We started a sermon series in church two weeks ago on the gifts of the Spirit, from 1 Corinthians 12. My pastor had asked me to speak on verses 7-11 from that chapter, and i delivered this sermon yesterday. May God richly bless you as you read.
Gifts That Profit All
Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
January 29, 2012
I’d like to share two stories. I recently heard the testimony of a young man named Michael who told the story about a mission’s trip he and several others went on to Kenya. One day, Michael and another fellow had been in a village and were ministering to the people there. Some of the people in the village were Christians, but had never seen any signs and wonders. He recounts how they had a friend in that village, and so they went for a visit.
While there, the friend’s mother, who was about seventy, invited them into their home. This elderly woman it turns out, had broken her arm, and every time she moved she winced in pain. The arm was wrapped in a sort of cast, but there was no sling to support the arm, so the slightest movement caused her all sorts of pain. Michael and his friend asked if they could pray for the woman and her arm. They prayed once and asked how her arm felt. She held it up and said, “My fingers are dancing. I couldn’t do this before.”
They asked if they could pray again, and when they were done, she was able to move her whole arm without any pain. The woman told Michael and his friend that it felt like tingles leaving her arm. And then she spent the next twenty minutes walking back and forth in the pouring rain outside saying, “Praise Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. My fingers are dancing.”
The second story is about a man whom God had gifted with speaking in tongues. While he was at a park one day, he was leaning over the railing watching people in the court below while praying in tongues. He was praying quietly but a man walking by had heard a little bit. This second man being an immigrant, stopped and told the man it was wonderful to hear someone praying in his native tongue, and asked when he had learned it. The first man explained that he didn’t know the language, but that he was praying in tongues. As they continued talking, the second man interpreted for the first man the things he had been praying. He had been exalting Jesus and glorifying the Father in heaven.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Abe began a series on the gifts of the Spirit and the text was drawn out of 1 Corinthians 12, and so I invite you to turn there with me. Pastor Abe challenged us to think about our gifts and how we can use them to serve others. Before we go any further this morning I would like to give a brief explanation for this morning. In our culture we acknowledge that gifts come in many different forms, like singing or playing an instrument, or even the ability to organize and maintain a library. We all have various gifts. For our purposes here this morning though, I would like to make a distinction between what we normally talk about when we say gifts, and what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12: the gifts of the Spirit. So this morning, when I use the word gifts, I am speaking about those things that we’ll look at in just a few minutes in 1 Corinthians 12 and not the things that our minds normally think of when we talk about gifts.
We’ll be looking at verses seven to eleven of 1 Corinthians 12 this morning. Before we do that though, and so there is no confusion, I’ll just add a brief word. When Pastor Abe scheduled everything for this series he was originally going to be speaking on verses four to six last week, but with the guest speaker here last week that didn’t happen, so he will be speaking on verses four to six next week. So then, if you have your Bibles, follow with me as we read verses seven to eleven:
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
So far the reading of God’s Word.
When Pastor Abe first asked me to speak today, he showed me the way he had laid out the passages for these sermons and I sighed a sigh of relief because this was not originally the passage he had written down. I was excited that we were going through this series, but I was happy that I didn’t have to address these gifts. Then he altered the schedule. But as I worked over the passage and studied it closely I came to realize something important: The emphasis of this passage should not be verses eight through ten, but rather on verse seven. Reading what commentators had to say on this passage revealed that most of the emphasis was on the gifts themselves, and not on the giver of the gifts. Many commentators had very little to say about verse seven altogether.
But it is verse seven that truly should be the focus. You may have noticed by the sermon title where my heart was drawn in studying this passage. Paul begins verse seven by telling us that it the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. It is not the manifestation of the gifts he lists, that are the profit of all, it is the manifestation of the Spirit. The dictionary defines manifestation as, “outward or perceptible indication”. The Greek word used here means “the act of disclosure”. In other words, God’s presence is evident in your life in an outward indication. We can see from this verse is that there should be a definite outward indication of the fact that the Holy Spirit is living in us.
