Spiritual Gifts Listed and Described (1 Corinthians Sermon 41
November 24, 2019 | Andrew Davis
Working Together for a Common Goal
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 12, we're continuing our study in 1 Corinthians, and looking at the issue of spiritual gifts. And as I've thought about this sermon, and thinking about what God is doing and has done through spiritual gifts, what He will continue to do, my mind was led to one of the most amazing statements that God ever makes about the human race in the scriptures, really quite remarkable. It's in Genesis 11:6, during the construction of the tower of Babel, there God says, " If as one people speaking one language they have begun to do this, then nothing they propose to do will be impossible for them." That's really an amazing statement, isn't it? And it shows the power, one of the most powerful things on the face of the earth is human cooperation, people created in the image of God, remarkably gifted intellectually, mentally, physically, pulling together, communicating together and working for one common goal, one common purpose.
Now that force, that power has been used for good or ill throughout human history. It's not always good when people do that. There in the tower of Babel, they were motivated by arrogance, by a God-defying pride. And so it is so often with the great empires of human history, people have come together around a national identity and around a charismatic leader and have moved out to conquer and to build empires for as a testimony to the arrogance and pride of their race, of their nation, and of their leader. But often in secular history, it's been used for good. We think about people working together do incredible projects like the Transcontinental Railway or the Panama Canal. This summer we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
And as I was reading about that, just being a geeky engineering kind of guy, I was all into that. I just love reading about those kind of things. So some of you don't, so bear with me. But as I was reading that, I couldn't believe it, 400,000 people worked on that project. Think about the kind of talents to be able to organize such a disparate work crew and pull them together to achieve that goal that President Kennedy had set of putting a man on the moon, and bringing him safely back to earth. You think about all the people, the gifted physicists, cosmologists, mathematicians, material scientists, inventing new sciences along the way. Computer programming was in its absolute nascent state at the beginning and through the decade of the '60s, developed whole new ways of programming. And all the way down to hourly workers who did things in these factories or other things, truck drivers, seamstresses, other people that worked together to put that crew on the moon and bring them back safely.
So I think about that and then I think about how puny that achievement is compared to what it is we're talking about here with spiritual gifts. That the Lord has in every generation for 20 centuries assembled a wide array of people, gifted them in a diverse marvelous sort of way, and no two individuals alike, people can have the same gift but different versions or flavors of that gift, and causing them to work together for one common goal, one common purpose. And that's a remarkable thing, that's what we're looking at here when it comes to spiritual gifts, and it's exciting, isn't it? It's exciting for you to realize that once you've come to faith in Christ all your sins are forgiven. You have received what there is to get in this world, what is it that overcomes the world? Even our faith, you can't do any better than justification, forgiveness with God.
Once you've received that gift and you're going to heaven when you die, what then shall we do, how shall we live? And part of the answer is our spiritual gift ministry, we are called on to identify our spiritual gifts to learn about them, to not be ignorant about them. And then to develop those gifts and deploy them, to use them. And so Paul has been talking to the Corinthians and we are learning 20 centuries later through the timeless word of God. Look at verse 1, now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. And so it begins with the teaching ministry like this, what I'm doing now, been doing for a number of weeks, so that you learn what spiritual gifts are. And Paul wanted to instruct the Corinthians about what the gifts were so they wouldn't be ignorant, they would be aware. But that's not enough, they have to go beyond education, spiritual education, to actual application, to obedience.
Special Abilities Given for Spiritual Ministry
Now over the last number of weeks I've given this definition of spiritual gifts, I'll read it again. Spiritual gifts are special abilities given by the triune God to individual Christians for spiritual ministries that build up the body of Christ. So a simple definition that I've been giving after giving that longer definition every week has been special abilities for spiritual ministry. So that's what we're talking about here. Now, Paul's point here is that there is one body, there's this one work, there's not a bunch of disparate projects going on. There is one grand, glorious overarching work being done by God in this world, the one body of Christ, and He uses individuals, every single redeemed child of God, son or daughter of the living God is included. Look at verse 7, "Now to each one of us, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." To each one. No one is left out, everyone has a role to play.
But he also wants us to realize that we shouldn't be esteeming one category of gift over the other, so that there's this arrogance like a higher class like a spiritual aristocracy. And then the flip side of that people feeling inferior, if they don't have that gift, they're not included. And a lot of that was going on, there was a definite arrogance among the Corinthian people concerning these gifts. We'll get to a lot of that in chapter 14 with the gift of tongues and prophecy and things like that, but there was arrogance, and so he wants there neither to be arrogance nor inferiority, an inferiority complex, which leads you to do nothing. But he wants every individual to realize that is the same Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, the same Spirit works every gift. So there's a beautiful unity of purpose.
