1 Corinthians 12:1-11 – One Lord gives many gifts for the good of all

One LORD gives many gifts for the good of all.


1 Corinthians 12v1-11.




“Now concerning spiritual gifts,….” these words indicate a new section in Paul’s letter. {Ch.12-14} We need to be aware of this section within the context of the whole letter and the Corinthian situation. Also because of the translation and the popular view of this section we tend to focus on the gifts, however, a more accurate translation would be “Now concerning the things of the Spirit…” Of course this includes the gifts but is not exclusively about the gifts.


Remember that the Corinthian Christians had come from a pagan background where the Greek-mystery religions dominated their lives and where spiritual experiences were everyday occurances. They were used to seeing supernatural phenomenon – trances or ecstatic behaviour or some other kind of inspired action. If these things were not evident then the authenticity of the relavant god or godess was suspect. These were the things that proved their power.


In our Western anti-spuernaturalistic society we find this kind of thing difficult to believe – if something is not tangiable or scientifically verifiable then we tend to question its reality. But for those who have lived and/or worked in non-western countries where the spirit world – esp. ancestors – have a dramatic influence on the everyday lives of the people, we know that it is a reality.


ILLUST: Many Zulu people in RSA won’t sleep on a bed that is not raised high off the ground  because they are afraid of the TOKALOSH – the evil spirit.

The Sangoma [witch-doctor] is usually the most powerful person in the tribe and when they put a curse on someone they often do get sick and sometimes die.


It was a similar society in which the Corinthian Christians lived – were the gods had a lot of sway. Ecstasy was the highest expression of religious experience and the more dramatic and bizzare the experience the more it appealed to the natural man.


It is not surprising therefore in view of the Corinthian Christians background that Paul is concerned that they are informed about the things of the true Spirit, the Holy Spirt of God and are not led astray by the counterfeit “signs and wonders” of the Satan himself.


Paul is not for one minute suggesting that these “dumb idols”  [v2]are [DK1] real but that behind these gods are the demons themselves. [8v4-6; 10v18-22.]


Satan is a genius at counterfeiting God’s work. People do not counterfeit what is NOT valuable – Satan counterfeits the Spirit’s gifts because he wants to confuse and destroy and undermine the work and worship of the only true God. If Satan can enduce false manifestations or sidetrack Christians to seek the gift rather than the giver than he has succeeded in weaking the Church and making it ineffective. That is Satan’s goal – to destroy the work of God.


Paul knows that before their conversion to Christ many were led astray by these “Dumb idols” behind whom is the power of the evil one himself.


1.  MANY “gods” BUT ONE LORD. [1-3]


Therefore I tell you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says,

“Jesus be cursed”,

and no on can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit [v3]

It is only the Holy Spirit of God who is committed to proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord”.

Jesus said of the Holy Spirit:

He {the Spirit}  will bring glory to me … [John 16v14]


It seems hard to believe that even the Corinthian Christians could say “Jesus be cursed”  – it is difficult to known whether or not they were actually saying this or whether Paul was simply using it as an anaolgy in order to shock them. Whatever the case Paul’s point was not to establish a means of “testing the spirits”. Paul’s concern in this section [ch.12-14] is to remind them that “inspired utterance” as such is not evidence for being led by the spirit.


no on can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit [v3]


Reading these words in the 20th century, we can loose the impact of what they really meant. Surely it is easy to say these words at will. To the 1st century Jew this was blasphemy and to the pagans there were many gods and many lords. Such a statement was equating Jesus with Yahweh ot the OT and declaring Jesus supreme over every other cosmic and demonic power.


In the early Church many died under Nero and other for believing thet “Jesus is Lord”. It was not just uttering word but a public confession of personal faith – this is what baptism meant to the early Christian. “Jesus [the crucified one] is [by his resurrection] LORD [of all the universe]. No one could confess this in fromt of a hostile world and maintain such a stand even in the face of death except by the power of the Spirit.


ILLUST: Many died with this confession on their lips. Still today in many parts of the world many die for their faith. In Sudan many have died, even been crucified, because the believe and confess that “Jesus is Lord”


We must come to this section about “spiritual things” with this in our minds. The primary activity of the Spirit is to exalt Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from this even if they are legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself.


