Today: [1 Corinthians 12:] The Diverse and Lively Church God Intends: In 1 Corinthians 12 we see a church that is lively, gifted, active and dynamic in its functioning with the foundational influence of the apostles and prophets maintaining order and fostering maturity among God’s people. Is this a description of your church, and if not why not?
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[1Cor 12:1-13 KJV] 1 Now concerning spiritual [gifts], brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and [that] no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another [divers] kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
In chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians Paul introduces the subject of spiritual gifts. The wording here is important to take into account because our idea of gifts is something wrapped up in a neat little package and that isn’t exactly how the gifts of God work. The gifts of God are various in their administration, diverse in their manifestation and flowing one into another in an effortless demonstration of the Father’s love and power. In verse 1 you will note that the word “gifts” is not in the original text but was added in by the translators who in their day saw these gifts more as ecclesiastical entitlements than free-flowing spiritual endowments. The word spiritual here is translated in other versions as “spirituals” and comes from the word “pneuma” or spirit. It can also be translated as “ethereals” hence we could transliterate verse one of 1 Corinthians 12 thus: “…. now concerning “ethereals” brethren, I would not have you ignorant. What does the word ethereal mean? The dictionary defines ethereal as “immaterial, intangible, delicate or refined…” What this communicates for us is that the gifts of the spirit are very nuanced in manifestation whereby God brings His knowledge and power online in our lives and in our meetings as the tangible from the intangible, the immaterial presence of God brought into material form in demonstrations of His heart and His hand working in our midst for our good and His glory. This is our working definition of what a gift of the spirit is.
At the beginning of 1 Corinthians Paul greeted the Corinthian church as a group of people who “came behind in no gift” (1 Cor. 1:7) but nonetheless are in a state of ignorance regarding gifts that were clearly proliferating in their midst. Because Paul sees them as ignorant, he now proposes to instruct them in the wisdom of God, not for the purpose of quenching the gifts but rather to encourage their operation in an orderly and necessary way. Teachings on the gifts properly delivered and accepted will result in more of the gifts flowing in your life and not less.
What was it about the Corinthians and how they interacted with the gifts whereby Paul concludes they are ignorant? In verse two he suggests to them that they are attempting to relate the gifts or manifestations of God in the same way they had related to the spiritual activities of their pagan background. Make no mistake about it – the Corinthians were very spiritual, even before they came to Christ. There is a difference between that which is spiritual and that which is godly. Not everything spiritual is godly and not everything godly is ethereal or esoteric in nature. If you do not understand this, you will be easily led astray. You would think in 2000 years Christians would learn something but even those who claim to believe in the gifts of God and the prophetic approach these things in a superstitious way that is genuinely medieval, that actually quenches the very spirit they are claiming to operate in. Spiritual gifts are not like psychic readings. Spiritual gifts are not intended to dispense with the need for faith believing. God gave the gifts to build faith not dispense with faith. Too many times people want a word that tells secrets not known to the person giving the word so that the person receiving the word doesn’t have to actually believe anything. It takes no faith to believe in a word that tells you your SSN number or some other secret. Word of knowledge is for the unbeliever not the believer so you need to grow up in this area. This is ignorance on the scale of that which Paul is addressing in the Corinthian church.
Paul goes on to state in v. three that no man speaking by the Spirit of God will call Jesus accursed, and no man calling Jesus Lord will do so by any other agency than the Holy Ghost. What does this mean? People were moving in spiritual manifestations among the Corinthians who were marginalizing if not absolutely denigrating Christ and the cross. This is the spirit of anti-Christ, I don’t care how pious, or “deep” or spiritual the person may seem to be. Likewise, there are those who move in the gifts in unusual ways, and because it isn’t familiar to the people, they say “that can’t be God…” but if the person is exalting Christ and glorifying God Paul is saying it must be by the Holy Ghost.
The Corinthians must have had some definite ideas about how the gifts of the spirit were to operate because he emphasizes in verse 5 that moving in the gifts was a diverse thing, with differences of administration and operation but all in the self-same manner. This is true today as well. People who think they know all about the gifts of the spirit are more quick to denounce anything they aren’t familiar with as not originating with God but we have to set aside our preconceived ideas and exercise discernment based on the content of the manifestation of the gift and its result not on its familiarity with how or if our favorite minister does or does not move in the same way.
