We have begun a new series on the topic of understanding the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Continuing from the theme of discipleship which we finished last week, it is a fitting series to embark upon. Being disciples of Jesus Christ, how is it that we are to serve in His Church and what is the avenue on which He would have us, that we might find the opportunities to sacrifice and deny ourselves, to give and to make other disciples? The Apostle Paul gives the disciples at Corinth some clear instruction on this subject. Interestingly enough it is from the perspective of a group of disciples who are not living it well. The Corinthians church was quite a mess when the Apostle Paul penned this letter to them.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
There was division and strife. There was immorality and selfishness. There was absolute disregard for the things of the Lord, even in the services. There was abuse on every side, so it is in an attitude of correction that the Apostle instructs them on this subject. Their rampant abuse also needs to be corrected. We need to keep this in mind when we are considering the teaching in this particular letter in the New Testament. It is almost exclusively correcting error.
The spirit of selfishness infected every aspect of life in the Corinthian church. It was not a matter of understanding the gifts themselves which they possessed in abundance, (1 Corinthians 1:4-7 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift,”) but the attitude which they were supposed to be used with. Have you ever wondered why the “LOVE” chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, is like the filling in the Oreo of Spiritual Gifts teaching? Why does Paul place it between the two most comprehensive chapters on the gifts? It is in contradistinction to what the prevailing attitude was regarding how they are using those gifts. That is what the first few verses emphasize:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
True gifts, gifts exercised under the power of and given by the Holy Spirit of God, will always be used for the unification and edification of the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” This is the prayer of Jesus for His disciples in John 17:20-23. We see the idea of unity and edification in each of the four passages on the subject of Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 12:12-20, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1 Peter 4:10-11.
It is when the Gifts of the Spirit are used so that the Body of Christ (the Church) is unified and edified that Christ is glorified. It is for this reason that Jesus sent Him into the world, to accomplish what He had prayed in John 17, that our unity would tend to His glory. And so as we consider our own gifts, how we are being used of God, we need to ask the question; “Am I exercising my gifts in such a way that they unify and edify the Body of Christ to His glory? If my gift divides or tears down those who are my brothers I need to see that it is either that I am using that gift with the wrong attitude or that it is really not a “spiritual” gift at all. It may only be my own carnality coming out in what seems like a spiritual way. Something to think about.
Audio of the message is available by clicking on the link below.