SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR THE BELIEVER

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH

Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved



 

Corinth was a large convention city like San Francisco, Miami, or other coastal cities. People came from all over the Roman world for commerce and business. It had a large Jewish population, so whenever a Jewish unbeliever came into the church, that Jewish unbeliever got the Gospel in the dialect or language of the geographical area from which he came. Maybe he spoke Koine Greek, Latin, Parthian, or Median. These visitors spoke anything and everything except Hebrew. Jews in the 1st century A.D. did not speak Hebrew. They didn't understand the Hebrew language, except for the priests in Jerusalem. They spoke only the language of their geographical area. That’s why, in Acts 2:6-8, they asked how it was possible that everyone could hear the Gospel in his own language. The believers who had the gift of giving the Gospel in a foreign language, did so to these Jews who were there for the Feast of Pentecost. They were there from all over the Roman world.

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? (Acts 2:6-8)

Function of Spiritual Gifts Depends on Your Spiritual Life

The Book of Corinthians tells us that a Christian can have many spiritual gifts with a knowledge and eager anticipation of the Rapture of the Church and be the most carnal believer around. This is knowing doctrine and knowing that you possess a spiritual gift or gifts without an experiential application that transforms your life. If you love Jesus Christ, you anticipate His appearing and realize that blessed hope is a purifying hope. Therefore, you walk in holiness and righteousness before the Lord, which is life inside the Fellowship Sphere for Time or the components of the Christian life. In 1 Corinthians 1:4-8, it says that the grace of God was given to each of us for our own advantage in Christ Jesus. It also says that in everything, we were enriched in Him which is our union with the Lord Jesus Christ which the Holy Spirit provided for each of us at salvation.

I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4-8)

1 Corinthians 1:4-8 refers to that moment of positive volition or the moment of salvation when you came to the Cross. At that moment, you realized that the Lord Jesus Christ took your place on the cross and died for your sins, thus providing your salvation. You expressed faith alone in Christ alone for salvation and were eternally saved. At that instant, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit entered you into union with the Lord Jesus Christ. You now have everything that He has at the right hand of the Father. You have His life, His righteousness, His holiness, His election, His destiny, His heirship, and everything else that the Father has given Him because of His strategic victory in the angelic conflict. He is seated at the right hand of the Father in a glorified resurrection body. You have that wonderful position which is superior to all angelic creatures. You are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The word "enriched" in 1 Corinthians 1:5 means to be graced out to an infinite degree. It means to be infinitely and eternally enriched. You have a perfect standing in union with the Lord Jesus Christ and you can't get out. This is the Relationship Sphere for Eternity. These Corinthians were in union with Christ because they became believers the moment they trusted Him for salvation. They also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts from Him. I love the Lord's sense of humor. I think one of the reasons He gave such a preponderance of spiritual gifts to the Corinthians was to show us that spiritual gifts are not the issue. You can be a local church loaded with spiritual gifts and be absolutely carnal. You can be totally and completely under the influence of the Old Sin Nature and your gifts will not function at all to the glory of God. If they do function, it's for your own approbation, your own ego, your own power or glory and your own recognition.

that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, (1 Corinthians 1:5)

God’s Maximization of Spiritual Gifts to Church of Corinth

It was the plan of the Father for God the Holy Spirit to maximize spiritual gifts to this congregation. They were all in union with the Lord Jesus Christ and had received spiritual gifts that related to speech and knowledge. The ones related to speech were the temporary gift of speaking in a foreign language, or tongues which is giving the Gospel to unbelieving Jews in Corinth. There was a large Jewish population in Corinth. The Corinthian church had thousands of believers as members. To this large Jewish population, God the Holy Spirit gave many believers the gift of tongues.

