HOPE CHAPEL Sunday Service Notes
Teaching Series: “Be Different” based on 1 Corinthians
Today’s Topic: “Week 9: Gifts of the Spirit” (Chapters 12+14)
For further study:
“The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” (EMCC - Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 26, 2016) -
Commentary: “New International Biblical Commentary: 1 Corinthians” (Marion L. Soards, 2004)
“The Holy Spirit” (The Bible Projects) -
“Water of Life” (The Bible Project) -
“God” (The Bible Project) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAvYmE2YYIU
[It is my belief that some of the terminology used to describe the Holy Spirit as ‘energy’ needs further explanation to assure the ‘personhood’ of the third member of the Trinity; but I believe there is still considerable value in these videos from “The Bible Project.” Remember that in all resources posted, you are encouraged to engage with an open but discerning mind; always ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in all truth whenever you study God’s Word and extra biblical resources.]
Today, we have a new topic to consider–the Gifts of the Spirit–but Paul’s continued concern for the unity of the believers remains the central focus. You may remember that during our first week of this series, “Be Different,” I explained that the motivation for Paul’s letter was to answer questions he had received in a letter from the church and out of concern about a report he had received from Chloe’s household; in the very short time he had been in Ephesus, the Corinthian church had become a fractured group, busily debating their status and jostling for position as individuals. They had become obsessed with claiming a superiority over each other based on the teachers they ‘followed,’ and how they exercised their newfound ‘freedoms’...in Christ, of course. Paul’s primary concern is that their attitudes and behaviours should be building up the Church and should promote the well-being of the whole body, not causing divisions. Today’s topic is no different and should be viewed through that lens.
If you were here last week, you will remember that we examined chapter 13, Paul’s instruction that agape love was to serve as the motivation for followers of Christ; “Paul makes it clear that love begins when someone else’s need supersedes one’s own” (Gordon Fee). We can accomplish nothing of importance without first considering how our actions, thoughts and words impact another. Rather than causing divisions, agape was to be the ‘glue’ that held them together.
Last week’s chapter, at first glance, appears to work as a stand alone lesson and feels like a bit of an intrusion on Paul’s instruction concerning spiritual gifts in chapters 12 and 14. Let me assure you...it is not. Paul is attempting to make his point crystal clear. The use of spiritual gifts is for the edification of the whole body, not individuals; they do not denote nor are they given based upon one’s merit. Without agape love guiding their use, the gifts of the Spirit cannot truly serve their intended purpose–the edification and building up of the church.
Chapter 12:1-11 - The Spirit Gives Gifts
“Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. 2 You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. 3 So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.”
During the last 100 years of church history to present time, there has been much debate concerning the gifts of the Spirit and particularly over certain ones. Debates include whether the Spirit stills gives gifts or if this was just a manifestation of God in the lives of believers for the establishment of the first century church; there are debates over which gifts are legitimate gifts as well as where and how it is permissible to exercise them; and for some, debates exist about whether some gifts are intended for all believers or not.
Modern day debating aside, can I just point out one often overlooked fact? Paul does not provide any ‘proof’ for the gifts of the Spirit; he assumes their existence and the church’s use of them. He also assumes their purpose–for helping others in the body of Christ. He does caution the believers to discern when someone is under the Holy Spirit’s influence or another spirit, “so I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” Just as in many areas of our lives, Satan attempts to deceive us with counterfeits. And Paul warns them of this fact.
He then provides a list of some of the possible gifts that the Holy Spirit can give to believers: gifts of the Holy Spirit include “wise advice... a message of special knowledge...great faith...healing...power to perform miracles...the ability to prophesy...the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit...the ability to speak in unknown languages...and to interpret.” This is a representative list of the possible gifts from the Spirit and should not be viewed as a complete listing. Some scholars believe that the Bible identifies 21 unique gifts, but even that should not be assumed to make up all possible gifts that can be given by the Spirit. His gifts are given as needed and as He sees fit...we would do well, not to limit God’s Spirit in how and what He can give as a gift.
