Healthy Church: Spiritual Gifts (Part 2)

July 12, 2023

Series: Healthy Church

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

I know we are all coming from different faith backgrounds, so I don’t want to make any assumptions, so to be clear spiritual gifts are not talents, skills, hobbies or areas of interest.  Juggling is a great skill but juggling is not a spiritual gift.

When a person professes faith in Jesus they are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit comes supernatural spiritual gifts like teaching, serving, giving, faith, knowledge, wisdom; that are basically like super powers.

In the context of our passage this morning the Corinthian church is arguing about spiritual gifts.  Can you imagine a people who argue about how to serve the homeless people in your community?  Who would argue about that?

Can you imagine a people arguing about who’s the better teacher?  Can you imagine a people using their spiritual gifts to bring attention to themselves?   Who would do that!  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13:1:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “1 If I speak with the tongues of mankind and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give away all my possessions to charity, and if I surrender my body so that I may glory, but do not have love, it does me no good.”

For those of us who are new this morning, you need to know 1 Corinthian is a letter written to a church in Corinth and based on the first 12 chapters we know the Corinthian argued about everything.

We think our culture today is divisive today but in the Corinthian church they were arguing about status, wealth, beliefs, marriage, sex, law, family and in chapter 13 they were using spiritual gifts to bring attention to themselves.  (We’re not going to take the time to explain each of the spiritual gifts this morning.  Rhesa did a great job of explaining each of the gifts last Sunday.  You can listen online.)

At first glance we might be shocked the Corinthian church was using their spiritual gifts to bring attention to themselves but we have to remember Corinth was a booming city in their day.

People were coming to Corinth from all over the world for education, entertainment, economic, so that these men and women were coming to faith in Jesus, indwelled with the Spirit, supernaturally gifted and then using those spiritual gifts to further their own agendas, so that the Apostle Paul writes chapter 13 so as to say, “What are you doing?”

Look at verses 1-3.  Notice how those spiritual gifts are being exaggerated in their description.  It is tongues of a noisy gong.  That’s not a compliment.  It’s using spiritual gifts to bring attention to themselves.  Look at me!

The gift of prophecy is ALL mysteries and knowledge as though I am the beholder of supernatural secrets, which makes me special.  The faith is moving mountains so that people are in awe.  The giving is ALL your possessions, so that people will notice.  What!

The purpose of our spiritual gifts aren’t to bring attention to ourselves.  Write this in your devotional.  The purpose of our spiritual gifts is to build up the body of Christ; all our gifts of teaching, healing, serving, giving, faith, knowledge, wisdom are to serve the family of God, so that we bring glory to God.

Remember, I don’t want to lose you.  Spiritual gifts are not talents, skills, interests or hobbies.  Spiritual gifts; teaching, healing, serving, giving, faith, knowledge, wisdom, listed in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 are all given to every person who professes faith in Jesus life, death, and resurrection for the sole purpose of strengthening the body of Christ, so that we bring glory to God.

It doesn’t matter your age.  It doesn’t matter your ethnicity.  It doesn’t matter your social standing in the community.  You can be 8 years old or 80 years old, every follower of Jesus is gifted supernatural spiritual gifts.  Isn’t that amazing?

If you have yet to trust in Jesus, you’re missing out.  If you have yet to learn your spiritual gifts, function in your spiritual gifts, your missing out!

My primary spiritual gift is discernment.  It is the ability to discern between truth and error, so that when I come to faith in Jesus I was able to know things I shouldn’t know.  I would hear people teach the bible and I would know it isn’t true but I didn’t know the bible, so I didn’t know why it wasn’t true.  Come to faith in Jesus, learn your spiritual gifts.  It’s amazing!

In addition, in verses 1-3 I want you to see the spiritual gifts that are highlighted; tongues, prophecy, faith and giving, aren’t the focus of the passage this morning.  In verses 1-3 we see a collection of spiritual gifts that are being contrasted with spiritual fruit.  Do you see that at the end of verse 2?  If we don’t have love, we have nothing!  We can have all these amazing spiritual gifts but if they don’t edify the body of Christ, then what’s the point.

