The Wonderful, Amazing, Incredible Church
Text: 1 Corinthians 12: 1-10
Proposition: The church is much more than the world thinks it is or even that the church herself realizes for the immensity of God inhabits and empowers her.
Introduction: You can’t go to Ireland without running into the many bits of wisdom called Irish Proverbs… “God is good, but never dance in a small boat. God is good to the Irish, but no one else is; not even the Irish.” Irish proverbs were observations on everyday life, they framed the wisdom of what the people had seen and experienced. Ireland is a different country, a land of great struggle and suffering and persevering, a land of a beauty that is both lush and stark, of cliffs that drop a 1000 feet into the sea and castles that have withstood 1000 years. It’s a land that is one of the cradles of the Christian faith. The rocky remnants of churches, of lives well lived in the name of Christ point us to who we are connected to even as the church today. The passages of Scripture which they read and struggled over are the same we listen to and study today. The intent of the Scripture in the Bible is universal as to time and culture. It speaks truth against ignorance, whether that be the ignorance of the 6th century or the ignorance of this century. It speaks even against the ignorance that exists within the church, the body of Christ. That’s where Paul begins this next passage we’re going to look at today in 1 Corinthians 12:1-10. Have a look at what he is about to say.
I. The Wonderful Thing About the Church Is That God Animates It.
Animate is defined as, “to give motion to; to fill with courage or boldness; to move or stir to action”. For generations in every language and land there have been people who have believed that a church was a group that just chose to believe something and the expression of that belief was what made up a church. They were ignorant as to what God was designing them to be, ignorant of how they were equipped and even empowered to do what no man made organization could ever even conceive of. I think that the reason people leave the church today is because that’s all they can see, a man made organization that seems to have outlived its day. What is overlooked and minimized is that the church is animated by God. Look at what Paul says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” It seems that the Corinthian church had little understanding of the spiritual that God was actually doing in and through them. So Paul says to them, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” This was reference to the way the Gentiles had worshipped, seeing relics or idols as lucky charms. That word ‘accursed’ refers to a sacrifice that was hung on the wall of the Greek Temples, powerless now and without any redemption in itself. In the same way Paul says that no one can call Jesus Lord without the work of the Holy Spirit within them. The Spirit brings us the gift of faith, a faith that believes in the living active intercession of Jesus. The Spirit then gives us the faith to believe and be made alive spiritually by that belief in Christ, calling Jesus, Lord. The other ignorance or lack of awareness in the church is that there is a great diversity in Who God is and what He does. The Corinthian church had many spiritual gifts, we’ll look at the ones listed in a moment but the one that had the highest profile was the gift of speaking in tongues. Paul’s point is that as much as there can be an ignorance of the existence of spiritual gifts there can also be an ignorance about how gifts are given across the whole of the church. In other words this ignorance can be either an under emphasis or an over emphasis on spiritual gifts. Look at what he says in verses 4-6. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
Notice three things here: 1. The comparison of gifts, ministries and activities. It’s a reference to the wonderful way God animates an individual believer with a capability they did not have before they came to faith in Christ. The spiritual gift is used within the church in certain ministries for the building up of the Body. Then the body being built up expresses itself in the community it is situated in and in the world as a whole. 2. Notice that this work in animating the church is done by the Spirit, by the Lord Jesus and by God the Father. The reference to the Trinity infers that all of Who God is, is involved in all of what God does. 3. Notice the comparison of the words ‘diversities, differences’. The direct inference is that the unity of the Trinity has the aim of building unity in the Body but that unity does not mean uniformity. It’s diverse, different in each person. God gives to each church that gifting, ministry and activity that it needs to grow, reproduce and glorify Him. But don’t miss the wonderful truth, God animates His church to rightly represent Himself when they by faith follow His Word and obey His Spirit.
II. The Amazing Thing About the Church Is That It Look Like Jesus.
In verse 7 Paul says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” The point I’m making is that the Spirit manifests Himself, shows His presence and power in each person who will live by faith in Christ. Simply put you can see the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit in the unique gifting that the Spirit animates the body with. Take that one step further and you’ll have to say that what the Spirit looks like is what Jesus looks like. So what does Jesus look like? Consider verses 8,9,10, “… for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.”
In each of these spiritual gifts that various individuals would receive, the Spirit manifests Himself making the church look like her Redeemer. There are many debates about which gifts exist today… Are there tongues, are there healings, miracles, words of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy? These are good questions but often are more driven by personal experience rather than by the frank reality that they all were intended for the good of all. And all spiritual gifts were manifestations of the Spirit which in turn we would say manifest the very Person of Christ. The thing is no one person has every spiritual gift, that is nobody except Jesus Christ. So it takes the collective people of a church to each express their particular spiritual gift in order for that particular church to rightly reflect the Person of Christ. When you put it like that, the importance of understanding and exercising our spiritual gifts in the church becomes a key to us being the body of Christ that He intends us to be. That to me is amazing, that God would not only entrust His gospel to mankind in the church but that He would also actually animate it in such a way that collectively it looks like Jesus.
So rather than going through each spiritual gift listed here and seeking to explain what it functions like and rather than offering some form of debate as to which gifts are still active in the church today let me instead take you to what Jesus said.
In John 14:16, 17 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
In John 16:13,14, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
Clearly Jesus intended that Holy Spirit would come to the church and transform it. Clearly Jesus intended that the Spirit would take what was His, even His capabilities as the Son of God in terms of wisdom, knowledge, helps, hospitality, healing, teaching, administration, prophecy, discernment and other capabilities and bring them to the church which is His Bride, His representational body on earth. So don’t be ignorant of these things. You are the Wonderful, Amazing Church. Next time let’s look at the truth that you are also the Incredible Church in the remaining verses of this chapter.