These were not people getting worked up emotionally, having the emotions taking over the thought patterns of their souls, losing control of themselves, and coming out with some unintelligible gibberish. Unintelligible gibberish is what we have today from those claiming erroneously to be speaking in tongues. Before 70 A.D. only, it was actually a spiritual gift by which they spoke the Gospel in a foreign language which they did not understand. They would think the Gospel message, they would open their mouths and God the Holy Spirit would enable them to use the gift of tongues and speak in this foreign language. They spoke a language they didn't understand, but Jews from all over the Roman Empire there in Corinth, would hear the Gospel in their own language, just as they did on the Day of Pentecost. They would have the opportunity to trust Christ for salvation.

A permanent gift relating to the needs of other believers is a gift related to speech such as the gift of teaching. This is not the same as being a pastor and teacher. This is a communicative gift which other believers possess. They can teach in prep school, Bible class, or in home Bible studies. Remember that the Bible does not authorize women to teach a mixed group of adults. They may teach children or a ladies' home Bible study. That's quite all right. However, where there is a situation where women are usurping authority over men, they are not to do so. They are to be responsive and submissive to the authority of the local church and they are not to teach both men and women.

There was also the temporary gift of knowledge where God enabled certain believers to receive the message from Him. With the apostles and their close associates, many times that gift was used to record information in the development of the New Testament Canon of Scripture. Nevertheless, others were not apostles who had this communicative gift. They would receive a message from the Lord necessary for the believers before the completed Bible in 96 A.D.

In 1 Corinthians 1:6-8, Paul says that the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. There is absolutely no doubt that you knew you were saved. You had assurance and confirmation. You were taught that you received spiritual gifts at the moment of salvation. There are a maximum number of gifts related to speech and knowledge. The Corinthians did not lack in any of the gifts. Apparently, all the spiritual gifts were evident in the church in Corinth with the exception of the gift of apostleship. There were only 12 apostles. These were the same men who were the apostles to Israel with the exception of the elimination of Judas Iscariot who was replaced by the apostle Paul. You can be sure that if apostolic succession was to continue through the Church Age, God would make that very definite in His Word. Yet the gift of apostleship was limited to 12 men. Some men had apostolic authority delegated to them, like Jude, Apollos, Timothy, and John Mark, but they were not the original apostles.

even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:6-8)

As far as the other spiritual gifts were concerned, either temporary or permanent, the Corinthian church had them all. They were well represented within the Christians in the church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 says that they were not lacking in any gift and awaited eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ with their necks craned forward like a person trying to get a better view at a parade. The "revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" here refers to the Rapture of the Church. They understood that anticipation of the Rapture is a purifying hope and confidence. If you realize that the Lord Jesus Christ could come at any moment, you are going to walk carefully, accurately, and circumspectly. You are going to make sure that you stay in fellowship on a moment by moment basis, because the next moment could be when the Lord Jesus Christ takes us unto Himself. They had the knowledge, but they did not have the obedience. That is always the key. We are all to trust and obey the Word of God!

Although this church was graced out to the maximum in spiritual gifts, the Corinthian church of the apostolic period turned out to be more of a headache to the apostle Paul than any other local church. It’s plain to see that the Corinthian church abounded in every spiritual gift, which means they had many spectacular gifts. Nevertheless, this church became one of the most carnal churches in the area.

Spiritual Gift Function and Problems in the Church

We all need to be very clear that carnality is an absolute just as spirituality is an absolute. You can’t be 80% carnal and 20% spiritual, or 75% carnal and 25% Spirit filled. You are either 100% under the control of the Spirit or 100% under the control of the Old Sin Nature. Corinth was more carnal than any church that has ever existed. More Corinthian believers lived their lives perpetually under the influence of the Old Sin Nature rather than being under the control of the Spirit and the influence of doctrine. This was the most carnal church that ever assembled in the name of the Lord. The Corinthians, to illustrate this carnality, were famous or infamous throughout the Christian world for their arrogance, their preoccupation with self, their jealousy, envy, childishness, and their pettiness. They were superficial and petty people that just loved to get together and gossip about everyone else.

Those in the Corinthian church were also subject to spiritual bullying. They had more than their share of legalistic people who would express their legalism by trying to bully the women who had been prostitutes before they were saved. These women were no longer prostitutes, but the legalists wanted them to carry the mark, the sign, the onus of "whore" for the rest of their lives. They didn't want them to come to church unless they had a veil on as seen in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6. The only ones wearing veils in any type of meeting, were the prostitutes. Paul makes it very clear that these women are saved and have just as much right as anyone else and they didn't have to wear a veil. Their long hair is given them for a veil as in 1 Corinthians 11:13-16. This was spiritual bullying. This was airing their dirty laundry in the presence of the unbeliever.

But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. (1 Corinthians 11:5-6)

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:13-16)

Bullying is not the same as a minister, teacher, or other believer taking the Word of God and expounding on it by giving rebuke and correction. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture is inspired by God or God-breathed and is profitable first and foremost for doctrine, then for rebuke. What is rebuke? It is reproof or telling people they are out of line. It is telling people that what they are doing or saying is wrong and should not exist in our church. That is rebuke. Then there is correction. If you do not have "training in righteousness," you do not have spiritually mature believers prepared for all good works. Having normal spiritual growth without rebuke and correction is not possible. This is not a reference to biblical rebuke, biblical reproof, or biblical correction. What then is airing dirty laundry in public? An example is suing other Christians in a court of law over personal matters. If there are disagreements between believers and those differences have been aired to other people, the Bible says you should not go to court over it. If you think some sins of the tongue are a defamation of your character, you should not go to court over it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 that you have no right to judge your fellow believer. He reminds them that they will judge angels at the end of the Millennium. Paul rebukes and corrects them to refrain from being involved in such petty actions.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:1-7)

This passage does not mean that if one believer goes into business with another believer, and believer "B" takes Believer "A" to the cleaners through dishonesty, that believer "A" should not have recourse through litigation. You can sue a fellow believer over dishonest business procedures. If you work for a believer and he fires you unjustly, you have the right to go to the labor board that may end in litigation. I'm talking about airing the dirty laundry of Christians in the presence of unbelievers in a public court of law. This is taking things to the judge that should be taken to the pastor-teacher and the church board and resolved within the congregation. They should be resolved ecclesiastically, not publicly in the courts of the nation. The Corinthian believers were notorious for this unbonafide litigation. They were infamous for divorce, but not because of perpetual immorality or desertion. They were famous for believers getting saved and thinking that because their spouse was still an unbeliever that this was grounds for a divorce. This was wrong, but they did it left and right.

Take drunkenness, for instance. Drunkenness in the Corinthian church was so bad that Paul had to correct them in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 1 Corinthians 6:10-11. Drunkenness was so bad that people would come together at local church functions and get smashed. They would get snockered. They would get four sheets to the wind. They would get hammered right into the ground. They were also being hammered by divine discipline, because the Lord made it very clear that there were believers in Corinth who were dying the sin unto death because of drunkenness being expressed at the Lord's Table. Some didn't even wait for church function to get drunk, but came to church smashed, partaking of the elements while drunk. They would wind up in a worse state, because alcoholism was rampant at this time in the Roman Empire. This situation also applies to our own nation today. There is no happiness in the bottom of the bottle. There are genetic weaknesses toward alcoholism. Sometimes it's very strong when it goes right from parent to child. Sometimes it's almost as strong when going from a grandparent to a grandchild. There can be a predisposition toward drunkenness within families. If this is true in your family, it should be nipped in the bud by not even smelling a cork. Whether wine, or stronger spirits, avoid all alcohol.

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:10-11)

The Corinthian church members were infamous for their preoccupation with self. Their arrogance manifested itself in jealousy, envy, childishness, spiritual bullying and litigation. Many were petty and childish and very impatient with other believers. They would magnify other’s faults and minimize their own. Does this describe you some of the time? If it does, you need to be more consistent in your intake and application of Bible doctrine to your life. Drunkenness, litigation, divorce and carnal activity were in evidence, including the sexual perversion of the phallic cult and the abominable perversion of incest. They all had their share.

