Distribution of Spiritual Gifts
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapter 12. We want to share with you some of the things about which we have been thinking so that we will be able to start our discussion on the same level, one with the other.

You will recall that we have begun to answer the question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” We said that though there are a number of references in the Scripture to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the basic passage of Scripture dealing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit is found in the area to which I have asked you to turn, I Corinthians, chapter 12, verses 13-14. Because our time will not permit a verse by verse discussion of this chapter in answer to the immediate question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?”, we suggested to you that we were going to summarize all the parts of the question.

The three words we use for a summary of Paul's approach to the question of the gifts of the Spirit were difficulties, distribution and diversity . You might like to fix those words firmly in your mind. That the word difficulties is related to the bestowal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their exercise, particularly in the Church at Corinth, there can be no doubt, for we found those difficulties mentioned in the first three verses of the chapter with added references scattered throughout the entire section. But because human nature is the same everywhere, because the Holy Spirit ministers the same to all men, we said the difficulties that existed in the Church at Corinth have existed all down through the ages in relation to the gifts of the Spirit. We thought of them in a general way. We said that these difficulties were related first to the questionable authenticity of the gifts about which we speak. We learned last week that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be counterfeited in physiological experiences, and we need to recognize it as the work of Satan because the devil does make every effort to counterfeit the work of God in some fashion or another.

Another area of difficulty related to the bestowal of spiritual gifts we referred to under the title, False Assumption. Individuals assume that spiritual gifts are a sign of spirituality, that if an individual has certain gifts, then he is more spiritual than a person who does not have certain gifts; or if an individual has more gifts than another individual, then his spirituality is likewise great.

We discovered that another false assumption was that if these gifts are absent in any local assembly or if they are absent in any area of Church history, keeping in mind that the body of Christ is a living organism which began on the day of Pentecost and will live on this earth until the Lord Jesus Christ takes the Church, the Bride of Christ, out of the earth, remembering that this living organism lives over a long period of time and has been living for 2000 years, the individuals assume that if these gifts are absent in any one given area of the lifespan of the Bride of Christ that the Bride of Christ is in a backslidden condition at various times throughout its life. We say that is a false assumption, and that provides some of the difficulties.

Some of the difficulties were related to another thing and we referred to that as the Area of False Aspiration. Individuals within the Body of Christ see other individuals with certain gifts, and they assume that those gifts are something that they, too, could exercise, so they aspire to have them because in the sincerity of their aspiration, they do something that is inconsistent with the Word of God and are led in error. They create difficulties not only for themselves, but for other members of the Body of Christ.

We would suggest to you that we recognize that there are difficulties related to that subject, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit. That's the only way that we will be able to answer the question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?”

Today we want to think with you about the second word that we gave you, namely the distribution of these spiritual gifts. Will you glance at verse 11 with me because it is that verse which suggests the subject which we are discussing today. There we read:

I Corinthians 12:

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Gifts Distributed Systematically

Focus your eyes upon the word dividing . This word comes from the Greek word deirio which is translated by the word “distribute.” It makes for clearer understanding I think. Look at the verse again with that word in mind. “All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, distributing to every man severally as he will.” There is much said about the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit in this section, I Corinthians, chapters 12-14. I am going to sum up what is said by suggesting to you first that the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is systematic. You might want to fix that word in your mind. The distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is systematic. I am using the word systematic in the sense of orderliness and purpose. There is an orderliness about the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit. They are distributed with a definite purpose. Notice, please, the paragraph which begins with verse 4 of chapter 12:

I Corinthians 12:

4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

Will you notice the word diversities in verse 4, the word differences in verse 5, and the word diversities in verse 6. These three words are all the translations of the same Greek word dirithus . The reason I am calling your attention to that is that our English text would lead you to think that you are talking about differences in relation to unit thinking, but we are not. The word dirithus is a word that means “to take one thing apart.” Here we have a pie. We divide it. What do we have? We still have pie. We take a pie and a cake and we divide the pie and the cake. We don't have pie. We have pie and cake. There is a difference. This word describes the fact that these gifts are all part of the same thing.

