Jul 20 - Gifted For Service

Gifted For Service

July 20, 2014

1 Corinthians 12:1-13

July 20, 2014
1 Corinthians 12:1-13

1 Also my brothers, I do not want to leave you ignorant with regard to matters of the Spirit. 2 You know that when you were still pagans you were drawn irresistibly to the mute idols.  3 That is why I explained to you: No one who speaks from the Spirit of God can say, “Jesus is accursed.”  And no one can say, “Jesus is the Lord,” unless he speaks from the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are a variety of spiritual gifts (lit. gifts of grace) but only one Spirit.  5 There are a variety of ways to serve others but only one Lord. 6 There are a variety of works of power but only one God who powerfully works all things in all people.  7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the good of others.  8 To one the Spirit gives the gift of speaking wisdom.  To another is given by that same Spirit the gift of providing insight.  9 A third is given by the same Spirit the gift of faith.  To someone else, always by the one Spirit, is given the gift of healing the sick.  10 Another receives the power to do miracles, another to prophesy, another to distinguish between spirits, another to speak in a variety of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All this is brought about by one and the same Spirit, who gives to each individual as he decides.  
12 Just as the (physical) body is one unit yet has many body parts, and even though there are many body parts they form one body, so it is with Christ.  13 All of us were baptized by the one Spirit and became part of one body, Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and all of us were given to drink of the one Spirit.

I think there is so much confusion with regard to receiving the Spirit and the terminology that is used – baptism in the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, second blessing, third blessing, and so on.  

At its most fundamental, the initial filling of the Spirit is an event that takes place at conversion, and can be called spiritual rebirth.  Paul was clear that every believer has the HS:

You are … in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God indwells you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.                Romans 8:9-10

Based on this verse I will be referring to the initial filling with the Holy Spirit as indwelling.

Because Jesus received the Spirit in a special way during his baptism, and believers’ baptism immediately followed conversion, - there was no such thing as an unbaptized believer – baptism and the indwelling of the Spirit are closely linked in the NT.  For example, we read in Acts 2:38 -

Repent and every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.        Acts 2:38

Or, as you can see in v.13 of our passage, Paul closely links being baptized and being given to drink of the one Spirit.

Just as a side line, this begs the question how someone can call him or herself a Christian, but isn’t baptized?  We seem to mistakenly think that if we are NOT baptized we can sit on the fence, or can serve both God and our base nature, when the Bible tells us that this dichotomy simply cannot be. 

So there is the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but then there are also subsequent infillings of the Holy Spirit for the sake of empowering us in a particular way in the service of others.

It is not clear whether Jesus was referring to the initial indwelling or to a secondary infilling when he put this rhetorical question to his followers:

If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?        Luke 11:13

(Matth. 7:14 – give good things)

It seems to me it is a little clearer that Paul prays for subsequent infillings on behalf of the believers in Ephesus:

May (the Father) grant you to be strengthened and empowered by His Spirit in your inner being. … He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think according to the power at work within us.  
Ephesians 3:16,20

Again, this is not that clear.  However, he writes to believers, who are already indwelt by the Holy Spirit to:

Be filled (or: keep being filled) by the Holy Spirit ….                              Ephesians 5:18

So we read that some believers in the earliest church were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3,10) and as such specially empowered to deal with the distribution of food to the widows or to witness and preach.  

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts or empowerments that help us to do or say something for the benefit of others.  I believe that we receive these during the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we can also be blessed with these through subsequent infillings. 

Before we look into the passage for this morning, I would like to comment on one more thing.  While personal skills and talents can and will be enhanced by spiritual gifts when they are used for the benefit of others, the Holy Spirit may also give us spiritual gifts in an area where we are not naturally good at or in an area where we feel inadequate or ill equipped to become active.  

So let’s get back to our passage.  The first point I find in our passage is that …
1. The Holy Spirit draws me to Jesus (v.3)

No one who speaks from the Spirit of God can say, “Jesus is accursed.”  And no one can say, “Jesus is the Lord,” unless he speaks from the Holy Spirit.

Of course someone, who is asked to, could simply mouth the words, “Jesus is Lord,” or “Jesus be accursed,” as I just did.  In fact, Paul had to say those very words so that his scribe could write them down.

What Paul was saying, is that a person cannot say with any sense of conviction that “Jesus is Lord,” Jesus is my Saviour and master, He is in charge of my life, if he wasn’t draw, guided or prompted to say this by the Holy Spirit.

Conversely, the person who says with conviction that Jesus is cursed by God, cannot say this and at the same time be guided by the Holy Spirit.  

