enables his church for works of service
In the early morning of New Yeas Day 1901 a group of Bible students came together, earnestly seeking to experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, hoping for something amazing. They were convinced that speaking in tongues was a sure sign of being baptised by the Holy Sprit.
A pastor by the name of Charles Parham laid hands on a girl, Agnes Ozman, and she began speaking in what seemed like Chinese. Her experience became a prototype experience for all the millions of Pentecostals who were to follow. Within a century the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal Movements would grow to include more than half a billion charismatic adherents. (MacArthur, John, Strange Fire, Nelson Books, 2013, page 20.)
One of the important marks of the Pentecostal Movement, even today, is speaking in tongues. This is very closely connected with other gifts, referred to as charismatic gifts, most of it being extraordinary. A manifestation of the Pentecostal Movement gave us the Toronto Blessing: people broke out in “holy laughter”, others were slain in the Sprit, and worship was ecstatic, and even grossly disorderly.
Today a very large proportion of Pentecostals preach and believe in Prosperity Theology – the so-called aim and claim theology. Common to the vocabulary of the Pentecostal Movement is “power” and “empowerment”. This is taken from the verse in Acts 1:8, where Jesus promised the disciples that they will “receive power when the Holy Spirit will come” on them. All sorts of ecstatic and extraordinary power fall within the understanding of that verse.
It is not uncommon to hear in the exposition of that verse that our word for dynamite comes from that word power – with the conclusion then that those who receive the Spirit receives the power of dynamite which is explosive. The understanding of the word to be dynamite is then determined by our understanding of what dynamite really is, with complete disregard for the fact that people who created TNT came more than 1800 years later on the scene and looked to the Greek to name their discovery. And of course, not only is dynamite powerful, it is extremely dangerous and destructive. One can only wonder why only one aspect of dynamite is used to describe the power of Acts 1:8.
Our aim today is to look at what the Scriptures say about the Holy Spirit and the gifts He gives to his church. We will specifically be looking at 1 Corinthians 12, the classic chapter so much loved by Pentecostals preachers.
The Spirit declares “Jesus is Lord” (verses 2-3)
The first fact Paul wanted the Corinthians to know is that no unbeliever can say that Jesus Christ is his Lord. The other side of the coin is also true: no believer can say Jesus Christ is his Lord without the Holy Spirit. This is crucial; it concur with the rest of the Scripture’s teaching about the Spirit.
Jesus said to Nicodemus that no-one can see the Kingdom of God unless he his born again. In that chapter Jesus points very explicitly to the work of the Holy Spirit. To be born is to come into existence; to be born again is to be brought to spiritual life. When Nicodemus in amazement asked Jesus how he possibly could go back into his mothers womb, our Lord said,
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:6–7, NIV)
Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 4:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV)
In the next chapter he says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
Peter writes in 1 Peter 1 when he refers to those inspired to write down the prophesies about Christ:
… they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:12, 23, NIV)
Paul states in Ephesians 2:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV)
Can you this morning call Jesus Christ your Lord and Master? Take the Bible on his word, you can only do so because you, when you became a Christian, received the Holy Spirit. He is not something we get added onto what we first believed about Jesus Christ; on the contrary, what we believed about Christ is what the Spirit gave us. His job is to teach us about Jesus and to remind us about what He did for us.
All Christians are baptised by one Spirit, and drinks from the same Spirit (verse 12-13)
The different gifts we as members of the church have is a result of the renewing work of the Holy Spirit bringing us to Christ. Here we may think of the sponge dipped into water: it is one sponge, and all of the sponge when dipped into water become saturated with the same water. No part of it is better equipped, and no part of it is going to receive something different – even at a later stage (some people refer to a second blessing – as if we fist become Christ by believing in Christ Jesus; the second blessing is when we move on to the things of the Holy Spirit – we then move to higher ground of deeper experience in the Spirit!
The Triune God equips his church (verse 4)
The Bible stresses the point that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are at work in equipping the church with gifts, preparing them for service, as well as different kinds of works. Another way to understand this verse is that Paul calls the Holy Sprit Lord, and God. That fact remains: gifts for service in the church come from God. All have not received the same gifts, all not serving doing the same things, and all forms of work, however different they might be, are from God.
Gifts for the common good (verse 7)
The Sprit determines the gifts necessary for the good of all involved in his church. Gifts are not meant for any individual’s enjoyment, to set him or her apart from the rest, and even more important, to give anyone any reason to look down upon others who may have different gifts.
As the Holy Spirit determines (verse 11, 18)
Gifts from the Spirit are not open for personal choice of members of the church. No-one can aspire to have what he or she has not been given; no-one can look down or anyone else because he thinks his gift is of greater importance.
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (1 Corinthians 12:18, NIV)
Christians are one body, with different parts
The body has hands, legs, arms, feet, eyes, ears. All parts are not the same, they do not perform the same functions and not all parts attract the same attention. Hands cannot go their own way when they actually want to be eyes; they are what they are because that’s what they’re made for.
The same principle applies to members of the body of believers: not all have the same functions, some parts may look more important, but the truth is all parts are very important to make the church function well. The point is this: s
… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:25, NIV)
Not all gifts will manifest in all members (verses 28-29)
And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV)
Who did the work of gifting? God! Members of the church do not do anything to get it. That’s exactly what a gift is – it’s something you get for nothing. The result of the work of the Spirit is different gifts. Not all can be apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or speak in tongues. If I cannot speak in a tongue it is no sign that i don’t have the Spirit; it just plainly means that God did not give it to me. Yes, I have his Spirit if I worship Jesus Christ as Lord. So, the only sign I have if I could speak in tongues is that God gave me that gift. It for sure does not mean that I am spiritually deprived. That is precisely what the Bible says:
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? (1 Corinthians 12:29- 30, NIV)
Clearer that this we will never get it!
The question is therefore not, “Do you have a gift?” The question is, “How can you serve others with what God has given you!”
List of gifts manifested in Corinth is not exhaustive, and not the standard of all times
It is interesting that Paul in no letter to other churches, apart from the one we read in Romans 12 this morning make mention of extraordinary spiritual gifts. It seems possible to come to the conclusion that gifts manifested in Corinth were peculiar to that church. It was a difficult church who had more problems than solutions. Their idol worship environment of goddess rituals and practices most certainly had to do with the extraordinary gifts they practice – and wrongly valued.
The list mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 strangely miss something extremely important: music. God gave us 150 Psalms, because He loves music and He loves his church to sing his praises. Musicians are surely gifted people. They certainly contribute to the praises of God and to the service of the congregation. Why are they not mentioned? Because the list is not exhaustive, and because it pertains to the situation in Corinth.
Further, and here the contemporary church will jump up and down to have some present day gifts included: What about the gift of understanding electronic equipment, media, sound, etc. Are these not gifts of the Spirit to the common good of the congregation?
Gifts are not static
Further, it speaks for itself not all congregations have the same needs, and therefore will not have a need for all the manifestations of all possible gifts. It is surely not impossible to think that I could be of use in one particular area in one church which might not be needed in the next. Can I then just do nothing because there is no vacancy for my gift?
Not all manifestations of gift are equally useful (verse 28, 31)
Paul lists some gifts twice in this chapter, and in both cases the gift of speaking in tongues is place down the bottom. In verse 28 the gifts are place in order of common usefulness: “First, second, third, then, …”
For what common good would a tongue no-one understands be?
The most important of all gifts is the gift of love.
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31, NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)
To this we will get a next time.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 19 June 2016