The conclusion is quite obvious, isn't it? The possession of a spiritual gift does not mean spirituality. This is exactly what is emphasized in the main thrust of the Vineyard Movement, the Third Wave Movement and the Latter Rain Movement. All of these new movements imply, in one way or another, that you're not spiritual or filled with the Spirit unless you have spoken in tongues. Unless your life is characterized by signs, miracles, wonders, and tongues, you're not doing a proper job in evangelism, because you are not really a Spirit-filled believer.

There is a principle to be learned from looking at the Corinthian congregation. If the Corinthians with all their variations of carnality, had more believers with spectacular spiritual gifts than any other church in the ancient world, there definitely is no correlation between possessing a certain type of spiritual gift and spirituality. Differentiating between spiritual gifts and spirituality is important. A spiritual gift’s proper function depends upon spirituality and spiritual growth, but they are not the same thing.

False Teaching and the Church at Corinth

False teaching based on legalism and emotionalism had also infiltrated the church at Corinth. These were among the false impressions which came out of speaking in tongues. What happened in Corinth almost 2000 years ago, is happening over and over again now in the United States of America, especially in Orange County which is the headquarters of the Charismatic Movement. The Latter Rain, Vineyard, and Third Wave movements are very big in Kansas City as well as Orange County, California. When the largest church here, with a membership of about 50,000, is involved in charismatic activity, then we know this is the capitol of the modern day Charismatic Movement. What happened in Corinth is happening today on a maximum scale.

We have already seen that some believers in the Corinthian church had an inferiority complex regarding their spiritual gifts. Some had superiority complexes. Both groups were ignorant of divine truth which says they are all on the same team, but play different positions. One spiritual gift is not better that the other within the scheme and purpose of the plan of God for Christian service. Some are leadership gifts and some are not leadership gifts. However, they are all of equal importance within the plan of God. The spiritual gift you possess is not the most important factor. The filling of the Holy Spirit is the most important factor. We all derive the spiritual capability of our spiritual gifts as grace provision under the power of the Holy Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

In the early church before 70 A.D., the gift of tongues was regulated. In the church worship service, certain spiritual gifts were to function with others minimized or avoided. In 1 Corinthians 14:1-4, Paul emphasized the spiritual gift of prophecy. He made it clear that until the Canon of Scripture would be completed, the most important gift for the local churches was the gift of prophecy. They received information from God related to foretelling the future and forth telling the message from the Lord. This was information vital to the congregation and edified them.

Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. (1 Corinthians 14:1-4)

Tongues did not edify the congregation. There was certainly some personal edification in using tongues and knowing you were speaking very eloquently and powerfully in giving the Gospel, even though you did not understand the language. They knew that God the Holy Spirit was enabling them to do that. They also knew that God understood that they were giving the Gospel in the best possible way they could and in the context of their personal frame of reference. They were aware that their thoughts of the Gospel were being translated as they spoke into another language without their understanding. That had to be personally edifying. However, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 that he would rather speak five words of prophecy than ten thousand words in a foreign language. This because prophecy edified the entire congregation and tongues did not. In this way, tongues was minimized and strictly regulated.

I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

Only men had the gift of tongues. Also, according to 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, when they gave the Gospel, no more than three could do so in a single church service and at least one other had to get up and translate those words for the believers in the congregation to hear. This person had the gift of interpretation of tongues. In this way, tongues was very definitely regulated. It was so regulated that it was almost minimized or avoided.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and let one interpret; but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

Paul gives the impression that the believers with tongues should not have even thought of using the gift unless God the Holy Spirit made it clear that He wanted the gift used. God knew when there were unbelieving Jews in the congregation. When you have a church of over 1000 people, how is a person going to know who are unbelieving Jews? Therefore, God the Holy Spirit lead a person to get up and give the Gospel in the language of the unsaved Jew. God the Holy Spirit, in His foreknowledge, would make sure just who these persons were.


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