Paul now moves on to deal with these Spiritual things about which he is concerned.




READ vv4-6


4 DIVERSITIES of gifts       there are, but the same Spirit;

5 DIVERSITIES of service    there are, but the same Lord;

6 DIVERSITIES of workings there are, but the same God,



Within the Church there is a rich diversity of people and every member is different. We are not mass produced to be exactly the same. The body of Christ is rich and multi-coloured even as the grace of God is multi-coloured [1 Peter 4v10].


ILLUST: When a diamond is first dug out of the ground it is no very attractive but only when it is cut by a mater-cutter does its true beauty show. The secret of a diamonds beauty is that it is multi-faceted – God’s grace-gifts are multi-faceted.


God doesn’t make copies – each one is a new creation – [Satan is the mimic – counterfeiter]

“If anyone be in Christ he is a new creation …. {unique} [2C0.5v17]


Paul uses 3 different words: GIFTS; SERVICE; WORKINGS;


GIFTS:  [carismata] hence Charismatic – gifts, grace-gifts, love-gifts.  It is the modern Greek word meaning “Birthday present”. You give people presnts because you love them and Pule wants the Corinthians to know that it is not a matter of earning God’s favour BUT it is out of love that God gives gifts to all his children. Purely grace {caris}.


SERVICE:  [Diakoniai] the gifts are given, not for selfish possession, but for the service of others, our neighbours, and God. Maybe theCorinthian Christians thought that the Church was an arena for demonstrating their talents. Maybe thay saw the church as a stage rather than a place of service.

That temptation still exists – when we see preacher and gospel singers performing on platform and before TV camera it is easy to see Paul’s concern. The opportunities for service are endless and they are gifts from God.


WORKING: [energhnata] energy – God not only gives the gift and the desire for service but he also given the energy, the power to carry it out. Paul is stressing the sheer power and inherent energy within the Christian because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is this spititual energy that tranforms lives and restores relationships and enables us to do things we never thought possible.


We must not make too sharp a distinction between these words but Paul uses all of them to show the broadness of God activity.


Noticed the activity of the Trinity SPIRIT, LORD, GOD.  Just like we can’t compartmentalise the work of God so too we can’t compartmentalise God. The sovereign Triune God is the one who determines the gifts and to whom they are given.

v11 …. even as he wills

v.18 … God arranged..

v24 … God has combined …. and he has given ..

v.28 … God has appointed …


For beginning to end the whole scope of Church life is under God’s control and he is always working to demonstrate his love and truth. We can never manipulate God to give us what we want.


ILLUST: Children may be able to manipulate their parents to get what they want. We may be able to manipulate other for our own ends .


BUT God gives to all his children and he is always fair – he has no favourites.




READ 7-11 [OHP]


7 TO EACH is given the manifestation          of the Spirit

                                                                                    for the common good.


8   TO ONE is given   a message of wisdom,             through the Spirit;

            9   TO ANOTHER     a message of knowledge,        by the same Spirit;

                 TO ANOTHER     faith,                                        by the same Spirit;

TO ANOTHER     gifts of healings,                     by the one Spirit;

            10 TO ANOTHER     workings of miracles;

TO ANOTHER     prophecy;

TO ANOTHER     discernments of spirits;

TO ANOTHER     kinds of tongues;

TO ANOTHER     interpretation of tongues;


11  ALL THESE THINGS works the one and the same Spirit,


even as he wills.


Each child of God has the Holy Spirit –

… if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ

he does not belong to Christ [Romans 8v9]

The Holy Spirit is manifest in the life of every believer that is why every believer has a part to play within the Chruch. If you are saying “I have nothing to offer – there is nothing that I can do”  then you are not using – even abusing – the gift that God has given you. Every Christian contributes to the rich diversity within the Church. TO each one is given…..


Paul now give 9 examples of this rich variety. Other gifts are mentioned in Romans 12, Eph.4 and 1 Peter 4. There is some overlap between the various lists. This list here is not comprehensive nor is it graded – some gifts superior to others. It is representative and illustrative.




What is the difference, if any, between natural gifts and supernatural gifts.

