1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 76
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|Now what the apostle Paul does in verses 4, 5 and 6 is show us some essentials that a person must master and understand before he ever gets into the discussion of spiritual gifts. You’ve got to get these things down.|
1 Corinthians 12:46
The Essentials of Understanding Spiritual Gifts
We are going to be looking at 1 Corinthians 12:46. And I want to entitle this “Essentials to the Understanding of Spiritual Gifts.” Now one of the friends I have is Scott. Scott needed to know some essentials of my bass boat before he got in that boat. From time to time, Scott would borrow my boat. I said, “Now, Scott, there is something you need to know before you take my boat out. My boat pulls to the right.” When I first got it, I got into shallow water and knocked the little small fin off the bottom of that motor. Now that little fin causes that boat to be level and to go the way it is supposed to go. When that thing was broken off, that boat started pulling to the right. Now you have to know that. That is essential when you are driving that boat.
Well, I thought Scott understood that main essential—before you use my boat, understand it pulls to the right. He was going down the lake at 60 mph. He had his right hand where it ought to be—on the steering wheel because it did pull to the right. He got to having a good time and his hat blew off. Scott forgot that essential, and with his right hand, reached up to grab his hat. At 60 mph, that boat turned right. Now that is interesting. You try it sometime. It threw Scott into the side of the boat and knocked him out cold!
It is important to remember certain essentials before you do some things in life. Now Scott knows. I guarantee you, when Scott goes fishing in my boat, he will have his hands cemented to that steering wheel because he knows it pulls to the right. You have to allow for that if you are going to drive the boat. You have to know that essential.
Now what the apostle Paul does in verses 4, 5 and 6 is show us some essentials that a person must master and understand before he ever gets into the discussion of spiritual gifts. You’ve got to get these things down.
The focus of our spiritual gifts
The first thing we want to see, and the first and foremost essential in understanding spiritual gifts, is that we must look at the focus of spiritual gifts. We have to have our focus right when it comes to spiritual gifts. You see, when you live with a fleshly mindset, you have a different focus. The focus of flesh is me, mine, I. In other words, if you put it in the context of spiritual gifts, if you are walking after the flesh, you are more interested in your gift or your lack of gifts than you are the giver of those gifts. You are never focused on the giver, you are focused on the gift itself.
The apostle Paul, though, had a different view, had a different perspective. His perspective was not on the gifts. His perspective was on the giver of those gifts. As a matter of fact, why talk about gifts if we don’t have a proper understanding of the giver? If we are not living surrendered to the giver, why in the world talk about gifts? You see, the problem that Paul had, he is dealing with a church that cared less about the giver. And that is why they were so distorted when it came to spiritual gifts. When you are not focused on the giver of the gifts, upon His character, upon His love, upon His precious grace, upon His divine and sovereign purpose in our lives, then you can easily become distorted in spiritual things, not only spiritual gifts but ministry. Your whole concept of ministry is different when you are not focused on the giver. Not only ministry, but your whole concept is different when it comes to the effects of ministry.
It is incredible what flesh will do. It will even to try to produce effects that only the Spirit of God can produce. You can get totally upside down in the subject of spiritual gifts if your focus is not the giver of those gifts. You see, we can become jealous of people who have gifts that we do not have. We can become jealous of ministries that we do not have. We can become jealous of effects that others have. They are doing the same thing we are doing, but the effects they are having are greater than the effects that we are having.
I will never forget the time I was over in South Africa. I got up to speak. I had prayed and I was in the Word. I felt like I taught it correctly and that the Spirit of God was just in charge at the time. When I finished, the people looked at me with blank looks. The next preacher got up and preached. I thought, “Well, I have covered that already.” All of a sudden, the Spirit of God began to move, and people got saved. People got broken, and I walked out of that meeting upset with God. “God, why didn’t you let that happen when I preached? Why did you let that happen when he preached?”