One Body, the Same Spirit
Look at verses 8-11, "To one there is given through the Spirit, the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. To another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit and He gives them to each one just as He determines." So there is a marvelous supernatural unity of working of the Spirit in all of these diverse gifts. That's a beautiful thing.
The Ultimate Purpose of the Gifts: Christlike Maturity for the Body
Now the purpose is the building of the one body, the ultimate purpose of the gifts. In Ephesians 4, it says, "So that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." We are all of us to be rescued from the dominion of Satan, the dominion of darkness, rescued out of a dark kingdom, through justification, through believing in Jesus, all of your sins, past, present, and future can be forgiven, are forgiven. And then having been rescued, built up through sanctification, through discipleship, through progressive, putting sin to death, through growth until we are conformed to Christ, the final stage of salvation being glorification at the second coming of Christ, and our death. And then at the second coming of Christ, in stages, the glorification of the soul, the glorification of the body until in the end, finally, all of God's people are perfected, conformed to Christ.
He uses spiritual gifts for that. That's the ultimate goal of all of this. And so as I was praying about this message I just want to say I just... I'm so thankful for the fact that week after week we have visitors that come to this church, we have people that others invite, and I feel a responsibility, a central responsibility, in preaching, to be certain that every individual person who walks in here knows how his or her sins can be forgiven. You know how you can be rescued from hell and brought to Heaven, how you can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. We're coming into a season beyond, beyond Thanksgiving of Christmas and the celebration of the giving of Jesus, and Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came to rescue the perishing. And so if you are lost, you're here, most important thing that you need to know is not about spiritual gifts. It's about the salvation of your soul, that you would not lose your soul on Judgment Day, but be rescued, and all you need to do is call on the name of the Lord, "Lord Jesus," and you will be saved, you'll be forgiven.
But Paul says that the spiritual gifts as a whole, are all working together toward that end. You heard about that with the Liberty Street ministry and the Caring Center and other ministries, there are so many gifts operating but we get the chance to interact with lost people and share the gospel with them as Robert said, the desire is that they would come to faith, that the children and their parents would come to faith. Others of them have already come to faith, they've been Christians for a while, but we want to help them in their salvation and their walk with Christ, they're part of churches and they're growing, but we want to contribute and help them walk with Christ. So spiritual gifts are given for that purpose. The final perfection of the body of Christ in Heaven, and we all get to play a role, isn't that exciting?
Spiritual Gifts Individually Described
And so what I want to do now for the rest of the sermon is so unwieldy and so impossible, but what I want to do is walk through 18 spiritual gifts and describe them briefly. Now, some of you are mathematically mind, you're like... You're looking at your watch, you're doing some math, you're like, "We going to be here a while."
Even more challenging is, I want to talk about some of the gifts in two weeks. Next week, God willing, I'm going to preach a sermon connected to Lottie Moon and to missions, unreached people group missions. So I'll be doing that next week, God willing, but two weeks we're going to return to spiritual gifts, and I'm going to talk about gifts that have been controversial in our day and age, gifts that through the charismatic movement, the Pentecostal movement, people have questions about. And you probably had some questions as you were hearing the Scripture read. Maybe you didn't. Which would make me wonder about you, but you're looking at that. It's like... What was that one? What about... I don't know about that, what about that? And so what I want to do is walk through it. Now, I know it's going to be long, but I hope it'll be helpful, my desire is to be very practical to describe how each of these gifts might function in our body or in your life. So it's basically the rest of the sermon is just application, explanation of the gift practically as best I can. And then an application.
And so, we're going to begin at verse 28, because Paul interestingly sequences three of the gifts. I don't really know why, but look what he says in Verse 28, "And in the church, God has appointed first of all, apostles, second prophets, third teachers," and then he stops the numbering and then there's just a list. "Then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, those speak in different kinds of tongues." So I'm going to start with apostles, or the gift of an apostle. But before I do, I want to say the list of 18 spiritual gifts is not meant to peg you and so you say, "That's it." I think it's good to have the general heading so you can have a sense of what you might be, but I believe in an array and a complexity and a combination of gifts, like Meredith said, that gift package that she perceived in her own life there at the Caring Center.
