References to: spiritual gifts

Exegetical Notes on 1 Corinthians 12

Features of the literary structure

Paul writes, I don’t want you to be ignorant about the spiritual things (v.1). This is similar to 7:1, so Paul may be addressing the topic of spiritual things at the request of the Corinthians. Fee notes that "this is a nearly universal conviction (570n), but notes that Paul’s corrective comments imply that the Corinthians were not simply asking for information. I suspect that they did not admit any ignorance about this topic, so 12:1b may indicate that Paul is initiating the topic (cf. 11:18).

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Spiritual Gifts Are Given for Service

We understand from Scripture some basic points about the spiritual gifts God gives his people:

  • Every member has at least one spiritual gift, usually two or three.

  • Every member should be using his or her gifts to serve others in the church.

  • No member has all the gifts, so we need each other.

  • No gift is given to all members.

  • God decides who receives which gift.

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Spiritual Gifts and Church Growth

Christ gives each of us grace, in the form of spiritual gifts, as he determines to apportion it (Eph. 4:7). These gracious gifts include various roles within the church — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (verse 11). And what are these leaders supposed to do? They are to "prepare God's people for works of service" (verse 12). A more literal translation is "a work of ministry." In other words, the leaders of the church are to prepare the members for action in the work of the ministry of the gospel.

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Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Spirit are God-given abilities distributed as God knows is best for different aspects of Christian service. Not every Christian has the same gift, just as not every part of the human body performs the function of seeing, hearing or walking (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). Through a division of labor, God encourages us to work with one another to be more efficient. As we work together, Christ gives his church growth (Ephesians 4:15-16).

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Spiritual Gifts for the Gospel

Look around — not only are the fields white and ready for harvest, there are already many laborers in the fields. The main problem is, they aren't all laboring! The work of harvesting is not reserved for the ordained ministers alone — all members are encouraged to participate in the harvest. Many already are, but we need to expand the role of the members.

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