The Study of Spiritual Gifts (Sermon 11 of 14)
January 06, 2002 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 with a focus on spiritual gifts. This sermon is part of a series on the topic of spiritual gifts.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
I'd like to ask, if you would, to take your Bibles and open to 1 Corinthians 12. We're going to start there, but we're really going to be moving around in the New Testament quite a bit. As I alluded to in my prayer, we're going to be looking, God willing, this week and next week at the so-called sign gifts or the supernatural gifts. And I hesitate even to put that name to it because if something is in fact a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is by definition supernatural. A gift of the Spirit is not a natural ability. It's not a talent. It's not a proclivity. It's a gift from God by the power of the Spirit that you can be involved in building the church. It is a supernatural thing by definition or it's not a spiritual gift.
But I think you know what I mean when I talk about these types of gifts that cause people really to sit up and take notice. We're talking about miracles, signs, and wonders. We're talking about speaking in tongues, talking about prophecy and those types of gifts. And so this week I'd like to zero in specifically on miracles and see what we can learn about that, and God willing, next week look into prophecy and tongues.
Look at 1 Corinthians 12:7, it says,
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 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 speak 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.
And then look down at verse 27,
Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church, God has appointed, first of all, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And so we have in these two sections in 1 Corinthians 12 some listing of spiritual gifts. And in the middle of it are some things that we may not be directly familiar with. Things like workers of miracles, speaking in tongues and prophecy, interpretation of tongues, and these things. And when I read through these lists the first time, you'll notice that I kind of conveniently skipped over them and didn't discuss them much. And you're wondering why did I do that? And I think it's because they merit a dedicated study, a careful look that we might understand what is going on.
Now I have myself a kind of a long history of interest in these things and you probably have your own story to tell. But when I was overseas in Kenya, there was a man there who was brought in to do some of the instruction to our group. It was a group of college students and I had just graduated from college, but I was included. And we had some teaching times in addition to the ministry that we did. This man was a native Kenyan. He also had studied in America and had a PhD from the University of Minnesota. I don't know what his field of study was, but he was a very intelligent, a well-educated man, a native of Kenya, I think from the Kikuyu tribe. And he came and instructed on various things. And at one point he alluded to a story in which he personally had been involved in raising a woman from the dead who had been dead for two days. Now, as I heard that story, I thought, this is an interesting problem, isn't it? As you come to this description, you can either do one of two things. You can either accept his story at face value and say that God did a mighty miracle through him, or you can call him a liar. There really no third option. Isn't that the case? Because he described the story in great detail. He told about the anguish in terms of the family and then the joy that happened after that. And there was nothing about this man that would lead me to believe that he was a liar. And as I started to do research on other aspects of missions just as I was preparing to be a missionary, I ran across numerous stories from the mission field of these kinds of things. And you've heard about what I'm talking about, miraculous healings, signs and wonders, things done in incredible ways around the world. And I started getting interested in that.
I also was personally interested as my ministry in Kenya continued and I was thinking much about these things and we went from place to place and we were sharing the word of God with people. And as we did, we came to one particular village and one house and a woman was there with two of her children and she asked if she could bring out her other daughter to listen also to the Word. And the other daughter came and she was suffering from malaria and she had to be helped to the blanket. And she was well along, and actually it was a life-threatening situation. Many people in that part of the world die from malaria. And at that moment I was struck by her need and also the wrestling that I had done over healing and were we called to pray over her and pray for healing, and not just to pray those kind of prayers that you pray, you know what I'm talking about, but to actually trust God right there and then for a miraculous healing. And so I started searching my heart to know what to say, and the person asked, "Do you have a word from God for us and a word from Scripture?" And my partner, who was a Duke student, shared something vanilla, I thought. And when he was done, then the whole time I'm searching, I'm thinking, what kind of scripture could I use? And this scripture came to my mind. "The kingdom of heaven is not a matter of talk but of power." That's the Scripture that came to my mind. Why that Scripture of all Scriptures? I wanted something that I could do that would keep me in my box, keep me safe and secure. But this is the one that came to my mind, "The kingdom of heaven is not a matter of talk but of power." And I thought, "Wow, I don't want to give just talk, but I don't think the Word of God is just talk." I was of a divided mind. Well, we prayed those kind of prayers you pray. She did not get up and walk away and be healed immediately. We did pray for her healing. And I prayed in faith as it says in James that we must, but I did not see that woman healed, right there and then.