And so there's not just one thing but a combination of these things and I don't believe that the 18 is even an exhaustive list. There are some that we could conceive of that aren't listed in Ephesians, in 1 Peter, in Romans and here in 1 Corinthians, that could be spiritual gifts as well. God isn't boxing Himself in. So we're going to look at now. In two weeks, I'm going to talk about the gift of, the issue of cessationism, of sign gifts, of tongues, prophecies, miracles, all of that in two weeks. So pray for me to figure that out between now and then. I have my own thoughts. You probably have your own thoughts. But we're going to defer all of that till next week. I am not going to do much. I'll do a little bit of whether I think this gift is operating today or not, but we're going to just defer all of that, I'm just going to describe it as it was operating in Paul's day.
Okay, so let's begin with the gift of apostles or the apostles, the church, God has appointed first of all, apostles, so the apostles were men called and chosen by Christ, who were, according to Ephesians 2, in some amazing way, humanly speaking, the foundation of the church, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The word literally means sent one, apostello in the Greek means 'sent out'. So you could imagine someone who is sent out as an official messenger of a king or an empire, somewhat like an ambassador of one nation to another. So like the ambassador of the United States to Saudi Arabia, or to France or something like that, an ambassador.
Now, Jesus Christ chose 12 men and designated them apostles in His life. The Synoptic Gospels talk about that. Mark chapter 3 pictures Jesus and tells us that He spent all night in prayer, and then comes down and chooses the 12 and designates them as apostles. Now, the apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus' physical ministry on earth, they were with Him. They spent time with Him, they ate with Him. They listened to Him teach, they saw His facial expression as He interacted with people. They were there and they were trained especially by Him. And this is especially important, the idea of eyewitnesses to Christ because after Christ had died on the cross, was raised from the dead, spent 40 days with His disciples, and was brought up to heaven, the church assembled in Acts Chapter 1, Judas had hanged himself after betraying Christ leaving his office open, and so the church wanted to fill his empty office and described the criteria for filling it. And they were praying that God would raise up someone who had been with Jesus from the time that John the Baptist began his ministry until the time that Jesus was taken up from them. For they said, "One of these must be a witness with us, of His resurrection."
So therefore, I think the idea with the apostle is one, a strong sense of eyewitness to Christ. And so John in writing 1 John chapter 1, verse 1 says this, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes," that's eyewitness, "which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim concerning the word of life." So you can see how that apostolic eyewitness to Jesus and that testimony was essential to the beginning of the church, the foundation of the church, so the church there cast lots, and replaced Judas with Matthias. And so that issue of being eyewitness. Now some Christians today believe this office continues. So whenever you... They just zero in on the word sent one. So, anyone sent out to do a ministry like a missionary, let's say, or a church planter. In other Christian traditions, they'll have an apostolic church, that kind of thing. Others believe that gifts stopped with the death of the Apostle John on the island of Patmos, he apparently by tradition, the final eyewitness of Jesus, and there's been no apostle since then. I would... That's where I lean. There are no apostles today, not in that sense.
2. Prophets, and the Gift of Prophecy (vs. 10)
Alright. Secondly, prophets. And the gift of prophecy, so he mentions prophets at the end and then says, he speaks of the gift of prophecy in verse 10. Alright, so this is the ability to speak a word directly from God, so that you can say Thus says the Lord and what comes next is the word of the Lord, an immediate direct revelation. Now this gift must be distinguished I think from teaching and preaching and from just the unfolding of Scripture which I'll get to in just a moment, but it's an immediate revelation of a word from the Lord. Now, the most well-known or famous type of prophecy is prediction. The ability to predict the future, and I think that's vital. And in my analysis of the gift, I believe that this office also has ceased, but whether it has or not, I think it's right for the church to expect a validation of the gift by a prediction of the future that comes true. So we'll talk about that in two weeks. Meanwhile you can chew on that, and come back around the back of the church and say, "Well, I don't think so," but anyway, we'll have interesting debates. So the debate doesn't happen during the sermon, just so you know that, okay, it's other times.
Thirdly, teachers. So, next on the list are teachers. Now, in Ephesians in the list, we got apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. There, he combines the teaching gift with the pastoral gift, pastor teachers, or sometimes they think they're different, pastors and teachers, etcetera. So, I'll defer evangelists for just a moment, and just get to keep to Paul's list because he says, third teachers. So any man who would be an elder must be able to teach, but that does not mean that all teachers are elders. There are many teachers, both men and women that have the gift of teaching who are not elders. I do believe as we've said that women are not to teach other men, but they can teach other women and children, but they definitely have the gift of teaching. And there are many... Many who have the gift of teaching and use that gift will never be elders, they'll never be pastors.
