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1 Corinthians 12:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins

Introduction to Spiritual Gifts; 1Cor. 12:1-3

1 Cor 12:2 You know that when you were pagans, {you were} led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.

1 Cor 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

It was the ascension to heaven and the present session in heaven that forms the historical basis for the distribution of spiritual gifts. It shows that there is something different that is happening in this church age in this thing called spiritual gifts. The subject of spiritual gifts is something that has generated a tremendous amount of controversy and division over the last hundred or hundred and fifty years, especially with the arrival of the so-called charismatic movement and Pentecostal movement at the turn of the 20th century. It is based on a misunderstanding and a distortion of the spiritual gifts, and those misunderstandings and distortions continue to pervade us today. Often these confusions are promulgated under the guise of much that is known today as the church growth movement. The church growth movement really has its source out of Fuller Seminary, named after an evangelist of the forties and fifties who was quite well known and solid doctrinally by the name of Charles E. Fuller. Yet Fuller Seminary started drifting into what was known as neo-orthodoxy fairly early on in the early sixties. There was a man there by the name of Peter Wagner, and he began to investigate the cause of some churches to grow rapidly and other churches don't ever seem to grow. That may have some benefit in some limited area but basically it ignores the dynamics of the Holy Spirit, spiritual dynamics that are going on in the world in terms of negative volition and what the world is looking for in terms of religion and religious activity, and it denies the basic mechanics of the sin nature, as well as the role of the Holy Spirit in the church. What happens in the church growth movement is it puts all the emphasis on growth and numbers, and the subtle idea that is embedded in the thought is that numbers equate to success and that equates to the blessing of God. The problem with all of that is that there is no basis for saying you can have a Noah who goes out and preaches the gospel for 120 years and doesn't have a single convert, and God says: Well done good and faithful servant. In other words, we don't have a theology where failure is just as successful as large numbers and success.

SIn the church growth literature one of the things that they emphasize is that if your church is going to grow then you need to have people identifying their spiritual gifts. So you need to make sure that in your new members classes you have teaching on the spiritual gifts. They have all kinds of little tests they can pass out and people can take so that they can identify their spiritual gift, because if you are not operating in the realm of your spiritual gift then that church is not going to grow, its growth is going to be cut down. You don't want people coming into a church and just sitting in a pew, taking in doctrine and studying the Word. They are not going to grow that way, they have to be out there using their spiritual gift! So there is a complete misrepresentation of the purpose and operation of the gifts in terms of the body of Christ. We are going to address a lot of these things in 1 Corinthians 12 because there was just as much confusion in the Corinthian church over spiritual gifts as the modern church.

1 Corinthians 12:1 NASB "Now concerning spiritual {gifts,} brethren, I do not want you to be unaware." There is a word right in the middle of this verse that is italicised. That is the word "gifts" and it is not in the original text. The verse begins with the Greek phrase peri de [peri de] which is a key structural marker throughout 1 Corinthians. The reason Paul wrote the epistle in part was to answer certain questions that the Corinthians had sent to him. He was responding to those questions and they had to do with some crucial issues that congregation was facing. So the first six chapters dealt with the fundamental problem in Corinth, and that was human viewpoint. We all have human viewpoint in our souls from the instant we were born. From birth the most dominant feature of our personality is the fact that we have a sin nature. It has an area of strength which produces human good and it has an area of weakness that operates in the realm of personal sins. This sin nature that we have is oriented toward autonomy—self-law. We are committed to running life on our terms. From the moment of our birth we are suppressing truth in unrighteousness. That doesn't mean we can't exercise positive volition at God-consciousness but this is the orientation of the sin nature, and the sin nature is attracted like iron filings to a magnet to human viewpoint thinking. Whatever culture we grow up in there is an affinity between our sin nature and the human viewpoint thinking that dominates that culture. That human viewpoint thinking that dominates that culture at the time is defined in the Bible by the Greek word kosmos [kosmoj], which we call cosmic thinking. It has to do with that thinking which has an affinity for the sin nature in promoting the autonomy for the sin nature. That is going to manifest itself in many different ways and one of its most successful manifestations is an attraction to a religious system as promoted by Satan. Satan is the arch inventor of religious systems and they go back at least the tower of Babel, if not before. We just don't have details of what the religious systems were in the antediluvian age prior to the flood, but the religious systems are counterfeits, ways to get to God and ways to impress God. So what happens is that as we grow up and mature we pick up in our thinking all kinds of ideas and concepts and values that come out of this human viewpoint thought set forth in the cosmic system around us and often encased in a religious system.

