Messy Church Series
  • The local church has had problems from her inception. The local church is about people from all different background trying to discover unity in Christ and enjoy an amazing fellowship with one another through the Spirit's power. But, it is not automatic nor is it easy. In many ways it is very messy. Yet, God promises that His church will overcome and even the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. In the local church is the personification of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ. He will insure that the local church will flourish into eternity.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God is sovereign. – Ephesians 1:4 & 5, 11, 22 & 23
    • God called us into His kingdom to do His works. – Ephesians 2:8-10 
    • God equips us to do His work His way. – Ephesians 4:7, 11 & 12; Philippians 1:6; 2:13
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What does it mean that God is sovereign? And how does His sovereignty mean in your life as a follower of Jesus? 
    • What does it mean to you that you are His workmanship created to do good works that He has prepared in advance for you to do? What are those works? 
    • How did God equip you, and how is He further equipping you, to do the works He has called you to do?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • What do you think was the motivation of the Corinthians in using the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy as they were doing?   
    • How do spiritual gifts reflect the work of the Trinity?  (hint: read verses 4-7)
    • How is the picture of the human body an apt one for the Church?
    • Why is it important for there not to be a hierarchy among spiritual gifts?  If there is no such hierarchy, why does Paul write “and in the church God has appointed first apostles, second, prophets, third teachers, then …?”
    • What does verse 24 of chapter 12 mean when it says God has given “greater honor to the parts that lacked it?”
    • Why is love the most excellent way?
    • How does living out love as described in chapter 13 apply to the use of spiritual gifts?
    • Is it appropriate to desire a particular spiritual gift? (hint: read I Corinthians 12:31; 14:12)
    • What is the gift of tongues?  What is their purpose, and how should the gift be employed?  In particular, how should the gift be employed with respect to unbelievers? 
    • What does it mean to “edify” the church? (read I Corinthians 14:3-5, 12, 17)
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • Why are spiritual gifts important in general? Why are they important for individual believers? 
    • How does one know one's spiritual gift or gifts? What are your spiritual gifts? 
    • What do verses 5 and 6 mean when they refer to “varieties” of service and activities, respectively? 
    • What is your part in the body of Christ? Why is that important? 
    • How should you exercise your spiritual gifts in general? At Renewal church? 
    • How can you exercise your spiritual gifts in love (meaning the kind of love described in chapter 13)? 
    • What is the main lesson in this study, and how should you apply it to your life?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
Paul now turns to the matter of spiritual gifts, as apparently, the Corinthians had raised questions about the subject in their correspondence with Paul (cf. I Corinthians 7:1, 25; 8:1; 11:2). Before turning to Paul’s responses, it is important to define what “spiritual gifts” are. Specifically, spiritual gifts are supernatural empowerings given to each and every believer by the Holy Spirit to be used by them accomplish the work of the Kingdom through the Church. There are various spiritual gifts, various areas in which such gifts are to be used, and various effects resulting from the use of such gifts.

However, such gifts are all from the same Holy Spirit, appropriated for service by the same Lord Jesus, and effective in their use in whatever way by the same God (I Corinthians 12:4-6). And all of these spiritual gifts, in whatever setting and to whatever effect, are to be used for “the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7) to accomplish God’s will and purposes (I Corinthians 12:11). So the believers in the church at Corinth each had one or more spiritual gift, and their questions seemed to be how they should use their gifts, and were some gifts were more important than others (they seemed to emphasize tongues and prophecy). Paul’s response to the questions speaks not so much to the different gifts, what they are, and how they function, as to the way the Corinthian believers should view the gifts in the context of the church as a whole.

Given the divisions within the church, and the way Corinthians were setting up distinctions among themselves, treating each other unequally, and focusing on self- aggrandizement, Paul has a very pointed response: each believer has gifts, and no matter what those gifts are, they are all to use their gifts to contribute to the work of the body, with all the believers proceeding in mutual dependence, concern, support and love of one for another. Thus yet again, Paul stresses unity within the body of believers, and a focus on God and His purposes in place of a focus on self. In short, the Corinthians are to live like the new creations they are, doing Kingdom work God’s way; and the key is their oneness under the Lordship of Jesus ruled by love. Paul emphasizes that spiritual gifts are not a human thing; they are from God the Holy Spirit, and are employed by believers in the power of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:3-11).

