The Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit
(1 Corinthians 12, Matthew 12, 1 John 4)
Introduction: What a blessing it is to have the Holy Spirit! We learned two weeks ago that the Holy Spirit guides our mind if we ask. We learned last week that the Holy Spirit changes our attitudes so that we experience love, joy and peace. This week we learn how everyone of us is given at least one gift from the Holy Spirit to use to build up the body of believers. Do you like gifts? Let's jump right into our study of the Bible and learn more about the gifts the Holy Spirit has to offer to us!
- The Obvious
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. What topic is Paul teaching to us? (Spiritual gifts!)
- What is the first thing Paul wants us to know about spiritual gifts? What is his "baseline" teaching about these gifts? (We are all influenced by the things around us. Paul does not want us to be "led astray" by the wrong influences. As to the right influences, telling whether someone is exercising a gift of the Holy Spirit is easy - if they say "Jesus is Lord" (as opposed to "Jesus be cursed"), you know this comes from the Holy Spirit.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. Why is Paul telling us that there are different gifts, service and workings, but the same Holy Spirit is behind them all? (This is another warning - not to be judgmental about the spiritual gifts of others. Just because someone has different gifts, different service, or different workings, we are not to say that it comes from Satan. The Holy Spirit works in different ways in different Christians.)
- Read Matthew 12:22 and Matthew 12:24-26. What does Jesus say about the idea that someone would use the power of Satan to do something good? (Jesus says it is illogical.)
- Read Matthew 12:31-32. We previously learned from Paul that discerning whether something comes from the Holy Spirit is obvious. He then warns us not to be judgmental when others have gifts that we might not have or might not understand. Why does Jesus tell us that this is a very serious issue? (If we call the work of the Holy Spirit the work of Satan, we have blasphemed the Holy Spirit! Worse, this is an unforgivable sin!)
- Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit not forgivable and blasphemy against Jesus is forgivable? They are both part of the Godhead! (Think about this. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, guide us, change our attitudes, and give us gifts. If we cannot distinguish between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of Satan, we have a serious practical problem!)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:10 and 1 John 4:1. We just learned that making the wrong judgment with regard to the spirits (discerning or "distinguishing between spirits") is a very serious matter. In fact, discerning spirits is a gift given to some. Should we be reluctant to make this judgment, since the penalty for getting it wrong is so terrible?
- Read 1 John 4:2-3. Have we come full circle to where we started in this discussion. John agrees with Paul, discerning spirits is easy and obvious. We don't have to fear getting it wrong, if we follow this simple rule - if the Spirit says Jesus is from God, that Jesus is God incarnate, it is the Holy Spirit. If the spirit says Jesus is not from God, then it is demonic. This is not difficult. What apparently is hard, is accepting that the Holy Spirit works in different Christians in different ways!)
- If this is so easy, why do we need a spiritual gift to figure it out (discern it)? (Recall we recently studied the story of Ananias and Sapphira? In Acts 5:3 Peter says that Satan has filled the heart of Ananias. Ananias was giving money to the church. There is no evidence that he doubted that Jesus was from God. Yet, his motive was not right and Peter knew it. The Holy Spirit told Peter something about Ananias' spirit that was not obvious. I think that is the gift of discerning spirits - understanding the nature of a man's spirit.)
- A Gift For All
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:7. Let's contemplate this text for just a few moments. How many receive a "manifestation" of the Holy Spirit? ("Each one." That means everyone, including you!)
- Why are we given at least one spiritual gift? (For the common good. This must mean for the good of our fellow believers in Jesus.)
- Read Acts 2:38-39. What does this teach us about the individual promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit over time? (It continues through the generations.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Does it appear that we all receive the same spiritual gifts? (No. These verses seem to say just the opposite, that different believers receive different gifts. We all get some gift, but it is unlikely to be the same gift as the person sitting next to us.)
- If you were organizing the church, what would these verses that I just read cause you to conclude? (Everyone has at least one spiritual gift. The gifts are unique. The gifts are given for the common good of the church. Thus, I would organize the work of the church by having each member do something that is in accord with his or her gift.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:11. Who decides who gets what gift? (The Holy Spirit.)
- Read Romans 12:6-8. Who decides the extent to which we have a spiritual gift? (Paul says it is "according to the grace given us" and he says "in proportion to his faith." This suggests a joint effort: God originally decides the gift and the extent of the gift, and we can increase the strength of the gift by our faith.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:31. In 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 Paul lists several spiritual gifts. He then says, "eagerly desire the greater gifts." What does that say about our role in securing an additional spiritual gift that we would like to have? (It suggests that we also have a role in the type of gifts given to us. It would not make any sense for Paul to tell us to desire other gifts if we could not have them.)
- Look again at 1 Corinthians 12:11. As we previously discussed, this should have a great impact on church organization. If we are simply facilitating the organizational work of the Holy Spirit, what does this suggest about the work of the church? (We want the Holy Spirit to lead in that as well. The Spirit organizes and He leads.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. What is the goal of this organization? (Unity. The goal is to work as one body.)
- What doesn't matter in this organization? (Our race or our economic status. The organization of the Holy Spirit is our unifying feature.)
- Ask yourself whether Paul is writing about your local church or the entire body of believers? (When I was growing up, I was taught that my church was the most recent improvement in a series of refinements in doctrine over the history of the church. For example, the Lutheran Church was a refinement over the doctrines of the Catholic Church. This just continued with subsequent denominations.)
- Is there any Biblical support for this idea of a constantly refined series of church denominations? (Revelation chapters 1-3 lists churches that are thought to represent the history of the church through the ages. But, these are not a series of improvements. Instead, the teaching of the Bible is that each believer (and perhaps each group of believers) compliments the rest of the body of Jesus.)
- Read Romans 12:3-5. What is the warning given to us if we think that our gift (or perhaps our church) is superior to all others? (This is a matter that calls for "sober judgment." I think we should be concerned about the sin of pride. We want to understand God's will as perfectly as possible. We need to share improved understanding of God's will. But, at the end of the day we need to realize that other members and other churches may be doing some things better than we are doing them. The goal is unity in Christ.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:27-28. Have you figured out what gift or gifts the Holy Spirit has given you? Did you notice that helping others was a gift?
- Friend, if you have received the Holy Spirit, He has given you at least one spiritual gift. My challenge to you is to find it and then put it to use!
- Next week: The Holy Spirit and the Church.