Don't Be Ignorant of Spiritual Gifts
O Holy Spirit, enter in
And in our hearts Thy work begin,
Thy temple deign to make us;
Sun of the soul, Thou Light Divine,
Around and in us brightly shine,
To joy and gladness wake us.
That we, In Thee
Truly living, To The giving
May in love be still increasing.
Give to thy Word impressive power
That in our hearts, from this good hour,
As fire it may be glowing;
That we confess the Father, Son,
And Thee, the Spirit, Three in One,
Thy glory ever showing.
Stay Thou, Sway now
Our souls ever That they never
May forsake Thee,
But by faith their Refuge make Thee.
Thou fountain whence all wisdom flows
Which God on pious hearts bestows,
Grant us Thy consolation
That in our pure faith's unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Of grace that brings salvation.
Hear us, Cheer us
By Thy teaching; Let our preaching
And our labor
Praise Thee, Lord, and serve our neighbor.
The Holy Spirit gives many and varied spiritual gifts to God’s children. There are, however, those who will claim spiritual gifts, but they are really false prophets. John writes to his readers urging them to evaluate those who speak as if they are messengers of God. The Word of God is the tool for such evaluation.
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 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. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
In Christ Jesus whose name we proclaim by using the gifts which the Spirit gives, dear fellow-redeemed:
If someone says, “I’m spiritual,” what does that mean? It apparently can mean a great number of things because people seem to say it all the time in news reports, magazine interviews, and personal conversations. A great many people with a great variety of faiths and backgrounds describe themselves as spiritual. It may be a spirituality that focuses on self, it may be aspirituality that adores a false god.
When we talk about being spiritual or having spiritual gifts in the context of God’s Word, we are speaking of the things which the Holy Spirit works in us. Spiritual gifts are those gifts we have from the Holy Spirit. They are gifts we wouldn’t possess if not for the Holy Spirit living within us and working in our hearts. Martin Luther in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed says that the Holy Spirit “enlightens us with His gifts.” These are the gifts that He enables us to see by bringing us to faith. They are the gifts that He works in our hearts and in our lives as faith grows and as He continues to sanctify us and set us apart from the sinful world.
These are the gifts of which Paul did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant, and neither should we be. DON’T BE IGNORANT OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS I. Know that spiritual gifts have been given to you II. Know that spiritual gifts are given for action and III. Know that spiritual gifts are given for service.
The fact that you put your faith in Christ and confess Him as your Savior is evidence of a spiritual gift. Paul told the Corinthians, “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.” [v.2] The Corinthians were Gentiles who had pursued their heathen gods. They had worshipped with pagan rituals. They had been blown every which way by false teachings and false beliefs. Now they confessed Christ! Now they believed in Him who is the Son of God. They believed that Jesus came and lived for them and then died for them and now lives forever. They believed in Jesus but that faith didn’t come from following those Gods. They believed in Jesus as their Savior, but not because they pulled something up from deep within themselves. They believed in Jesus as their one and only Savior and confessed him because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “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” [v.3]
Apart from the working of the Holy Spirit in hearts and lives with the Gospel(in Word and Sacrament), we would not own nor know our Savior. We would not have the forgiveness of sins, because it is through the faith which the Holy Spirit creates that God brings Christ’s forgiveness to us. Our forgiveness of sins, our faith, our confidence, our salvation are all gifts of the Holy Spirit!
It is that gift of the Holy Spirit that God seeks to have us nurture within one another. Paul wrote to the Ephesians saying, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, 14-15).
We like the Corinthians would be blown every which way if not for that course-steadying work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to individuals, Jesus sends them out to be pastors and teachers and other leaders in the Christian Church. The goal of these gifts is that we all be equipped for the ministry, that we all be edified and no longer be tossed to and fro by every new fad and wind of doctrine. God desires that through the use of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament that we grow up in faith and in all aspects of our spiritual lives.
It is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we are able to maintain the truth and continue to confess the truth despite attacks. It is the Holy Spirit’s working that we are able to stand with the Word of God and with Christ at our side to defeat the Devil and his temptations. Writing to Timothy, Paul said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Being able to boldly confess our Lord in a world that hates him, being able to understand the truth of God’s Word enough to confess him are all gifts of the Holy Spirit.
There are a number of examples in Scripture of the change that the gifts of the Holy Spirit bring upon an individual. One such example of this is Gideon. Israel had rejected God and He allowed the enemy nation, the Midianites, to oppress Israel. God called Gideon to be a deliverer and leader for His people. Gideon was hesitant and afraid, but, we are told, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon…”(Judges 6:34) and then Gideon courageously led the people in the Lord’s strength.