Then we come to the cross, and at the cross we understand one doctrinal principle clearly, and only one. That is that Jesus Christ on the cross as a substitute for us in paying for our sins. So at the cross we express faith alone in Christ alone and we are saved. But guess what: our thinking is still loaded with all of this garbage that we have picked up from the cosmic system around us. Some of that garbage has the ring of truth to it because Satan is very successful in counterfeiting the truth. It sounds good, it works for us, it makes us feel good, we are very comfortable. It could involve conservative political views. It may involve conservative economic views or a lot of ethical and moral principles. But it is then encased ion a system of thought that is oriented toward autonomy, it is not oriented toward God, so there needs to be an overhaul of that thinking. What happens if there is not that overhaul is that these ideas are brought over into our post-salvation experience and we start using that frame of reference to interpret or actually to reinterpret the Bible. Instead of ending up with objective biblical truth we end up with a real distortion of biblical truth.

And this is exactly what was going on in Corinth. They came out of a background that was dominated by idolatry, and in this passage idolatry is going to represent just the false religious systems of Greece at that time. The most popular religions were known as the mystery religions. Once we get into the mystery religions it is going to be very clear just exactly what is going on in Corinth. In the mystery religions there was an emphasis on ecstatics. Ecstasy is a technical term here, it is getting one's self worked up emotionally in a religious setting so that the participant thinks that the god or gods are speaking through him, where he has  direct intuitive connection with the god. So he knows intuitively that the god is speaking to him. It is a complete rejection of reason and it is a complete rejection of rationalism, empiricism and of logic. All he knows is that he has this overwhelming emotional experience of the god and the god did something. So there is this presumption that you know exactly what was going on and it is just a facade. It is one of Satan's greatest tools to distract people because we become more impressed with our own experience and our own emotions.

So every time Paul shifts to answering a different question he introduces it with this Greek phrase peri de. It should be translated: "Now about this," or "About this next question, spiritual gifts." The word that is translated "spiritual gifts" in most Bibles doesn't include the word "gifts." It is the Greek word pneumatikon [pneumatikwn], which is the genitive form of the word pneumatikoj. It is simply an adjective that describes something spiritual, that which pertains to the spirit, whether that is lower case human spirit or upper case Holy Spirit, or that which pertains to the spiritual life. So the context is going to tell us what this is talking about. This is a genitive plural so it should be literally translated: "Now concerning the spirituals." So where do we get the idea that he is talking about gifts? That comes in in verse four where we are introduced to another word that is used through the remainder of the chapter, and that is the Greek word charisma [xarisma]. This is a solid, sound biblical word. In fact, every one of us is generally and truly a charismatic because a charismatic is someone who believes in the spiritual gifts. But we are a charismatic in the biblical sense of the term and not in the modern perverted sense of the term. The root word of charisma is charis [xarij] which is the Greek word for grace. So this has to do with something that is given by grace, and anything given by grace is a gift, a favour bestowed. So the word charisma is used in this chapter in parallelism to pneumatikon, and so when you put the two words together you come up with the idea of a spiritual gift. It is a grace gift that has to do with the spiritual life. So Paul says in verse 1: "Now we are going to address the spiritual things that are gift-given to the church, the body of Christ."

