Precious Ministering Gifts of the Spirit
June 5th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
PRECIOUS MINISTERING GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
6-5-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing in the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Precious Ministering Gifts of the Spirit. These days, these series of Sundays, are dedicated to a presentation of the gifts of the Spirit. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans, there is one list, [Romans 12:6-8]. In the twelfth chapter of the first Corinthian letter there are two lists [1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 12:28-30], and in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians there is another list; a fourth one [Ephesians 4:11]. And in these four lists of the gifts of the Spirit, Paul names thirty, and when they are checked for duplication, repetition, there are about eighteen or nineteen different gifts of the Spirit.
Last Sunday morning, I discussed five of them, the basic ministered gifts for the preaching of the gospel and the building up of the household of faith: the gift of apostleship, the gift of prophecy, the gift of evangelism, the gift of pastor, of shepherd, and the gift of teaching [Ephesians 4:11]. Those were the five that were discussed last Sunday morning. This Sunday morning, I shall discuss eight precious ministering gifts that God bestows upon His people. Then next Sunday morning, I shall preach on the gift of miracles. The following Sunday morning on the gifts of healing, and the following Sunday morning on the gift of speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. This will include a discussion of all of the Spirit gifts God bestows upon His people.
As a background, we read 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge;
To another faith; to another gifts of healing;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another. . .kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues.
Here is listed nine of those gifts [1 Corinthians 12:8-10].
If I read the text in Romans 12; “Having then” in verse 6, “Having then” charismata, grace gifts, Spirit 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; or he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; and he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” [Romans 12:6-8].
I have called these precious ministering gifts of the Spirit because, first, they exhibit in us a beautiful Christian spirit. Even as our Lord said, “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” [Matthew 20:28]. Not that we be exalted or cajoled or pitied, not that we be advanced, but that God might use us to bless others, and in honor, preferring one another [Romans 12:10]. Even as the Lord said, “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet” [John 13:14]. I’ve called them precious ministering gifts because they exhibit a marvelous Christian spirit in us who possess them. Then I’ve called them precious ministering gifts because they bless the church, they bless the people of God, they bless the household of faith.
Now the first one he names is indeed the most precious and the most blessed of all of the gifts that God could bestow upon anyone in the church. “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, logos sophias, the word of wisdom” [1 Corinthians 12:8]. The word of wisdom is a gift of the Spirit that the Lord bestows upon some of our members that we might understand the truth and the purpose that lie back of God’s will, and that in the light of God’s elective grace and purpose we might know what to believe and how to do.
I remember a description in the Book of Chronicles about one of the tribes of Israel. It is written, “Issachar, the tribe of Issachar, were men of understanding, were men of understanding of the times, were men of understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do” [1 Chronicles 12:32], the word of wisdom. I remember reading in the Book of Acts when the Sanhedrin was so persecuting the disciples that the great rabbin Gamaliel stood up and said, “Such a thing ought not to be. If this is of men it will die of itself. If it is of God, you ought not to resist it; lest haply ye be found fighting against God” [Acts 5:38-39]; the word of wisdom [1 Chronicles 12:8]. And I see that word of wisdom so marvelously illustrated in the life of the early church. There was difficulty in the church, for the Hellenistic members of the church, the Greek speaking members of the church [Acts 6:1], felt that their widows were discriminated against by the Aramaic speaking members of the church. Trouble in the church; and in the times and passing of life almost every church—except this one—will have trouble in it. I don’t know why God has delivered this church, but in the ministry of Dr. Truett for forty-seven years there was never any trouble in this church. And I have been here twenty-two years, and there has never been any trouble in this church. For sixty-nine years, there has never been any trouble in this church, and nobody here can quite remember very well beyond sixty-nine years.
