There is a lot of talk about ministry gifts these days — and I’m glad about that. Christians should be talking about everything God has given them to serve Him. And that is the key. God gives His children ministry gifts as He chooses.
Christians in the ancient city of Corinth during the first century A.D. had a lot of problems. Some of them were proud and arrogant. Many were involved in divisions that had weakened the church. Some were acting out their selfishness during times set aside for remembering the sacrifice of the Lord Who died for them. Some were openly involved in sexual sins. The Apostle Paul addressed their pride and arrogance and called them out for their selfishness and sin. He pointed to their carnality and ignorance and called them back to obedience to the Source of their spiritual life.
Before Paul exhorted them to change their behavior, he reminded them about who they were. Look at the first 7 verses of 1 Corinthians and you’ll see Paul addressing them as the “church of God … those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” Paul greatly respected the work God had done in the lives of the Corinthian believers. God had saved them, made them a part of the Body of Christ, and set them apart for holy service (the meaning of the word “sanctified”).
Paul then wrote that he thanked God “always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” All Christians, even those at carnal Corinth, possess the grace of God given to them by Christ Jesus. The Greek word translated grace is charis and means”unearned and unmerited favor.” It comes from a root word that means “to rejoice, be glad.” God’s Grace is a gift. No one earns or merits it. God gives it freely to human beings as He wills. The Gift of Grace causes great rejoicing on the part of the people who receive it. Paul took the Corinthians back to the beginning, to the Source, of their faith – “for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.”
What does this gift of Grace do to people? It enriches their lives in every way – “that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.” The word enriched is a translation of the Greek word ploutizo and means “to make rich, wealthy.” The context is Christ giving the Corinthians “the grace of God.” Paul was telling the believers in Corinth that the amazing gift God had given them had made them spiritually wealthy – “in all utterance and all knowledge.” The Corinthians had many financial struggles in their lives, like the vast majority of people in the world then and now, but they were rich in spiritual things. Those things included “all utterance and all knowledge.” That was a huge clue to what Paul was going to address in his letter to the Corinthians: utterance and knowledge.
The word utterance is the Greek word logos and means “word.” It deals with the area of speech, what is uttered. The word knowledge is the Greek word gnosis and means “a seeking to know, an investigation to gain knowledge.” The word also contained the idea of complete understanding that came from the acquiring of knowledge. Paul was writing in the context of spiritual knowledge. Many of the Christians in Corinth believed they had acquired great spiritual knowledge, but Paul was soon to tell them they did not know as much as they thought they did and what they did know was without complete understanding.
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that “the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.” The word testimony comes from the Greek word marturion. It means “to witness.” This “witness” concerns Jesus Christ. The word confirmed comes from the Greek bebaioo and means “to make firm, establish, make secure.” The witness of Jesus Christ was firm and established in the Corinthian Christians. It’s interesting to note that the word marturion was used in church history for Christians who suffered and died for their testimony/witness for Christ (English transliteration – martyr).
What Paul wrote next bring us to our current study about ministry gifts – “so that you come short in no gift.” The word short in the Greek is hustereo and means “come late, be behind, lack, destitute, be wanting.” The word gift is the Greek word charismati and means “a gift of grace.” Grace (Greek charis – unearned, unmerited favor) is the root word for this “gift of grace.” Paul used it a few sentences earlier when he wrote, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 1:4) And remember that the root word for grace is “joy, gladness.” Paul told the Corinthian believers, in the context of their being called out for sacred service, that included both speech and knowledge in the testimony of Jesus Christ that had been established in them, that he did not want them to be lacking in the area of “gifts of grace.”
Who was the Source of their service and their speech and their knowledge and their joy? Jesus Christ! Paul told the Corinthians that he wanted them to “come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This puts everything about the Christian life in its proper perspective. Everything we do, we do as we “eagerly wait” for the “revelation” of our Lord Jesus Christ. The revelation of Jesus Christ is apokalupsis and means “an uncovering, unveiling.” Christians everywhere in our world today are still eagerly waiting for the unveiling of Jesus Christ. That unveiling or uncovering is the coming of Jesus Christ for His chosen people to take them out of this world and to Himself in Heaven! Paul told the Corinthians, and tells us today, to be involved in holy service to God, and a big part of serving God is using our “grace gifts” to witness for Him.
Amazing! What Paul did in those first 7 verses of 1 Corinthians was point Christians to the Source of their faith and the reason to serve Him. Everything else we read in Paul’s letter goes back to what he said in those first verses in chapter one.
Paul started the section about grace gifts with these words: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 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.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-3) Paul knew the Corinthians’ background well. He visited Corinth during his second missionary journey and started the church there. Corinth was well known for its idol worship and wickedness. While some of the early members of the Corinthian church were Jews, most were Gentiles and would have been involved in idol worship prior to trusting Christ for their salvation. Their entire upbringing would have been based on a belief in many gods and worship of them through idols. That’s why Paul wrote, “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.” He reminded them that they had come from a position of spiritual ignorance. They had once worshiped dumb idols (Greek eidola ta aphonos – phantom likeness without sound, voiceless idol). He did not want them to be ignorant of something as important as spiritual gifts. They, and we, must not confuse the spiritual world of God to be similar in any way with the spiritual world of evil.
Because the Corinthian Christians had been led astray before in the spiritual realm and were surrounded by family, friends and neighbors who were still deeply involved in idol worship, Paul gave them some excellent advice: “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.” That powerful advice, if followed, would keep the Corinthians safe from the idolatry and spiritual wickedness running rampant in their city and state. Paul’s advice is still true today. Jesus Christ is the Source of all things spiritual for believers. No one speaking by the Spirit of God would or could call Jesus accursed. No one can say sincerely that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Paul did not want the Corinthian believers to be ignorant (Greek agnoein – want of knowledge or perception) about spiritual gifts (Greek pneumatikon – spiritual matters, pertaining to the spiritual). Notice that Paul did not use the same word for gift that he used in 1 Corinthians 1:7 (charismata). The word pneumatikon has a different root than charismata. The root word “spiritual gifts” is pneuma, which means “vital breath, spirit.” Paul was using a word that meant the entire range of spiritual matters. That’s what he did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant about. Their ignorance included charismata, as we will see as we study Chapters 12 – 14 of 1 Corinthians, but included the whole realm of the spirit world and matters pertaining to it.
Paul then defined four specific areas of pneumatikon. They are “gifts,” “ministries, “activities,” and “manifestation of the Spirit.” We’ll go into more detail about each of these on Wednesday, but I want to highlight today the Source behind each area of spiritual matters. Here’s what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“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. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Who is the Source of gifts (charismaton)? The Spirit.
Who is the Source of ministries (diakonion)? The Lord.
Who is the Source of activities (energematon)? God.
Who is the Source of the manifestation (phanerosis)? The Spirit.
God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the Source for everything spiritual in our life. Everything: the gifts, the ministries, the energy to be active and engaged, and the clarity for all to see God working in us. God is everything. He is our Source. He is the Source of our life. He is the Source of our hope. He is the Source of our joy. He is the Source of our peace. He is – the Great I AM.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”