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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Introduction to Chapter 12
Do you ever recall a time when you purposely chose not to open a gift a loved gave you, whether that was at a birthday party or at Christmas? I mean to say you left the gift sitting there, ignoring it and the person who gave it to you.
That’s hard to imagine. Most people like gifts and waste no time in getting to the “goods” inside the packaging. I’m excited when my order from Amazon arrives at the front door and I know what’s inside that box. I can’t visualize a person choosing to not open a gift. That’s beyond the scope of my thinking and I’d like to add, “How rude,” to that sentiment.”
Moving this illustration from the physical into the spiritual realm, imagine how the Lord must feel when He gives spiritual gifts to His children and they don’t even take the time to open them. They don’t bother to try them out to see how they work, and adding insult to injury, they never thank Him. How disappointed the Lord must feel to see so many of the gifts He has given to His Church still sitting on the shelf, as it were, never used and never put into service for the common good. In 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, our Apostle Paul is instructing these saints (and us) to un-wrap their spiritual gifts and put them to use in serving people they encounter and not just in the Body of Christ.
Paul begins this subject in chapter 12 and carries it all the way through chapter 14. However, he has sandwiched a chapter all about love in between the two. Chapter 13 is devoted to agape love and the reason Paul does this is because this key element or relationship building block is absent in the lives of these Corinthians, and this in turn is reflected in the church and in their worship services.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 12.
The Use of Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12
1: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.
Now concerning spiritual gifts - the word gifts has been added to the text by the translators. We know this because it’s in italics. The translators got it right for the word spiritual; in Greek as in English is an adjective, so that in English a noun had to be added to complete the sentence. We know that spiritual gifts are exactly what Paul intended because he goes on to say “there are varieties of gifts” in verses 4-6 and he continues to write about gifts given to God’s people at that time in history.
The Greek had a way of ending a sentence with an adjective or an adverb, leaving the noun or verb implied. Here are a couple of biblical examples: “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly - places (Ephesians 1:3b). The translators added the word places after the word heavenly and correctly so.
Let’s look at one more. Skip down a few lines to Ephesians 1:6: which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved… Here the translators did not supply the obvious noun at the end of the sentence, “the Beloved - One.” Clearly, this passage refers to a Beloved Person – note the capitalization of the word Beloved; that Person is definitely the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I pointed out, the translators got it right when they supplied the word gifts at the end of this verse. They did not render the phrase, “spiritual blessings” or “spiritual things” and for good reason the gifts of the Spirit which Paul is about to discuss cannot compare to “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ” that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:3.
Paul’s comment now concerning (v1) reminds us he is writing to this church in response to another question or disagreement concerning spiritual gifts (7:1). The Corinthian church was one of the most gifted churches in Scripture, despite their many shortcomings. This serves to remind us, although every Believer has received spiritual gifts, this doesn’t mean they are spiritually minded.
The Corinthians thought too much of their spiritual giftedness and thought too little of the source of the gifts – the Triune God. In response to this error, Paul informs them - I do not want you to be unaware (ignorant, i.e. untaught).
As we move forward from here through chapter 14, we’re going to see the Corinthians honor, i.e. “value” the gift of tongues above every other gift in the church. Let’s examine this in light of Scripture. Paul wrote the letters (epistles) starting with Romans (in your Bible) through Hebrews and in none of these does he mention the gift of tongues or the alleged value of such a gift. Furthermore, in none of his writings does he urge his readers to seek (pray for) the gift of tongues. He doesn’t even mention whether or not any of his readers possessed the gift of tongues.
All these facts simply beg the questions:
#1: If so many people today believe it’s so urgent that we possess the gift of tongues, why does Paul not say this in his letters to the churches?
#2: The only letter in which Paul discusses tongues is 1 Corinthians, and he does so to a group who placed a high value on this gift. However, let’s not overlook the fact in this letter Paul refers to these Believers as, “babes,” “carnal,” and “not spiritual.”
2: You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.
In verse two, Paul reminds these Corinthian Believers that many of them had been pagans at one time. They had worshipped various idols that could not speak words of Truth to them or aid them in any way because they were inanimate objects.
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.
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed” – I believe this remark is directed to the Jewish worshippers rather than the Gentile Believers of this church. This was the typical response of the Jews at that time because according to the Old Testament Scriptures anyone “hung on a tree” was accursed of God and the Jews knew this.
I need to show you where I’m coming from, so please turn with me to Luke 23:21. After Jesus’ mock trial, where false witnesses were brought forth to testify against Him, Jesus was taken before Pilate who found no basis for a charge against Him (Luke 23:4, 20-21). Later, we have the Jews response to Pilate’s question, “Shall I crucify your king?” But they kept on shouting out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!”
