1 Corinthians 12 – One Spirit Many Gifts

Being a relatively new church, the Corinthians had lot of queries regarding their order of worship. One of the main concerns was the mystery that surrounded the spiritual gifts given to the members by the Spirit. They saw these gifts as a means to create a hierarchical order between themselves rather than using it for the purpose that God intended.

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

1 Corinthians 12:1

There was a spread of misinformation regarding the Spiritual gifts as there was an overemphasis on the gift of tongues. The Corinthians believed that speaking in tongues was crucial to communicate with God and in the process alienated the gentile believers who were joining the church. Paul wanted to correct this misconception that was prevailing in the church as the pagan worshippers who were already coming from a system of blind worship feared that the group that spoke in another language would lead them to a false god again.

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:3

V3: In the gospels we saw evil spirits proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God, how is that possible?

The evil spirits know who Jesus is and would not dare to speak otherwise. But when we are tempted by these same spirits, they cast doubts in our minds and even empower us to speak against God. They themselves are fearful of God but want to destroy us by bringing God’s wrath on us. Paul wanted the new believers to understand that even though many of the congregation members were speaking in an unknown language, they were doing so with the leading of the Holy Spirit. There was no need for them to worry that they would be led to a false god as anyone who is guided by the Spirit to speak in tongues cannot speak against Jesus.

Gifts of the Spirit

Paul wanted his readers to realise that there are different kinds of gifts given by the same Spirit. While some had the gift of speaking in tongues, others were given the power of interpretation, while to some the spirit of discernment was given and to the others the gift of healing. All of these gifts were given for the greater good of the church.

V7: Is it a sin not to use the gift of the Spirit given to us?

Imagine students who spend all their time and their parent’s money on pursuing a career for almost twenty-five years of their lives. After getting the degree if they decide to just sit idle, imagine the state of their parents. They provided everything for their child to realise their purpose only to see them live a worthless existence. There is a purpose with which God has given us these gifts. God has also endowed us with natural talents which many times people mix-up with these spiritual gifts. Everything is given by God to fulfil the purpose of our lives and that purpose is not to glorify ourselves but to give all glory to God.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:11

V11: Can someone have more than one spiritual gift?

The Spirit chooses which gifts are given to us according to the will of God. Like a project manager distributing smaller tasks to different team members while having the bigger picture in mind, the Holy Spirit knows the plans of God for the church. Keeping that bigger plan in mind, the Spirit determines the gifts needed for each of the members of the church. It is we who rank the gifts because of our desire for popularity but for the Spirit, all gifts are equally important to fulfil the plan of God. Some might have ten gifts, while some might have only five gifts, while someone might have just one gift just like the parable of the landlord distributing talents to his workers. But just like the landlord knew each of his worker’s ability, God knows us even more as He is our creator and the one who gave us our abilities.

Diversity in the Body

Paul uses the example of the human body and compares it to the body of Christ. Just as a body has different parts, all equally valuable, similarly the church has different parts all working in unison for God. This competitive nature between the believers for obtaining the Spiritual gifts over which we have no say should stop immediately. It is stifling our growth and in process we are destroying the faith of the new believers coming to our church. This has been continuing since the first century church and is prevalent even today. There are people who give more importance to preaching and others giving importance to large prayer groups and some even giving sole importance to their worship order of their church. All parts are equally important and have their own purpose to bring a believer closer to God. The goal behind all activities of a church should be to connect people to God and not connect them with other people.

V29-30: How do we know which spiritual gift we have? Do we even have one?

We would have met different preachers and leaders during our lifetime who tell us what is the most important Spiritual gift that we must obtain. Some focus on tongues while some focus on prayer but no one without God specifically telling them can tell us about our gift. Scripture mentions dozens of spiritual gifts and in order to recognize these gifts in our lives, we should know what they are.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8

Every believer has been given gifts from God. Being able to recognise God as our saviour in itself is a gift that many people do not have. Wherever we are, it is God who has placed us there. God has given each one of us gifts and has a plan for our lives. We don’t need anyone except God to know about the gifts of the Spirit in our lives but only need to pray that God may reveal His plans to us.

Discussion Questions

V3: In the gospels we saw the evil spirits proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God, how is that possible?
V7: Is it a sin not to use the gift of the Spirit given to us?
V11: Can someone have more than one Spiritual gift?
V29-30: How do we know which Spiritual gift we have? Do we even have one?

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