Paul goes on and tells us that every believer has this manifestation, and that that presence, that outward indication, is there to profit everyone. One of the things I like about Christmas time is how different organizations have set up the “Living Gift” programs and the “Water Well” initiatives, like the one we took part in this past Christmas. We can buy a gift for someone half-way around the world and they profit from it. If we buy chickens, the family that receives them can collect some eggs for themselves and sell the rest in the market as a way to earn an income for their family. Not only that, but people that buy the eggs can hatch a set, and start doing the same thing. One gift starts to multiply greatly and so many people are touched, including you for giving it. The same way that we gift these people which helps so many others, God through the power of the Holy Spirit gives you gifts so that you can help profit each other.
There is an idea in our culture that makes this idea of gifts that profit each other less than desirable. William Barclay says, “The fault of the Church… is that it has interpreted the idea of special gifts far too narrowly… to consist of things like speaking, praying, teaching, and writing – the more or less intellectual gifts.” It’s been ingrained in us that we should get all the education we can get and then use what we know. We need to be able to rationalize and be able to explain what is happening or we simply don’t believe that it can happen.
How is it possible that a group of people can gather around someone and pray for them, and their leg is instantly healed? How is it possible that someone can meet a total stranger and know the heart of that person and know what God thinks of that person?
We have grown to accept a view of God that is so unlike who he is that the list Paul gives us in verses eight through ten scare the pants off of us. Every one of the gifts Paul lists are so completely unexplainable that we don’t want to go near them. We don’t want to have anything to do with them. But in doing so, we go against the very nature of who God is. We go against the very things that God is trying to enact in our lives.
How would we react in our context, if young Adlai suddenly started prophesying, would we stop him? If Mary began speaking in tongues and Cliff interpreted what she said, would we stop them? The God that we worship every Sunday is the very God who makes these things possible. Are we going to shut Him up, just because we can’t explain what is happening in our rational mind? We’ve become so consumed with intellectual ideals that we miss out on what God is doing and how He is doing it.
But the emphasis is still not on the gifts. The NLT words verse seven as “A spiritual gift is given to each one of us so we can help each other,” and several translations used, “for the common good of everyone.” The Greek word used here, “sum-pha-ron” means advantageous or profitable, and it refers more to the ‘ultimate good’ as opposed to the ‘good of a present situation’. Paul says the manifestation of the Spirit is all for the highest good and not for temporary powers or favors. He tells us that when we embrace these things, we are profiting each other. We are building each other up in our faith and through the use of the gifts Paul mentions. When I embrace the gift of wisdom and knowledge God has given me and use them, you benefit from it. This isn’t about any sort of jealousy or rivalry about who got which gift, but when we embrace and use them we glorify God and build each other up.
So what is the opposite of this then? When we don’t embrace these things through the manifestation of the Spirit, we are actually hurting each other’s faith. We are diminishing each other’s faith. And in the process we are actually stopping, or hindering, the profit that God wants to pour out on us. Paul is actually given us a warning here. As Christians, when we don’t embrace these gifts through the manifestation of the Spirit, we are hindering God’s work from being accomplished in this world. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to be the one to go against how God has decided that He wants to do things, even if I can’t explain it.
So once Paul has established that it is the manifestation of the Spirit to each one for the profit of all, as we see in verse seven, he then lists nine different ways in which the manifestation of the Spirit might occur. Notice that the gifts really are a means to an end, and not the end themselves. Paul doesn’t say it is the manifestation of gifts through the Spirit, but rather it is the manifestation of the Spirit, and these nine things are ways in which you will see that Spirit evident.
For our benefit this morning, I will avoid getting into all the Greek wording in these verses, but I will offer definitions for each of the gifts in the hopes that we can better understand what Paul is referring to.
