1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 77
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|The apostle Paul is laying a grid through which we view the rest of chapters 12, 13 and 14. Rules are important. Boundaries are important. Guidelines are necessary.|
1 Corinthians 12:46
The Essentials of Understanding Spiritual Gifts – Part 2
The apostle Paul is laying a grid through which we view the rest of chapters 12, 13 and 14. Rules are important. Boundaries are important. Guidelines are necessary.
I was playing basketball several years ago and we were playing against King College in Bristol, Virginia. I was just so excited. We had the ball under their goal at the end of the first half, and we were one point up. There were about four or five seconds left in the first half and I decided to do something. I knew our coach would just be thrilled. I was going to take the basketball and throw it through the rafters all the way down to the end of the court so that it would hit inside the court so the clock would start with only three or four seconds. It would run out before they could get the ball, and we could go in one point up.
I did that. I was so excited. I took that ball and threw it and it went through the rafters, never touched anything. I mean, a quarterback of an NFL team would have been jealous. It went through two different rafters at least and it came down just perfectly inside the court, right at the edge of the court and bounced out of bounds. I am waiting on the horn to go off because the clock was ticking down, but the horn didn’t go off. A whistle blew. And the whistle burst my little emotional bubble.
Rules are important. The rule says that the ball has got to touch a player before the horn starts. They got the ball back up under their goal, threw it into their big center, he scored and instead of one point up, we went in one point down at half time. Oh, our coach loved that! I was trying to find a crack in the floor somewhere I could crawl into.
He walked in looking for me. I am hiding behind everybody in there. He kicks the trash can off the wall and says, “Okay, everybody sit down. We are going to have a little basketball clinic. Barber, would you come here!” I walked up. He says, “Now, Barber, would you begin in the rule book by explaining that when the ball touches a player the clock starts, but if the ball doesn’t touch the player, the clock does not start. Would you explain that, please!”
Suddenly it dawned on me, all that emotion, all of that experience had just been popped by rules and boundaries and guidelines.
Now that is one thing in the physical and tangible world we live in, but I want to tell you something, it is absolutely imperative that we understand that in the spiritual dimension, you have rules and guidelines and boundaries. If there is ever an experience you have and you want to say it somehow is hooked or attached to the Holy Spirit of God, a gift, or whatever else, that must somehow fit into the guidelines and boundaries of scripture or that experience cannot be spoken of as influenced by the Holy Spirit of God. There are rules. There are boundaries. And there are guidelines.
The Corinthian church needed these as desperately as we do in the 20th century. They were so upside down they had absolutely no discernment when it came to spiritual matters. Paul told us in verse 1, they were walking around as spiritual ignoramuses. They were totally unaware of spiritual matters. They didn’t have any discernment towards that whatsoever. So Paul begins. The first seven verses are so important as a grid work to understand the rest of chapters 12, 13 and 14 because he nails down, he lays the boundaries, he lays the guidelines.
The first thing he shows in these guidelines, in order to understand spiritual gifts, we must get our focus right. Our focus must never be the gift, it has got to be the Giver. And Paul wants them to understand that the character of God is as consistent as consistent can be. He is the same yesterday. He is the same today. And He is the same forever. In verse 4 it says the same Holy Spirit gives the gift. In verse 5, the same Lord Jesus gives the ministries. In verse 6, the same God, the Father, gives the effects of those ministries. You can never doubt the character of God.
If I have to deal with God through repentance, I am dealing with the same God I dealt with the other day in joy and rejoicing. He is the same God. He loves me. He has character. There is integrity. He does not change. He is unchangeable. He is impeccable. His character always remains the same. Why is this important? Because the sameness of God stays right there when it comes to His character and who He is. But His ways are as varied as you can possibly come up with. There is a contrast here.
In verse 4-6 he contrasts the word “same” with the word “varieties.” Now if you have a King James Version, you are already confused because they change the word but it is the same word all the way through – varieties, same, varieties, same. The varieties of gifts, varieties of ministries, varieties of effects, the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus, the same God the Father.
