The Gifts of the Spirit

1 Corinthians

The Gifts of the Spirit

May 15th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 12:1

5-15-66     8:15 a.m.


On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Gifts of the Spirit.  In this long series of sermons on the Holy Spirit, we are now entering the very heart of these studies. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”  But there is not anything concerning which we are more ignorant.  Yet Paul writes, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”  Therefore when we address ourselves to spiritual gifts, what God has for you, what God purposes and intends for you, we address ourselves to the very heart of the purposes of God for His church and for His people.

Yet though I have been a pastor thirty-eight years, I have never heard a sermon on spiritual gifts in my life.  Not one.  Nor have I ever heard them discussed publicly.  Not once.  Therefore in deepest prayer and searching the mind of God, I ask of you to open your heart to the truth of God’s revealed Word.  This Lord’s Day, and the next Lord’s Day, and the next Lord’s Day, and the next Lord’s Day, with all of the intelligence God shall give us and all the spiritual sensitivity He bestows upon us, we shall open this Book and open our hearts to what God has to say to us.  And we will open our hands for what God would bestow upon us.  “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” [1 Corinthians 12:1].  So let’s sit at the feet of Jesus, and let us open our souls, the windows of our hearts and minds, heavenward.  And let us learn of God.  There is so much to know.

Now in your Bible, if you will turn with me, it will be very profitable, very profitable.  There are four places in the New Testament where these spiritual gifts are named, four places.  Turn first to Romans.  The Book of Romans, chapter 12, verses 6 to 8.  Romans 12:6-8.  This is the first place these gifts, the charismata, the charismatic gifts, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of grace, this is the first place they are mentioned.  Now I read:

Having then charismata, charismatic Holy Spirit gifts, having then charismata 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 exorteth, on exortation:  he that giveth, with simplicity;  he that ruleth, with diligence;  he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.

[Romans 12:6-8]

There are [seven] charismatic gifts named here: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, and mercy; there are [seven] of them named there [Romans 12:6-8].

Now turn to the next place where they are named.  First Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 12, verses 8 through 10:  “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” [1 Corinthians 12:7].  Now 1 Corinthians 12:8:

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To 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.

[1 Corinthians 12:8-10]

Here are nine charismatic gifts named:  the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:8-10].

 Now turn the page and in the same chapter Paul names nine gifts in the same chapter again; chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians [verses] 28, 29, and 30.

And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing?  Do all speak with tongues?  Do all interpret?

[1 Corinthians 12:28-30]

There are nine that are mentioned named there [1 Corinthians 12:28-30].

Now the fourth place where the gifts of the Spirit and of Christ are named is in Ephesians, Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”  There are five named here: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers [Ephesians 4:11].

Now as I have studied, I have chosen seven groupings by scholarly men of these gifts of the Spirit.  I have chosen this seven just to portray, to demonstrate how men studying these Scriptures will group these different gifts together. Now when you add them up, there are nine in one place, nine in another place, seven in another place, and five in another place.  There are thirty that Paul mentions.  There are thirty separate charismata.  There are thirty gifts of grace by the Holy Spirit that Paul names. Now I checked the duplications where he mentions one in one passage then mentions the same charismatic gift in another passage, and I checked eleven.  So taking eleven from thirty, there are nineteen separate differing charismatic gifts that Paul names that are bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit.

Now just for you to see how men who give their lives to the study of the Bible will group these charismatic gifts, I have chosen seven groupings as typical of a multitude.  Here is one.  One scholar grouped them into four groups.  First, he grouped 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, gifts for the ministry of the gospel; the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues.  Then his second grouping was 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, gifts for the work of the church:  apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues, interpretation of tongues.  Then his third grouping was the one in Romans, gifts for differing ministries in the church:  prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, showing mercy [Romans 12:6-8].  Then his last was gifts for the building up of the church, the one in Ephesians:  apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers [Ephesians 4:11].

