The Gifts of the Spirit
May 15th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:1
5-15-66 10:50 a.m.
On this television and on radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and you are sharing in what is to me the most meaningful series of sermons that I have ever prepared and asked God to help me to deliver. In this long series on the Holy Spirit, we have come this morning to the very heart of this subject. The title of the message is The Gifts of the Holy Spirit. And if the Lord will help us, we shall study and see what God means by these charismatic gifts from heaven. And the Lord avows that they are given to all of us. There is nobody, there is no Christian, no member of the body of Christ who does not possess a charismatic gift. It is something God does for us in His sovereign grace. It is not something you learn. It is not something you be good for to receive. It is not something you merit. It is called a charismatic gift, charis, grace, underserved favor and merit from heaven. Nor can you possess one that you choose. It is bestowed in the elective purpose of God [1 Corinthians 12:11].
In the twelfth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” [1 Corinthians 12:1]. But there is not anything about which we are more ignorant than spiritual gifts. Yet Paul writes concerning them, “I would not have you without knowledge.” I have never heard a man preach on spiritual gifts in my life. Not one time. Not once. Yet, there is not anything more vitally significant or meaningful for us written here in the Bible and to be shared and known in Christian experience than these charismata, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So this Sunday, and next Sunday, and next Sunday, and next Sunday, and however long it shall take, we are going to study, to ask God to help us understand, these charismata, these pneumatika, these gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Now the sermon this morning is somewhat of an introduction. Several of these sermons have been like that, trying to prepare us for what God has to say and the gifts God has to give. Now if you’ll open your Bible with me, you can easily follow this message.
There are four places in the Bible where these charismatic gifts are named, and the first one turn to Romans 12:6-8. Romans 12:6-8. Paul writes “Having then charismata,” having then spiritual gifts, charismatic gifts:
Having then charismata differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the measure of faith;
Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Or he that exorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Here are seven of those charismatic gifts named: prophecy, ministering, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, and showing mercy. These are the seven listed in Romans 12 [Romans 12:6-8].
Now turn to 1 Corinthians 12, and Paul lists nine of them here. First Corinthians 12, verses 8 through 10:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; 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 different kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
[1 Corinthians 12:8-10]
Here are named nine charismatic gifts: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:8-10].
Now turn the page, and in [1 Corinthians 12], verse 28 to verse 30, Paul names again nine charismatic gifts.
First, God 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?” And a ninth one, “Do all interpret?
[1 Corinthians 12:28-30]
Now here are nine charismatic gifts: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues, and interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:28-30].
The fourth place in the Bible where these charismatic gifts are named is in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 11, and here five are named. Ephesians 4:11:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.
Five of them listed in this passage: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers [Ephesians 4:11].
Now this is a listing of the four places in the Bible where the charismatic gifts are named.
In order for us to have a background of how scholarly interpreters of the Bible group these charismatic gifts, I have chosen seven instances which will reflect a typical response of a Bible scholar as he will read of these gifts and as he will group them according to his classification. I have chosen seven in order that you might see how Biblical scholars will look upon these gifts and classify them.
First: here is a scholar who grouped them according to four divisions. First, gifts for the ministry of the gospel, and he named all nine in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Second, gifts for the work of the church, and he listed there those in 1 Corinthians 12:28: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues, and interpretations [1 Corinthians 12:28, 30]. Then his third group was gifts for differing ministries in the church, and he named there those in Romans 12:6-8: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, showing mercy. Then his fourth category was gifts for the building up of the church, the household of faith, and he named there those listed in Ephesians 4:11: prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
Then there was another scholar, and he did one of the most effectively, meaningful groupings that I could think of. The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, which we call the love chapter, we look upon as a paean of love, as a glorious presentation of love. As such, it has no such meaning at all. Paul never wrote it for that at all. The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is a presentation of charismatic gifts. You never heard of that in your life—I never did. Yet, I memorized 1 Corinthians 13 when I was a boy. I’ve heard it preached on endless numbers of times, but I have never heard one sermon in my life that presented the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians as Paul wrote it and intended it. I’ve never heard it referred to. Nor did I ever see it until I entered this study, and in the providence of God as time goes on, I shall preach on the 1 Corinthian letter, the thirteenth chapter, as Paul wrote it and as Paul intended it. It is a discussion of charismatic gifts. Now this scholar divided the gifts according to four categories that he found presented in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. First, emotional gifts like tongues. Second, intellectual gifts like prophecy and mysteries and knowledge. Third, practical gifts like faith that can remove mountains. And fourth, philanthropic and sacrificial gifts as bestowing goods to feed the poor and giving your body to be burned.