Now let’s all turn to Matthew 27:5. This is where Judas goes to the chief priests and tries to explain Jesus’ innocence, but they’re not interested – they got what they wanted, which was Jesus’ death: …and he (Judas) threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
Now let’s go back to one of the books of the Law, Deuteronomy 21:22-23. This is the point our Apostle Paul is making. This is why the Jews could say without stuttering that Jesus is accursed: And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is accursed of God.
However, no true Believer would ever call Jesus Christ accursed because they knew He was without sin; He was the Son of God, which brings us to Paul’s next statement: and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (v3).
I think Paul’s meaning is clear as a bell, but in case someone missed it, have you ever heard an unbeliever declare Jesus Christ as their Lord? I didn’t think so. Only a true Believer, a person who has been saved by faith, can make the statement, “Jesus is Lord” from their heart and sincerely mean it.
4: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5: And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
6: There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this verse in your Bible, but it’s one of my favorites: I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14).
Many years ago, when I was a Christian Camp Counselor, we arranged one entire week of summer camp around this verse; it was the central theme in all of my Bible lessons. I brought this verse to your attention because Paul uses the word varieties in verses 4-6 and for good reason. You see, God loves variety. The first indication in Scripture we have of this Truth is at Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Then a little further along at Genesis 1:27 we have further proof of this when He chose to create man in His own image: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
From this rather humble beginning there are multitudes of people living today from every nation and tribe and people and tongue. They have varied backgrounds and are defined and recognized by various details including language and appearance. Moreover, no two snowflakes, tree leaves, or human finger-prints are identically the same, which should tell you there is a Creator God and He loves variety.
The other noteworthy thing I want to bring to your attention regarding these three verses is Paul mentions all three members of the Holy Trinity in them. In verse 4, the Holy Spirit; in verse 5, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in verse 6, God the Father.
Why he does this may not be so obvious, but he’s actually teaching these Corinthian saints that each one of them is wonderfully different and no one is more blessed and no one is less blessed. God is encouraging variety in His church in the way He chooses to give spiritual gifts to each member of the body equipping them for ministry. Yet, in spite of this variety Believers are united by the same loving God.
Each member of the Trinity has a role in spiritual gifts:
- The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts (v4)
- The Lord Jesus Christ places His people in ministry (v5)
- God the Father empowers people to do ministry (v6)
4: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
First things first, as the saying goes, Believers have to discover what spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given them (v4). The word gifts in the Greek language is Charisma (pronounced: khar’-is-mah), Noun neuter, Strong’s Greek #5486. We get our English words charisma and charismatic from this word. The Charis part means “grace.” The ma portion of the word’s basic meaning is “grace given.” They are “grace gifts” which enable a person to serve God. The one who exercises his or her spiritual gifts could rightly be called a Charismatic.
These gifts are not earned; they are not the result of hard work; they are not ones that we choose for ourselves. It’s possible they are not even related to one’s natural skill set. Remember, God has gifted these Corinthians (and every Believer in Christ Jesus) to do what He wants them to do and not what they desire to do.
Later on in this chapter our Apostle Paul introduces for the very first time in his writings the concept of the Body of Christ with the intention of teaching these Corinthian saints that we all have different roles or functions (variety) within the church, yet we’re all members of the same spiritual body.
Just because you or I envision ourselves as a missionary preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in faraway lands doesn’t mean God has given us this gift. You may see yourself playing an instrument in a praise and worship group on Sunday morning but this too may not be your gift. Then there are those of you out there who know you’ll never teach a Bible class because the very idea of standing up before a room filled with people and speaking makes you nauseous. That being said, this same person could walk into a room filled with sick people and without being given any instructions go right to work ministering to people’s needs because they have the gift of compassion.
My mother was an intelligent woman, but she hardly ever left our home such was the need there. What this believing woman did was pray at every opportunity for her children, her spouse, and for anyone who had a need – she was a prayer warrior, most often in the late night hours, unnoticed; this was her spiritual gift.
Please turn to the book of Romans at chapter 12:6 where our Apostle Paul adds this command to the subject of spiritual gifts: Since we have gifts that differ according to the (what) grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.
As Believers exercise their gifts, they will find fulfillment. This is why answering the question, “What is my spiritual gift” is so important to a Believer. Unless you find the answer to this question you’re going to be disappointed, frustrated, and an ineffective ministry worker in the body. It would be like an offensive lineman trying to make a go at being a wide receiver in the NFL. Picture that, if you will… at the one position he can knock people onto their backsides, but as a wide receiver he can’t run fast or cut sharply in any direction and his hands are like two clay bricks.
