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Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12



Beginning at 1 Corinthians 12:1 is one of the most interesting, important, and controversial sections of Scripture -- the section relative to spiritual gifts. In order to interpret the meaning and the use of spiritual gifts, I want to pursue this subject from the teaching aspect, being concerned about supporting each position and each view carefully.

A. The Basis of the Church

Nothing has been more abused and misunderstood in evangelical Christianity than this whole area of spiritual gifts. It is critical that we understand it because it is absolutely vital to the life of the church. There is nothing more vital apart from the divine energy of God Himself than the ministry that the believers have by way of their spiritual gifts from God for ministry.

1. The Misconceptions of the Church

Some people think that the church is a visible religious organization governed by a heirarchy of semiofficial-type people. Other people think that the church is an efficient social or quasi-social agency designed to disperse to the community those things that will meet their needs. Other people think that the church is the building going up across the street that they would like to stop from being built. Other people think that the church is a useful place to go if you die, get married, have a baby, or want to get baptized. Some people think that the church is nothing more than a social club -- a group of people who all agree about the same things religiously and then get together and have parties. In some sense there is an element of truth in all of those views.

2. The Make-up of the Church

May it be established at the very beginning of our study that biblically the church is seen as a living organism. It is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of that living body. It is the fullness of Him that fills all in all (Eph. 1:23). The church is not a human institution or an earthly organization -- it is an organism, and as such it is eternal. The church cannot die -- it is eternal and supernatural. Its head is Christ, who lives forevermore. Its members are believers who have been given eternal life. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said that the gates of hell could not destroy the church. It is indestructible, eternal, and supernatural. This supernatural character becomes manifest in many ways:

a. Its Supernatural Manifestations

We worship a supernatural God. We believe in a supernatural intervention in human history in terms of the revelation of God's Word and of the living Christ. We believe in a supernatural Holy Spirit who indwells us. We are the result of a supernatural transformation that has made us new creatures. And we have been given by the Holy Spirit a supernatural endowment of gifts, by which we can minister within the organism to the building and edifying of the church, until it comes to the fullness of the stature of Christ and has a powerful witness in the world.

b. Its Spiritual Gifts

1) Their Critical Function

Since the church has been endowed by the Spirit of God with supernatural gifts for its ministry of edification and evangelism, they then become critical to its operation. That is why we must understand spiritual gifts and understand that Satan counterfeits them. He counterfeits them because they are absolutely necessary to the life and function of the church.

The church is not a spectator sport and it is not professional pulpitism financed by lay spectators who sit and watch it happen. The church is a living, breathing organism that functions as life and breath on the basis of the ministry of each member to minister to the others. This is why the church is seen as a body and every one of us as a member of that body. We have a function in harmony and symphony with every other member. So, it is critical that we understand how it works, how we operate within it, and how the spiritual gifts function in order that the church might be built up. We must also understand how Satan counterfeits and how to recognize the counterfeit as opposed to the genuine gift. The end result of the counterfeit is the tearing down of the church and not the building up.

2) The Clarifying Questions

There are many questions that surround spiritual gifts: What are spiritual gifts? How many are there? Are they important? How many do I have? How do I get them? How do I know what they are? Can I seek certain gifts? How do I understand the purpose of gifts? What about miraculous gifts like languages and healing, are they still in operation? What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Does every Christian possess the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Are all the gifts still in operation? If not, which ones still are, how did the others cease, and why? Can the gifts be counterfeited? What is the most important gift? All of these questions need to be dealt with in order to understand the subject.

B. The Background of the Corinthian Church

Now, an understanding of the situation in the Corinthian church is basic to an understanding of the whole picture regarding spiritual gifts. This is the normal process of historical, grammatical interpretation. We have to know what Paul said and we have to know what was meant by it in the time in which it was said. So, we have to reconstruct some history.

The Corinthian church was established by the Apostle Paul during his second missionary journey (Ac. 18). He spent eighteen months there and during that time he established the saints, built up the church, fought his enemies, and then at the end of that time he left. Later, they had other pastors who came to minister to them, with some distinction, but Paul's ministry was foundational.

