First Corinthians 12:7-11
The most famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok is called the Temple of the Golden Buddha. Inside this very small building is a solid gold statue of Buddha standing 10 ½ feet tall. It weighs over 2 1/2 tons and is worth nearly $200 million. The history of this statue is fascinating. In 1957, a highway was slated to be built over the grounds of the monastery so the monks made preparations for their clay Buddha to be relocated. A crane was employed but when the statue was being lifted it began to crack. The head monk was concerned about the damage and had the statue lowered back to the ground. That evening the monk took a flashlight to make certain the statue was staying dry under the tarp. When he shined his flashlight on the crack it began to glisten. He took a closer look and then went for a hammer and chisel. He knocked off pieces of clay only to find a statue of solid gold. Historians believe the statue was covered with clay several centuries before when the Burmese army was about to invade Thailand. The monks were trying to protect their treasure but when the Burmese army attacked, all of those who knew the secret were killed.
A similar secret exists today. Inside each of us is a largely unknown, yet valuable potential just waiting to be released. A 38-year-old scrub woman would go to the movies and sigh, “If only I had her looks.” She would listen to a singer and moan, “If only I had her voice.” Then one day someone gave her a copy of the book, The Magic of Believing. She stopped comparing herself with actresses and singers. She stopped crying about what she didn’t have and started concentrating on what she did have. She took inventory of herself and remembered back in High School she had a reputation for being the funniest girl around. She began to turn her liabilities into assets. She wasn’t good looking and she had a scratchy voice, but she could make people laugh. A few years later, Phyllis Diller made over $1 million in one year.
Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth was written because there was a problem in the congregation. The new subject, spiritual gifts, is linked with the preceding section by the common relation to public worship. It is important to distinguish spiritual gifts from spiritual fruits and spiritual ministries. We will be talking about the fruits and the ministries in other sermons. Spiritual fruits are features of Christian character. Spiritual ministries are positions in the church for the administration of its affairs of spiritual oversight of the flock. Spiritual gifts are divine enablements related to service in the local church, both official and unofficial. Every believer possesses a spiritual gift, but not all believers possess the same gift. The church at Corinth, certainly no dead church, was in danger of abusing its privileges by an over emphasis on certain of the spectacular gifts. Paul first sets forth the unity and diversity of the gifts (12 a), next the primacy of love over the seeking of gifts (12:31 b-13:13), and finally evaluation and regulation of the exercise of the gifts of prophecy and tongues (14). Paul gives the church an opening word of admonition to aid them in determining genuine spiritual utterance.
Now to each one the manifestations of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Paul is very up-front that these gifts are not for individual needs but for the needs of the whole Church. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. These nine (9) gifts are special abilities that God gives to the Church.
1. …to one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom….. Wisdom comes from God just as wisdom was given to Solomon by God. Wisdom is the ability to understand the ways of God. It is the ability to give good advice and give instruction for living.
2. …to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit…. Knowledge is the God given ability to know certain facts that others would not know under normal circumstances. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.
3. …to another faith by the same Spirit…. Faith is the ability to believe in God and to respond to God’s leading in spite of the circumstances. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
4. …to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit…. Some have the gift of the healing arts in their hands. Others have a special gift of bringing healing to people understanding and reason. 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.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3:6)
5. …to another miraculous powers…. This is the ability to interfere with the course of nature; e.g., Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. Elijah and the bread and oil with the widow at Zarephath.
6. …to another prophecy…. Prophecy is more then the ability to see into the future, it is the ability to tell the truth regardless of the cost. Prophecy enlightens us! Sometimes that reveals the future but other times it deals with the present.
7. …to another distinguishing between spirits…. This gift is given so that the Church may know when evil is present. This person will know when someone is demon possessed.
8. …to another speaking in different kinds of tongues…. Tongues is the ability to convey the good news to someone of a different nationality. The gift is sometimes used for individual edification and then a heavenly language is used. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22)
9. …and to still another the interpretation of tongues. The ability to understand that which has been given in language. This person is to keep the church honest and godly.
One of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” items pictures a plain bar of iron worth $5.
The same bar of iron if made into horse shoes, would be worth $50. If it were made into needles, it would be worth $5,000. If it were made into balance springs for fine Swiss watches, it would be worth $500,000. The raw material is not as important as how it’s developed. God says “We have spiritual gifts, but their worth to Him will be dependent on how we develop them. ”
Benjamin Franklin once asked the question, “What’s a sundial in the shade?”