Now another scholar had an unusual grouping of these gifts.  He took the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and I shall preach on that one of these days.  It will amaze you what that chapter is about!  All my life I thought that Paul was writing there a paean of love. The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is in the midst of these charismatic gifts, and it has to do with charismatic gifts.  I never knew that before until just now, studying these passages and Paul.  Now he grouped the gifts following an outline in 1 Corinthians 13.  First: emotional gifts like tongues.  Second: intellectual gifts like prophecies, mysteries, knowledge.  Third: practical gifts like faith that could remove mountains.  And fourth: philanthropic and sacrificial gifts like bestowing all your goods or giving your body to be burned [1 Corinthians 13:1-3].  I thought that was a magnificent grouping.

 Then another scholar divided them into two groups.  First, gifts connected with the ministry of the Word:  apostleship, prophecy, discerning of spirits, teaching, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, tongues and interpretations.  Then gifts connected with practical uses:  miracles, healings, ruling, helps, government [1 Corinthians 12:8-10].

Another scholar divided them according to three groupings:  Gifts of revelation, gifts of power, and gifts of inspiration.

  1. Under gifts of revelation, he divided them like this:
  1. the word of wisdom, supernatural revelation of divine purpose;
  2. the word of knowledge, supernatural revelation of facts in the divine mind;
  3. the discerning of spirits, the supernatural insight into the realm of spirits.

  1.  Then his second grouping, gifts of power:
  1. faith, supernatural trust, passive, in God for the miraculous.
  2. Second, the working of miracles: supernatural intervention active in the ordered course of nature.
  3. Third, healing, supernatural power to heal diseases.
  1.   Then his third classification was gifts of inspiration:
  1. prophecy, supernatural utterance in a known tongue;
  2. tongues, supernatural utterance in an unknown tongue,
  3. and interpretation of tongues, supernatural showing forth of the meaning of other tongues.

Now another scholar divided them into two great divisions: one, basic ministry gifts for edification; prophecy, teaching, so forth.  Then second, sign gifts for authentification, miracles, tongues, healings.

Then another scholar divided them into two groups, and this is an unusual grouping and little different from any other, and you won’t find many scholars who’ll follow a turn like this, but I like it.  He divided them into natural gifts and supernatural gifts.  First, natural gifts, capacities originally found in human nature but elevated and enlarged by the gifts of the Spirit:  teaching, capacity to impart knowledge; healing, the physician’s art; helps, like deacons and church officers; and government, natural leadership, such you’d find in a gifted pastor.  All right, second, he divided then supernatural gifts, miracles and tongues and prophecy.

Then the last: the seventh one that I have chosen which is typical; I have chosen these that you might see how scholars study and divide up these gifts of the Spirit.  The seventh one that I bring to your attention; he divided them into two groups also.  He divided them into permanent gifts and temporary gifts.  By temporary, those that were bestowed upon the church back there but not today.  And the permanent gifts, those that extend through all of the centuries until the Lord comes again.

Now he divided them into eleven permanent gifts and five temporary gifts.  The permanent gifts for the building up of the body, for edification; he named them apostles, prophets. Now when you see a thing like that, why, you say “Well, there are no more apostles.  What does he mean by a permanent gift?”  Now we will enter that in our study and in our preaching, but just to give you a little indication of why he would put such a thing as a permanent gift:  now there are two uses of that word apostolos. It is a very common, ordinarily used, household Greek word meaning somebody who’s sent, like you’d use the word missionary.  Well, it was a common Greek word, apostolos; somebody that is sent; so he uses the word here.  It is sometimes referring technically to twelve, the twelve disciples of Jesus.  Then it can be used in the sense of a missionary, somebody who is sent.  Well, we’ll study those things later on.