What does the word “varieties” mean? How many of you thought that the word “varieties” meant that the gifts were in themselves different? Everybody thinks that. That is not what the word refers to. The word is not referring to the differences in the gifts, it is referring to how they are dispensed. They are not dispensed evenly. Now, why would you think he would mention the sameness of God? Because the character of God, the One who is always consistently loving us, etc, that same God does not work in each individual life the same way. And when it comes to distributing the gifts, when it comes to distributing the ministries, when it comes to distributing the effects, they are going to be different, they are going to be uneven; to some more gifts, to some greater ministries, to some much more of the effect.
Now, the word “variety” according to Liddell and Scott, was used in secular Greek when it came to voting, you know, when people would come together for a popular vote. When they were counting the results, they distributed, they divided the results. In other words, it was very rarely even.
The word in secular Greek was used when the soldiers would divide their troops. Anybody who has ever studied military strategy knows that you don’t put the same number of troops here that you put over here. It all has to do with your total purpose of what is going on. So the word very clearly has to do with the dispensation of those gifts, the giving of those gifts, the dispensing of those gifts to people. It is not an even manner.
As a matter of fact, look in 12:11 where we see a form of this word, and we really see a clearer meaning of it. It is not just the differences of the gifts, it is the way they are distributed. It says in verse 11, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” Now the word “distributing” there is a form of the word we are looking at that is translated “varieties” in verses 4, 5 and 6. So we see it has to do with the distribution of those gifts. God, who is consistent, gives unevenly the gifts, the ministries and the effects. His character of love, mercy, grace, wisdom, and power is the same.
But now listen, He is also the God of purpose, and His purpose is not our purpose. He is not interested in what I want to tell Him should be His purpose. He already has His purpose. He wants to draw me into His purpose and His purpose and the way He does things to accomplish that purpose is not the same as I would go about doing them, but His character is consistent.
So to begin to understand the complexity of spiritual gifts, Paul makes a strong statement. The focus must be on the Giver and not on the gift. The Corinthians were attached to everything of the flesh. If you are living surrendered to Him as a vessel through which He can do His work, then you can have a proper discerning and understanding of gifts. Because you trust the Giver, you can trust the Gift, whether you have a lack of them or a great amount of them, whatever. But remember His character is consistent, but His ways are very varied.
So rule number one, fully trust the Giver before you start talking about the gifts because if you don’t, you are going to end up being jealous because you didn’t get a gift. You are going to end up being arrogant because you got more than somebody else. That is what was going on in Corinth.
The second thing that he brings up that is very important before he gets into the subject of gifts, is we must understand the fabric of spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is the fabric of the spiritual gifts. I mean by that He is the actual thread, He is the one who gives the gifts.
Verse 4 reads, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” First Peter 4:10 is the same subject of spiritual gifts, both serving and speaking gifts. Peter makes this statement, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The word “manifold” means multicolored. So the Spirit gives the gifts. He is the fabric, but it is multicolored. It is going to look different. I may have a red gift, and you may have a blue gift; somebody else might have a yellow gift. They are all different, is what I am trying to say. However, the fabric is the same. In other words, there is something about the fabric of those gifts, the character of the One who gave them, that will resound in every one of those gifts. You will see it in every one of those gifts. They are multicolored but the same fabric gives those gifts. He holds them together. He is the one doing the portrait so that Christ may be presented through the corporate body called His church.
Now, even though these gifts are different, as I said, the Holy Spirit remains the same. Now this is important, the fruit of the Spirit of God is love. Let me explain to you. Anybody can fake a gift, but since He’s the fabric of giving those gifts and holds them together and paints the portrait of Christ and through those gifts, He produces the fruit which is the love of God which is found over in Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit is love. Now, you cannot fake the fruit. You can fake the gift but you cannot fake the fruit. The gifts come wrapped in the fruit of the Spirit of God. You see, the Spirit of God comes to live in us at salvation and He comes with giftwrapped gifts. They come wrapped in the love of Christ. So whatever gift you have that reaches out to others has within it the very love and compassion and heart of God, to serve and make that gift beneficial to somebody else.