When I read Paul’s comment, my mind goes back to what happened when Jesus hung on the cross:

The people who went by mocked him, shook their heads and called out, “So you want to tear down the temple and build it again in three days?  Why don’t you help yourself and come down from the cross!  Also the high priests and learned scribes mocked him and said to one another, “He helped others, why can’t he help himself now if he is the Messiah, the king of Israel.  Let him come down from the cross so that we can see it and believe.”                            Mark 15:29-32

The reaction of the Jewish people and their spiritual leaders reflects the thinking that would have been common among most Jews to whom Paul spoke to about Jesus.  They could not wrap their heads around a Messiah who was crucified.  A crucified person always was considered cursed by God, punished by God for having done something terrible wrong, for having committed some outrages sin. 

To Paul, their attitude and words could not have been from the Spirit.  

By the way, that does not mean that well-meaning Christians cannot inadvertently make a mockery of Jesus.

So if the Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus, can it be the Holy Spirit who makes us think that we maybe should go to church?  Is it he who makes us realize that we cannot approach God in our own power and goodness, that our moral failures will keep us separated?  Is it he who draws us to a message that speaks of a God whose love for us as seen most vividly in the substitutionary death of Jesus, his son?  

I think Paul would argue that this is in fact the case.  According to Paul, it is the Holy Spirit, who is somehow involved in this process, just as Jesus said he would be (John 16:13,18).

2. The Spirit gives gifts that are to be used for the good of others (v.7)

The whole purpose for the spiritual gifts is that they are to be used for the benefit of others, not oneself, which is probably the reason why those who have the gift of healing, for example, rarely are able to heal themselves.  This was most apparent in Paul’s own life.

The result is that individual believers, and so the whole community of faith, is encouraged, built up spiritually and emotionally, and so able to become more whole and wholesome, more loving, kind and effective. 

Through (Christ the head) the whole body is joined and every joint is held together.  When each body part is working according to what it has receives, then the body grows and builds itself up in love.     Ephesians 4:16

If we are not serving, encouraging, helping, comforting or teaching each other in the community of faith or doing this to people in the community at large, or even oversees, something is wrong.  If we are only interested on others using their gifts to serve us, something is wrong.

Yes, there are times when we are so emotionally or physically or mentally drained or sick, that we will not have the energy to be of help to others.  But I think that can only be true for a season.  I know of shut-ins who knit for others, pray for others, phone to care for others.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that we cannot do something for ourselves.  But as Jesus warned us, our true identity can be discovered in what we say and do, or leave unsaid and undone.  We are known by the kind of fruit we produce.

3. The Spirit gives spiritual gifts as he determines (v.11)

(Hebrews 2:4 – gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his [God, HS?] will)

I think we make a number of mistakes when we think of the distribution of gifts.  I think it is a great mistake if we put the Spirit in a box when it comes to which gifts HE decides to gift each person.  First of all, 

a.    Is there a spiritual gift for everyone?

When I first became a believer I attended two churches alternately, a pretty stayed Baptist church and a full-blown charismatic church.

In the charismatic church, speaking in tongues was THE gift that was to be manifested by EVERY believer.  All those who attended greatly desired the gift of tongues and/or greatly desired to impart that gift.  

I was able to simply babble away in my own strength if I wanted to, but knew right away this was not of the Holy Spirit.  So I was prayed over multiple times to receive the gift of tongues and those who prayed were frustrated at my apparent inability not to do so.

I thought at the time that I likely wasn’t the only one in the church who either had not received the actual gift of tongues or interpretation.  Some who spoke in tongues were the most immature, unbalanced and unloving Christians I have ever met. 

I went to one service where a person stood up in the middle of the service and spoke two sentences in tongues.  Someone else stood up and spoke for about 4 minutes in order to give the “interpretation.”  Even as a new believer I knew that the person giving the interpretation likely was sincere, but mistaken.  

b.    Are certain spiritual gifts gender specific?

This can be a matter of great debate and division, especially if apostleship, evangelism, teaching, preaching, or pastoring are seen to be exclusively reserved for men.  

As I mentioned last Sunday, in Paul’s day, women in the church held leadership positions and titles and were active in the assembly, something that was lost for a long time by the next century.

Just as we should not be too quick to put God the Father in a box as to what he should or shouldn’t do, recognizing that he is sovereign and not bound by our limited knowledge, so, I believe, that we should not dictate to the Holy Spirit what he can and cannot do.

