“Same Spirit, Same Lord, Same God” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7)
Listen to the Sermon:
Hear now the word of the Lord from 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.
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.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
This is the word of the Lord that we will be considering this morning. Harvest is not a church, as you’ve probably come to realize if you’ve been here any length of time, that observes the fullness of what some Christians celebrate in the liturgical calendar, where there are a variety of days where we are supposed to remember certain things. We have tried to stick to what the Bible reveals about the biblical church calendar where we gather a week-by-week, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day to worship together.
When we do this, we give special attention sometimes to the Lord’s birth around Christmas, to his death on Good Friday, to the resurrection on Easter. Through all the other times we are primarily focusing on what we have in each passage of Scripture that we come to. We want all of the truths of Scripture to come to us and be laid before us. We want on each Lord’s Day to celebrate the fullness of the message of the gospel, week by week by week. So, we study verse by verse, chapter by chapter. book by book. and let the chips fall within God’s Word according to God’s timing.
Sometimes however there’s a little bit of providential overlap between the broader church calendar and what we end up coming upon in a particular given week. If you know anything about the church calendar, today is Trinity Sunday. It’s where we are, or where many Christians, are celebrating and teaching sermons on the doctrine of the Trinity from some passage of Scripture.
Now we’re not organizing what we’re doing to align with that, but this morning our passage deals with it. It’s one of the clearest texts that talks about the works of each person of the Trinity and the one work of the one to bring about the redemption of the church.
So, our big idea today is this, The Holy Spirit gives gifts to empower our common mission.
Now that may not sound right away as a Trinitarian sort of a big idea but let me walk through our points for the day and you’re going to see that each of these pieces lines up with a person of the Trinity.
We have four points today, but I promise you they’re for short points as we look at each individual verse.
1. The Spirit Distributes Varieties of Gifts
2. The Lord Jesus Commission’s Varieties of Service
3. The Father Empowers Varieties of Activities
4. There are Many Manifestations of the Spirit, but One Mission
The Spirit Distributes Varieties of Gifts
Well let’s start in verse four, “there the Spirit distributes varieties of gifts”, that’s what Paul writes in verse four. Now before we can look at verse four, we have to actually go one verse up and look at the context of what Paul is talking about. In verse 3 Paul has just finished saying, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except in the Holy Spirit.” That verse three, really this statement about confessing Jesus as Lord, is the key context that helps us to understand what Paul is saying.
In verse 3 Paul laid out the mission of the whole church. Our mission is to labor to work in the various ways that God has assigned us to bring about the confession that Jesus is Lord by all people, in all places, in every tribe, language, people, and nation. That’s the mission, to lead people toward confessing Jesus as Lord.
But God didn’t give us this mission and then step back to watch how we might try to carry it out in our own power, according to our own abilities, and in our own strength. No, God himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are involved as three persons in one God to bring this mission of scattering and spreading the confession of Jesus as Lord to all tribes, languages, peoples, and nations across the whole earth.
So, in verse 4 when Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit, he is talking specifically about the gifts in the way that they equip us to carry out this mission. Also, in the way that they equip us in various ways and with these varieties of gifts to carry out our part in this mission. So, Paul says there are varieties of gifts, given to different people, to equip different people in different ways.
Yet all of these gifts come from one source, the same Spirit. Varieties of gifts come from the same Spirit because all of these gifts are toward the overarching single goal, our common mission of leading people to confess that Jesus is Lord. In this we are seeing the role of the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption, in God’s work of redemption.
I’ve used this analogy before because I think it’s very helpful in understanding the work of the Holy Spirit in the overall work of God and redemption. The Holy Spirit is the treasurer of the Trinity, and we have all these riches that are the Father’s that are laid up for us in the Son, the person of Jesus Christ, but we don’t access those directly. We gain those gifts, those treasures, those riches of the Father as the Holy Spirit come to make disbursements from the treasury of God, in the person of the Son.