So it's just the ability to take the written Word of God and through sound exegesis, principles of exegesis, rightly divide the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15, get accurate theologically accurate truth from the written word of God, explain them clearly to people so that they understand them and apply them to their lives so that they obey them. That's the gift of teaching.
4. Evangelists (Ephesians 4:11)
Fourth, evangelists. Now the numbering from now on is just mine. Alright Paul, gives one, two, three, and then no more numbering. So this is just a numbering that I have and there's nothing to it, it's just so I can not lose my way in my sermon. But the fourth is evangelists. Now some question whether Apostle, prophet, evangelist is a gift or an office or a role, I understand all that, but just the gift of evangelism would be behind being an evangelist. Now, I believe that every Christian is called on to be a witness to Christ. We are all of us to share the Gospel with people in our lives.
So there are certain responsibilities in the Christian life that are common to all Christians, such as giving but that doesn't mean you have the gift of giving. Evangelism doesn't mean you have the gift of evangelism, etcetera. The primary way we know this is the gift of faith, which I'll talk about in a few minutes, but the gift of faith is clearly an identifiable thing. But all Christians have faith or they're not Christians, we're justified by faith. And so there is a unique zeroing in on a responsibility with the gift of evangelism, and cause it to flourish.
So I would say the gift of evangelism, is the... Is the ability to explain the gospel clearly to lost people to have a heart for that, a passion for that. It never leaves your mind. Everywhere you go, you think about it, always thinking about the lost. Along with that is the ability to perhaps train other Christians who don't necessarily have the gift of evangelism, and how they can be evangelistically active in their workplaces or with their families. These gift of evangelists write tracks and training methods and books and all that, and mobilize the church toward evangelism. They have a fiery desire to see lost people saved, they never stop thinking about it. A subset of this, I think, is the gift of being a missionary in which you have that same zeal, but you add to it a flourishing in a cross-cultural setting. Where you are in another culture than your own, you've learned another language and you are zealous for winning the lost in another culture. So that's how I differentiate between evangelism and missions, but it's essentially the same gift with an additional aspect added to it, the cross-cultural aspect.
Now there have been some incredible evangelists throughout church history. I love... If I could have any gift other than the one I have, it'd be this one. Because I yearn to see lost people saved. That's not my gift. It is my responsibility to share the gospel, but I think about George Whitfield who had such an incredible preaching gift in terms of evangelism, he was always after the new birth, seeking to win lost people. And it wasn't just preaching to thousands, which he did with almost, I would say greater power than any one I know in church history. But he also had a zeal for personal evangelism. It was he that said this... And it's something that has stuck with me since the first time I read it, "God forbid that I should travel one quarter of an hour with anyone without sharing the gospel of Christ." Wow.
So wear that on you for the rest of your life. "God forbid that I should travel a quarter of an hour." So, that has led me to all kinds of airplane evangelism, which is my favorite kind because they have nowhere to go. I mean, just the captive audience, I love that. Talk to them about Christ. Philip was called an evangelist. Zealous for the winning of the lost, it was he that chased down the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert and shared Christ with him and brought him to faith in Christ. I think about DL Moody who was a great preacher, revivalist evangelistic preacher in the 19th century, but also that commitment to personal evangelism, he made a vow that he would never go to bed on any given day without having shared the gospel with somebody.
And you can imagine how busy he was, and there'd be days in which he did not have a chance, setting up, let's say a crusade or some other thing, and he would just about to go to bed, and the Holy Spirit would remind them and he'd get up there in the city and go out and find somebody out in the street, share the Gospel with him. DL Moody. Or think about Billy Graham. I think one of the most incredible evangelistic preachers in church history, I would urge you to Google a picture. Billy Graham in Times Square, September 1, 1957, he preached to thousands and thousands, set up a platform on 42nd Street and Broadway, and you'll never see that again I think in church history. New York City, Times Square thousands and thousands, uncounted thousands listening to Billy Graham preach the gospel. And so that's a gift of evangelism.
5. Message of Wisdom (vs. 8)
Fifth, let's go back down to verse 8. The message or the utterance or the word of wisdom. Now, let me just stop and say, with this and the next one word of knowledge, I don't know for sure what these are. You don't have any other corroborating New Testament scriptures that show it in action. It's just right here. So all you've got are the words, what could it be, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and you're trying to figure out what it is. So it could be, in some way, the ability to speak the message of wisdom, to speak God's supernatural wisdom into a situation. Now when I think about biblical wisdom, I think of the Book of Proverbs, and I think about rubber meets the road. How you spend your money, how you spend your time, what you do with your mouth, how you are in your family. So that's the Book of wisdom, wisdom literature, how you think about suffering in life.