What we do know is that the gifts of the Spirit are given according to His plan...we cannot earn them, or dictate which ones He will give. But we do know that every believer is given at least one ‘gift.’ But what exactly is a gift? It is a supernatural empowerment of the Spirit given to Christ-followers that provide the believer with unique skills and abilities. Maybe you know someone who can easily and effectively share their faith with others–they may have the gift of evangelism. Maybe you know someone who is able to keep things organized and running smoothly–they may have the gift of administration. Maybe you know someone who loves to have people over and everyone leaves feeling loved–they may have the gift of hospitality.
There are many different gifts that the Holy Spirit can give to individual believers, but they are always given to be used to build-up the Church and for the well-being of the church body. Though the gifts function through individual believers they are in actual fact a gift to the whole church to be used for the good of all its members, “Christ makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).
Chapter 12:12-31 - The Church is One Body Made up of Many Parts
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.
29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.”
God puts the body together...perfectly...in harmony...so all the members care for each other. Your place in the body of Christ has been determined by God. Remember the verse from Ephesians, “Christ makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16). God has put us together, you and me, so that together we will be healthy, growing and full of love!
From these words of Paul, I understand that we all need each other. No part is unnecessary...the less ‘glamourous’ parts may in actual fact be most necessary to the well-being and functioning of the church then those that are more visible. Imagine a church function at which no one was willing to set-up or tear-down or clean-up. We wouldn’t have church functions for very long! Imagine trying to run an online service without individuals who have technical expertise. Imagine a lesson taught by someone who did not take the time to study the topic.
Another point Paul is clear on is that our aim should not be to exactly mirror one another–God is not interested in cookie cutter Christians. As the body is made up of different parts, which allow us to perform many different functions, so it should be in the church. We should celebrate one another’s differences and unique giftings. Think of it like a puzzle. My piece may look different from someone else’s piece, but all the different pieces together complete the puzzle.
There also shouldn’t be any elevating or demotion of individuals in the body of Christ based on their gifts. Some have made the argument that Paul’s designation of ‘first, second, third, then’ provides for a hierarchy of gifts; however, this doesn’t line up with the prevailing mood of Paul’s letter. Being the ‘body of Christ’ is not a competition! You can’t earn the ‘gift.’ It is a gift given by the Spirit. The gifts are for use by individuals for the building up of the church. So...the gifts I have been given aren’t ‘mine’...I have no say in which ones I receive...they are only for my benefit as they benefit the whole of the body!
Paul wants us to understand just how very connected we are to be in purpose, mission and loyalty. Christ is our head and we are His body. The pain of one, is the pain of all; the honour of one, is to bring honour to all. Ever stubbed your toe? It isn’t just you toe that feels the pain; the whole of the body responds to the unwanted stimulus! When you’re cold, what happens if you put on a hat or socks? The whole body finds itself warming up. We are to be just that impacted by what happens in our church body. After all, we share the same Spirit, serve the same Lord, and have been given the same purpose...wherever we go we are to disciple, teach and baptize.
He now takes a brief break from his talk of gifts and our oneness to, “show you a way of life that is best of all.” As you may recall, he now spends a significant amount of time addressing the need for agape love, which we examined last week in chapter 13. It is to serve as the foundation from which we work, serve and engage with one another and the world around us. But again here Paul needs to address the Corinthians. Instead of allowing the gifts of the Spirit to build up and encourage one another, they have used them to create more friction and chaos within their times of worship.
Chapter 14:1-25 - Tongues and Prophesy
“Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. 2 For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious. 3 But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. 4 A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.
5 I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened.
6 Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful. 7 Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. 8 And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?
9 It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space.
10 There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning. 11 But if I don’t understand a language, I will be a foreigner to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will be a foreigner to me. 12 And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.
13 So anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said. 14 For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying.
15 Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. 16 For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t understand what you are saying? 17 You will be giving thanks very well, but it won’t strengthen the people who hear you.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. 19 But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.