Friend, I want to tell you something, if your focus is not on the giver, this is the kind of distorted life that you live. “Why didn’t I get that gift?” “How come I don’t have that ministry?” “How come the effects when I do something are not the same effects as when somebody else does it?” This is the distortion of the Corinthian church. This is why Paul does not start with the gift, he starts with the giver. You’ve got to have that nailed down in your theology, nailed down in your life and philosophy, nailed down in your walk with God. You’ve got to have the impeccable character of the Giver in your heart and in your mind and be surrendered to Him regardless before you can ever approach the study of spiritual gifts.
Now notice the word “same” in verses 4, 5 and 6. Verse 4 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Verse 5 reads, “And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” Verse 6 goes on, “And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” The word “same” there is the word autos, which normally means self. It is a pronoun, her, him or it. When it has a definite article behind it, it means “same” as it does here.
The word “same” is used for the Holy Spirit in verse 4. It is the same Holy Spirit who gives the gifts. In verse 5, it is the same Lord Jesus who gives us the ministry that we enjoy. Now, any time the term “Lord” is used in the New Testament, it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 6, it is the same God, the Father, who gives the effects of these gifts. How do you know it is God the Father? When the Trinity is being talked about as it is in these three verses and the word “God” is in the mix and the definite article is before the word “God,” it refers to God the Father. So, it is the same Holy Spirit, it is the same Lord Jesus, it is the same Father, you see.
The sameness of God is so critical that we must understand what Paul is doing here. By using the word “same” he is identifying something. He is identifying the Giver. He is identifying the unchangeable character of the Giver. Now we’ve got to see this. God doesn’t do anything out of jealousy or spite. He doesn’t simply push one person aside to do something for somebody else. You’ve got to understand who we are dealing with here. It’s the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus, the same God the Father. If you can’t trust the unchangeable, impeccable character of God, then when it comes to spiritual gifts, you are going to be totally upside down. You don’t understand what is and what isn’t.
Paul, in referring to the sameness of God, is doing the same thing James did in James 1:17. It says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” You see, when you are dealing with the character of God, it is impeccable; no one can question it. Everything God does is wrapped around who He is. He is a God of love. He has a purpose. He is the God who knows what is best for us. And so that is the impeccable character of God; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Paul is doing the same thing the author of Hebrews did. Hebrews 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” But here comes the difference and how you may understand what I am saying. You have to understand the sameness of God, the fact that God is always consistent when it comes to His character. But in understanding that, you also have to understand that His ways are as varied as you can possibly imagine. He doesn’t do the same thing a second time unless somehow it fits His eternal purpose.
I hear people all the people all the time say, “Oh, God, give us another Pentecost.” God would shout back from heaven, “Why do you want another one? Live out of the one you have!” This is God. His character is impeccable. But His ways are as varied as we are today. Now, you’ve got to marry those two thoughts together before you get over to the area of spiritual gifts. Don’t touch them until you get somehow nailed down that the character of God is good; it is consistent; and everything He does is good and acceptable and perfect.
God always has eternal purposes in His mind. God always works with a redemptive heart. One person prays for healing, and he is healed. Another person prays for healing, and he dies. Does that in any way become an affront to His character? No, because He never changes in His character. But does that show us that we don’t understand the ways of God? Yes, it does. No man can figure out the way God does. He will have Paul circumcise one man as he travels and He will have him not do it to another man, because God’s ways are not our ways. They are higher than our ways.