And so as I continued on in my ministry in Kenya, a few weeks later, I started talking to the Kenyan pastor that was ministering with us and talking to him a lot about these things, signs and wonders and miracles, and he seemed very nonplussed by it all. He said, "Yeah, that kind of thing happens. I've seen it myself." And I said, "Well, what are we to do?" I mean, he said, "As God leads you, pray. And as God heals, you rejoice." That was his answer. But I wasn't satisfied with that. And as we came to the next house, there was a young man, a teenager there who was crippled and was walking, leaning way over on a stick. It seemed like everywhere I turned, this issue was right in front of me. And we prayed for him in a quick way and then walked on and he walked on and I felt like there was this heavy rubber band between us. The further I walked, the more I felt there was unfinished business. And finally I just stopped and my partner kept walking and the Kenyan pastor kept walking and I was just stopped there. I couldn't move. And they turned back and said, "What are you doing?" Meanwhile, this young man, this teenager, had stopped way up the path himself and had turned back to us. And Steve, my partner, said, "Well, what do you want to do?" And I said, "I feel like God's leading that we should pray that he would be healed." And the pastor had no problem with that and started walking back. But Steve kind of rolled his eyes and said, "We already prayed for him." I said, "No, I mean, really, we need to pray." And so we walked back and meanwhile this young man had turned around and walked halfway back to where we were. It was very clear that God was bringing us back. And so we prayed and prayed that he would be healed, but we didn't see him healed at that moment. Nothing like you'd write in one of those biblical stories. You know what I'm talking about? And so from then on I started really wondering about this whole issue of miracles, healings, signs and wonders.
Now, some of you have heard of John Wimber. He is part of the Vineyard Ministry and actually, he's gone to be with the Lord. But he wrote a book called Power Evangelism and another book called Power Healing and he talks a great deal about signs and wonders and the effect on ministry. So I started to do what I think it is we need to do whenever we're concerned about something like this is research the Scriptures, dig into the Scriptures and see what they say. Try to find out. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with us in the West because we were hearing stories from all over the world, but we weren't seeing things happen here in this industrialized scientific country that we live in. Do we have an intellectualized faith? Are we missing things that God wants to do? And that's a question that I'm asking of the text and of myself. Have we quenched the Spirit? And that's the kind of thing that I'm wondering about.
Now for myself as a pastor, Paul said in his ministry, "I've not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole council of God's will." And this is clearly part of it, isn't it? And so I think it's important for us to try to understand spiritual gifts fully and that is impossible without considering what we call the miraculous. Now I'm going to be talking about miracles in general today. Now, how would you define a miracle? I define a miracle as an act of God which breaks the normal laws of the physical universe and in so doing demonstrates clearly his power, his presence, and his character. Let me read that again, a miracle is an act of God, which breaks the normal laws of the physical universe and in so doing demonstrates clearly his power, his presence, and his character. So therefore, by that definition, sorry to say, the birth of a newborn is not a miracle, okay? I know that we like to speak that way and it is an amazing act of God and all that he does, but it doesn't break the laws of physics. That's the way he has designed and ordered in the physical world that people are born. But a miracle would be where Jesus would walk on water, or feed 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves and two fish, or where he speaks to Lazarus dead in the tomb for three days and says, "Come forth," and he comes forth. That's a miracle.
"A miracle is an act of God, which breaks the normal laws of the physical universe and in so doing demonstrates clearly his power, his presence, and his character."