So I wonder if this might be related to the gift of counseling or the role of counseling where you're able to listen to how people are going through things in their life and just speak God's wisdom, and the ultimate wisdom is Christ and Him crucified, to take that gospel, make it central to your counseling, and just help people who are suffering. Think about suffering. In James chapter 1, it says, "Count it pure joy whenever you go through trials of any kind," but then it says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God." Putting the two together, sometimes you're in the middle of suffering and you need some wisdom. And the question that sufferers always ask is, "Why is this happening to me?" And it could be that a gifted person can come along as a counselor, having been through some suffering just like you, and able to bring some eternal perspective in the suffering. But again, I don't know for certain what Paul meant by word of wisdom.
6. Message of Knowledge (vs. 8)
Then there's word or message of knowledge. Verse 8. Some people think that this may be a supernatural insight into a situation or into a person. Like remember how Jesus in John chapter 4 is talking to the Samaritan woman, and He knew things about her that He had no way of knowing. He knew that she'd been married five times, she'd had five husbands, and the man she's now with is not her husband. Well, that moved the needle. So, some people think that's what word of knowledge is. In charismatic circles and Pentecostal circles, some people think this goes into a ministry where you are able to discern what a person should do in their lives. Which has been troubling for many. It's a little creepy but it might be true. I don't know, like I said, I don't know for certain what this gift is, but I have a book, it's on my desk, right now, I pulled it out and I looked at it. It's one of my favorite book titles, "God told me to tell you."
That's the book title. And it's about the word of knowledge ministry in some charismatic churches, and it has the creepiest looking guy. And he's got this look on his face and it's, "God told me to tell you who you're supposed to marry." Wow, etcetera. However, I wonder sometimes… There was a woman named Kim years ago, in a church that I was part of, and there was a mission trip and she... And you've heard this, many of you've heard this story before, but she confronted me with my care-free attitude about whether I should go on that mission trip or not. She didn't tell me God told me to tell you, but kind of like God told me to tell you to pray about it. And she never used that word, but I wonder if that's how this gift might function.
7. Faith (vs. 9)
Alright, seventh, the gift of faith, Verse 9. As I mentioned a moment ago, all Christians have faith. If you don't have faith, you're not a Christian. So, we're justified by faith. So that's true, but this is a gift of faith. So what does that mean? So again, we don't know for certain what Paul meant by the gift of faith, but we just try to see scripturally how does faith function in the Christian life beyond just saving faith? I believe, as I've mentioned before, faith is the eyesight of the soul, by which we can see invisible spiritual realities, past, present, and future. I also think about Jesus' statement about faith, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it'll move. And that may be close to what Paul's thinking about because in 1 Corinthians 13, the next chapter, he said, "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love," etcetera. Remember.
You could think about mountain-moving faith. I think that would apply to a local church ministry or a mission agency. When you see overwhelming obstacles, and it doesn't daunt you at all, God can do it. So this could be related to visionary leadership where you can see through something that no one is doing, some ministry that no one is doing like Hudson Taylor. The ability to see the inland regions not being reached with the gospel and thought about a faith-based mission, to step out in faith. And his spiritual secret was God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. So, he didn't have money for dozens of missionaries that would go out to the Inland regions of China, but that began the era of faith-based missions. And George Müller did the same thing at the exact same time, 19th century, trusting God to meet the needs of, in the end, over 10,000 orphans.
And he just exemplified I think the gift of faith, though he denied having the gift. But the ability to see the need, to look at the word of God and trust God's word, his life verse for caring for the orphans was Psalm 81:10, where it said, "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, open wide your mouth and I will fill it." He took that promise or that statement, that promise, and applied it to the orphans he was caring for, prayed food into their mouths, into their bellies. And just again and again raised money by faith, so that faith-based mission. So the ability to see a ministry that no one's doing, to see beyond the obstacles, to have that mountain-moving faith and to see what God can do. I think about Caleb's attitude where Caleb's like... With Joshua and Caleb, remember? And they're looking at all the obstacles, they're looking at the walls up to the sky and Caleb is like, "We can do this." And so that ability to just trust God to overcome obstacles.
