Spiritual Birthday Gifts
1 Corinthians 12
In our previous sermon, we saw the caution given us about being ignorant in matters concerning spiritual gifts (12:1). We are told not to be ignorant and getting to the end of Chapter 14 (14:38), this caution is repeated again: 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. In other words if you want to be, if you want to continue being ignorant, go ahead and be an ignoramus. You see, God doesn’t want us to be ignorant but of course, His archenemy the devil does. Just look around and see how many in the church today are really ignorant of the meaning, purpose, and use of spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of speaking in tongues. It is therefore no wonder that the church is so divided when it comes to this.
Now, the passage before us can be broken down into these, some of which we already saw:
- DETERMINED – Spiritual (birthday) gift DETERMINED
- DEFINED – Spiritual (birthday) gifts DEFINE
- Are Supernatural Gifts
- Are Service Gifts
- Are Sovereign Gifts
- Are Salvation Gifts
- Are Sanctification Gifts
- Are Succour Gifts
- DEFAMED – Spiritual (birthday) gifts DEFAMED
- DESCRIBED – Spiritual (birthday) gifts DESCRIBED
- DECIPHERED – Spiritual (birthday) gifts “tongues” DECIPHERED
- DISCERNED – Spiritual (birthday) gifts DISCERNED
Let me do a quick outline/summary of the definitions for the benefit of those who were not here.
12 1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant
The authoritative way in which the Apostle Paul goes on to this verse tells us that spiritual gifts are from, and determined by God Himself. And because these are gifts that God already determined for His children, Paul says that God doesn’t want us to be ignorant, uneducated or unsophisticated about these gifts. They are very important spiritual gifts for the church. God has determined and establish exactly what each one needs for His church.
1 a. v.1 Pneumatika The Greek word used for spiritual is Pneumatika and so these birthday gifts are spiritual gifts. Simple, right? So the verse says 12 1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2.a Are Supernatural Gifts
1 b. v.4 charismata Another word we considered is “grace,” the Greek is charismata. 12 4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. So then, spiritual gifts are also supernatural or grace gifts as the word used here is different from the one used in v.1. We get the word “charismatic” from the word charismata.
Note. Charismata means grace. What is grace? Grace is nothing but the unearned, unmerited favour from God; neither can it be bought. And note that these grace gifts are different from talent. A grace gift is not something that is earned or learned (a South African pastor has a “healing” school and he has tons of people who follow him and who attend these so-called “healing” schools, whatever that is; they are “learning a gift). But rather, gifts are from God through His Holy spirit.
If a spiritual gift is neither earned nor learned, nor bought, what gives you the right to be puffed up and proud? Therefore a Christian shouldn’t be filled with pride about his/her gift; they didn’t earn it neither did they buy it. In Acts 8 a new convert by the name of Simon, after seeing the miracles being performed by Peter and the apostles and when he saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money (8:18), 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Spiritual gifts can’t be learned or earned, borrowed or bought.
2.b Are Service Gifts
1 c. v.7 diakoneo We also looked at this Greek word, diakoneo, which means service, administration. 12 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. Spiritual gifts are also service gifts and the verse says it is for the profit of all (i.e., the whole body, the entire Church).
Note. If a service gift is for the whole Church, then that rules out egotism or any thought that it is there to make us feel good. These gifts are not for our enjoyment but for our employment. They are not for boastfulness, conceit or self-centeredness. If it they are for the whole body, then there is no room for selfishness. They are for service, to serve one another and serving one another is another way of saying working for the Lord.
Another word we touched on but didn’t go in-depth into is God’s sovereignty. And that is what spiritual gifts also are, sovereign.
2.c Are Sovereign Gifts
1 d. v.6, 11 energeo – sovereign, 12 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
The word sovereign is related to a king, queen or some other supreme ruler but anytime that word is used, royalty comes to mind. So spiritual gifts are also sovereign in nature because they are determined, energized, controlled by God. They are divine gifts given by the Holy Spirit of God. So if gifts, then you don’t decide what gift you are going to have. You don’t pick and choose.
Let me transit into the natural for an illustration. Don’t we see this in the natural, in that in the natural, no one can decide what talent they should have or are going to have? Which one of us here got to choose where to be born and what family to be born into, your skin colour, your height, colour of your hair? I know though that today, we are seeing signs of designer babies. But even in such cases, it is not the babies who get to decide their gender, height, family, etc, right? One of the ways to avoid ignorance is to recognize that it is your responsibility to discover your gift. Thus God is the One who determines.