If you noticed while we read, we placed emphasis upon the word same . In verse 4, the same Spirit ; in verse 5, the same Lord ; in verse 6, the same God . The suggestion of the entire paragraph is that these gifts are all manifestations of the Godhead. There is an orderly presentation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which does not magnify one member of the Godhead over another, but brings glory to the Godhead complete within Itself.

It might be wise for you to look at the word administration in verse 5 and recognize it comes from the word that is ordinarily translated “ministry” because this is not talking about ministering of a certain area, but service within a certain area. You might want to look at the word operation in verse 6 and realize that we are talking about energy, for this is the real meaning of the word, whereby these gifts are all made manifested in the light of the Church of the living God.

G. Campbell Morgan has expressed it in this fashion: “God works here, bestows the gift through the Spirit, arranging the ministry of service through the Holy Spirit, He Himself providing the power for the manifestation, exercise, and operation of these gifts.” I repeat the distributions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is a systematic thing. There is no wildfire connected with it. There is no irrational behavior related to the orderly distribution of the gifts of the Spirit. Glance down at verse 7 in this chapter and notice the words:

I Corinthians 12:

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

Notice the last phrase, to profit withal . Very literally rendered, it is “for the profit withal.” It is a reference to all of the Body of Christ. These gifts are not bestowed for the profit of any one individual. They are bestowed for the profit of the entire Body of Christ whose existence began on the day of Pentecost, whose existence is still evident, whose existence will continue until the Lord Jesus Christ takes His Body, the Bride of this earth. That is a long period of time. I would ask you before you form an opinion about the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you take into consideration that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are systematically bestowed for the profit of all of the Body of Christ.

If you are in the habit of seeking a gift or if you are considering seeking a gift, I would ask you to search your heart in the light of the Word of God. Are you seeking this gift for the profit of the Body of Christ or are you seeking this gift for your own profit? Are you seeking this gift for the effective ministry through the Body of Christ or are you seeking this gift for your own spiritual wealth? Keep in mind the distributions of the gifts are systematic.

To further emphasize the subject under discussion, turn to chapter 14 of I Corinthians, and notice verse 26, where we read:

I Corinthians 14:

26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Notice the last statement in the verse, “Let all things be done unto edifying.” The gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed systematically so that they all will edify the Body of Christ. Edifying means “to build up.” Look at verse 32 of the same chapter:

I Corinthians 14:

32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Notice, “God is not the author of confusion…” This would lead to what I have been saying to you that the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit is systematic. If the gifts or the exercise of the gifts creates confusion or adds to confusion, then you should very carefully consider whether it is the Holy Spirit Who is distributing the gifts or whether it is coming from some other source. Will you look at verse 40, please:

I Corinthians 14:

40Let all things be done decently and in order.

This verse of Scripture has been misapplied any number of times to church programs. It has been used as an excuse for committees and intensive church programs that have programmed the personality of the Holy Spirit out of all reality to the work of the Body of Christ. It has reference to one thing and one thing alone and that is the bestowal and exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Will you notice the word decently . It comes from a very interesting Greek word. It is the Greek word youskamonos , which means “in a becoming fashion.” If an individual says he has a gift of the Spirit and the exercise of that particular gift is not becoming to the cause of Christ, then anyone would have a right to question whether the Holy Spirit was the distributor of the gift.

For example, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. One phase of the gift of prophecy is the ministering of the Word of God. If an individual stands behind the sacred desk and ministers the Word of God with such eloquence that all of the attention of the congregation is fashioned on him and his eloquence instead of upon the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, then you would have a right to question whether he was exercising a gift distributed by the Holy Spirit or whether he was portraying some native ability that might be related to nothing more glamorous than the genes in his system.

The Holy Spirit distributes gifts which are exercised in a becoming manner. Will you look at the word order in that verse? “Let all things be done decently and in order.” The word order comes from the Greek word phoxcy , which means “arrangement.” You have seen flowery arrangements where there was a certain beautiful symmetry about them and you said to yourself, “My, I wish I could arrange flowers like that.” Because when you arrange flowers, they look like you have taken the flowers and aimed them at the bowl and wherever they landed, that's the way it will remain. There is no arrangement, no beauty in relation to it, but the distribution of the Holy Spirit is always such that they are becoming to the entire cause of Christ, and there is a beauty of arrangement in their manifestation that causes hearts to respond in worship to God. If anything else is true, then you have a right to question whether the Holy Spirit has distributed the gift or not.

