Desiring the Higher Gifts

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31, ESV

Sermon Outline

The purpose of spiritual gifts is to:

  1. Buttress up the truth
  2. Equip the Saints
  3. Benefit Others

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Our Great God and heavenly Father, we come again before you and as we open your Word, we pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened so that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and the length and the height and the depth and to know the love of Jesus Christ, which surpasses all knowledge. May we be filled up to all the fullness of God. We pray, Lord, give us focus, and even a solemn excitement as we hear from you now, in the reading and preaching of your word. We ask all of this, Lord, be with us in Christ’s name, amen.

First Corinthians 12, verse 21, to the end of the chapter. Speaking of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ, we read. So for the reading of God’s Word, may he had his blessing to it.

The focus of today’s sermon will be verses 27 to 31, and what a blessing it is this morning that we can celebrate together this Lord’s Day both sacraments ordained by the Lord, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Of course, here at Providence, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly, and weekly we delight, remember, and praise God for sending and Savior into the world to complete all that redemptive history pointed towards, what it pointed forward to, that he died in our place, and took the punishment we deserved.

We see that we are coming to the end of chapter 12. He’s transitioning right into that great love chapter, first Corinthians 13. And we have seen that the Corinthians have lost sight of the fact that they were, every one of them together, the body of Christ. They didn’t all have the same gifts, but they all have the same callings, and they were all members and all should pursue that which builds up the body and honors Jesus but they lost sight of that.

We must remember that God is the gift giver; He is the one who gives the gifts. And let’s look at these God given gifts as the Holy Spirit wraps up or he moves to discuss the need, value, and importance of love overall, without which none of these gifts would matter. In fact, the gifts would be detrimental to the body. In chapter 13, Paul takes a side track and then he returns in chapter 14 with the discussion of gifts that he began in chapter 12.

One of the greatest and most tragic discoveries I remember making when I started to read the Bible as a young man for the first time was really twofold. I remember how frustrated I was in reading the Scripture. And I was frustrated that Christianity and Christians in general, were so awfully portrayed in the culture. I was shocked that what I saw in the culture was far different than what I was reading about in Scripture. And every lame and insulting and negative stereotype of Christian people was on full display every chance that culture got to display it.

And it bore no resemblance to what I was reading in Scripture and nearly every Christian character; nearly all of them in movies or on TV were negative in some way. The “religious character” is, more often than not, portrayed in the negative light. It’s either that or Christians and Christianity are mocked and laughed at in culture. Even Homer Simpson, his neighbor was an over-the-top stereotype, right? You remember Ned Flanders? So that shocked me.

But the second discovery was that there were people in the name of Christ, who were acting like the characters that I saw the culture portraying. The entertainment industry portrays Christians as money-hungry charlatans scamming gullible followers and it’s tragic. But even more, there are people out there—on TV and elsewhere—who are charlatans scamming people for money, and that’s more tragic! And so when I was a young believer, I was really horrified. There was such a gross misrepresentation in the unbelieving world about who Christ was and who his followers were. And there were people who call themselves believers who did things that were just fodder for the secular world.

What’s the point of all that? It’s most likely that if you are talking to someone who is thoroughly secular or worldly, and the topic of spiritual gifts comes up, you will likely not be talking or thinking about the same things.

That’s the subject of this chapter. And when you think about these things, when this topic comes up, different things will come to your mind. And most likely, what they will drum up in their minds is what comes on late at night when they’re channel surfing and come across those crazy religious stations, right? That’s what they think Christians are all about. In those situations, we aren’t going to defend something that they are against because we are not for that either. But we can understand why their conclusion would be that they don’t want anything to do with that or anything to do with the spiritual gifts of the Spirit. If Christians are all about being drunk in the spirit, like we see on TV where people are convulsing in the spirit or being slain in the spirit.

They see that and they don’t want anything to do with it. And we can’t blame them. But what does Paul tell the Corinthians here in chapter 12? He says, “Earnestly desire the higher gifts.” What does Paul mean by that? What place do these gifts play? How are they connected to the offices of the church, if they are at all?

