Precious Ministering Gifts of the Spirit
June 5th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
THE PRECIOUS MINISTERING GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
6-5-66 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio and watching on television are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Precious Ministering Gifts of the Spirit. In this long series of messages that are being prepared and delivered on the Holy Spirit, we are in a series in the series on the gifts of the Spirit. They are listed in four different places by the apostle Paul in his letters. In the Book of Romans, chapter 12, he lists seven of them [Romans 12:6-8]. In the first Corinthian letter, chapter 12, he has two lists [1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 12:28]. And in Ephesians chapter 4, he has another list [Ephesians 4:11]. When I added them up, he names thirty in those four different places. When I checked off those that were repeated, they numbered eighteen or nineteen separate, distinct gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Five of them I discussed briefly last Sunday morning: the gift of apostleship , the gift of prophecy, the gift of evangelism, the gift of the shepherd, a pastor, and the gift of teaching [Ephesians 4:11]. I call them the basic gifts for the making known of the gospel, the carrying out of the Great Commission [Matthew 27:19-20]. This morning, we shall speak of eight of the gifts, and I have called these the precious ministering gifts of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:8-10]. Next Sunday morning, I shall preach on the gift of miracles; the following Sunday morning on the gifts of healing; and the next Sunday morning, on the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:28].
I have called these gifts this morning, The Precious Ministering Gifts of the Spirit because they reflect in us who possess them, a beautiful, and adorable, and loving side of the Christian faith and the Christian life. Ministering gifts [1 Corinthians 12:8-10], even as our Lord Jesus said He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister [Mark 10:45], not that we be exalted, or cajoled, or petted but that we be a blessing in self-forgetfulness to others. And precious because they enrich and glorify the household of faith. Now we shall read as a background, two of the places where Paul mentions these gifts. The first list of nine in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge;
To another faith, to another the gifts of healing
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
[1 Corinthians 12:8-10]
Nine of them listed there; seven of them listed in Romans 12, beginning at verse 6:
Having then charismata, charismatic grace gifts, having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with joyousness, triumph, victory.
The first one, “to one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom” [1 Corinthians 12:8]; logos sophios, “word of wisdom.” This is the first of the nine gifts of the Spirit named here in 1 Corinthians 12 and 8. To some the Spirit gives logos sophios, the word of wisdom. That is a gift that describes that so blessed and so necessary a member of the church, a leader in the denomination, who can understand God’s truth and God’s purposes that we might know what to do, what to believe.
One of the most descriptive of all of the verses in the Bible concerns the men of Issachar; one of the twelve tribes of Israel; Issachar. And the verse in Chronicles is this: “Issachar—the tribe of Issachar—were men who had understanding of the time to know what Israel ought to do” [1 Chronicles 12:32]. The word of wisdom; you have it illustrated in the life of the world famed rabbi Gamaliel. When the disciples were so sorely persecuted, he called the Sanhedrin together and said, “Not so, not so; if these men are of a human dedication, their work will come to naught. But if it is of God, you will find yourself opposing them, fighting against God”; [Acts 5: 35-39] the word of wisdom.
And how magnificently do we find that spirit grace gift in the life of the early church. There arose trouble in the church; the Hellenistic, Greek-speaking element of the church in Jerusalem bitterly resented the discrimination against their widows on the part of the Aramaic-speaking, the Hebrew-speaking section of the church in Jerusalem [Acts 6:1]. And when there is trouble in the church, it is pointed up and emphasized against the white background of the Spirit of Jesus and is a dark and terrible development. I have never witnessed or seen sorrow in the church like the sorrow that comes with trouble, turmoil, altercation, bitter divisiveness, sometimes continuing hatred. Nor have I ever seen bitterness as bitterness engendered in the house of God.
That is one of the blessings of God upon this church. In the forty-seven years that Dr. Truett shepherded this flock there was never any trouble in the church. In the well nigh twenty-two years that I have been under-shepherd of this flock, there has never been any trouble in this church. For sixty-nine years, and our memories can hardly go beyond it, for sixty-nine years, there has never been any trouble in this church. That honors God and glorifies the Lord Jesus. But there was trouble in the church. And what do you do when you face divisiveness, and dissention, and bitterness of altercation?