But there was trouble in the church over that situation of the Hellenists and the Aramaics [Acts 6:1]. And in divine wisdom, in the word of wisdom, the gift of wisdom [1 Corinthians 12:8], the disciples, the apostles, called the members together and said, “Brethren, such a thing ought not to be. It is unspeakable and unpardonable for trouble to arise in the house of God.” Such a thing ought not to be. So they said, “Seek out from among you men full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom” [Acts 6:3]. And they ordained them [Acts 6:5-6] and that began this local ministry in the church that has blessed God’s household ever since. That is the word of wisdom, the first and primary and most blessed of all the gifts of the Spirit. How do you do in the face of a crisis? The word of wisdom [1 Corinthians 12:8].
You find it in Stephen, one of those seven who were ordained, a layman, a deacon [Acts 6:3, 5]. The Bible says, “And they were not able to withstand the wisdom by which he spake” [Acts 6:10]. You find the word of wisdom in Simon Peter [Acts 11:1-18] when he returned to the church at Jerusalem and explained to the people how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, that they could be saved and made a member of the body of Christ, just as God’s elect Jewish people could be saved and added to the body of Christ—the word of wisdom [1 Corinthians 12:8].
You find that word of wisdom in James, the Lord’s brother, pastor of the church at Jerusalem who in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts made the final pronouncement concerning the law and the gospel [Acts 15:13-22]. The word of wisdom: the purpose of God; the mind of God; how God would have us do; what God would have us say; and what God wants us to believe as truth; the word of wisdom [1 Corinthians 12:8].
Now second to it, and like unto it, and undergirding is the second great gift of the Spirit, logos gnostios, word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8]. Gnosis, our word “know” comes from the Greek word, gnosis, word of knowledge. The word of knowledge is a judgment and an appraisal of the present hour and the present situation. Seeing, knowing, and understanding, as the Holy Spirit sees and knows and understands. The difference between them is this: logos sophias, the word of wisdom is knowing how to do. What does God want us to do? What is the answer in this exigency? Which way shall we go? The word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8], logos gnostios, is understanding of the situation, judgment and appraisal of it.
You can illustrate that in the Bible without end. Do you remember in the life of Elisha the prophet, when Naaman came with all of the splendor and riches of the court of Damascus in order to buy his cleansing [2 Kings 5:5], for he was a leper [2 Kings 5:1]. Elisha refused to take aught, which is what I have said through the years of my ministry; if a man had the gifts of healing, to do it for money is a travesty on God. If there is divine healing, and I believe there is, there ought never to be connected with it money. Never, never! But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, when he saw Naaman drive away with that gold and silver and raiment and riches, Gehazi ran after Naaman and overtook him, and said, “My master has changed his mind, and he desires of thee certain golds and silver and raiment.” And Gehazi hid them, and came back and innocently stood before Elisha, and Elisha said, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And the servant answered, “Why, no place, my master.” And Elisha said, “Went not my spirit with thee?” [2 Kings 5:20-26]; the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
You have it again in the life of Elisha when the king of Syria called his ministers together and said, “Which one of us is a traitor? For everything we plan and say is known to our enemies, the king of Israel.” One of his ministers spoke and said, “O lord my king, no one of us is a traitor. But there is a prophet in Israel that tells the king the words thou speakest in thy bedchamber” [2 Kings 6:8-12]; the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
You have it illustrated in the life of Simon Peter. “Who am I?” said the Lord. And Simon answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:15-116]. And Jesus said, “Blessed are thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 16:17]; the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
You have it illustrated so much in the life of Jesus. As Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman, He said, “Go, call thy husband.” She said, “I have no husband.” And He said, “In that thou answereth rightly. For thou hast had five husbands; and the one you now live with is not your husband” [John 4:16-18]; the word of knowledge [2 Corinthians 12:8].
I read in the life of the great Baptist preacher F.B. Meyer in London. In the Free Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, he said in his sermon, “There is a young man here who owes his employer three pounds eighteen shillings, and he’ll never find peace with God until he returns that money.” After the service was over and a day had passed, a young man made an engagement with F.B. Meyer. And sitting down with him he said, “Do you know me?” And the preacher said, “I never saw you before in my life.” And the young man said, “It was as though you called my name. For in the message that you delivered, and I was listening, you spoke of a young man who owed his employer three pounds and eighteen shillings. And I’ve been miserable ever since I took it and wretched in my soul. And sir, there is a check in a letter which has been mailed, returning the money to my employer”; the word of knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8].