You ask, “Where are you going with all this?” Look at the verses! He contrasts two words in verses 4, 5 and 6. He contrasts the word “same” with the word “variety” in all three verses. Now, if you have a King James Version, you are going to be very troubled because your version changes the word in each verse, but I hate to tell you, go back and do your homework. In the Greek, it is the same word all three times. That is why I appreciate the New American Standard. It nails it one, two, three. Varieties of gifts, varieties of ministries, varieties of effects, but the same Spirit, the same Lord Jesus, the same God the Father. Now, again, His character never changes. It is consistent, the same. Any time you come to Him, whether you have sinned, failed or anything else, He is the same God He has always been. He does not change in His character, His mercy, His grace, His principle, who He is and His purpose. But He does change in the way He works in peoples’ lives. It is not the same from one to another. Look at verse 11, as a matter of fact. He just really nails this. He says in verse 11, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”
Now, let’s get into this just a little bit. What in the world does this word “variety” mean? Well, the word “variety” does not just mean the difference of the gifts. Now that is one of the first things that we do. We think the word “variety” stands for the differences of our gifts. It comes from the word meaning to divide. It has to do with the meaning of how He distributes His gifts. In other words, He does not distribute His gifts evenly, though His character is even, it is consistent, it never changes.
Now, if that is somehow not nailed down, before you even get into the subject of gifts, do you see the problem you are going to run into? The flesh is going to cause all kinds of confusion. “Well, wait a minute. How come I didn’t get this gift? He is no better than I am!” Oh, man, don’t you go through this. You see some people and you are around them for a while and you realize they are imperfect. Boy, doesn’t that shock you? And then you see them in ministry. You see God just blowing the doors off of what He is doing in their ministry. You come before God and you say, “God, how come you are doing it in them? You know that I am a whole lot better than them.” God so clearly speaks back and says, “Who in the world do you think you are? I do what I do. Don’t you dare question Me. And remember, My character is impeccable. I am the same. I am always the same. You may not sense that you understand what I do because My ways are as varied as you can possibly know.”
You see, you’ve got to get your focus on the Giver and not on the gift. What in the world is the gift worth if you don’t understand the Giver? To understand His grace, to understand what He has done in your life; if you are saved, isn’t that enough? And yet we have churches splitting right now over the topic of spiritual gifts. Why in the world would a gift split anybody? Look at the Giver. He unites, He does not divide. It is amazing. So get your focus on the Giver. Get on the Giver. This is essential.
If you are going to study spiritual gifts, you are probably going to get over to an area and realize what you don’t have and suddenly you are going to begin to feel like, “Well, I deserve it more than he does.” Get that out of your mind. We don’t deserve anything. We deserve hell. Anything less than hell is pure grace. So let’s look at the Giver who is impeccable in His character, impeccable in His love, impeccable in what He does as we contrast that with the varied ways in which He works unevenly in the lives of His people for His eternal purpose.
As a matter of fact, let’s take a little test. This past year have you had a problem with somebody in the body of Christ because they were more gifted and talented than you? Have you had a problem with that and wondered why you were like you are and they are like they are? Have you had a problem this past year with those of us who have ministries? We love to call something a ministry that God may call a farce. Have you had trouble sometimes wondering why your ministry is so small compared to others whose ministry is so large? Or have you had a problem this past year wondering about the effects? You did it the same way somebody else did it. You know, it is interesting that Peter preached a sermon and 2,000 or 3,000 were converted. Stephen preached the same sermon and they stoned him to death.
The character of God is consistent. It is impeccable. Don’t you question His character. But when it comes to His ways, they are as varied as we are. That is the first thing, the focus is not the gift, the focus is the Giver. If your focus is the gift, then you are already causing a problem in the body of Christ. If your focus is the gift, then you are causing a problem. If your focus is the Giver, that is a different matter because He has brought humility in your life. He has brought gratitude in your life. He has broken you of that old arrogance and pride and now you are just simply saying, “Oh God, thank you for letting me be a part of what you are up to. I don’t deserve anything but you.” Get your focus right before we get into this subject of gifts.
The fabric of spiritual gifts
Secondly, we see the fabric of spiritual gifts. Now this came to my mind as I was studying. I know I have a weird mind. But as I was studying it, I thought about this perhaps might be a way of helping you to realize what we are dealing with, the fabric of spiritual gifts. In verse 4 we read, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Now it is the same Holy Spirit who gives the gifts, and His character is impeccable. Obviously He is God.
