“Empowered by the Same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:8–11)
Listen to the Sermon:
Hear now the word of the Lord from 1st Corinthians 12:8-11 this morning, but we’ll read verses 1-11.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11, ESV
The word of the Lord coming to us today gives us one of the most intriguing and controversial passages in the Bible. As we come to these verses, we can’t help but ask what are these gifts? What are they supposed to be doing in the church today? What are my gifts?
Well I want to start and get the disappointment out of the way; I’m not going to answer all of the questions that you probably have about these gifts, because I don’t know all of the answers here. There’s much here that’s difficult to understand, but by God’s grace hopefully this morning we will begin to answer many of those questions. So, I want to start with the big idea what’s this all about and then I want to give a few observations that’ll hopefully structure how we think about this passage as we study it.
Our big idea is, the Holy Spirit empowers us for gospel ministry.
We have four preliminary observations as we look at this gift list in verses 8 through 11. It’s important to recognize that this is a list of gifts, but this is not the definitive list of gifts. There are other lists of gifts given by the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:6-8 and in 1 Peter 4:10-11. In fact, if you look at the very end of this chapter, in verse 28, Paul lists two other gifts there that don’t show up in this list right here, the gifts of helping and administrating. So, this is a list, not the definitive comprehensive list.
The second observation is that Paul gives us a list of gifts which means that he isn’t interested in detailing the use of all of those gifts. Some of these gifts are not very well clearly defined, some of these gifts are not clearly differentiated one from another.
This is not just our problem, this is true in the in the very early church. Only a few hundred years after this was written there was a pastor named John Chrysostom, he died in 407 ADS, so over 1600 years ago. In his commentary on this passage he writes this, “This whole place is very obscure, but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.”
So, 1600 years ago they were already lamenting that these gifts had ceased, at least many of them, and so they’re very difficult for us to understand today. How much truer is that 1600 years later. So, we’re going to try to explain these gifts as we go along, but we will spend more time examining the exercises specific gifts in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and 14. We won’t go too deep into those today.
Our third observation is that our English translations hide one of the most important features of this passage. If we’re reading this in English it hides the fact that in the Greek grammar this is originally written in, there’s actually a fairly clear structure that organizes these nine gifts into three groups of gifts. I won’t go too deep into the details, I’ll try to just give you enough to make sense if you haven’t taken Greek, which I encourage you to do if you want to. Today we’ll just focus on the basics.
There are three groups of gifts given here. The first group of gifts is in verse 8 and we might call these the gifts of understanding or the gifts of intellect. We have the utterance of wisdom and the utterance of knowledge, and again by the grammar Paul is very clearly telling us that these two belong together and are distinct from the gifts that follow. By these gifts what we’re going to see today is that the Holy Spirit revealed in the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
The second group of gifts go from verse 9 part of the way into verse 10. These are five gifts we might call these the gifts of faith. So, the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the gift of working of miracles, the gift of prophecy, and the gift of the discernment of spirits. By these gifts the Holy Spirit built up the gospel that Jesus is Lord. So, the first gift revealed the gospel that Jesus is Lord, then these five gifts build up the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
Then we come to the final two gifts at the end of verse 10, the gifts of the tongue, various kinds of tongues and interpretations of tongues. By these gifts the Holy Spirit spread the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
So, we see three groups,
1. The first group reveals the gospel that Jesus is Lord
2. The second group builds up the gospel that Jesus is Lord
3. The third group spreads the gospel that Jesus is Lord
What I hope to show today is that this is not a laundry list of acts that might be performed at a talent show or at a circus. Sometimes we tend to read these and think well that’s interesting, I bet that would have been fascinating to watch. Understand this is serious business that the Holy Spirit gives to accomplish and equip us for the serious mission of spreading the knowledge and faith that Jesus is Lord so that we might do what’s talked about in verse 3 of chapter 12. to confess that Jesus is Lord.
Our fourth observation today is that still today the Holy Spirit reveals builds up and spreads the gospel that Jesus is Lord to every tribe, language, people, and nation.
However, what we have to understand is that the Holy Spirit did this one way before the completion of the New Testament canon, and when we’re reading in 1 Corinthians, we’re seeing a glimpse into a time before the whole Bible had been written. Now the Holy Spirit does this a different way, these ways are connected but they are different before and after the completion of the New Testament cannon.
So those are our four observations and here are the four points that we’re going to see. These connect to the groupings of the gifts.