Gifts Distributed Specifically

Now another word. The distribution of the gifts of the Spirit is not only systematic, but the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is specific . I use the word in the sense that each one, each individual believer, has a gift of the Holy Spirit. Did you notice what I said? Each individual believer has a gift of the Holy Spirit. You say, “Well, that's a revelation to me. I didn't know I had any gift. I haven't sought any.” No, perhaps not and I would advise you against seeking for any, but each individual has a gift of the Holy Spirit. I would suggest if you are not conscious of such a gift that you quietly examine your own heart before the Lord to see what gift you do have, for believe me, you do have one. By the time we are through with this discussion, you may be able to know what gift you have because you may not be aware of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course, some of the gifts of the Spirit are magnified above others and you get the idea that those are the only ones. There are something like sixteen gifts of the Holy Spirit at least. Believe me, you have one, for the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are specific. Will you look again at I Corinthians, chapter 12, and notice verse 7:

I Corinthians 12:

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

Now notice verse 11:

I Corinthians 12:

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally [that is, individually] as he will.

The Holy Spirit, according to the sense of these verses, bestows one or more gifts on every individual within the Body of Christ. Today if you are a born-again believer, a member of the Body of Christ, you possess one or more gifts of the Holy Spirit. Will you look down at verse 24:

I Corinthians 12:

24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

The figure of speech has changed but we are still talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has placed individuals within the Body of Christ in certain areas where they will be able to operate for the health of the entire Body, and He has placed each one of them where He has placed them with certain functions which will operate for the welfare of the Body just as He has created certain members of your physical body, each member to operate for the welfare of the whole.

You know people are suffering this very hour as I speak to you because certain members of their physical bodies are not functioning for whatever reason it may be. When any individual member of the Body of Christ ceases to function in the capacity which God gave him, then things begin to happen to the entire Body; and if any individual member of the Body of Christ attempts to perform the function that belongs to another member of the Body of Christ, then the entire spiritual system of the Body of Christ is upset, and we have a weak Body on our hands that cannot perform as a whole all of the functions which need to be performed.

Distribution Of Gifts Is Sovereign

Look again at verse 27:

I Corinthians 12:

27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Notice the last phrase, members in particular . One translation has it, “Ye are members of the Body of Christ, each one with his own place and his own function.” So I say to you that the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit may be described not only by the word systematic , but by the word specific . There is another word I want to use. It is the word sovereign . I would suggest to you that the distribution of the gifts of the Holy spirit is sovereign in the sense that the Godhead gives the gift as it will. This cannot be over emphasized; we can't say it too much—the Godhead gives the gift of the Spirit as it will, not as we will, wish or plead for. Fix that firmly in your mind for it is basic for an understanding of the whole subject. The Godhead is sovereign in the distribution of the gift. Will you look, please, at verse 11 once again and notice:

I Corinthians 12:

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will [as the Holy Spirit will].

Not as you will or as I will. As He will. Now notice verse 18:

I Corinthians 12:

18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

He didn't ask us. He put gifted individuals in the Body of Christ in the area where He wanted them. Please remember, and save yourself disappointment, confusion, and grief, that the bestowal, the distribution of gifts of the Spirit, is sovereign.