Are these spiritual gifts simply natural ablities that are harnessed by God and used for Him

Or are they only those that are manifestly supra-natural.


ILLUST: Does it follow that because a person is a good public speaker he will be a preacher.

OR a school teacher a good Bible teacher.

OR and accountant a good treasurer.


NO! but of course they may very well!

Sometimes a person needs to become a more mature Christian before they use their talents in God’s work. Maybe the Lord knows that such a person would rely on their own ablities ans self-sufficiency rather than on God’s enabling.


ILLUST: well-known story of actor visiting catherdral – recited Ps.23. Asked the old caretaker to read it – he did so haltingly. The actor was in tears. I know the Psalm but you know thw shepherd.


A highly trained singer may not feel free to use her voice in the Church until she is free from the driving ambition for personal recognition and public acclaim.


So God can use our natural abilities and give us new ones. He is our creator and our redeemer and he works in many ways to produce mant examples of his grace. And he is constantly there to provide whatever we need. As circumstances change and churches grow God gives them all they need to serve him and each other and the community.


In this passage the tendency, in recent years, has been to focus on the list of gifts whaereas they are really illustrative and the focus of Paul is on the ANOTHER and the SPIRIT.

HE distributes as HE WILLS.


God is sovereign and he is not taken by surprise at our conversion or at any other stage of our Christian development so that he has to make hasty decisions about what spiritual gifts he will give us. In his foreknowledge he has known all along what our situation is and what we need.


Jeremiah 1v5:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you

Before you were born I set you apart



Ephesians 2v10:

For we are God’s workmanship

created in Christ Jesus to do good works,



There is a tendency within some Christian circles today to ask for or claim or even demand from God certain spiritual gifts as if having a particular gift will make one more spiritual. Or having a particular experiance will make you more spiritual. This passage makes quite clear that it is God who gives these gifts. And he chooses which gifts he will give anf to whom.


Their is nothing wrong with asking for or desiring a certain gift as long as we don’t demand from God or as long as we don’t think that we will be higher up the spiritual ladder if we had it. Spiritual gifts are not given for our own selfish, private use BUT are always given for the COMMON GOOD. Yes we benefit but that is not the primaty reason.


Spirituality and maturity are not measured by the gifts of the Spirit but by the fruit of the Spirit that is why Paul says in the next ch. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angel but have not love, I am nothing.” Gifts are for the building up of the community and not primarily for the individual’s benefit.



Paul’s point in this passage is to demonstrate that JESUS IS LORD  and the church owes its allegience to Him. The Spirit glorifies Christ as Lord and gives gifts to his people so that they can glorify Jesus as well. Even though there is so much variation and diversity within the chruch there is a unity through common purpose viz. the glory of God and the common good of all. AND the Spirit is sovereign in his giving of gifts.


We dare not box God in saying “He must do this or he doesn’t do that”  We must be open to what God wants to do in our midst. It might mean that we will be shaken out of our comfort zones. It will almost certainly mean repentence. It will undoubtedly mean change BUT if we claim that JESUS IS LORD then we must be willing for him to be just that, LORD, and to do what he pleases.



                    FOR THE GOOD OF ALL


1 Corinthians 12:1-11




1.  MANY “gods” BUT ONE LORD. [1-3]


Jesus [the crucified one] is [by his resurrection] LORD [of all the universe].





4 DIVERSITIES of gifts         there are, but    the same Spirit;

5 DIVERSITIES of service     there are, but    the same Lord;

6 DIVERSITIES of workings there are, but    the same God,



7 TO EACH is given the manifestation of the Spirit

                                                                   for the common good.








8   TO ONE is given    a message of wisdom,       through the Spirit;

          9   TO ANOTHER       a message of knowledge, by the same Spirit;

               TO ANOTHER       faith,                                   by the same Spirit;

TO ANOTHER       gifts of healings,               by the one Spirit;

          10 TO ANOTHER      workings of miracles;

TO ANOTHER       prophecy;

TO ANOTHER       discernments of spirits;

TO ANOTHER       kinds of tongues;

TO ANOTHER       interpretation of tongues;


11  ALL THESE THINGS works the one and the same Spirit,


even as he wills.



[Fee pp.584-585]

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