1. The Holy Spirit Reveals the Gospel
2. The Holy Spirit Builds up the Gospel
3. The Holy Spirit Spreads the Gospel
4. The Holy Spirit Empowers us for Gospel Ministry
The Holy Spirit Reveals the Gospel
So, let’s start with the first group of gifts in verse 8. Now I said that the grammar shows us that this these two gifts belong together as we see how the Holy Spirit reveals the gospel. The problem is the Greek is very efficient, very economical, very few words and letters. Whereas to kind of communicate the same thing into English is clunky and cumbersome, but I’m going to over translate verse 8 to show you what’s very clearly reflected in the Greek.
So, let’s do it this way Paul writes,
For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit1 Corinthians 12:8, ESV
Again, that’s kind of clunky. Those are just two very small words of two letters and three letters a piece that shows us that Paul is very clearly showing that these two belong together, and yet they are different. When we try to understand the difference between wisdom and knowledge it’s actually very difficult to know.
These are words that are used in 1 Corinthians but never in a way that clearly differentiates, well here’s wisdom over here and here’s knowledge over there. So, let me start by giving you what I think this means, there’s been a lot of proposals, then let me show you how we can get there.
So what I’m going to argue is that the gift of wisdom that Paul is talking about here, the utterance of wisdom, is talking about the unique, unrepeatable, once for all gift that was exercised by the apostles and the prophets in the early church to receive direct revelation of the Gospel that Jesus is Lord. The apostles and the prophets received this direct revelation that Jesus is Lord, that’s what Paul is talking about when he talks about the utterance of wisdom.
The second gift, the utterance of knowledge, has to do with the ongoing, still at work until this day, the gift of teachers to study, understand, and teach that revelation that was received once for all by the apostles and the prophets of the Gospel that Jesus is Lord.
So, these are connected; one deals with the original receiving of the revelation, one deals with the ongoing teaching throughout the course of the church history of that revelation. Now again I said let me show you how to get there. Both of these words are used in 1 Corinthians, but most of the time they’re not used in a way where we can clearly differentiate wisdom as opposed to knowledge. A lot of proposals on this.
Probably the biggest clue we have comes in 1 Corinthians 13:2. So just right after this chapter Paul goes on and he starts talking about these gifts and the proper and improper use of these gifts. In 13:2 Paul writes, “and if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge.”
We’ll stop there and talk about the rest of what he says later, but Paul talks about understanding all mysteries and all knowledge. Now you might say, well Jacob you have mysteries and knowledge, you don’t have wisdom and knowledge here. Now that’s true but Paul has actually already told us that wisdom and mysteries go together, these are related one to another.
Wisdom is the understanding, by revelation, of what God formerly hid in eternity past in a mystery. Now you may remember 1 Corinthians 2:7. Paul wrote but we, talking about his work as an apostle, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery. The hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”
In 1 Corinthians 2 and what Paul is talking about there is the mystery that God planned before the foundation of the world was laid, that one day the Son would be sent into the world and crucified for us. That’s God’s wisdom, it’s not human wisdom. It was hidden in a mystery until it was revealed to the person and work of Jesus Christ, but also through the wisdom that is preached by the apostles and the prophets.
To have wisdom is to understand, by revelation, the mysteries that God formerly hid. Now because this is a work that only happens by revelation, the Scriptures tell us that this is the work properly of the apostles and the prophets. They were the ones who received this once for all revelation of Christ crucified as Lord. By that revelation they laid a foundation upon which the whole church is built.
In Ephesians 2:20 Paul writes,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, Ephesians 2:20, ESV
So, this revelation, what does it mean that God is doing in the world through Jesus? Well the apostles and the prophets received this, and they laid this teaching down as the foundation upon which the whole church is built. Now Paul in 1 Corinthians, also talked about this idea of laying a foundation in his work as an apostle. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 he uses the same kind of language, he says,
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, ESV
The foundation is once for all, it’s the revelation that was received by the apostles and the prophets of Christ crucified as Lord. Then Paul says someone else is building on that foundation, who’s he talking about here? Well if you look at the end of this chapter, Paul lists out offices. In verse 28 he says, “and God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.”
Well if Paul is saying that the apostles and the prophets are the ones who have the utterance of wisdom, they’re the ones who receive this initial revelation of Jesus Christ and him crucified, the wisdom of God which was hidden in a mystery. Well then, the ongoing work of teachers is to build on the foundation. Not by directly receiving that revelation, but by taking that revelation, studying that revelation, understanding that revelation, and then teaching it and spreading it through the whole church.
