Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
7 January 2018 11 AM
Rev Hans Vaatstra
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-3
The Spirit Filled Christian
1 Corinthians 12:1-3
What is a spirit filled Christian? The so called charismatic movement which became popular from the 70’s for several decades has put into many people’s minds the idea that a spiritual person is someone who displays extra ordinary spiritual gifts such as healing or speaking in tongues or the idea that you must have an highly charged experience of one kind or another to be truly converted. If you don’t get any of those then somehow you are missing out!
This phenomenon is not new. A popular young Scottish Presbyterian minister became controversial in his day for allowing the practice of tongues speaking by a number of specially gifted people in the congregation in the worship service. According to biographer Arnold Dallimore, these people were known as “the gifted ones” who all sat together in a prominent pew during church services.
But it is not just the so called charismatic movement which has led to such distinctions between Christians in people’s minds. Other cults and Sects promote their distinctive theologies and exclusivism claiming spiritual superiority.
Others say that unless you have received believer’s baptism then you haven’t really been baptised properly and you are also not really complete spiritually. This has caused some people in our own churches to doubt their own baptism; to feel spiritually inadequate because they regard their own covenant baptism as being inferior or worthless as if the promise of God to parents and their children means nothing.
Well our text helps clear up any possible misunderstanding about the question what is a spirit-filled Christian.
The theme of the text is that Paul reveals the true nature of what it means to be spiritual first by warning against error wrt. spiritual gifts and secondly by providing a basic definition of the Spirit filled Christian.
Paul wrote, “Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren I do not want you to be unaware (or ignorant). Ignorant of what? Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to be ignorant of the proper use of spiritual gifts for the following reasons which we see in the context of the passage as well as the text.
So putting it all together it becomes apparent that the Corinthians took personal pride in their strengths and gifts as though they were somehow superior. Chapter 4:4 reveals Paul’s distress about this where he wrote rather sarcastically it seems, “Already you have become rich , you have become kings without us. How I wish you had become kings that we also might reign with you.” Paul then went on to write that he and his fellow apostles had become as a spectacle to the world, fools, weak men condemned to death, without honour and the scum of the earth. But they, the Corinthians were so prudent strong and distinguished; super apostles even,… according to his 2nd letter to the Corinthians.
So the sin of pride lay behind many of the pastoral problems Paul had to deal with in the Corinthian church.
Some thought they were above criticism, pretending to have it all together, super spiritual and consequently the church started to suffer from division. One followed Paul, another Apollos and other Cephas. There were also those who elevated certain gifts such as tongues speaking and knowledge but were lacking in the most important spiritual virtue which is love. Hence the strong emphasis on the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
So in chapter 12:1 Paul wrote, ”I do not want you to be unaware brothers concerning the spiritual gifts.” Paul was concerned that some of the Corinthians Christians were displaying their strengths and gifts as badges of superiority rather than using their gifts for the benefit of others.
As we look at the list of spiritual gifts further down in chapter 12 and the fact that Paul uses the body as an analogy of the church then it becomes obvious that the gifts are given to benefit the whole body and honour the head of the body who is Jesus Christ.
If we belong to Jesus then we are loved by God and are members of his church here in ……………….. then we also have spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. The purpose of these gifts is to build up our church. If we allow our gift to remain dormant or think of ourselves as superior to others or have a low view of the church then that is contrary to the Holy Spirit’s work, then we may be grieving or quenching the Spirit’s work in our lives and need to repent from that.
These has their origin about 300BC when Alexander the Great made conquests in the far east. Alexander brought back with him from these lands new teachings and facilitated the syncretism of Eastern religion with Roman and Greek polytheism and the idea that these so-called deities could communicate with their devotees personally through mystic rites, hence the name “mystic religions”.
But the reality was that these were all just dumb idols. Paul was warning the new Christians at Corinth not to confuse their former mysticism when they were being led astray to worship dumb idols, with true Christian spirituality.
A contemporary example of similar confusion can be seen in certain elements of the modern so called charismatic movement such as the Toronto Blessing popular in the early nineties. It haqs been well documented that many who were drawn into that movement and their worship services would lose control of their emotions and senses , laugh uncontrollably, bark or fall over backwards among other so-called individual spiritual experiences.
But what comes from God? Uncontrolled disturbing behaviour? Ecstatic experiences to gawk at but which benefit no-one? Paul warns against being led astray like that here in 1 Corinthians 12. This is not true Christian spirituality.
Further on in verse 3 Paul wrote “no one speaking by the Spirit says Jesus is accursed.” Who would say that? Well we know that the leaders of the Jews hung Jesus on the cross hoping that the divine curse written in Deuteronomy 21:23 would annihilate Jesus. Of course instead of that happening, Jesus death on the cross became God’s power of salvation for all who believe. Nevertheless the unbelieving Jews continued to curse Christ to their own detriment.
Furthermore with the advent of Christianity undermining the pagan way of life its quite likely that those still under the influence of demonic pagan cults would curse Christ because Christianity had become such a powerful agent for change.