Now, what's at issue? The issue is not, “can God do miracles?” I would hope not. We know he can and no question about it. And the issue is clearly not did God do miracles in the Bible? We believe clearly he did. We believe that God acted. We take the scripture as a record, an accurate record of all the things that happened, and there's some pretty astonishing things that happen in the Bible, aren't there? The question is, do these miraculous gifts exist today? Could we actually say that someone, talking within the context of our study in spiritual gifts, has the gift of healing? You see what I'm saying? Does someone have the gift of miracles as Paul lists here in 1 Corinthians 12? Now that's the question before us. It's not even the question, “have you prayed for an aunt or a uncle or a relative or a friend and in a remarkable way, they were healed?” It's not that. The question is do you have the gift of healing or does someone in our church have it? Is someone in our church a worker of miracles according to this list? Now that's the question. I wonder if we're going to resolve it tonight, what do you think? I would love to be able to resolve it, but our goal is to gain a biblical understanding of the miraculous so that we will be fully useful to God in service to him, to try to turn to the Scriptures and fearlessly look at a controversial topic and try to understand it as best we can.
Now, as you look at the miracles in the Bible, when did the miracles occur? In the Old Testament. If you look at it, there are really clusters of miracles, aren't there? It really didn't spread out over the entire Old Testament history, but it really seemed to be clustered around certain times in Israel's history. For example, the time of the Exodus was a time of great miracles, wasn't it? You look at all the signs and wonders that God did through Moses, the things that he did in Egypt and demonstrated his power in the plagues especially, and then at the Red Sea, he demonstrated his power. We also saw God do amazing miracles through Moses in the desert as he made the manna come from heaven. And as he spoke to the rock and water flowed from the rock and there were miracles. And there were miracles in conjunction also with Joshua as they entered the Promised Land. As the Jordan River heaped up like there was a path between them, they walked across on dry ground. You remember that? And then the walls of Jericho fell down. All they did was just walk around them and they just cried out. This was a great miracle. And so there were these miracles clustered around the time of Exodus and the time of Joshua and the conquest of the Promised Land.
There were also miracles around the time of Elijah and Elisha and that time of conflict with Baal. You remember that? When there was a contest between Baal and God and Yahweh and the one who answered from heaven with fire, let him be seen to be God. And God did answer. And it wasn't just that, but also other miraculous things done, many of them through Elisha after Elijah left and went up to heaven in a whirlwind in a chariot of fire. You remember what Elisha prayed? He said, "Lord, give me a double portion of his spirit." And so really God did more miracles through Elisha than he did through Elijah. And so that was a time of miracles. And a third cluster of miracles occurred during the time of Daniel in exile. You remember with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the supernatural dreams and the way that God spoke in that way. And certainly Daniel in the lions' den. All of these things were miracles. And there were other from time to time, but the Old Testament miracles seemed to be in clusters.
But then along came Jesus and nobody has ever worked miracles like Jesus. Even the apostles did not work miracles the way that Jesus did. Jesus, what, for three years? I would say it's not too far to say that Jesus just about banished disease and demon possession from Palestine for three years. If you look at some of these summaries, they would talk about whole regions, the whole area around Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. They were all going to Jesus and all of them were healed, it said. That's all. I mean, you just read it very quickly, you don't realize the weight, the impact of what is said. Do you remember what John said at the end of John chapter 21, said, "You know something? If every story were told to the same depth that I told, for example, the healing of the blind man..." In John 9, "... the whole world would not be able to contain the accounts, but these are written so that you may believe." You remember that. And so we really couldn't even write all of the accounts. If you just followed even just one of those people and how they were healed and what went through it'd be one account after another. Jesus was a miracle worker such as there has never been before or since.
And why did Jesus do miracles? If you look at his miracles, they're not just any kind of display of supernatural power. I've talked about this before, but I think they really reveal the character and nature of God. A lot of the miracles are just restoration of what he originally intended in creation. A lot of it is really just a clear work of redemption, which he's buying us back out of the effects of sin, so often. I mean, he could have just, as I've said before, created pink and purple elephants and caused them to levitate and do somersaults in the air. And you can't do that, can you? And so if you saw Jesus do that, you'd be amazed, but it doesn't line up with what he's done. He was really in many cases just restoring creation and displaying it. People were not meant to be hungry, so he fed them. They were not meant to be blind, so he gave them sight. They were not meant to be dead, and so he raised them from the dead. He's just restoring back to the original creation order. I think also the miracles that Jesus did displayed in an incredible way, the parallel between human weakness and inability and Jesus' power. Now, we talked about this before, but it really does merit consideration. The blind man can't see, Jesus heals him so he can. The mute cannot speak and Jesus heals him so he can. The demon-possessed man cannot shake this supernatural demonic power; Jesus heals him so that he can be free. It's a picture of human can't and Jesus can again and again and again. And so they taught spiritual lessons, but Jesus did these miracles.