From the general giving of faith and spiritual courage, the Holy Spirit also works diversity. He gives differing gifts in differing measures to each of us. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” [v.4] We do not all share in the same level of Christian living in every aspect of our lives. It is our prayer and desire to build up our lives of sanctification. We all desire to increase our love and our trust and our willingness to follow Christ and the Word. We use the Word of God to accomplish this. We use the Word to grow in our sanctified living day by day. We all have gifts and we all seek to grow in those gifts, and yet our spiritual gifts and the offsetting weaknesses are different for each of us. As a result, our Christian lives don’t always look the same—we may be strong or we may be weak depending on the circumstances.
One of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives in diversified ways is the gift of discernment—the ability to use the knowledge and wisdom of God’s Word and apply it in everyday life. We may all struggle with this at times and some more than others. To some God gives a great measure of discernment. When He gives discernment in great measure it is not to be toward pride, not for gloating, but to be wisely used.
This coming week, we’ll be noting the decision of our Supreme Court to legalize abortion. This is a political issue. It is also a common sense issue despite what you might hear in the media. It is also, to a degree, a matter of spiritual understanding. It takes spiritual discernment to know and God says about the unborn and apply it to the unborn in a womb, to know that when God says, “Thou shalt not kill,” He means not to kill the babies in the womb as much as He means not to kill the 110 year old who is bed bound and by world standards has outlived usefulness. People who do not have spiritual gifts because they are of the world and not of Christ will naturally struggle more with the truth concerning abortion.
The gift of discernment is to be able to understand God’s Word and apply it to these types of social issues. The Holy Spirit working in your hearts builds those gifts. You have been given gifts of the spirit, and those will only grow and multiply as you use God’s Word and have the Holy Spirit working in your hearts.
Paul gives a wide ranging list of spiritual gifts in our text. He writes, “to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually (tailored for each person in each situation) as He wills.” [vv.8-11]
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the gift to speak in many different languages. This was a gift needful at that time so that the Gospel could quickly be spread to the many people from many countries who were gathered in Jerusalem. Later, the gift of tongue-speaking was still given, but that particular gift had already begun to diminsh by the time Paul wrote this letter. There were those who could speak in tongues but not always someone who could interpret them. Elsewhere in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul instructs the Corinthians to use their gifts carefully and in accordance with God’s Word and cautions against using these gifts without edifying the hearers.
As time continued, the gifts of healing and tongue speaking diminished more until our present day where we really don’t see the Spirit sending those gifts. Nevertheless, the Spirit continues to give gifts as they are needed, in the unique circumstances of all the ages of the Christian Church. He will continue to do so. “Do not be ignorant,” Paul says, “of these spiritual gifts.” Know that God has given spiritual gifts to you as your unique circumstance dictates and God’s unique work for you unfolds.
Paul also says, “There are diversities of activities.” [v.6] Part of understanding and knowing these spiritual gifts is that they are given for action. They are not given to be put on a shelf, but to use, to activate, to stretch, to grow. Like muscles that are worked out and become sore, but by that exercise also grow, so we are to exercise our faith, stretch it, apply it, and make use of it in the day to day situations and the frustrations of life. Our faith, those gifts of the Spirit—discernment, wisdom, knowledge—are given to be used, and there are going to be different uses. If you have been given one set of spiritual gifts and someone else has another set, your activities will not be the same. You will not be called into the same roles, you will not have the same functions, but that does not make your activity any less important, or any less part of the Gospel ministry.
Consider how many people respond negatively toward God’s direction concerning women in the church. We know from Scripture that God desires the leadership roles in a Christian congregation to be held by men. But that does not in any way diminish the spiritual gifts He gives to women. In no way does it suggest that women do not have a role to in which to serve while using their gifts for the work of God’s kingdom. There are differences in activities according to the gifts that God gives and the roles He assigns in accordance with His will; but it is the same God who works all in all. God gives these gifts to be actively used act upon and use as they can be used profitably according to His will.
As we use these gifts of the Spirit actively, they are to be used selfishly. Rather, we are to use them for service. “There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord…But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” [vv.5,7]
We have all received spiritual gifts which we are to actively use for one another. Ministry is “service.” Jesus said that He did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Likewise, the spiritual gifts God has given us follow the same model. They are not given to us so that we can lord them over others. They are not given so that we can be served because of them. Rather, these spiritual gifts are given to us so that we might actively serve others, just as they serve us with theirs. We use our gifts to edify one another, uplift one another, comfort one another, enlighten one another, to serve one another according to the gifts God gives.
Paul wrote in a similar way to the Romans in chapter 12: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8).
Whatever spiritual gifts God has given you, use them! Paul urges us not to be ignorant about them. If we have questions or don’t fully understand them—and we never will fully—then dive into Scripture to learn more about them, become more familiar with them, grow in them. Then use them to God’s glory and for the spread of His kingdom. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt