Difficulties Related to Spiritual Gifts
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapter 12. While you are turning in your Bibles to this portion of the Word of God, may I remind you that we are in the process of answering a question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” In preparation for this particular message, we refreshed your minds concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to the individual and in relation to the believer. We say we refreshed your minds about it because we certainly did not go into detail, but we emphasized some of the basic points related to what the Holy Spirit does in connection with the individuals.

You will recall we found as we examined the Word of God that the Holy Spirit convicts the individual of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. Through that conviction, He brings the individual to a sense of his need of Jesus Christ. The individual turns to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we found the Holy Spirit converts the individual. We use the word convert to describe the regenerative processes whereby the individual is born again and made one with Christ. Then we said the Holy Spirit claims the individual. We used the word claim to describe the indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit, the sealing of the believer by the Holy Spirit, and the baptizing of the believer into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Though we are naming these things one after another, we would emphasize as we tried to emphasize last week that we are not suggesting that these things occur one after the other or we are not suggesting the order in which they occur because such cannot be determined. We would suggest if we are forced to a statement that these things all occur simultaneously when the individual becomes a Christian.

The last thing we reminded you of in relation to the subject was that the Holy Spirit controls the believer—that is, the indwelling Holy Spirit fills the believer. He controls, and His control is as consistent and as enduring as our walking in the Light. Now, the individual who has been convicted, converted, claimed, and controlled by the Holy Spirit is in a position to consider what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are to him and to every other member of the Body of Christ. We would like to remind you that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the equipment provided by the Holy Spirit for the believer as he has been set in his respected place in relation to every other member of the Body of Christ.

There are any number of passages of Scripture which makes some reference to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but there is in relation to this doctrine, as there is with every doctrine, one classic passage of Scripture which deals with the subject in its entirety. The other passages of Scripture will add nothing to this as far as new information is concerned. It will present a different approach; it will add a different thought; but the basic, fundamental doctrine is found in a portion of the Word to which I ask you to turn—I Corinthians, chapter 12, chapter 13, and chapter 14. Notice chapter 12, verse 1:

I Corinthians 12:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Source Of The Gifts Is The Holy Spirit

Notice the phrase, spiritual gifts . Recognize that the word gifts is in italics, which indicates that it is not in the original text, but properly supplied by our translators because that is exactly what we are talking about. It might be wise for you to recognize that the word spiritual or spiritual gifts, if we want to make a complete thought, comes from one or two words in the original text which describe these spiritual gifts. This particular word happens to be the Greek word numetciecon , and it tells us something about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we need to keep firmly fixed in our mind. That is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit find their source in the Holy Spirit. You might be inclined to say, “Well, isn't that what you have been saying in the very way that you have been describing them?” Yes, but I would like to emphasize and remind you that sometimes men forget that the source of these gifts is the Holy Spirit. When men forget that the Holy Spirit is the donor of these gifts, then men forget what they should always keep in mind.

Another word which is used for the word gift , and we will find it throughout this chapter so we will not take the time to notice individual verses at the moment, is the Greek word kariesmonton . This word is a word which describes the way these gifts are bestowed and the realm in which they are exercised. This word kariesmonton comes from a familiar word to many of you, the Greek word karies , which means “grace.” As we have suggested to you a number of times, grace is a word difficult of definition and interpretation. When we think of it in relation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded these gifts are bestowed in grace and are entirely undeserved and that the power and the operation of these gifts is due to God alone. If you forget that these gifts have their roots in grace, then you are going to forget a very vital aspect of our discussion.

If I were going to give you an outline of the way in which the Apostle Paul deals with the subject of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians, chapter 12, I would give you an outline of three simple words which I trust you will use as mental pegs upon which to hang some of the thoughts that we will leave with you because this discussion will not be completed today, and you will need to have something that can help you in your continuity of thought.

The first word which I give you is the word difficulties because the Apostle Paul approaches his discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit from the standpoint of the difficulties which arise because this gift is improperly understood, abused, and misused, in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The second word is the word distribution . When we arrive at a discussion of that word, you will realize why I used it for Paul discusses with us very plainly how and why these gifts are distributed among the various members of the Body of Christ.