Now another scholar divided them into two categories. First, gifts connected with the ministry of the Word: apostles, prophets, discerning of spirits, teaching, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, tongues, interpretation of tongues. And second, gifts connected with practical uses: miracles, healings, ruling, helps, government.
Another scholar divided them into three classifications:
- First, gifts of revelation:
- the word of wisdom, supernatural revelation of divine purpose.
- Second, word of knowledge, supernatural revelation of facts in the divine mind.
- Third, discerning of spirits, supernatural insight into the spirit world.
- Then the second category, gifts of power:
- faith, supernatural trust, passive, in God for the miraculous.
- Second, working of miracles, supernatural intervention active in the ordered course of nature.
- And third, healing, supernatural power to heal diseases.
- The third category, gifts of inspiration:
- prophecy, supernatural utterance in a known tongue,
- tongues, supernatural utterance in an unknown tongue,
- Third, interpretation of tongues, supernatural showing forth of the meaning of other tongues.
Then another scholar divided them into two. One, basic ministries, gifts for edification, like prophecy, teaching, and so forth, and second, sign gifts for authentification, like miracles, and tongues, and healings.
Then another scholar divided them into two classifications, and l like this though I don’t think it is altogether biblical. And the reason I don’t think it’s altogether biblical: a charismatic gift is not a natural talent. An infidel, an unbeliever, a blasphemer can have unusual talents, but a charismatic gift is something God bestows upon a believer in His sovereign grace and enables him to do a work for God otherwise, that otherwise he would not be capable of doing. But this author, this scholar, divided them into two categories, and it’s interesting, and I like it. One; natural gifts, capacities originally found in human nature, the endowments we have, that we were born with, that are congenital, that are elevated and enlarged by the gifts of the Spirit; such as teaching, the capacity to impart knowledge; healing, the physician’s art; helps, deacons, church officers, others; government, natural leadership—there are some pastors that are born leaders, Simon Peter was—now supernatural gifts such as miracles, and tongues, and prophecy.
Now the last, the seventh one that I have chosen, and these are reflecting now all uncounted scholars. The seventh one divided the charismatic gifts into two categories: permanent, those that endure throughout this age of grace; and then temporary gifts, those that characterize that first primeval church. Now I’m just, I’m not saying that I would follow this, I just want you to see how scholarly men reading this Bible will respond in their attitude toward these gifts. Now these are the eleven permanent gifts that this scholar names for the building up of the body and for the edification of the household of faith. Now he names first apostles [1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11]. Now that’s the reason why it takes time to do this. You could not name as a permanent gift first apostles when they numbered but twelve, and when they died they had no successors, yet he names apostles here. Well, the reason for that is there are two meanings of that Greek word apostolos. The Greek word apostolos, our “apostle,” was a common ordinary household Greek word meaning somebody sent. You’d say a missionary. So the word has a technical, limited meaning, and it has a general meaning. In a technical meaning, an apostle was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Then in a general meaning, it is somebody who was sent, a missionary from the courts of heaven. Well, that’s what he means here when he lists as a permanent gift, apostles [1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11]. Then he follows them after eleven, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, helps, administrations, exhortations, giving, mercy, and faith [Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11]. Then he names five temporary gifts; five gifts that he thinks, this author thought, charactizered that first church when it needed to be authenticated, but that passed in the passing of that primeval church. Then he names five of them: miracles, healings, tongues, interpretations of tongues, and discerning of spirits [1 Corinthians 12:10, 28].
Now that’s just a little introduction of the attitude of men as they name these categories.
I might point out to you that Paul names in those four groups, Paul names thirty. There are seven in Romans [Romans 12:6-8], there are nine in his first listing in twelfth Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:8-10], there are nine in his second listing in Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:28, 30], and there are five in Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11]. Seven, nine, nine, and five; there are thirty that he names. Then as I wrote them down, I checked off those that were repetitious—that he named, then he named, then he named—and I found eleven of them. So there are nineteen separate charismatic gifts that Paul names here in Romans, Corinthians, and in Ephesians.