He divided them into eleven permanent gifts:  apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, helps, administrative, exhortation, giving, mercy, and faith.  Then he named five temporary gifts.  He called them signs to substantiate and corroborate the message.  They’re for unbelievers to authenticate the message that it is from God.  He named them miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and discerning of tongues.

Now that gives you an idea of how men of God in reading these passages of Scripture will divide up, will group these gifts of the Spirit.

Now beginning next Sunday morning, I shall take a group, and I shall ask God to give me wisdom to describe what those charismatic gifts are.  Then the following Sunday will be another group, and a following Sunday another group, and the three that I have, in my own study, found especially that need explanation and understanding are the working of miracles—and there will be a sermon on that, the working of miracles— and then the gifts of healing; and then another sermon, the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

Now this morning, as a kind of an introduction to all of them, I make three observations concerning these charismatic endowments of the Holy Spirit.  First of all, and something that all of us must learn, first of all, the endowment of a charismatic gift, the gift from God, does not carry with it spiritual faultlessness.  To be supernaturally gifted, to receive, to have a gift from God, does not also mean infallibility.  The supernatural charismatic gift is one thing; infallibility is something else.  Because a man is gifted from God does not mean that he is no longer human and that he no longer is afflicted with human frailty.  A supernaturally gifted man is not an automaton. He is still himself, and he has all of the drag of human nature in his life.

Just as you will find these people in the New Testament who receive these charismatic gifts, and some of them that my eyes have never witnessed, I have never seen them, yet they possessed them.  Yet these people who possessed them in the churches of that primeval century, they were filled with exalted self-esteem, overweening ambition, rivalry, a divisive spirit; sometimes a false prophet.  They were afflicted with every frailty that human nature is capable of.  Therefore, we have come a long, long way in our understanding if we will learn not to equate supernatural endowments with infallibility, with spiritual faultlessness.

Now I want to pause there to expatiate a little out of my own life.  The number one of all of the spiritual struggles I ever went through in my life as a young minister was this:  when I found out that great men of God had feet of clay, that they were as frail and as feeble in their humanity as most anybody else in the world.  For example, I learned that my teachers at the seminary were very, very human, and I had hardly seen such envy and such jealousy among men as I found in my professors at the seminary.  Then as time went on and I became acquainted with some of the great preachers of the century, I learned that they had some of the most glaring faults of anybody, any people, any group of men in the earth.

And when I began as a student in the university and in the seminary, and I became acquainted with these glaring faults and weaknesses of men that God had most gloriously endowed, it shook me to my soul’s depths!  And it took me a long time to learn to get my eyes off of men and fasten on Jesus Christ.  And it took me a long time to learn that gifted men were not there by spiritually faultless. Because one is endowed, and blessed from heaven and given a charismatic remembrance from heaven, does not mean at all that he may be perfectly exemplary in all of his life.

These people here in the New Testament were afflicted even though they had these marvelous gifts.  They were afflicted with every weakness known to man.  Consequently you will find, in reading these passages and in studying these churches of the New Testament, consequently, you will find that there is every tangent, and error, and fanaticism, and disorder that could happen to a people right in the midst of these churches where these charismatic gifts have been bestowed.  For example, Paul will write in 1 Thessalonians 5:20, “Despise not prophesyings.”  Well, why should he write to a church “Despise not prophesyings?”  My soul, if I had anybody here that could stand up and prophesy, I’d say, “What a marvelous and glorious thing!”  And yet Paul writes to the church, “Despise not prophesyings.”

 Well, what is the matter?  It is very plain to see what was the matter.  There was such fanaticism entering into the congregation, and there were such extremities of opinion and deliverance until the church at Thessalonica said, “We’re just not going to have any of that.  We’re just not going to put up with such stuff as that.” So Paul writes in admonition to the church, “Despise not prophesyings.”  Yet, the gift of the prophet was the second of the charismatic number: first, the apostleship and second, the gift of prophecy [1 Corinthians 12:28].  Yet he writes, “Despise not prophesyings” [1 Thessalonians 5:20]. 