Jesus teaches about this most specifically in John 16:15 where he says,
15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 16:15, ESV
All the Father has belongs to Jesus, therefore Jesus says what we have from the Father is laid up for us in the Son and declared to us and distributed to us by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit declares the treasures that we have in Christ and distributes to us varieties of gifts from the same Spirit.
So, what this means though, if we think about the Holy Spirit as the treasurer of the Trinity distributing the riches that are ours from the Father in the person of Jesus Christ, is that the Holy Spirit is not alone in his work. Treasurers, by definition, don’t function alone. It isn’t that the Holy Spirit is limited in power, the Holy Spirit is fully God with the Father and the Son, but each person of the Trinity has not limited power but a limited role in this great out working of God’s work of salvation.
So, the Holy Spirit then is performing this work of being the treasure of the Trinity, of distributing these gifts and graces toward us as he joins with the Father and the Son in this single common mission of God; to glorify Jesus as Lord. Now I’m going to mention this, if you take notes this is a good thing to write down because we’re going to mention it a couple of times, this is a fundamental aspect of our doctrine of the Trinity. When we think about the Trinity there are internal things about the Trinity that we’re not entirely privy to, but then there are external works and the external outward works of the Trinity are indivisible and common.
They are indivisible among the persons, you can’t separate them out as different works they’re indivisible, all united and they are common among the members of the Trinity. They’re all working together for one common goal, so the Holy Spirit works with the Father and the Son to accomplish the same work of redemption. We have one God who exists in three persons and each of the three persons work distinctly and yet they work indivisibly, inseparably, to accomplish one work together.
The Holy Spirit’s work is to distribute varieties of gifts, but here’s the thing, gifts on their own are useless without a place to exercise those gifts. The Holy Spirit cannot simply give gifts and expect that that’ll take care of everything. No, we are commissioned to various services where we are exercising these gifts according to the movements of the Lord Jesus. It’s the work of the Lord to assign areas of service where we will take the equipping that we receive from the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to use those gifts in the church’s common mission to glorify Jesus as Lord.
The Lord Jesus Commission’s Varieties of Service
As we come to verse 5, we come down to the second point, that the Lord Jesus commission’s the varieties of service. We say the Holy Spirit, in verse 4, distributes varieties of gifts. Now we come to a different set of varieties in verse 5. There are varieties of service, but the same Lord.
Well why are we saying that the Lord refers specifically to the Lord Jesus? Well what did we just say at the end of verse 3, “No one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.” We’ll talk a little bit more about why though the term “Lord” is particularly often applied to the Lord Jesus a little bit later. For now, let’s talk about what it means that there are varieties of service from the same Lord, the person of the Lord Jesus.
Well this word for service here is a word the word in Greek that very generally means ministry. So various services, you could also translate that as various kinds of ministry. Now when we think of ministry, we most often think of programs and activities in the church. That’s true to some degree, but if we only think about ministry as something that happens in the context of a church, we miss the purpose of the metaphor, the idea of calling.
What’s happening in a church a ministry is to bring what’s happening in the church into a broader context of the kingdom. We don’t live in a kingdom, so this is sort of lost on us as Americans who live in a constitutional republic. But in a monarchy with a king, various ministers are appointed to establish the rule the government of the King’s reign. So, as we think about ministries, we have to think about various offices for service. That’s what a ministry is, an office for service.
Now in part the Bible talks about ministry in the sense of a special office given and appointed for special kinds of service. So, in the Bible the word minister, a form of that word is often used to refer to those entrusted with the ministry of the word. A pastor is a minister preaching the Word, elders are ministers who are preaching and teaching and overseeing the implementation of God’s Word. Our word deacon comes directly from this word, we just take this word in Greek and bring it into English, “diakonos”, deacon. The deacons are those who are entrusted with a special office of leading and establishing the rule of our Lord Jesus’ reign in our ministries of deed.
