Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-7
Jesus was a man:
* whose coming was prophesied of by men moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21)
* who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
* whose identity as Savior was confirmed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41,2:26-32)
* on whom the Holy Spirit came to rest at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
* who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested (Luke 4:1-2)
* who returned from that testing in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14)
* whose first public sermon declared "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 4:18)
* who was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power to do miracles (Acts 10:38)
* who drove demons out of men by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10 Matthew 12:28)
* who was raised by the Spirit back to life from the dead (Romans 8:11)
* who rejoiced in the Spirit when he saw his disciples continue his work (Luke 10:21)
That last point is important, because we see in the Gospels, as Jesus' life nears its end, he starts making his followers aware of how they are to continue his ministry once he has left them.
* He tells them that he will send the Holy Spirit to them to be their Helper; to dwell in them and lead them in truth (John 14:16-17)
* He tells his followers that it is better for them if he leaves so that the Helper can come to them (John 16:7)
* He tells them to remain in Jerusalem to wait for this promised anointing with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5)
* He explains to them that after they receive the Holy Spirit, they will be his witnesses even to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)
As we see the ministry of Jesus' followers unfold in the book of Acts, we see them receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) and then having to explain to the people gathered that this pouring out of the Holy Spirit on a large group of people was the culmination of what all the scriptures had attested to throughout the years. Just as Moses had once declared, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit on them" (Numbers 11:29) and Joel had prophesied, "I (the Lord) will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy" (Joel 2:28), Peter now proclaimed had finally been accomplished.
As people believed in Jesus, they received the Holy Spirit, were gathered into Spirit-filled communities, raised up leaders who were filled with the Spirit, and at the Spirit's command, sent Spirit-led and Spirit-gifted people out of the church to continue the cycle again in new places.
One of these places this Spirit-movement entered was the city of Corinth. After responding to the good news about Jesus, the Corinthian church seemed to become enamored with the works and giftings of the Holy Spirit. They were so excited about the Spirit's gifts, that dramatic spiritual activity became the centerpiece of the Corinthian Church.
Paul, the man who planted the church, their "father in the faith", became concerned that their infatuation with these spiritual activities was becoming unhealthy. He writes to them in his first letter, chapter 12:1, "Now concerning these types of spiritual things, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed, or ignorant.”
In our day as well, I believe that there is a lot of confusion, or ignorance, about the workings of the Spirit and what some call spiritual gifts. We have many Christian movements that, like the Corinthians, are enamored with anything they believe the Spirit is doing and make these dramatic displays central to the life of the church. Over the next six weeks, we are going to study these things together as a church, and pray that we may be a church which practices no more and no less that what the Spirit has revealed through His Sword, the Word of God.
1) Not All That Glitters is Gold: Not every thing that looks “spiritual” is in actuality from the Holy Spirit. We’re going to look at three important words today that I think are very misunderstood, and it important for us to understand them in their New Testament context. As I have been studying these things, I am becoming more and more convinced that the words we use today to describe the Spirit's workings are misleading. The important word here is “Pneumatikon.” Spiritual things. This is was not Paul’s favorite word to talk about God’s giftings, but he uses it here because it was a favorite word of the Corinthian church. In fact, Paul uses the word more in his letter to the Corinthians than in the rest of the New Testament combined. The Corinthians liked to call themselves spiritual and they gloried in dramatic expressions of spiritually. But remember, their so-called spirituality was a self-deception. Paul says in chapter 2 that he would like to talk to the Corinthains as spiritual people, but is not able to because they are acting carnal. They don't understand pneumatikon even as they boast that they are practicing pneumatikon in their church. The picture I put on the PPT slide is Pyryte: fools gold. It looks like gold, but its not. Paul is warning the Corinthinas to not be deceived by things that look spiritual but aren't. He reminds them of their background. In Corinth, there were all sorts of religious options they had to choose from. Some of these religious options, were what we call today the mystery religions (because they all held to some form of mystery that only the higher initiates were let in on). These religions all practiced a form of religious ecstasy: a trance-like state characterized by expanded mental and spiritual awareness and is frequently accompanied by visions, hallucinations, and emotional/intuitive (and sometimes physical) euphoria, and ecstatic speech. Religious ecstasy could be and was deliberately induced using a variety of techniques, including prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, dancing, sweating, fasting, thirsting, and the consumption of alcohol or psychotropic drugs. These displays of spiritual frenzy drew people into these religions. It was captivating! What power! Paul references this when he writes in verse 2, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.” This is what they were saved out of, not what they should be returning back to. Notice that Paul doesn’t lump what is happening in the church with what was happening outside of the church, but he is saying, be careful because all that glitters and looks spiritual isn’t gold. Jesus explicitly said in Matthew 24:24, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” Therefore, it is necessary for us to understand two things:
a. Make sure you are not running after false imitations So how do you know if this spiritual movement is truly from God or not? Paul gives two tests, one negative and one positive: Verse 3, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.” Basically, here’s the truth: people moved by the Spirit should be moving closer to, not further from, the Jesus of the Bible.
b. The Spirit points to Jesus: Going back to the upper room where Jesus first promised to send the Spirit to the disciples He said "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The key word? ME (Jesus). If your experience of Christianity points you away from Jesus and centers only on the Holy Spirit, you are being pulled into something else. Be careful about Holy Spirit revivals that fail to point to Jesus. We get people who are seeking the pouring out of the Spirit, that the Sprit become almost an idol. We get a guy down in Florida who is preaching about how he got his doctrine from a blue angel and that God told him he should make angels the central proclamation of his ministry because people already know about Jesus. And people go to him from all over the country – thousands – to get caught up in his heresy. Be careful! Not everything you watch on Christian television, or hear on Christian radio, or see at a Christian revival is the spirit’s work. Not all that glitters is gold.