So to go back to where we were before, look at 12v31 carefully: it says: 31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
And it mystifies me how some can preach that this says we are to pray and ask God what to give us; it is absurd. Listen to this: “Thou shalt not covet…” What is the connotation here, Thou shalt not covet? A negative connotation! So this word covet (teleo) is used in a bad, negative sense for effect.
This is what it is saying here, that obviously there were some people in the Corinthian church who were coveting after what they considered, in their eyes, the “best” gift, the showy gifts, like miracles or speaking in different tongues/languages. Does it surprise you that people constantly flock to these charisprobrum crusades? That some seek after what they see these charisabusers do? We will touch more on the charisprobrum later.
Clearly then, you can’t choose or decide what gift you want or prefer and further, you can’t elevate one over the other so in verse 31 and spilling into chapter 13:1-3 Paul challenges them when he says “If you think some gifts are better than others and so you want to covet those gifts, then I’m going to show you what is best and how to capture those kinds of gifts.” Church, are you with me? Somebody say Amen! Then look at what Paul does. Led by the Holy Spirit, he launches into 1 Corinthians 13, which is an amazing, beautiful and matchless masterpiece on love. Remember, one of the reason for this treatise on love came about as a result of confusion on spiritual gifts and today, we are such beneficiaries!
So there is no argument here. A spiritual gift is a sovereign-bestowed gift. Also, you can’t covet somebody else’s gift. What does that make you if you do? Jealous. Degenerate into hate. What else? The two Hebrew words used for covet in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21) both mean “to lust after or to long for with great desire.” Saints, we should rather pray and say “God, thank You for the gift that you have given me. Teach me how to use it to Your utmost glory” and not lust after other people’s. Do I hear an “Amen!”
2.d Are Salvation Gifts
1 e. v.12, 13 Spiritual gifts are also salvation gifts. Let us read these verses. 12 12For 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. 13For 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.
Why do I say so? Clearly, the verses say so. I recall when Adzorleh was eight years old and one night at home when we were having devotions she decided to give her life to Christ. I was so filled with joy that at the next prayer meeting I excitedly shared this good news with those who were present. Well, one of the brothers who were present then (we knew him from Montreal), you know, instead of rejoicing like the angels in heaven asked me this question: “Did she receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” I responded, “What do you mean?” to which he repeated his question so then I asked, “What does the Bible say?” he then sheepishly said “Oh nothing.” I didn’t have to press him any further because he knew he didn’t have the goods. He shut up because he had no knowledge; he was ignorant. 12:1 says, I don’t want you, what, ignorant!
Salvation gifts. Some people, and I mean born again Christians, go around ignorantly asking the question to Christians: “Do you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” but you see, we are not supposed to be ignorant. The fact is that the moment you gave your life to Christ, the moment you were saved was when you got your gift. Read with me what the verse says: “13For by one Spirit are we all” – NOT some, ALL who have believed in the Lord Jesus.
All have been baptized into the body of Christ so each single one of you here, because you have already confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus, have and still believe in your heart that He is the Son of God who died and rose again from the grave, you are saved and therefore a Christian. So if anyone of the charisprobrum or charisabusers asks: “Do you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” What do you say? “Yes!” Hallelujah! Yes indeed! Say “I got it when I was saved AND baptized into the body of Christ.”
So you are baptized into the body of Christ. What next? You see, we’ve not been saved to sit down. We’ve not been saved to be all heavenly minded and no earthly good. We’ve been baptized into the body of Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. We’ve been baptized into the body of Christ to lift the name of Jesus up. We’ve baptized into the body of Christ to encourage the brethren. Yes, we’ve been baptized into the body of Christ to do something. Something for the body, something for the Lord.
And God is the One who equips us so that 2 Timothy 3:17 says That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Saints, when we were baptized into Christ’s body, we were furnished with heavenly gifts so that we can perform the work He’s assigned us. With our spiritual birthday gifts, each one of us have a role to play, and we have to function in the capacity in which we have been placed and this is where your spiritual gift comes into play: it enables, energeo, you, through the power of the Holy Spirit to function as Christ the Holy Spirit baptized you into the body.