I don’t want to lose you here but spiritual fruit is described in another letter, Galatians 5; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, so that 1 Corinthians 13 is drawing the connection that the purpose of our spiritual gifts, not to divide, not to compete, not to bring attention to ourselves, the purpose of our spiritual gifts are to build up the body of Christ, so that it produces spiritual fruit in the body of Christ.  Doesn’t that just make sense?

The bible is being taught in such a way that it stirs up peace in the body of Christ.  The gospel is being proclaimed in such a way that it stirs up joy in the body of Christ.  People are serving one another so consistently that the body of Christ is filled with patience.  Our spiritual gifts should produce spiritual fruit in the body of Christ.

Sometimes in our life or the life of others, we can assume spiritual gifts will produce spiritual fruit.  We will see someone who is amazing at teaching God’s Word.  We will see someone who is amazing extending mercy and compassion.

We might even see people responding to those spiritual gifts, which is great, but if our spiritual gifts aren’t producing spiritual fruit then the Apostle Paul writes, “We have nothing!”  Do you see that at the end of verse 2?  At the end of verse 3, “it doesn’t do us any good.”

The purpose of our spiritual gifts are to build up the body of Christ, so that it produces spiritual fruit, which brings glory to God.  Look verses 4-7:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. 5 It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, 6 it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Doesn’t that sound so pretty?  Now it is possible you are familiar with these verses.  It’s possible you used these verses in your wedding ceremony.  If not, it’s likely you have attended a wedding where someone reads these verses but keep in mind, the purpose of these words weren’t to sound pretty and stitch them on a pillow.  The purpose of these words in the context of the passage is to rebuke the Corinthian church.

The passage isn’t, “Love is patient, love is kind.”  The passage is, “Love is patient, I don’t know what you’re doing but love is patient.”

And then almost uses these verses to give us a recap of 1 Corinthians as he back tracks through his letter with, “Love is patient and when you rush to communion without waiting for others like in chapter 11; that’s not patient.”

Love is kind and when you judge other people for what they eat and what they don’t eat, like in chapter 9; it’s not kind.  Love is not bragging like when the Corinthians were bragging about their gifts in chapter 12, their leaders in chapter 8 and their knowledge in chapter 4.

Love does not seek your own benefit as the Corinthians constantly insisted on what they deserved in chapter 8.  Love does not keep an account as they take one another to court like the Corinthians did in chapter 6.  Love rejoices in truth compared to the Corinthians rejoicing in sexual immorality like in chapter 5.

Verses 4-7 are beautiful words but in context those words are a rebuke, so that the Apostle Paul is saying, “You are Corinthians.  You are very impressive and then you gather in worship with a serious lack of love for one another.”

Listen, it’s possible you are starting to feel uncomfortable for the Corinthian church.  But did know the Corinthian church is one of Paul’s proudest moments.

The Corinthian church was actually started at a time in Paul’s life when he was incredibly discouraged?  You can read Acts 17-18 and see Paul is being beaten to the point of death and in that moment the God of Scriptures speaks to Paul and says, “Do not be afraid any longer, but keep on speaking and do not be silent.”

It’s a powerful moment.  It is as if the God of Scripture is saying to Paul, “I know it’s hard but we’re not even close to being done.”  Because I am going to take you to the craziest city.  I am going to take you to a people who are incredibly gifted, affluent, pleasure seeking.  I am going to take you to Corinth.  I am going to show you the gospel can change anyone.

Are there rebukes?  Yes, there are rebukes throughout 1 Corinthians and it’s possible that can discourage us but the Lord disciplines those He loves.  A lack of rebuke and correction in our life is really just masquerading as indifference.

The Corinthian church is using the holiness of God to bring attention to themselves, therefore, in love, the Apostle Paul writes, “Beloved, you can’t do that.”  That’s the spiritual fruit of love!