1. The Problems in Corinth

Not long after Paul left, severe moral and spiritual problems developed in the Corinthian church. They were so severe in fact, that this first letter to the Corinthians deals exclusively with these problems.

a. The Source of Paul's Information

You say, "Where did Paul find out about the problems?" He had three basic sources:

1) 1 Corinthians 1:11 -- Paul said that some of the household of Chloe came and told him about them.

2) 1 Corinthians 16:17 -- "I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus; for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied." Here are three people who came from the Corinthian assembly with information regarding the church.

3) 1 Corinthians 7:1a -- "Now concerning the things about which ye wrote unto me...." Apparently those three folks brought a letter which asked further questions.

From these three particular sources the Apostle Paul was informed about the problems that were occurring in this assembly. In response to the letter, the information from Chloe and the three others, he begins in the first chapter to write and solve these problems on paper, giving them the information for solving them in actuality.

b. The Severity of Their Problems

Now, it is inconceivable that any one church could have manifested these problems to the degree that the Corinthian church did. For example:

1) Their Crimes Against the Spirit

a) Divisions (1:10-11)

b) Human wisdom (1:18-25)

c) Human personality cliques (1:12-17)

d) Carnality (3:1-9)

e) Sexual perversion -- fornication and incest (5:1-8; 6:12-20)

f) Worldliness (5:9-13)

g) Lawsuits (6:1-8)

h) Rebellion against apostolic authority (4:1-21)

i) Marital conflict (7:1-40)

j) Unmarried conflicts (7:1-40)

k) Abuse of liberty (8:1-13; 10:23-33)

l) Idolatry (8:4-13; 10:1-22)

m) Pride (8:1-3; 10:12)

n) Selfishness (11:17-22)

o) Demon worship (10:19-22)

p) Insubordination of women (11:2-16)

q) Abuses of God's intended roles for men and women (11:2-16)

r) Abuses of the Lord's Supper and love feast (11:17-34)

s) Abuses and perversions of spiritual gifts (12:1-14:40)

Just as the Corinthians had perverted everything else in their assembly, they were perverting the dimension of spiritual gifts in their life.

2) Their Corruption from Society

They had managed to drag into their church life all of the features of their former pagan existence. They had not made a clear-cut separation -- they had not come out from among the world to be separate. They had not ceased to handle unclean things, but managed to drag them all into the assembly even though they were rich in spiritual gifts. First Corinthians 1:7a says, "So that ye come behind in no gift...." In other words, they had everything, they lacked nothing, they had a fullness of all the gifts. Yet, in spite of all that, with all the knowledge they should have had, and with all the gifts they did have, they were ignorant of how they should function...especially regarding the gift of languages (called tongues in our day, but biblically the word is languages).

3) Their Confusion of the Spirit

Further, the concept of the Holy Spirit dominated their thinking and they confused the manifestation of the Holy Spirit with ecstatic, enthusiastic activity.

a) Their Exploitation

For example, somebody who stood up in the congregation and gave an utterance (whether it was a language, prophecy, or an interpretation) seemed to them to be more godly the more wild and the more miraculous the utterance appeared. So, the gift of languages became the one that was exploited. The ecstatic speaking that occurred as if it were the true gift of languages was then given credence as the highest degree of spiritual maturity because it demonstrated the greatest manifestation of an outside power. It could not be identified with any normal faculty of man. They tended to lean toward that which was more bizzare and far out. This carnal concept was a remnant of their unsaved, idolatrous days when ecstatic utterances made by pagan priests and worshipers under the control of a demon were thought to be the highest level of religious experience. That is the kind of culture they lived in and it had been dragged into the assembly.

b) Their Extremism

Now, from the very start of His ministry the Holy Spirit had been doing amazing things in their midst. The gifts were there in concert, ready for a divine symphony of body life to edify the church. They had seen Him manifest. But in that age in which they lived -- an age when religion was connected with ecstasy, frenzy, and bizzare things -- that kind of hysterical enthusiasm and extremism that existed in their pagan religion was dragged into the church and became a delusion regarding the work of the Spirit.