Now, as we look to the miracles, did those miracles produce conversions? Did they? I mean, if you watch one of Jesus' miracles, were you saved as a result? Not at all. As a matter of fact, you might even have received the miracle and still not be saved. You remember the man in John 5, I think it is, that's healed on the Sabbath, and remember he's been lying there all those years and Jesus heals him so that he can walk. He carries his mat and then the Pharisees see him and they ask him about his carrying of the mat, who healed him, et cetera. Jesus finds that man later. Remember what he says to him? He says, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse might happen to you." And you might ask, "What could be worse than 40 years of paralysis?" Well, eternity in hell is worse. And so just because he was physically healed did not mean that he was converted. And it was possible to look at the miraculous and not see it for what it was, to try to explain it away, "It is by the power of Beelzebub that he drives out demons," they would say. Or Lazarus giving a testimony to the fact that he was dead in the tomb for three days and rises up just at the word of Jesus, and what did the Pharisees try to do to Lazarus? Try to kill him. So the miracles did not produce faith, but they did produce a context for faith. Jesus said in John 5, "Even if you don't believe my testimony, believe the works I do." And so there was a significance- a saving significance to Jesus' miracles. Jesus had a miraculous entry into the world and a miraculous exit from the world, didn't he? He miraculously entered the world through a virgin birth, the incarnation, a supernatural miracle. And how did he leave the world? Do you remember? He broke the law of gravity. I mean, he's subject to the law of gravity as long as he chooses to. And then when he's done with the law of gravity, he simply elevates from the earth and he's gone. A cloud hid him from their sight. You see, God is not subject to the laws of the physical universe, is he? He can do anything he wants with what he's made. He can break those laws anytime.
Well, after Jesus came the apostles. Now, Jesus was already preparing the apostles for a supernatural ministry while he trained them. Do you remember? He sent them out two by two and they were able to do all these miraculous signs. He said, "Cure the sick, raise the dead, drive out demons, cure those who have leprosy. Freely you've received, freely give." And they went out and they did it and came back and they were just ecstatic. Remember, they were thrilled. "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" Do you remember what Jesus said at that point? He said, "Don't rejoice that the demons are subject in your name, but rather that your names are written in heaven. That's what you should rejoice in." That really puts miracles in perspective, doesn't it? The greatest thing that can happen to you is to be justified through faith in Jesus Christ. There's nothing greater, to have your name written in heaven in indelible ink, to know for sure that you're going to heaven. Jesus, in his way of thinking, nothing is greater than that. But he was preparing the apostles for miracles.
"The greatest thing that can happen to you is to be justified through faith in Jesus Christ. There's nothing greater, to have your name written in heaven in indelible ink, to know for sure that you're going to heaven."
Now, look with me, if you would. We'll begin studying this. And golly, now, that's a miracle. We're in a time warp. It's four of seven. How did that happen? I only have eight more pages of notes here, so we'll get through that. Don't worry. Look at Acts 2. Let's just begin there. Acts 2:41 and following. This is after the Pentecostal sermon that Peter preached, and that itself was a miracle because of the speaking in tongues. We'll get to that, God willing, the next time that we look at it. Looks like not next time though, but the next time we discuss these things. But look at verse 41 and following, "Those who accepted Peter's message were baptized and about 3000 were added to their number that day." Verse 42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Verse 43, "Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." You see that? And so there's this flowing of miraculous signs through the apostles at this point. We don't know what they are. We just know that they're listed here. Probably healings and other things, maybe some feedings or some other things similar to what Jesus had done, not different than what Jesus had done. Some exorcism, driving out of demons by the power of the name of Jesus. We don't know. All we know is that many miraculous signs. But note that it says they were done by the apostles, and that is a recurring theme in the Book of Acts. I'm not saying that only apostles did miracles, but it is a recurring theme, as we'll see, that the apostles are singled out for this miraculous power.