Hence Pauls’ statement no-one speaking by the Spirit of God can say Jesus is accursed. Paul wanted it to be clear in the Corinthians Christians minds that Spirit of God is committed to glorifying Christ and proclaiming Jesus as Lord and was far, far removed from the paganism and the so-called mystery religions of their former life.
Similarly the kind of individual spirituality where people today claim all kinds of personally spiritual experiences which may seem attractive but are in reality quests for personal fulfilment are far removed from the life of faith the Holy Spirit works in us.
The Lord ship of Christ in a believer is demonstrated by the use of spiritual gifts to glorify Christ and build up the body of Christ and the chief of these gifts is love.
Paul calls these gifts spiritual with the Greek word for spiritual being pneumatikos. He joins the two words together to make the point very clearly that all Christians are spiritually gifted and that there is no separate category of those who are more spiritually gifted than others in the body of Christ but that each one has one of more different gifts.
Of course we know that not every church-goer necessarily belongs to Christ or has the Holy Spirit. For example in 1 John 2:9 “the one who says he is in the light yet hates his brother is in the darkness.” A “factious man” who divides the church is not spiritual but perverted and sinful according to Paul in Titus 3:11. In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul identified Hymeneus and Alexander, men who were in the church at Ephesus but who rejected the faith and seared their consciences. On 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul warned against those who preach a different gospel, who have a different spirit, who practice deceit, who are not servants of Christ and who were opposing the apostle’s work and upsetting the church.
When it comes to identifying those who have genuine spiritual gifts there can be no misunderstanding. It’s there is verse 3. They are those who say in word and deed “Jesus is Lord.” And Paul wrote no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. The person who confesses Jesus as Lord is filled with the Holy Spirit
Of course there is also a qualification to that, one which is made by the Lord Jesus himself. Some people may call Jesus ‘Lord’ and even perform valuable tasks in his name. But if they are not filled with the Holy Spirit and don’t want to do the Father’s will Jesus dismisses them by saying, “I never knew you away from me you evil doers.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
On the other hand Jesus recognised those who are truly his; those who are led by the Holy Spirit, as those who, a) acknowledge his divinity as the second person of the Trinity and (b) who obediently bow to His authority and do his will. Last week we saw that in the question Jesus asked “who is my brother sister and mother? (and the answer)The one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Now it may sound simple to say “Jesus is Lord” but in practice, to live the confession; that is humanly impossible. You and I can’t do it in our own strength. There are a multitude of hostile forces and entities all around us in the world today (as there were in Paul’s day) enticing us away from that true confession.
For example there is the relativistic humanist who advocates situational ethics and the so-called New Morality. Homosexuality is given political sanction, we are inclined to do what seems good and loving according to the voice of the people rather than the word of God. Then there is the so called friend who wants you to join him or her doing something other than worship on Lord’s day saying things like, “don’t be so extreme you don’t need to go to church every week”. This is having a devastating effect on the churches because few nowadays hold to Lord’s Day observance according to the 4th commandment. There are also those who call themselves Christians but who say, “you don’t need to be a member of any church at all. You can be a Christian without going to church or without submitting to your elders!”
Furthermore those who are hostile to Christ and his church hate words like ‘obedience’ and ‘submission’ and especially in the context of marriage, family and the church. For them the idea that wives submit to their husbands is thought to be draconian to say the least. That children should obey their parents is also anathema to those who are hostile to Christ. Television programs and advertisements encourage rampant materialism, immodesty and immorality. Watch enough TV and you begin to believe it and become worldly and desensitised to sin.
In all of these often very subtle ways the world is hostile to Christ and his church and the point is that no-one can maintain a commitment to Jesus as Lord and stick to it without the help of the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul says “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
The spiritually gifted man, woman and child honours Christ as Lord in both word and deed because it is the chief desire of the Holy Spirit to Glorify Jesus Christ (John 16:14).
Now that personal commitment to Christ as Saviour and Lord takes expression in the life of the local church which is the body of Christ for us here on earth.
Therefore to confess Jesus as Lord means to love the body of Christ, in other words to love your brothers and sisters in the church God has placed you in. To confess Jesus as Lord is to use your spiritual gifts whatever they are to help build up your church. To confess Jesus as Lord means to obey Christ’s commands which are the commandments of God to put God’s will first, keep the Lord’s day, obey and honour our parents, love rather than hate and kill, protect rather rob a person of their purity, give rather than steal, speak the truth in love and be content with God’s gracious gifts and provision.
The conduct of the Spirit filled Christian is humble rather than proud, seeks the well-being of others rather than one’s own. He or she confesses Jesus as Saviour and as Lord in word and deed. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; a work which glorifies the Lord.
So we’ve been given by the Lord in these three verses a definition of true Christians spirituality, it is not proud or in any way divisive, it isn’t seen in ecstatic spiritual experiences but is seen primarily in the confession of word and deed that Jesus is Lord and then in using ones gifts humbly and joyfully in the service of the church which is the body of Christ. Amen