(Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-7)
Paul now gives advice concerning the use of spiritual gifts in the church. Scholars agree that this is the most difficult section of 1 Corinthians to interpret. The Corinthians thought they knew much about the Holy Spirit because no other church was enriched with spiritual gifts like this church (1 Corinthians 1:4-5). Paul wanted them to know that they have a distorted view of what it means to be spiritually mature. The next three chapters reveal their misunderstanding of spiritual gifts and the proper use of their gifts in the church. Paul begins by saying how wonderfully they got saved. Once they were idol worshipers and attracted to the pagan exercise of “tongues''. Paul says, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is cursed”. Also, only by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, one can confess that Jesus is the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). The mark of Spirit controlled persons is that they see Christ as the glorious Lord and Savior. There are different kinds of gifts and different ways God works. But the Holy Spirit is the source. They are given to each one of us for the edification of the church. The purpose of the gift is to help the entire church (1 Corinthians 12:7). Gifts are given to ministers to one another so that God may be glorified (1 Peter 4:10-11). Also gifts are given to equip believers for the ministry and for the building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13). Spiritual giftedness is not primarily the mark of maturity. When we do not exercise the gifts, we quench and despise the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20).
The Distribution of Spiritual Gifts:
(Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
God has given a variety of gifts to believers to help the church to grow into spiritual maturity. To one is given the utterance of wisdom. This is the ability to give wise advice (1 Corinthians 12:8). To another believer is given the gift of special knowledge. Wisdom promotes sound knowledge that leads to godly living. To another given faith. This is not the saving faith but the serving faith. To another the gift of healing and to another the ability to prophesy. Prophecy is the special revelation from God. The New Testament writing comes under this gift. The sign gifts are temporary and no longer needed since the canon of the New Testament is completed (Ephesians 2:20). To another the gift of discerning. It is the ability to know whether it is from the Spirit of God or some other spirit (1 John 4:1). To another the gift of tongues, to another the gift of the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:7-13). In the book of Acts, speaking in tongues refers to the gift of speaking in the known languages (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6). It is the Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts and decides which gift each person should have. The gifts are not given to prove one's spiritual status (1 Corinthians 12:11). All spiritual gifts are important and should be used for the building up of the church. The spiritual gifts are to be used for the glorification of God and not for the exaltation of men. Paul continues to explain how these gifts should be used in the next two chapters.
Unity and Diversity in the Church:
(Read 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13)
Throughout 1 Corinthians 12 we find the theme of unity-in-diversity. Here the church is viewed as a body. Like a human body, church reflects both unity and diversity. Christ is the head of the church and believers are the members of the body of Christ. Church is provided with a variety of gifts to function as one body with many parts for the common good of the church. So this should not be the source of envy and rivalry in the church. The believers have been baptized into Christ’s body by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). This is not the water baptism but the Spirit baptism. This was the fulfillment of Matthew 3:11; John 1:33 and Acts 1:5). It occurs at the moment of our conversion (Acts 2:47). The believer does not tarry or pray for Spirit Baptism. It is not repeated in the Christian life. Paul assumes that the Corinthians believers are already baptized by the Holy Spirit. It is not a second blessing. Christ’s death benefits all who believe when they get saved. Likewise the blessings of Spirit baptism are available to all believers to join them into the body of Christ. The speaking in tongues is not the proof of Spirit baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13, 30). The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Spiritual gifts are given for the common good of the body of Christ.
All Spiritual Gifts are important:
(Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-31)
God has provided a variety of gifts in the church to function as one body with many parts. When these gifts are used as God intended, they serve for the common good of the church. No gift is better than another gift. Even though some gifts may not seem as visible as others. Each gift has a special place within the body of Christ. If we fail to use the gifts God has given us, we do a disservice to the church. God made our bodies with many parts and put each part just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12:18). When one member suffers, all members suffer. Likewise when one member is honored, all members rejoice with it. The place and gifts of each member are determined by the Lord. We should never marginalize any gift. Gifts are like a group of coals burning together. If we isolate one of them, in a matter of time it will die. God has a vital role to play in the body of Christ. When the church operates as God intended, it serves as a powerful witness to a watching world. We need one another to function as individuals for the common good of the church. God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administration and various kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28). Paul asks,” Is everyone a prophet? Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles? Does everyone have the gift of healing? Does everyone speak in tongues? Can everyone interpret unknown languages?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). The answer is obvious, no. Paul wants his readers not to focus on spectacular gifts such as tongue. Paul urges them to earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.