Teaching series from 1 Corinthians

Three Works of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:4-13

Teaching t05412


Remind of chapter 11-14 theme: Christian meetings. The Corinthians were having problems with their meetings. But this was a symptom of deeper problems with their attitudes and their theological understanding. This is why Paul digresses . . .

The Holy Spirit is the theme of this passage (9 times). Historically, he has been ignored for most of the church age ("forgotten member of the Trinity"). Today, thankfully, this is no longer the case; it seems like everyone is at least aware of the Holy Spirit. But along with proper emphasis on the Holy Spirit has come much confusion and misunderstanding and division between Christians. This was also the situation in Corinth. So Paul explains three of the key works of the Holy Spirit . . .

The Gifts of the Spirit (vs 4-11)

Read vs 4-11. This is clearly about the gifts of the Spirit. Paul supplies us with four key insights concerning spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts are special spiritual abilities to serve others. Gifts result in "ministries," which means service (vs 5). They are given "for the common good" (vs 7b).

They are therefore not power for self-advancement, as so many seminars and books imply. This is what the occult is all about! Nor are they given primarily for our self-gratification. This was the Corinthians' problem—they were using their gifts selfishly, to cop a buzz. Spiritual gifts are exciting and fulfilling to use—but they are to be expressions of serving love.

Because of this, the willingness to consistently serve other people is often a pre-condition for discovering our gifts. Those who want to discover their gifts before they serve have it backwards: serve, and you will eventually discover.

Other passages tell us that to be gifted spiritually in a certain area doesn't mean that you can't serve in other areas. It simply means that you have a special contribution in certain areas (BASKETBALL TEAM: all do fundamentals, but some excel in certain areas, some in others >> encouragement; evangelism; teaching).

Every true Christian has at least one spiritual gift. This is clear from vs 7,11 ("each one").

Because of this, everyone has a significant contribution to make. The role of Christian leaders is therefore not to do all of the ministry, but to equip others to discover and develop their ministries. This concept of "every-member ministry" is one that we take very seriously. We are committed to giving you the training and opportunity you need to develop a ministry in this church. The normal scenario of the "clergy" doing all the significant ministry as an unbiblical aberration which injures everyone and greatly diminishes our impact on a needy world.

God decides which gifts we get. This is Paul's point in vs 11b.

Some groups teach that all Christians are to have all nine of the gifts mentioned in this passage. Some even claim that vs 11b means "just as each of us wills." But this is clearly not what Paul means. Vs 11b is a clause modifying how the Spirit works these things—so the "he" must refer to the Spirit, not to us. Furthermore, vs 18 indisputably makes the same point (read vs 15-18).

We are free to ask for the gifts we want. Our desire may even sometimes be some indication of how God has gifted us. But we should submit to his loving wisdom in this matter, thank him for what he has given us, and set about using them to serve others!

As Paul points out later, God has decided that no one gets all the gifts (read vs 28-30). This is one of the ways God develops humility in us and appreciation of others.

God wants variety in spiritual gifts, ministries and effects. God loves variety. He demonstrates this in creation (SPECIES; SNOWFLAKES), and in the church! So in vs 4-6, we see Paul emphasizing variety in the gifts we receive, the ministries these gifts spawn, and the effects or results of these ministries.

This list (vs 8-10) is not exhaustive. We know this because in others passages (Rom. 12; Eph. 4), Paul refers to other gifts not mentioned here. Even all these gifts combined are probably only representative of the kinds of spiritual gifts God gives. Peter groups them into "speaking" and "serving" gifts (1 Pet. 4:10,11) >> 2 LISTS.

When you consider the variety also in combination and degree, the diversity is limitless!

So Paul affirms the importance of spiritual gifts—but they are not the basis for our unity. When we make gifts the basis for our unity, like the Corinthians were doing, the result is division (TONGUES; NO TONGUES). That's why Paul goes on to explain the true basis for our spiritual unity—two other works of the Holy Spirit . . .

The Baptism by & Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (vs 12,13)

Read vs 12,13. Notice the switch from diversity to uniformity ("we all"). We do not all have the same spiritual gifts, but we all have been baptized into the same body and we have all been made to drink of the same Spirit. These two works of God's Spirit forge a supernatural union between us and Christ.

They unite us with Christ in two different but complementary ways.

The baptism by the Holy Spirit puts us into Christ. The word "baptism" simply means "put into" (PEN 'BAPTIZED" INTO MY BIBLE). Though most people think only of water baptism, the New Testament speaks of many kinds of baptism. In this case, it refers to people (Christians) being put into Christ. By means of the Holy Spirit, we are identified with Jesus in a way which we do not experience, but which is nonetheless real.

Why is this important? Because our legal standing before God is established by this baptism! It is because we are "in Christ" that God sees us as acceptable in his sight. Christ is righteous, and because we are in Christ, God views us as righteous. Christ is God's Son, and because we are in Christ, God views us as his children.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit puts Christ into us. The phrase "we were all made to drink of the same Spirit" refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we personally believe in Christ, he comes to live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rev. 3:20).

Why is this important? Because our personal relationship with God is based on this indwelling! It is because he indwells us that we can begin to know God on a personal basis and experience his guidance and empowering in our lives. While this experience fluctuates in our lives depending on different factors (our openness, etc.), his indwelling is permanent.

GOSPEL: This is what it means to be a Christian—to be united with Christ! This union is forged, not when you are water-baptized, not when you join a church, but when you believe in Christ's offer (Eph. 1:13,14). Have you done this? Why not do it today??

CHRISTIANS: Contrary to what you may have been taught, the baptism by the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with speaking in tongues. Paul couldn't make it clearer if he tried ("we all" in vs 13 contrasted to "not all" in vs 30). Do you speak in tongues? Great! But don't go beyond what is written and say that those who don't haven't been baptized by the Holy Spirit. This wrongly divides Christians . . .

Here is God's basis for our unity. No matter what our gender, ethnic heritage, social status, or spiritual gifts, all Christians have the exact same standing before him, and we are all equally indwelt by him.

But there is more. These two ministries of the Holy Spirit also unite us with one another. Paul likens Christians to a human body (read vs 12). Though we retain our individuality (like body organs), we are all truly members of the same body. Therefore, as Paul states in Rom. 12:5, we are truly members of one another.

To understand this is to undergo a radical change in the way you view yourself and other Christians. This cuts right across the American ideal of the autonomous individualist—the one who needs no one and lives for himself. God affirms my individuality, but he insists that I express it in the context of Christian community—through Christ-centered, inter-dependent relationships.

This is why we don't speak of "going to church." The term "church" does not refer to a building; it means "assembly" and refers to the people who have been united in Christ—the body of Christ. If the building was gone, the church would still be here. We don't go to church; we are the church!

This is also why we don't have church membership. This passage says you become a member of the church the moment you receive Christ. So the question that confronts us is not: "Shall I become a member of the church?" but rather: "Because I am a member of the church, will I begin to think and live consistently with this fact?"

This is why we stress being "in fellowship." There is a big difference between merely attending a Christian meeting once or twice a week and actually living as a member of Christ's body. If we are really members of one another, then I need to be involved enough with other Christians that I am regularly receiving their contribution to my life and that I am regularly making my contribution to their lives. This is what Paul sketches out for us in vs 14-27. This is what it means to be "in fellowship." This is why we stress becoming part of a home group—so you can get involved with other Christians on this level.