This is the first gift of the nine grace gifts of the Holy Spirit. “And the apostles called the brethren together and said, Not so, not so, such a thing should never be in the household of faith” [Acts 6:1-7]. And in the logos sophios, in the word of wisdom, they asked the brethren to seek out men filled with the Holy Spirit and of wisdom [Acts 6:3]. And they ordained them, laid hands upon their heads separating them, consecrating them to a sacred office [Acts 6:6]. And in that word of wisdom, there came peace and quiet to the household of God. The word of wisdom, to know what to do and how to do it. And there’s not any church, including this one, and there’s not any denomination, including our own, but that is marvelously blessed by men to whom God gives this great gift, the logos sophios.
And so through the story of the church do you find this marvelous and heavenly gift illustrated. It is said of Stephen, one of that ordained seven, that when he spake he did with such power that his enemies were not able to withstand the wisdom by which he spake [Acts 6:8-10]. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter stands before the primitive church in Jerusalem and explains to them the purpose of God in opening the door to the Gentiles [Acts 11:14-18]. Not only is the body of Christ to be composed of Jewish people but it also is to be composed of Gentile people; the word of wisdom [Acts 11:18]. You find it again in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts when James, the Lord’s brother and the pastor of the church at Jerusalem pronounces the final verdict concerning the law and the gospel [[Acts 15:13-20]; the Judaizers who sought to fasten upon the ministry of grace all of the traditions of the Jewish religion [Acts 15:13-18]. The word of wisdom, the mind and the purpose of God to tell us what we should believe and what we should do; the first most blessed gift of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:8].
Now the second is like unto it: “to others the logos gnōsis” [1 Corinthians 12:8] our English word “know” comes from it, logos gnōsis, the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8]. That refers to the gift of appraisal and of judgment of understanding the present situation, the exigency, the vicissitude, the fortune, the providence in which we find ourselves, the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8]. Seeing as the Spirit sees, knowing as the Spirit knows, understanding as the Spirit understands, the logos gnōsis, the word of knowledge. You find that powerfully demonstrated in the lives of the saints of God. You remember the story of Elisha, when Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, came to see him. Naaman was a leper and word came that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal a man of his leprosy [2 Kings 5:1-4].
And Naaman came with riches, gold in abundance, silver in abundance, beautiful raiment [2 Kings 5:5-9]. He came to buy his healing. That’s why I have always said, “If one had the gift of healing under no conditions should it ever be done for money.” And these divine healers who appeal for money, grasp for money, take advantage of the sorrows and hurts of humanity to enrich themselves and their cause is anathema in the sight of God. If there is divine healing––and I believe in it––it should never be associated with money, personal reward. Naaman came with his riches, and Elisha, when the Syrian was healed, sent him away refusing to take ought from his hands [2 Kings 5:10-16]. But Gehazi his servant, seeing Naaman leave with the gold, and silver, and all of those trappings, and affluence, and wealth sped after the Syrian general, overtook him, and said to him, “My master has changed his mind, and he would receive of thee certain of the gold, the silver, the raiment” [2 Kings 5:22]. He took and hid it, came back into the presence of his master, and Elisha the prophet said, “Wither hast thou gone, Gehazi?” [2 Kings 5:23-25].
“Thy servant went no whither,” said Gehazi [2 Kings 5:25]. But Elisha said, “Went not my spirit with thee when you overtook the chariot and received of Naaman these things?” [2 Kings 5:26], the word of knowledge, logos gnōsis” [1 Corinthians 12:8] You find it again in the life of Elisha when the Syrian king gathered his ministers together and said, “Which one of us is a traitor? For every plan we have is known to our enemy in Israel.” One of his ministers said, “My lord, O King, no one of us is a traitor; but in Israel is a prophet that tells the King of Israel the words that thou dost speak in thy bedchamber” [2 Kings 6:12], the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
And you find it in the life of our Lord, speaking to this Samaritan woman. He said, “Go call thy husband.” And the woman from Sychar said, “I have no husband.” And the Lord said, “In that thou sayest truly, for thou hast had five husbands, and the man thou now art living with is not thy husband, and that spokest thou truly” [John 4:5-18]; the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
In my reading I came across an incident in the life of the great London Baptist preacher F. B. Meyer. He was speaking in the Free Church Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, and in the middle of his sermon he said, “There is a young man here who owes his employer three pounds eighteen shillings. And he’ll never find peace with God till that sum is returned.”
