Epiphany 2 • 1 Corinthians 12:1–11 • January 20, 2013

By David Peter

Contextual Considerations
This text begins a series of lectio continua from 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 which extends through the season of Epiphany.

The first verse of the text begins with these words: “Now concerning spiritual gifts.” This formula indicates that Paul is responding to a question which the Corinthian Christians have posed in a letter they had sent him earlier (7:1). It is the matter of concern he addresses in chapters 12, 13, and 14.

Apparently the subject of spiritual gifts was a cause for some confusion, consternation, and contention within the Corinthian church. It appears that some in the church were elevating spectacular gifts over those which involved “merely” serving others. These members prided themselves in possessing what they considered to be special spiritual endowments. “The Corinthians had apparently used the gifts as a means of fomenting division. They regarded the possession of such gifts as a matter for pride, and set up one against another on the basis of the possession or otherwise, of this or that gift. Paul insists that this is the wrong attitude.”[1]

Earlier in the letter Paul indicates that a purpose of his writing is “that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against the other” (4:6). In the passage under study (12:1–11) Paul endeavors to convince the Corinthian Christians that the differences in their giftedness are not the basis for pride or jealousy since the gifts are just that—gifts—which are graciously bestowed by one and the same Spirit.

Homiletical Development
Focus: Christians are empowered by the same Holy Spirit to demonstrate different types of giftedness.
Goal: The hearer values the unique giftedness bestowed by the Spirit upon them as well as upon other Christians.
Malady: The hearer elevates himself over others as being more spiritually elite.
Means: The Holy Spirit delivers forgiveness for sinful pride and empowers the humble exercise of gifts.

Suggested Outline
Same and Different
Introduction: Early on children are taught the meaning of same and different. (Examples of pictures depicting these concepts may be displayed on projection screens, enter “same and different worksheets” into your internet search engine.) In the text of 1 Corinthians 12:1–11 the Apostle Paul had to teach the Corinthian Christians the meaning of same and different regarding their spiritual giftedness.
    I. Christians fail to understand how they are the same and different from one another.
        A. The Corinthians recognized how they were different from one another in terms of spiritual
        giftedness, but they approached these distinctions as the means to elevate themselves over others.
        B. The Corinthians failed to see how their varied giftedness was empowered by the same Holy Spirit
        and thus was no basis for pride.
        C. We frequently elevate ourselves over others as being more spiritually elite.
    II. Christians are the same in their status and standing before God. (vv. 2–3)
        A. As Christians, we share the same background of originally having been apart from God and led
        astray. (v. 2)
        B. As Christians, we are the same in being empowered by the Holy Spirit to have faith which
        confesses Jesus as Lord. (v. 3)
        C. As Christians, we are the same in being empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out our distinctive
        giftedness and callings. (vv. 4–6)
        D. The fact that we Christians are the same in these matters allows for no room for pride or
        preferential treatment. When such sins arise, however, the Holy Spirit delivers forgiveness to us
        through the message of the gospel.
    III. Christians are different in the abilities and aptitudes with which God has gifted them.
        A. Paul announces that there are varieties of gifts, service, and activities exhibited by us who are
        Christians. (vv. 4–6)
        B. Paul identifies various gifts bestowed by the Spirit, such as wisdom, knowledge, and heroic faith.
        (vv. 8–10)
        C. All of these different gifts are apportioned by the Spirit as he wills. (v. 11)
    IV. The diversity of gifts is all for the sake of the unity of Christ’s church.
        A. The different manifestations of the Spirit are all “for the common good.” (v. 7)
        B. We now use the distinctive gifts bestowed upon us to serve and edify others.

Endnote
[1] Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians, Tyndale New Testament Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 169.

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