Unity and diversity. Many gifts: One giver, One purpose

Ds J Bruintjes
1 Korinthiërs 12:1-11
Preek Inhoud: 

Dear church.

Look around. This is the body of Christ. Every one of you who believes in Christ is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Each of you have been given to this church in this time. Children, that include you. God has equipped you to serve. Elderly – you as well. Retirement does not mean retirement from Gods work through you for the upbuilding of the church. And Fathers you too… the fact that work is so busy is not a reason that God gives not be a living member. Also for you the weak. The body needs you

This passage forces us to see ourselves as interdependent. It forces us not to look at the amount a person is doing, but at who you are – as a spirit gifted part of the body. It forces us to ask God – Am I faithfully using the gift you have given me for the right purpose and end.

This whole section is Paul’s response to questions concerning Spiritual gifts. It seems as if these gifts had caused division and favoritism in the church based on what gift you had. Some thought they were better or more important because they had a certain gift. It is easy to think this way. To think because someone serves in the background quietly visiting and encouraging others that they are somehow more disposable, then the preacher or elders. No, says Paul, the person doing the flowers to the person setting up the Lords Supper table, to the person preaching, to the person evangelizing, to the person doing the sound is part of the body.

Unity and diversity. Many gifts: One giver, One purpose.

  1. The Spirits confession
  2. The Spirits union
  3. The Spirits gifts.

The Spirits Confession

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers,  I do not want you to be uninformed. Notice that he starts off with calling them brothers again. Reminding them they share a familial bond in Christ. And that is one of the themes of this section. The unity which all Christians share with each other, is far deeper than the differences. Also the word here for spiritual gift is not the same he uses later in the chapter, Charismata. But he uses the word that might be better translated as spiritual things.

2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. We were led astray formerly to not submit to the Lordship of Christ- to the living speaking one whose word is active and real. But rather to idols which could not speak. It is interesting that it says we were led to them. Someone was doing the leading, and it was not the Spirit of God – but the spirit of this present evil age. The question then is how you know if you are led by the Spirit of God?

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Paul wants to make the point that if you confess Jesus Christ as lord, you have received the Holy Spirit. Those in opposition to the early  church  would try to force someone to say Jesus is cursed. We read about Paul doing this before his conversion, “And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, (Acts 26:11).

 The Holy Spirit is not first of all manifested in gifts, but in faith. In confession of Jesus. Jesus stand in the middle when the Spirit dwells within you. And that is what we sometimes get wrong. The faith takes second row to the gifts. Because the gifts are more visible. But He says the central thing to remember about the Spirit work is that he has given you faith in Christ as Lord. Lord here meaning master, and God. And that means you confess Christ as Lord. And you not only confess it but do you live it?

There were some spiritual elitists in the church, that may have been causing some to doubt the authenticity of faith. They say since you don’t speak in toungues we may have to doubt your faith. In answer to this, Paul says, “Do you believe?” Then you have the Spirit of God! eternity is yours, and you are as near to God as anyone in this building.

So let me ask you – A very simple question. do you believe in Jesus as Lord?

That is the question to you today. The central question is do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Then the Holy Spirit of God lives in you. And you have crossed over from death to life. From serving idols to serving Christ. From darkness to light. From death to life.

There is no need for a second awakening or baptism in the Spirit like Pentecostals believe. Pentecostals is the one basic belief that "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" is experience after conversion - all believers should have it, and the initial physical evidence for this baptism or infilling is the speaking of tongues.

Don’t doubt it, but in submitting to Christ as Lord you show yourself to have the Spirit of God.  Only when we know this can we move on and see our gifts in the right light.  As a gift to be used in service and thankfulness to his kingdom – because he is lord, not as something to build your own kingdom. The Holy Spirit gifts each person so that has a body we might best serve each other and glorify God.

The Spirits union

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Here he talks about three things. Gifts, service, and activities. Interesting enough he divides them up in trinitarian lines. The gifts come from the Spirit, are in service to the Lord Jesus, and empowered by God the Father.  The Spirit is the one that unites with father and son. The Spirit is the one who pours out gifts, so that we might be more fully united with each other empowered by God, in service to Jesus as Lord.

The point is there is unity in diversity and diversity in unity. In the end it is the same God – Father Son and Holy Spirit who works in all of us. And if it is the same God, that gifts, equips, and empowers then not one of us can try to be elite. It is not our own gifts, it is not our own energy, and it is not in service to our own kingdom that we use these gifts. Remember if you have the Spirit – then Jesus is Lord and Master – that means you are not here for yourself.

These gifts are not natural gifts, although they may compliment our natural gifts. Natural gifts might be something like being a good speaker or being a natural host. But being a good speaker does mean you have the gift of the “utterance of wisdom and the utterance of knowledge (1 Corinthians 10:8).”

So often in the church the gift can be seen as something natural to the person. That person is talented we say. And the gifts can be used not in service to Christ and his church but to advance a certain agenda in the church, or to advance one’s own reputation. The question is why are you hear? For yourself? To get as much out of church as you can.  Or in service to Christ, to point away from yourself in love to God and others. TO glorify God, and honor the other more then yourselves. To use your gifts not to highlight how spiritual you are but to further the spiritual well-being of the church. If that the case you are all pulling in the same direction and coming from the same place. And when that happens its amazing! We are all looking to God.

7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. The Holy Spirit of God manifest himself in what we do. Again, the principle here is clear. Many manifestations of the Spirit, but one giver. And all for the common good.