Well, this morning, we’ll look at these verses 12 to 31, and see what they teach us regarding these things. There may be no source of greater controversy, especially since the proliferation of Pentecostalism and the various varieties, Pentecostal, the Pentecostal movement that arose in the early 1900s. There may be no greater source of controversy than these chapters in First Corinthians 12 and 14. Some of the key doctrines of that movement Pentecostalism trace some of those key doctrines that they they teach and draw from our from these passages and these chapters. As I mentioned before, one of the key correctives to erroneous teaching is to understand a couple of key things. One of those is to understand where we are. And the other thing to remember is what time is it Right, that is where we are in redemptive history, and the depth of history timeline, where are we? What epoch are we in? And then what time is it in the history of redemption? are the topics being discussed part of the foundation learning stage at the church? Rather they the superstructure, which is built upon that foundation? Is this or that doctrine normative for the accomplishment of redemption era, or the application of redemption? If we’re not sure these things, we can get into all kinds of trouble. In our reading, and teaching of Scripture, we have to have the right lenses, scriptural lenses. Regarding gifts, we have to remember what are the purposes of these gifts? After all, we’ve seen as we have looked through this this topic so far that that has a lot to do with correcting these things. What are they for When we think about it, we look about it. Look at this one of the purposes of the gifts were to buttress the preaching of the gospel. The healing and other miracles of Jesus and the apostles were confirmed to confirm the word isn’t went out there preaching the word of the gospel, and miracles confirm that they were confirmatory. The guests were to buttress they reinforce that confirmed the word. Another purpose was to build up believers for the service in the church for the common good of the church. So they were to buttress reinforce the word they were to build up believers in the common good and a third purpose was that the gifts was to bless each other is they are enabled to love one another. The expression of those gifts, as they reflected the love of Christ had been shown to them. Paul had told them that in order to understand spiritual gifts, remember they must first understand spiritual things. Right chapter, verse one of chapter 12. Now concerning spiritual gifts really is just it’s just the word spiritual, not concerning the spiritual brothers, right or spiritual things you could say. It must first understand the spiritual before they talk about the gifts that he goes on to talk about. Jesus is Lord, recall, that is the starting point for discussion, starting point for discussing the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, the pagan culture out of with the saints, out of which the saints of Corinth had been free from in which they still lived, had a view of spiritual things that’s not so different from much of the West. And its view of spiritual things today. They view the things in the spiritual realm, the spirit realm, three things that we should aspire to mastering control. And if a person did seem to master and control the invisible spiritual realities, they’ve carried a lot of sway. They’re reporting culture they were like a celebrity. Paula been working to remove the corruption of that kind of thinking. God, the Holy Spirit has determined to give gifts to all believers, to somebody has given really visible spiritual gifts. And to others he has given a kind of ordinary or boring gifts. Right. But the thing that they had in common was what that aside from them all being necessary was that they were all for the common good of the body. They were for service not for status. And when they were used for these purposes, the common good the caring for others, the result that they were is that they were unable to love one another. And that’s the topic he’s going to move into chapter 13. being loved by Christ, and living for him. The Love is worked out in their lives towards God and towards one another. And that worked its way into the world. So much so that you may have heard this quoted, but that the testimony of history about Christians was we know them, by their love. You know them by their love. So they were identified as in centuries past, brothers and sisters, would that we were known by our love to each other. What honor and glory that would bring to our Savior Jesus Christ. We always be those who don’t try to hurt and insult one another. But they we act in Christian love in Christ loves towards our family members in the body of Christ. We don’t all have the same gifts, but all of our gifts are for the good of the body. And using Paul’s analogy of the body, of Christ, to the human body, what happens when those parts of the body will Across purposes, right and the human body, what happens when parts of parts of the systems in the body are not working for the same purpose, maybe hurting itself. And that’s what we call autoimmune disorders, autoimmune disease. That is so in the body of Christ damage can be done. When members are not working for the common good and exercising their gifts, not for the body service, but for their status and damage the body and the unity of that body. There are no gurus or superstars in Christ Church. The only person that We laud and praise and follow instead is higher than anyone else. There’s only one person and that’s Jesus. That’s it. The body is one and many right unity in