Look at what Paul says in verses 14 to 21 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.
Beloved, the Holy Spirit may have baptized you into the body as an ear, nose, into the body, that is how you are to function, and function to the glory of God. So spiritual gifts are also salvation gifts thus at salvation, you got your spiritual gift, just like it is in the natural. Every child born is born with talents, abilities. You know, if natural birth equals natural talents/abilities; supernatural birth, supernatural gifts. The similarities are stark. And it is even more so because as Christians when we were born again, we were born as gifted children.
So we have to use those gifts to God’s glory. We have to use those gifts in the church, to help each other, etc. Each believer has a ministry, a function, be it as a hand or a foot. Do you know what your ministry is? Some of you are already functioning in your gift and very well; some are not aware what they are and need help to know, discover what they are. The gifts are not private.
You all saw when Afaleh was born. She came with her own hands and feet but we all know that as a baby, she didn’t know that. That is where some of you still are, even though you have been saved for a while. You need to get past that baby stage.
Later on as Afaleh grew older, she recognized that she has hands certain body parts, including fingers, feet, and so on. As she grew older, she learned how to use those hands, for example instead of sucking on them she learned to eat with them, to scribble, to write and for some who are much older, learn to play the sax, the guitar, whatever. Baby Afaleh has learned to use her hands. You all know that there was no need to take her back to the hospital and say “Doc, could you please give her some fingers now? She’s growing so fast and she’s already ready for some fingers. We need seven for now and will come back later for the rest.”
That’s absurd, isn’t it? The hands came at birth and Afaleh simply discovered and developed the use of those hands. It is the same in the spiritual just like God designed it; each one of us got our gifts at salvation when we were born again and baptized into the body; and, as we mature in Christ, we discover these gifts and we try to use them for service, support and glorify God. Amen!
2.e Are Sanctification Gifts
1 f. v.12, 13 Spiritual gifts are also sanctification gifts. Let us read the same verses. 12 12For 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. 13For 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.
Sanctification means to be holy, to set apart, to separate from. It also means to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing. To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. And as Christians, this is what God did for us when we surrendered our lives to Him. He set us apart with these gifts. Unbelievers do not, cannot have any of these gifts because they have not been set apart.
In a generic sense, sanctification means the state of proper functioning. As we saw when we said spiritual gifts are also salvation gifts, we are a holy people though at times we are commanded to sanctify ourselves. Yes, we are holy that is why we are also called saints. Things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends, for proper functioning. For example, do you see the pews that you are sitting on? They are sanctified because they are being used for their intended purpose. In like manner when we use our spiritual gifts, we demonstrate sanctification. God has given them to us for a purpose and for His glory. Non-believers don’t and can’t have these gifts.
Diversity in Unity
Further as humans, we cannot sanctify ourselves. Some may ostracize themselves and go live like hermits or monks and nuns but they can’t sanctify themselves. It is the Triune God who sanctifies. Let me show you:
- The Father sanctifies, according to 1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
- He does so by the Holy Spirit, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: and 1 Peter 1:2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied; and
- He does so in the name of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Now, did you know that it is the Triune God who gives spiritual gifts? Let us go back to 12:4-7, which says: 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations [services], 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.
Is it clear to you now? There are diversities of gifts, but the same what? Spirit. Differences of administrations, but the same who? Lord. And diversities of operations, but it is the same who? God. Isn’t that a beauty?
Saints of the Most High, spiritual gifts are also sanctification gifts. God created us in His image, for us to be like Him but because of sin, there has been a disruption. Our sanctification is therefore God’s chief goal and He has expressed this as His will: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (1 Thessalonians 4:3). So at our new birth, He purposed that we also be sanctified and be laden with gifts.
Beloved, the Holy Spirit revealed so much to Paul in these verses, no kidding at all. In these verses, we also see how Paul responds to the Corinthians, noting that God works in different ways in different people. Look with me again at 12:4-7. Staring us in the face is an amazing illumination. The Apostle Paul uses “gifts,” “administrations,” and “operations” as somewhat equivalent (just as Spirit, Lord and God, as we know are equivalent). While I don’t think that those three terms are distinct categories, it is plain that they do however emphasize different aspects of the same phenomena as I have been saying, that the gifts are given:
- not something we can earn, learn, buy or take credit for ourselves,
- for service, to help other people, praise God, and
- to work to produce results in our lives.