Now this would have looked one way in the early church, and it looks different today. In the early church you had apostles and prophets who were right there in the middle of corporate worship receiving and declaring new infallible direct revelation about Christ crucified.
Teachers would then have to listen to that, would have to ponder that, and would have to have a special gift not to corrupt what was received from the apostles and the prophets because it wasn’t yet written down into the New Testament. They couldn’t go back and study their Bible again. There was a special gift that enabled them to not only hear from the apostles and prophets what was received about Christ, but to take it and faithfully preach it and teach it in the early church.
Now today we have such a better situation because the apostles and the prophets have laid their foundation, the foundation of the church, in the word of God, written down once for all in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
So, today we don’t need new revelation, we don’t need anyone who is still receiving or possessing of the utterance of wisdom. We need people who have the gift of knowledge, to study God’s word, to understand God’s word, and to teach and preach God’s word. The office of teacher, to build upon that once for all laid foundation, the foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Now if we understand that’s what’s happening here in these first two gifts, it helps us to understand the reason why Paul lists these two gifts first. These two gifts of receiving the revelation once and for all and the gift of ongoingly teaching that revelation through the history of the church are foundational, first order gifts, upon which everything else is built up inside the church. This is the foundation and the building upon the foundation, upon which the entire church and everything else that happens within the church is built upon.
Again, Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-13 talking about very similar concepts he says,
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV
The utterance of wisdom to receive this revelation, which is now written down for us in the Scriptures, and the utterance of knowledge to teach and preach this in the church is foundational.
The Holy Spirit Builds up the Gospel
Now we have to turn our attention to the second group of gifts. Not simply the gifts that reveal the gospel, but the gifts that build up the gospel in the church. So, we come now to our second point, the Holy Spirit builds up the gospel in the second gift or the second group of gifts that start in verse 9 and run part way through verse 10.
Now again it’s the grammar that shows us that this is a group of gifts that is distinct unto itself. If you look the ESV has all of these words as “another”, “to another, to another”, but in Greek these are different words. This is where we see the beginning and the end of the list.
At the beginning of verse 9 really, we should translate this, “to a different one” faith by the same spirit, then to another gifts of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits. Then right when we get to the tongues, once again we have “to a different one”, new group, one various kinds of tongues to another the interpretation of talk. So, the grammar is very simple, but it’s hard to convey that in English.
So, what are the gifts then that Paul includes in this second list? Faith, healings, working of miracles, prophecy, and the ability to distinguish between spirits. Well I’m going to call these the gift of faith, that’s from one commentary named Lindsey, I thought he did a good job of summarizing those. The function of all of these gifts, as we study them, is to build up the gospel in the church.
The first gift, the gift of faith itself, cannot refer to the saving faith that all believers possess. Now we do know that faith is a gift that is given by grace Ephesians 2:8 tells us,
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,Ephesians 2:8, ESV
The word for gift there is different from the word for gift that Paul is talking about here. We’re talking about a gift of faith, in 1 Corinthians, that is given to some people but not to others. Now this would have again been one way, happened one way in the early church, but in a different way now.
It’s probably easier to start with how this gift looks today. All of us know someone who possesses such an extraordinary faith through hardships or trials or who has been called to a very difficult task in life, that when you look at that person and their faith your faith can’t help but to be built up. To look at the way they endure all of these things and say, I am encouraged just by watching that person endure what they are enduring by faith.
How much more would that be the case in the early church? In the early church when Christianity was new and unknown, and its future was uncertain. More than that when Christianity was violently persecuted on all sides. In those days it would have been such a wonderful thing to look upon people who were so strengthened by their faith that they never wavered for a moment. Their faith would have been so radiant as to encourage and build up the early church in those fledgling days. Their unique gift of faith built up the church.
In the other four gifts in this group you can classify these into two kinds of gifts; gifts of deeds that build up the church and gifts of word that build up the church. The first two gifts, the gifts of healing and the working of miracles, both of these build up the gospel by way of confirmation. They confirm the gospel’s truth in the early church before the whole revelation of the New Testament was written down. These works served to confirm that apostles and prophets were actually preaching the truth.