Now next Sunday, I shall take a group of these charismatic gifts. My grouping will be the basic ministries of the Word. That will be next Sunday. I shall take a group of them, and then I shall take another group and then another group, and then I am going to prepare, I am preparing separate sermons on the workings of miracles, and on the gifts of healing, and on the speaking in tongues. But I shall speak of each one of these charismatic gifts if God will help me. And I’m not doing it as an antiquarian, as though we were curiously looking at a specimen that we discovered two thousand years ago. I am doing this with the remembrance and the deepest persuasion that God lives now, that He always has shown Himself in the marvelous and the wondrous and the miraculous, and that “God is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8]; that there is no changing in Him, and these charismatic gifts are purposive in God’s election for us. They are grace gifts, and our measure of faith is to receive them, and to exercise them, and to be edified and to be strengthened by them.
So may God open our souls heavenward to receive from His gracious hands what the Lord hath elected and intended for us. Why should we live miserably, and miserly, and poverty stricken, and weak and anemic when we can be strong in our Lord? “Brethren,” said the apostle, “I would not have you ignorant of pnuematika, of charismata” [1 Corinthians 12:1]. But there is not anything about which we are more ignorant. Consequently, the church is weak when God meant it to be strong, and we are sterile and helpless when God meant us to be powerful and overcoming. The Lord hath intended some gracious good thing for us. Master, we hold our hands upward; fill them! Master, the windows of our souls are open heavenward; may God give us visions, and pour out blessings upon our souls. Do something, Lord, in our day and in our generation, and let our eyes behold it. Do it Lord, do it.
Now I have a few observations. And I found out at this early service, even though Lee Roy Till increasingly gives me this service earlier and earlier, I do believe he’s going to get to where he gives it to me about three minutes after we start. I just never saw the like. And yet when I have almost an hour, I get to the middle of my sermon and that clock is just about gone to where the television goes off, and the radio goes off, and then everybody that I see down the street says, “What in the world is the matter with you? Why don’t you get that sermon done before you go off the television? Because I just get right in the middle hanging over the cliff by a shoestring, and I have no idea what happened to the hero!” Well, I struggle. There is no time that I preach here that I don’t intend to finish before it goes off of the air, and yet there is no time yet that I have ever finished before it went off of the air.
Now I have some observations to make about these charismatic gifts. The first one is this. We are not to expect that these who receive these heavenly endowments are therein and thereby faultless, above reproach, less than human. Inspiration is one thing. Infallibility is another thing. The man who receives a charismatic gift is not an automaton like a little doll on a string. He is still himself. He has the drag of his old human nature. He is still made out of clay. He is a mortal man. And you will find as you study this Bible, you will find that the church that was the richest in these pneumatika, these endowments from heaven, was the church that was filled with grossest error and disorder. The people were swept away with self-esteem, and egotism, and vain ambition, and a thousand other discrediting characteristics. So, my first observation; we are not to think that because God gives His people charismatic endowments that they are thereby any less human or much less feeble or imperfect.
That is the first lesson that I had to learn in the ministry as a student because, as I grew up in the church and I was taught to reverence my teachers, I was taught to look upon these great men of the pulpit as being veritable giants of sanctity and holiness. And as I began to study for the ministry, as a student when I was seventeen years old, I came to see that some of the grossest weaknesses in human frailty, I found in our greatest theological teachers. And as time went on, I came to realize that these great men of the faith had feet of clay, some of them personally ambitious beyond any politician who ever strived for high office, some of them greedy, some of them vain, some of them envious and jealous beyond degree, afflicted with a thousand of the grossest sins of the spirit.
And when I was a youngster and found these things in the men of God who were exalted and famed, it shook me to my soul’s depths. But I learned to get my eyes off of the man and to keep my eyes on the Lord. For however gifted the man, whatever charismatic endowment God may have bestowed upon him, he is still made out of dust [Genesis 2:7]. He has his old human nature within. He is frail and feeble in this house of clay [Isaiah 64:8].
Inspiration is not infallibility, and a possession of a charisma is not to be faultless. As Paul avows, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” [2 Corinthians 4:7]. The church is still filled with people who are all too human. Consequently, as you read of the exercise of these charismatic gifts in the New Testament, consequently, you will find that the church fell into some gross excesses, awful tangents, listening to error, and prophets standing up to speak and they were not delivering the truth of the Word of God.