You can walk into any church in the USA and there you’ll find 20% of the members doing 100% of the work in that church. This means 80% of the people have either not discovered their spiritual gifts or they may possibly be aware but are not putting them to use for the common good. To learn what your spiritual gifts are try volunteering in a variety of ministries in your church as an aide or support person to get some sense of what goes on in a particular ministry; get a practical “feel” for the flow of things. You just may discover your gifts by “plugging-in” to one or more of your church’s ministries. You may want to ask God in prayer to show you where He wants you to be.
In verse 7 Paul described the source of our spiritual gifts and gives the reason for them: But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. This is the key verse in this section. Paul is reminding these believing saints that they received their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others.
We recently learned the Corinthians were arrogant and greedy with their food and drink during the Lord’s Supper and here we see these same negative character traits being exhibited in regard to their spiritual gifts. They acted like greedy children who had no intention of sharing their toys with the other children, in effect saying, “I have mine and you have yours – take a hike.” The purpose of God’s gifts is not to promote the individual, instead they are meant for the edification of the Body of Christ and to accomplish this goal we need each other.
In verses 8-10 Paul names 9 spiritual gifts and he gives the source of the gift:
8: For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
9: to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10: and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.
Just what are these spiritual gifts exactly? I’m glad you asked:
The word of wisdom and the word of knowledge – these are two different Greek terms, wisdom = Sophia, (pronounced: sof-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #4678 and knowledge = Gnosis (pronounced: gno’-sis), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #1108.
The word of wisdom is the supernatural ability to discern and apply the Word of God. It was used for the specific and temporary purpose of giving wisdom before and during the time of the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 2:7, Paul connected wisdom with his ministry and connects it with special revelation from God. In other words, they didn’t have the written word to rely on as we do today.
The word of knowledge referred to here by Paul is a supernatural knowledge or direct revelation from God. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul informs Believers that knowledge shall pass away. The knowledge he speaks of has to be special knowledge or supernatural knowledge from God because knowledge in a general sense will never cease to exist. As long as time exists knowledge of God will exist. But before people had the complete Bible in print they needed those folks who had special knowledge from God and I believe the reason is obvious – so they would know about God and know what they were to do and not to do. Today these Truths are contained in His Word.
The spiritual gift of knowledge is closely related to the gift of prophecy; however, Paul presents prophecy as a superior gift.
Faith – whether people are aware of this Truth or not, no one comes to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ except by the Holy Spirit opening their heart to receive its message. So faith is actually a gift (Romans 10:17; Acts 16:14); it’s the first gift we receive denoting justification, the righteousness of Christ Jesus, the Believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, and is immediately placed into the Body of Christ.
In addition, God gives each one of us “a measure of faith” to use for Him. It is from this faith that all our spiritual gifts flow (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:11, 12:27). When a Believer recognizes that their measure of faith comes directly from God, it is not of themselves, by any means, this should prevent them from becoming self-centered about their spiritual gifts, i.e. arrogant.
Healing – is not the same thing as miracles but a variation that is more limited; it has to do with restoring the body back to health. Let’s look at a few biblical examples. When Paul was writing to Timothy he advised him about his health saying, No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments (1Timothy 5:23). The question arises why didn’t Paul just heal the young man? Timothy had enough problems without these frequent ailments and his stomach problem, which was probably the result of “stress.” Then in 2 Timothy 4:20 Paul had to leave Trophimus behind at Miletus because he was ill. Why didn’t Paul, who had raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:10), heal Trophimus? There’s only one explanation. The gift of healing is being phased out by God. By the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy he was close to the end of his ministry and his life. It was no longer necessary to validate Paul’s apostolic authority or his ministry by acts of the supernatural. In addition, Paul’s letters were recognized as Scripture by this time (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Philippians 2:27 is one more example of this teaching. Paul cannot (does not) heal a fellow Believer named Epaphroditus who was “sick to the point of death,” but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Once again, considering Paul’s miraculous works at the start of his ministry this is strange behavior, but it serves to show us that the validating sign of healing was being removed from God’s church by God Himself.
God does heal people today and God does perform the miraculous in various ways. I could share stories with you and vice-versa I’m sure. We don’t put God in a box ever! We don’t put limits on His power and abilities ever! But biblical evidence supports what I’m showing you today – the spiritual gift of healing was a temporary gift; it has been removed from the church as a sign. When the time of the apostles ended so did people’s ability to heal; I don’t care what appears to be occurring on the CBN.