You find it in the life of Simon Peter when, in the Book of Acts, he exhibited corruption in the church, the covetousness of Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5:1-4]. You find the word of knowledge in the Book of Revelation when the apostle John writes of the seven churches of Asia, knowing exactly the status and the condition and the spiritual life of each one of those seven churches in Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. That is the gift of knowledge: judgment, understanding, appraisal of the present situation [1 Corinthians 12:8], and the gift of wisdom to know what to do and how to meet the exigency and the emergency of the hour [1 Corinthians 12:8]. They are the two primary and most blessed of all of the gifts of the Spirit. They are named one and two in that order [1 Corinthians 12:8].
Now the next grouping that I have made of these gifts of the Spirit are, I call them, sympathy of heart. They are gifts that have to do with compassion and kindness and sympathy, and as I name these gifts you are going to find that there are people in God’s congregation who will have this one, and who will have another one, and some of us will have several of them, but all of them precious and blessed. I call these gifts now that I group together, there are three of them, I call them sympathy of heart.
And the first one I name is “he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” [Romans 12:8], the gift of mercy. The Greek word is eleos. Eleomasune is the Greek word for mercy also, and in the New Testament it refers to almsgiving. Eleomasune, this word here. And in our English language the Greek has been taken over bodily by us, and we use the word eleemosynary. An eleemosynary institution would be a charitable institution. An eleemosynary donation would be a charitable gift.
Now the word eleos on which is built eleomasune, eleos, eleos is a Greek word meaning compassion for people who are in misery, in illness, in poverty, in distress, the widow, the orphan, the forgotten, the downtrodden, the neglected, the poor, the despised, the outcast; eleos; mercy; compassion for those who are so unfortunate. And he uses the word translated here, cheerfulness, philarotes, cheerfulness [Romans 12:8]. Well, that’s all right, cheerfulness. But our word cheerfulness is kind of, you know, peripheral, ephemeral, foam-like cheerfulness. What that word means is that when we show compassion and sympathy with the unfortunate, we are not to do it as though we were woe-betide-us and woebegone; as though the woe of the world is upon us. Oh, how terrible to be comforted by people that, when they are around us, “Oh, if I felt bad before, I feel worse now!”
Job’s comforters [Job 2:11, 13:4-5], that’s what he’s talking about. But in our sympathy and compassion, in our eleomasune ministries, we are to do it, philarotes, with triumph, with victory, with encouragement, and that’s possible; that’s possible. To me, this is one of the most precious of all the gifts God could bestow upon our people, the gift of compassion, of mercy [Romans 12:8].
There is a pity in God so oft times referred to in the Bible. You remember the one hundred third Psalm? “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame: He remembereth that we are dust” [Psalm 103:13-14].
Do you remember the third stanza in “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds”? And I’ve been told our congregation doesn’t know that song. Now you learn it. That’s one of the sweetest songs, every stanza of it, ever written; written by a Baptist preacher who had resigned his church, and had all of his things packed, and he was leaving. And when he got on the wagon to drive away all of his congregation was around weeping. John Fawcett, pastor of the church there in England; and when he got on the wagon and was driving away, and leaving his people in sobs and in tears, he pulled up the horses and turned around, and put his furniture back in the house, and went inside and wrote that song, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.”
Now the third stanza:
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear,
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
The gift of compassion, mercy [Romans 12:8]. I remember reading long time ago the story of a little girl who came and told her mother after school was out, she said, “My little friend, my little playmate is so sad. Her mother died and she is so sad.” And the mother said to the little child, “What did you say to your little playmate?” And the child replied, “I never said anything. I just went over there and sat by her side at the desk, and we cried together.”