Our culture loves to talk about love.  We walk around with LOVE IS LOVE, heart shaped hands, but our culture is very confused about love.

If you listen to music today you will hear love is the way you look at me.  Love is blind (Alicia Keys).  Love hurts (Incubus.). Love is in an elevator (Aerosmith.). Love is a battlefield (Pat Benetar.)  Love is all you need (Beatles.). What?  It’s confusing.

It’s confusing because English has one word for “LOVE” but like a thousand meanings like loving a donut or loving a person but in Greek, the original language of our passage, there are four words for love.  Eros, which is romantic love.  Storge, which is familial love.  Phileo, which is brotherly love and the word in our passage this morning is Agape, which is sacrificial, selfless love.

That’s the type of love that is made available in Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t love you like we love donuts.  Jesus stepped out of heaven for you.  Jesus lived a perfect life for you.  Jesus died on the cross for you.  Jesus conquered death for, so yes, there are times the Spirit of God will bring correction and rebuke through His Word, through His people but the intent isn’t to cast you from His presence.

He won’t!  Jesus’ sacrificial, selfless, agape love is upon you, so that His correction and rebuke is always to help us grow and mature in Him.  Look at verses 8-10:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10, “8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we know in part and prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with.”

Did you know spiritual gifts won’t be in heaven?  Verse 8, there will come a day when spiritual gifts will be done away with.

Because the purpose of our spiritual gifts are to help strengthen the body of Christ, but one day we will be face to face with Jesus, so on that day we won’t need spiritual gifts.

There’s no bible teaching in heaven.  We will be face to face with His glory.  There’s no hospitality in heaven.  There’s no healing in heaven.  There’s no need for generosity in heaven, so that the Apostle Paul is saying, “Why are you competing with one another about who has the better spiritual gift?”  One day those spiritual gifts will be done away with!

Why do we put so much time and energy into “wishing we had someone else’s gifts?”  Why do we compare some churches in Austin to other churches in Austin?

Spiritual gifts are given as our Heavenly Father deems necessary, for His glory, for that time and that place, and one day spiritual gifts will be gone, so enjoy them while we can but let’s not divide over them.

Just as a side note; this passage is hotly debated about if miraculous spiritual gifts like healing, tongues, and prophecy exist today.  There are some who say, “See verse 10, when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with” so that today we have the completed Word of God, the Apostles are dead, we have all we need, those miraculous gifts are no longer necessary.  They have ceased.”

There are others who say, “See verse 10, when the perfect comes is talking about Jesus’ return, so that today all those miraculous gifts are needed and necessary.”  This is why you might see some churches in Austin that are spiritually showy and some spiritually reserved and it’s likely comes to this passage.

I personally see all the spiritual gifts are still available today but we have to remember the purpose of those gifts are not to be showy, bring attention to ourselves, elevate a specific person but instead, like the passage teaches, the purpose of our spiritual gifts is to strengthens the body of Christ, to bring glory to God.

Personally, I haven’t seen a lot of great examples of those miraculous gifts being taught how Scripture describes them, so I believe they exist, and as a church family in Austin, we look to see those gifts lived in in a way Scripture is teaching.  Look at verses 11:

1 Corinthians 13:11, “11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

Verse 11 is really the big idea of chapter 13.  Spiritual maturity.  Write that in your devotional.  Just as we physically mature, God’s Word calls us to spiritual mature.  That’s been the theme of 1 Corinthians as a whole.

Just as a child goes from diapers, goo-goo, gaa-gaa, my toy, cry, cry but then over time, hopefully, the child matures.  We become men and women who are patient with one another, we are kind to one another, we are not just interested in ourselves, but also interested in the lives of others, we love truth, we don’t gossip, we endure, we persevere, we mature!

When we were young we wanted so desperately to be a big girl or a big boy.  Do you remember that?

