The following notes are related to the morning message for 27 January 2019 and are based on 1 Corinthians 12:1-11.
First Corinthians 12 states that through the Holy Spirit spiritual gifts are given to God's people for "the common good." Verse 11 this chapter says the gifts are given according to God's sovereign will, "just as He wills." Such gifts are given to us for two main reasons: to prepare God's people for service and for the strengthening and building up the body of Christ, the church.
After Paul established the church in Corinth, he spent eighteen months with them in order to lay for them a firm foundation based on sound doctrine and a mindset that would be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasized to the Corinthians that the church belonged to God, and that he built it deliberately. God has chosen to provide gifts to Christians for the purpose of aiding in building the church and strengthening it in a way that will achieve God’s purposes through it. In the case of the church, there is a great deal of truth in the saying, “It takes all kinds!”
Along the line of growing the church and making it optimally effective in following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Paul taught the Corinthians about spiritual gifts given for that purpose. There are two Greek words that are translated “spiritual gifts”: charismata and pneumatika. Sometimes they are called “grace gifts.”
Paul often compared the church to the human body, which obviously has many parts, all performing specialized functions (the nose, the mouth, the brain, the eyes, the ears, the skeleton, the muscles, etc.). In order for the body to function in a whole and unified way, all of these parts needed to do what they were designed to do. All of them were, therefore, important to the body. Likewise, the church is made up of many members, all of whom must do their part in order for the church to work like a body. God’s spiritual gifts are given, as he sees fit, to individuals so that each one can play an important role in the church which is being built up by Christ.
So, Paul did much to help the Corinthian Christians identify their spiritual gifts and to begin to use them. However, after he left the church to return to Antioch of Syria, convinced that the church was firmly in place and maturing, he received troubling news that the gifts of the Spirit were causing problems rather than solving them! First of all, some in the Corinthian church were claiming that their gift from the Spirit was more important that the gifts of others. They were claiming that God must, therefore, favor them more than he did some of the other members of the church. Such bragging and pride and taunting created jealousy, disunity, disfunction, and a loss of focus in the church. In the second place, improper use and evaluation of spiritual gifts was causing disruptions in worship and a failure to emphasize the centrality of Jesus as head of the church.
When Paul received the troubling news that the church in Corinth was coming unglued, he wrote them in order to put them back on track. The first thing that he told them was that the person who had received a spiritual gift was not what was really important. Rather, each gift was given by God’s grace. The receiver of the gift was blessed by God, selected by God, endowed with the gift from God. Therefore, should the focus not be placed on God who supplies the gifts to all of his saints for service? The gift, whatever it is, is important because it is given as an expression of God’s grace. As such, the receiver should simply use the gift as God intended it to be used, for the overall good and health of the entire body.
Secondly, Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that the ruling principle among them as they exercised their various and diverse spiritual gifts is love. If they would learn this lesson, all people in the church would treat each other with kindness, respect, and dignity. The letter Paul had received said that some Christians were making others feel second rate and inferior because they were told that their gifts from the Holy Spirit were not important. Paul returned to his metaphor of the body with all of its diverse parts, all of them important, all of them specialized, all of them working effective with all of the others. The church was an organism just like the body in that respect. Members truly loving each other and each member doing his share in being engaged in the multifaceted work of being the church was Paul’s emphasis for the Corinthians.
The third thing that Paul reminded the Corinthians is that the individual is not the church. No single individual is greater than the whole. The church is a body of people who are called together and put together by God. The church belongs to him and, ultimately, he puts it together. As already stated, the function of those whom he “calls together” is to be God’s church. Our lives in the church can be compared to a beautiful jigsaw puzzle for which God knows the picture he is putting together. Our function is to be a single puzzle piece in God’s had, along with all the other pieces, being placed precisely where he wants us to be. Only in this way can the picture he is making be completed, with no pieces missing or out of place.