It is not the gift of eloquence. It is not the gift of expression. It’s the gift of an understanding heart. All kinds of things overwhelm our people; things on the inside of us, and things in our physical frames, and things on the outside of us, and things in our homes and families, and things in our life and business. All kinds of things overwhelm God’s people, and to be able to sympathize and understand is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a precious one, I say.
Now look again, the gift of and it’s translated here, “He that exhorteth, on exhortation” [Romans 12:8]. You know looking at these things in the English, in the King James Version, so many of them, you don’t get a good idea of what they are. Now here is an instance of it. You have it translated, “He that exhorteth, on exhortation” [Revelation 12:8]. You would think that what he is talking about is getting up and exhorting people to do something that you felt in your heart God wanted them to do; well, that’s all right. I mean there’s nothing wicked in that. No, nothing wrong in it. But the word that is used here is the word that is used to describe the Holy Spirit: Paraclete, parakaleō, paraklēte. Now those are two words that are used. The verbal form of it and the noun form of it, translated here, “He that exhorteth, on exhortation” [Revelation 12:8]; Parakaleō is the Greek word meaning “to call alongside,” and paraklēte, paraklēte, one form of the paraklēte is the word “Paraclete.” That word is used of the Lord Jesus in 1 John, translated in the King James Version, “Advocate” [1 John 2:1]. It is used in the Gospel of John to refer to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, translated in the Gospel of John, “the Comforter” [John 15:26, 16:7].
Now what Paul is saying here, this gift, the gift of the paraclete—what he is talking about here is the gift of inspiration and encouragement, and there are some men who have that gift. A church can be discouraged and blue, and some men can stand up and speak for God, and the church is exalted and inspired. A denomination is sometimes that way. A community of churches, an association and fellowship of churches can be discouraged and beat, and a man will stand up and the gift of paraklēsis, the paraclete, encouragement; did you ever here Dr. Truett’s sermon, The Need for Encouragement? That’s one of the finest messages ever delivered by a preacher since Jesus lived in the earth. It’s on a record, and you can get it and listen to it. The very title of it helps us. The need for encouragement, that’s this gift here, the gift of the paraclete, the one calling alongside inspiration and encouragement. Oh, we must hasten!
The third here that I have mentioned under sympathy of heart is he that giveth with simplicity [Romans 12:8]. Now the two Greek words there: first, metadidomi; metadidomi means to share with, metadidomi, “he that giveth,” and then [haplotes], [haplotes], “with sincerity.” You know what I have thought about this gift here. We haven’t time but just barely to just touch them. There are some men who have the gift of making money, the gift of making money. Everything they touch turns to gold and silver. They just are gifted in that. Don’t you wish you were? I tell you so many of us, we just barely get by, and I mean barely. The wolf is just always nipping at our heels, and he is just always struggling around paying bills, and about the time we think, “Oh, I’ve got the upper hand of this thing,” then the first of the month comes and there is another flood of the same things. But there are some people that have the gift of making money. And the gift that Paul is mentioning here is the gift of sharing what God has bestowed upon us [Romans 12:8].
Why, to die and to leave all of the fortune behind for people to go to law over and go to court over and to fuss and fight over—I was never introduced to great wealth until I came to the city of Dallas. I grew up in a poverty stricken community, and I grew up in a poverty stricken home. We had enough to eat. I don’t mean we were famished and gaunt, but we didn’t have anything. And the first time I was ever introduced to great wealth was here in the city of Dallas. And I want you to know I have never seen anything that can happen to a family like inheriting money! And they double up their fists, they have been dear brothers and sisters and family members ever since they were born! Then they double up their fists, and they hire lawyers, and they go to court, and they swear such things as you never heard in your life about one another. I often think of that. How infinitely better to take what God gives you, and having cared for the necessities of life, use it for the glory of God [Romans 12:8]. We have a great Buckner Benevolent program; help them. We have some fine schools; help them. We have two thousand five hundred missionaries; help them. We have Christian hospitals; help them. We have our dear and blessed church and its multifarious ministries. Last Friday night I met with the leadership of one of our chapels, one of our missions. Why, I never saw such dedication in my life. Help them. It is a gift of God and a precious ministry in the name of our Lord.
