Gifted for Others

1 Corinthians #21: An exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011.

It was late on a Sunday night.  It had been a long day and I was tired so I plopped down in the chair and turned on the television.  It happened to be on a channel where a well known pastor was just entering into the “ministry” time during his sermon.  The folks lined up 3 and 4 deep.  He walked along the line touching them on the forehead and they were dropping like flies.  He got to the end of the line and started back.  They continued to drop.  At that point I changed the channel.  Jessie said, “Turn it back Papa I want to see him knock’m down again!”  During my college days we used to gather on Sunday night to watch a pastel-clad televangelist, with a really bad toupee, command demons to “Come out” as he unstopped the ears of the deaf and loosed the tongues of the dumb.  I’ve counseled some confused believers who were told to sit in a dark closet and say, “Jesus” over and over until they could no longer understand what they were saying then they could be sure they were speaking in “tongues.”  No doubt we could spent the evening sharing stories of abuse regarding spiritual gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Just as bad are those who think and act as if the Spirit of God is no longer active.  When considering the person and work of the Spirit we must allow the Scripture to inform our understanding.  In this area, as in all areas of doctrine, balance is critical.  Misunderstanding an abuse of the gifts of the Spirit are not a modern problem.  Paul addressed these same issues in the first century just two decades into the history of the church.  Our text this evening is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-31

The Old Testament prophets foretold of a day when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28ff).  On the Day of Pentecost Peter declared that day had come.  It is not surprising that problems developed.  Some impostors claimed to be instruments of the Spirit; others, deluded, thought they were uniquely gifted; some were envious of the gifts of others; some became proud and arrogant in the exercising of their gifts.  The result was envy, vanity and division.  In an effort to correct the problem Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 12-14.  Remember the context is public worship.  He is addressing that which was happening when the people gathered for worship.  In chapter 12 Paul points to the fact that gifts are directly related to the nature of the church.  In chapter 13 he appeals to love as the guiding principle.  Finally in chapter 14 he deals with the abuse of gifts, in particular, the gift of tongues.

This evening we are going to focus on chapter 12.
What is clear from this chapter is…

Thesis: God gives gifts to each believer to enable each believer to fulfill their unique role within the body of Christ.

A key thought running throughout this chapter is unity within diversity.  The call of God is to unity not uniformity.  Uniformity demands that everyone look alike, walk alike and talk alike.  Everyone must be in lock step.  Unity on the other hand allows for diversity and individuality.  That is the nature of a body.  Unity is not everyone doing their own thing, going in their own direction and being a law unto themselves – that’s anarchy.  That is chaos.  Unity is each fulfilling their part within the whole.

Think in terms of music.  If you go to a symphony concert and you arrive early you can hear the orchestra warm up.  Random notes here and there.  A run.  A melody line.  Every now and then a note of beauty but for the most part it’s noise.  But once the concert begins and all are under the command of the conductor – there is beauty.

Or to use Paul’s analogy in this chapter think of the body.  What happens if the individual parts of a body decide to function on their own without regard for the others?  You may have movement but it won’t be productive.  Spasms are not helpful.  For a body to function properly all the parts must work together.

With that in mind let’s consider our text.

I want to point out three things.

  1. God gives a variety of gifts.  (12:4, 8-12)
  2. These gifts manifest themselves in a variety of ministries.  (12:5)
  3. These gifts are intended to build up the body of Christ.  (12:7, 11)
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