1 Corinthians 12:7 (NKJV) 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
We have been looking at the second chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. This was one of Paul’s most problematic churches. Corinth was a large, powerful and Idolatrous city. The people were caught up in their world as it was and saw no need for an obscure Jewish sect like Christianity. To me, this sounds very much like our world.
We found that Paul’s way of breaking through this obstruction was to come to them with two basic things. He decided that he would not approach them with the vast knowledge and wisdom he had as a result of his education or even his encounters with the Lord. He chose to speak to them of Jesus and his crucifixion. This implies he was talking about the message of the gospel which Paul defined as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in the 15th chapter of this same letter. He also came in a demonstration, or manifestation of the spirit and of the power of God. He said that the reason he chose these things was so that their faith would rest in the power of God and not the wisdom of men.
What do we need to touch our world today? In the United States we face a world that is obsessed with pleasure, entertainment and technology. People are also faced with the challenges of earning a living, raising families and maintaining health and wellbeing in and increasingly expensive and frightening world. That is why distractions, whether technological, chemical or experiential, have become so attractive. Christianity, on the other hand, does not seem to offer any real solutions to the problems nor distraction as effective as what the world has to offer.
This condition is not new. It was what the church faced in the 1960’s. To many, Christianity had become and irrelevant part of the older generation’s world. Many chose to reject everything from their parent’s generation including their faith. Many of the 60’s generation looked for something that was real. They wanted to change the world. Many others chose to “tune in, turn on and drop out” looking to “sex, drugs and rock and roll” to dull the sense of futility they felt in life. In the middle of this atmosphere, a move of God was born that changed many in my generation as well as the nature of church in the world. It was called the “Charismatic renewal.”
At the heart of this move of God was what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12-14. These three chapters describe 9 manifestations of the Holy Spirit that God has made available to the church. I believe it is reasonable to believe that they must have been an aspect of the demonstration of the Spirit and power he used to breakthrough in Corinth when he first came. As I look at what we face, I am convinced that we will not breakthrough to people who do not know salvation in Christ with words alone. We need a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God. As in the 1960’s, I think we need a new focus on the manifestations of the Spirit Paul spoke of in this letter.
Paul begins 1 Corinthians 12 telling the church in Corinth that he did not want them to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. Verse 2 gives us some insight into these manifestations.
1 Corinthians 12:2 (NKJV) 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
The word “dumb” here is not used in the sense of intelligence. It is used in the sense of the inability to speak. He is saying that before they met Jesus they were being led about by false gods and fake manifestations. To me I see a people who were interested in the supernatural but focused on things that were not real. Their idols were mute, or unable to really speak. Paul does want not them ignorant concerning the real manifestation of the Spirit. Our God is not mute. He really does speak and do much more.
From what he says in verse 3, it seems to me there might have been some things that were presented as coming from the Lord but really were not.
1 Corinthians 12:3 (NKJV) 3 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.
Paul made it clear that every manifestation of the Spirit of God must be judged on whether or not that manifestation lifts up Jesus. Anytime we see the power of God manifested, the devil tries to either discredit or counterfeit what God is doing to turn people away from Jesus. That certainly happened in the 1960’s and through the 1990’s. It still happens today. That said, the fact that something is counterfeited at all is proof of the thing’s reality. You do not counterfeit $3 bills because they do not exist. If the devil disrupted and counterfeited these manifestations of the spirit, they must be real.
The next thing he does not want the Corinthian church to misunderstand is the purpose of these manifestations. They are not meant to build one person up over another. Though some of them are manifestations of power, such as healing, miracles and special faith, all of them are equally important. No one can point to their own importance because they function in a particular gift. Verses 4 through 6 make this clear.
There are different kinds of gifts, there are different ways in which those gifts are ministered and different things those gifts may do depending on who the Holy Spirit is using, but they all come from the same source and he is the one who chooses through whom, when and how they manifest. The Holy Spirit gives them for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ and exalting Jesus as Lord, not to build the ministry of one member.
Finally, Paul says in verse 7 that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each to profit all. In teaching this topic, I try to avoid the use of the word gift to describe the nine things listed in this chapter. That is not because the word is inaccurate. The word translated gift is the Greek word charisma. It is from this word that the “Charismatic renewal got its name.
The Greek word carries the idea of an endowment. Universities receive endowments of money as gifts enable them to carry out certain activities. Therefore, and endowment is a gift that enables one to carry out a purpose. The Holy Spirit gives endowments through individuals to carry out the building up of the Body of Christ including introducing them to Jesus. The word can also mean a miraculous faculty. That is an ability that comes by miraculous means. The emphasis is on what this faculty enables the one who demonstrates it to do. In the case of the Charisma of the Holy Spirit manifested in the Body of Christ it is to build up the whole body.
My problem is the way we see the word gift. It is something given to us. We get birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. They are things given to me to bless me. That is not the idea when we speak of the charisma of the Holy Spirit. If I am used in one of these gifts, I am not given the gift for my benefit or validation. I am not the recipient of the gift but the channel for the gift to be given to another.
What we must understand is that the charisma of the Holy Spirit are manifestations of the Spirit himself given through us. The result will be that people will be drawn to Jesus and their faith will rest in the demonstration of the Spirit and in the power of God not on our ability. That is what Paul brought to Corinth and I am convinced that is what we must bring to our world. It is in that light we should study these manifestations and how we can become a channel for them to show people who our God really is.