diversity, and its unity in diversity and equality. As we saw last week, there’s the Lord give different callings and gifts The members that body of course he does. Are those serving in particular this or that positions better than others? Of course they’re not. Of course they’re not. ministers and elders, when they take their vows need to understand they are servants, right they are ministers servants. There to the word do their work ministerial Lee, not majesty, early lording it over the body of Christ. Their work is not from themselves, it is derived from scripture comes from the word of God. And the other important thing to remember is that in this regard is that each gift was given precisely as Lord wanted it to be given to whom he wanted to have it. Right. Remember back in verse 20, sorry, verse 18. It says, but as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose, right, he arranged as he chose, he gets He ranges as he chooses, he is sovereign, he is loving, he is good. Number 28. And God has appointed in the church, right? God is the one he is sovereign, he is good. He is tender he provides is wiser than me he’s wiser than you. So when we fall into childish whining, and complain and groan and grumble, we need to remember in call that God is good, he is sovereign. Those things tend to correct our, our weak and complaining perspective. He’s the one that chooses in orders and designs and appoints. He is the one who has gifted you He’s the one who is called you. And when we frame our frame our thinking realistically, in that manner, we find it a little easier, even joyful, and the things that we’ve been called to do. We’re all equally significance where the body of Christ and He gives gifts as he sees fit. As we Consider now or text the close of this chapter. Notice what Paul is doing. In verse 27. He’s changing from the analogy of the body, to the relationship between the offices of the church and the gifts of the Spirit. He has three offices and six gifts, right in these verses, verse 21. Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. We’ve been reading as we look at this first Corinthians letter, and Paul tells us about the body of Christ. And he closes that metaphor in verses 22 and verse 27. And there seems to be some emphasis in this verse, verse 27, and that in the original, the writer front, Paul, France, the noun, you right, he brings that to the front of the sentence. That’s a way of emphasis or to draw attention. And then this along with the way that the word body has no article right, its article less, there’s no there at least many activities to believe I agree with them. What Paul is doing what he’s trying to emphasize under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that all of this discussion about Jesus spiritual body, the church and spiritual gifts, all of that applies to every member of the Corinthian church. Remember, he’s taking universal principles, but he’s writing lope to a local church to a particular church, the church at Corinth. And so these things that he’s saying apply to every member of that church who’s reading and hearing or hearing these things. And that person with a really big head and ego, his great gifts, even with all this conceit and egotism, he’s not the whole body. He needs others and no one can claim such insignificance as to be excluded from the body. There is unity in diversity and equality. What does that do for This motley crew of sinful, self centered and fair Seiko legalist of the church. What does it do for us? As we consider these things, brothers and sisters? What part? how or what does that put us into confrontation with? Or with whom does it put us in confrontation? Right, because every one of us are both needful and needy. We’re needy, and we’re needful. That’s one of the beauties of the local church by the way. It keeps us from self pity and keeps us from self conceit. When we forsake the corporate gathering of the church, we rob others what we can contribute, and we rob ourselves and what the contribution that others can make towards ourselves. So there’s a double loss there. And its interest interesting too many people don’t think about this, but the New Testament everywhere speaks of the local church. Right? It is the local church. That is the manifestation of the visible church, those who profess Christ name here in the world, and the Holy Spirit constructs and even even Paul’s words, the Holy Spirit as he guides him, inspires him. And he constructs his words in a way that emphasizes the local church of which all remembers. Paul says, You are the body of Christ, you you Corinthians or the body of Christ. If you read the letter of Corinthians, you know that, that a lot of problems, that a lot of problems they’re one body of many members, and he says, You all play a role and have an important part to play in that body. And we commit to each other when we join the church. Right? We aren’t to date and date and date around and never get married. Right? That’s not the model we see in Scripture. Because it isn’t it Local shirts that we are protected, and then we are accountable and all the rest. We’re not allowed to just hit the eject button when things get uncomfortable, right, we are accountable. We don’t just send divorce papers, when we get bothered about something, are accountable to one another. It’s not a business. It’s a family. It’s a serious commitment to Christ and to his church. And so Paul starts by sending you are the body of Christ collectively, and you individually are members parts of it. With that transition, Paul switches to discussing the implications of how the spiritual gifts are related to the offices within the