We are in a series on the Holy Spirit and his activity among us. To do that we are going through chapters 12-14 in the book of First Corinthians. This last Sunday we were in 12:4-11, the section talking about the gifts of the Spirit. But what is really happening here in this passage? It is tempting to initially get distracted with spiritual gifts and miss the overall picture of what God is really doing. The Spirit is at work all right, but the work he is doing is far broader and grander that just using the gifts to bless people....he's seeking to bring change...deep change...change in the hearts of every believer he touches. He is using the gifts to reveal Christ to us in a new and life changing way.
Paul is in the process of answering questions the Corinthians have asked him in a letter. Here he appears to be answering the question "what does it mean to be spiritual". What does a spiritual person look like? In answering this, as Ron pointed out last week, Paul first states that the spiritual person is one who rightly confesses Jesus as Lord. This is the person who has the Spirit! Now in verses 4-11 he is going to fill that out a little.
He starts out by saying that "varieties" of gifts, services, and activities. This is interesting because Paul seems to immediately broaden the work of the Spirit way beyond just gifts. Paul is not wanting to define ‘gifts’ too narrowly. He seems to be using a broader definition. The Spirit does a lot of things and he is empowering everything we do, whether specific gifts, serving or any working in our lives. It seems clear that Paul is seeking to avoid making a distinction between charismatic and non-charismatic gifts or power. The 'manifestations' of the Spirit cover a pretty broad spectrum. Though he lists out here the more "public" gifts, i.e. those used in the context of a service, he starts by emphasizing ALL the service and workings of the Spirit, whether serving in Children's ministry, a bake sale, an usher or the worship team, all are empowered by the "one and same Spirit".
that Spirit is the one source of all empowerment. 7 times the word Spirit is used and twice the word Lord or God is used. There should be no doubt that the emphasis in this passage is on the giver not the gift. “... the same Spirit...the same Lord....the same God...manifestation of the Spirit...through the Spirit...according to the same Spirit...by the same Spirit...by the one Spirit...empowered ty one and the same Spirit”. What's clear is the sovereignty of the Spirit in empowering us to be his vehicles for the "common good".
And that brings us to our last observation...all that the Spirit does is meant for the "common good". No one is left out...all should have an expectation of benefit from all these manifestations of the Spirit. Do you come with an expectation of both being used by the Spirit to be a blessing and to also receive a blessing from the Holy Spirit? We should! The last aspect of common good if found in the overall context of this passage and that is Christ himself. In the first verses of this chapter we saw that the spiritual person was the one who confessed Christ. This is the person who has the Spirit. The verses following this passage all are focused on our vital connection to Christ and his body. In 15:1-4, right after these three chapters on the gifts and how they are to be used, Paul immediately reminds them of the gospel as of "first importance". This is what the Spirit primarily does; brings us back to Christ. Gives us a revelation of Christ. Rom. 8 28 says that "God works all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose", but what is that 'good' that God is after. Vs. 29 tells us; it is to "be conformed to the image of Christ". This is the Spirit's primary purpose in our lives...this is what the gifts are all ultimately pointing to; the finished work of Christ being worked out in our hearts and lives. Believers built up and encouraged IN CHRIST! You never want to let the gifts get separated from Christ’s work in our lives. To do so is to miss the point of the gifts operating....to miss the functional centrality of the gospel. The gifts are not meant to just make you feel better or produce an emotional high or culminate with a healing or miracle, they are to draw us to Christ. To make us as His church, His bride, His body, more like Him.
So, we should hunger for the Spirit's work. We should pursue the Spirit's work as Paul says in 14:1, to "earnestly desire" the spiritual gifts, services and activities. To desire all the Spirit has for you and not settle for less.
Some questions to consider:
1. In what ways have you seen the Spirit use the gifts to draw you closer to Christ?
2. In what ways have you been used by the Spirit to draw others closer to Christ? (think broadly)
3. What are some ways you can 'pursue' the Spirit?
4. What are some ways we as a corporate body can pursue the Holy Spirit more?
5. Why is it encouraging to know that the Spirit is sovereign in His distribution of the gifts?