There is to be no bragging about one’s spiritual gift or gifts; they are distributed solely at God’s pleasure by the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:11), and in that way are supernatural so that there is no “human” in them other than how they are used. And there are various spiritual gifts, not just those of prophecy and tongues. Paul lists some of these gifts – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostle, teaching, helps, and administration. (I Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-29) This listing is not intended as an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts, given that others are mentioned in several New Testament writings (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11 & 12; I Peter 4:10 & 11), but rather as a representative list to make the point that there are more gifts than just prophecy and tongues. Taking the next step, Paul then indicates that this diversity of spiritual gifts is necessary so that the one body of believers (meaning the church universal) can accomplish Kingdom work effectively.

Without this diversity of gifts, the Church as a whole would not be able to accomplish that work. The Holy Spirit thus brings people into the body of Christ, and then empowers them within the body to do the one thing the Church is to do, namely make disciples. In this, the Church then becomes a picture of diversity amidst unity (I Corinthians 12:12-14) in which everyone has a role and all believers are important including those who may be seen as having “lesser” gifts (I Corinthians 12:18-27). The Church is thus an organism, as opposed to an organization, and the picture of the body and parts of the body is an apt one used by Paul. The whole body is not an eye or an ear, or it wouldn’t work to accomplish God’s will; no, the entire body does God's work using all its parts.

Paul then takes the foregoing one step further and says that it is not the spiritual gifts that are important or significant; rather, it is the way that such gifts are employed by believers. And that way is the way of love. The way of love, as I Corinthians 13 elucidates, is one which is selfless, trusting, kind, patient, humble and non-judgmental (I Corinthians 13:4-7). This love is greater even than faith and hope, and is the rule by which believers are to engage one another; and this love is more important than the spiritual gifts which in themselves will cease one day (I Corinthians 13:8-10.

Note that there are those who interpret these verses to mean that the more “spectacular” gifts such as miracles, healings, tongues and prophecy, in the sense of new revelation from God, will cease by the time the New Testament writings were complete as they will no longer be needed to authenticate of the message of the gospel. But whether or not such is the case, the point is that love is to underlie everything relating to spiritual gifts as love is forever, and the Corinthians are to pursue love rather than showing off their gifts of tongues and prophecy (I Corinthians 14:1, 12).

As to prophecy and tongues in particular, Paul goes into some detail because these were the two gifts that the Corinthians were misusing. In verses 1-25 of chapter 14, Paul basically says that these gifts are to be used to build up (encourage, strengthen, edify, comfort); they are not for show or merely for personal blessing. And further, between the two, prophecy trumps tongues as the former speaks to men and women to build them up, and the latter (at least the way it was being used) spoke to no one (the words spoken were not being interpreted or translated). The “mind” part of worship is just as important as the “spirit” (cf. John 4:23 & 24), and any use of spiritual gifts that does not take the mind into account is a misuse of the gift. Moreover, this approach is appropriate for unbelievers who come to worship gatherings, as well as for believers.

As to the latter, they need building up and blessing and therefore need words that are understandable; as to the former, they need to be convicted of their need for Jesus and to that end need words as opposed to unintelligible speech that would otherwise make them think the believers who utter such unintelligible words are crazy (I Corinthians 14:22-25). In sum, Paul again calls the Corinthian believers to live lives that reflect who they are in Christ, and as part of a community of believers empowered to do God’s will. The applicable principles are selflessness – looking to others first, and building up the whole – and love through the empowering of God. Living this new life in Christ builds up the body and provides a witness to the world of the life of Christ. As Jesus prayed in the upper room prior to His crucifixion that the body of believers might be one so that the world might see Jesus and believe in Him (John 17:21-23), so Paul urges unity for the Corinthians, albeit in the context of the exercise of spiritual gifts, all for the glory of God and the building of the Church of Jesus Christ.