1 Corinthians 12 -13

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S. SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND MINISTRIES

12:1-11

1. God gives natural and spiritual personal gifts to mankind:

a. Natural gifts are those He gives to one and all such as a beautiful voice, the ability to compose music, sculpturing, writing of prose and poetry, excelling in sport, administration and organisation, research, invention, etc., which are generally referred to as talents, and are for the good of mankind in general.
b. The gifts of the Spirit are for use in God’s Kingdom, are bestowed on his children only, are supernatural and can clearly be discerned as an act of God, revealing his presence.
c. The gifts are “gifts” and not rewards that are earned by exceptional obedience to the Lord. For this reason no-one can boast because of his gifting.

2. Knowledge in regard to spiritual gifts is essential for their proper functioning.

a. A lack of knowledge could result in unwittingly admitting demonic input.
b. Members that had been mediums for demonic manifestation, might be especially vulnerable to such demonic activity, having succumbed to this in their lives as heathen.
c. For instance: a person that purports to speak under the power and influence the Spirit of God, will never call Jesus a curse.
d. Knowledge regarding the function of the Holy Spirit, would immediately identify such a word as being demonic, for the exact opposite is true: the Holy Spirit always uplifts Jesus as Lord and indeed no-one can come to the conclusion and conviction that Jesus is God, unless the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to him.

3. The purpose of the gifts is the building up of the church, that is, the believers; they are the tools of the Holy Spirit.

a. A builder will give a trowel to his bricklayer, a shovel and wheelbarrow to his servant that mixes and brings the concrete, a saw, hammer and chisel to the carpenter and a putty knife to him that does the glazing, but to the one that is leaning against a tree looking at those that are working, he will give nothing because he is not involved in building. The more kinds of work a servant is willing to do, the more tools he will be equipped with. Likewise the Spirit equips his servants according to what is needed for the work they are called and desire to do.
b. A servant that despises his shovel and wheelbarrow and rather uses his hands for mixing and carrying the concrete to the site, is weak in the mind and will accomplish very little. It is the same in the building of God’s Kingdom, and the reason why some denominations are not growing, is because they despise the using of the gifts of the Holy Spirit Who is the Master Builder of it all.

4. There are basically nine gifts mentioned in this portion of Scripture and they can be grouped into three groups:

a. Inspirational gifts (The power to say).

i. Various kinds of tongues. Normally this is a language or words not to be found anywhere on earth – a heavenly language. For that reason it has to be interpreted to the listeners or they will make no sense of it. Like “Mene, mene tekel parsin” in Dan 5:27.
ii. Interpretation of tongues. It is not a translation but interpretation like the interpretation of a dream which may have more detail than the original communication. This is how the above four words were interpreted:
“Mene, mene”: means “numbered”: “God has numbered the days of your reign and has brought it to an end.”
“Tekel”: means “weighed”: “You have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up.”
“Parsin”: means “divided” “Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”
iii. Prophecy. Sometimes predicting of the future, but more often like God speaking words from his throne, by his Spirit through one of his servants to encourage, strengthen or comfort the congregation (14:3). It is not teaching from the Scriptures.

b. Gifts of Power (The Power to do).

i. Gifts of healings. Different people may have gifts for the healing of different ailments.
ii. Working of miracles. Think of the miracles Moses performed (Ex 7-11 etc.).
iii. Faith. All Christians have faith but this an unusual measure of trust in God, usually a burst of faith, to cope with a situation that has arisen, as in Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:39).

c. Gifts of Revelation (The Power to Know).

i. Discerning of Spirits. See Acts 16:16. Paul discerned that the girl had a spirit of divination. This gift however goes further than just the discernment of evil spirits, it is also very helpful in discerning the motives of people approaching the leaders of a congregation with some or other request.
ii. A word of knowledge. See Dan 2:5 etc.. Daniel had to operate in the gift of supernatural knowledge to know the contents of the dream and to know what it meant.
iii. A word of wisdom. Is a word from God imparting supernatural wisdom to solve a problem or answer a question that will bring about a supernatural effect. Think of the answers that Jesus gave to those that came to trap him into giving an answer by which they could convict him (Matt 22:23-46). They went away, amazed at the wisdom of his answers.

5. On studying the gifts of the Spirit, it will be noted that many of them overlap. The importance is not to be able to define the gift that is in operation, but rather to operate in the gift needed to build the Kingdom at that moment.

12:12-31
1. A human body:

a. Has many limbs or parts: One head, two ears, two eyes, a nose, a tongue, two lips, two arms, two hands, ten fingers, a body containing heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys and many other organs, legs, feet and toes.
b. Some of these may seem very insignificant but God that designed the body, knows that even the most insignificant member has a definite function.
c. It is unthinkable for the ear to say “Since I am not as important as the eye which is being seen all the time, I am now going to stop performing my function of hearing.
d. Likewise it would be dumb for the thumb to say to the small finger “In comparison with me, you are doing very little so why don’t you drop off from the hand?”
e. Even the head, without a body, would be totally helpless.
f. The stomach and other intestines that do their work without being seen, supply power to every part of the body; without it, the beautiful eyes will become dull, close and die.

