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I Corinthians 12
Now concerning spiritual (gifts) …
Before we proceed any further, I must point out that the word 'gifts' is not in the original Greek language of the Bible. The King James, New King James and a number of other translations set the word off by presenting it in italics. The NIV includes it as if it came right out of the Greek manuscripts. What is the significance? Simply that Paul in this chapter is talking about more than gifts. He is correcting people.
So very likely the wording should be read like this; “Now, concerning 'spiritual' people ...” It is quite clear in the next couple of chapters that some people thought they were 'more spiritual' than others.
Paul continues to deal with areas of this church that needed correcting, or tuning up. As in previous chapters we know that Paul heard about some of the problems via persons who came from Chloe's house and told Paul what was going on in their church. And we also know that the Corinthian church has written to him with a number of questions. Possibly the letter came from the Pastor/overseer of the whole group of house churches.
What I see in Paul's 'answer' is evidence that he himself perceives that there is more to the question than meets the eye.
What might the question have been? Something like this perhaps:
“Paul, when you left here things were quite orderly. We were experiencing church meetings that were a real blessing. Various ones contributed to the service with prophetic messages, others contributed messages that were in a different language and interpreters shared the meaning. But now our services have changed. We have way more of that going on and sometimes we have more than one doing it at the same time. It can get very confusing and disorderly. Is all of this from God?”
“Now, concerning spiritual people … I don't want you to be ignorant” That is, “There are guidelines and clarifications that you quite obviously need.”
He makes mention of the previous lives that some of them lived before becoming believers in Christ.
Why? Because, just like ourselves, when we came to Christ we came with 'baggage'. That is what we usually call it. That carries a negative connotation. But in simple terms, it means we have learned things all through our lives, then we become Christians … and begin the process of having unlearn a bunch of things. It would be nice if it could be automatic.
There is a verse we often refer to that makes it seem totally automatic.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2Co 5:17
What became new the moment you received Christ? Quite a number of things:
A new hope
A new destiny
A new slate … all sins of the past forgiven.
And a whole lot of other things. Check out this website https://www.biblebelievers.com/ream_b1.html
38 things that happen when we get saved are listed there.
But some things don't happen.
Our 'old man' (our original nature) is still with us. Now we have both an old and a new nature. The old nature contains attitudes and habits of the past. These need to be replaced consciously as we obey the Word28. This is a process that goes on our whole life.
So what Paul is pointing out to the Corinthian church is that they need to stop and remember that some of the things that they are thinking, believing and doing, might just be a result of what they learned earlier … and that they just might be wrong. Paul (God) also teaches us to get rid of a ton of basic principles that we were taught our whole lives … by the world. Let's take a close look at these verses:
Col 2:8 See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Col 2:20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:
So Paul is saying that many of the Corinthians came from a pagan world, having worshiped in a pagan temple and were carrying some of those practices and attitudes with them into their present church experience.
Do we do that as well? It is almost impossible not to. We automatically will say things like, “My dad always said”, … or “You know what they say, they always say, he who ...”
From verse three and going forward, Paul lays out clear and simple principles regarding spiritual gifts.
Perhaps even before we look at the verse before us, it might be helpful to go back to the day of Pentecost.
What is a spiritual gift? What is the difference between saying God has given me the gift of ______ , or saying that person is really gifted?
What are spiritual gifts and why do they exist?
Here is the verse where it goes back to: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8
You are aware that Jesus ministered in the Palestine area for just over three years. He called on people to follow Him. He said that it was essential that people believe that He was God, come in the flesh, the Saviour of the world. He backed up what He was saying by performing many miracles29. Here is an excerpt of a sermon being preached by Apostle Peter:
Acts 10:36 "The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ——He is Lord of all—--
37 "that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:
38 "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Jesus preached the Good New of the Kingdom of Heaven and what a person must do in order to get there. Why should anyone believe His words? The miracles that He did, confirmed that He was who He said He was.
Then it came time for Him to leave and go back to heaven. He was leaving behind a small group of people that He had worked with for three years. These people would carry on the message of Jesus. They were sent by Jesus to " … make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19,20.
Of the three things that His church was sent to do (1. make disciples, 2 Baptize them, 3. Teach them everything else and encouraging people to DO it )… which of these is the most important? All three are important, but without number one, people would die and go to hell.
So the early believers were to go into ALL the world and … get people to become believers. What a task! Could they do it? Could they do it without Jesus being physically here?
Jesus foresaw the enormity and the difficulty of the mission. He made provision. He arranged for help. First He said, “You will not be alone. I will send another comforter, the Holy Spirit and He will help in a number of ways, one of which it bring to your remembrance everything that I have taught you.
The second thing He will do is to give you power.”
