Paul is dealing with another issue in the Corinthian church ‚Äď how they have misunderstood and mishandled the things of the Holy Spirit. They have become sensationalists, becoming obsessed with spiritual and mystical ideas, with having simply an ‚Äúexperience‚ÄĚ void of any meaning or purpose. They have also become competitive, having rivalry with spiritual gifts, being proud in how ‚Äúgifted‚ÄĚ they were.
But spiritual gifts are for a purpose and a goal. This is why the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts:
1. To honour Jesus
You can only say that Jesus is Lord from the heart by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Likewise you can’t curse Jesus from the heart if you have the Spirit.
The Spirit wants to bring about the Lordship and worship of Christ in people‚Äôs hearts.
The Spirit brings about revelation of Jesus ‚Äď who He is and the fact that He‚Äôs alive
Jesus gets a lot of attention when the Holy Spirit turns up. Jesus sent us the Helper who would bring an awareness of Jesus wherever the Spirit goes.
The Holy Spirit is God and should be worshipped as such, and yet He brings attention to the Father and the Son.
We don’t worship spirituality, or even just focus only on the Spirit, but God Himself in all He is.
The Spirit works powerfully when Jesus is honoured and worshipped and enjoyed and exalted.
2. For the common good
Same Lord, same Spirit, same Body.
All of us are who are in Christ are given the same manifestation of the Spirit.
Spiritual gifts and abilities are for the good of others and the building of the Body. It‚Äôs bigger than just you ‚Äď it‚Äôs for the Church.
The gifts are to server ‚Äď otherwise they‚Äôre not a gift!
Paul uses the analogy of a body ‚Äď you become part of it automatically when you come to Christ
You only hurt yourself if you damage the Body, the same if you hurt one part of your body, there is a knock-on effect on the rest of yourself.
We need to live for the overall purpose of the Church.
Don’t be a cancer! This is someone who only lives for their own purpose, draining the Body of time and energy. Don’t just be a consumer ‚Äď be a part of the answer and the solution.
The part you play is vital for the Body. A healthy body is where every part plays its correct role. How are you functioning?
This deals with two problems:
1. Self pity (v.15-17)
We need to resist feeling like we are not a part of the Body just because we don’t have a particular gift or are not a particular part of the Body.
We are not called to be the same as each other ‚Äď not called to do what others are called to do.
We fall into self pity when we can’t do the same thing or be like someone we admire and measure as the idea of a successful Christian. Don’t give into gift envy!
Be the most useful version of yourself by the grace of God, to the blessing of the Body. Don’t waste your time trying to be something you‚Äôre not!
God custom-designed us each for a specific purpose. Eph 2 ‚Äď we are His workmanship, created for good works which He prepared in advance.
You learn what your purpose and role is by trial and error.
Help others find out what they‚Äôre meant to do ‚Äď tell them what they‚Äôre good at (and be brave enough to tell them what they might not be so gifted in).
You won’t find out what you were meant to do if you’re not in the Church!
2. Superiority (v.21-23)
We are totally wrong when we identify importance with profile.
The last shall be first, the first shall be last.
Your gift is not there to make you more public. That may happen anyway, but don’t idolise fame and profile.
Give honour to the ‚Äúlesser parts‚ÄĚ. Outdo one another in showing honour to others ‚Äď be competitive about that!
Self pity and superiority are both issues of the same root problem ‚Äď a security that is not found in Christ. Find your security in Him ‚Äď not in how good you are at doing particular things. God could take away your gift at any time, or bring someone along who is more gifted in the same thing as you. Ensure your identity is firmly built on Christ!
In Corinth there was a celebrity culture, people desired to be public speakers. This was an excuse for pride.
Impressive rhetoric and great oratory can get in the way of the gospel. The powerful thing that needs to be heard is Jesus. The Bible is all about him.
Life is all about him. Our preaching is not here to offer good advice alone but instead offer Christ. When Jesus is at the centre everything else takes shape.
The Place of Great Words
Paul & God are not anti eloquence. Eloquence is good but when it replaces God it becomes an idol.
People think Jesus and the church is anti creative. It’s not. Very gifted creative people can be in the church but they need humility to seek Christ first not the gift.
Paul was still keen to perusade and could use impressive oratory to do this but Paul used his skillful gifts under
the lordship of Christ.
The Way God Speaks
God speaks through servants who are aware of their own weaknesses and failings. Those that are totally dependent on God‚Äôs power.
Preachers are weak, they need the Holy Spirit to make any impression. God is working through us all the time. Our foolish words of witness can be used by God to shape and impact lives.
God could have spoken in any way he wanted, he didn’t even have to speak.
God chose to come among us through Jesus Christ.
After his brief salutation Paul is remarkably positive about this church. He is full of thanksgiving for them. But how can this be so when he is about to open up a can on them? It is because of Paul‚Äôs mature gospel based perspective. Do we really understand thankfulness as described and displayed here by Paul?
Without thankfulness we betray an evil heart of unbelief (Romans 1). So we must guard our hearts against ingratitude and learn from the Holy Spirit ways of maintaining a thankful heart.
Remember this is a grace thing ‚Äď a gospel thing. It cannot be manipulated, true thankfulness is gospel driven.
¬† Grace Promotes Unity
In the third paragraph (10-17) we have Paul‚Äôs opening salvo against the fundamental failings of the church. They have written to him about a few things (7.1) ‚Äď but he will not touch on them until he has got some things off his own chest. He has been told that there is serious division amongst them.
There is nothing about Paul‚Äôs message and ministry that should naturally lead to factionalism and party spirit. So another influence is at work here. The culture of Corinth was affected by an obsession with popular orators ‚Äď who had a kind of rock star image. The believers in Corinth had transferred some of that man-centred hubris into the church, imagining that they belong to a particular team in the congregation ‚Äď not realising that the preachers themselves ‚Äď including Paul were simply servants.
Paul brings them back down to earth by pointing out the centrality and sufficiency of Jesus and his work.
Why the City?
There are many similarities between the ancient city of Corinth and our own city of Brighton.
There are unique opportunities in Brighton as, like Corinth, it is a city of consequence. Some cities are just influential. What is created in Brighton will have a much wider affect beyond our city, the ripples go out from here.
What could be possible in the next 20 years if we really make a difference in this city?
How the City? The story of Corinth from Acts 18 emphasises the sovereignty of God in mission ‚Äď and our partnership with him in it. Our story here in Brighton will be the same. Despite all our efforts and publicity it all rests on His sovereignty.
Like Paul we should seek ‚Äėmen of peace‚Äô, those who God is already working on, perhaps even people who‚Äôve been part of CCK in the past.
What Price the City?
This great mission will take perseverance and faith.
When the gospel is loudly proclaimed, resistance and persecution will come and sometimes in very public ways. This is when we need to be strong in faith and remember that it‚Äôs His gospel.