Last week, we embarked on a journey to discover what the Bible says about spiritual gifts. We looked at the city of Corinth and the type of environment in which Paul planted the first church. We learnt that the church started in the house of Crispus (Acts 20). I will not review much of last week’s message as we have a summary in our bulletins plus we expect to post the entire sermon on our website; you should consult and inform yourself, especially if you were not here.
The topic of spiritual gifts has not been dealt with very well in our churches and worse, both the Pentecostals and the extreme Pentecostals have abused this topic so that many in the church are confused as to what the Holy Bible says about these supernatural gifts.
In our message last week, we learned that the apostle Paul wrote to the church that he had founded because there were so many problems occurring there. For example, a key issue was that some of the dynamic and charismatic individuals were being given greater honour and position according to the different factions that had formed within the Corinthian and church it was clearly evident that this was an issue that was clandestinely further fracturing the church; it was causing greater divisions and schisms. Also in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul had to deal with problems occurring during the regular meetings of the local Corinthian church. Some of the problems included improper decorum in worship, lack of comportment of women in worship, abusing the Lord’s Supper, etc.
Here in chapter 12, Paul begins to address another issue and this is the focus or the reason for our series. This issue, which had to do with the use of spiritual gifts, was, like the others also disrupting their church services. The situation was bad and this particular problem was really so important that it would take Paul three whole chapters to discuss the nature and solution to the problem (1 Corinthians 12 – 14).
As a matter of fact Paul also discusses this issue in Romans 12 and in Ephesians 4 but here in 1 Corinthians he goes all out in his treatment of it. Peter also touches on this issue of spiritual gifts in 2 Peter 4. The fact is, there were obvious cases of the abuse of these spiritual gifts where it was mingled with some counterfeit spiritual gifts that were throwing the church into confusion. Some in the Corinthian church were concerned and were searching for answers.
I hope you noticed that I have mentioned two key words in my introduction: “church” and “counterfeit.” Mentioning these two words in the same breath gives a connotation of something volatile and explosive, and so it is. Wherever the Church founded by Jesus Christ is mentioned, satan is sure to show up and plant his counterfeit “saints.”
Now, though the church does the following, we know that the church is not principally a place you go for baby/adult baptism, confirmation, a wedding or funeral when you die. I’d like therefore to establish the foundation right away, at the outset that biblically, we could define the church in five ways. I have the five up on the overhead that, the church:
-Is a living organism and as such, it is eternal
-Is the body of Christ and Christ is the head of this living body, Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18
-Is made up of people who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour
-Is not a human institution (Matthew 16). It is not an earthly organization
-Cannot die as it is eternal; therefore it is supernatural.
How the Church is Supernatural
When we say the church is indestructible (Matthew 16:16-18) and supernatural how is it so? What do we mean? Simply, that:
-We worship a supernatural God. We believe He supernaturally intervened in human history.
-Supernaturally, He intervened in human history in terms of the living Christ.
-Supernaturally, He revealed the Bible, the same Bible that we have today.
-We are the result of a supernatural transformation that has made us new creatures.
-Supernaturally, God sent the Holy Spirit who today indwells us.
-Supernaturally, the Holy Spirit has endowed us with gifts.
And with these gifts, Christians are able to minister within the organism. Therefore then, for what purpose are these gifts? To the building and edifying of the church, till the church comes to fullness in Christ (Ephesians 4). The church of Christ is a powerful witness in the world. Beloved, that is the church in a nutshell and that is why satan is relentless in introducing false, fake, counterfeit gifts.
Now this is where the counterfeits come in. Because of the role of the church, the Spirit of God has given the church supernatural gifts for edification and evangelism. These gifts are critical to the church’s operation and so that is why we must understand spiritual gifts and that is why satan counterfeits them; satan counterfeits them because they are crucial, absolutely necessary to the life and functioning of the church.
The counterfeit is nothing new. History records that it goes all the way to the beginning when satan deceived Adam and Eve. But for the purposes of our series, we can trace the counterfeit of spiritual gifts that prevailed in the false Corinthian religions all the way to the Tower of Babel and the very well known Mystery Babylon Religion. Do you see or realize the connection between “Babel” and “Babylon”? And if you don’t know, traces of this religion are all around us, all over the world. Who here hasn’t heard of Roman Catholicism? So many aspects of Roman Catholicism is based on this Mystery Babylon Religion.
Let me show you what I mean when I make reference to this Mystery Babylon Religion. It is a well-organized religion issuing out of the Tower of Babel (Babylon) and stops at Semiramis, Nimrod’s wife who was the first high priestess of the Tower of Babel religion. When God confused the language of the people, they scattered at the fall of the Tower and like the Christians in the Book of Acts who went spreading the Gospel when they were escaping persecution, the followers of Semiramis also carried their false religion with them. Now, what else did they carry along as they scattered? They carried along with them different languages (i.e. tongues).