So often when we talk about this idea of a ministry or minister, we are talking about someone entrusted with a special office. Yet here Paul has a bigger idea than that. Not just the few people who are given special office, we are talking about the variety of ministries performed by various ministers in the church. Not in a special office kind of a sense, but according to our general office as believers. Every last one of us has been commissioned generally into service and ministry by the king, the Lord Jesus himself.
Well what Paul is getting at in verse five is that if it’s the Spirit who is the one who’s giving us gifts, distributing all of these gifts, equipping saints for doing the service of the king, we see here that Jesus the Lord is not a figurehead. He has been exalted to the right hand of the Father and now he is reigning and ruling and building his church. He is the sovereign, he is the crown, he is the majesty enthroned on high. It is this kingly lordly work of our Lord Jesus to commission these varieties of service in his kingdom. As Jesus reigns in the kingdom of his church he gives to each person varieties of service. Everyone has an assignment, everyone has a role of service in the kingdom.
While there are many varieties of service, all of these are coming from the same Lord to accomplish, with the Holy Spirit, the mission of God, to glorify Jesus as Lord.
So, the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus, are working together. the Holy Spirit gives gifts to equip us for ministry. The Lord Jesus is the one assigning and commissioning us for the various roles of service. Of course, they don’t work independently of the Father, they join with the Father toward accomplishing this mission of glorifying in Jesus as Lord. Because again, here’s our phrase, the outward works of the Trinity are indivisible and common. You can’t separate them, they’re inseparable, they are common to the three persons.
So, here’s what Paul says in verse six, we are just looking ahead, if we only have the work of the Spirit but not the Son, if there’s only gifts given but no service where we can exercise it, then the gift is useless. We’re all equipped up with nowhere to go, but if there is only service assigned to us, but no gift, no equipping, then the service is impossible, we’re not equipped to do it.
Now the idea that Paul is thinking along these here is that if there’s a gift, and there is a service, but there’s no power to use the gift or to accomplish the service, well then, we’re a powerless to accomplish what we’ve been equipped and commissioned to do. The three persons of the Trinity are all working inseparably, indivisibly, to bring about the one work of the one mission of the church of God.
The Father Empowers Varieties of Activities
In our third point, in verse six, we see now that the Father empowers varieties of activities. Look at what Paul writes verse six,
6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:6, ESV
Now when we looked at the word Lord, we talked about the way the Lord refers to the Lord Jesus most commonly, and now I’m saying that this word God refers specifically to the person of the Father. Now why is this? Well I’m not saying that the Father is not Lord, and I’m not saying that the Son is not God. The Father is Lord, the Son is God, but there are particular names that are given to specific persons, even though they are shared by all. So, the Father is called God most often in the New Testament.
Think about the greeting that we greet all of you at the beginning of every service. It shows up in multiple letters of Paul, but especially here in this letter in 1 Corinthians 1:3, “Grace to you and peace from God.” Well who are we talking about? God our Father. Well then what about the word Lord, certainly the Father is Lord and the Spirit is Lord? We’re told that explicitly in Scripture, “Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God is specifically applied to the Father most often, the word Lord is specifically applied to the Son most often, and the title or the attribute of Holy is most often applied to the Spirit, even though the Father and the Spirit are also holy. We’re not saying that they’re not holy in saying this.
As we come to verse 6, we’re talking about the work of the Father. What is the work of the Father? Well Paul says,
“6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:6, ESV
This word the translations that we have for the words activities and empowers, the way we’ve translated these obscures the fact that they are they come from the same word. So, the word for activities is “energema” and the word for empowers is “energeo”. If we want to try to bring this into an English sense that would sort of show the connection, although it’s a little bit awkward to say it this way, we might translate this by saying, “and there are various energies but it is the same God energizing them all in everyone.”
