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Print copies of the ‘Love Checklist’ to hand out later


Read 1 Corinthians 12:


1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.

3 Therefore I tell you that no-one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, Jesus be cursed, and no-one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,

10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

   

The way people behaved at the communion service (Chapter 11) demonstrated that there were those in the church who considered themselves (or were considered by others) to be better than the rest. They needed to receive teaching that in Christ they were all equal. To start with, as this was a young church, Paul could confidently say that they had all once been ‘pagans . . . influenced and led astray to mute idols.’


They may have been rich pagans, or influential pagans, but in the sight of Christ they were all lumped together as pagans – sinners, and weak enough to be led astray to worship idols which could not speak – let alone give spiritual gifts.


However now they were saved, they all had the Holy Spirit, and the proof of that was what now came from their mouths. Would someone like to explain? (no-one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. V3)


More than that, it was the Holy Spirit who now empowered them, and as he began to explain about spiritual gifts he reminded them (v11) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. Notice that gifts are given to each one, but the Spirit decides which gift or gifts we get, and when.

 

Why are spiritual gifts given? (v7 for the common good)


In verses 8-10 there is a list of different gifts, all designed to help others, but Paul also mentions one gift that is actually given to us all individually – what’s that? (Faith v9)

Look at verses 4-6


4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Paul also reminds us that as we exercise gifts given by the Spirit, We are serving our Lord, Jesus Christ, and it is actually the Power of God at work in us as we exercise these gifts.


But it seems that these gifts were being used for self-aggrandisement, and probably the hero-worship of those who exercised them was not discouraged. Certainly the main problem in the church (1 Corinthians 1:12) stemmed from people choosing to follow one charismatic leader rather than another.


Verse 7 tells us that each one has been given gifts. But Paul has to explain that we, and the gifts given to us are all different, and deliberately so, in order that together we may be used to build up the church.

The gifts are not ours because we are special, but only because we have been selected by the Spirit to receive them so that God can use us for the benefit of others.

If we all have been given gifts, does it mean that we all must be equally important in God’s sight?


Paul now compares the church to a human body. People who make up a church are all different. We have different mental and physical abilities; we have different skills, and different personalities. But each is as necessary as another.


I Corinthians 12:12-26

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

16 And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, I don't need you! And the head cannot say to the feet, I don't need you!

22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,

24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it,

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.


When thinking about the members of our church, and comparing them to a body, what part would you like to be described as? (Try to get everyone to answer)


Would you agree that everybody is indispensable? (v22 & 18)


Aren’t you glad that Paul included verses 22-24?


We all know how inter-dependant the parts of our body are. If any part isn’t working properly our whole body suffers. For example: toothache, stomach-ache, a strained muscle, a broken bone, asthma, heart problems, even a damaged finger-nail can stop us from operating at 100%.


Now, thinking of the church, V25: so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.


Is that really true? How much do we feel the pain if one of our brothers or sisters suffers?


The problem Paul faced at Corinth was one faced by many churches in the 1960s, when the Charismatic movement was more active. Here many gifts of the Spirit were used, but ‘Speaking in tongues’ was a gift that became divisive in churches. This was probably because the other gifts are understandable to those observing them, but tongues are unintelligible unless they are interpreted.


To some, this then took on the appearance of some sort of secret art, and those who ‘could do it’ were separated from ‘those who couldn’t’ and churches were divided. Paul addresses this problem particularly in Chapter 14, but for now he gently introduces a possible hierarchy of gifts – with speaking in tongues at the end. He doesn’t specifically say that one gift is above another, but for those for whom speaking in tongues was so important (some would say essential for a Christian), Paul has to point out that there are gifts which are greater.


28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts.


Paul also indicates that we cannot expect to receive any particular gift, nor be upset if we don’t. Notice that in his list (V28) being a helper, or an administrator, comes before speaking in tongues! But actually, having and exercising these gifts can be totally worthless if our motivation is wrong.


.  .  .  .   And now I will show you the most excellent way.


1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.


Those who used their gifts as a sort of status symbol may as well have not had them for all the good they were doing. Look at the ends of verses 2 and 3:

I am nothing.  .  .  .   I gain nothing. Only when I exercise my gift out of love for my fellows will there be any benefit. Why is that?


4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


Isn’t that a popular set of verses? Often chosen for weddiings, but this list is not intended to give us a warm glow.

Why has Paul included it here, where he is correcting error in the church?


 It is actually a check list to see how we are doing! Let’s look at it again:


(Print this list out and give out at this point – PDF here)



It seems that the world has a ‘Me, now’ culture. As we live our lives we should always have an eternal perspective, recognising that what we see and experience here and now is not all that there is, and that we are actually part of something which is much bigger.


Instead we sometimes behave as if we are children, whose view of the world is very limited:


8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


However old we are now, it is as if we are still in our childhood, with limited and confused ideas about heaven. We are living in a twilight world where we can just make out the first glimmer of dawn approaching, but it is still not light enough to see clearly. But when that day dawns completely, the torches that we relied on so much will be useless in the full light of the sun.


Prophecy will be redundant; different tongues will become the one language of heaven; and the knowledge that we relied on here will be swallowed up in the perfect knowledge that will then be ours.


Faith will be finally rewarded, hope will become certainty, and love? Love continues – it is the essence of God




1 Corinthians 121 Corinthians 14








Study 13   1 Corinthians 12:1-31, 13:1-13 Spiritual Gifts. Parts of the Body. Love checklist

If you would like to PRINT or copy this study, click  HERE  for the PDF version, then Rt Click, and select ‘Print’, or ‘Save as’