8. Gifts of Healing (vs. 9)
Alright, number eight: Gifts of healing. Now, this is going to be very significant in my analysis about cessationism in two weeks. I believe the gift of healing, as listed here is the ability to miraculously heal people, to pray for them, lay hands on them and they are miraculously healed. I do not think this applies to the scientific procedure of medicine such as going to medical school, learning surgical techniques, learning nursing techniques, learning pharmacology things like that. That's not the gift. The gift here is what we saw working in the Book of Acts, where Peter and John healed that lame beggar. Where they asked in Acts 4, Stretch out your hand, to heal, miraculous healings, where you have lots of miracles being done by the apostles. Where paralytics can walk, this gift... Now what I believe, and I'll say this in two weeks, but what I believe is that miraculous healings happen probably every day, as godly people gather around sick people, and ask God to heal this or that person and God frequently does. And does it in such an amazing way that medical science really has no answer.
So, I believe miracles like that happen, but that's different than the gift of healing. Do you not see? That gift travels with the person, it goes from place to place with the person, everywhere that person goes, they lay hands on them and people get healed. And now there are a lot of people that claim that power, we'll analyze all that in two weeks. So come back in two weeks.
9. Miraculous Powers (vs. 10)
Alright. And I think the next one, number 9, miraculous powers, in verse 10 is just like that. So I don't have anything different to say about that. We'll talk about that. The ability to work miracles.
10. Distinguishing Between Spirits (vs. 10)
Alright, number 10: Distinguishing between spirits. This gift seems to be in my opinion, closely tied to the gift of prophecy. 1 John 4:1, John writes, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." The testing of the spirits is tied directly to prophecy there. So as the gift of prophecy was functioning after a prophetic utterance in the congregation, it was vital for someone with the gift of distinguishing between spirits to identify whether the utterance that was just heard was demonic or by the Spirit of God. Now, in 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul says that Satan has the ability to masquerade as an angel of light, so we shouldn't be surprised if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. So you need the ability to discern. And I think that's necessary today, the ability to discern.
Analogy I've used in the past, back in the days of the Caesars, there would be a slave that would be assigned to Caesar's household who was Caesar's food taste tester. Which is problematic for me in that I think every human life is equally precious, but here's this slave willing to die for Caesar. And so his job would be to eat some of the stew or some of the whatever. Because one of the favorite techniques within Caesar's household was poisoning. And so you're sampling to see if there's any poison in it. I think that's the way it is with testing the prophecies, testing the spirits, see if there's any poison in it. So that's that discerning spirit, that ability to discern false doctrine, and I think that's essential to even to today.
11. Interpretation of Tongues (vs. 10)
Alright, number 11, speaking in tongues. I actually just have nothing to say about that one. So let's just move on. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Actually there's an entire chapter on this coming. Chapter 14 tongues and prophecy. And so we'll have a lot to say. Let me just define it in my understanding, the word tongue as we tend to use it, it's archaic. In the KJV, it means languages. It's important that we understand we're talking about a definable language with a vocabulary and a grammatical structure, we're not talking about gibberish or repeating endlessly of phrases, we're talking about a definable, recognizable language that could be understood. Alright. But is spoken fluently by the person with the gift of tongues who has never studied that gift. Again, like it's miraculous healing. So when we were missionaries in Japan, I proved I did not have the gift of tongues. Alright, in that regard. I had to study Japanese. Many others have been on the mission field and have had to study the receptor language as well. Alright, so that's not we're talking about. We're talking about the instantaneous ability to speak a language you haven't studied.
Interpretation of tongues would be the mirror image gift, the ability to hear another language and understand it clearly, and then perhaps even translate it into the language of the people that are assembled there for worship. That's the interpretation of tongues. They go together. We have much to say about this and we'll get to it later.
12. Helps (vs. 28)
Now, verse 28 gives us this gift of helps. Romans 12:7 speaks of serving, "If anyone serves..." This may be one of the most important gifts that I want you to focus on in our time today. This is a general gift. The word literally means to take a burden, to lay hold of something for someone, so you can picture taking a burden off someone. So somebody's... They've got too much luggage going through and they're trying to get to their car and somebody comes along and say, "Here, let me help you with that." And so you take some of the luggage and whatever, and you lighten that person's burden.
So this is a very generalistic gift of wanting to help, wanting to help. Doesn't require special training, it just requires a heart of service, a serving heart. Why do I think this is important? Well, as I was studying for one of these body sermons or the spiritual gift sermons a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed to find out facts about the human body. I was amazed that there are 200 different kinds of cells in the human body. I thought there would be more than that. But 37 trillion, over 37 trillion cells in the average human body. Who would count them? Whose job would that be? But as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, 80% of them are red blood cells. Isn't that incredible? 80% of the cells in your body are red blood cells.