Now today we don’t talk too much about the energies of God, but if you read old books of theology there has been a lot of discussion about the energies of God in the church, some good discussions and some bad discussion. When we talk about God’s energies, the word refers to God’s exercised power, as distinguished from his potential power. It’s referring to what God’s doing, not what he would have the power to do if he were to so choose.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Think about when you go to the store to buy a pack of batteries. When you go to the store and you see the pack of batteries on the shelf, the batteries are not doing anything, they’re not empowering anything. You see there is a potential power, you’re buying them because you know that you’re going to take them home so that they can do something. In fact, if the batteries you are using are used in the display models of various items, you really wouldn’t want to buy those batteries because their potential power would be depleted.
God’s potential power is never depleted, but when we talk about his energies, we’re talking about him in the full force of what he’s doing. It’s a battery plugged in and working to empower something, to accomplish its task. So, what Paul is saying here is that when we are at work in the church, it’s not just that we’re equipped by the gifts of the Spirit, it’s not just that we’re commissioned into ministry by our Lord Jesus, but we actually are strengthened and empowered and energized by the Father who energizes and empowers all things in all people. This is the work of the same God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Again, the outward works of the Trinity are indivisible and common.
Now what we should see in our first three verses is that Paul is describing two things. He’s talking about the importance of diversity and of unity. There are many varieties, many diversities of gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are many varieties of service, but they all come from the same Lord. There are many varieties, diversities of energies, but they come from the same energizing Father.
We should also notice that this diversity and unity is taking place in two spheres. The first sphere is the sphere of the Trinity where there is diversity three persons who are each working distinctly, nevertheless there’s unity. These three persons are not three gods, they are not three powers, they are not three energies, they’re not three Lords, these are one God. Even in their works, their works are indivisible. They work distinctly, but indivisibly.
The gifts of the Spirit equip us for the service that the Lord Jesus commands according to the power that is supplied by the Father. The three work distinctly, but indivisibly. So, we’re not considering three different works, this is one work of one God considered according to the three distinct works of the three distinct persons.
So, there’s diversity and unity in the Trinity, but there’s also diversity in unity in the second sphere, the church. What is most true, most fully expressed in the mysterious union of three persons in one God, in the Trinity, is brought to reflection and manifestation, a dim reflection but a reflection, in the church. The individual members of the church, all of us, each one of us, receives various gifts from the Spirit to equip us to perform various ministries assigned to us by the Lord Jesus, in various energizing empowerment’s of the same Father, as we all pursue what is described in verse 7 as the common good.
There are Many Manifestations of the Spirit, but One Mission
So now let’s come to our fourth point in verse 7, there are many manifestations of the Spirit but one mission. So, we’ve seen that each person of the Trinity is involved indivisibly in this work and that every member of the church individually undertakes this common work. Now Paul says this in verse 7,
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7
So, what Paul is saying is that really when we’re talking about this, although the Father is involved and the Son is involved, we are particularly talking about this specific work of God the Holy Spirit. When we receive these gifts, these are manifestations of the Spirit, for the common good now what do we mean by that? Well we don’t mean that the Father and the Son are not involved in that, I’ve just spent quite a bit of time proving the opposite.
Yet even as we have seen that some titles are particularly assigned to some persons, the Father is most often assigned the title of God, the Son is most often assigned the title Lord, the Spirit is most often assigned the title of Holy, so also there are works that, even though they are shared externally indivisibly by all three members of the Trinity, they are particularly attributed to one specific person in the Trinity.
So, creation is most specifically attributed as the work of the Father. Think about what we confess sometimes, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” We’re saying that’s the work of the Father, but in saying that we’re not saying the Son and the Spirit were not involved because they were. The Father created, it was his work, but he does it by the Son and through the Spirit.
The work of redemption was accomplished by God the Son, our Lord Jesus. Yet it was accomplished according to the work that the Father sent him to do. It was also accomplished according to the empowerment and the equipping of the Holy Spirit who conceived the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary and anointed him for ministry at his baptism.