The main purpose of the gift of healing, just as the gift of miracles, was to validate God’s apostle and his message. Each time the gift of healing was administered, it was done in connection with one of His apostles, right? Since the apostles were primarily preachers and teachers of His Word and not healers, when the message they brought was authenticated and firmly established, there was no longer any need for the gift of healing and the same goes for some of these other gifts; they too were temporary.
Miracles – the gift of miracles is the ability to perform supernatural works of power. This gift is much more than the gift of healing. Any act which includes God the Father’s intervention into man’s natural processes is included in this gift. The first example that comes to mind is Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, on the third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This has been called the Greatest Miracle of them all because it was preceded by the miracle of His incarnation; the Creator God entered His creation, to serve mankind.
There are many miracles recorded for us in Scripture and God is involved in every one of them. Paul put an end to the ministry of Elymas (a magician) with a miracle (Acts 13:11). At another time Paul was holding a late meeting and a man named Eutychus was listening from a third floor window, fell asleep, and fell to the ground and died. Paul brought him back to life (Acts 20:10). In Acts 28:3-6, Paul was bitten by a poisonous viper, but Paul just shook it off and suffered no ill effects.
Prophecy – The Greek word translated “prophesying” or “prophecy” in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and in Romans 12:6 mean to speak forth or to declare God’s divine will; to interpret the purposes of God, i.e. to make known in any way the Truth of God to influence His people. It is a gift of proclamation (forth-telling) and not prediction (fore-telling) generally speaking. The gift of prophecy is only necessary when God wants to reveal or give additional information (revelation) about Himself or his current dealings with mankind than He’s already given.
Anyone who preaches or teaches God’s Word today may be considered a prophesier in that they are speaking forth the counsel of God. When the Bible was completed, prophesying changed from declaring new revelation to declaring the completed Word of God, which means nothing new is being added and nothing is being taken away (Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19).
Distinguishing of Spirits – this is the supernatural ability to discern what was true and what was false concerning God’s revelation. This was a crucial gift at that time because the Bible was not completed; there was no point of reference. Believers needed godly men who the ability and insight to discern what teaching (preaching) and which men were really sent from God (Galatians 1:6-10).
Tongues – this was a supernatural ability to speak an earthly foreign language without any special training (Acts 2). If you’ll take the time to use a concordance and look up the word tongues (Glossa), you’ll find that it always refers to an earthly language and not gibberish or unintelligent sounds made by an individual – just so we’re clear.
The gift of tongues, the first mention of this is at Acts 2:4, were a sign to the Jews, who always demanded a sign before they would believe (1 Corinthians 14:22). The gift of tongues is specifically called a sign gift at 1 Corinthians 14:22. Scripture says the sign gifts were temporary gifts to validate the ministry of God’s apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). Once God’s message had been validated by signs and wonders, there was no further need for further confirmation (Hebrews 2:3-4). Therefore, per Scripture, the gift of tongues does not exist in the church today.
Interpretation of Tongues – this supernatural gift was closely associated with the gift of tongues in that it was the ability to understand an earthly foreign language without any special training and then relay that information to the church for its edification. The gift of tongues was valueless unless someone could interpret God’s message. In other words, if someone preaches God’s Gospel to me in German it’s of no value to me unless there’s an interpreter nearby who can tell me what was said in English.
The combined purposes of the gift of tongues and interpreting tongues (you really can’t separate the two) were: #1: used as a sign to confirm God’s apostles and their message from God, and as a testimony to unbelievers. #2: to edify the church (never for personal edification).
Let’s wrap this lesson up by examining verse 11.
11: But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
In this verse Paul references the Holy Spirit for the fifth time and for good reason; He’s the giver of these gifts. Here Paul emphasizes that every Believer has been spiritually gifted. Having one or more of these gifts doesn’t make you special; so there’s no reason to become big-headed or arrogant; we’re all gifted.
Furthermore, we all are called by the Lord to minister using the gifts He has supplied us; we’re not to hoard them, we’re not to “sit on” our gifts. We’re to manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit within us by exercising our gifts for the common good and not just certain Believers.
Let’s not be like some of these Corinthians who overvalued their gift, like the gift of tongues, but placed little value on other people’s gifts ultimately disrespecting the source of all their gifts in the process. God’s grace was not free. He paid a high price, but to us there was “no charge.” In God’s grace, He has given us forgiveness of our sins, justification, the righteousness of Christ, and eternal life. We could never accomplish any of this on our own. How do we show our gratitude for all He has done? We can live each day of our life becoming more like Jesus Christ. We can serve God and others putting our gifts to good use for the common good to the praise and glory of His name.
(To be continued)
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