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One Spirit, Many Gifts

August 14, 2022 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Growing in Grace

Topic: Spiritual Gifts Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Sermon Text:

Today, we continue our series Growing in Grace, working our way passage by passage through the book of 1 Corinthians, asking the Holy Spirit to renew our minds with the truth of his word, shaping us to be more like Jesus. We pray for the Lord to speak to us through these scriptures and transform our hearts so that the love of God in Christ is seen in us.

This morning we begin chapter 12, and for the next 3 chapters the apostle Paul is going to deal with spiritual gifts. This was an important issue in Corinth, and it remains a controversial and confusing topic that still causes tension in churches today.  Usually when the topic of spiritual gifts comes up, we immediately think of prophecy and tongues. We will certainly get to that in the coming weeks, but the focus of the apostle Paul in our passage today is the source and purpose of the gifts. He is going to emphasize that while there are diverse gifts, they are all given by one God, for one purpose, to build up the body of Christ in unity.

Some of the Corinthians were valuing some gifts above others creating disunity within the church. Rather than a source of unity, they were becoming a source of pride and disunity within the fellowship in Corinth. So, as Paul begins his teaching on the gifts, he starts with that main theme I mentioned earlier, that spiritual gifts are communal gifts. They are entrusted to individuals but are for the common good of the church. That is his main point and it is the main point of the message this morning. Spiritual gifts are communal gifts. They are entrusted to individuals but are for the common good.

Each of the gifts are given not primarily to the one who exercises them but are gifts to the church as a community though they have been entrusted to individual members. If you have your Bible, please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:1. If you are using the blue Bible we provide, it is on page 1196. If you do not own a Bible or have need of one, please take that one as our gift to you. Paul says,

12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 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.


Notice that Paul doesn’t avoid talking about these gifts. He wants believers to be informed regarding them. The problem wasn’t the gifts, but the way the Corinthians were distorting them. Apparently, some of the Corinthians thought that these gifts, especially the highly visible ones like tongues, implied that those who practiced them were somehow spiritually superior to others.


Paul therefore begins by reminding them of their pagan backgrounds. If they now think that they are masters of discerning spiritual things, they may wish to proceed with more humility. It is perhaps a mild rebuke considering their self-confidence. Keep in mind, spiritual experiences were not unknown to them. These were people for whom the spiritual world was a present reality even before they became believers in Jesus. Paul reminds them that they had previously been led astray.


A lot of people today describe themselves as “spiritual” but spirituality does not imply that a person is close to God. Even powerful spiritual experiences are not an indication of spiritual maturity. The Corinthians own life stories, and ours, show us that we can place no confidence in our experience to evaluate spiritual things, but instead we must seek to be instructed by the word of God to properly evaluate our spiritual experiences.


Paul then shares the key test of spirituality, which is the testimony about Jesus Christ. He says that a testimony that Jesus is Lord can only come from God. Now, we realize there are many false Christs, but a love and submission to the true Christ, as presented in the Bible, cannot come from any spirit other than the Holy Spirit. Also, any spirit that testifies that Jesus is cursed, meaning his death was not a gracious and victorious act of salvation, that he was not raised from the dead, is not from God. Any claim that contradicts the truths about the blessedness of Jesus and his work does not come from God.


The first step in evaluating any teaching or doctrine is to look carefully at what it implies about the person and work of Jesus Christ. We can save ourselves a lot of time sifting through sermons, books, and blogs if we look first at what a teaching implies about who Jesus is and what He did. It is like those little test strips you dip into a pool to check the chlorine. They only tell you a few bits of information but if the chlorine and PH are wrong then you don’t have to go any further, it isn’t safe. Likewise, if a teaching distorts the biblical view of Christ and his work, it isn’t safe.


Notice also, that Paul introduces the topic of spiritual gifts with an emphasis not on the Spirit, but on Jesus. That is another litmus test. In the Bible, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is always to glorify Jesus Christ, who always glorifies the Father. A lot of people get distracted chasing all these manifestations of the Spirit, but where there is an authentic work of the Spirit, you will always find an emphasis on the person and work of Jesus. The Spirit always points us to Christ because he alone is the Way the Truth and the Life.


Look at what Paul says next,


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


Paul acknowledges that there are many different gifts but his emphasis is on unity. He repeats the word “varieties” three times but in each case, he qualifies is with the word “same”. The same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God. It is also no accident that he presents this diverse unity with a trinitarian description. Did you pick up on that? He mentions all three persons of the godhead, the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God.


The Spirit is not alone. The gifts are not just gifts of the Spirit, they are gifts from the Triune God through the Spirit. In the same way that there is diversity and yet perfect unity among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so too the variety of spiritual gifts provide diversity and unity within the body of Christ. There is both one and many within God, and the ministry and identity of the church is intended to reflect that.


In the same way that differences in social status, education, gender, and economic class did not imply spiritual superiority or inferiority, neither does a difference in gifting. In fact, the unique gifting of every believer brought together into one body united in faith and love is a testimony to the world of God’s power and grace.