You can see all kinds of error and disorder enter into the church, even through the door of these charismatic gifts in such instances as this, Paul will write, “To some is given the gift of the discerning of spirits” [1 Corinthians 12:10], the discerning of spirits. And this man and apostle, John, writes in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:  because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  Because a man stands up in a pulpit, in a sacred pulpit, and he may be endowed from heaven and gifted from God, because he stands there in that sacred place does not mean that the deliverance that he makes, the sermon that he preaches, the message that he delivers is from God.    He may be on a tangent, he may be so far off base that he actually is a false prophet!

 You know when I hear the pronouncements of some of these ecclesiastics today—oh, oh, oh! how we need the gift of the discerning of spirits.  Here is a man who is a false prophet. Yet he stands in the robes of the clergy and in some of the most famous and sacred pulpits in the earth, and he is received as a great ecclesiastical leader. But he is a false prophet, and people who are unaware will fall into the error and misleading of that man until it hurts your heart to look upon it.  We need the gift of the discerning of spirits [1 Corinthians 12:10].  Is this man speaking the truth in God?  Is he?  Is he?

Oh, how Paul discussed that in this blessed passage in the Book of 1 Corinthians chapter 14. He says here about these prophets, the second great charismatic gift remember [1 Corinthians 12:28], says about these prophets, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge!”  [1 Corinthians 14:29].  What an amazing thing!

And if any thing be revealed to another prophet sitting by, let these others hold their peace.

For you all may prophesy one by one, that we all may learn, and we all may be comforted.

But the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

[1 Corinthians 14:30-32]

What an astonishing thing!  Here is a man who has the gift of prophecy, but he may be delivering a message that is colored and tangent and full of error, and the congregation that listens must have also the spirit of discernment and of judgment, and the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophets.  The other men who were gifted in discernment and in prophecy must say and judge whether what that man is saying is the truth of God or not, ah these things, these things, these things.

Now, I have two more general observations, but my time is about gone.  Let me summarize them briefly.  There is a tremendous unity in the house of God, where the Spirit of the Lord is [1 Corinthians 3:16], but it is an inward unity and not an outward unity.  For God has made us greatly to differ, greatly to differ.  There are some things all of us have in common.  We have all been regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God [Titus 3:5].  We have all been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13].  We all are temples of the Holy Spirit that dwells in our bodies [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].  And we all, as much as we will allow, we all are guided and comforted and taught by the Holy Spirit of God [John 3:34].  But when you get beyond that, we greatly differ.  We vastly differ.  Paul says, “To each one severally, these differing gifts are bestowed” [1 Corinthians 12:11].  Then he continues as he discusses it.  “Are all apostles?”  No.  “Are all prophets?”  No.  “Do all work miracles?”  No.  “Do all have the gifts of healing?”  No. “Do all speak with tongues?”  No.  “Do all interpret?”  No.  We greatly differ [1 Corinthians 12:29-30].

The unity we have is not formal and outward.  It is inward and basic and spiritual!  Now Paul illustrates that by the body [1 Corinthians 12:13-26].  There is one body and it has many members [1 Corinthians 12:12].  Got an eye?  Got two.  Got a foot?  Got two.  Got a hand?  Got two.  Got a nose?  Got one.  Got a mouth?  Got one.  Got a tongue?  Got one.  And all of the things in the body, we greatly differ.  Paul uses the illustration of a body [1 Corinthians 12:12-26].  God uses the illustration of an activating principle that lies back of everything.  He called it the logos.  “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.   The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him” [John 1:1-3].  Now John is saying there that in the vast phenomena that we see in nature, differing so greatly, there is beyond it and behind it one great activating unity, which is always spiritual!  And the manifestation of God is ever manifold and diverse and differing.  Yet it is a manifestation of the same spiritual God, the same spiritual entity, the same spiritual being.