Now that is one of the signals that we have got to stay with as we walk through these three chapters. Not only does He give the gifts, but He is the fabric of them, but He also produces the fruit. And the fruit and the gifts must be together. If you find a person who adamantly, arrogantly, talks of his gift with no love for anyone, you are talking about a person who is not living surrendered to the Holy Spirit of God. You find a person who would take their experience and they say it was influenced by the Holy Spirit and use it to divide a church, you’ve got somebody who is not influenced by the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God produces love. And in that love is a drawing force. He does not repel, He pulls them and causes people to come to Him. So the body of Christ is drawn together when the gifts are manifest in their presence. So to understand the complexity of spiritual gifts, we must understand that first of all, the focus must be the Giver and not the gift. But secondly, we have got to understand the fabric. The one who actually gives the gifts is the Holy Spirit and He not only gives the gifts which are varied in their colors, mercy, serving, all the different functions, but also He produces the fruit which wraps itself around those gifts. You cannot say you are influenced by the Spirit of God if that love, which is His fruit, is missing anywhere in the effects of those gifts.
The function of spiritual gifts
Well, the focus and the fabric. Now that brings us to the third thing, the function of spiritual gifts. Why did God choose to give spiritual gifts? What are they for? You see, we must understand that spiritual gifts are not primarily for us. Now that doesn’t mean to say you are not going to enjoy those gifts as you minister them to other people, but they are not given for us. They are given for others. It is said of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels that the Son of man did not come to be ministered unto, He came to minister. So if God lives in us, God gave us the gifts, He is the fabric, then His whole purpose is not to edify me, it is to edify you through me and me through you. It is not personal edification, it is corporate edification. Gifts are given to serve one another.
Verse 5 says, “And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” Well, we nailed it down before that when you see the term “Lord” in the New Testament capitalized, it is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. So it is the Lord Jesus Christ who effects the ministry through the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given. The whole Trinity is involved in this work of God on this earth through the believers who have received Christ Jesus into their hearts.
The word for “ministries” there in verse 5 is the key word. It is the word diakonia. It is the word that we get the word “deacon” from. It literally means to serve. Now the first time you really see it come forth as a word that denotes what people do, ministry in churches and all, is found in Acts 6. I want you to turn there because there is a beautiful principle that comes out of Acts 6:12. Then contrast it with verse 4. We see the word “ministries,” diakonia, in verse 1. We see the verb form of it in verse 2. He says in verse 1, “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.” Somehow they were being left out. When the tables were set and the people come to eat, as the early church ministered to one another in that way, somehow these people were being left out. The word “serving” in verse 1 is the word diakonia.
Now in verse 2 it says, “And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.’“ That is the verb form diakoneo. That comes from the very same root of understanding here.
So the first thing we see about it in Acts 6 when it comes to the members of the body of Christ ministering, it is in the attitude of serving, tangible, physical serving. “Do you need another glass of tea?” “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Can I cut your grass?” “What can I do for you?” That kind of tangible service.
But we have an interesting thing here. When you contrast verses 12 with verse 4, you really see the picture even broader. Look at verse 4. You see, when the disciples said that they wanted service to be done by others for others, they said in verse 4, “‘But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.’“ There is the word diakonia. So you see two things here, you see the spiritual serving of the Word of God for the benefit of others, but you also see those who are serving in a physical and a tangible way, setting up chairs, doing whatever is behind the scenes. You see two kinds of things here, but both of them are in an effort to serve others. They have the heart of Christ to minister, to serve. My gift is not mine, for me, it is for you. And if I surrender to Him, then He will allow that gift to work for your benefit. And so the whole attitude is unselfishly you want to serve others through the giftedness that God has given to you.
So the definition of the word “ministry,” diakonia, would have to be any discharge of service in genuine love for the sake of others, no matter if it is setting up chairs or ministering the Word of God. This is serving one another. Oh, how we need to understand that.