When Paul’s own ministry came under fire and under questioned by this Corinthian church in the next letter, in 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul writes to them and says
12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 2 Corinthians 12:12, ESV
Paul is saying I’m not inferior to these people who claim to be apostles. Paul’s words were authenticated by miraculous deeds in their midst. They saw it, they knew what was happening, and it was by that that the gospel had roots, that it was built down upon the foundation of the preaching of the word of God. They came to believe it because they saw mighty deeds performed in their midst, gifts of healing and the working of miracles.
Well the next two gifts are the gifts of word. The word that builds up the gospel in the church. Now we’ve already talked about here we have prophecy and the discernment of the Spirit, the ability to distinguish between spirits. Now as we talk about prophecy, we’ve already talked about how the apostles and prophets received foundational first order revelation, we talked about that as the gift of the utterance of wisdom.
If you read the rest of the New Testament it becomes clear that there are really two other kinds of prophecy they were exercised in the early church. I would argue, although there’s lots of proposals on this, that probably what Paul has this in mind, which is the reason that he includes prophecy in this second group. He means the big prophecy the prophecy of Christ and him crucified, Jesus as Lord, in that first category in the utterance of wisdom. Again, a commentator named Lindsey writes this he says, “At a broad level the idea of the gift of prophecy refers to any and all ability to communicate God’s saving will to others.”
So, in this very broad sense of the word prophecy, every true teacher and preacher of God’s word is a prophet. I am exercising the gift of prophecy here right now. Not because I’m receiving anything new, if I claim to do that, I’ve ceased to be bearing witness to the prophecy of God, because we already have the once for all given word of God in the Scriptures.
Instead my work is as a teacher in the utterance of knowledge, to continue to study, and understand, and preach, and teach what’s contained in its once for all given word. So, in the broad sense prophecy just refers to the teaching and preaching of God’s word.
Then there’s also this other narrower sense, which refers to the original and direct receiving and communicating of specific messages that come directly from God. Not all of these are first order foundational messages. Sometimes we see prophets were given various warnings and instructions in the church. Certainly, when we come to 1 Corinthians 14, that’s the kind of prophecy that Paul is talking about, various warnings and instructions to the church.
Now these were not fallible, these were infallible, they came from God. They were prophecies just like in the Old Testament, this was the word of the Lord. It wasn’t foundational and first order kind of stuff, it was a more minor. It wasn’t for revealing the gospel, it was for building up the gospel in the midst of the church.
Now again we’ll talk about that more when we study 1 Corinthians 14, I’m just trying to work through the list here. It’s important to understand that once we come to the completion of the New Testament, the ongoing need for the broad sense of prophecy, in terms of preaching and teaching God’s once for all revealed word continues.
Once we get past the completion of the New Testament, the narrow sense of immediate, direct, inspired messages from the Lord ceases. The Scriptures tell us that that gift ceases. In Hebrews 1:1-2 the author of Hebrews writes,
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV
Once we have the utterance of wisdom contained for us in the Old and New Testaments, then God has finally decisively spoken by his Son and we do not need new revelations, we need more of the revelation that God has already given us in the word.
The fifth and final gift in this group then is the ability to distinguish between spirits. Now again this happened one way in the early church and it happens one way today. 1 John 4:1 says that we are required to test the spirits,
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1, ESV
Well in the early church, before the completion of the New Testament, if someone came claiming to be a prophet and they preached something that didn’t sound quite right you couldn’t go to the New Testament to evaluate what they were saying. Yet there were some who were gifted with this discernment, to say that’s not a true spirit, that’s a false spirit and therefore a false prophet who is not preaching the word of the Lord.
Well today this work goes on, but we have the great advantage of the Scriptures. So, the work of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate the Scriptures, to bring them to light, to show us here’s why you feel funny, where you feel odd when you hear that particular preacher or teacher. It’s because it conflicts with what I’ve revealed here. You might have sensed this in some way, that’s a sense of the gift of the distinguishing between spirits. Here’s the objective once for all given word to show you whether that word is true or false.
These are the gifts that build up the gospel through understanding, gifts of wisdom and knowledge. God revealed the gospel through these faith gifts of deed and word. God confirms in the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
The Holy Spirit Spreads the Gospel
Then finally we come to perhaps the more controversial in this list, the gift of tongues. So, we come to our third point that the Holy Spirit spreads the gospel. Now as I mentioned above, Paul here is only giving us a list without explaining what any of those gifts actually look like in their use.
We’re going to hold off our much explanation of the gift of tongues until we come back to our study of 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul goes into much greater detail about the use of those gifts in the corporate worship of the early church. Today though we need to make probably four observations about these.