Before we go too much further, it may be helpful to make a few brief observations about what spiritual gifts are. People tend to want to divide up these gifts into so-called charismatic and non-charismatic categories but the way the Bible discusses gifts doesn’t quite fit neatly into that straitjacket. The word for gift is carisma which is closely related to the word caris which means grace.


Every spiritual gift is an expression of grace, and any manifestation of grace is a gift. What are often described as the fruits of the Spirit are just as much gifts as these more dramatic expressions of gifting we tend to think of. If we start to value some gifts as the “real” gifts and others as somehow less spiritual, we are starting to fall into the same error as these Corinthians. All the gifts are expressions of grace. The entire Christian life is spirit empowered by grace. The church is an entirely charismatic community fueled by the power of the Spirit.


For example, in Romans 12:6 Paul says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them”, and then he gives a list that includes both gifts and fruits of the Spirit. The biblical category of spiritual gifting is much deeper and broader than those that seem to receive all the attention. The gifts are the working of the Spirit of God through his people.


I think Bible scholar Richard Gaffin captured  it well saying,


“…ultimately spiritual gifts are not our presumed strengths and abilities, not something that we ‘have’ (or even have been given), but what God does through us in spite of ourselves and our weakness.”


The gifts do not testify to us, but to God. They make it clear that we are partakers of grace to his glory. That brings us from what they are to why they are given. Paul says in verse 7,


To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


This is the key verse in this passage. This verse is like a key that unlocks the interpretation of everything else he is going to say about the gifts in the next few chapters. It is critical that we understand this point, or we will misunderstand the entire thrust of his argument that follows.

First, Paul says “to each is given”. Who is Paul talking about? Remember the introduction, way back in chapter 1? Paul is writing to “the church of God that is in Corinth” and to “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is talking to all Christians everywhere. These gifts are distributed to each individual Christian. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, you are a receiver of spiritual gifts. Everyone who is born again by the Spirit of God will receive graces that display the work of God in them.

Paul says,

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit

What is it that each believer is given? We are given the manifestation of the Spirit. To manifest means to make visible or to show forth. We are each blessed with a showing forth of the Spirit. Friends, think about that. God chooses to make his spirit known by showing it forth through those who believe in him. Our lives are like a theatre that displays the glory of God. There is something different about those who walk in the Spirit. It shows.

These gifts are graces given to believers to make God’s spirit visible. Although every one of us is unique and although we have different gifts, different graces, it is the same Spirit that is made known. I am not much of a TV guy, but through the years one of the shows I have enjoyed is the antiques roadshow on PBS. You may know that on that show, people bring in all sorts of items to have experts authenticate them and appraise them. It could be anything that potentially has value or historical significance.

What always fascinates me is that the experts are usually able to tell very quickly who made the items brought to them. They can look at a piece of furniture, or jewelry, pottery, or whatever else and just by looking at the style and materials narrow it down to a single workshop or even an individual craftsman. That is because every creation reflects something of its creator. There are details in these objects that testify to who made them. One who knows what to look for can see the imprint of the maker on the thing that is made. Though each piece is unique, they all bear the marks of their maker. It is the same with us as new creations in Christ.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:16

16 … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


1 Peter 2:9 says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.


And John 3:21 says,

21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”


I think you get the idea. The gifts show forth God’s work in us. But Paul’s primary emphasis here is not on the individual gifting. He says these are given for the common good.


To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

There is one Spirit, one Lord, one God, and one body. The primary way that the Spirit of God is made visible on earth is through believers building up one another into to maturity in Christ. It is primarily through the fellowship of believers in Jesus that the Spirit of God is made known.

Some in Corinth were pursuing spiritual gifts as individual blessings but that is not what they are intended for. The gifts are given to individuals to exercise but they are gifts to the church. Remember our main point? Spiritual gifts are communal gifts. They are entrusted to individuals but are for the common good.

God provides spiritual graces to each believer for the building up of others. This is one of the reasons why it is so tragic when believers in Jesus Christ separate themselves from a committed fellowship with other believers. Our desire to see believers active in the fellowship of the church has nothing to do with legalism or control. It comes from a desire to see all of us grow in grace and a recognition that we need each other to do that.

The church of God is like a building with all sorts of different components, each designed to function in a specific way and fitted into a specific place. If we start removing bricks, electrical boxes, and furnishings it won’t be long before the function of this building is seriously diminished. It is the same with the congregation. When we begin to subtract the participation of people and their gifts the function of the whole is reduced. Our showing forth of the glory of God is diminished.

I do not think it is possible for a believer to properly mature in isolation but let’s just assume for a moment that it was. Let’s assume that there was a person so blessed and so gifted that they did not need the ministry of others. I don’t think that can happen, but let’s just say it did. In that case, it is even more of a loss for them to avoid fellowship because they would be depriving the rest of us of those graces God has given to them for our good.

Believers are like Legos. We are shaped with the purpose of being fitted together with others. If you find a single Lego brick, you immediately recognize that it is designed to be connected to others and built up into something greater. That is true of you and me as well. If we understood this better our churches would be far better at discipleship. Also, many abuses related to spiritual gifts would be avoided.