There have been a lot of people who have told me to my face that I didn’t love them because I didn’t visit them or I didn’t do something tangible for them. Yet they will come and hear you preach and the moment you finish preaching, they will attack you, not even realizing that what you just did cost you the whole week of studying in order to love them so that your gift could be used in serving them. So you see, this is what happens in the church. When you are not understanding the Giver and you are looking strictly at the gift, you are going to see it only through your own gift. You are not going to recognize how He has made the body multicolored. Many are different colors than you are, and they are going to serve in a different way than you serve. You can’t judge others by your gift. You can’t do that. You have to allow others to be who God has made them and to work through the gifts that God has given them. When the gifts are used properly, when God is enforcing those gifts, then the fruit of the Spirit is wrapped around them and they will even have an effect on the world that is around us. I guarantee you, when the world starts seeing Jesus in church, it will be to the measure of how you and I live surrendered to Christ and let our gifts build, unify, edify one another.
So another truth in understanding spiritual gifts—it’s a rule—the gift is not given to benefit you, the gift is given to benefit others. You see, what was happening in Corinth was, it was benefiting them but not others. But we will hit that a little bit more clearly in a further verse.
So the question must be asked, what is the use of having the gift, understanding what it is, if it is not being used to minister life to others, if it is not used to unify and edify the body of Christ? As a matter of fact, to nail this point, look at verse 7. Just glance at it, we are going to come back and look at it more fully in a little while, but Paul just nails this in verse 7. He says, “But to each one [leaves no one out] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” That phrase “the common good” means to others, not just to me. Let me say it again, if you are saying what you are calling your gift is influenced by the Holy Spirit of God and is not in any way benefiting others in the body of Christ, then somehow what you are talking about does not fit with what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
You see, so much of what is going on in Christianity today is people defending that which edifies themselves, not that which builds up and edifies others. And so the gifts have got to minister to others. That is what they were designed for. They were not designed to build us up, they were designed to build others up.
So the focus, the fabric, the function of gifts. Why were they given? So that the body might minister to one another. No one has all those gifts. The Holy Spirit is the Giver, yes, he has Him, but he has a function in the body of Christ. You must understand it that way. There is no such thing as a healthy body with selfish organs. Think of your liver. It is not seen, but it does a very, very important task. It never gets applause for it, though. What if your liver one day decided, “You know, I am sick and tired of not being recognized. I am not getting anything out of this. I quit!” Do you realize what happens to the rest of your body?
So you see, you must understand, there is no sense in having a gift or even knowing what it is, if you are not going to live surrendered to Christ and let the Giver minister life through that gift, if you are not allowing God to use the gift in your life. He takes care of the rest of it. You don’t have to find a staff member to give you a ministry in the church. God the Holy Spirit is the only staff member you need to go to. You get surrendered to Him, and He will give the ministry. He will cause the effect and will bless others around you. But if you have a gift and know what it is and you are not using it to benefit the body of Christ, what happens is, you become a cancer in the body and instead of benefiting it, you are draining it of the life that God wants to use and minister to others.
The follow up to spiritual gifts
Well, fourthly, there is the follow up to spiritual gifts. Now, why would I say the followup? Well, personally I hear a lot of people come to me and say, “Oh, I have this gift.” You know, you’ve got to follow that up a little while. You have got to take it and see where it goes. You’ve got to make sure you follow it up to see if the effect to that ministry that came from that gift is a divine effect. Anybody can boast and say I have a gift. But I want to tell you something, God puts the proof of the pudding here. The effect has got to speak of Him and never speak of us. That is one of the first things you have got to learn is that if a person is being moved by God through a gift and a ministry, then the effect will not draw attention to that person. The effect will draw attention to Christ. We must see that.
The question arises then, “How can we tell if what one claims to have is really of the Spirit?” I mean, is this ministry of the Spirit? Is it a spiritual gift? Well, if it is to be understood as different from ordinary talents, how do we go about doing that?
Listen, anybody can build a crowd and call it a gift and a ministry and an effect. Anybody can do that. Anybody can build a crowd. But to say that was the work of the Holy Spirit of God, you had better be careful. You had better be careful, because it has a significant mark on it that it is divine, that it is eternal.