Now, I can't make a similar statement about the gift of helps, but I wonder, if an overwhelming majority of the spiritual gift ministry is just the simple gift of helps. So what does it look like? Well, anything that you could do to help the church fulfill its mission. Anything you could do to help an outreach succeed. Anything that you could do with your physical body, with your being there. And you think about what Robert was talking about Liberty Street, I'm sure they could use people with the gift of helps. Don't need to be a specialist. So setting up and decorating a room for a reception. Helping a fellow church member pack and move. Some of you are like, "Amen, if you want to know, we are moving this week, come and talk to me." I could say names. Cooking meals for shut-ins, or families that have just had babies, or just being the computer whiz to set up the Meal Baby app so that people can do that more easily. Cleaning up fellowship hall after a men's breakfast or setting up the fellowship hall before the breakfast or doing both. Cleaning out the church van after the youth retreat. The things you learn...
Ordering or printing off evangelistic tracks for an Outreach that's happening on Saturday. Making coffee for the whole church, week after week, and you folks are some of the coffee drinkingest people, I've ever known. It's amazing. Putting together care packages for missionaries or doing Operation Christmas Child, setting all that up, running the sound system so that people can hear the musicians or hear the sermon being preached. You think about those with the gift of mercy frequently lead out in caring for disaster stricken communities, where there's been an earthquake, right? Hurricane. Think about Baptist men that go out, many of them just have the gift of helps. What can I do? Well, you can do this, you can do that, you can do that, you can drive a truck to the dump and get rid of stuff that we're clearing the site. That's just the gift of help. So, in churches around the world, so many unheralded servants do thankless tasks that never get noted. Mowing the lawn, cleaning toilets, painting, just different things that churches do. They can't afford to pay for that, they just come together for a work day.
Now, Jesus said, The greatest among us are those that serve. And so I wonder if you are like, "I have no idea what my gift is," what I would say is just find some ways to just start serving and do it a lot. And it could be that you might live the rest of your life that way. And now I say to you, you don't need to wonder what your gift is. God is using you to build the church.
Alright, 13th government leadership, administration. Verse 28, also Romans 12:8. This is the ability to lead. The word is... The Greek word is connected to piloting a ship, so like a helmsman, you put your hand on the steering wheel and you're able to steer it. So this is a gift of leadership. And there are different forms of this as well. You could have visionary leaders that see a whole new direction of ministry to go in. Alright, those are visionary and they're able to... To mobilize people to go in that direction. Then you've got those with the gift of administration that figure out the time-energy-money aspects of that visionary direction. Thank God for those with the gift of administration. They are detail oriented people that figure out what needs to be done to make it all happen.
So those are different types of the gift of leadership and there are many biblical examples. I think about Nehemiah who goes around Jerusalem with the walls, pile of rubble, he's riding on his mount. I think maybe a donkey or something like that, around the walls at night, and then gathers everyone together, all the remnant together, and says, "This is what we're going to do. We're going to build a wall." And he's just got that powerful leadership persona where they say We can do this, and then he assigns to each one's different sections of the wall, and it gets done. It's incredible. Visionary leadership. Or you think about Jethro, Moses' father in law. Remember how Moses was sitting there from early morning to late at night, hearing court cases? Two million people, any chance they didn't get along with one another? And there he is sitting on a seat judging cases, and Jethro comes along and said, "What are you doing?" "Well, the people need me," it's like, "Can I give you some advice and may God be with you? Why don't you organize some gifted men who can take the easier cases and assign them groups of 50, groups of 10, groups of 100 by their abilities?" And he set up this whole structure to take the burden off Moses and off the people so that things ran smoothly. So that's the gift of administration.
14. Encouragement (Romans 12:8)
14th, the gift of encouragement. This is in Romans 12:8, it's related to the Greek word parakaleo, paraklete, the Holy Spirit, one called alongside to help. So, gift of encouragement is just the ability to come alongside somebody and speak words of hope to that person. Or words of exhortation. I make a strong distinction between exhortation and encouragement. I generally think of encouragement as, "You're doing this good thing, keep doing it, you guys are doing great. God is using you, keep doing it." Exhortation is, "This is what you should be doing. Now, let's get going." Both of those, I think, are part of the gift. So people with the gift of encouragement, write letters to missionaries or emails or get on Skype and they just perk people up because you just love being around them. Think about Barnabas. That was a nickname, his actual name was Joseph, he was a Levite from Cyprus. But he was called son of encouragement. Because every time you're around him, you get encouraged.