An illustration never quite fully illustrates anything, but let’s just look at Him as the fabric of the spiritual gifts. All these gifts come from the same Spirit, so He is in the initiator of all of it, okay? He is the fabric of these gifts. The word for “gifts” in verse 4 is the word charisma. Charis means “grace,” and the word ma at the end of it means the result of God’s grace.
Now, we need to look at that for a second. It is referring to the gift itself. The gift that we have is a total result of the grace that God has extended towards us. Now, this immediately answers a basic question: When do we get spiritual gifts? Are we born with them? No, you are born from above with them. There is a difference.
There are two births in a believer’s life. He is born physically, and he is born spiritually. That is why you can’t join Jesus. You have to be born from above. And when you are born from above, the Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of Christ, comes to live in you. He is the embodiment of grace. And as He comes to live in you, He comes bearing gifts. That is when you receive a spiritual gift. That shows you that a spiritual gift and a talent are different.
I remember I was in a speech class in college and I had to do a speech one morning. I had forgotten about it and had gone to bed late. I got up late and five minutes before the class began I was walking out of room when it dawned on me that I was supposed to give a speech that day. Well, I looked over and saw my roommate had an iron. So I grabbed the iron. I saw a little bottle of cleanser—I don’t know what it was, it could have been glass cleanser for all I knew—I picked it up and I walked into class. I got up and I gave a 30 minute presentation, impromptu, on how to clean an iron! I have never cleaned an iron in my life and I used whatever cleanser. Hey, by the way, it worked. I got that thing clean.
I did all the things you are supposed to do in that speech, and I went over and sat down. The teacher looked at me. Everybody in the class was awed. The teacher said, “Would you like to know what your grade is?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “It is a zero.” I said, “Why?” She said, “You have never cleaned an iron in your life. That is not the way you clean an iron. I knew that the moment you stood up.”
I could talk a long time ago, but when it comes to spiritual gifts that have to do with speaking, that has to come from God. It is something different. Does He throw away your talents? No, He just fills them up and wraps Himself around them. But the spiritual gifts come at the moment you are saved. If you are saved today, you have gifts. You have the Spirit of God living in you, the Gift, and when He came to live in you, He came bearing gifts. You are a gifted member of the body of Christ.
Now this brings us back to the character that Paul pointed out earlier. The word “grace” is a precious word. You’ve got to see it. People say it means undeserved favor. Yes, it does, but we usually look at grace as if it is something God does for us. That is the way we look at grace, and that is true, it is. But it is more than that. It is who God is before He ever does anything for us. It is the disposition of God.
The word had its growth, it began when you wanted to talk about somebody beautiful. It wasn’t outwardly, it was inwardly. Somebody who was inwardly, in their disposition, a precious, beautiful person. It didn’t matter what they looked like on the outside. It was what they were on the inside, kind of what Peter talks about in 1 Peter 3.
But then the word began to grow and it had to do with a person who is beautiful in their disposition is a person who gives. A giving person is always a beautiful person. Anyone who is beautiful inwardly is going to give to others.
But then it took another meaning. It came to have the meaning that someone who is beautiful inwardly, who has the precious heart inwardly, who gives, will always give but they will usually give to people who can never pay them back and who never deserve it. That is how the word “grace” came to be understood. You see, grace is far more than what He does for us. Grace is who He is. So, when we receive grace, the One who loves us when we don’t deserve to be loved, the One who came and paid a debt He didn’t owe and we owed a debt we couldn’t pay and when we received Him into our life, He came in bearing something else we don’t deserve. He brought gifts because He wants us to be a part of what He is up to down here. He wants us to be in the flow of what He is doing on this earth. That is incredible!
He is the fabric of all of those gifts that live within us. He is the same, His character is the same. That is why the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit. It is the very character that is consistent, always unchangeable, of the Lord Jesus being in us.
