Spiritual Gifts: Different Gifts in One Body

The influence of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:1-3)

The subject now shifts to spiritual matters, in particular spiritual gifts. Ignorance in these matters would not serve the Corinthians well. In their past, many of the Corinthians were idol worshipers, led by their impulses and following the crowd. Idol worship is based on the deception of its followers (Psalms 115:5; Habakkuk 2:18-19). That is not the way Christianity operates.

Still, the pagan worshipers claimed to have gifts from God. How can one distinguish the truth? One simple test is to examine what is being said and taught (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; I John 4:1-6). A person who acknowledges that Jesus is Lord has the Spirit of God. One who curses Jesus does not have the Spirit of God.

Class Discussion:

  1. Does this mean that anyone claiming Jesus is a true follower of God? Consider Matthew 7:21-23 in this discussion.
  2. Does this mean that if you accept Jesus as Lord, you will have spiritual gifts? Consider Acts 8:12-16 in this discussion.
  3. Is I Corinthians 12:3 speaking of inspiration of the Spirit? If not, what is being talked about? Consider Isaiah 26:13 in this discussion.

A variety of gifts from one Spirit (I Corinthians 12:4-11)

There is only one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6), yet the Spirit of God gives a variety of gifts. There is only one Lord, yet a variety of duties to perform (Ephesians 4:11). There is only one God, yet God has given Christians a variety of tasks to accomplish (Ephesians 1:10; Romans 12:3-8). And it is from God, the Father, that all of this originates. In this Paul establishes a pattern to show that everyone should not expect to be able to everything.

The gifts given are done so to profit all Christians, so though one may be given a gift, it is there to benefit all Christians. The gifts are not given to elevate one Christian above others. Each Christian may be given a different gift.

  1. The word of wisdom: Not wisdom directly, but the words by which wisdom may be taught (I Corinthians 2:6-10; Ephesians 1:17-18; Genesis 41:38-39; Daniel 2:21).
  2. The word of knowledge: The teaching of truths in regards to what God wanted His people to know (I Corinthians 1:5; Exodus 31:3; Isaiah 11:2).
  3. Faith: This would not be the usual faith since that originates with the person and this faith originates with the Spirit. Personal faith is commanded; this faith is given. See also I Corinthians 13:2
  4. Gifts of healing: Mentioned by Jesus in Mark 16:18
  5. Working of miracles: Though healing can be classified as a miracle, this category covers other miraculous events, such as not being harmed when bitten by snakes or having been poisoned (Mark 16:17-20; Acts 19:11; Hebrews 2:4).
  6. Prophecy: Speaking on behalf of God. Relaying what God wanted to be taught (Acts 21:9-10; Isaiah 59:21).
  7. Discerning of spirits: The ability to know the motivations of another person. Possibly referred to in I John 2:18-21.
  8. Different tongues: The ability to speak in other languages (Acts 2:4-12).
  9. Interpretation of tongues: The ability to translate one language into another (I Corinthians 14:26-28).

The variety of gifts doesn’t mean varying sources. All these gifts come from the same Spirit and they are given to individuals as the Spirit decides they can be best put to use. Notice the implication that the Spirit is a person and not an impersonal source. He is also sovereign and will make His own decisions. Paul’s argument lays the foundation for his next point. Since it is the Spirit who decides where His gifts will go, a person with one gift is no better or worse than a person with a different gift.

The body needs a variety of members (I Corinthians 12:12-20)

Paul compares the members of the church to that of the human body. Though the body can be seen as one thing, yet is it made up of many different parts. We each enter the one body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Romans 6:5; Galatians 3:28). We enter the church by the work of the one Spirit (John 6:63; Acts 2:38-39; Ephesians 1:13-14). We enter the church through one act, baptism (Ephesians 4:5; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-28).

Class Discussion:

  1. Charismatic groups point to I Corinthians 12:12 to justify their belief that people become Christians via the baptism of the Holy Spirit. How would you address this contention?
  2. Is the Spirit the medium in which we are baptized or the agency who directs that we must be baptized? (See James 1:18).
  3. Since we are buried in and raised from some element (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12), which makes more sense in regards to that element, the Spirit or water?
  4. Using John 3:3-5 and Titus 3:3-7, are there two baptisms that a Christian must undergo? (See also Ephesians 5:26).