The third word which we will think of by and by is the word diversity because there are diversities of gifts. They are not all the same, nor are they all for all times, nor does each individual believer in the Body of Christ have all the gifts.

Let us limit our remarks to the difficulties which arise because we do not understand everything we should about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The reason I am using the word difficulties is not that it is found in the text before us but rather because it is suggested by the subject matter of the text before us as well as related to passages of Scripture.

Will you follow in your Bibles as I read in I Corinthians, chapter 12, beginning with verse 1:

I Corinthians 12:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

A very light reading of these verses might not indicate to you that difficulties are suggested, but if you relate them to the rest of the Corinthian letter, you will find that there were difficulties. For example, if you go as far back as chapter 7 in this letter, you will find that the Corinthian believers had written the Apostle Paul and said to him, “There is something going on here in our church that we don't understand. There is something going on here that doesn't look right and does not sound right, and we do not know what is right in relation to them. Will you enlighten us?” So he did. He enlightened them in relation to the subject of marriage. He enlightened them in relation to the subject of giving, and he enlightened them in relation to the subject of gifts.

I would suggest that you read all three chapters very carefully within the next week or two, because we will not be reading them in their entirety from the platform here. It would be good for you to know everything that is in them. When you have read these three chapters, you will find that there were difficulties in relation to the exercise of at least two of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of them was the gift of prophecy and another was the gift of tongues. These difficulties the Apostle Paul had to deal with.

We have read in your hearing the King James version of the Scripture. I would like to share with you the Paraphrased translation of these same three verses because it will emphasize to your thinking, in fewer words than I have time for, the fact that the first way Paul approached the subject of the gifts of the Spirit was in dealing with the difficulties that arose in relation to them. Follow in your Bibles as I read:

“And now brothers, I want to write about the special ability the Holy Spirit gives to each one of you, for I don't want any misunderstanding about them. You will remember that before you became Christians, you went around from one idol to another, not one of which could speak a word; but now you are meeting people who claim to speak messages from the Spirit of God. How can you know whether they are really inspired by God or whether they are fakes? Here is the test. No one speaking by the power of the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord and really mean it unless the Holy Spirit is helping him.”

I think you can see from the reading of this passage in the Paraphrased version that Paul recognized there were some difficulties arising around the exercises of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He did not mention all of those difficulties, but it would follow that if difficulties arose today, they would arise now and it would follow that the difficulties would find their routes in much the same situation for human nature does not change with the months and the years.

Questionable Authenticity

I am going to suggest that you think with me about some of these difficulties, not so much from an individual standpoint, but from the standpoint of their general cause. May I suggest to you then that some of the difficulties related to the gifts of the Spirit are related to what I am going to refer to as questionable authenticity. That certainty was what Paul had in mind in these first three verses when he said, “People come about speaking. Can you know? Can you know whether what they say is of God or someone else?”

When we see the gifts being exercised in the Body of Christ or perhaps when we exercise them, can we know their true source? Are they authentic? Are they real? Could there be a possibility that they are fake? Someone might right on the surface say, “Well, the experience should be sufficient in itself. If the gift itself is exercised, what more are you asking for?” I want to sum up what anyone with any intelligence can realize if he spends any time in research on this subject, that it is possible for some of these gifts to be counterfeited in a physiological manner. Anyone who is familiar with the subject knows that this is true that some of these gifts can be counterfeited in a physiological fashion. Therefore, we have a right to question the authenticity of the exercise of any gift.

What I am going to say at the moment you may not agree with, but you might as well recognize that it is true, that is it is possible—notice what I am saying—for these gifts to be counterfeited. Notice what I am talking about now—the counterfeit. I am not talking about the reality. When the reality of the gift is evident, then the Holy Spirit has bestowed it. It is possible for the devil to counterfeit these gifts. Therefore, there is every reason, I repeat, to question the authenticity of these gifts. Listen carefully because we are careless about verifying the authenticity of the gifts either for ourselves or for others. We can be the author and the sharer in difficulty arising from the misuse and abuse of the gift of the Holy Spirit. I repeat, some of the difficulties arise because the authenticity of the gift can be questioned.