The main point is that in our salvation and our sanctification, God works in different ways in different people. That is why you are important. See that?
2.f Are Succour Gifts
1 g. v.17 Finally, spiritual gifts are succour gifts. They provide succour and are for the common good. We read, chapter 12:17 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
We all need succour. We all need help, assistance, support, sustenance and spiritual gifts also give succour. That is why God gave us different gifts, and He did so because He wants to make us one in Him. We have a need of each other. As the Church of God, we are supposed to work together, and as we collaborate, we depend on one another. The result? The church becomes the church that it is supposed to be. No gift is for one’s private benefit. Its for all.
Oneness is the message here, togetherness. There is therefore no provision for selfishness. I said that before and I’m repeating myself again. If you try to exercise your gift apart from the others (the body), you will look foolish; it will be ridiculously absurd. Look at my hand. I think it is the best hand around here and you won’t have any problem with it. I better be careful what I say as I have two drummers in my home and together they own four sticks; moreover, they are very good drummers so I don’t want to wake up with my head serving as the bass drum! But seriously speaking, if this hand were cut off, left on the floor, and you walk in and find it lying there, you will find it gruesome, grisly and grotesque. Your stomach will be upset and you may be sick all over the place. Right?
What’s my point? What I’m trying to say here is that the hand is significant, acceptable and useful as long as it is still attached to, and is part of the body. It is acceptable and appealing because it is in the right place, a part of the body and functioning it is supposed to. It is whole and contributing its share and functioning in its full capacity. Similarly, your spiritual gift is here to provide succour and support to the rest of the body. That’s why the bible says: when one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers and when one member rejoices, all the members rejoice.
You know what happens when you have a cold, right? The whole body suffers even when only the nose is running. When you hit your finger with a hammer, the whole body suffers. When you prick your finger with a pin, the whole body suffers. That’s what the Bible means when it says when one member suffers, the whole what? Suffers!
While we are at it, do you see the importance of attending church? Only a selfish and ignorant person will say “I don’t need to be in church this Sunday, I don’t need the church. I can watch church on T.V.” As we have seen, the church needs you! By the way the Bible says that Jesus found Himself in church on the Sabbath, as His custom was.
Some people say we are to seek or choose a particular kind of gift. Who are these some people? I think it is time for us to know who these “some people” are so that throughout our series, we can easily understand and identify any reference made to them, alright? By “some people,” I’m chiefly referring to certain pastors who preach certain messages they call “gospel,” sermons that focus heavily on “prosperity and healing,” “signs and wonders,” etc.
Spiritual Gifts Smeared – Charisprobrum
As I said earlier, we will touch more on the charisprobrum. Who are these “preachers” and who are their followers? I think we know that by “prosperity preachers” the reference is to “charismatics.” These are those who believe and teach nothing but that all New Testament gifts are available today to all believers, and that you can also choose which gift you want. But to define these preachers and their teachings, I prefer a word that I coined recently: charisprobrum or charisabusers (Ah! You heard/read it here first).
As we have seen, Charis is Greek for grace or gift and probrum is Latin for abuse. Saints, my point here is that the word grace, which represents for us believers the sure foundation of our faith, God’s marvelous grace which didn’t come cheap has been hijacked and smeared by this group, this persuasion of “followers” of Christ and so preachers in this subsection of Protestantism have monopolized the word to the extent that other believers don’t appear to be, or are made to fell that they are not beneficiaries of this wonderful attribute of God our Father. In fact sometimes the mention of the word charismatic makes you almost want to cringe out of revulsion for the abuse and for those with whom it is principally associated.
What they propagate is extremely far from the truth. Hence the word I coined, that is charisprobrum or charisabusers, is intended to highlight the difference between those abusers who have hijacked this beautiful attribute of God so that today, some (maybe you) are deprived of the use or association with this word charismata, which, as I said represents the gift, grace or God’s divine favour.
As we close, I want to reiterate a few things. Spiritual gifts are given to us when we are born again. The Triune God gives them:
A. From the Father: James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 8:6
B. Provided by the Son: Ephesians 4:7-8, 11
C. Given and administered by the Spirit: 1 Corinthians 12:11