The first one is that the word tongues very simply means languages. In fact, because we continue to use King James English to call this the gift of tongues instead of a more modern translation by calling this simply the gift of languages. Because we call this the gift of tongues there’s a lot of confusion about this is, but tongue does mean language.
We don’t use it often in this way, but if you talk about the English tongue or the Chinese tongue or the Spanish tongue or the Arabic tongue, tongues that are all spoken in this church by people in this church, well then you come to talk about languages. That’s what this word here means but because in the 1600s the word for language was tongue, that’s what they called it that. That’s the word that’s been preserved to this day.
If we call these languages, well then it makes sense how this relates to other passages in the Bible where we see the gift of languages being exercised. In Acts 2 it’s very clear that the gift of languages is meant to equip the apostles to preach real human languages that were previously unknown to them. So, if someone wants to say these are something other than real human language, the burden of proof is with that person who says that it’s something different than what happened in Acts chapter 2. We’ll get deeper into those texts when we get into 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and 14.
Our second observation, beyond the fact that this is really talking about languages, is that the gift of tongues or languages is closely associated with prophecy. This is why interpretation has to be paired with tongues, so that these tongues or these languages are not just going on their own. You have to have someone to interpret the language and we know that the gift of this is then considered a gift of prophecy.
In the day of Pentecost, where the first exercise of the gift of tongues was used, Peter interpreted their speaking in tongues as a fulfillment of Joel chapter 2 which said that all would prophesy. He says it’s happening, don’t you see us speaking in tongues? All are prophesying, that is they were proclaiming the gospel, in many different languages.
My third observation then is that the gift of tongues is related to prophecy, but not just as the same thing it’s different in the sense of this is a gift of prophecy that spreads the prophecy to new groups of people who speak different languages. In the expansion of the early church, when the Holy Spirit descended upon new groups of people starting on the day of Pentecost, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and then into all to the rest of Judea and then to Samaria and then to the end of the earth.
When the Holy Spirit would descend upon new groups of people, they would speak in tongues to symbolize that they were to bring this gospel to the new groups of people who were now in the reach of the gospel. By speaking in tongues, in languages, the gospel spread to people from every nation. We see this beginning all the way at the very first exercise of speaking in tongues in Acts chapter 2.
Let me read to you from verse 5 on,
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:5-12, ESV
Our fourth observation then is that after the completion of the New Testament canon, the gift of tongues was no longer needed in this original sense. We do not need individual prophets equipped to preach in individual languages because we have the written word of God in the Bible.
So, there is a sense where there is an exercise of the gift of tongues today, but it’s not in one person who’s equipped in this way to preach in a new language to other people. It’s the work of Bible translation, of translating the word of God which is written down not directly received by this individual and then spoken in another language. This is the gift of translating the Bible into every language so that every people can hear the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
So just as because the New Testament is written we no longer need prophets inspired to speak to individual groups, so also, we no longer need people gifted to speak prophetically, individually, to new languages. Instead we need people, and you may be among them, committed to the task of Bible translation. To bring the once for all prophecy of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, what was received in the utterance of wisdom by the apostles and prophets and laid down as the one foundation for the church Jesus Christ being the cornerstone, to every tribe, every language, every people, and every nation.
So, in these three sets of gifts we see the progress of the gospel that the Holy Spirit gives these gifts in order to reveal the gospel, to confirm and build up the gospel, to spread the gospel; the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
The Holy Spirit Empowers us for Gospel Ministry
In verse 11 Paul brings all this together in a conclusion that the Holy Spirit empowers us for gospel ministry. Again, this isn’t just a list of acts that you might see performed in a talent show or in a circus. This is serious business as the Holy Spirit equips us today for the spread of the gospel to all tribes, languages, peoples, and nations.
So, here we see Paul writing all these people are empowered, so there’s a diversity of empowerments, all of these people possessing all of these diverse gifts. Then there’s a unity, all these people are empowered by one and the same Spirit. Then we see diversity again, who apportions to each one individually. This happens individually on a person-by-person basis. Then again, we see unity as God wills, but we have to understand this is the unifying idea.
We saw a laundry list of gifts given, diverse gifts given, but the whole point of this is about the mission. the mission of bringing about and spreading the gospel of Jesus as Lord so the people will come to confess him as Lord wholeheartedly, from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
Well very quickly three applications of what to do with this list. It’s not easy to preach a list.
1. Confess that Jesus is Lord. Understand this is what this is all about. This isn’t about a personality test to discern your unique party tricks, this is about the serious mission of spreading the good news of the gospel that Jesus is Lord.
