Family Bible Study lesson for June 27: Spiritual Gifts : Friday, June 11, 2004
June 11 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for June 27: Spiritual Gifts : Friday, June 11, 2004
Friday, June 11, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for June 27: Spiritual Gifts

By Vic Ramsey
Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:4-15, 20, 27

A seminary professor, invited to speak at a local congregation, chose to read his text, a psalm, in Hebrew, and then translate it into English. For effect, he chose to do so without introduction.

As he began to speak, someone in the congregation stood up and began explaining to the congregation what the professor was saying, only the explanation had nothing to do with the text of the psalm.

"What are you talking about?" the professor asked.

"Well," the member replied, "I have the gift of interpretation, and if you're going to speak in tongues, someone has to interpret."

Questions about spiritual gifts go back to the first century, and especially to Corinth. A group within the church had latched on to speaking in tongues as a sign of superior spirituality. Correcting this error is the focus of 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14.

Purpose of gifts

1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Paul's most important teaching is subtle; he calls the various practices "gifts."

A gift says nothing about the worthiness of the recipient; it speaks only to the generosity of the giver.

Paul asserts two important principles in verses 4-6: that gifts vary, and the various gifts all flow from the same source. These two principles are so important that Paul repeats them three times. There is no difference in "gifts," "ministries" and "activities." All three words refer to the same phenomena.

In verse 7, Paul makes two more important assertions. First, he declares that "each person" is given a "manifestation of the Spirit." As the Spirit is present in the life of every believer (Acts 2:38, Romans 8:9), so the Spirit makes Himself known in the life of every believer. Each of us is empowered by God's Spirit. There are no ungifted Christians.

Paul's other point in verse 7 is that the gifts of the Spirit are given to be used, "to produce what is beneficial" ("for the common good," NIV). Gifts are not given to glorify the recipient, but to empower that person to serve others within and outside the church.

These five principles undercut all boasting and pride in spiritual gifts. If they are truly gifts, if they vary, if they all flow from the same divine source, if all believers are gifted, and if the gifts are meant to enable service to others, then having a particular gift cannot be an indication of special divine favor.

Diversity of gifts

1 Corinthians 12:8-10

Nine spiritual gifts are listed here, and others are mentioned elsewhere (Rom. 12:3-8, Eph. 4:11ff.). Some authors have tried to compile an exhaustive inventory, but there is no general agreement on the makeup of such a comprehensive list.

The lists of spiritual gifts are representative, and not exhaustive. Paul would not presume to tell the Spirit how many gifts He can give. He lists several to make his point that there are many gifts.

Of the gifts Paul lists, three require comment.

The gift of "faith" is not faith in Christ that leads to salvation, which, in this context would be redundant. Rather, it is confidence in the leadership and protection of God.

The gift of "distinguishing between spirits" is the ability to sort out right from wrong, true from false, divine from demonic.

The gift of "languages" is not a repetition of the Pentecost miracle, but ecstatic speech in an unknown tongue. As such, to be useful to the church, it requires interpretation, itself a gift.

Unity of gifts

1 Corinthians 12:11-15, 20, 27

These verses lay out Paul's famous analogy of the church as a human body. In verse 13, Paul asserts that "we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body," underlines that the Christian faith is a social, corporate experience.

Just as a body requires diversity in order to function, the church requires a diversity of gifts. A body that is "all eyes" or "all ears" isn't a body at all.

An orchestra with all flutes isn't an orchestra. A soccer team with all goalies won't win many games.

And a church without a variety of gifted believers, all exercising their gifts in service to others, isn't likely to be a very effective congregation.

6/11/2004 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

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