False Assumptions

Another thought. Difficulties arise in relation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit because of what I am going to refer to as false assumptions , assumptions without foundation of Scriptural facts. One of the most common assumptions is that the more of the Lord's gifts that an individual possesses, the more spiritual he is. Closely related to that is the false assumption that if an individual has a certain gift and the ability to exercise that gift, then he has a special spiritual anointing that other individuals do not have. I emphasize, these are false assumptions on the basis of the Word of God. Let me give you one simple reference in the Word of God to verify what I say. Turn back with me to I Corinthians, chapter 1, and notice verse 7. There you read:

I Corinthians 1:

7So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

The apostle is addressing the church at Corinth as he says a tremendous thing to them. He said, “You as a church are not lacking in any one gift. Every one of the gifts is represented in you as a church.” If we wanted to number the gifts, which might be somewhat difficult in view of overlapping, we could say that there are sixteen gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every one of them was evident in this Corinthian church.

If the assumption to which I referred is true, we would have to be consistent and assume that the Corinthian church was the most spiritual church of all the churches mentioned in the Scripture, but such is not the case. It is the only church which the Apostle Paul addressed as a carnal church. Look at chapter 3, and you will read:

I Corinthians 3:

1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

Here was a church that came behind in no gifts and yet Paul said that they were so immature spiritually speaking that they were babes in Christ. So, Friend, let us recognize that it is a false assumption to assume that gifts of the Holy Spirit and spirituality go hand in hand. They do not. It is possible to have the one without the other.

Another false assumption is that the lack of the evidence of gifts of the Spirit in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ today is a sign of a backslidden condition of the church. I don't know how many times I have heard it said, “If we could only go back to the church of the days of the apostles when so many things were happening.” The assumption is that there is something wrong with us as a Church today—keeping in mind I am speaking of the Body of Christ. There is something wrong with the Church today because there is no or very little evidence of the gifts of the Spirit today. Usually individuals are prone to select one special gift and refer to it when they make statements like that. They refer to the gift of miracles. They say, “Why aren't we seeing the miracles today that they saw in apostolic days?” The easiest answer to give is, “Well, the Church is in a backslidden condition. That is why. If the Church had the power of the Holy Spirit that it had in other days, then the miracles would be here.” I would like to suggest to you that that is a false assumption, false because the Holy Spirit is abiding in the lives of men today. He is controlling the lives of men today, and God could this day or any day, if it pleased Him, work any kind of miracle that He wished to work.

If you are familiar with your Bible, you know that as the age draws to a close, the Bible says less and less of the miracles which God will work and more and more about the miracles which the devil will work. I challenge you to search the Scripture in relation to what I have just said, and you will find it to be true. You see, it is possible for the devil to work miracles, and not only is it possible for him to work these miracles, we are told as the end of the age approaches, he will work them. For example, if you will turn to Matthew, chapter 24, you will notice in verse 24:

Matthew 24:

24For there shall arise false Christ's, and false prophets, and shall hew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

This is all of the time we have to give to this particular area of discussion so I suggest that you start with this verse and a good concordance and notice how many miracles, wonders, and signs are going to appear as we approach the end of the age not at the hand of God, but at the hand of Satan. I would suggest to you that if such is true, then the lack of miracles in our day is not necessarily the sign that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is in a backslidden condition. It is a false assumption to think so.

There is a third false assumption that I would like to mention to you and that is the assumption that all the gifts of the Spirit are bestowed on the Church at all times. Usually a verse of Scripture is quoted. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and the individual says, “What Christ could do in apostolic times, He could do today because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” I agree with that. Jesus Christ is the same. Jesus Christ could do today what He did when He was on the earth. He could do today what He did in the year immediately after His departure. There has been no lessening of His power, but we must recognize that God works within the framework of His sovereign purpose and though He could do these things, it evidently is not His purpose to do some of them, else He would do them. It is a false assumption to assume that the sixteen gifts of the Holy Spirit, more or less, are going to be in evidence through the entire time the the Body of Christ is on the earth.

