Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.
Theme- Love Never Collapses
- Paul almost sarcastically rebukes the Corinthians’ knowledge and claims they are in ignorance, are the Corinthians truly ignorant of Christian beliefs or is Paul saying something about how they misuse or abuse their gifts?
- What does Paul mean in verse 3 when discusses being able to say “Jesus is Lord” does he mean simply physically speak or his he talking about something else in our life together?
- Verse 7 says that each person is given gifts by the spirit, is this simply God being egalitarian or is there more to the story than simply that gifts are a sign of a relationship with the Holy Spirit?
- How are the Holy Spirit’s gifts related to knowledge and the building up of the body (found in verses 12 and following)?
- What are the gifts I identify in my life as “from the Holy Spirit”?
Paul highlights the theme of Knowledge in 12:1-3 because the Corinthians thought they knew everything about Christianity. The idea of “knowing in part” in 13:9 is that we will build in knowledge piece by piece and it will only be finished when we reach the end.
The discussion of Spiritual Gifts, is to remind us our gifts and talents can only be considered to be from the Holy Spirit when they reveal that Jesus is Lord, if they lead us or others away from Jesus they are not from the Holy Spirit.
The phrases “Jesus is Lord” & “Jesus is cursed” are meant as illustrations and refer more broadly than simply these phrases. Paul means these as metaphors for to live, act, or speak in ways that show the truth of these statements. How we exercise our gifts proves which of these statements we believe.
The phrase “Jesus is Lord” is an express rebuttal of the claims of Rome saying that Jesus is the authority by which we order our lives.
What gifts has the Holy Spirit given you? Some people answer that question by listing their talents, the things they have a natural aptitude toward, some hear this and they think about the things they enjoy doing, some people comb the New Testament for a list of gifts that are explicitly mentioned and then test to find where their strengths are among these areas. But I think Paul both has all of these in mind and none of them. The clue to what I mean is in verse 3 where Paul talks about being able to say, “Jesus is Lord”, he is not talking about physically saying the words, it is about living out the lordship of Jesus in the world. Paul is addressing a group of Christians in Corinth who think they have it all together, they have life figured out, but they are ignorant of how their “knowledge” is harming the body. The gifts they think are so superior and show such a close connection to God are in fact not doing so. We do not know the details of the controversy but we can piece together the fact that whatever knowledge these individuals claimed was built on some “gift of the Spirit” and what Paul wants them to see is that all such gifts must conform with Jesus being Lord. Paul will then go on to discuss the Church as Christ’s body here on earth and how these Spiritual Gifts must fit together for the health of the body. One may have a spiritual gift but unless it builds up the Body it is not from the Holy Spirit.
I hear these words as a direct challenge to me, I have a solid education, a desire to read and learn, and have been told I am intelligent. All of these attributes can be considered spiritual gifts, whether I was born with them or given them later, each is a blessing to me. But the Gift of the Holy Spirit is to be able to use these for the edification of the Church. It is possible for me to abuse and manipulate people with the knowledge I have, after all this is why Paul will say, “Knowledge puffs up”. What concerns Paul is that I use these gifts to pronounce “Jesus is Lord” not by simply uttering these words but by building people up in their relationship with Jesus. Such discernment is often difficult and needs frequent, intentional, and deliberate communication with the Holy Spirit about the use of these gifts in relation to others. To truly say these gifts are from the Holy Spirit I must daily give them over to the Holy Spirit’s control, and measure closely if I am truly using them to build up the body. Am I using my knowledge to help people love Jesus more in their own lives or do they simply see me as a know-it-all or argumentative? Having Spiritual gifts is about letting the Holy Spirit guide you for the building up of the community. The Corinthians struggled with this, they appear to have been using their gifts to bring division and strife to the community and were not witnessing to the fact that Jesus is Lord.
Paul takes this discussion of spiritual gifts straight into his discussion of love in chapter 13, and these are not two different subjects chapter 13 is how to live out spiritual gifts in the community of faith. The end of chapter 13 circles back to the spiritual gifts Paul mentions at the beginning of chapter 12—tongues & prophecy. These gifts, as great as they are, are on transitory. However much benefit gifts like prophecy and tongues are to the church they are not primary they will eventually have no purpose. But love is not transitory, love is the quality that gives purpose to these gifts. Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that they can brag about spiritual gifts all they want, but when the end comes these gifts are going to be meaningless, they are going to be nothing more than dust in the wind. But love is the true eternal, it will have a place even when these gifts have lost their purpose. We can brag all we want about the things that we thing make us special or great, but if we are not giving these gifts to God on a daily basis, intentionally helping others to love God, then we are disconnected from both the source of our gifts and the body they were meant to support.