Anybody can take up money, and some of them do it very well. I am the worst person at that. Every time I have mentioned the budget being low, we have had the lowest offering we have had in months. I am really gifted at that! But you have a lot of people who can take up money who don’t know Christ. Have you ever been to a political rally? Do you think they can’t take up money?
Anybody can organize and call it a gift, call it a ministry and call it an effect. As a matter of fact, there are seminars in church growth today that say that if you stabilize the church with organization and you put this guy here and this guy here and you do this, you do that, you will have these results. And they are absolutely wooing pastors all over our country. Pastors are going away thinking that if they are properly organized then they somehow can fabricate the very effect that only God can produce. That is hogwash. You can’t do it.
So how do you know when it is God and when it is man, because man can be pretty smart? How do you know it is man and when it is God? First Corinthians 12:6 tells us, “And there are varieties of effects.” In other words, the effects are going to be as different as the giving of the gifts. They are going to be uneven. You see, this is why you can’t measure these effects. You may have a guy down in Louisiana serving Christ with a heart that is bigger than anybody in this room, but you will never know about him and you will never read his book and you’ll never see him on television. But one day in heaven you’ll know who he is because God knows where he is. You can’t measure effects in churches like you can measure effects in businesses. Oh, if we could understand this.
People say to me, “Oh, you must be successful because the church is so big.” Listen, only eternity will tell whether or not that was God or man. You don’t measure effects by crowds, by how much is given, by all these kind of things. God measures those effects.
Dorie Van Stone spent eight years over in New Guinea and never saw a convert. Her board told her she wasn’t obedient to Christ and surrendered enough because she saw no converts. Well, now there are about 650,000 of them over there as a result of the seeds that were planted when she was there. You see how people try to measure these effects. They are given unevenly, and God is the one who gives them.
“And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” Now, we want to key in on the last phrase, “the same God who works all things in all persons.” The word for “works” there is the word energeo, which literally means to energize something.
Now I want to explain something to you. Let’s take a little sidetrack here, in case you don’t understand this. The Christian life is not you getting saved and trying to do things for God and impress Him with your results until He comes for the church. That is not the Christian life. The Christian life is not only God saving you from the penalty of sin, but God taking residence in your life to daily save you from the power of sin. He came in, not only to renew you, but also to replace you. This is God we are talking about. These gifts come from Him. It is His ministry through us. That is Christianity.
Suppose you hold a coat up and I say to the sleeve, “Sleeve, you raise your arm up.” That coat just hangs there like an idiot. It can’t raise its arm up. There is nothing in the coat to make it raise it up. But if you put that coat on, life comes inside the coat. Now say to that same sleeve, “Sleeve, raise up.” And it raises up. Why? Because of the coat? No, because of the life energizing the coat. That is effects, folks. That is God inside of us, effecting a ministry that you could never in a million years take credit for and giving effect that makes you want to bow down before Him for all eternity that we would ever think for a second that God could use us.
Well, if He comes to live in us, you can’t separate that from spiritual gifts. He is the energizing force in us. He is the person who energizes the gift. He is the person who energizes the ministry. He is the person who energizes its effect. He fills all in all. And I’ll tell you what, the effect is that when it is finished, then the attention is not drawn to us, the attention is drawn to Him. It is God the Father who causes the divine effects. He is the same God who works all things in all persons.
Now, there can be no more comprehensive statement made of God in scripture than the phrase “the same God who works all things in all persons.” Actually, the word “persons” is not in the context. It is, “the same God who works all things in all.” Persons are included, but it doesn’t exclude other things. God is in charge of everything, if you haven’t realized that yet. As a matter of fact, have you ever studied over in Samuel when it talks about a messenger, a demon of Satan who was sent from God? Does that ever kind of knock your theology? Or over when Paul said a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him? Do you realize God even has Satan on a leash? He doesn’t originate what he does, but He takes what he does and He even uses it to work into His own plan. God is a sovereign God. He works all in all. He is in charge of this whole thing.
He is in charge of our country right now. He is in charge of our President right now. That is why we have to get in touch with Him, because His character is consistent and biblical and solid. That is who God is. And so we just surrender to Him because He works all in all.