2. The Prominence of the Mystery Religion

Now, in their culture they had a certain kind of religion that we call "the mystery religion." These mystery religions had as a characteristic of their function these kinds of frenzies, ecstasies, and enthusiasms.

a. Its Infiltration of Corinth

When these things infiltrated the church, it was easy for them, in their carnal state, to confuse them with the true gifts of the Holy Spirit. It isn't surprising that this happened. For example:

1) Divisions

In their church there were divisions. Where did those divisions come from? They resulted from the dragging in of the things from the world that they held to before they were saved. For example:

a) Philosophers

The Corinthians were enamored with philosophers. They learned to have personality cults in their culture. They would worship one philosopher over another. So when they came into the church, they did the same thing, saying, "I am of Paul; or I, of Apollos; or I, of Cephas; or I, of Christ" (1 Cor. 1:12b). They created more personality cults.

b) Philosophies

In their pagan life they also identified with different philosophies. It was a big thing in Greek culture to argue philosophy. When they entered the church they argued about the words of human wisdom. Paul said, "I didn't come to you with human wisdom. The natural man with all his human wisdom cannot understand the things of God" (1 Cor. 2:1, 14).

They dragged all of their human philosophies and their human personality cults into the church and polarized that mentality.

2) Sex

The name of the city, Corinth, became a verb, "to Corinthianize." It meant "to go to bed with a prostitute." That is what others thought of Corinth because that was the kind of culture it had. So, what happened in the church? They dragged that same morality into the church. According to chapter 5, a person was having sexual relations with his stepmother. In chapter 6 people were joining themselves to prostitutes. The same thing they had known in their pagan life they dragged into their church assembly.

3) Lawsuits

According to 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, they loved to go to court. To them it was a sport to go to court and to dialogue. When they became Christians they still sued each other, again dragging the same mentality from the world into the assembly of believers.

4) Marital Conflict

Another thing we see in their society was the terrible decline and fouling up of marriages. Chapter 7 deals with this problem which they dragged in from the world.

5) Abuse of Liberty

According to chapters 8-10, they abused their liberty because they had come from an existential society where anything was all right. When they came into the church they started doing whatever they wanted, no matter how it affected anyone. Paul said, "You have to limit your liberty for the sake of another" (1 Cor. 8:9).

6) Feminism

They even had a feminist revolution come into the church. Women wouldn't wear veils or allow themselves to be covered, which was a symbol of modesty.

Everything that was a part of their carnal lives manifested itself in their church. If all of this was present, we can assume that their pagan style of religion would also manifest itself in their assembly under the guise of their carnality. That is precisely what happened. The world's religion infiltrated the life of the church. They began to do things with new definitions and terms within the confines of Christianity, doing the same things they were doing before they ever knew Christ, and calling them gifts of the Holy Spirit.

b. Its Impact on the World

1) The Single Origin

They worshiped under a system known as "the mystery religions." For over a thousand years these religions dominated Western culture. There were many forms of the mystery religions, but they can all be traced back to a single origin.

a) The Final Form

In order to understand this, we need to look at Revelation 17:5. It discusses the final form of world religion. By the end of the Tribulation the true church is long gone and the world begins to establish a form of religion. This composite form of world religion comes together under one heading called, "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." The final form of world religion is called Mystery Babylon.

The mystery religions came out of Babylon. All false worship stems back to the Tower of Babel. So when this religion comes together at the end it is just a final form of the Babylonian false system. Notice that Mystery Babylon (i.e., the false religion that began at the Tower of Babel), is the mother of all other false systems. The true church is the bride, the false one is a harlot. The harlot religious systems were spawned and mothered by Babylon and they will regroup again in the end time.

b) The First Form

The Tower of Babel was man's first sophisticated, organized counterfeit of true religion (Gen. 11:9). This tower was built to God, and Nimrod was the patriarchal apostate who set it all up. He was the grandson of Ham, who was the son of Noah. They established a false system of religion as a counterfeit to the truth. Every false system since then was spawned out of that. Why? When God judged those people He scattered them all over the world and they took with them the seeds of false religion begun at Babel. They adapted it, altered it, sophisticated it even more, changed it here and there, and added to it so that it became complex in various cultures. But the seeds of it all were at Babel and that is why Mystery Babylon is called the mother of all false systems.