Interestingly, Semiramis’ son, Tammuz, is mentioned in the Bible (see Ezekiel 8:14). Turn with me and let us read it: Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. As in everything false, Semiramis had her following and was known by different names in various locales. The Assyrians called her Ishtar. The Phoenicians knew her as Ashteroth; Egypt called her Isus, the Greeks Aphrodite and the Romans fondly called her Venus.
That’s enough history lessons for now, all right? But you can tell right away what Paul had to contend with when he first planted the church and what he had to deal with when news reached him of the confusion in the way the Corinthian church functioned. So how does or, how is the church supposed to function?
How Does the Church Function?
It functions on the basis of the gifts (ministry) of each member within that church, which I’d like to remind you is Christ’s body. Each one of us is a member of this important body and each member is expected to minister to the other and that’s why the church is seen as a body. That is also why, as a result, we need to understand when satan counterfeits a gift and how it is recognizable that this or that gift is nothing but counterfeit. Just look around today at the church and you see false spiritual gifts all over and as false gifts, they are not here to build the church; their purpose is to tear the church down. It is no surprise that the Lord wants us to understand the distinction between what is genuine and what is counterfeit. In so doing, we will be able to expose satan, function in harmony, and by God’s good grace strengthen the church.
Just look around today, look around at what we are facing today as children of God. So much intra and inter church conflict. Beloved, we are to function in harmony and of course in symphony with every other member. satan has moved in to scatter the sheep by sowing falsehood in the church.
You know, I attended my daughters’ year-end band orchestra performance at their school. Each musician had their own instrument, which were all different but they played in harmony with the others. The cymbalist did not just clang on the cymbals by himself. The drummer did not bang on the drums by himself, except when it was a solo performance. My daughter didn’t get up and start playing “He is the Pillar” when all the others were playing “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah!”
They were musicians and they played in harmony. We were the invitees, you know, the audience or spectators. We had to watch and we enjoyed the wonderful music coming out of all those different instruments as they played in harmony. But the church is not a spectator activity. You know, I have learnt that there are three types of people in the church:
- Those who are involved (the follower)
- Those who watch those who are involved (the fan), and
- Those who have no clue what is going on (the fairy)
So, which of these three types do you fit into? A follower? A fan? A fairy?
Now there are many questions surrounding spiritual gifts. Please look at the overhead:
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ANSWERED?
What are spiritual gifts? Are all the gifts still in operation? If not, which ones and how did they cease and why? Who gave them to the Church? What is the most important gift? How many are there? How do I get to understand the purpose of gifts? How do I know what they are? What about miraculous gifts like languages and healing? Are they important? Are they still in operation? Have some gifts ceased? Do I have spiritual gifts? How many do I have? What is the gift of languages? What is the gift of healing? What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Can I seek certain gifts? Do each Christian possess the fullness of the Holy Spirit? How do I get them? What is the “slain in the spirit phenomenon?” Can the gifts be counterfeited? Are the gifts in the churches today real? Etc, etc, etc.
Those are a lot of questions and there are still more that need to be answered and to answer all of them, we will have to look, among others (for example Romans 12, as well as Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4), at Chapters 11, 12, 13, and 14 of 1 Corinthians. I know that we’re not going to be able to cover the entire topic in one sermon and also, we will have to look at chapter 11 as part of our introduction. You know that. But as my practice is with these kinds of series, we will go verse-by-verse-by-verse. Then over the next eleven or twelve years, we will be done exhausting the topic. No, I’m just kidding; it won’t take us that many years but it sure will take us a few months. Moreover, whenever and wherever it is possible, we will go word-by-word-by-word, so that we get the full understanding of what the Holy Spirit wants to illuminate for us in His holy Word. The background and context, history and everything important when undertaking such a study will be employed. We are not going to short change ourselves neither will we the millions of people who will be visiting our website for consultation, enlightenment and sharing of what they learn. Amen!
Chapters Preceding Chapter 12
In Chapter 5, we read about an individual who is having incestuous, sexual relations with his mother or his stepmother. In Chapter 6, the saints are prostituting themselves to prostitutes while they also kept taking each other to court, suing each other; they brought it into the church. Sadly, it is happening in our churches today where even pastors are taking their churches to court or vice versa, all over such issues as who owns the sermons that the pastor preaches. In Chapter 7, the state of or, the principles regarding marriage (and I mean marriage between male and female) and singleness in the church is focused upon. In Chapters 8, 9, and 10 the Corinthian Christians were blatantly abusing the liberty that comes with being a Christian.