For example, when you look out into this world that God has made so differing, lead will sink and wood will float, but they are manifestations of the same spiritual unity.  Now when men look out on this differing world, they will, they will respond according to whether they are spiritually minded or materialistically minded.  The materialistically minded man will look out on this world, and he will say, “The whole thing is a collocation of accidental and fortuitous atoms.  They are fragments broken and disordered.  There we see.  There we see. There we see.”  And the materialistically minded man looks upon a world, and it is disjointed, has no unity, no purpose, and no meaning.

But a spiritually minded man will look out upon this differing world, the phenomenal nature, ten thousand manifestations, and he will reduce everything in this world to less laws and diminishing numbers of laws until finally he will reduce it to one spiritual unity, and that is God; what we have before us is a manifestation of God.   So it is in the church.  We are not all alike, as pebbles and pieces of sand on a beach with no cohesion and no particular relationship, where nothing will grow and even the seaweed dies, but we are united together, not in being a monotonous sameness, but we are united in heart, and in spirit; an inward unity, not an outward unity, a dynamic unity, not a formal unity.  And we are striving toward the same holy end.  So God makes us to differ.  He gives you a gift, and you a gift, and you a gift, and you a gift [1 Corinthians 12:7].

And my last observation so briefly said, “And each one has his vital part.”  The foot can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need thee.”  And the hand can’t say to the eye, “I don’t need thee.”  Yea, he says those members which we think to be less honorable, upon them we bestow more abundant honor.  And our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness, that there should be no schism in the body but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And when one member is blessed and exalted all the rest of us are blessed and exalted, or when one member suffer we all suffer [1 Corinthians 12:21-26].

“For there is one Spirit, and one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism, and one blessed Savior” [Ephesians 4:4-6], and God makes us into one, but He loves diversity and manifold complexities.  So you have a place, and you have a place, and you have a place, and all of God’s people have a place.  And without you and without you, the body is not complete.

Now I intended to close the sermon with an appeal. Oh!  I’m a little finger.  I’m a little finger.  I don’t amount to anything in the kingdom of God, and I don’t have any place, and I think I’ll just cease.  Let me tell you something.  I don’t even know I have that little finger until it’s got a boil on it or until I cut it half in two.  And then I tell you truly, it seems to me I’m all little finger.  That’s all I can think of.  That’s all I can remember, and it throbs, and it hurts, and it aches, and I think, I just believe I’m all little finger, or I’m all little toe, or I’m all anywhere that I hurt.

 We’re that way in the kingdom of God and in the household of faith.  And I wanted to give you some illustrations.  I went to school with men that I thought, “I don’t believe God could use this man for anything in the earth,” and I have been out on the mission field and saw that boy that I went to school with a towering giant for God, given a gift from heaven.

 I heard one of our divisional leaders among our children, I heard her say last week,  “We so desperately need seventeen workers.”  Jesus said, “The fields are white unto the harvest” [John 4:35].  Pray that God will thrust forth leaders, workers into His harvest [Matthew 9:38].  Did Jesus not know?  Did He not understand?  Was He blind?  Was He speaking just for that particular field in some area?  He speaks for the whole world at all times.  There is a need for you and for you and you [Matthew 9:38].  There is a charismatic gift for you [1 Corinthians 12:11].  There is a work that God has intended for you to do that nobody else can do.  I can’t do it.  And the most gifted other people in the church cannot do it.  You, God needs you!

Now may the Holy Spirit bless us as we lay our souls before Him and sit at His blessed feet and see what God has purposed for us [Luke 10:39].  Then may the Lord mightily do it, wondrously do it, gloriously do it in our lives, to the building up of the faith, to the edification of the saints, to the saving of the lost, and to the enrichment of our own lives in the faith.  Now we must sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, you, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10].  Put your life in the fellowship of the church.  Go to work for the Lord.  As God’s Holy Spirit shall speak to your soul, come, on the first note of this first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.