When it comes to each of us first and foremost this demands our allegiance, this demands that we confess Jesus as Lord. To know what the Scriptures relate to us of the wisdom of God, that God sent his only Son into this world to die for you. Though he was righteous in this world, he was despised and rejected and condemned and crucified. Though he was innocent he was put to death, executed in your place for your sin. Though he was pure and spotless and righteous, he bore the full weight of God’s wrath against you. Though you were powerless, though you were guilty, though you were the reason that he hung on the cross, it was for you that he arose victorious, powerfully conquering sin, death and the devil forever for you.
Therefore, we’re called upon to confess that we are sinners and then to look to Jesus in faith to be forgiven by Almighty God. The whole reason the church exists, the whole reason the Spirit equips and empowers us with these varieties of gifts, is to urge you toward confessing that Jesus is Lord. To be freed from your slavery to sin, whatever shape that takes, wherever you are today. As you walk into this room to be forgiven from the condemning wrath of God, the final word of condemnation for all who believe was not spoken in the future but was spoken in the past at the cross when Jesus said it is finished.
As you confess Jesus as Lord you will be cleansed and made righteous and holy in Christ and adopted as the sons of God, for your brother Jesus Christ, by the spirit of adoption who cries out, “Abba Father”. You must confess that Jesus is Lord.
2. Get equipped for ministry by the teaching of God’s word. The teaching of God’s word is the foundational, first order revelation upon which the whole church is built up. It’s the only message that we can take as we spread the gospel of Jesus to every tribe, language, people, and nation.
There is a war, we are at war. If you aren’t well equipped in the teaching of God’s word, find a way to become so. Do you understand the tasks before you? Are you aware of your role in this work? Do you see the individual part that you play in the whole of spreading the gospel?
Understand that countless millions and billions are perishing, they’ll be lost forever to the condemnation of their sin unless they come to hear the gospel and to believe upon it by the power of the Holy Spirit. How will we reach them? This is the question Paul asks in Romans 10. How will they hear unless they have a preacher, unless every person plays his or her part? How will you play your role unless you pay attention to the teaching of God’s word? There is no other foundation other than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.
3. Spread the gospel that has been revealed and built up. We have received a mission, this mission is to spread the knowledge of the kingdom to every tribe, language, people, and nation. This gospel, which was accomplished by the personal work of the Lord Jesus Christ and has been applied to us now by the Holy Spirit, this gospel was revealed by the ministry of the apostles and the prophets. It was laid down in the foundation by the word the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
This same gospel was built up to the ministry of the apostles and prophets who demonstrated and confirmed the truthfulness of the gospel in mighty deeds and who built this up by their inspired words. This gospel was spread by trailblazers and pioneers who were empowered to speak the gospel in languages where Christ was previously unknown.
Now two thousand years later, that gospel has worked its way to you in English. You now have a part in spreading it farther. Certainly to spread the news of the kingdom to your closest neighbors, but maybe for some of you it’s the work of missions to travel somewhere across the globe to share the gospel with tribes who have never heard it, perhaps even translating the gospel into languages where the gospel has never been spoken.
So often we read this passage and we look inward wondering what gifts do I have? It becomes about personality tests and curious vanity as though this were all about me. Instead these passages are meant to cause us to look outward to see look what God has done in Jesus Christ and in the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets.
How then has the Holy Spirit equipped me to spread this gospel to others? Which people has the Holy Spirit put in my path? How might the Holy Spirit use my specific set of relationships and gifts to influence the spread of the gospel to every tribe, language, people, and nation?
Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit empowers us for gospel ministry. So much was done in the early church. We are given the charter, we’re given the mandate, we’re given the story, the proclamation that Jesus Christ was crucified, and he was resurrected as Lord. These are our marching orders, to spread this as far as there are people who need to hear it. Receive the gifts of the Spirit, confess that Jesus is Lord, get equipped for ministry, and spread that gospel as far as God gives you to.
Let’s pray. Father we pray that as we study these gifts you would not let us simply navel gaze about me, but you would equip each of us to say how are you sending me to serve others. How are you sending me to spread this good news of Jesus Christ revealed, built up, and spread? We thank you Holy Spirit that you are so powerful to accomplish this task because we are weak and incapable of doing it apart from you. We pray that you would do this to the glory of God, the Son Jesus Christ which redounds to the glory of the Father. It’s in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.