That was so true in the churches of the New Testament that in 1 Thessalonians 5:20 Paul found it necessary to write to the church at Thessalonica, “Despise not prophesyings.” Why, I cannot imagine such an injunction and admonition. First, apostles: think of the charismatic gift of apostleship, to have been chosen, Peter and John and James and Matthew. First, apostles; second, prophets. In the charismatic order, second is prophets [1 Corinthians 12:28]. Think of what it would have meant to belong to a church that had a prophet, much less one that had many, such as the church in Corinth. Yet, so gross were the excesses of those who receive these charismata from heaven that the church at Thessalonica said, “No more of that. No more of that. We have heard the last prophet stand up to prophesy. Let him keep silent. It is a despicable thing that we listen to”; ah, yet these are heavenly endowments, not to be despised [1 Thessalonians 5:20]. Their excesses bring them into terrible disrepute. And certainly how true is that in the deliverance of the prophet; so much so that Paul wrote there is a charisma, a gift called discerning of spirits [1 Corinthians 12:10]. So much so that John wrote, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the land” [1 John 4:1]. And so much so that Paul wrote in the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote, he said:
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.
And if any thing be revealed to the man—
the prophet sitting over there—
Then let these that are speaking hold their peace. For ye may all prophesy that you all may hear and all may be comforted. For the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
Isn’t that not an astonishing thing?
For the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.
[1 Corinthians 14:29-32]
Here is a man standing up delivering God’s message, but the message that he delivered is to be judged by those who listen to him. And some in the congregation have the spirit of discernment [1 Corinthians 12:10], and others who have the spirit of prophecy [1 Corinthians 12:10], see and hear error and misjudgment and gross heresy in what this man is delivering from God. That’s one charismatic gift that I could pray for from heaven upon God’s congregations today. How many, how many, how multitudinously many are these men who stand in their robes of the clergy and behind sacred desks and in world-famed pulpits, and they deny the very fundamentals of the faith! Some of them even deny the reality and the existence of God Himself. Yet he is a spokesman for God. He is a propheteō, he is a forth-speaker for the Lord from heaven. The discerning of spirits [1 Corinthians 12:10], being able to judge: “That is not the Word of God, that is not a deliverance from heaven, that is false, that is error!” How the churches need these charismatic gifts today. We must hasten.
I have just spoken my first observation; the charismatic gift does not carry with it faultlessness or infallibility. We are still a human people and a human church filled with all of the errors and foibles and weaknesses of our humanity. Therefore, God must give us another charismatic gift; that of discernment [1 Corinthians 12:10], and that of judgment to know what is true and what God hath said, really the true revelation from heaven [Prophecy] [1 Corinthians 12:10].
Now I have a second observation, and my second observation is this: there is a unity in the true church of Jesus, but it is an inward unity. It is a spiritual inwardness. It is not an outward unity. Never! There are some things that all of us share in common in the household of faith, all of us. We all have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, all of us [Titus 3:5]. If we’re saved, we’ve been born again on the inside of our souls by the Spirit of God [John 3:3-8]. All of us have been regenerated, all of us.
Second: all of us have been baptized into the body of Christ, all of us [1 Corinthians 12:13]. We’ve all been made members and partakers of His body.
Third: the house of our tabernacle is the temple of His dwelling place. All of us are temples of the Holy Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], as the church itself is a household in which God’s Holy Spirit dwells [1 Corinthians 3:16].
And fourth: insofar as we will let Him, the Holy Spirit to every child of God is a comforter and a guide and a revealer and a director and an encourager and a strengthener [John 3:34]. These things we have in common. But beyond these things, we differ so vastly and so greatly, and God is pleased to have it so. For our unity is not a monotonous sameness among us. Our unity is always inward, striving toward the same holy end, serving the same Lord God. “One God, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Holy Spirit” [Ephesians 4:4-6]. One church, one great body being built up, added to, until the end of the age. But in that body, all the members how severally diverse, and that is much discussed and mentioned and emphasized in the Word of God.
