Many years ago I was Pastoring in West Virginia when one Sunday afternoon I got a call from a friend of mine who was Pastoring a church about twenty miles from us. He started the conversation by saying, “I need your opinion, my deacons came to me after the service this morning and said they needed me to come to a special called meeting tonight.” Then he asked me a hard question, “Do you think I’m in trouble?” My response was to ask him some questions, specifically, “Have you done anything different or controversial?” He then proceeded to tell me that on that particular morning he had decided to institute some changes in the church so that it would be more relevant and effective in reaching people.
Before we move forward let me give you some important information about his church and community. The church was located in a rural part of West Virginia and was made up mostly of senior adults. Yet for some reason my Pastor friend had decided that it would be relevant to preach in a pair of shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Needless to say, it did not go over very well. He had made a common mistake — He was trying to Pastor someone else’s church— maybe Rick Warren’s, maybe Don Ho’s but certainly not a rural church in West Virginia. That brings me to an important point.
As Pastors we must Pastor the church we have while trying to move it to become the church it needs to be. Read that again, because it is more profound than it might first appear. We have a duty and a responsibility to cast a God-given vision for what the church needs to become. Like it or not we live in a ever changing culture and we must constantly find effective ways of presenting the eternal truth of the gospel. While our message is always the same, our methods will always be changing. But on the balancing side of that we must keep in mind that we have to Pastor the church we have. Not someone else’s. Not the church that we wish we had. Not the church we hope to become. The church that we have right in front of us. That means that we need to be patient and careful in how we institute change.
My friends mistake was twofold. First, he thought that what was working in Southern California or somewhere else would work in rural West Virginia. Second, he did not take the time to really learn his community. This is mistake that my generation of Pastors has been particularly prone to falling into. We read or hear what someone else is doing and thing that we can get the same results by replicating what they are doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must be missionaries in our communities learning how to effectively present the gospel to the people who we minister to. Remember, you have to Pastor the church you have while trying to move it to become the church it needs to be.
In this chapter Paul turns his attention to the issue of spiritual gifts within the church. Apparently in Corinth some of the people began equating spirituality with some of the more spectacular and attention grabbing gifts. We need to remember that Paul was dealing here with immature believers. They had been converted but brought some of their old habits into the church with them. So the jealousies and self-ambitions that are part of the human nature became evident within the church.
We suffer from the same problems in the church in America but the problem has been amplified by a great deal of unbiblical teaching concerning the issues of spiritual gifts. Some in the church have emphasized a more experiential form of the Christian life that is not grounded or derived from the Scriptures.
But on the opposite extreme we’ve had those who simply decided to ignore the issue all together. When I was growing up in the church, we hardly ever heard any teaching about the Holy Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit. Over the next few weeks I want to unfold some of the Biblical teaching concerning spiritual gifts.
You will not in v.1 that Paul says he does not want the Corinthians to be “uninformed” about the issue of spiritual gifts. This might have been mildly offensive to some in the Corinthian church because, as you will see in the coming weeks, there was a group within the church who thought they were experts in the issue. What Paul wants to show them in these chapters is that although they placed a great deal of emphasis on the spiritual gifts, the Corinthians were in fact rather uneducated or uninformed about the truth concerning spiritual gifts. So in this chapter he lays out several key issues to help us understand how to identify and employ spiritual gifts in the service of Jesus.
- Identifying the work of the Holy Spirit (v.1-3)
- Paul reminds the Corinthians of their pagan past
- Paganism was rampant in Roman empire and their were idols on nearly every street
- Every year citizens of the Roman empire were required to appear before an altar and declare the “Caesar is Lord.”
- Basic principle here is that the Holy Spirit always glorifies and points towards Jesus
- John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
- John 15:26 “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.”
- When the primary emphasis is on the Holy Spirit or any other spirit and the attention is taken away from Jesus, you are probably dealing with something false.
- Diversity of gifts, (v.4-6)
- The Corinthians were giving too much attention to a handful of spiritual gifts and making the gifts of tongues out to be the preeminent gift.
- This is a human trait, driven by our sinful pride
- It was causing great strife in the church
- Unity in diversity (v.4-6)
- Same Spirit empowers a variety of gifts
- Paul uses several interesting words here to describe the spiritual gifts:
- gifts- charismata, emphasis on the fact that they have been freely given by God’s grace.
- service– diakonia (same root word from which we get deacon) emphasis here on the fact that we don’t employ spiritual gifts for our own person gain, they are to be used in the service of the church
- activities- energema – focus here on the energy, enablement of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are the result of God’s powerful work in our lives.
- These three facts alone should help to correct a lot of the problems involved with spiritual gifts:
- They are not something we seek or develop – they are given to us.
- They are not to be used for personal gain or attention but rather to serve the Lord.
- They are not a matter of human effort or ability but rather are something supernatural.
- List of spiritual gifts (v.7-11)
- Verse 7 is the key here – gifts are given for the common good of the church. They should never divide but rather unify and build the church.
- List of gifts:
- Interpretation of tongues
- Each empowered by the Holy Spirit
- The point that Paul is making here is that the Holy Spirit is just as much work in the gift of wisdom or knowledge as He is in miracles or tongues.
- The same spirit that gifts one person with the ability to speak in tongues and another to interpret also enable other members of the church to be able to have greater than usual faith or discernment.
- The truth of the matter is that the church needs many different gifts and the Holy Spirit specifically places certain people in certain churches at certain times to perform certain ministries.
- The Body of Christ (v.12-26)
- One body with many different parts (v.12-13)
- All of the members are important (v.14-20)
- All of the members are interdependent (v.21-26)
- Every believer is part of the body of Christ (v.27)