Why all these issues? Because they had come from a corrupt (an existential) society where anything goes and so instead of leaving these things outside the doors of the church, they brought them into the church and so Paul’s response to their letter had to address these situations. Basically, Paul was saying that as new creation, they couldn’t bring this nonsense into the church; it is God’s House and He is ever-present in His house. There was also a feminist revolution, which had found its defiant way into the church, just like it has happened in our churches today. For example, the women in the Corinthian church, according to the prevailing culture wore veils but suddenly they had decided they would not cover their hair no matter what anyone thought of it or of them; this was blatantly counter to their culture where hair covering symbolized modesty.
The problems are numerous and we will be seeing more of them as we go deeper into the study. But some things interest me. For example, despite all the problems, they are called “Saints.” Look at Chapter 1:1, 2 which says: “1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” Now, isn’t that something? Or what about the fact that despite all their problems they were also endowed with gifts? Isn’t our God good? In spite of our faults and despite ourselves, He still loves us and gives us gifts. He calls us saints and He gives us gifts too!
Prelude to, and Context for Spiritual Gifts – Chapter 12
But then, even though the Corinthians were rich in spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 1:7 does tell us “So that you come behind in no gift.” Clearly then they had everything. They lacked nothing. They had a fullness of gifts but still something was not right; something was still missing. Despite being called saints and with all the knowledge that they should have had, and all the gifts that they possessed, they were ignorant of how the gifts ought to function. And it was especially so regarding the gift of languages, what today we hear all over the place referred to as “tongues”. When you dig a little bit more, you will learn that biblically, the word for tongues really means “languages.”
The Holy Spirit was also a source of confusion and highly misunderstood by the Corinthians. The Corinthian church’s concept of the Holy Spirit was awry yet that was what dominated their thought pattern. They confused the Holy Spirit’s work with euphoric, ecstatic, enthusiastic activity (Greek word used). For example, when one of their people somebody got up in the service and gave an utterance, whether it was a language, whether it was a prophecy, whether it was an interpretation or whatever it was, anyone who gave an utterance seemed to be more godly (i.e. the wilder the utterance was). To them, it was the real deal and more miraculous and indicated the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, the gift of languages (what is called tongues) was the one that was most exploited, if you will. The ecstatic speaking was seen as the highest degree of spiritual maturity because it demonstrated the greatest manifestation of the Spirit’s power.
But do not be surprised because all these are related to the mystery religion we talked about. Right outside the church doors was their pagan culture, which was rife with demon-controlled pagan priests and worshipers and who were constantly making these ecstatic utterances. These activities had seeped into the church so that so-called believers who wanted to leave an impression as being holy resorted to their pagan ways; they mixed their falsehood with the true and wonderful work being done by the Holy Spirit. Clearly, satan was counterfeiting God’s work, trying to bring it to disrepute.
In fact talking about the Lord’s Supper, Chapter 11:17 says Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. This is what was happening, worse things! Several of the rich Corinthian saints were behaving in a non-Christian way at the Lord’s Table, or at the love feasts, which took place at the same time as the Lord’s Supper. Because the rich looked down on the poor and also despised them, they ate and drank up all the food they (the rich) had brought for the love feasts and which was to be shared amongst all; they consumed the meal before the poor arrived so you had the situation where some wanted but didn’t get, while others had more than enough and didn’t share. In other words, what should have been nothing but truly the perfect opportunity to demonstrate a bond of mutual love and affection was turned into an instrument of conflict and confusion, discord and disunion.
So in their letter to Paul, the Corinthians were saying “Brother Paul, Brother Paul, would you please tell us how we could tell what’s good and what’s bad and who’s what and what’s going on?” And Paul’s response is this epistle, which he wrote so as to straighten all the issues out. And he spent some time, in fact a lot of time on spiritual gifts, languages (tongues), love and prophecy.
DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN SPIRITUAL GIFTS 1 Corinthians 12:1
12:1 – “Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
Check out this introduction. After dealing with abuses relating to the Lord’s Supper, Paul is now focusing on another issue: spiritual gifts. Now the word gifts do not appear in the text that is why in some of the versions, like the KJV one that I have, it is in italics. So if the word “gift” is not there, then we can read the sentence like this: “Now concerning spirituals brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
The next question is, what are spirituals? The Greek word is Pneumatikon; Pneuma is Spirit and because the word is Pneumatikon I’d like you to take note of the suffix i-k-o-n because I’ve learnt that in the Greek, suffixes like i-k-o-n, i-k-o-s, or i-k-a–n means: “characterized” or “controlled by”. So Paul is saying gifts that are controlled by or characterized by the Spirit.