Notice the parallels:

John 3:5 I Corinthians 12:13 Ephesians 5:26 Titus 3:5
born of water we were all baptized by the washing of water by the washing of regeneration
born of the Spirit by one Spirit by the word by the renewal of the Holy Spirit
enter the kingdom of God into one body sanctify her; having cleansed her saved us

The human body, while a single thing, is not homogenous. To be a body it needs a variety of members doing different things. Just because one member is different from another, it doesn’t make him any less a member. Membership in the body isn’t a choice of the member. One enters the church by being baptized. Yet there are many who look at themselves and decide they aren’t necessary because they aren’t like someone else, or in their view not as capable as another.

Missed is the point that each member contributes to the body things that other members cannot give. If everyone was alike then many essential tasks would be left undone.

Another point is that each member is given different abilities by God. Ultimately, for a member to say he is not good enough is to blame God for not making you like someone else.

It is true that a body can survive without some of its members. Some members are absolutely essential and without some, the church can continue to go on, but it won’t operate nearly as well as when all members are present. And a body can’t survive with just one member, no matter how essential that member might be.

The body can’t get along without all of its members (I Corinthians 12:21-26)

Just as a member should not think that he isn’t necessary to the church, the church should not think that some members are not necessary. In the human body, the strongest parts of the body are oftentimes the ones less essential to life. A liver or stomach may not be physically strong, but strength is only one measurement of importance. We cannot survive without our weaker members. The same is true in the church. Too often we measure the need of a member based on a select set of characteristics that we favor, usually the more showy abilities. Yet it is usually the less showy people who are more important to the survival of the church.

There is a balance. The parts of the human body that we consider less honorable or less presentable, we give greater honor by clothing them and treating them with greater modesty. But other parts of our body we find little need to cover. In the same way, God composes the body in such a way as to give greater honor to those members who lack it. God does this to prevent divisions in the church and that we be aware to have the same care for each member.

In the human body, if one part gets diseased or injured, the rest of the body suffers along with it. The same happens in the church. The cares and joys of each member also affect all other members (Romans 12:15-16; II Corinthians 11:28-29; Hebrews 13:3; I Peter 3:8).

Class Discussion:

  1. Give an example of how less noticeable members of the church are given more honor.
  2. It has been noted that 20% of a congregation consumes 80% of the eldership’s time. Is that a bad thing?

The appointed variation in the church (I Corinthians 12:27-31)

Jointly we each make up the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22-23). It is the collection of all the saints who make up the church, but each Christian is a member of the church. Thus an individual is not the church, but a member of the church.

Paul had listed out nine spiritual gifts from the Spirit and now lists out eight duties within the church:

  1. Apostles: The men who followed Christ and served as witnesses to his resurrection. They served as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).
  2. Prophets: These Christians spoke God’s word before it was recorded and some recorded what became our scriptures. With the apostles, they became the foundation of the church (Romans 12:6).
  3. Teachers: While not directly receiving the words of God as the apostles and prophets, these are people especially gifted at educating others in what God wants them to do (Romans 12:7). This category would include preachers and elders.
  4. Workers of miracles: People given the power to perform various miracles.
  5. Healers: People given the power to heal people of disease and illness.
  6. Those who give help or aid. While not the same word, Romans 16:3, 9 talks about some who were fellow workers or helpers with Paul. Deacons would fall into this category (Acts 6:1-10).
  7. Those able to coordinate or administer. Similar to “he who leads” in Romans 12:8. This would include the elders (Hebrews 13:7,17,24).
  8. Those able to speak in other languages

Notice that not all of these functions require miraculous gifts, but all are able to do the work they are appointed to do by the grace of God.

Class Discussion

  1. In the order duties, is there any reason for the order?

No one person does everything. Not everyone has every gift. Some, in fact, have no gifts at all. Yet no person is unimportant in the church. The Corinthians wanted the best gifts, and in some sense, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be best prepared to serve God, but there were things that they ought to desire more than spiritual gifts, which we will take up in the next lesson.

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