It is counterculture. In our world we don’t think of gifts for others, but gifts are for me. To highlight my place, and what I do, and how gifted I am. Paul says stop it. You have wasted the gift if it is not in service to the other. What if we all realized that the gifts we have are for other people and not for ourselves. If all of us use our gifts for others. It is like one theologian said, “It is not so much a matter of having a gift as of being a gift.”

If it is not used for the common good, then you are using a Spirit given gift for a warped and wrong end. Using a gift for an end that it is not meant for is foolish, wasteful and extremely dangerous. Every Christian is gifted for their particular place and time in the history of Gods kingdom building work. The focus is just as much on the unity of the Spirit, as on the individuality of the gifts. The same Spirit gives to each one. Each of us are unique. And each of us is interdependent.

Which brings us to the gifts themselves.

The Spirits Gifts.

 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, The wisdom that Paul talks of here, is probably not some secret thing, but simply the ability to share the wisdom of God as it has been revealed in Christ Jesus. He is the “word of wisdom.” The wisdom of God is found most profoundly in the cross. We have to remember at this point they did not have the New Testament as we have it yet. And being able to interpret what the cross and resurrection implied for all of life was vital to the life of the church.

and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit. He also uses the word knowledge quite a bit in this book.  In fact about half the time this word for knowledge is used, it is found in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 1:5 he says that they were “in every way enriched in Him in all speech and knowledge.” The word utterance makes clear these were speech gifts. They could very well have been elders of the church. But again, focus is no such much on the gift but on the giver of the gift.

He may also mention these first and the tongues last to show how upside down the Corinthians were in their thinking that the gift of tongues was the most important. It is actually the word of the cross, and the knowledge that comes from that which are most beneficial in building up the church. But as with all visible gifts it can be so easily abused from being used for the common good, to serve ones own self-aggrandizement.

 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, Romans 12:3 helps us to understand this when it says , “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This means that God gives different people strength in the faith. Faith is not a man wrought thing but is dependent on God. It must be a constant prayer to ask the Lord to increase our faith.  Some are weak, some are strong. Praise the Lord for those who are strong in faith!

Examples of people with the gift of faith are those listed in Hebrews chapter 11. As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of faith is given to some Christians who then use it to edify others in the body of Christ. Those with the gift of faith are an inspiration to their fellow believers, exhibiting a simple confidence in God that shows in all they say and do.

to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, This noun is related to the verb to heal, The NT authors use This word mostly to describe physical healing (e.g., Matt 8:8; Mark 5:29; Luke 8:47). So, we have no reason why we would explain it differently. We have evidence from the book of acts, but also from the early church that this was regularly happening in the churches.  This healing mostly likely included supernatural healing, but that does not exclude healing through natural remedies as well. It says gifts of healing of healing, so Paul probably had in mind broader.

WE tend to sometime over spiritualize these passages and say this was healing from sin. But there is no reason to do so. God cares about the body as much as the soul. The one cannot be separated from the other.

 10 to another the working of miracles,” This word is often used in terms of power over spiritual forces. And that could also be the case here. This is also the route that Calvin takes when he says, ““I am however inclined to think that it is the power which is exercised against demons and hypocrites.” Some people argue that this gift was only for the apostles, but Paul here seems to imply that there were such gifts in the Corinthian Church. and we know that both Philip and Stephan has the gift to perform wonders (Acts 6:8; 8:6–7, 13).

to another prophecy, Prophecy is first and foremost the applying of God’s word to the people. The prophecy here though is not like the prophets of old. That say thus says the Lord.. This prophecy had to be tested by scripture. Remember the NT canon was not yet complete, so much had to be still revealed and interpreted. This is why later Paul will say that the prophecy has to be tested.

to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, This seems to be the ability to know who is spiritual, and who is not: who is a prophet, and who a deceiver: as he said to the Thessalonians, “despise not prophecyings:” (1 Thes. 5:20, 21) but proving all things, hold fast that which is good.” The rush of false prophets was immense at that time, and  devil was striving  to substitute falsehood for the truth. There was a great need for discernment which spirits were from hell, and which from God.

And finally, “to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. We will talk a lot more about the speaking in tongues when we get to chapter 14. All we can say here is that these were not likely languages. But what is significant is that Paul places these last. Many churches still honor this gift as the prime sign that you have the holy Spirit. But Paul makes abundantly clear that is not the case. Again we will go into more detail on this gift as we delve into these chapters.

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. And now Paul ends where he started. The source – is God and God alone. Spirit is not at the Corinthians’ disposal. It is the Spirit that decides what is to be expressed and by whom, i.e. the Spirit is the deciding giver.

And finally, this is not just about the unity but also the diversity and appreciating that diversity. Sometimes when a gift is more visible we do not see the gifts other people have. Or on the other hand we don’t think we have a gift to aid the body. So, we either disparage other gifts or are jealous of them.

The Corinthians problem can be a Bellville problem. We easily look at those that don’t seem to be doing as much as us and think – well I must be a better Christian. Or say since I am not gifted, I am not involved. And so, you have an elite group of Christians the inner circle, the core, and then there are the rest. May that not be the case here. The love of each one of you for all must be increasing. The sercive of each one of you for all, but be there. There is not such thing as us and the rest. We all need each other.

Rather than trying to erase difference, Paul stresses it, while at the same time stressing unity; He bids the Corinthians to view these Spirit given gifts as enhancing the beauty of the whole and advancing the common good. We are not all the same. Yet we all serve the same Lord. We do so by functioning as his body.