Another problem Paul deals with among the Corinthians is having the idea that only certain people could move in the gifts. This fosters elitism in our ranks that is not godly. In v. seven we see that the manifestation of the spirit is given to EVERY MAN and that includes you. If you are not moving in the gifts – that is not normal. There is something wrong in the life of a believer who doesn’t move in the gifts of the spirit and is content for things to be that way. Likewise, it is wrong for someone to move in a particular gift as though it is their personal domain and anyone else in the group who does so is out of order. This is elitism and should be rejected as immaturity and false.
In v. 8-10 we see the gifts of the spirit itemized for us:
- Word of Wisdom
- Word of Knowledge
- Gifts of Healing
- Working of Miracles
- Discerning of Spirits
- Interpretation of Tongues
These are the various gifts and when you take into account that the healing gift is listed as “gifts of healing” then we really can’t limit the number to nine because there may be dozens of gifts of healing as many experience being successful in seeing certain kinds of maladies healed but not others but someone else have that particular “gift” of healing is successful in that area the other is lacking. We need to be flexible and teachable in these “ethereals” and let the Holy Spirit flow in our midst with the primary expectation being the enunciation of the Lordship of Christ and giving glory to God all in all.
[1Cor 12:14-30 KJV]
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body [were] an eye, where [were] the hearing? If the whole [were] hearing, where [were] the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where [were] the body? 20 But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those [members] of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely [parts] have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that [part] which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Having elucidated the variety of the gifts of God in the church, Paul enters into an emphasis of the people of God as the body of Christ. Question: are we the body of Christ just because we are born again? According to Paul and in the context of his teaching the body of Christ is made up of functioning members who are allowing the manifestation of the gifts in their lives and in their midst. The teaching of Paul about the body is predicated on the observation of a people moving in the ethereals and gifts of God. That implies that believers who may be born again and yet resistant to or lethargic or unbelieving in the area of participation in the gifts of the Spirit are non-functioning and therefore while eligible to be in the body are nonetheless without the body. There is no such thing as a member of the body that does not serve a function. Tissue in the body that does not function falls under the heading of a benign mass or worse. God wants you to be a contributing, functioning member of the body. To be anything other than this is not conducive to your spiritual health or the health of the body of Christ in general. You are not allowed to be passive or non-involved. You must find out what your calling and function is and then live and carry out that function in a body by connecting to something beyond yourself.
To remain aloof, isolated or standoffish from a spiritual family is not acceptable as Paul says in v. 15 we cannot say we do not need one another. How many of us say that if not in our words but in our choices? We choose not to be a part of a body. We choose not to connect substantively with others in the family of God. We feel like we have been given a pass because we have been “church hurt.” How do you reconcile that thinking with Paul’s injunction to every one of us to be a functioning part of the body of Christ? Does 1 Corinthians 12 apply to others but not to you? On what basis do you exempt yourself scripturally from assembling yourself together we a body of believers? Are you correctible in this area or uncorrectible?
Because of our need, one for another Paul says in v. 25 there should be no schism in the body. That is very challenging because Christianity, as it exists today, is known by its divisions. Schism is the heart and soul of Christian culture. We identify ourselves as much by what we do not believe as what we do believe. This not only has created groups that fellowship in opposition to other groups who think differently but now schismatic thinking is so pervasive that even individual believers by the 100’s of 1000’s refuse to identify with any group or spiritual family feeling confident and at peace being a schism of one! Isaiah spoke of this as “the whole head is faint, and the whole heart is sick…” You and I must decide in this sin-sick cultural dynamic we call Christianity are we going to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution? There is suffering (v. 26) in the body – let us suffer with it even if that isn’t convenient for us. If we are suffering and others are rejoicing let us not withdraw and lick our wounds but realize it isn’t always “about us” and make a decision to rejoice with those that rejoice even if we selfishly aren’t really “into it” as they are!
In v. 28 we see the foundation laid under the activity of the gifted body of Christ as being FIRST apostles, SECONDARILY prophets and thirdly teachers. It is interesting that pastors and evangelists are not even mentioned here. What if your church doesn’t have apostles or prophets? If not, why not and why are you attending there? Are they so spiritual that they don’t need what God has given? Then they have rejected the foundation that God has set under them. First apostles, prophets, teachers and what comes after? MIracles! Healings! Help, government, etc. People are clamoring for miracles but rejecting the things that must come BEFORE miracles. If your church or group rejects apostles and prophets, then they reject what comes after them! If they don’t accept the “set” ministries, then they are ineligible for miracles, etc., and you should consider whether or not that is actually a non-foundational church that whether you go there or not is putting its people in deep jeopardy. Paul concludes the chapter with the fact that while all may move in the gifts all are not apostles or prophets, teachers or workers of miracles. God wants us to have all that He has for us, but we must do things God’s way.
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