2) The Sophisticated Rites

Those in Greece would have known about this system of religion. They would have been worshiping the same system with some sophistication. They had all kinds of sophisticated rites and rituals. For example, they believed in...

a) Baptismal regeneration -- They believed that people were saved by being baptized in water, so they had systematic baptisms.

b) Sacrificial systems -- They mainly slaughtered pigs, lambs, dogs, and birds.

c) Feasts and fasts

d) Mutilations and flagellations -- These came from the mystery system.

3) The Specifics of Ecstasy

a) An Explanation of Its Effect

There was one thing that was characteristic about the mystery religions that found their way into Greece -- they indulged in what they called ecstasy. Ecstasy is not what you feel when you kiss your girl friend. The word is ecstasis in the Greek and means to "cultivate a magical, sensuous communion with deity." In other words, they would do anything they could to get themselves in a semiconscious, hallucinatory, hypnotic spell in order to sensually commune with their deity and have a euphoric feeling. They assumed that this was a union with God.


An Historical Description of Ecstasy

I want to give you some quotes from S. Angus, who has a significant book entitled The Mystery-Religions (New York: Dover Publications, 1975, pp. 100-01), in which he writes as a historian and very objectively about this subject. These are normal, routine, well-known facts about these systems. It is important to understand how these systems operated because they were the basis of the mess in Corinth.

"The mystes was brought into a mystic ineffable condition in which the normal functions of personality were in abeyance and the moral strivings which form character virtually ceased or were relaxed, while the emotional and intuitive were accentuated." Here is a situation in which a person enters into a condition where his personality becomes abnormal, where his normal morality is set aside so that he indulges in orgies, and where his brain goes into neutral and emotion takes over. This is ecstasy.

"These states were Ecstasy (ecstasis) and Enthusiasm (enthousiasmos)...." Enthusiasm, in our society, means something different. We define enthusiasm as "giving something your all," but that is not the Greek meaning. It is a state of euphoria induced on someone to make them semiconscious.

He goes on to say, "...both of which might be induced by vigil and fasting, tense religious expectancy, whirling dances, physical stimuli, the contemplation of the sacred objects, the effect of stirring music, inhalation of fumes, revivalistic contagion (such as happened in the church at Corinth), hallucination, suggestion, and all the other means belonging to the apparatus of the Mysteries." They could induce this ecstasy through many ways: By vigil and fasting -- that is contemplative; by tense religious expectancy --whipping people into some kind of anticipation; by the stirring effect of music; and by inhaling certain fumes such as incense. Some do that today in order to create a euphoric state.

"These two kindred abnormal states of consciousness, often indistinguishable, are united by Proclus when he speaks of men `going out of themselves to be wholly established in the Divine and to be enraptured.'

"In ecstasy the devotee was lifted above the level of his ordinary experience into an abnormal consciousness of an exhilarating condition in which the body ceased to be a hindrance to the soul. Ecstasy might be of a passive character resembling a trance, or of an active orgiastic character of excitation resembling what Plato calls `divine frenzy.' According to the means of induction, the temperament of the initiate, and his spiritual history, ecstasy might range anywhere from non-moral delirium to that consciousness of oneness with the Invisible and the dissolution of painful individuality which marks the mystics of all ages." He is saying that in ecstasy a person can go into all different kinds of responses in a trancelike way.

"For example: the guru who sits and crosses his legs and goes into oblivion creates a form of ecstasy in his mind. The ultimate aim in life for the Buddhist is to enter nirvana --a state of total nothingness where he contemplates himself out of existence. Then there are the whirling dervishes and the mad, wild frenzies of ecstasy of other religions that end in orgies. This goes back to Baal. You see it even today. Some are "slain" in the spirit and fall flat into a trance. Then there are those who used to be called "Holy Rollers," running wild and frenzied.

"In ecstasy, in the freeing of the soul from the hampering confinement of the body, in its communion with the deity, powers arise within it of which it knows nothing in the daily life hampered by the body. It now becomes free as spirit to hold communion with spirits: also released from transiency, it is endowed with capacities to behold what only the eyes of the spirit can behold, that which is removed beyond time and space." This euphoria creates a tremendously good feeling. People say, "This is fantastic! We have communed with the deity!" That is exactly what people are saying today -- it is the result of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit. Their conclusion is: "I felt so good! I never felt this way before. It has to be God." I know of people who can snort cocaine, smoke dope, shoot heroin, or get drunk and still feel better than the people who seek ecstasy. That is not the criteria. When this artificial euphoria is created, the assumption is made that they must have connected up with God.