Then he calls them brethren which reminds us that they are all believers. This is important. When Paul addresses this them this way it is not just the fact that this is something stylistic or he is just being nice to the Corinthians at this point and he just wants to make sure that they understand he still has an attraction for them even though they have messed up in so many different ways. The inclusion of the word "brethren" here is important because it is a reminder that as confused and carnal as this group is they are still believers. They are saved, and just because we are saved it doesn't keep us from theological error or error in rhe Christian life. Remember, we are not talking about a group here that is spiritually mature. We have to remind ourselves of who this congregation is, because what has happened in the distortion on spiritual gifts in the modern church is that the Pentecostals and charismatics want to say: You don't really experience the Holy Spirit, you're not really mature, you don't really have everything that God has for you, unless you are speaking in tongues, unless you have the gift of healing, unless you believe in our view of the spiritual life; then you will have it made; you really have to have a more advanced view than you have. It is amazing that here we have a congregation, the only congregation in the New Testament times that had a problem with tongues, that was trying to practice the gift of speaking in tongues, is a congregation that has been called out again and again and again by the apostle Paul for their disobedience to God, for their arrogance, for the fact that they are operating on the human viewpoint philosophical presuppositions of Greek culture, they are the most worldly congregation in the ancient world, and in the modern world, in the perversion that comes from the Satanic lie, people want to think: Let's go follow the Corinthians in their error and try to make tongues a sign of some super spirituality.

1 Corinthians 3:1 NASB "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual [pneumatikoj] men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ." Here the word "spiritual" has the idea of those who are spiritually mature, i.e. those who are living in right relationship to the Holy Spirit. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able {to receive it.} Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly [still living according to the sin nature]. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" In other words, they were living like an unbeliever. Because they were living on the sin nature and not waking by the Spirit their life reflected that in all of the divisions and all of their arrogance. This was part of the problem with the spiritual gifts. There were those even then who were thinking that if you had those flashy gifts of speaking in tongues, interpretation, miracles or healing, that they were somehow closer to God and were more spiritual; and they were lauding that over the rest of the congregation in pure arrogance.

So back in chapter twelve Paul uses the word "brethren," a masculine plural noun from adelphos [a)delfoj] meaning "brother." It is a term used to refer to both men and women. It is not a sexist term and not a patriarchal term. Then Paul says: "I do not want you to be unaware." Actually, it is the idea of being ignorant, uninformed. It is the Greek word agnoeo [a)gnoew], a present active infinitive, and the infinitive here simply further completes the idea of the main verb, which is "I do not want." He has negated the verb thelo [qelw] which is the present active indicative meaning to want something or to desire something. Obviously they are uninformed, untaught on spiritual gifts and because of that they are creating some serious problems. The problem is one of ignorance. The purpose of the local church has top do with teaching, not preaching per se. The thrust of the teaching in a local church is fellowship with God. That is what our spiritual life is all about. It is rapport with God, and that is based on two things. The first element has to do with being in fellowship, being in right relationship after confession of sin. But we also have to have right doctrine. So fellowship with God is based on having our sins dealt with and having right doctrine in our soul. The by-product, John says in 1 John 1, is that we can then have fellowship with other believers. The goal isn't fellowship with other believers, the goal is fellowship with God through sound teaching and thinking divine viewpoint. Then the by-product of that is fellowship with other believers. That is secondary and not something you strive for; it is something you get afterwards. So Paul addresses the fact that he needs them to be informed, not uninformed, and the only way to be informed is to be well taught. Paul is continually confronted with ignorance in local congregations: Romans 2:4; 6:3; 10:3; 1 Corinthians 10:1. One of the basic problems is that believers are ignorant of doctrine. This verse forms the topic sentence for chapters 12, 13 and 14.

Introduction to the doctrine of spiritual gifts

1)  A spiritual gift is a talent, ability or an aptitude that is sovereignly bestowed on every believer in the church age by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation for performing a particular service in and for the body of Christ. It is a certain ability that has a supernatural origin; it is not a natural source, it is not something we had as an unbeliever that now we can use for Christ. A spiritual gift is service oriented, it is not for your growth, for your aggrandisement, not for attention on you; it is for you to serve the body of Christ. There are three passages that discuss spiritual gifts in depth: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11; and there is a mention of the division of spiritual gifts in Hebrews 2:4. 

2)  The biblical terms; three are used. The first is pneumatikon [pneumatikwn], and this emphasises the source and nature of the gift; it is from the Holy Spirit and the nature is that it is related to our spiritual life. The second word is charisma [xarisma], and it emphasises the grace nature. It is a gift, not something that is earned or deserved. In some believers the spiritual gift may enhance a natural ability, in others the spiritual gift may have nothing to do with their natural talent or may not be directly related to their natural talent. Hebrews 2:4 uses the word merismos [merismoj] which has to do with the fact that they are distributed or apportioned. There is a distribution, not everyone has the same gift.