Ac 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; What kind of power? It may not be necessary to mention this but I will anyway.
The word power used in this verse is the Greek word … dunamis. (δυναμις ). Someone has pointed out that we used that word to describe dynamite. And that is true. But that same person made this statement … the power that the Holy Spirit gave us is explosive! Sorry, but that is the wrong conclusion. Dynamite did not exist back in Bible times and the word itself does not contain any meaning that includes explosive power. The word simply means 'ability'. The word came to mean explosive only AFTER the powder was invented. When people saw this powder literally remove the side of a mountain, they could say, Now that is ability! Wow! And when they said it in Greek they would have said “Now that is δυναμις !” Hence the word Dynamite.
Now, that being said … the early disciples had an otherwise impossible task. They needed help. They needed 'ability' from God. Acts 1:8 says that Jesus told them they would get 'abilities' from the Holy Spirit. The task before them would present many barriers.
The very first barrier that this small group would face … if they were to go into all the world … they were going to run into a language barrier. When a missionary goes to a foreign country he either needs to go to language school to learn the language … or he/she would need the 'gift' of languages. That is not at all like being 'gifted'. This would be an instantaneous ability to speak a foreign language without any previous study whatsoever.
Did the church get that kind of help? Absolutely. The book of Acts tells us that, When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly …. Acts 2:1
The Holy Spirit came upon them and 'empowered' them to carry out the commission. Peter preached on that day. Some commentators believe that a lot of them preached. But at any rate gathered around, listening to this first sermon … were people from at least eighteen different foreign countries. They were amazed that they were all able to hear the sermon in their own language. Acts 2:6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs— we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
What an amazing start for this small group of believers. They spoke in the common street language of the day, and that happened to be Greek. But listeners heard it in their own language. The language barrier was now broken!
The gift of languages was just one gift. The Holy Spirit was empowering them to break any barrier that would be in their way.
In one instance God even broke a geographical barrier. He had told deacon Philip to go the Gaza desert and speak to a person. He obeyed and went. The only person he found was a black man travelling by way of ox cart back to Ethiopia. The man was reading out loud to himself in an Old Testament scroll of Isaiah. Philip heard him reading and asked he understood it. The man said, No … how can I unless somebody explains it to me? Would you ride along with me and explain it to me if you can? Philip did just that. They came past a little body of water and the man said, “Well, look at that! Here is water! I can be baptized!” Philip said, “If you believe will all your heart to may”. The man said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”. Philip accepted that as good enough … they stopped the cart, Philip baptized him … and then vanished! He found himself miles away in a totally new place to minister.
How did that happen? That was the power of the Holy Spirit. That was enabling the church to go into all the world and do the job.
To do the job, many gifts were given. There were many barriers. For each barrier there was a corresponding gift.
So this is what we are talking about in our chapter of 1 Corinthians. Many gifts were given. Why? To empower and enable the church to complete its mission. It is VERY important that we realize this. A lot of confusion exists when it comes to the matter of why gifts are given. There are those who think they are given as a sign of spirituality.
In the Corinthian church … as divided and as competitive as they were, they not only felt that to display a gift showed that they were spiritual … but they had decided which of these gifts made them even more spiritual.
3-6 Paul emphasizes some very important points here.
1. No-one speaking by the Spirit will ever say anything derogatory about Jesus, God or His word. On the contrary, (even though it is not mentioned in these verses) everything they say will be positive and will uplift Christ, the Father and His word.
2. When a person, from their heart, is honoring Christ, it is proof that they have the Holy Spirit.
3. No man or woman will ever honor Christ from their heart UNLESS it is by the Holy Spirit.
4. If any person talks lightly of the Word, takes away from it any way, minimizes it … that person is NOT being lead by the Spirit.
Paul minimizes the Corinthian belief that one particular gift was more important than another by saying in verses 5 and 6, ALL of the gifts, as different as they may be, are the result of the Holy Spirit. (Therefor, since He gave you what you got … how can you brag and say you have a better one?)
In verse 7 Paul gives a great summary: WHATEVER the gift, it is given … not to benefit you, not to say anything about you … but it is given for one reason … it is given for the COMMON good. What does that mean? 'Common' means for the whole group, the church … the body.
Paul will, in the next section go into more about 'the body', the church. The Corinthian church was very messed up in attitude, understanding and practice of spiritual gifts. In the body of Christ in our day we have been very divided and in some cases, messed up as well. When I say 'body of Christ' I am speaking strictly about only those who lift up Jesus as the only way of Salvation through faith without works. I am leaving out all the rest who do not preach the gospel of grace, because I am not at all sure that they are even churches in the eyes of God.
If you get opportunity, please read to the end of the chapter before the next study.