The Second Sunday After Epiphany January 16, 2005
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
1 John 3:24-4:6
761, 752, 400, 740, [TLH alt: 126, 227, 400, 50]
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
In Christ Jesus whose name we proclaim by using the gifts which the Spirit gives, dear fellow-redeemed:
If someone says, “I’m spiritual,” what does that mean? It apparently can mean a great number of things because people seem to say it all the time in news reports, magazine interviews, and personal conversations. A great many people with a great variety of faiths and backgrounds all describe themselves as spiritual. Self-acclaimed “spirituality” does not equal saving faith. It may be a spirituality that focuses on self or a false god.
When we talk about being spiritual or having spiritual gifts in the context of God’s Word, we are speaking of the things which the Holy Spirit works in us. Spiritual gifts are those gifts we have from the Holy Spirit. They are gifts we would not possess if not for the Holy Spirit living within us and working in our hearts. Martin Luther described this as the Holy Spirit enlightening us with His gifts (explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed). These are gifts that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and lives as faith grows and as He continues to sanctify us and set us apart from the sinful world.
These are the gifts of which Paul did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant, and neither should we be. DON"T BE IGNORANT OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS I. Know that spiritual gifts have been given to you II. Know that spiritual gifts are given for action and III. Know that spiritual gifts are given for service.
Your faith in Christ and confession of Him as your Savior is evidence of a spiritual gift. Paul told the Corinthians, “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.” [v.2] The Corinthians were Gentiles who had pursued their heathen gods. They had worshipped in pagan rituals. They had been blown every which way by false teachings and false beliefs. Now they confessed Christ! Now they believed in Him who is the Son of God. They believed that Jesus came and lived for them and died for them and now lives forever.
The Corinthians’ faith did not come from following their heathen gods. The Corinthians’ trust in Jesus did not come about because they pulled something up from deep within themselves. The Corinthians believed in Jesus as their one and only Savior and confessed Him because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” [v.3]
Without the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners we would not own nor even know our Savior. We would not have the forgiveness of sins which Jesus won for us because it is through the faith which the Holy Spirit creates that God brings Christ’s forgiveness to us. Our forgiveness of sins, our faith, our confidence, our salvation are all gifts of the Holy Spirit!
It is that gift of the Holy Spirit which God wants us to nurture within one another. Paul wrote to the Ephesians saying, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12,14-15).
We would be blown every which way if not for the course-steadying work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to individuals and Jesus sends them out to be pastors and teachers and other leaders in the Christian Church. The goal of these gifts is that we all be equipped for the ministry, that we all be edified and no longer tossed to and fro by every new fad and wind of doctrine. God desires that through the use of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament that we grow up in faith and in all aspects of our spiritual lives.
It is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we are able to maintain the truth and continue to confess the truth despite attacks. It is the Holy Spirit’s working that we are able to stand with the Word of God and with Christ at our side to defeat the Devil and his temptations. Writing to Timothy, Paul said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Being able to boldly confess our Lord in a world that hates Him, being able to understand the truth of God’s Word enough to confess him—these are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
There are a number of examples in Scripture of the change that the Holy Spirit brings upon an individual. One such example is Gideon. Israel had rejected God and He allowed an enemy nation, the Midianites, to oppress Israel. God called Gideon to be a deliverer and leader for His people. Gideon was hesitant and afraid, but, we are told, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon…” (Judges 6:34). Then Gideon courageously led the people in the Lord’s strength.
From the general giving of faith and spiritual courage, the Holy Spirit also works diversity. He gives differing gifts in differing measures to each of us. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” [v.4] We each have differing gifts together with differing weaknesses. As a result, our Christian lives don’t always look the same—we may be strong or we may be weak depending on the circumstances.
One of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives in diversified ways is the gift of discernment—the ability to use the knowledge and wisdom of God’s Word and apply it in everyday life. We may all struggle with this at times and some more than others. To some God gives a great measure of discernment. When He gives discernment in great measure it is not to be used with pride or gloating, but wisely for the blessing of others.