Paul will use the figure in this twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul will use the figure of a human frame, a human body, and he discusses it at great length. There is one Spirit, and by one Spirit have we all been saved and baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. But, oh! how we differ from each other in that body; some of us as an eye, some of us as an ear, some of us as a nose, some of us as a tongue, some of us as a mouth, some of us as a hand, some of us as a foot, and it takes all of these several and diverse members to make up the one body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:14-20]. Our unity is in Him, not that we are like one another.
Now there is another illustration of that spoken of by the apostle John. He used the word logos, the activating principle that lies back of the whole phenomena of this universe. “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God. All things were made by Him” [John 1:1-3]. Think of the differing phenomena that you find in this world: the world of minerals, the world of astronomy, the world of vegetation, the world of flesh, the world of humanity. Everywhere you look there is diversity and complexity, a multiform manifestation! God does that! God manifests Himself in diversity and in complexity, but it is all of the same inward Spirit and from the same great God. And sometimes God will manifest Himself in opposites. For example, lead will sink and water will float, but they are both manifestations of the same law and the same principle.
Now, a materialistically minded man will look upon the gorgeous phenomena of this diversity found in life and in nature, and to him it has no meaning whatsoever. They are broken, disordered fragments coming from nowhere, going to nowhere and having no meaning whatsoever. And this materialist looks upon the glorious phenomena of this creation and finds nothing in it at all but a fortuitous concourse, an accidental collocation of atoms. But a spiritually minded man will look upon this vastly diversified world around him, and he begins, as he reflects and studies, to see laws and laws and laws. And he begins to see how things correlate and interrelate. And then pretty soon as he studies, he reduces the number of his laws, and the number of his laws, and the number of his laws, until finally he reduces everything to one great inward principle; the Spirit of the living God that lies back of the whole creation. Astronomy, chemistry, anatomy, life, death, the world here, the world to come; everything in the fullness and the plenitude, the plerōma of God!
That’s the way the Lord has made His church, just like you see the hand of God in all of His creation. There is one God, and one Lord, and one baptism, and one Spirit [Ephesians 4:5-6], and one great living principle back of it all! But how diverse, how multifariously and multitudinously different does God endow His people. We are alike, not in the sense of pebbles on a beach—one grain of sand like the other grain of sand with no cohesion whatsoever, on which dead shore nothing will grow and even the seaweed dies. But we are alive and vibrant, and you have a gift from God, and you have a gift from God, and you have a charisma from God [1 Corinthians 12:7], and you have charismata from God, and all are needed, and vitally so, if the body is to be strong and sound and glorify the Maker [Ephesians 4:11-12].
The third observation I have to make, and I’ll make it in just a second: and all are equally needed. Paul discusses that at such great length. And the hand can’t say to the foot, “I don’t need thee.” And the foot can’t say to the eye, “And I don’t need thee.” But these members of the body which seem to be the more feeble are the more necessary. And those members of our body which are less comely, upon them we bestow them abundant honor that they might be more comely, that the body might have honor. And if one member suffers, we all suffer [1 Corinthians 12:21-26].
I don’t even know I have a little toe, I don’t ever think about that little toe, I don’t ever, I don’t ever go looking at that little toe. I just don’t think about that little toe. But you let something get wrong with that little toe, and I’m all little toe. I’m little toe in the morning. And I’m all little toe in the daytime, and I’m all little toe at night, and all I can think about is that little toe aching and a-throbbing down there, and yet I don’t even know he’d down there on my foot. But if anything gets wrong with him, my head suffers and my everything suffers. That’s the way it is, Paul says, in the household of faith, There are no feeble and worthless members, but they all are to be honored, and each one has a worthy part. And if one is honored, all of them are honored and rejoice with it [1 Corinthians 12:26].
So the Lord bless us as we begin next Sunday morning, talking about, preaching about, learning about these charismata that the Lord bestows upon His congregation. And if the Spirit of God is here, and if the Lord owns us as His people, each member of this church has a charisma, a heavenly endowment, a gift from God, and to receive it in gratitude and to dedicate it to the uses of our Lord is our highest usefulness and our highest calling in our Lord. Oh, open our hearts, Master, that we may understand and our souls, Lord, that we may receive and be filled.
Now Brother Till, let’s sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, somebody you, give himself to the blessed Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10]. “Today, I make known before men and angels my acceptance of Christ as my Savior.” A family you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church; a couple you, or one somebody, while we sing this song and while we make appeal, come now, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza come, while we stand and sing together.