According to Paul, the intent of the gifts is to empower believers for service. They are gifts of grace to enable believers to fulfill the ministry we have been called to. Some remain and some only manifest themselves at times of need, but they are all gracious works of God given to individuals to equip them for service in the life of the church. Spiritual gifts are entrusted to individuals but are intended to be exercised in a community of fellowship for the common good.

Paul expands on this beginning in verse 8,


For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.


This list is intended as a representative list that captures the various types of gifts rather than a comprehensive list. We know that there are other gifts mentioned elsewhere. Paul’s intent is also not to explain each of these individual gifts. For example, it is difficult to know the difference between an utterance of knowledge from an utterance of wisdom, but he doesn’t tell us. He mentions gifts, plural, of healing but doesn’t say how they differ from each other or from the working of miracles. His main point is simply that there is a diversity of gifts but that they all come from the same Spirit. He repeats the words “same spirit” and “one spirit” several times just in these few verses.

But like the other New Testament lists of gifts, we can sort these into two basic categories. There are word-gifts and deed-gifts. Utterances of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation are word-based gifts. Faith, healings, and miracles are deed-based gifts. Paul says that all of these are enabled by the same spirit and for the same reason, the building up of the body of Christ.

He is saying the same thing the apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4:10-11,

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

We are to use our gifts to serve one another to the glory of God. If we speak, we speak as one who speaks the very words of God. If we serve, we should do it with all the strength God supplies. That means that the usual inventory assessment approach of identifying spiritual gifts is probably not the best way to do it. Rather than looking for a checklist to tell us what spiritual specialty sets me apart from others or trying to find my unique calling, we should instead be asking what opportunities are available to us to serve other believers in word and in deed.

God will empower the ministry and the service by his grace, and it all works together for the common good. Don’t sit around waiting for some dramatic confirmation of your special skillset. Instead, engage for the good of your brothers and sisters where you think you can and your gifts will be confirmed and developed by using them as intended. It is the congregation that will confirm your gifting and provide opportunities for you to use them.

If you find that you don’t have a gift that you thought you might have, that is fine. One is not any better than another as they all have the same source and the same goal. We each have different capabilities and different functions, but if our desire is to serve our brothers and sisters in word and deed we will have served well.

It is sort of like a kitchen. The refrigerator, the coffee pot, the mixer, and the microwave all have very different functions and capabilities. At certain times you will need one more than the others, but they all get their power from the same place. They are all connected into the same grid that enables them to be ready when needed. None of them have any power of their own and can do nothing if they are not connected. Once connected though, they all work together, each contributing something unique, all contributing to the meal that is produced.

Paul says that our diverse set of contributions that all come from one source and are brought together for one purpose. All this points us to a profound reality. It is a truth that would benefit us greatly if we would really grasp it in our hearts. It is a reality that deserves a lot of meditation and I pray that it is something you will think about in your quiet time this week.

The source of all these gifts of grace is God and the end of them is the common good of his people. The Christian life is from start to finish a supernatural work. The church of Christ is not just a group of people. We are not gathered simply because of common interests. Those who gather in the name of Jesus Christ are a communion of saints set apart by God for sacred privileges and supernaturally equipped for consecrated duties.

We are called to fellowship in one another’s gifts and graces and every gift is Spirit endowed and Spirit empowered. Every calling that Christ has for his church requires the sustaining grace that only he can supply. Every one of us are sinners and sinners do not have the natural ability to do good works that would be worthy of showing forth the character of God. We were created to bear his image, but every one of us was born with a sinful, spiritually dead heart and we have all rejected God.

We have all sinned against an infinitely good and holy God and therefore we deserve an infinite punishment. If we stand before God when we die upon the merits of our own lives, we would all be doomed. But God, in an extraordinary act of mercy and love sent his son Jesus to be our substitute. He lived the perfect life we were supposed to live. He earned the favor of God through his faithfulness. Then in an act of amazing grace, he exchanged his perfection for our sin. He took upon him the sin of everyone who would put their faith in him, and he paid the price for it on the cross.

He who was innocent suffered the punishment so that we who were guilty could receive the reward. He was tortured, died, and was buried in the place of all who will believe. Then on the third day, he rose again, and a short time later ascended to heaven proving that the sacrifice was accepted. God was satisfied and would forgive everyone who would repent and put their faith in Jesus as their righteousness.

But he did not only die to save his people from the penalty of sin. He also died to save believers from the power of sin. Having been united by faith to Jesus in his resurrection, we are also raised to walk in newness of life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Having been forgiven, we are being transformed, restored to reflect the image we were intended to reflect. Through the power of God, we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

That is why we are told to show mercy as he is merciful, to forgive as he forgives, and to love our brothers and sisters as Christ loved us. The power to do that can only come from God but this is a promise we have in Christ. This is why Paul can say in Galatians 2:20,

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been uniquely gifted and shaped for a purpose. Whatever graces and gifts we have are to be used for the glory of God as a showing forth of the Spirit that now works in our hearts. So, pray about how your gifts can be shared to the glory of God. Although they are entrusted to you, they are for the common good. We will finish with Paul’s words from Philippians chapter 2,

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…



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