I Corinthians 12:1-11
Next, we consider:
THE CENTRALITY OF THE SPIRIT
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
The apostle here emphasized how the same Spirit managed diversity. He said, “There are differences of gifts.” The word is “spiritual gifts.” We get our word charismatic from that. Now I have often asked the question, Is the gift a natural endowment, received at birth? Or is it a special endowment? Some have naturally what others cannot develop.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit enables the various gifts to be exercised. I believe these spiritual gifts are spiritual endowments that the Holy Spirit brings. He is the Actor in this endowment.
“There are differences of administration but the same Lord.” “Administration” is a different word from “gifts.” It is a word of service, diakonos, from which our word “deacon” comes. According to the instructions in the pastoral epistle that the apostle wrote, deacons are service-oriented. Not lordships! They are not CEOs! They are persons who serve carefully. Administrations need to be understood.
Paul continued the teaching when he said, “But the same Lord.” The word Lord is important because it is the Greek word kurios, meaning “director.” Years ago I heard a speaker say, “Either Jesus Christ is Lord of all or He’s not Lord at all.” So every service is under the Lord. Every operation, every administration is under the Lord. He oversees and superintends the service. There are many different services but the same Lord! Do you see the centrality of the Spirit?
Then Paul said there are differences or diversities of operations, but it is the same God who works all in all. Operations, workings, energizing we get our word energy from the Greek word energeo. The same God is energizing every operation. There is diversity in purpose or meaning, but the same God is working.
The central purpose is clearly defined: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given every man to profit.” By the centrality of the Spirit, He is there working whether it be differences of gifts, differences of services, differences of energies, or workings. The same God is working. The central purpose is the mutual profit for the community of believers.
Here we have the three persons of the Trinity working together. They are given in this order: the Spirit, the Lord, and God. Very clearly there is no division in their operations. They all work together for the profit of the believing community.
Finally, we consider:
THE VITALITY OF THE SPIRIT
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
To understand the apostle’s presentation here it helps to place these Spirit gifts into three different areas:
First, consider the area of the mind. To one is given “the word of wisdom.” Now that is an interesting word, which was popular in the days of the apostle Paul through the group that was known as the gnostics, the sophia, or wisdom worshipers. But wisdom in its truest sense means a clear understanding and skill in the defense and application of divine truth as revealed in the Bible. This gift is highly necessary. We need it perhaps more now than ever.
Then there is “the word of knowledge.” This is a different word. It is the word that comes to us based on experience gnoseos “acquired knowledge.” We are made so that we can acquire knowledge. We can improve our understanding. It is a deeper, more perfect, and enlarged grasp of the Christian faith with the ability to teach others. Knowledge for its own sake is worthless. In other words, we should be interested in improving our knowledge, and how we can help others and ourselves. So you have the area of the mind in wisdom and knowledge.
Second, consider the area of the spirit. To another is given “faith.” Here “faith” is a gift, a special kind. So we are to think soberly, sanely, rationally, and purposefully, because God has dealt to every man a measure of faith. God has given us the capacity to believe. Here in I Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul speaks about a special measure of faith, special help of faith. Our humanity contains the ability to exercise faith; some have more, and some have less.
Then Paul said to another “healings” as a special gift. Can God entrust a human with this gift? It seems the temptation in this often results in the healer advertising himself.
Another debatable question is whether it is the will of God that Christians are sick. Paul names two of his fellow laborers who had been sick: Epaphroditus, near to death (Philippians 2:25-27), and Trophimus, whom Paul left in Miletus, sick (II Timothy 4:20). That was what Paul said. He had companions who were sick.
Third, consider the area of ministering. Paul listed first the working of miracles and supernatural interventions. Now those who are strict naturalists do not believe that there can be variation in the laws of nature. But that is exactly what a miracle is, a supernatural intervention in the laws of nature. It is a reordering of the regular procedures. We need to understand that.
Then Paul said, “to another prophecy.” Likely he means here exhortation rather than prediction, though that is not necessarily ruled out. More emphasis should be laid on the exhortation of the congregation.
Then “discerning of spirits” testing what is genuinely true. I believe this is one of the most essential gifts we need today. We need discernment in view of the present confusion in Bible interpretation.
Paul concluded with various “kinds of tongues,” not necessarily ecstatic tongues. Some are endowed with language facility. In teaching New Testament Greek in college, it was evident that some of my students had a gift to understand and master a foreign language. Some did not. Language facility lies in the ability to hear and reproduce sound. Some have that gift.
And consider “interpretation of tongues.” The apostle takes up with some length the various kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues in a later chapter.
All are controlled by the self-same Spirit. These many gifts show the vitality of the Spirit, and all are for the welfare of the body.
By these considerations we understand the breadth and depth of the ministry of the Spirit in the community of believers:
THE ESSENTIALITY OF THE SPIRIT
For through Him we confess Jesus as Lord.
THE CENTRALITY OF THE SPIRIT
For the same Spirit, Lord, and God act in the church.
THE VITALITY OF THE SPIRIT
In distributing those many gifts as needed individually as He wills.