Now that phrase is found again over in 1 Corinthians 15:28. It is an interesting phrase because it points to His millennial reign. I know some of you don’t believe in the thousand year millennium, but that’s okay. If you say we are in it right now, that is alright, you enjoy it, but I am going to enjoy the next one that is coming because I believe there is one, when Christ rules and reigns on this earth.
In 1 Corinthians 15:28 he says, “And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God [the totality of God] may be all in all.” Now in that passage he is pointing to the future that has not taken place. There will be no question that God is in control, that God is filling all and working all in all.
But the question comes in the context, “How is He now, present day, working all in all?” What does that mean? Well, the “all things” in our text of verse 6 has to be the gifts, the ministries and the effects. It has to be. That is what he is talking about. He works all things in all things. He is the God who works all things in all persons. He is in control of ministry. You see, what we have got to get in our mind is Christ is with the Father, but His Spirit is still here on earth, and He lives in us. God is still working. God is still ministering. God is still doing down here on this earth. How, Wayne? Through the people who believe in Him, through the people in whom He resides. He has given the gifts, He has given the ministries, He has given the effects.
That is why when we taught the course Experiencing God at our church so many people said, “Wow, where have we been?” That has been the ministry we have had for 17 years, but somebody finally put it in a book form. God, who is always working all things in all, He is the one who says, “Would you like to be involved with Me? Would you like to be a part of what I am doing?” Oh, yes, Lord. Do we have to get a committee? “Kill the committee. I loved the world so I didn’t send a committee. Let’s don’t have a committee, but you individually get surrendered to Me.” That is the whole secret of the Christian life. You, you, you, all of us, get surrendered. Bail out. Abandon to Him. And then God draws you in to what He wants to do in the church. It all speaks of Him. It doesn’t speak of us. You can’t stand up at the end of the year and give the State of the Church. He has to stand up and give the State of the Church. He is the only one who energizes the gift, energizes the ministry and energizes the effect.
Now, this truth shows us why no human can ever take credit for anything that God does through his life. God’s character remains the same, but His ways are varied. He will not work the same in me as He will in somebody else. There is no formula here except surrender and attaching ourselves to Him.
The word pas means “all.” He works all in all. The first “all” there, panta, has the idea that it could be corporate or it could be individually. There are churches that have a worldwide ministry. There are churches that God just seeks to do a powerful work through, but there are other churches that have more of a narrow ministry right where they are. Again, just like the pastors, you will never know much about them, but God is using them. And one day when we stand before Him, it won’t be measured like the world measures anything. It will be measured the way God says it will be measured.
So, “all” could refer individually or corporately. Not a single gift can work independently of the Giver. All of them work together corporately. And when they do, they are harmonized by the Giver in the life of the church which spreads to the life in the world, to the individual, and their effects can never be predicted. Nobody can predict because it is God doing it. It is not man doing it, it is God doing it through man.
God divides His gifts to execute His total central plan. He has got a plan and a purpose on this earth. There will be effects, but those effects will speak of Him. Just because one is organized does not mean he has the gift of organization. Just because one can speak does not mean he has the gift of speaking. God has to energize the gift. God has to energize the ministry. And it is God who energizes the effect. If it is truly God’s effect, then it will point back to Him and never point to us.
So many people today in churches have the mentality that if we just get the world’s idea of the right man and put him in that position and all this kind of stuff, we could do it for God and He will bless it. Somebody said years ago that said the Holy Spirit could leave the average Baptist Church for six months and nobody would ever miss Him because nobody depends on Him anyway. Who needs the Holy Spirit when you have a committee? God gives the gift. God gives the ministry. And God gives the effect. You may never be able to measure that effect down here on this earth.
The fallacy of spiritual gifts
Well, we see the focus, the fabric, the function, the followup and then finally, the fallacy of spiritual gifts. Here is the fallacy that I believe most people make errors in, particularly the Corinthian church. I want you to look over at Ephesians 4:3 before we go any further in this. It speaks of the character of the Holy Spirit that you don’t find anywhere else. This is beautiful to me. It tells one of the major things that the Holy Spirit does. Not only does He edify others, but He unifies others. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:3 says, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Now I want you to notice Paul did not say “produce it.” It said to “preserve it.” When the Holy Spirit produces that love which is His fruit, the Holy Spirit will produce a unity. When the gifts are being ministered and when the effects are there and they are God’s effects, it causes the body to come together. It causes the body to be built up. It causes the body to be unified.