Look at 3:1 and following,
One day, Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer at three in the afternoon. Now, a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going in the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave him his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have but what I have I give you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
Boy, wouldn't you love to do that? I mean, what joy. Not so that any glory would come to ourselves. Peter deflects that quickly, as we'll see in a minute. But just to bring joy, just to bring joy, the celebration, the power of God,
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Now, look what happens next. Verse 11, "While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade." This also is a regular theme in the Book of Acts, namely that the miracle gathers a huge crowd. And what do you think they do with the huge crowd? They preach. Every single time. The miracle would draw attention and the messengers would use the attention to preach the gospel. It happened time and time again. And so everybody's coming running. And then in verse 12, “When Peter saw this [I love this] he said to the men of Israel, ‘Why does this surprise you?’” Isn't that incredible? “Why should you be surprised at this? Why does this surprise you?” And then secondly, what does he say? "Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" so vital when we're considering this idea of miracles. What is Peter saying there? "It is not my power that did this, and it's certainly not my godliness. If you have been with me just a short time ago, you would've seen me deny that I even knew Jesus. I'm a wretched, filthy sinner, but I'm saved by grace. It's not by my power and it is not by my godliness.” Well, what is it then? What does he say? "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified his servant, Jesus." Another important point: the miracles glorified Jesus. They exalt the power of Jesus, and so it is not the vessel, it is not the individual. It is not you or me. It is the power of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob working through sinful people like you and me to glorify his servant Jesus. And to what end? Well, Jesus himself said it. Do you remember when Jesus looked at that crippled man that they lowered through the roof? They looked at him and he said, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Remember that? And they took offense and Jesus said, "Which is more difficult to say? 'Your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'Rise and walk?'" I've thought about that much. Which is more difficult. We've been through this before, haven't we? Which is more difficult? Everybody repeat after me: “Your sins are forgiven.” go ahead, say it. “Your sins are forgiven.” Good for you. Now say the second one, “Rise and walk.” Go ahead, say it. “Rise and walk.” Okay, which was harder? I guess you could count syllables or letters and find out which of the two. There's nothing to say it, but there's something to have power behind it. Do you see what I'm saying? To say it with authority. Now that's something. "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth..." What? "‘... to forgive sins.’ And he said to the cripple, 'Rise and walk.'" That's the point. So that we may preach the gospel so that all may know that Jesus has power to forgive sins. Now, that's the point. Doesn't that go back to the whole issue of what we should be joyful about in our lives? Don't rejoice that you could do miracles. Rejoice that your sins are forgiven. That's the issue. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost, to forgive sins.
"Don't rejoice that you could do miracles. Rejoice that your sins are forgiven. That's the issue. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost, to forgive sins."
My question to you, as we close tonight, we're going to have to resume this next time, is there not still a place for this today? That's what I'm asking.
Thank you, Brevard. I hear testimonies all over the world. Why aren't they happening here? And that's my question. Now as we're looking into it, we're going to continue to research and try to understand the Scripture, but already we're starting to understand some things. It has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with whether you're godly or not. It has nothing to do with whether you are powerful or not. You can't do any of these things. It has to do with whether God chooses to do this or not. Now, you might say that immediately lends us to an issue, doesn't it? If the whole thing is the choosing of God, then he's not choosing to do it. Well, that's when we get into the dynamic of faith and quenching the Spirit and all of those things, and that's what I want to talk about next time. I will tell you for myself that I've seen God answer prayers in remarkable ways, as many of you have as well, but I've never seen anything like this. I've heard about it, but I've personally have never witnessed it.
I'll say to you what one of my professors I was talking to, Dr. Hatcher, earlier, one of my professors said. "You know something? I believe that these kind of things happen all over the world, but I always seem to be in the other room when they're happening." Have you ever felt that way? I believe they happen, but I always seem to be in the other room when they go on. My feeling is I just want to understand what God has in 1 Corinthians 12, workers of miracles and all that, and say, "Have these things ceased?" And they may well have because they are connected directly to the apostolic ministry, or they may not. So we're going to continue to research, God willing, next time.