Attitude Concerning Gifts

In relation to the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the distribution is systematic. Keep that in mind. It is specific and it is sovereign. In view of this summary concerning the distributions of the Holy Spirit, what kind of attitude should you and I have in relation to the gifts of the Spirit, because some of the difficulty is related to the wrong attitude on the part of the members of the Body of Christ? What should our attitude be? Paul makes a fourfold suggestion in this section at which we are looking. First, he says that we should guard against an arrogant spirit in relation to the information he gave in this paragraph. Will you look at chapter 14, verse 36:

I Corinthians 14:

36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

Paul, in this chapter, was correcting some abuses related to the manifestation of these gifts and he knew human nature. He knew that individuals were not going to like what he said, and he knew what their attitude would be, “Well, I don't care what Paul said. I know what I am talking about. I have got the gift. It doesn't matter how I got it. I got it. I don't care what he says. I don't care what he thinks.” Paul said, “Before you take that attitude, ask yourself the question, ‘Did the Word of God originate with you? Do you have your own little Bible and your own little text whereby you govern what you say and what you do? Did the Word of God come to you only? Are you the only people who know what God says in relation to these things?'” This I have described as an arrogant spirit in relation to revealed truths.

When you find any individual, and I care not where he is or what he does, who says, “It doesn't matter to me about that. I know what I have done; I know what has happened,” you have an individual who is arrogant in relation to the revealed Word of God. Will you look at chapter 14, verse 38, where you read:

I Corinthians 14:

38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

Why in the world is that in this passage of Scripture in relation to everything that Paul had said on the subject of spiritual gifts? You remember how the section began in chapter 12, verse 1, where he says:

I Corinthians 12:

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

Then he laid out God's plan for the exercise, the distribution, the manifestation of spiritual gifts. He laid it all out and he said, “Now, if anybody is ignorant, let him be ignorant.” The sense of the verse is, “If anyone still disagrees, leave him in his ignorance.” If the Word of God is presented related to this truth and people still disagree, don't make an issue of it. Don't carry on endless arguments; don't talk yourself blue in the face. Let him remain ignorant if he is not willing to accept what the Word of God very plainly teaches.

A Willingness To Acknowledge God's Teaching

The third attitude which the Apostle Paul suggests is found in verse 37, and in all probability it should be considered before the one we just thought about.

I Corinthians 14:

37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

We should be careful not to have an arrogant spirit in relation to the Word of God by believing that we have it all and nobody else does. We should be just as willing to acknowledge the authority of the Word of God if the Word of God contradicts something we have said, something we have felt, something we have believed, something we have done. We should be the first to acknowledge the Word of God. Did you notice what he said? “If any man is spiritual.” Sometimes, if we have certain gifts of the Spirit, we feel like we are spiritual and we tend to think of spirituality in relation to the gifts. We feel that we are more spiritual than someone else. Paul said, “All right, you consider yourself to be a spiritual person. Let me remind you that one of the characteristics of a spiritual person is a willingness to acknowledge the plain teaching of God's Word, even if it contradicts every practice, desire, or hope that I may have developed for whatever reason I may have developed it.”

Conclusion

The last thing that I want to suggest to you is what is found in verse 39:

I Corinthians 14:

39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

I would suggest to you that the verse should be read in its entirety, never partially. There was a problem in the church at Corinth about the exercise of tongues, and so the simplest approach to the whole matter was to say, “Don't talk in tongues.” So summing up the entire matter, the Apostle Paul said, “Wherefore, Brethren, covet to prophesy and forbid not to speak in tongues.” I like another translation: “My fellow believers, long to be prophets so that you can preach God's message plainly.” Did you get that? “Long to be a prophet so that you can preach God's message plainly, and never say it is wrong to speak in tongues.” You see how unbalanced we become to our approach to this situation. I don't know how many tarrying meetings (They have been called that.) I have heard about where people tarry hoping, praying, begging, that God would bestow upon them the gift of tongues, but I have never heard of a tarrying meeting begging God to give them a gift whereby they could proclaim God's Word. We get a little bit unbalanced, don't we? I have never heard of anybody going about forbidding people to exercise the gift of health, and that is a gift. The gift of health, the gift of government—I have never heard of anybody going about permitting anybody to exercise those gifts, but I do hear about permitting people to exercise the gift of tongues. You see how unbalanced we can become in our approach to the truth.

I am not through with this subject. Next week we are going to begin a discussion of the diversities of these gifts. We will discuss each one of them individually. There is a place in the Body of Christ, the time when they will be bestowed, the time when God expected them to be used. Before you preform concrete, irrevocable conclusions in relation to what I have been saying to you, hear the message all the way out.


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