church. And he says in verse 28, God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third, teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping administrating in various kinds of tongues. There are several lists like this given in the Bible. And they’re all a bit different. For example, our New Testament reading that we heard just a little while ago, which is very much the same thing as we’re reading. The same thing is first Corinthians 12. First Peter gives something of a list. It’s also a place where we see the Bible’s teaching that every member has a divinely given service to fulfill in the body of Christ. All members, we have to remember, don’t do everything, and no member does nothing. Right? All members don’t do everything and no member does nothing. And the way Paul particularly cycles back again and again, this issue is very telling. If you listen to what the Scriptures actually tell us, we will fail to understand and we will fall into either clericalism right where laymen play nobody in the Pew play no part at all in the church. They’re just merely spectators or we could fall into the other Of every men member ministry, which denies that other half of what Paul is teaching, that we are diverse and we have not all been given the same gifts and callings as everyone else. And so we have neither hierarchy of persons nor an office list anarchie reality is that both are out of alignment with God’s word, I both poles are in error. And here we need to have our souls directed and constrained. But what we’re what the Word says in carefully stay in its life, as we do in all things. Most things that the list of gifts and offices more likely repor is representative rather than comprehensive. Right? What does that mean? That just means that what he’s saying here is not exhaustive. It’s just showing that some gifts relate to some offices. And those how Paul makes the change from the the three offices of apostles, prophets and teachers. The various gifts of the Spirit. A very helpful book in this regard was by Ed. Edmund Clowney has a fantastic book, I think it’s just called the church, by Ed clowny. And he makes the point that this passage, especially verse 28, shows the connection between officers and the church. And think about the miracles in the New Testament, right? Like what the miracles it’s Jesus who performs these miracles. In the Gospels, it’s confirmatory, of his word that he’s preaching in the book of acts as the apostles that performed miracles, and both over again for the confirmation of the truth of the gospel which they are preaching. So that ties the miracles to the office of Apostle and to establishing the churches that the New Testament speaks up. As I mentioned a moment ago, the word for church actually sia in the New Testament is most most often use of the local congregation. The greetings in the New Testament in the epistles are clearest evidence of this. The term for church and verse 28, though it’s used in a universal sense, that is the body of Christ. And that instructs us that what Paul will go on to say here is not merely reserved for the flock in Corinth, right, he’s very personal wealth that to corn but it’s not reserved only for them. This is also true of all pistola churches, all those that teach the apostolate teaching all those who hold the teachings handed down by the apostles. That is the episodic succession that we hold to. It’s their teaching. It’s what Paul passed down to Timothy, the teaching that which was handed down pass down, that he instructed him to guard it to protect and to preach. That teaching comes from Jesus to the apostles and praise God to the world. That which is the same in those churches is that God has appointed specific believers to these offices. And the Lord gave gifts to those people chosen for those offices offices. He gave the spiritual gifts required to equip them for service in the church. That’s why people have been given certain gifts of the Spirit. And they’re called to all the offices that God has designed to rule in Christ’s name. Right? We saw this recently, even in this church. And even here in Providence men with certain gifts went through a process right we call that the external call the confirm, confirm the external call, and then went through the process of testing their internal call. And we’re in some cases, install and other cases ordained that installed. We see this happening in the life, the lives of churches, all the time, and we see this very thing and Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Right First Timothy and Titus, they talked about this, we see that there’s three offices is here and that correspond, in First Corinthians to the offices that we see listed there and verse 28, apostle, Prophet teacher, and they eventually become the offices of the church that we’re familiar with, against an exact one to one correlation, but the teaching elder, the ruling elder and the deacon, there’s there’s overlap there, but in the working out of all this, and there was certainly a reflection of this as well to every member, right. Again, we want to stay away from both of those poles. That error is reflection of this not just in the offices of the church, reflecting Christ, but in the members as well, in this connection between spiritual gifts and church offices officers is something that many people don’t never consider. They never look at. I was surprised that the number of commentaries that ignore that altogether, we don’t have time to unpack that all now. Perhaps next week. We will look at it more but I command clowny spoke to you. I don’t agree with everything that he says. But if ever there was a Brilliant intellect and