Now when we come to this third great work in the work of God in redemption history, the expansion of the gospel to every tribe, language, people, and nation, we come to the particular work of the Holy Spirit. Again, it’s done according to the energizing empowerment of the Father, under the lordship of Jesus Christ, but this is the unique work, the manifestation, of the Spirit. Every individual part that we play is a work that is done according to the various diverse manifestations of the Spirit for the common good of the whole church.
Just as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct yet work indivisibly and inseparably toward this one goal, so the church is working, by the grace of God, to bring about a reflection of that unity within the great diversity of the church.
Now before I move on to applications, I want to draw out a specific implication of this unity within diversity, especially in light of the many conversations that I’m sure been hearing if you turn on the news or go on the internet or wherever there’s been a societal conversation about racism.
A problem with this conversation is that the world is simply not equipped to handle it. The world doesn’t have the tools, the world doesn’t have the vision to understand what has gone wrong and how to set it right. The church alone is equipped to do this. The world’s conversation is polluted, it’s twisted and distorted by sin that runs in every kind of direction. Anywhere you want to go sin will take you there in thinking about this conversation that our society has been having.
Only the gospel gives us a pure clear vision of unity in diversity. This is something that we treasure, it’s a reflection of God’s unity within diversity. This is an important and complicated conversation to have especially given the unique history of the United States, but we can’t approach this with the tools and the resources and the ideologies and the philosophies of this world. We have to look at what the Scriptures teach.
So, to think about this, let’s go back to first principles of what the Bible teaches, number one; every person is created in the image of God and as image bearers we are infinitely valuable as we reflect an infinitely valuable God whose image we bear. But as image bearers we’re commanded to love one another as God has loved us, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
So, the question we have to ask is do you love your neighbor perfectly as you love yourself? Well of course the answer to that is no. Why? Not because of the various philosophies and ideologies of the world, but because of what the Bible teaches that our hearts were corrupted by sin. That our hearts are corrupted so that we fail to love others as ourselves in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons.
Now I’m not going make any assumptions about why you think the way you do, or what you think, or where it comes from, or anything like that. I want to only put in front of you the biblical teaching that sin corrupts and twists your heart and mind. I don’t care what anyone thinks, even what I think about worldly theories, worldly ideologies, worldly narratives about what’s happening. I only care about what the Bible says, what the Bible’s narrative is, what the Bible’s teaching and doctrine offers us.
So, at this time, as at all times, again we have a church calendar that’s week to week, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, it’s good and right for us to reflect on the corruption of our heart. It’s not a question of whether we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, it’s how we know that in the first motions of our hearts it is never to love in the way that we are called to love one another.
John Calvin writes this, “The law I say, requires perfect love we do yield it. Our duty was to run and we go on slowly limping.” Brothers and sisters anything short of a full-tilt, non-stopping run is sin, it’s sin. That’s what the Scriptures teach us.
So, we must examine our hearts to find whatever kind of sin is there, great or small, in whatever direction or shape it takes. Great or small, we must confess and repent from it. We are called to treasure this unity and diversity. So, as the church we are the only ones who can really see what that looks like reflected so clearly in this passage.
Well with that implication, let’s now go to applications and particularly to ask the question if sin is the problem how do we fix it?
1. What the Scriptures teach us is that we must confess Jesus is Lord. The mission of the church through every age, through every culture, through every tribe, language, people, and nation in every moment, at every turn in history, the mission remains the same that we must lead people to confess Jesus is Lord.
God the Father’s plan from all eternity past has been to put forward God the Son as the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, taking upon himself a human body and a reasonable soul like ours and in every respect, except without sin, to be born with all of our common weaknesses and infirmities under the law, to share in our suffering. He obeyed perfectly where we sinned and he suffered innocently, cursed not for what he had done but in our place.