On Saturday, we’ll again come to the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion. This is a political issue and a moral issue. It is a common sense issue despite what you might hear in the media. It is also, to a degree, a matter of spiritual understanding. It takes spiritual discernment to know what God says about the unborn and apply it to the unborn in a womb. It takes spiritual understanding to know that when God says, “You shall not murder,” He means not to kill the babies in the womb as much as He means not to kill the 110-year-old who is bed bound and by world standards has outlived usefulness. People who do not have spiritual gifts because they are of the world and not of Christ will naturally struggle with the truth concerning abortion.
The gift of discernment is to be able to understand God’s Word and apply it to these types of social issues. The Holy Spirit working in your hearts builds those gifts. You have been given gifts of the Spirit. Those gifts will only grow and multiply as you use God’s Word and have the Holy Spirit working in your hearts.
Paul provides a wide ranging list of spiritual gifts in our text a wide ranging list of spiritual gifts in our text and then concludes, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” [v.11]
The Spirit gives His gifts as they are needed and according to His wisdom. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the gift to speak in many different languages. This was a gift needful at that time so that the Gospel could quickly be spread to the many people from many countries who were gathered in Jerusalem. Later, the gift of tongue-speaking was still given, but that particular gift had already begun to diminish by the time Paul wrote this letter. There were those who could speak in tongues but not always someone who could interpret them. As time continued, the gifts of healing and tongue speaking diminished more until our present day where we really don’t see the Spirit sending those gifts. Nevertheless, the Spirit continues to give gifts as they are needed for the unique circumstances of the Christian Church at any given time. He will continue to do so. “Do not be ignorant,” Paul says, “of these spiritual gifts.” Know that God has given spiritual gifts to you as your unique circumstance dictates and as God’s unique work for you unfolds.
Paul also says, “There are diversities of activities.” [v.6] Part of understanding our spiritual gifts is that they are given for action. They are not given to be put on a shelf, but to use, to activate, to stretch, to grow. Like muscles that are worked out and become sore—but by that exercise also grow—so we are to exercise our faith, stretch it, apply it and make use of it in day-to-day situations and the frustrations of life. The gifts of the Spirit—discernment, wisdom, knowledge—are given to be used and the ways we use them will be as varied as the gifts the Spirit gives.
If you have been given one set of spiritual gifts and someone else has another set, your activities will not be the same. You will not be called into the same roles, you will not have the same functions, but that does not make your activity any less important or any less part of the Gospel ministry.
Consider how many people respond negatively toward God’s direction concerning women in the church. We know from Scripture that God desires the leadership roles in a Christian congregation to be held by men. But this does not in any way diminish the spiritual gifts He gives to women. In no way does it suggest that women are unable to serve the Lord Christ while using their gifts for the work of God’s Kingdom. There are differences in activities according to the gifts that God gives and the roles He assigns in accordance with His will; but it is the same God who works all in all. God gives these gifts to be used actively with blessing and according to His will.
As we use these gifts of the Spirit actively, they are not to be used selfishly. Rather, we are to use them for service. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” [v.7]
We have all received spiritual gifts which we are to use actively for one another. Jesus said that He did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Likewise, the spiritual gifts God has given us follow the same model. They are not given to us so that we can lord them over others. They are not given so that we can be served because of them. Rather, these spiritual gifts are given to us so that we might actively serve others, just as they serve us with theirs. We use our gifts to edify, uplift, comfort, enlighten, and serve according to the gifts God gives.
Paul wrote in a similar way to the Romans in chapter 12: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8).
Whatever spiritual gifts God has given you, use them! Paul urges us not to be ignorant about them. If we have questions or don’t fully understand them—and we never will fully—then dive into Scripture to learn more about them, become more familiar with them, grow in them. Then use them to God’s glory and for the spread of His kingdom. Amen.
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