In verse eight we see the first two of the gifts: wisdom and knowledge. In Scripture, these two are almost like tag-team partners, where you find one, you usually find the other, although they might also be interpreted as wisdom and understanding. The wisdom Paul is talking about deals with the aspect of skill or intelligence. In speaking about wisdom, Aristotle said it is, “Striving after the best ends using the best means.” Morris refers to the idea of the ‘highest mental excellence.’
If you were here for the prayer meeting during Sunday school this morning you would have heard a bit of a situation that John Hiebert had asked prayer for. Without getting into details, the teachers at Steinreich school were confronted with a situation involving spiritual warfare this past week and the measures taken by the leaders there showed how God has blessed the teachers there with wisdom.
And followed closely with wisdom is knowledge. The word used here simply refers to knowing what to do in any given situation, specifically in dealing with the truth. By understanding these words separate from each other it is easy to see why Paul put them together. One almost seems to rely on the other, and vice-versa.
Then in verse nine Paul moves on to the gift of faith. But Jason, you say, “Don’t we all get faith when we become a Christian?” I’m glad you asked. Yes, when you become a Christian you get a certain measure of faith. It seems as though what Paul is suggesting is that some Christians get a greater measure of faith as a gift of the Spirit. The Greek word used means trust or confidence or belief. Barclay says that this faith, “really produces results,” and that it is the type of faith that “makes someone spend all that they are and have on their belief in God.”
Next on Paul’s list is gifts of healings. Just an interesting note here that Paul pluralizes the gifts of healings. It is not the “gift of healing” or any variation of that, but “gifts of healings.” One commentator notes that this could either mean different kinds of healings, or, different gifts for the healing of each individual sick person. I’m sure if you would ask our local doctor, he would argue that he has been given different gifts for healings, so that he can treat many different illnesses.
But this does not mean that God will not act in a supernatural way and allow gifts of healings such as we heard with the old woman at the beginning of the message. We should be careful here though. Too often people involved in healing begin to think that they have done something that caused the healing to occur. We shouldn’t make that mistake. It is the power of God at work through the believer, and not the believer themselves that causes the healing. This would draw all of the attention onto the person who has been gifted and not on God, the one who gives the gifts for healings.
We should be careful to separate the gifts of healings from the working of miracles that Paul mentions next. When we read accounts of Jesus and his work, we see that he did works of miracles as well as healings, so there should be some distinction between the two. A quick look at some of the miracles Jesus did would include casting out evil spirits, walking on water, or even raising someone from the dead. Jesus himself said in John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.” Jesus is saying that we know the things he has done, and that if we believe in Him, we will do greater things than he has. Not for our benefit, but so that God will be glorified. I’ll leave you with a hanging question as we move on which is: Have you walked on water, or fed 5,000 people with a few fish and a couple of loaves? Because Jesus declares that you will do greater things than that.
Moving on, Paul lists a few more things in quick succession that evidence the manifestation of the Spirit. The next gift on his list is prophecy. We have an idea of what prophecy is because we read the OT prophets, but what prophecy really is is inspired speech. At times there might be an emphasis on foretelling the future, as we see in the book of The Revelation, but more often than not, prophecy is simply a ‘message inspired by the Spirit and given in a present situation’.
On our trip to the IHOP Conference in December a number of us took the opportunity to be prophesied over, so I went and these strangers began to affirm in me the direction of my calling. One even went so far as to mention something that I had only shared with one person, on how my leadership of the youth was going. There was no prediction of the future or anything like that, just words of encouragement and affirmation.
Paul moves on to the discerning of spirits, or the distinction of spirits. The emphasis here is on being able to tell the difference between spirits that are God sent or ones that Satan has sent. It is understanding the difference in good and evil spirits. One commentator argues the reason for this gift is so that, “in our context, it is… to detect and expose satanic strategies and activities.”