20 Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind. 21 It is written in the Scriptures: “I will speak to my own people through strange languages and through the lips of foreigners. But even then, they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.
22 So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers. 23 Even so, if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your church meeting and hear everyone speaking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy. 24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.”
It appears that the Corinthian believers were suffering from an over valuation of one gift above all others...that of ‘tongues.’ Scholars today do not share an agreed upon understanding of the meaning of this Greek word, ‘glossolalia.’ Some make an argument for a gifting whereby the Spirit gives people the ability to speak a ‘known language’ that has been unknown to them previously...as happened at Pentecost, when people from around the known world heard the disciples speaking the truth about Jesus in their various languages. Others make a case for ‘unintelligible utterances’ that only the Spirit knows, but through which people can experience communion with God in a form of ecstasy. It is not entirely clear...it may be one, or the other, or both!
What do we know about ‘tongues’
The attraction of the gift of tongues for some of the Corinthian believers was undoubtedly because of how it made them feel personally. I suspect they experienced an almost euphoric experience, much as can happen during times of musical worship. Again Paul has to remind them of the need to view themselves as members of one body, looking out for the good of the whole and not just themselves, “Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.” Paul’s personal preference is obvious, but also a sign of his mature faith, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.”
Chapter 14:26-40 - A Call to Orderly Worship
“Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
27 No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. 28 But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.
29 Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. 30 But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. 31 In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. 32 Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.
34 Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. 35 If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.
36 Or do you think God’s word originated with you Corinthians? Are you the only ones to whom it was given? 37 If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself. 38 But if you do not recognize this, you yourself will not be recognized.
39 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But be sure that everything is done properly and in order.”
Can you imagine this scene on a Sunday morning? Your family walks into the church building and you find yourself segregated–men on one side, women and children on the other. The welcome is given and then the invitation is extended for someone to share. You inwardly groan as Sister A makes her way to the front...everyone knows how much she loves to go on. Brother B gets impatient waiting for his turn, stands up where he is and begins sharing what God has shown him to those immediately around. Sister C, having tired of Sister A, calls over to her husband, Brother D, to repeat what Brother B has been saying. In a brief break in the talk, Brothers E and F, begin to simultaneously speak in tongues, each getting louder in order to be heard over the other. The visiting couple at the back look incredulously at one another...are they drunk? No! It’s just another chaotic Sunday at the church in Corinth.
In our well mannered and ordered service, the Corinthian church would be nothing short of shocking. Paul lays out an order of service, not to provide us with an eternal template for meeting together, but to provide the Corinthian believers with some direction. Bottom line–take turns, don’t interrupt, don’t monopolize, allow for all the gifts in reasonable quantity and, if there is no one to interpret, refrain from speaking in tongues. Simple!
Now, for just a moment, I would like for us to give some special attention to verses 34 and 35. Some read these words of Paul to demonstrate the need for women’s silence while in church, “Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. 35 If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.” I confidently reject that interpretation on two counts. First of all, Paul is writing the Corinthians about their need for orderly worship. The type of ‘talking’ the wives are doing is creating disorder. The clear reading of the text provides insight into what Paul was prohibiting–questions...shouted across the divide that separated the sexes during worship. Paul does not condemn them for participating or for having questions, but he is firm: if you have questions, stop interrupting and ask your husbands at home.
It would also be contradictory of Paul to insist that women remain ‘silent’ for it is ‘improper for women to speak in church meetings’ at this point; just a few short pages earlier he is instructing women on needing to wear a head covering as a sign of her own authority when praying and prophesying in their meetings together (1 Corinthians 11). Has Paul first granted permission only to now remove it or is Paul referring to the interruption caused by the wives when they attempt to call to the other side of the room to have their questions answered? For me the latter is the obvious answer. It is my conclusion, that the interpretation that women are not permitted to speak aloud when meeting together for worship is a grievous misinterpretation of these verses.
Application - So what’s our take aways?
Next week: “Be Different” - Week 10 - “No Need to Say Good-Bye” (Chapters 15+16)
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!