The discussion when it comes to a woman’s role in the church has been going on for a relative short time, considering the last 2,000 years.  While there are some Christian churches that deny women the right to speak in the church except when they teach children, most denominations have engaged for some time on this issue.

Many evangelical denominations allow for women pastors.  For example, the Church of the Nazarene, the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, Salvation Army, North American Baptists, Vineyard churches, Christian reformed, some Mennonite denominations, the Evangelical Free Church, Southern Baptists, and our denomination, the Baptist General Conference of Canada, just to mention a few. 

There is the general recognition that women are gifted in leadership, outreach, evangelism, teaching – in fact, they are recipients of all spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit decides – and not just when they are on the mission field.  

However, some of these denominations will not allow women to be ordained, while others will not allow women to serve as lead pastors, most often because of a verse we looked at last week on headship.  

c.    Is there a common way the infilling with the Holy Spirit manifests itself?

I have already mentioned that speaking in tongues is not a universal gift, but some people are in fact given this gift when they are filled with the HS. 

Or something spiritual or physical or emotional may take place.  One person in the congregation told me that he experience the infilling of the Holy Spirit, felt God’s presence, and his whole outlook on life and its problems was changed.  He had many more opportunities to share about spiritual things simply because people were asking and he was more than willing to say something.

But this does NOT have to take place every time and for everyone.  For example, Oswald Chambers, author of “my utmost for his highest,” wrote about a time when he was a young man who persistently felt a dryness and emptiness in his faith and knew that he needed something more.  Subsequently he prayed for and claimed the gift of the Holy Spirit and described what happened in the immediate aftermath: 

“I had no vision of heaven or of angels.  I had nothing.  I was as dry and empty as ever, no power or realization of God, no witness of the Holy Spirit.  Then I was asked to speak at a meeting and forty people came to the front.  I came to realize that God intended me, having asked, to simply take it by faith, and that power would be there.”

From that point onward his ministry was transformed.  Another person who might fall into this category was Mother Teresa.

Having said all this, I think it would be equally wrong to say that certain gifts are no longer functional or that the spiritual gifts as found in the NT are the only ones possible.  

In the earliest letter we have from Paul, he writes:

Do not extinguish (or: quench) the Spirit.  Don’t despise prophecy.  Test everything and hold on to what is good.
                    1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

So where do we go from here?  On the reverse side of your bulletin insert, I listed the gifts that Paul mentions in his letters, as well as those mentioned in 1 Peter 4.  As you can see, I’ve tried to group them together under various headings.

Church planting, outreach and church leadership gifts

Apostleship         (1 Cor 12:28,29; Eph 4:11)
Evangelism        (Eph 4:11)
Leadership or
giving aid        (Rom 12:8; 1 Thess 5:12)
Pastoring        (Eph 4:11)

Teaching gifts

Prophecy         (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10,28,29; 13:2,8; 
14:1-5,29-32; Eph 4:11; 1 Thess 5:20; 1 Pet 4:11)
Revelation = 
prophecy        (1 Cor 14:26,30)
Speaking =
prophecy        (1 Pet 4:11)
Teaching        (Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28; 14:26; Eph 
(Word of) Wisdom    (1 Cor 12:8)
(Word of) Know-
ledge or insight    (1 Cor 12:8)
Discernment of 
Spirits            (1 Cor 12:10; 1 Thess 5:21-22)
Worship        (1 Cor 14:26; Eph 5:18-19) 

Caring gifts

Service        (Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 13:3; 1 Pet 4:11)
Helps            (1 Cor 12:28)
Comfort        (Rom 12:8)
or exhortation    (Rom 12:8)
Giving         (Rom 12:8)
Acts of Mercy    (Rom 12:8)

“Sign” gifts

Faith            (1 Cor 12:9)
Healing        (1 Cor 12:9,28,30)
Miracles        (1 Cor 12:10,28,29)
Various tongues    (1 Cor 12:10,28,30; 13:1,8; 14:1-40)
Interpretation of
Tongues        (1 Cor 12:10; 14:13,26-28)

You may not know what your spiritual gifts are.  There are various questions, on our webpage or online or in book form at the Christian Book store, that will help you to discover what your gifts may be.

What I think more important is that we simply serve.  Regardless of how we feel to begin with … and then see whether or not we have an ability and a desire to continue on.  So don’t write yourself off too quickly as someone who simply does not have a particular gift.  

Let me give you an example.  I hate weeding and if you look into my yard, this should become painfully obvious.  However, when I am helping another person, I get a lot of joy and satisfaction out of weeding.  That is when my spiritual gift of service or helps or encouragement kicks in.