By the way, the gift of discouragement is not a gift. Alright, just so you know, I just want to say that. Every time I'm around that person, I feel depressed. That is not a spiritual gift. So this is the opposite. Every time around them, I feel less depressed, I feel more hope-filled, more encouraged. This can happen in the halls. You can make phone calls to encourage people, you can write notes, just coming alongside and everyone feels strengthened when that person's there. Barnabas was like that. Don't you want to be a Barnabas? But that's the gift of encouragement.
15. Giving (Romans 12:8)
Now the gift of giving. It's like we were waiting for this one, Pastor. Alright. Every Christian has a responsibility to give. This is in Romans 12:8. The Greek word there, however, has a prefix that could be literally translated super givers. So everyone should give, but there are some super givers and this is their spiritual gift. And it doesn't necessarily have to do with how much money they give. It has to do with their demeanor, the wiring of their lives, the way they think about their business, the way they arrange... Everything they do is so that they can give more. And I mean money. I'm not zeroing in on time and energy. I mean, they give money and money is useful. I think about RG LeTourneau, who I've talked about before, who is a businessman, who started a massive earth moving company. We're talking about those huge, huge trucks. The kind where I saw this, I was going into Charleston, South Carolina, and I saw a truck dedicated to moving a single tire. I've never seen such a big tire in all my life. It was this 18-wheeler moving a single tire. I was like, "What is on the other side of that mission?"
A truck, the size of... RG LeTourneau invented a lot of those and built them, he was instrumental in what happened after D-day in World War II, the machines that came in and built harbors. Earth moving. He was one of the most remarkable givers in church history. He wanted to be a pastor, he was interested in pastoral ministry, but somebody said, You don't have to be a pastor, you can use your business, your business knowledge to serve the Lord. And so he did, and he actually kind of pioneered talking about the reverse tithe. If you're wealthy enough that you can do this, you live on 10% of what you make, give 90% away. And so he used this analogy from his own earth moving company, he said, you know, "As soon as the money comes in from the Lord, I shovel it out, but God has a bigger shovel." Isn't that great? He just keeps shoveling money my way and he just used it to build up his own local church Christian Ministries, missionary societies. Just giving the gift of giving.
Now the gift of mercy 17th, the gift of mercy. Again, Romans 12:8. And Robert mentioned this, I think, or Meredith both of them, I think are involved in Mercy ministry. And what that has to do with is the ability to see human suffering and seek to alleviate it. Mercy has to do with suffering. And so this is again, Baptist men do a lot of alleviation of suffering, but we can do it right here in our community and it's the ability to say, "I want... I'm going toward people who are suffering and I want to alleviate that suffering." You can see how ministry of the poor and needy, the Durham Rescue Mission, other types of street ministries that are tied toward homeless people, anything connected with poverty. Anything connected with alleviating human suffering is a Mercy ministry, it's a tremendous platform for the Gospel. People frequently are stripped of pride, they're stripped of illusions about life, and they're ready to hear the Gospel, and so we see medical missionaries that have the gift of mercy, people who use their gifts to alleviate suffering.
And then 17th, the gift of hospitality. This is 1 Peter 4:9 and 10. It says, "Offer hospitality to one another." I love this, "without grumbling." Isn't that great? Here's a guess. I think if you're continually grumbling, you probably don't have the gift of hospitality, just a thought. But all of us are called then to be hospitable. But we were talking about this in our home fellowship a few weeks ago. I think it was Chris McCulloh that said, "You know, when you go to someone's house, and you're offered hospitality, you're going to spend the night, you expect clean linen okay, but somebody with the gift of hospitality there's a mint on the pillow." Does that make sense? It's just, there's a sense in which the people have gone above and beyond what it takes to host you. And you almost feel like you, the guest, are doing them a favor to come and be in their home. I can't tell you what an incredible blessing it is for you to be eating my food.
But it's that gift of hospitality. Our Home Fellowship Ministry is based on this ministry. And so I know Andy Wynn, as he puts this thing together, year after year, we count on people who have this gift, who are willing to open their homes and have a bunch of people come in and share. So those are the 18 that I wanted to go through. I don't know if you were to come up and say to me, "Pastor what's my gift?" I couldn't answer. The Holy Spirit knows, the Holy Spirit's the one that's equipped you. So, discover what your gifts are, develop them and deploy them for the Glory of God. Let's close in prayer.