2) Not All That’s Gold Does Glitter: I think is was Tolkien who first turned the phrase around and spoke a truth more clearly aligned with Bible teaching than the first. Not all that’s gold does glitter. Speaking in regards to God’s giftings, what I mean is that some of the most glorious gifts of God are the unassuming ones. Again, we have a big problem in the North American church. The words and categories that we use when we talk about spiritual gifts are not the concepts that the Bible uses. So we must read the Bible and let it define things for us. We must broaden our understanding of God’s giftings. The key word here is “Charismaton”. Gracious Giftings. Here it is helpful to understand how charismatia has been defined in our day and then go back and do a quick Biblical study to see if that definition plays out.
a. The Dominant North American View of Charismata (Spiritual Gifts) The following quote is taken from a church Report commissioned by the Lutheran Church, summarizing the Dominant Evangelical position:
"What is a spiritual gift? Since the definition given by the various authors follows nearly verbatim the one given by Wagner, the following will serve as a basic starting point: “A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ according to God’s grace for use within the context of the Body.” Several aspects of this definition are noteworthy. First, the importance of the body as the context for the discussion of spiritual gifts is emphasized. Second, a spiritual gift is defined as a “special attribute.” Others refer to it as a “special ability.” As we will see, the term “spiritual gift” nearly always has reference to a particular capacity or skill that one has been given. Third, every Christian has been given at least one gift. Fourth, these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit at a particular point in time simultaneously with or subsequent to one’s conversion."
b. The Major Charismata Passages: Let’s look at the following passages to see if the above definition holds water:
i. Romans 1:11. Paul longs to impart some spiritual gift to the Roman Church. This happens to be the only time in Paul's letters where he actually uses the term "spiritual gift" (charisma pneumatikon). Notice: Paul is not saying he wants to impart one special ability to the church, he is saying that he wants to encourage the church by teaching them. Paul's body of teaching is the "spiritual gift" he wants to leave them with.
ii. Ephesians 4:11-12: The gifts given here are not special attirbutes, but the people themselves (apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc.)
iii. Romans 12:6-8: Remove prophecy and look at the list. What do you notice? they are all natural abilities, cultivated talents, or opportunities that one may have! these are not necessarily "special attributes"
iv. First Corinthians 12:4-6: Usings parralellism, Paul sets gifts, services, and activities as all being thing which God has allocated to the church to work within for the purpose of building up the church. To a church that focused on one or two dramatic abilities, Paul broadens their understanding of God’s giftings. It is God who works all in all.
c. Toward A Broader Definition of Charismata: People are often confused with the difference between natural abilities, cultivated talents, opportunities of service, and spiritual gifts. If we broaden our definition of Charismata, we don’t face this problem. Instead, we come to see that all are given by God. Every natural ability, cultivated skill, personality trait, opportunity for service, and role that one assumes are gracious gifts from God that the believer is to use in building up His church. Charismata is the sum total of all that you have been entrusted with by God, which by His power you use to build up his church. Therefore, use everything you have to serve him! Don't worry about whetehr some test tells you whether you have this or that "spiritual gift". Don't spend your time trying to determine if your ability to teach is a natural talent, a cultivated ability or a "spiritual gift". That's not the point. The point is, everything you have has been given to you by God, so use everything for his service. Don't worry if it glitters or not, if its gold, use it!
3) Some That’s Gold Does Glitter: While we use everything God has given us to build up the church, we encounter ministry needs that, quite frankly, are well beyond our capacity of our natural abilities to handle even through the power of God. We must recognize and understand that at times the Holy Spirit does empower or enable a Christian in a supernatural way, so that he is able to meet a ministry need that could not be otherwise met. 1 Cor 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (ESV) The key word here is “Phanerosis”. Manifestations. The word suggest, "making something clear for everyone to see." These things shine a spotlight on the Spirit, because there is no way that you could do them by natural means. They are gold and they indeed glitter. Notice an important part, they are given for the common good. We will continue to look at each of these next week.
If you are interested in reading more on spiritual gifts from perspectives like this:
1. "Spiritual Gifts" http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/spiritgifts.pdf
2. "Definitions, or What is a Spiritual Gift" http://www.biblicalstudies.com/bstudy/spiritualgifts/ch01.htm
3. Chrysostom's "Homily 29 on First Corinthians" http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220129.htm