In the power of the Holy Spirit the Lord Jesus accomplished every bit of the work that he was sent to accomplish by the Father. He was born, he lived, he was crucified, he died, he was raised up from the dead, he was exalted to the right hand of his Father as Lord forever, and right now our Lord Jesus remains fully God and fully man as king and lord over all. His kingdom is over all things everywhere. One day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now the mission in this world is to gather those who bend the knee and confess his lordship voluntarily, led along by the power and the work of the Holy Spirit. Will you acknowledge the lordship of Jesus? Will you confess him as Savior and King? Will you submit yourself to the sovereign majesty of the Lord Jesus? Will you seek his royal pardon, sealed by the king’s own blood for your treasonous sins? Will you receive the adoption that he gives you, making you, a guilty beggar, into a son of Most High God his Father? Does the spirit of adoption cry out, “Abba Father” from the depths of your heart? Confess Jesus as Lord and be saved.
2. Submit yourselves to Jesus’s lordship. What Paul teaches here is that Jesus’s lordship demands our service. Jesus is not a figurehead Lord, he’s reigning over the whole cosmos, he’s reigning over all of creation. More than that he has sovereignly chosen to establish the rule, the government, of his reign through people, ministers who do his will.
Now there are special roles, special offices, that God entrust to some, not because of the merits or the worth of those who are chosen, but simply because this is the sovereign grace of the God who chooses and calls. This does not mean, however, that the Lord Jesus intends to carry out all of his work through those who hold special offices. The Lord Jesus has commissioned all his people, by the general office that he has commissioned us all to as believers, to be the servants of the Lord Jesus.
The question is not whether you have a role, the question is what your role is, where practically do you serve the church right now. How do you contribute to the common good of the church of the Lord Jesus? Where in real terms do you serve as an ambassador to bring the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus to those who remain on the outside of the kingdom? This is the work that the Father energizes, and the Spirit equips us to do.
This passage here teaches that this is a role that everyone has in some way. Everyone has their role their service, their ministry. Everyone is gifted by the Holy Spirit in some way. Where has Jesus called you to serve? Will you submit then to his lordship over your life?
3. Depend upon the Holy Spirit. Do not think that you can accomplish the work assigned to you by the Lord Jesus on your own abilities, in your own strength. Even the Lord Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and instructed by the Father for the performance of what he came to do.
In this world you need the gifts of the Holy Spirit to equip you to do your work, you need the Son to commission you and send you as his lordly duty, you need the Father to energize you and empower you. All of this comes to you by the Holy Spirit, who takes what is Jesus’s, which is from the Father, and gives it to you. You need the Holy Spirit to manifest himself to you. His person, his glory, his gifts, his graces, in order to confess Jesus as Lord and to play your part in leading others to confess Jesus as Lord.
This is the mission, this is everything. We’ve got it remains unchanged by the events of the day and no matter what happens tomorrow, the mission will remain unchanged by those. The mission is to lead people to confess that Jesus is Lord.
The Father sent the Son to accomplish this mission and the Holy Spirit is sweeping through this world like a rushing wind and a blazing fire to spread the lordship of Jesus Christ into believing hearts and into confessing lips. As we confess what stems up from new faith that’s given to us by the Spirit who empowers us to confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
What we are given is so that we can love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. In every way seeking the common good. All of this though is dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Depend upon him.
Father we ask that as you commission us to the task that remains unfinished, that you would lift our eyes to the Lord Jesus who reigns and rules at your right hand, by his word through the power of the Spirit to your glory Father. How we praise you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the wonderful mysterious beauty of who you are; three persons in one God forever and ever. We’re called to love you and to serve you. We have been brought into your family by nothing less than the blood of the Son, by the power of the Spirit to be reconciled to the Father. We pray that you would do this in our hearts and lives today, even as you bring this healing to all those that you have chosen and called to bring into the kingdom until our king comes again. It’s in his name we pray. Amen.