In times of war, countries like to have someone in place inside the ranks of the enemy camp as a spy so they can learn how the enemy plans to attack. Once they have the information, they can plan their own attacks that will spoil the original plans of the enemy. In the same way, God gives us the discernment of spirits so we can know how Satan plans to attack and prepare ourselves and defend ourselves from those attacks.
And finally in this list, Paul talks about the gift of speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. While they are separate gifts, these two are very closely linked. The Greek word used here means tongue or language. Part of the purpose for speaking in tongues is that it is a “sign” that God is speaking. And the interpretation of tongues is the gift to be able to translate what has been said. The word used in the Greek does carry with it more than simply the ability to translate what has been spoken. It seems to imply also that in the interpretation there is also an explanation of what has been said.
Finally, in verse eleven of our text, Paul concludes by bringing the focus back to what verse seven says. The same Spirit, the Spirit of God, gives each one of these gifts. These verses show us how God wants to make His presence known and affirmed in the body of believers. He gives these gifts as He sees fit, and as Pastor Abe reminded us two weeks ago, we have all been given at least one gift.
I’d like to conclude with a personal story followed by a few questions to challenge you. I grew up in the C.M.C. church just down the street, which is quite possibly a stricter Mennonite background than here. The idea of operating in the gifts of the Spirit terrified me. Things like miraculous healings were foreign to me – just go to the doctor if you want to be healed.
A few years ago I began to be challenged with this entire subject in my heart. In my prayers I prayed to God, “God, you say in the Bible that you never change; that you are the same today as you were in the beginning and the time of Jesus, and you will be the same in eternity. If you’re the same, then the same Spirit that filled the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit that gave Paul the ability to perform miracles, is the same Spirit living in me. I don’t want to be one who goes against how you operate. Reveal to me in some way that you operate this way. Give me the wisdom to not try to understand how you operate, but to live my life in this way regardless.”
I began to search God out in the area of the gifts of the Spirit, and it was about a year later that God revealed a great breakthrough. I was driving the work truck on a trip up to Gillam, where we would be for a week. I was going to exercise my faith in healing, so I began to pray. I didn’t know how to pray these things, but I prayed. I almost lost my voice praying I was praying so hard. I didn’t know if God answered my prayer, so a week later when we got back I visited this person in the hospital that I was praying for and asked a few general questions about their health. I was told that the previous Sunday, in the afternoon around 2:30, right when I was praying, Peter Loeppky wiggled his toe for the first time after his operation and stroke.
I can’t begin to describe what that did for my love for God; for my faith; for my worship. I began to worship God in a whole new way. It was all I needed to chase after the things that 1 Corinthians 12 talks about. Not because I wanted to heal people or speak in tongues, but because God is awesome, and I can use those gifts to help you by using them. I can’t begin to explain the journey God has taken me on since then. I’ve prayed over people and they get physically healed on the spot. God has blessed me with prophesies for people, given me visions and dreams about this church and the community. I can say truthfully that there is not a gift that Paul lists in our passage today that God has not blessed me with. But it’s not for me. It’s for His glory. I praise him daily for gifting me the way that He has. And I use those gifts to pour out onto you and others in the community.
Here’s the thing, I am confident that God has gifted all of you in the various ways we’ve looked at today. Some of you have had prophecies, or maybe you speak in tongues. Some of you have the gift of healings, or discernment of spirits. The problem is that all of this is too scary. It’s outside our grid of understanding. We can’t explain it so we avoid it at all costs.
Let me ask you a few closing questions and then I’ll pray.
- Are you too scared to use the gifts God gave you because of what people might say, or how they might react to you?
- Are you too scared to use your gifts because you can’t explain how they work?
- Are you going to be the one who withholds the profit of all because you won’t use your God given gifts?
- Or are you going to be the one to embrace the fact that there are things in the heavenly realm that you will never be able to explain, and embrace the manifestation of the Spirit so that your gifts can glorify God and profit the body of Christ?