"Physically the condition was one of anaesthesia, unconscious of pain or of anything hostile or disconcerting in the surroundings." Have you ever noticed that when someone goes to a healer with terrible pain and walks away feeling nothing, he is found to be in agony a day later because there is created a euphoric, anaesthetic response in the mind? "There is ample evidence that the Bacchae, for example, were insensate to pain and endued with preternatural strength; so also were the priests of Cybele and the priests and priestesses of Ma. This anaesthesia to pain is a religious phenomenon known in all ages, especially in great revivals, and in many forms, from that of the Indian Yogi to the Christian martyr whose ecstasy took away the terrors of agonizing death by imparting miraculous fortitude. We may assume that this semi- physical, semi-psychic state was much coveted by the initiates.... To be lifted above sense to behold the beatific vision and become `incorporate in' God was the end sought in ecstasy, and the satisfaction sought, or derived, was of various kinds, physical or sensuous, aesthetic and intellectual.

"Enthusiasm was the kindred state of communion often accompanying and confused with ecstasy. Under Enthusiasm were included by the Greeks all forms of Mantic, or prophecy and soothsaying, also revelations in dreams and visions, such revelations being the direct utterances of the deity." In all forms of enthusiasm there is the same underlying idea: God is involved.

Now, those two things (ecstasy and enthusiasm) made up the system of religion in which the Corinthians had lived and grown. When they became believers they stayed the same because they were not spiritual but carnal. They manifested the same type of religious behavior as they had every other dimension of the world by dragging this into their assembly. Their kind of religion was ecstatic, orgiastic frenzy. It was chaotic and confusing. Paul says, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). In addition, he says, "...Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Cor. 14:26b).

b) An Example of Its Effect

Suppose that you were a visitor in Corinth, and you say to your wife, "Let's go to church today. Let's attend the First church of Corinth." So you go and arrive right on time at the place they meet, but all the rich people have already been there an hour and finished the love feast. There is nothing left for you or the poor who are just arriving because they get there later from work. Then you notice that they are not only gluttonous but drunk, while all the poor people are sitting on the other side of the room with their stomachs gnawing. As a result, there is a great division.

Then somebody brings up a certain issue and they argue about it. The drunks are loud and obnoxious and you are saying to yourself, "This is a funny church we are in." Then they abuse the Lord's Supper -- drinking too much and eating it up. It turns into a mockery. When that is ended they begin the regular service and everyone stands up yelling, hollering, and talking at the same time. People are speaking in ecstatic utterances, someone is trying to give a prophecy, and someone is singing a song. Then they give you the little brochure, "Welcome to the First church of Corinth." If you happen to have an unbelieving guest with you he would go away saying, "These people are out of their minds!"

3. The Perception of the Source

This is exactly what was happening in Corinth. That is why Paul says, "...that ye come together, not for the better but for the worse" (1 Cor. 11:17b). Paul has to try to straighten out their mess. One of the reasons I believe that the true gift of languages is simply languages and not ecstatic babble, is God would never give a gift that is the same as Satan uses. So, Greek religion invaded the Corinthian assembly and they wrote the letter saying, "Would you please tell us how we can tell what is good and what is bad."

a. The Dilemma

I read a book written by a Pentecostal writer who said that when someone stands up and gives a divine utterance we know one of two things: It is either of God or it is not. But that leaves you with a small dilemma and it was exactly where the Corinthians were at.

b. The Declaration

So, Corinth was filled with priests, priestesses, soothsayers, and people in ecstasy and enthusiasm claiming divine power and divine inspiration. They were carnal and had dragged all this mess into the church. They expected the Holy Spirit to work because He had promised to work. They knew that Joel 2:28b had begun to be fulfilled: "...I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." They knew Jesus had told the disciples that when the Spirit came, amazing things would happen -- people would speak with new languages (Mk. 16:17). In John 14-16, Jesus promised to send the Spirit. In Acts 1:5b, before He ascended, He said, " shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." They were expecting it, but when it did happen they were confused by Satan.