So now let us read this verse this way: “Now concerning certain things characterized or controlled by the Spirit brethren,…” Are you following me? If yes, say Amen! And if we fast-forward a bit to 12:4, we read “diversities of gifts.” See the word gifts appear there and that is one of knowing that “spirituals” is referring to gifts.
Let us look at some more Greek words. From what I know, Paul uses five different terms to refer to these gifts.
In v.4, Paul uses the word “gifts”; that’s charisma, which also means grace so we can say that the Holy Spirit freely gives these gifts to believers out of God’s good grace. They can’t be earned. Ephesians 2:8 says “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God lest anyone should boast.” The gifts are given freely by God’s grace.
In v.5, Paul introduces another word, diakoneo, which in English is administration. I’m sure you can tell where this is heading, right? Diakoneo, deacon and deacons do what? They serve, as is evident in Acts 6 where we see the choosing of the Seven to wait on tables so that the apostles will be freed to spent time in prayer and the ministry of the Word. So the Greek word diakoneo used by Paul means serve. Thus we learn something new, that this word used in relation to spiritual gifts implies of indicates that spiritual gifts are to be used to serve, to serve others but ultimately to serve God the Giver. Amen!
In v.6 Paul uses another word energeo. I know you are catching on now and you can tell that it is a word that refers to energy. So this is what it means, that spiritual gifts are gifts, which are energized by or, controlled by God. The spirituals then trace their power source to God. So let me summarize what we have seen so far in the first few verse of Chapter 12. Paul is telling the Corinthians and us that spiritual gifts, which God gives us by His grace, are energized/controlled by the Spirit, and used to serve the body and God. Amen!
Let me repeat this part for your benefit; we will have the sermon up on our website, by the way. So, a spiritual gift (charismata) is spiritual in character (pneumatikon), given by God the Holy Spirit in His sovereignty, to others for service (diakoneo), in the power of, or controlled by God (energeo), with an evident manifestation (phanerosis) of the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence through the Christian as he/she serves God.
Look at something else that Paul says in v.1. He uses another Greek word, agnoeo, when he says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant,” the key word being ignorant (literally, agnostics). Why is it that he doesn’t want them to be ignorant? The answer is because the church can’t function appropriately, beneficially and biblically without the understanding of, or the proper operation of spiritual gifts. You see, that is how the Holy Spirit works in the body and that’s how the body of Christ is built and structured to function.
The spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church were given by God’s grace and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit to be used to serve the body of believers and to glorify God but satan had, and is still busily counterfeiting these gifts so Paul is saying why are you ignorant? Don’t you know what these gifts are for? You just can’t be ignorant; it is obvious from his letter that the Corinthians, like many in the church today, were doing exactly the opposite of what God intended for spiritual gifts. This was creating divisions and factions, exactly the opposite of unifying the body; they were aiding satan in splitting the church.
Look at the church today! Look at evangelicals. Just terrible! There’s so much ignorance today. Ignorance reigns supreme when it comes to the abuse of spiritual gifts. In fact it is so bad that many in the church have chosen to ignore the importance of spiritual gifts and are thereby neglecting them. And in the other extreme, others are over-emphasizing them ignorantly and focusing in on the wrong interpretation so that the average believer just confuses true spiritual gifts with satan’s counterfeits. The apostle is therefore telling them that this ignorance has to be eradicated, completely destroyed.
3 Things Christians Should Not Be Ignorant Of
People say ignorance is bliss but as we can see, ignorance is a cancer. About ignorance, Hosea 4:6 says that My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Did you know that in his letters, there are 3 things that Paul does not want Christians to be ignorant of? Yes, three things and they are the following; look up on the overhead:
First, don’t be ignorant of God’s plan for Israel (Romans 11:25).
Second, don’t be ignorant of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1).
Third, don’t be ignorant about them who have fallen asleep that is, the Second Coming of Jesus and the eternal state of man (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Sadly, so many Christians are ignorant when it comes to exactly these 3 things! If not, why would Paul write and caution us not to be ignorant of these things? Tell me, church, what do you know about God’s plan for Israel? About spiritual gifts? What about the dead, the Second Coming of Jesus and the eternal state of man? Church, please get into the Word.
As we close, I want to reiterate that these first few verses of 1 Corinthians 12, particularly 12:1-3 really are the foundation on which Paul built everything that follows in the next verses and also in the next two chapters, Chapters, 13 to 14. Let us be ready for a blessing. Amen.
Shall we please bow our heads in prayer.