1 Corinthians 12:1-7
When believers study this topic of the gifts of the Holy Spirit they should remember that this letter from Paul was to a church, a people, who were already experiencing the gifts in their lives and in their church. He is not therefore writing an introduction to the subject, or even simply teaching on the topic. Rather than teaching, he is correcting. We must read it with that understanding.
Gk agnoe? = unaware, from which we get our word agnostic. Paul knew that to not know is not a characteristic of humility. He taught that to be uninformed was unacceptable.
Believe or Know?
John 20:30-31 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
1 John 5:11-13
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may [continue to] believe in the name of the Son of God.
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
1 Timothy 4:3
…forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
2 Timothy 2:25
..in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…
1 John 2:21
I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
See also Eph 1:13-14
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Same, same, same!
The whole Godhead is involved in giving the gifts for the “common good” (v7). “Common good” Gk sumpher? = to bring together, to lift up.
2) Led Away v2 (or “carried away”).
Slaves or free?
The word used for “led away” is as a prisoner or condemned person is led away (Matthew 14:44; 15:16).
The heathen are not free even though they think they are, and claim to be. They are led to dumb idols and to solutions that are ineffective.
Paul is setting “a line in the sand” that makes a distinction between what is authentically of the Holy Spirit and what is not. Perhaps there were some infiltrating the church who were claiming to speak by the Spirit of God but who would not pass this simple test. More of that later.
3) For Spiritual people or For All?
Verse 1 “Now about Spiritual …”
The translation is uncertain, “spiritual gifts”, “spiritual gifted ones” or “spiritual things”. Gk pneumatik?n. This is not the word usually used for gifts (charisma). Perhaps we are to read this not as gifts which some have come to view as optional extras, or for the few, but as part of the spiritual life of every believer.
It was universally accepted in the ancient world that there were special people who could be in touch with their various gods and therefore were equipped by those gods, in special ways, to be able to do what normal people could not do. Being able to predict the future was a particularly important claim.
This church in Corinth seems to have been unable to make up their minds, whether to think it a novelty that the Holy Spirit gifts are for all, or to claim the Holy Spirit gifts are for the special few as in the pagan temples.
Acts 2:16-18 (quoting the prophet Joel)
16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘ And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
1 Cor 12:7
“to each one is given …”
Not for status
The context for this teaching is eternity. In Chapter 15 Paul will go on to deal with an error of the Corinthians, a lack of understanding regarding the resurrection. Some were being influenced by false teachers denying bodily existence and believing they were already like the angels. By speaking in tongues therefore, the language of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1), they thought they were displaying their superiority.
To express or manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit is not to bring about status, but it is for the “good of all” and the work of mission. We are supposed to see all of our lives in the context of mission – the big story.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Above all we see that Paul introduces this teaching in Chapter 12 with the declaration of the Lordship of Christ. You may notice that this theme, the Lordship of Christ, runs through the whole of the New Testament.
A spiritual person is known by their utterance, whether it exalts the Lord Jesus Christ or not. It is by the Holy Spirit that we can confess from the heart that Jesus is:
- the Lord,
- our Lord,
- my Lord.
Note, there is debate regarding whether is it the Holy Spirit alone that brings about conversion, aside from free will.
Any of the gifts are just that, a gift. So an expression of these gifts are not an indication of spiritual maturity or status.
Maturity is seen in:
- Power through weakness 2:1-5. 2 Corinthians 12:9ff
- Right relationships in the church 11:28-29
- An anticipation of the Christian’s great “hope” resurrection (chapter 15)
Note, these tests are not easily applied to TV or travelling preachers.
“Jesus is Lord” was the earliest confession. See Rom 10:9
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
This behaviour marked the early Christians as very different compared to their neighbours who worshipped many minor deities, including the emperor.
1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.
- Be free
- Welcome all that the Holy Spirit of Jesus wants to bring to you.
For reflection or prayer this week:
You could pray for more understanding about the Spirit gifts.
You could pray for more expression of the Holy Spirit gifts in your life.