First Corinthians 13 beautifully brings out that character that is unchangeable that is presented when the Holy Spirit of God is moving within us. However, when He comes in, His ways are varied, as we said earlier. And this causes the fabric, which is one fabric, to be multicolored. In other words, we don’t all fit in the same place.
Look over in 1 Peter 4:10. This is where the idea of the fabric of this grace, the fabric of the gifts came to me. In 1 Peter 4:10 Peter is talking about spiritual gifts. I want you to see what he says. Peter, writing to these persecuted believers of Asia Minor, says, “As each one has received a special gift [and all gifts are special], employ it in serving one another [that is what the gifts are for, and we will see that later on], as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
You know what the word “manifold” is. The word “manifold” is the word poikilos. It means multicolored. That is where the idea came to me. The Holy Spirit of God is the main fabric of all the gifts. However, it is multicolored. I might be over here in the red section, and you might be over in the blue section. Somebody else might be over in the purple section. But your gift fits in a certain place. All of the gifts we have work together to reveal the entity that gives them.
You see, that is what the whole things is about. The body of Christ is universal. It is all over this world. It is not denominational. There are Catholics who know the Lord Jesus. There are all kinds of people of other denominations who know the Lord Jesus. That is the body of Christ, and when they receive Christ, they receive gifts and those gifts are multicolored. It is the same Spirit who gives them. The same Spirit lives in them who lives in me, but they are multicolored, multifaceted, you see. Therefore, there is diversity in the body with God working unevenly. Maybe you have a little shade of blue and somebody else has a big shade of blue. But whatever it is that God gave you, He gave it to you and you didn’t deserve any of it. When you put it all together, it begins to make the most beautiful picture of the entity of the One who lives within us. That is what a body is for.
Gifts are never to pump you and me up. Gifts are never for us to say, “Look at me.” Gifts are to reveal the person of Christ that lives within us. That is what the body is for. The fabric is within us and that fabric needs to be revealed. But it will be revealed in different shades and different colors and different ways. And then when it all comes together, the picture is as clear as bell. We are not here to reveal what Southern Baptists can be. God help us! We are not here to reveal what we can do for God. We are here to be the vessels through which Jesus is revealed. He has given us gifts by which He can be revealed. But it is different from person to person. That is why everybody needs to live surrendered so that Christ can be clearly seen.
We have people come to our church from time to time. Years ago, a fellow told me somebody came in and said, “You know, I don’t like this church.” And they said, “Why don’t you like it?” And he said, “The preacher never visits.” He said, “I don’t like that. That is not the character of Christ in that preacher.”
Careful, careful. The character of Christ is love. And that love is going to be manifested specifically through the gifts that God has given to you. Don’t you ever tell me that I don’t love you because I didn’t visit you in the hospital. Friend, I am loving you by spending the time I spend in God’s Word, because my gift is my way of manifesting Him and that is the way He specifically has designed me and that is the color I have on the fabric. Be careful, be careful.
This guy was complaining and the friend he was talking to walked with the Lord and understood 1 Corinthians 12. Do you know what he said back to him? He said, “Well, let me ask you a question. Do you really think that is a need in this church?” He said, “Absolutely.” He says, “Is it really burdening you when you pray?” He said, “Oh, man, I can’t get over it.” He said, “Well, did you ever stop to think that is the gift that God has given you in the area and the ministry that God wants you to have? Do you realize that God didn’t send you here to find out all of our mistakes. He sent you here to be the solution, not the problem. Why don’t you start doing that for us?”
That friend told me this person looked at him and said, “I have never heard that before in my life. That makes more sense than just about anything I have ever heard.” It is amazing the way the Bible will clear up all this stuff.