A day or two later a young man made an engagement with the Baptist preacher, Dr. Meyer and seated with him said, “Do you know me?” And the preacher said, “I never saw you before.” And the young man said, “I was in the audience when you described what I had done and I have been wretched in my soul ever since. And sir, in a letter I have placed a check for three pounds eighteen shillings, returning the money to my employer”; the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
By that, Simon Peter replied to the Lord Jesus, when the Savior said, “Whom do men say that I am?” [Matthew 16:13] and then they replied [Matthew 16:14], “Then whom do you say that I am?” [Matthew 16:15]. And Simon replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:16]. And Jesus said to him, “Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah, flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven”; the word of knowledge [Matthew 16:15-17]. And by that gift, Simon Peter spake of the corruption in the church of Jerusalem in the days of Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5:1-11]. And by that gift, the sainted apostle John on the isle of Patmos wrote of the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22]; described them meticulously, minutely.
The logos gnōsis the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8], the ability to understand and to see a present situation as the Holy Spirit understands and sees it. The difference between the two is very plain: the word of knowledge, the understanding of the situation; and the word of wisdom is knowing what to do and how to do it. These are the two great first gifts; the charismatic endowments of the Spirit of God in behalf of His people.
Now the next group of gifts I have chosen to call those that pertain to sympathy of heart. and in the listing of it here by the apostle in the twelfth chapter of Romans, I speak first of the gift of mercy, eleōn en ilarotēti. Eleēmosunē is a Greek word built upon that eleos, eleos, mercy [Romans 12:8]. Eleēmosynunē; our English word eleemosynary comes from it. An eleemosynary institution would be a charitable institution; an eleemosynary gift would be a charitable gift. You can see from the repercussion of the word in the English language that it has to do with the remembrance of the unfortunate. And there is a gift that God bestows upon many of our people in which they are able compassionately to sympathize with the distressed, and the sick, and the poverty stricken, and the afflicted. For the word eleos and Eleēmosunē refer to compassion for human misery, the widow, the orphan, these who need the precious ministries of God’s people. And there is not a gift of the Spirit, a charismatic remembrance of the Holy Spirit that is more precious than this one, the eleos ministry, the mercy ministry, the compassion ministry [Romans 12:8].
Our Lord is so often described like that. In the one hundred [third] Psalm, “As a father pitieth his children,” there is a divine compassion and pity in God “as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He remembereth our frame, He knoweth that we are made out of dust” [Psalm 103:13-14]. In the third stanza of that beautiful hymn “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds” are these words:
We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear
And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.
[from “Blessed be the Tie That Binds,” John Fawcett]
The gift of compassion, sympathy: a little girl came home from school and told her mother that her little playmate was so sad. Her mother had died. And the mother said to the child, “Well what did you say to her?” And the little girl replied, “I did not say anything. I just sat down with her in her chair at the desk and we cried together.” It’s enough. It is not the gift of eloquence in expressing sympathy or sorrow. It is the gift of an understanding heart. And oh, the woes, and the sorrows, and the afflictions that fall in time upon all of our people; miseries, and sicknesses, and afflictions, and sorrows, and disappointments, and despairs, and frustrations in our own souls. Outside of us, in our businesses, in our children, in our families, in our homes, in our lives it is so easy to be critical, and sharp, and filled with judgment. It is a divine charismatic grace gift of the Spirit to be understanding, and compassionate, and sympathetic. It is the sweetest of all of the grace gifts of the Spirit.
Paul is careful to point out in our sympathy and in our compassion, hilarotēs, translated here, “cheerfulness” [Romans 12:8]. Well, that’s all right, cheerfulness. Except in our time the word “cheerfulness” has come to mean something sort of ephemeral, bubbly, evanescent, effervescent, frothy, just light. It has no meaning like that here. When we are to show our compassion and sympathy in time of affliction, and distress, and sorrow, what Paul means here by that word hilarotēs is our spirit is to be one of victory, and of triumph, and of encouragement [Romans 12:8].
Law me, I’d rather have the affliction itself than to have certain people I know to comfort me in it, O Lord in heaven. They’re like Job’s comforters. When they leave you’re worse off than when you saw them come. Well, I couldn’t tell you the number of people who will go to see somebody in the hospital and they say, “What is that you say you’ve got?” And when they reply, “Oh you don’t mean it, why I know a man who lived a block up the street who died of that just last week.” Oh no, no! But a compassionate heart that blesses you, it may be dark now, but the dawn cometh. Mourning may endure for the night but joy cometh in the day, in the morning, in the sunrise.
Now don’t you get worried about––I don’t even begin to finish this but it’s all going to be written out. It’s all going to be published in January. We just got good and started at the 8:15 service and it was over. So don’t you say, “Well preacher, I just wonder what he was going to say.” Well what he was going to say, in a way is going to be written out and published next January.