2. Such also is the Body of Christ:

a. It consists of so many different people, each with a different ministry.
b. The following is a list of some:

i. Apostles. Church planters, pioneers and leaders of major ministries or groups of ministries.
ii. Prophets. Conveying words to the congregation that are fresh from the Throne.
iii. Teachers. Spirit anointed expositors of the Word and skilful in transmitting it in such a way as to have a powerful impact upon the listeners.
iv. Those that do miracles.
v. Those that have the gifts of healing,
vi. Those that can help others. Some may, themselves, not have outstanding strong qualities but have the ability to excel in supporting those that do have them.
vii. Those that have the gift of leadership,
viii. Those that speak in unknown languages.

c. The leadership of the body of Christ must get to know every member deeply, to see for what purpose God designed that member, and then put the member to use in that capacity. The reason why your church is not growing, may be for the simple reason that only one or two parts, perhaps only one eye and one toe of your congregation is being used. Perhaps your church has a very, very big head and very small hands and legs, too small to carry that big head. You must develop the arms and legs so that the whole church can move around and search for people that never attend the meetings.
d. Likewise, every member of the body must seek God’s guidance to discover his/her spiritual gifting and then submit himself/herself to the leadership in order to be used in conjunction with the other members for the building up of the body. In so doing, every member must seek to increase in the flow of the gifting most useful to his ministry.
e. Problems also arise when a member tries to do that for which it is not gifted. If my nose tries to hold a spoon, scoop up porridge and put it into my mouth, it will make one big mess, but if it uses its gift to smell and sends the message to the brain that “The meat is smelling excellent”, the brain will send an urgent message to the hand saying “Grab a piece of meat before someone else gets it and immediately feed it into the mouth.” The hand then does its part and in this way the whole body benefits.
f. From what has been explained above, there is no sense in one member being jealous of another or boasting of its own gift.

T. LOVE, THE MOTHER OF BLESSINGS

13:1-13

1. Paul interrupts his teaching on the diversity of gifts and ministries of the Spirit and speaks on the reason or motivation for exercising these gifts and ministries.

a. The reason why we minister, must always be our love for God and man.
b. This is where the Corinthians went wrong: they exercised the gifts to exalt themselves.
c. When a builder walks around bragging about his shovel, trowel, wheelbarrow, etc., the building is not proceeding. Walking on the stage while speaking in one heavenly language after the other, uttering words of supernatural knowledge revealing the deeply hidden secrets of the lives of the listeners, or moving a huge marula tree from one place to another by faith while the congregation is looking on, will cause the members to be speechless or shout and clap their hands, but unless the gifted man is motivated by a deep love for God and man, not a single soul will be drawn to Jesus.
d. Even giving away all your possessions and then pouring petrol over yourself and setting it alight, will not impress anybody, unless they are convinced that your intention is to bless them because you love them.

2. To determine the depth of his love for the people he ministers to, a Christian worker must therefore ask himself questions like:

a. Can I wait patiently for some-one to keep his promise to me or for something I urgently need?
b. Am I friendly even towards those that treat me like a stray dog, or that simply ignore me?
c. Do I become jealous when my wife and children shout and clap hands for another pastor because he preached such a strong sermon?
d. Do I find that my lips become stiff when others are praising the pastor of my nearby congregation that is growing faster than my own?
e. Do I easily get agitated if the opposite sex pays excessive attention to my wife/husband?
f. Do I love telling others how good I preached, how many people got saved and how many came to touch me?
g. Do I sometimes behave in a way that brings shame to my family or friends?
h. When invited to a meal, do I move fast for the seat nearest to the host and am I the first one to reach for the meat?
i. When someone wrongs me, do I try and find a good excuse for him doing so, or is it like a bitter herb in my mouth that makes my face to contort whenever I think of him?
j. What causes me to smile happily: when my adversary makes a mistake causing him to lose face, or when he manages to do well and uplifts others?
k. Do I like to hear bad things about others – does it make me feel good?
l. When a good man’s mistakes are exposed, do I rejoice and call others to look at him, or do I stand in front of him, facing the crowd and try to cover his shame?
m. Do I more easily believe a good story about someone or a bad one?
n. When I hear of someone that has fallen into sin, do I say “Good, good, he got what he deserved!” or do I say “Sorry, sorry, I hope he will soon be restored?”

3. Let us get a proper perspective on spiritual gifts by comparing our present and eternal states:

a. Prophecies and Words of knowledge: Even the clearest of revelations we receive by a word of knowledge, is like reading a riddle written back to front (as seen in a mirror). In life hereafter we will know all that is to be known as fully as we are now known by God.
b. Tongues and the interpretation thereof: In life to come we will be communicating with one another in such a way that there will be no need for any language at all, so the gift of tongues and interpretation thereof, will cease.
c. (Glasses are a great help for those that cannot see properly; hearing aids for the partly deaf, crutches and wooden legs for the partial lame, but of what use will they be in heaven?)
d. Comparing our present with our eternal state is like comparing the seeing, hearing, speaking and understanding of a new born baby with that of a full-grown man. In eternity, everything will have reached a state of absolute perfection.
e. When the house has been completed:

i. There is no further use for the tools.
ii. What goes into the house is people, not tools.
iii. What lives in the heavenly home are people filled by love.
iv. All that will remain in that day, is this substance called love that is now being developed in our lives by using the tools of Spiritual gifts.

f. What now remains are the three major virtues: faith, hope and love. Of these, love is the greatest because:

i. God is love: of all his attributes, love describes him best.
ii. Faith and hope can be exercised for personal purposes but love reaches out to others.
iii. Love is the reason for faith and hope to be exercised.
iv. Love was that which motivated God to create heaven and earth and to redeem mankind.

4. The question therefore is not how many wonderful tools do you now have, but how high and wide and deep is the love that you have cultivated with these tools, with these spiritual gifts?

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