But see, the church of Corinth didn’t understand that. They didn’t care about God’s Word. They didn’t care about God who lived in them. They lived upside down, fleshly minded lives. All they were concerned about was me, mine and I. That is why Paul has got to shift gears on them and get them back on the Giver and make sure they understand the fabric of those gifts as the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit, He is God. His character never changes, but the way He works in going to be in different shades and different colors in different people’s lives. The same Spirit gives the gifts, but they do not all look alike, nor are they dispensed equally.
My wife and I were visiting one day. We walked into a hospital room, and when we walked in, the lady started moaning. Oh, come on, man, I saw that! She wasn’t moaning before we walked in the room. She just started moaning when we walked in it. My gift doesn’t quite work like my wife’s gift.
I walked over to the bed and said, “The Lord lives in you and you are getting better. The doctor has already said that.” But my wife gets her little pillow and fluffs it up around her head and pats her on the cheek, “Are you okay?” She gets her a glass of water. I am thinking, “Don’t do that. That is what she wants you to do. She is playing this thing as far as it will go. Come on, let’s exhort her, get up out of this bed and let’s go home.”
We got out in the hall. My wife is so precious. She said, “I would have never said that to that woman.” I said, “You know what, I would have never done what you did.” But then we got to laughing. But you know, I think she needed both of them. Isn’t it amazing how gifts work together. So when I need to show mercy, let me go with my wife, because she is going to help me. I am going to put her in front of me and whatever she does, I will follow her lead. But when somebody needs to be motivated, you put me in front. That is the way we can work together as a team.
That is the way the gifts in the body are. You have been wondering why I am the way I am and you are the way you are. Come on, get your eye back on the Giver and remember He doesn’t work evenly in everybody’s life. What He didn’t give me and gave you doesn’t mean that you are any better than I am. It just simply means we have different functions in the body of Christ. It is the same fabric, the same Giver, but differences in those gifts.
God works differently in people’s lives. It is the same God. Don’t ever tell me I don’t love you because I don’t do what you would have done if you were me in that situation. You let me be who God created me to be and I guarantee I will let you be who God created you to be. I don’t follow you around. I don’t check who is in church every Sunday morning. You know why? Because we preach the freedom under grace, that you be where God wants you to be and you be what God wants you to be.
The character of God is impeccable. If that love is not there, you forget talking about the gifts. You don’t know what you are talking about. Just shut up and leave it alone. But if that love is manifested in your life, friend, you have a handle on something. That is God in you. And God will manifest His presence through you in a way that won’t be like anybody else because you are a different color from the fabric. When it comes together, the picture is clear as to what is being presented.
I think about it as working a jigsaw puzzle. When I was growing up, I had a lot of bronchitis and my mother wouldn’t let me go out when it was snowing. So she would buy a big puzzle. We would all sit around the table. But one thing I learned from her is that you take all the colors and you put them together. That is one of the first things I learned. If they are bright, you put the bright ones together, and you put the darks over here. After a while, when you start putting those little pieces together and following that color scheme, there is a picture that begins to emerge. It is amazing. And when you finish, it is clear as a bell why this piece of the puzzle was dark and this was light and this was something else, because it all played a role in making the picture become visible to everybody.
That is what gifts are for. They are for inside the body, and they are to minister to one another. We will see that in the next verse. They are from the same Spirit that lives within. We sing “Jesus be Jesus in me, no longer me but Thee, resurrection power fill me this hour, Jesus be Jesus in me.” How do you think He is going to be Himself in you? First of all, by the fruit of the Spirit, which you cannot fake in any way, which is His love produced because that is His character that is impeccable. But secondly, He will be framed through the gifts that He has given you which are motivated to serve others, not yourself. That is what spiritual gifts are all about. They bring visibility to the entity that lives within us.
The essentials to understanding spiritual gifts. Get your focus right. It is the Giver, not the gift. It never has been the gift. It is the Giver. But then secondly, remember, the fabric of grace. It is multicolored and each of us have a place we fit on it, but it is all to bring visibility to the Lord who lives within us.