Spiritual Matters

Sunday School Notes
March 1, 2015

Are spiritual gifts still given to the church? Are they a sign of maturity or immaturity?

To answer those questions we must carefully define our terms and consider many different factors. For example,

  • What is a church?
  • What are spiritual gifts?
  • When were spiritual gifts given to the church?
  • Why were they given?

1 CORINTHIANS 1:2-9

Paul describes the church at Corinth in a thoughtful and beautiful way:

The church is a gathering of people sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.

Paul prayed for grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to come to the church.

He gave thanks to God always for the members of the church. Why? Because of the grace of God that was given them in Christ Jesus. 

  • they were enriched in Christ in every way, in all speech and all knowledge
  • the testimony about Christ was confirmed among them
  • they were not lacking in any gift
  • they waited for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was going to sustain them to the end, and keep them guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul reminds them that God is faithful, by whom they were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Corinthian church had every spiritual blessing in Christ, and they had every charismatic gift under heaven. No other church in the NT had as much experience with spiritual gifts as the church at Corinth, yet it was still the most immature church in Paul’s sphere of ministry.

All their relational, moral, doctrinal, and theological problems are far too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that Paul considered the baptized Christians at Corinth to be infants not adults (3:1-3; 13:11; 14:20). Yet we must keep in mind that he still considered them to be a true church.

A true church is a gathering of people who are called and consecrated and confirmed by the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. Not perfect, flawless people, but broken and messed up people.

1 CORINTHIANS 12:1-13

First, Paul says this section of the letter is about spiritual matters, not just spiritual gifts. (12:1)

  • The word “gifts” does not appear in the Greek text in this verse. The word used in 12:1 is spiritual, meaning spiritual things or spiritual matters. Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν [But concerning the spiritual things]
  • It is used this same way in many other texts in 1 Corinthians. See 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3-4; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44, 46.
  • Translators often add words to help smooth over or clarify the meaning of a word in context. That is why the word spiritual is often followed by words like truth, things, persons, gifts.
  • Spiritual matters include gifts, baptism, the body, love, worship, and gender roles.

Second, the Spirit gives diverse gifts to the whole church collectively. (12:4)

  • The Greek word for gifts is charisma. The English word charismatic comes from this word.
    Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων [NGPN] εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα
  • In the Christian community there are basically two polar opposite views on the gifts of the Holy Spirit: Cessationists and Continuationists.
  • Cessationists believe the Spirit ceased to give spiritual gifts to the church either when the ministry of the apostles came to an end or when the scriptures were completed and compiled. These Christians are called “non-Charismatic.”
  • Continuationists believe the Spirit continues to give spiritual gifts to the church and will do so until Jesus comes. These Christians are called “Charismatic.”
  • Both sides have much more in common than they realize. They need to come together and celebrate what they hold in common.
  • I would argue that all baptized Christians are “charismatic” Christians, for the Spirit gives to all Christians all sorts of gifts (e.g., the gift of faith to confess Jesus is Lord, the gift of baptism into the body of Christ.)
  • Just as we confess that we believe in the holy catholic church — with a small c, so we confess that we are a charismatic church — with a small c. Not to be confused with the modern Charismatic movement.

Third, the Spirit gives gifts to each baptized Christian individually. (12:7, 11)

  • To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good [symphero – bring together]. The same idea is echoed in 12:24 where God combines members of the body in Christ.
  • All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions/distributes to each as he wills. The same idea is echoed in 12:18, 28 where God appoints members of the body where he wants them.
  • All these spiritual things happen in the body of Christ, for members of Christ’s body, for the common good of the whole body.
  • In their spiritual immaturity, the Corinthians misused and abused spiritual matters (including spiritual gifts) by using them for self-centered ends rather than for Christ-centered ends.

Fourth, the Spirit baptizes us into Christ’s church. (12:12-13)

  • This is the first time in this text that Paul directly connects “us” with the Spirit’s work. Here he makes explicit what was previously implicit.
  • We all were baptized by one Spirit into one body. The Spirit takes our diversity and turns it into unity in Christ.
  • As Israel drank deeply of the water that flowed from the rock in the wasteland, so we drink deeply of the Spirit who flows from Christ in the world.
  • Technically, this is not considered one of the so-called spiritual gifts (e.g., prophecy, tongues, healing), but it is a spiritual gift that surpasses those other gifts. Those things come and go, but union with Christ is forever.

(To be continued)

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