Sermon in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Text: Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
At times, you may hear of a gifted program at a school. This involves students who have shown that they are able to handle a more advanced course of studies. Those children are looked at as being exceptional. However, I would like to call your attention to the term “gifted.” If they are, indeed, gifted, it must have come from outside of themselves. It was something that they received. Otherwise, it would not be a gift. We could talk about where this gift came from. Some would point to parents. Others would simply say that is the way that they were born. This morning, the apostle Paul reminds us that we, too, are gifted. WE ARE GOD’S GIFTED CHILDREN. As such, we are encouraged to 1. Give Thanks To God For The Gifts That He Has Given Us and to 2. Use These Gifts With Joy.
As you read through this epistle of Paul, you find that the Corinthians put a great deal of value on the various gifts that God had given to members of the church. Some were esteemed more highly than others. Before Paul addresses which gifts are truly important and how each one of the members is interdependent on the others, he begins by pointing out some of the gifts that God had given his church.
The list of gifts that God had given the church is mentioned in verses 8-10. As we read the list, we see that many of these gifts are still in evidence in Christian congregations today. Paul writes, “To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”
First of all, some of the gifts that are mentioned in this list were special gifts that God gave to the early church to draw attention to and give validity to the message that was proclaimed. For example, there is the gift of healing. As you read through the book of Acts, you find the apostles healing people. Other examples of these are the gifts of different kinds of tongues and the ability to interpret those tongues. God gave the early church the ability to speak in languages that the speaker had not learned. God also gave the ability to translate them. This was done so that the gospel message might be proclaimed more quickly. While this exact gift is not necessarily seen today, we do know of people who have the ability to learn a foreign language and others who are able to translate one language into another.
While those gifts are not necessarily seen in the church today, there are others that Paul mentions that are. For example, Paul says to some is given “a message of wisdom” and to others “message of knowledge.” These two gifts are very similar. The message of wisdom is the person who knows are great deal about many things. They are well-read and informed. They have the ability to reason. These are people who have the ability to look at the complex things and figure them out. In the church, this might be someone who is quite learned in the teachings of the Bible. The message of knowledge is someone who is able to take those truths that they have learned make wise decisions and sound judgments based on those facts. This would be a person who looks at a situation that the church or an individual is facing and, based on what the Scriptures teach, is able to determine what is the better course to take.
Paul mentions the gift of faith. This is not the saving faith that every Christian has. If they did not have faith, they would not be part of the Church. Here Paul is mentioning the person who has such a strong faith that they more easily handle the tough things that come into their lives. This is the type of faith that is able to face a lion’s den or a fiery furnace. It is the type of faith that allows one to sleep on a cushion in the middle of a storm.
Another gift that is mentioned is prophecy. When we hear the word “prophecy,” we might think of one who is able to foretell the future. However, even the Old Testament prophets did not only tell what would happen in the future. They also told God’s people the truths that God wanted them to hear. This would be the type of person who has the ability to teach God’s Word in a very understandable way. Some people can just explain the truths of God’s Word in such a way that it is very understandable. This person also has the ability to talk to others about what God has done for them.
As we go through these gifts that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12, we might think to ourselves that we don’t have any of those abilities. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. There are other places, such as Romans 12, where we find other gifts that God gives to his people. The fact is, as it says in verse 11, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” In other words, each of us has been given gifts by God, talents from God, that we can use in his service. These different gifts come to us in different amounts in different combinations. However, the fact remains that each one of us has been given at least one gift, one talent, that we can use to glorify God. May God help each of us to explore the possibilities that he puts in front of us to use these gifts? They are exactly that: gifts.
Imagine, if you will, that you took a long time, trying to decide what gift to give to someone. You, finally, decided on something, and you gave it to that person, hoping that they will enjoy it or that they will be able to put it to good use. How sad would you be if you found out that they took the gift that you gave to them and put it in a drawer or on a shelf and never made use of it? God has given these gifts to us so that we use them. However, we do not use these gifts because we don’t God to be sad. We use these gifts with joy, thanking him for all that he has done for us.
In speaking of these varied gifts, Paul writes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” We acknowledge that each and every one of these gifts comes to us from our God. God works through us to accomplish his purposes. We have the thrill of being one of the instruments that God uses to share his Word and to build up his Church. God has given us so many things and even gives us opportunities to thank him, using the gifts that he has given to us.
One of the greatest blessings that God has given to us is referred to in verse 3. There it says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” You and I would never have known who Jesus was or what he did for us, if the Holy Spirit had not created this saving faith in our hearts. Otherwise, we would have bene lost forever in our sins. You and I, by nature, wander around in the darkness, the darkness of sin and unbelief. This wandering could have led to no other destination than the fires of hell. However, the Holy Spirit came to us through the Means of Grace, through the gospel as it is proclaimed in the Word and the sacraments, and created this saving faith in our hearts. It is this faith that says, “Jesus is my Lord.” It knows that Jesus did everything for our salvation. This faith confesses that Jesus came to the world to be our Substitute. Where we have failed to live a perfect life, Jesus did. The punishment that we deserved was taken by Jesus. His resurrection on Easter morning becomes our resurrection at the end of time. Our sinful nature wants nothing to do with Jesus. It chafes at him being our God. Our faith rejoices that Jesus is our Lord. It knows that he has rescued us from an eternity of punishment. Our faith comforts us in the fact that Jesus is our Lord, because, the almighty God, has promised to take care of all of our needs and to always be with us. Our faith gives us our hope that, when we leave this vale of tears, we will be with him forever in the glories of heaven. Indeed, our faith is a great gift from God, for through it we receive all of the blessings that come from Christ’s work on our behalf.
One of the ways that we can show this thanksgiving is to use the gifts, the talents, that he has given to us for the building up and the expansion of his church. This is what Paul is pointing to in verse 7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” God gives us these gifts so that we can build one another up, help our fellow believers in many different ways. We can serve in various capacities at church. We can use our talents to beautify our worship facilities. We use our talents to glorify God with song. We also use these talents to tell others what Jesus has done for us, sometimes using words, sometimes through our actions. May God help us to keep our eyes open to see the opportunities that he places in front of us and the willingness to take full advantage of them.
You may or may not have ever been in a gifted program at school. If you were, that was a gift from God. If you were not, God gave you talents in other areas. The fact is true that all of us are gifted. We have received from God’s hand the gift of his Son and subsequent salvation. We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, who has created this trust in him. In addition to that, we have received many other gifts. This morning, we thank God for the various gifts, talents, that he has given to us. May we use those talents to glorify him. Amen.
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