Now let’s go through these things far more rapidly. “Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation” [Romans 12:8]. Reason I wish we had oh, hours to spend is, in a King James Version, in an English translation, you hardly get any good idea of the actual word that is used and what it means. Now all of us are familiar with the word paraclete, paraclete. That is an attempt to spell out in the English language an untranslatable Greek word that is applied to the Lord. In the King James Version in 1 John, it is translated advocate. Christ is our advocate [1 John 2:1]. He’s our lawyer, He’s our pleader. He’s our representative at the bar of God; paraclete.
In the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of John, the word is applied to the Holy Spirit; and there it is translated “Comforter” [John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7]. The word is parakletō, the one called alongside; and the paraclete is that. And those are the words that Paul uses here, parakaletō, translated here “exhorteth”, he that exhorteth on his paraklēsis, on his exhortation [Romans 12:8]. When you read that and you get the idea of a man standing up and exhorting us to do something. Well, we all need to be exhorted to do something all the time but that’s not, that’s just a little piece or a part of the meaning here. There is a gift from the Holy Spirit that is a Paraclete gift. It is a gift like the Holy Spirit does for us when the Holy Spirit helps us, and strengthens us, and encourages us, and inspires us. That is the gift Paul is describing here [Romans 12:8].
Why bless your heart, I have seen churches discouraged, discouraged, getting ready to quit. And there’ll be a man upon whom the Spirit of paraklēsis,will come. And when he’s done his appeal, the church will say, “By the grace of God, we will endure, continue, be true unto death.” A denomination is that way. I have seen instances when the association of churches, the convention would come together and they’re discouraged. The war goes against them and the tide runs contrary. And there’ll be a man stand up.
I remember in one of the dark days of Baylor University when I was a student there, at a convention, the incomparable pastor of this church, Dr. Truett, stood up and made a tremendous address to that convention. Why I felt when he was done, I felt the whole world, and all of its angels and chariots of fire, and hosts of heaven were for us and for that blessed school. One of his finest sermons that you can hear today, it’s on a record is entitled “The Need for Encouragement.” Dr. Truett had that gift in a superlative degree, to lift up the soul and to raise the fallen spirit. That’s it; the Paraclete gift of inspiration, and help, and strength.
“And he that giveth, with simplicity, metadidomi,” Metadidomi means “to share with, to share with” [Romans 12:8]. Haplotēs means “with great sincerity”; not perfunctorily, not a tip, not a flip of a coin, but the sharing, giving. You know I haven’t time to discuss this, but I’d like to take a moment to say I think God gives some men that gift of making money. Now I don’t say He gives it to very many of us. Most of us are just like Job’s poor turkey. We just barely run ahead of the chopping block, the wolf nipping at our heels all the time. And when we get through paying those bills a flood of them comes again. We don’t know why or how in the earth we just barely get by.
But did you know there are some people that God blesses in such a way it seems that everything they do turns to gold, turns to silver. They can make an investment that for me would be a colossal bankruptcy. But for them they discover gold, or they discover oil, or they discover whatever it is God gives them. Now the gift is if a man can be that way, and God blesses him, and he doesn’t hug it to himself, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine,” and then dies and leaves it for all of the relatives to fight over.
I grew up in a poor town; so poor. I guess the war on poverty was fought for them and this new program of the government had them in mind. And I was the poorest of the poor in that poor town. Somebody said even the poor people thought we were poor. The first time I was ever introduced to wealth and to riches was in this city of Dallas. First time I ever met it and closely was associated with it. And you know what? I have come to the conclusion that outside of God, wealth and riches are a curse, outside of God.
I have seen families that I knew intimately and the time came to die as it always comes. And the time came to leave the fortune behind. And families that were close and loved one another like that go down here to these tall skyscrapers, hire the most ingenious lawyers that they can find, and swear against one another in open court, in bitterness, and in hatred, and in despicableness. And I look on a thing like that, O Lord, could such a thing be? It’s a grace gift what I have. God gave it to me. And what I have, that will I share with God’s people in the earth.
There is a great Baptist Benevolence program centered here in the city of Dallas. What a joy to help them in those ministries with little children and with our aging senior church members; what a blessedness. We have a great hospital here in Dallas. How fine to help it rise to its greatest abilities to help our sick get well. We have our schools, one located now here in the city of Dallas. What a blessedness to help it do good for our young, pliable and minable minds, these teenagers who go off on the way to school.
