In Jesus Christ there is the full expression of every one of the gifts. Did Jesus have the gift of giving? Yes! Did He have the gift of mercy? Yes! Did he have the gift of preaching? Yes! Gift of teaching? Yes. Faith? Yes, he did! Now in the body of Christ, the church, I do not have all those gifts, and YOU do not have all those gifts, but you know what? WE have all those gifts. And as the body begins to function and use those gifts, and minister to each other, all of the gifts are there. And the ministry begins to take place – not with just 5 people, but with everyone having their part.
But as we looked at Corinth, we saw the reason for Paul’s starting out with a warning was because they were out of control practicing mindless ecstasy. Feeling good had become the focus – the mark of spirituality, and as a result they could no longer tell the difference between what was of God and what was not. There was a lot of confusion because of their religious background – mystery religion with euphoria being the virtue. Plato even said, “Through mania the greatest blessings come.” That’s where they were.
What is a Gift Anyway?
The verses we’re going to look at today will help us with that. I Corinthians 12:4-7, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
I want to look at several different words within this passage to help us begin to understand.
The first word is used interchangeably for gifts and is found in the first verse, “Now about spiritual gifts.” Depending on what Bible you have, you may notice that the word “gifts” is in italics. What that means is that it’s not in the original manuscript. The phrase in the Greek is simply “spirituals.” That Paul is speaking of gifts is assumed – and rightly so because of the context – the verses following.
But the way this Greek word spirituals is used means that spiritual gifts, whatever they are, are characterized by and controlled by the spirit. You see, in my effort to understand the gifts, one of the first things I need to know is that the gifts are of the Spirit.
Spiritual gifts are not to be confused with physical ability or natural talent
For example, your spiritual gift is not singing. Some of you are reading this and you’re going, “Amen to that – I can’t sing at all!” Some of you can sing, and some of you can sing very well. But your spiritual gift is not singing. I can stand up in front of people and talk, but my spiritual gift is not the gift of gab.
Some people can cook wonderfully – your gift is not the gift of cooking. Those are physical abilities, and they’re wonderful. But you know something? There’s a lot of people that can sing and sing better than anybody, and there’s a lot of people who can speak and communicate with people, and do it a lot better than I can, but that doesn’t mean those things are characterized and controlled by the spirit.
In the church I was saved in we had different people who did special music. One gal was excellent – did a beautiful job – powerful voice, blew people away. Interesting thing about her, she really had a lot of ability and could play the piano to match. But even back then, I could always notice a difference between her and another lady. The other gal wasn’t quite as powerful and couldn’t play the piano, but there was something else that ministered from her that never did minister from the first one. You see, the gift was not the physical ability to sing – the gift that came from the second gal was more like encouragement, exhortation, and teaching. The act she did was not the gift.
Characterized by the Spirit
Some of you are good cooks. And some of you when you cook, the food tastes good and when we’re all done the stomach is full. But there are others, that when they cook, the food tastes good and the stomach is full, but all of that cooking and all of that doing and all of that work is something that is being consistently characterized by the Spirit so that the result of the cooking is more than a full stomach – out of your life through this service is flowing encouragement, mercy, help, and sometimes faith is even being built up because of that.
I want us to understand the difference between the physical and the spiritual and that spiritual gifts are characterized by the supernatural and go beyond what we see as natural abilities. That gives a whole new understanding to the gifts. That’s a real key. The big question for me in all of this is, “Is my faith something that is supernatural?” And if it is not, “How valid is it really?”