Dear people, I do not have time to preach the message. It will be written out, and this January it will be published in a book. In the little moment that remains let me mention just one other. To some is given the gift of faith [1 Corinthians 12:9]. There are three kinds of faith, and when the Bible refers to a gift of the Spirit as a gift of faith [1 Corinthians 12:9], what does it mean? Faith; a gift of faith, a gift of the Holy Spirit called faith. There are three kinds of faith in the Bible. That word pistos, the Greek word for faith, refers to three kinds.
First, there is intellectual assent. “The devils believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. The word pistos translated faith can mean trust, belief, faith—all the same word. Now there is an intellectual faith. I believe that George Washington lived. He was the father of our country. I believe that Louis XIV lived. I believe that Caesar lived. Those are intellectual assents. I believe those things. “The devils believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. That’s one kind of faith, pistos.
All right, a second one: there is saving faith. You read about that this morning in the passage, 2 Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him, committed unto Him against that day.” Saving faith is the commitment of your soul to Jesus. “Lord, here I am. Take me. Save me. Wash me. Keep me” [2 Timothy 1:12]. That’s saving faith.
All right, the gift of faith is something else: it is the gift that God bestows upon some members to lay hold upon the promises of God! Oh, I wish I had that gift in superlative degree! To believe, to ask of God, and to believe that God will do it.
This man George Muller, who ran that famous hospital in Bristol, England, for a generation, never one time in his life did he ask anyone for anything. But he asked God. Whatever he needed, he got down on his knees and told God about it. And for more than a generation, he took care of hundreds and thousands of orphaned children, beside a multitude of other eleemosynary, philanthropic works and never asked one time—just laid hold on the promises of God. One time that man said, “I sometimes think, I reckon, that God has given unto me a kind of gift of faith whereby I can unconditionally ask God and believe that He will answer.” Some of our people have that gift. Isn’t it a marvelous thing?
Abraham had it. When the Lord told him to sacrifice Isaac, the eleventh chapter of Hebrews says that Abraham believed that God would raise that boy from the dead! [Hebrews 11:17-19]. But he was to take his life [Genesis 22:2]. God had said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” [Genesis 21:12]. And when God said, “Take his life” [Genesis 22:2], Abraham so believed that word of God, “that in Isaac should his seed be called” [Genesis 21:12], that Abraham believed that God would raise him up from the dead [Hebrews 11:17-19].
Elijah had that gift. He said to the poor widow, in Zarephath, “The barrel’s meal will not waste, and the cruse of oil will not fail, until God hath sent rain on the earth” [1 Kings 17:14]. What an amazing gift!
Daniel had it when he stopped the mouths of lions by faith [Daniel 6:21-22]. Some of you heard me speak of that glorious missionary Rachel Saint, who entered that tribe of savage Auca Indians who had murdered five of those white missionaries. And when I was there and was frightened to death, left there alone; ashamed of myself, I a man and a man of God supposed to be, and here was this lone woman living among those savage Indians. I said to her, “Rachel Saint, do you have any way to protect yourself?” And she replied, “Nothing but the hand of the Lord.” The gift of faith; God will take care [1 Corinthians 12:9].
You can see why I have called them the precious ministering gifts of the Spirit. They sanctify and hallow God’s people. They bless our hearts and our homes, our life, our work. No one of us has all of them, but all of us have some of them. And in the passage we read this morning, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God that is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]. Use it. However the Lord hath blessed us and endowed us, use it for Jesus.
Now our time is gone. And we sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, while we sing it, in this balcony round, somebody you; on this lower floor, somebody you; into the aisle and down here to the front, come, and stand by me. On the first note of the first stanza, come, and God bless you in your coming, taking Jesus as Savior, putting your life in the fellowship of the church, coming to be baptized, coming to confess your faith in the Lord [Romans 10:9-10], coming by statement, coming by letter, as the Spirit shall say the word of appeal, make it this morning; make it now, while we stand and while we sing.