Think of our missionaries. We have over two thousand five hundred of them now. What a blessedness to help them, and pray for them, and support them. And the own ministries of our dear church; last Friday, Friday of last week, I ate dinner and spoke with one of the groups of our missions. We have seven in our church. This is one of the seven. And as I looked at them and talked to them and oh, I just thanked God that I belonged to a church that could love, and support, and pray for and minister to as that blessed, dedicated group of leaders are working in ministry! This is that gift. Some people are just like that. “I will keep it till I die, whatever.” And some people are like this, “O Lord, it came from Thee. It will return to Thee. And while I am Thy steward and posses it, may I do good with it for Thee precious Savior.” Don’t you see why I call these precious ministering gifts of the Spirit?
Dear people, I haven’t time to mention the others. I want to go to one, and we will close. The gift of faith, the gift of faith; the Greek word pistis means “trust, faith, belief,” you translate it any way. In 1 Corinthians 12, “To another, faith,” verse nine, “to another, faith by the same Spirit” [1 Corinthians 12:9]. There are three ways that that word pistis—translated here “faith”—there are three ways that that word faith can be used. First, it can refer to intellectual ascent; pistis, faith. I believe that Washington lived. I believe that Genghis Kahn lived. I believe that Caesar lived. I believe those things. “The devils believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. It is an intellectual ascent.
A second way that word pistis is used is to refer to saving faith, saving faith. You have an illustration of the use in the passage that we read out of God’s Book. In 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him, against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. That is saving faith, a commitment of your life, and soul, and destiny to the blessed Lord Jesus.
Then there is a third use of that word faith and that’s the way it is used here. There is a faith, a gift of faith that lays hold on the promises of God and receives great rewards from heaven; that faith, the gift of faith, to believe God and to ask of God in assurance. Oh, I wish all of us possessed it! In the eleventh chapter, the great faith chapter of the Book of Hebrews, God, remember, had said to Abraham, “In thy son Isaac shall thy seed be called” [Genesis 21:12, Hebrews 11:18]. And God had told Abraham to offer up Isaac on a sacrifice, on an altar, just plunge a knife into his heart [Genesis 22:1-10]. And the Book of Hebrews says, “And when Abraham offered up his son Isaac” [Hebrews 11:17], to take his life––this boy whom God said, “And in Isaac shall thy seed be called” [Genesis 21:12, Hebrews 11:18]––the Book says Abraham believed that God would raise him up from the dead when he plunged that knife in his heart [Hebrews 11:19]. Think of that; faith, the gift of faith, “If I slay this boy in obedience to the command of God, God will raise him up, for God said, In that boy shall thy posterity be called”; faith [Genesis 21:12; Hebrews 11:18].
You find it in the life of Elijah. The widow of Zarephath, he said to her, “The barrel of meal will not fail, nor the cruse of oil waste until God shall send rain on the earth” [1 Kings 17:14]. Three years, a little barrel of meal, and a little cruse of oil. I don’t suppose there’s a life in the world like that of George Mueller, who for over a generation took care of that great orphan’s home in Bristol, England, and never asked a man for aught, but always took it to God and made it a matter of prayer. Can you imagine such a thing? And George Mueller said, “I sometimes think God has given me a sort of gift of faith so that I could unconditionally ask Him and receive an answer”; the gift of faith.
Daniel, stopping the mouth of lions, the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 11:33] says, “by faith.” When I was down there in that Amazon jungle visiting those savage Aucas, I was frightened to my shame and disappointment. I, a man and supposed to be a man of God. Yet there I was frightened, my heart pounded. And yet in that jungle tribe was a woman, Rachael Saint, and I said to her, “Are you not afraid?”
Well, I said, “If these savage down river Aucas were to attack, what do you have to protect yourself?” She said, “Nothing but the hand of the Lord.” The gift of faith.
These are precious and so enriching of the assembly of the Lord. Our time is spent. We are already off the air. And we sing our invitation hymn this morning. And while we sing it, you, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.”
A couple you, a family you, a household you, put your life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. The Spirit has to make the appeal. My words are a man’s words. God must invite. The Spirit must woo. The pierced hands of our Savior must open the door. And if a door is opened to you, come. In the balcony round, come. On this lower floor, come. “Pastor, I give my heart to Jesus” [Ephesians 2:8]. “Pastor, I want to be baptized” [Matthew 28:10]. “Pastor, I want to join the church by statement. My letter is lost. The church is disbanded.” Or, “I want to come back into the household of God’s people.” Or, “I want to put my life and letter; this is my wife. These are my children, all of us coming.” Or, “I want to re-consecrate myself to Jesus.” As the Spirit shall make appeal to your soul, on the first note of the first stanza, come; and the Lord attends your way as you come. Now may we stand and sing?