But then we grew up and we thought to ourselves, “No!”  The challenges are so difficult.  Responsibility is hard.  Discipline is easy.  Making excuses is easy.  Doing what I want all the time is easy.

Maybe we think, “I tried to mature in this one area of my life once, it didn’t well!”  It’s because taking steps of maturity is uncomfortable.  It takes time.  We just want to wake up one day become spiritually mature!

But the invitation of God’s Word this morning is to do away with childish things.  Isn’t that good?  There are two responses this morning.  The first step toward “doing away with childish things” is giving your life to Jesus.  I wish I could tell, “Go and be mature!”  But the beginning of maturity is to admit you need Jesus.

I don’t mean just saying a prayer to trust in Jesus for the first time, that’s important, but I mean putting your faith in Jesus first in your life.  Making Jesus the center of your life.  Reading God’s Word every day.  Talking to Jesus every day.

We are always going to have excuses.  When I was child I made excuses but then I became a man and did away with always blaming others.  Start with Jesus!

We don’t start with Jesus because Jesus is some religious figure.  We start with Jesus because our souls were made to be with Jesus and just like those spiritual gifts, we are changed by Jesus.

It’s like when I watch Fast and Furious.  I am affected by Fast and Furious.  I walk out of the movies wanting to drive faster.  I start thinking about which tattoos I should I get.  I start thinking, “Can I jump my car off the flyover and land on 183 to avoid traffic?”

When we draw close to Jesus through His Word, through prayer, through His people, we are affected by Jesus.

Listen to me, if you don’t know Jesus, you need to meet Him today.  There are people at the back to help introduce you to Jesus, but also if you do know Jesus let’s start walking with Jesus today.

The first response to our passage is to turn to Jesus.  The second response is to turn to the body of Christ.  Did you see in our passage that God’s Word isn’t inviting us to a worship service?  I am so excited we are all here this morning but the hope of God’s Word isn’t a worship service.  It’s to demonstrate a love for one another as a committed part of a non-denominational church family in Austin.

You can go to these QR codes on our “Build and Belong” cards.  These QR codes are a small step toward the body of Christ and you are taking steps of maturity by putting yourself around other men and women who are wanting to spiritually mature.

This is the opportunity we have as a church in north Austin.  We are a people who gather together, sometimes, for no other reason than our common faith in Jesus and we demonstrate an Agape type love for one another.

Yes, we’re singing songs, we’re listening to God’s Word, our children are being cared for, but at the heart of what we are doing isn’t a worship service where we smile at one another on a weekly or monthly basis but where we see if we can Agape-love one another.  It’s almost a social experiment!

About a month ago I was talking to a pastor about the transitions in our church in Austin, the ups and downs and he asked, “With all this transition, do you think about leaving and going to another church in Austin?”

I said, “Sure, I think about it.”  But what keeps me here isn’t because I started the church in north Austin, we live in Austin, our new space or even the men, women and children in this room.  What keeps me here is this mysterious experiment, “Can it happen?”  Can we see an agape type love for one another?

Can people from different ethnic background, educational background, faith stories, personality types, spiritual gifts, genuinely love one another?  That’s the invitation this morning.  Commit to Jesus, commit to the body of Christ.  Look at verses 12-13:

1 Corinthians 13:12-13, “12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Do you see the contrast of “now” and “then?”  Today we know in part.  Today we see one another in a mirror dimly.  The mirrors in the ancient world were made with metal instead of glass, so it is literally a dim reflection but one day we will know fully and be known fully.

One day.  One day Jesus is going to return.  Jesus is love. Jesus is patient.  Jesus is kind.  Jesus loves truth.  Jesus does bears all things, endure all things, and one day Jesus is going to come back and make everything right.

One day relationships won’t be difficult.  One day spiritual gifts won’t be needed.  One day our childish ways will no longer be exposed.  One day our emotions, our brains, our bodies, all of creation will be perfect but until that day we love God and we love one another for His glory.  Will you stand and sing with me?