c. The Delusion

Now, 1 Corinthians is one of the earliest written letters in the New Testament. It didn't take long for Satan to confuse the issues because he doesn't waste any time. When someone says to me, "Look what happened. It must be of the Spirit," they are assuming that Satan doesn't counterfeit. I talked with a leader in the modern Pentecostal movement who said to me, "You can't deny this experience." I said, "When that experience occurs, do you always, without question, know it is of God? Be honest." "No." "Could it be of Satan?" "Yes." "How do you tell the difference?" He had no answer. That is exactly where the Corinthians were at.

d. The Disclosure

Now, what was the question they asked Paul? They probably said something like this: "Paul, we have so many richly gifted people in our church, but the problem is everyone wants to do everything at the same time. Then we have all kinds of wild things happening and it's causing confusion. Could you help us solve our problem?" So he begins to solve their problem in verse one.


A. The Concern of Paul (v. 1)

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant."

Paul says, "I don't want you to be ignorant. I don't want you to be agnostics. I want you to understand this subject." Why? The church can't function without the operation of spiritual gifts -- that is how the Holy Spirit operates and how the body is built. In addition, Satan is counterfeiting it, so you can't be ignorant. But you cannot base your understanding on experience because you can't be that perceptive. The Corinthians admitted that they were not. The spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church were not being used in the way God intended. Instead of unifying the body, they were splitting the body.

1. An Infallible Source

a. "Now concerning..."

Paul's first point was in 1 Corinthians 11:18, when he dealt with abuses of the Lord's Supper. When he says, "Now," he he uses the Greek particle de as a transition to his second point: "In the second place, you are abusing your fellowship concerning spiritual gifts, and I do not want you to be ignorant."

b. "...spiritual gifts..."

The only word that appears in the actual text is "spiritual," because "gifts" is implied. So the verse should read, "Now concerning spirituals, brethren, I would not have you ignorant."

1) The Definition

Now, spirituals is pneumatikon in the Greek. This is a simple word. You can understand a lot about its meaning by understanding the word. Pneuma is "Spirit," and any time there is an ikos or ika or ikon ending on a Greek word it means "characterized by" or "controlled by." So, pneumatikon would be "characterized or controlled by the Spirit." The verse now reads, "Now concerning certain things characterized or controlled by the Spirit, brethren...."

2) The Determination

What are these things? Some say he is talking about spiritual persons. In other words, the carnal people are the subjects of the first eleven chapters while the spiritual people are the subjects of the remaining chapters. The spiritual people are the ones who speak in tongues and have the gifts. Does it mean spiritual people? The important question is: Is the word in the neuter or the masculine? We don't know; it is the same form for both. So, it could be spiritual persons if masculine, or spiritual things if neuter. How can we tell which one is correct?

The only way is to look at 1 Corinthians 14:1, where the same term is used in the same context. Paul says to follow after love and desire "spirituals." This time it is a distinct neuter form. So, the word here has to refer to spiritual things. Then he goes on to talk about prophesying and speaking in languages. The spiritual things he is talking about in chapter 14 are gifts. Therefore, we will assume that since the word is neuter in verse 1 of chapter 14, it is neuter in verse 1 of chapter 12 because the context is the same.

3) The Differences

What are these spiritual things? Verse 4 calls them "diversities of gifts." He is not referring to spiritual people, but gifts. The word pneumatikos appears twenty-six times in the New Testament. Twenty-five of those times it means "characterized or controlled by the Holy Spirit." One time it is used in reference to Satan (Eph. 6:12).

You can learn a lot about spiritual gifts from that word because it tells you spiritual gifts are controlled by the Spirit. Paul's use of this word is one of five different terms he uses to refer to gifts. In verse 4 the word "gifts" is charisma in the Greek. It means that they are received by grace. You can't earn them. In verse 5 he uses the word "administrations." In the Greek it is diakonia, which means "serve." This word indicates that spiritual gifts are used to serve. In verse 6 he uses "operations." The Greek word, energeo, refers to energy, which means the gifts are energized by God. (The Greek word phanerosis is "manifestation" in verse 7 and is the fifth word Paul uses.)