False Aspiration

The last thing that I want to think with you about that provides some of the difficulties is false aspiration . Remember, gifts of questionable authenticity, false assumption, and now third, false aspiration. False aspiration clears a great deal of difficulty in relation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What am I talking about? I am talking about the aspiration for one certain gift of the Holy Spirit above and beyond any of the other sixteen. It is an aspiration, a desire, a seeking, that does not have its roots in the Scripture, when any individual seeks one gift above another. Any individual who seeks any gifts of the Spirit above another is ignoring the very plain statement in chapter 12 of this Corinthian letter when we read:

I Corinthians 12:

8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 [Notice carefully] But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will [as the Holy Spirit will].

He gives the gifts. If this verse of Scripture means what it says, then an individual has a false desire who forces himself to desire one gift of the Holy Spirit above another.

There is another false aspiration of which sometimes we are guilty, and that is aspiring to have the same gift that someone else has. You see the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit along a certain line or a certain gift of the Holy Spirit in a person's life. Maybe they even share that idea with you. Immediately you say, “I want that gift. I want the same gift that that other individual has.” You aspire to have it; perhaps you even seek it; perhaps you even beg God to give it to you; perhaps you even sit in judgment upon yourself because you don't have it; perhaps you say to yourself, “There is something wrong with me. So and so has that gift, why can't I have it?” You may begin a long process of mental and emotional torture because you are not able to exercise the same gift as someone else exercises. I say to you to aspire the same gift as someone else is a false aspiration in view of the Word of God. Look at verse 27, where we read:

I Corinthians 12:

27Now ye are the body of Christ, [All of you who have been born again are the Body of Christ. You are one unit. You are members in particular.] and members in particular.
28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Notice God set individual people with individual gifts in the Body of Christ. Now notice:

I Corinthians 12:

29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

The obvious answer to these unanswered questions is a negation. No, all do not because God has set each individual in the Body as it has pleased Him. Because in this portion of the Word of God, the relationship of the believer to Christ and believers to one another is described in the terms of the relationship of the members of the physical body to the head and to each other member of the body. The apostle said, “If every Christian had the same gift and was expected to have it, then you would have as great a spiritual monstrosity as you would have a physical monstrosity if every member of the body suddenly sought to exercise the function of every other member of the body.” If you will glance at verse 17, you will notice the very descriptive manner in which the Apostle Paul presents the truth when he said:

I Corinthians 12:

17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

If the whole Body was one great big eye, nothing could be heard. If the whole Body was one great big ear, nothing could be smelled. That is what he is saying. He is saying that the Holy Spirit, God, the Lord Jesus Christ, has placed the gifts and the gifted individuals in the Body of Christ as it has pleased Him for a very specific purpose. That specific purpose is found in verse 7, where you read:

I Corinthians 12:

7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

I say to you then, Friend, it is a false thing to which to aspire—to aspire to have one gift above another, to aspire to have the same gift that another individual has.

An Exhortation

We are going to stop our discussion here, but I want to leave you with an exhortation. Between now and next week I would suggest that you follow the exhortation presented in verse 31, where the apostle said:

I Corinthians 12:

31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Lest you think that the word covet means that you ought to seek one gift above another—the one that you think is best or better than another—I would remind you that the word covet comes from the Greek word zaylowoo , which is translated by the word “desire.” As a matter of fact, it is so translated in chapter 14, verse 1, where you read:

I Corinthians 14:

1Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

To desire something is to want it if you may have it, but you don't make the decision about getting it. I would remind you of a second exhortation that is suggested in the last part of verse 31 of chapter 12. If you will glance at it again, where we read:

I Corinthians 12:

31…and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Here is something better than all of the gifts which are listed in this entire section of the Scripture, and that is the love of the Holy Spirit shed abroad in the heart of the individual believer. As a matter of fact, the Paraphrased version is so blunt about it that when it translates verse 31 it says, “I will shew you something better than any of these gifts—love.” Love is not something that you can engender. It is something that is bestowed by the Holy Spirit, so I exhort you in love today to exercise the love of God instead of being overly concerned about some gifts that you do not possess. The Holy Spirit could bestowed it, will bestow it, as it seems good to Him.

Conclusion

What someone who was not interested in this discussion today said, I repeat for sake of emphasis and that is this: “The world is dying for want of love. The world isn't dying because of the lack of miracles. The world isn't dying because of the lack of knowledge. The world isn't dying because of the lack of prophecy, but the world is dying because of the lack of love. Think about that.


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