Now listen, if you are saying your gift is of the Holy Spirit and you are actively dividing others because of your gift, you are not measure to what Paul says here.
Look in 1 Corinthians 12:7. Here is the key that I want you to see. To me, this is the guideline that sums up everything we have said. Verse 7 reads, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Now the word “each one” means each one. Nobody is left out. Every member of the body of Christ has been given a gift. Through that gift, God has ordered a ministry and through that ministry, God determines the effect.
I might remind you again that there are no selfish organs in a healthy body. We have said that once and we will say it twice. The literal ending of the verse in the Greek should be “toward the profiting.” It is translated “for the common good,” and that is okay. There are three Greek words in that phrase—pro, which means toward something; tow, which is a definite article and identifies something; and then the word sumphero, which comes from two words, sum and phero, which means to bring together. In other words, to bring together toward the bringing together of the body. That is where you get the idea that it is profiting the body. The gifts do not divide the body. The gifts unify the body; the gifts edify the body.
You may ask, “Why are you hammering on that?” Because, there are gifts today that are doing more dividing in the body of Christ than they are uniting the body of Christ. I am trying to show you something. He has given us a grid. Just look at this grid. You say, “Well, you said that the gift has got to ministered to others.” I didn’t say that. He said it. “Well, if you are saying the gift then unifies the body, there are all kinds of divisions even in my family over what I say is my gift.” Listen, whatever experience you are having, don’t put it in 1 Corinthians 12, because the guidelines are as clear as the nose on your face. It is toward the profiting. And the idea is to bringing people together, not to divide them, but to unify and to edify.
Now what was going on in Corinth? Do you think they were being unified? Do you think they really had a grasp of spiritual gifts? In 11:18 Paul says, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church,” now he speaks specifically of having the Lord’s Supper, but this is more broad than that. He says, “I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it.” Whatever they were doing, saying it was influenced by the Holy Spirit of God, was in no way unifying and in no way edifying the body of Christ. They were divisive. And their gifts, that they said were influenced by the Holy Spirit of God, was nothing more than fleshly ability that they were attributing credit to God.
Paul is teaching us the guidelines. Our focus has got to be the Giver, not the gift, because if you don’t, you will always wonder why your ministry is not what somebody else’s is or what effect here, or what gift you have. Hey, it is God. Listen, if we can just catch this—if you are under grace, then anything less than hell is grace—why in the world are we worried about how many gifts we have or how big or little our ministry is? Just be thankful to be a part of the whole thing. You didn’t seek after God, God sought after you. And thank God He lets us experience what He wants us to experience.
Our understanding must be that the Holy Spirit is the fabric. And if He is the fabric that gives all the gifts, even though they are multicolored, there is the fruit that wraps it around. How many times I have been guilty of doing what I do in the flesh and God was nowhere around. This has been the thing that has been the most fearful thing in approaching 1 Corinthians 12, because I know the differences of opinion. I have two big worries: One is, I know some people who differ. But that is not my biggest worry. My biggest worry is, I can hammer you if you give me half a chance. I will embarrass you, but that is my flesh. I have had to pray like never before that the love of God somehow will couch the words that we are saying so we can understand that they edify and unify. They do not divide the body of Christ.
Well, the function of the gifts is for others. The followup of the gifts, they will have a divine effect, and you may not be able to measure them down here. Don’t be so quick to say this is God. Israel thought their prosperity was God in the Old Testament, but it was judgment, it wasn’t His blessing. Fifthly, the fallacy of the gifts is one cannot say that they have gift when that gift is dividing rather than edifying and building up the body of Christ and unifying the body of Christ. Rules are important. Guidelines are important. Boundaries are important particularly when you come to talking about spiritual gifts. Whatever feeling we have, whatever experience we have, it must check out with scripture.