So, spiritual gifts are controlled by the Spirit, given by grace from God, used to serve the body, and empowered by the Lord. The different terms that he uses each have a different emphasis. In verse 1 they are simply spirituals -- those things under the control of and characterized by the Spirit.

2. An Intelligent Understanding

"...I would not have you ignorant."

This verse is what we would call an idiom. It is a Greek idiom for something that is super emphatic. Paul reserved it for the times he wanted to say something very important like, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are asleep..." (1 Thess. 4:13a). Here he is referring to the Rapture. In Romans 1:13 he says, "Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you...that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles." He did not want them ignorant about the impetus he had for preaching the gospel. In Romans 11:25 he did not want them ignorant about Israel and the plan God has for its restoration.

So, I want you to understand spiritual gifts. I don't want you to be ignorant about them. You say, "Why?" The church cannot mature or function without them. Satan will also try to counterfeit them -- to confuse, cause chaos, and split the church. And this is exactly what has happened today. You must understand how to minister your gifts and to distinguish between what is and what isn't a gift.

There is a lot of ignorance today concerning spiritual gifts. It manifests itself in the abuse of gifts -- ignoring them, neglecting them, overemphasizing the wrong ones, and confusing them with counterfeits. Paul says that this ignorance has to end. Hopefully the Spirit of God will direct us in the understanding of spiritual gifts so that the ignorance will come to an end.

Focusing on the Facts

1. What are some of the more common misconceptions regarding the church? What is the correct perspective? What does this tell us about the nature of the church? 

2. How does the church manifest itself supernaturally? 

3. What is the function of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ? Why does Satan try to counterfeit them? 

4. How was the Corinthian church established? 

5. What happened to the Corinthian church after Paul left? How was he able to find out about the problems? 

6. What were some of the problems within the Corinthian assembly? 

7. How had the Corinthians managed to pervert spiritual gifts? Give two ways. 

8. Why did the gift of languages become exploited? 

9. What were some of the things from the world that infiltrated the Corinthian church? How did these manifest themselves? (see pp. xx- xx)

10. What is the final form of world religion called? What was the source of this final form? 

11. Why has every false system of religion since the Tower of Babel been spawned out of that very first system? 

12. Why is Semiramis I a very significant person in the development of false religious systems? why is Tammuz? What counterfeits of the truth involved Tammuz? 

13. What were some of the sophisticated rites connected with Greek religion? 

14. What was the purpose of ecstasy in the mystery religions? 

15. How was this ecstasy induced? 

16. Why did the Corinthians manifest this kind of religious behavior in the assembly? 

17. What is one possible reason that the gift of languages is not ecstatic babble? 

18. What was the dilemma facing the Corinthians? What was the question that they asked Paul? 

19. Why can't you base your understanding of how the Holy Spirit operates just on experience? 

20. What are spirituals? How are we able to determine what this word actually refers to? 

21. What are the five different terms Paul uses to describe spiritual gifts? What particular aspect of spiritual gifts does each describe? 

22. Why did Paul not want the Corinthians to be ignorant of spiritual gifts? 

Pondering the Principles

1. What is your view of the church? How do you view your function within the church? Read Ephesians 4:11-16. What is the purpose for every member of the body of Christ? What do you need to do in the areas of unity, Bible study, and speaking the truth in love in order to do your part in edifying the body of Christ? Prayerfully consider the aspects of your life you would like to see changed as a result of this study of spiritual gifts.

2. Review the list of problems that were prevalent in the church at Corinth.  Of these problems, which ones are you aware of, or are certain of, that are still a problem in the church today? Why are they still a problem? Why were they a problem in the Corinthian church? How can these problems be corrected? What part can you play in the correction of these problems? Ask God to give you wisdom in regards to your response to these problems. Remember, you are not the one responsible to make changes -- God is -- but your priority is to edify the body of Christ.

3. Look up the following verses: Romans 1:11; 7:14; 15:27; 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3-4; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44, 46; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 1:3; 5:19; Colossians 1:9; 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5. Each of these verses contain one of the uses of the word spirituals. In your own words, what do each of these verses say, given the definition that spiritual means "characterized or controlled by the Holy Spirit." Given this definition, what do you think carnal means? Examine your own life. Are you spiritual or carnal? Are you controlled by the Holy Spirit or not?

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