a true pastor scholar. It was him at clowning. And some of the misuse and abuse of spiritual gifts could be avoided, if we only would remember that there are no spiritual superstars who special a special link to God’s mind. And that there has to be order in the church. Right? everything done decently and in order, right? That’s the Presbyterian verse, right? everything done decently and in order. Another good book on the church is called order in the offices that talks about some of these things. But order is aided through the establishment of those offices in the church and installing in those offices men who have been equipped to have been equipped by the Holy Spirit and called by the church without the external call that confirms the internal call within the man problems certainly do arise. Right. We’ve all seen those variety show On TV where someone is convinced he’s the best singer in the world, no one else thinks so. Right. There’s no external confirmation of what they feel to be true. And we see this without the external call on the internal call, problems common some such men might be convinced against all evidence and counsel, that he is gifted with miracles and healings. Then they go and start a new ministry and they perform their gifts for the people. And all the while with the exclusion of any church at all. What kind of damage that we’ve seen from those on TV who do this very thing, there’s no accountability for them by the church. And they end up like the people I mentioned earlier. And all the while they the name of Christ is what it’s dragged through the proverbial mud. The gifts are to be exercised in the church for the common good for the building up of the body of Christ. Again, they’re for service not for status. They are not to be used to swell someone’s head and their wallet. Well, like I said, we could touch on this more this list more next week. But for now remember, remember, brothers and sisters, God cherishes his people. he cherishes them. Even this dear precious covenant daughter became under the waters of baptism this morning, a little while ago. Her father, our Father loves her so much that he arranged that she’d be born into a family. She born to a covenant family to love her. It is a body that is variously gifted. Each one of us has a gift to us in service of the body for Christ. Laurie, are you part of this family? Is he yours and you are his. If you are, remember God’s love and constructing the body in his way by his design, even if we sometimes don’t understand what he’s doing, or why he’s done what he’s done. Your brothers and sisters, you have yourselves come on to the waters of baptism. Christ has named you with his own name to you are the promises of God. They demand that you repent and you believe every day of your life. As you look to Christ, your Savior. You see doesn’t just demand that from little ones, like Isabella. It demands that from all of us. Which is why when we pour out the water and baptism we are required to warn the congregation remember your own baptism by which you are bound to God. You pass through those waters, and you renounced the world, the flesh and the devil. And now God is calling you. And he’s saying, I bless you with myself, don’t turn back, turn your back on those blessings, continue to repent, continue to believe. You see, this is not some sort of strange, magical guarantee or right. This is God’s promise and blessing for himself for us. And it requires of us faith in the God who gives that gift. And that requirement is not in a moment in time. It’s all lifelong. We throw ourselves on the work of our Savior, we rest in his strength. We rely in His provision, which he gives, because in those waters of baptism, that very judgment that you deserved, that I deserved, was already poured out in Christ, the one who bore those floodwaters and was drowned underneath them. So that you and I might be set free, set free not to sin, the free from sin that we might believe who might live before the face of God as the new creations that we are. If we have failed in those things and when we fail to do so. The glory is that we look back. And we clean to those promises that God made when he marked us and gave us the sign of his family. And we might affirm, reaffirm through repentance and faith that Christ is ours, and we are His. You see, baptism shows us that we are God’s all lifelong man never become mundane to you, me Never, never have a yawning indifference towards this truth. If you were Christ, this is a glorious and wonderful thing and it’s a promise of God for you. And you were called in to repent and have faith and believe all of your life Baptism says that God calls us to make not just one decision for Jesus but every decision for Jesus, that we might all of our lives. Look to the one who bore our judgments and ingratitude give ourselves to Him a fresh again and again, and a new and if we have fallen, and as we have fallen, we are to repent of those things. And to look to who we are through baptism once again. The water defines you. Right, if you are his that water defines you, it tells you again, who you are, even when you don’t feel like it. His promise and his gift is greater than our feelings or our failure. So may you your Christian, remember who you are this day and every day and look to Christ a fresh, for your salvation, for your very life and may we pray. Please these promises for our children, even as we did earlier, that they all fall lifelong will believe in the same faithful Savior, who has claimed them in these waters of baptism. As we to remember we ourselves, look and we remember in rest upon Christ, who is our life and our peace, amen.