God's Power in Us
1 Corinthians 12
There is power in the name of Jesus. This power saves us. The world lies in the power of the evil one. Wars, death, slavery, disease, violence, hatred, sexual immorality and a long list of other evils attest to this. The power of the name of Jesus has defeated evil. When Jesus returns, the power of the evil one over this world will end and sin and death will be done away.
However, until He returns, the power of Jesus works in us individually and as a Church to free us from the power of the evil one. He also breaks the power of sin in our lives. The ministry Jesus began in Galilee some 2015 years ago, continues in and through us to this very day.
This is an exciting truth. Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)[i] And, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
This power of the Holy Spirit is at work in us today. It is at work to break the power of sin in the lives of people, set captives free and bring good news to a lost and dying world.
1 Corinthians 12 explains how this works. It explains the practical working of the Holy Spirit. In short, this work of the Holy Spirit is accomplished by the Holy Spirit giving gifts, unifying us as a Body and blessing us with a diversity of members.
Let’s consider each of these in turn.
First, the Holy Spirit gives gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
It is important to understand that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God and the third member of the Trinity. He is one with the Father and the Son. There is only one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4 starts out with this truth by saying, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”
God does not give one spirit to one person and another spirit to another person. God gives His Spirit to believers in Christ. This one Spirit gives a variety of gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:7 makes it clear that the gifts are given so that we can help each other. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”
This is important. The Spirit takes the things of God and makes them clear to us. A person cannot say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Spirit. The Spirit glorifies Christ in all He does. Therefore, the gifts are all about making the things of God clear, glorifying Christ and building up His Body. They are practical and needed. Knowledge, healing, signs, languages and such are all things that are necessary for our work as a Church.
As we go into all the world with the Gospel, making disciples, all the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are essential. The work cannot and will not happen without these gifts. These gifts are the power of God working in us and through us.
It is important to note two things about these gifts. First, it is God’s one and only Spirit who gives these gifts. Second, He alone decides which gift each person should have. These two truths are repeated in the early verses of 1 Corinthians 12 because of their importance.
As we continue and consider how the Spirit unifies us as a Body, the truth that the Spirit alone decides which gift each person should have will be re-emphasized and explained.
The Spirit is the power of God working in us and through us to break the power of sin, set captives free and bring good news to a lost and dying world. We see in 1 Corinthians 12 verses 4-11 that He does this by giving each person a gift for the common good. This is explained more thoroughly in verses 12 and following with the analogy of a body.
1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
There is one Body. It is called, “the Body of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:13 is important to our understanding of this truth. It says, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”
“We have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit.”
Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) He explained that this rebirth is the work of the Spirit of God. Now, from 1 Corinthians 12:13 we understand that when the Holy Spirit “rebirths” us, He also baptizes us into (or unifies us with) the Body of Christ.
This all takes place when we “confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. (Romans 10:9)
It is at this time also that God bestows a gift on us.
The truth communicated here is best left in the words of the text:
14Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
I trust you gather from this that if you belong to Christ, then you are an important part of the Body of Christ. God in His infinite wisdom has decided to give you a gift that is a blessing to the rest of us.
However, do not expect the rest of us to see things the way you do. Hands and feet do not see the world from the same perspective, but both have valid perspectives.
Each one with his or her individual gifts fit together to make the Body. 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 show how these gifts fit together.
Verse 28 says, “Here are some of the parts.”
This then is not a list of the gifts, but of parts of the Body. As the Body works to break the power of sin, set captives free and bring good news to a lost and dying world, it naturally has parts, offices or functions fit to the task.
The Apostles were those who were directly, in the flesh, trained by Jesus, and given the authority to establish the Church, record the New Testament Scriptures and give testimony to the resurrection. We understand these qualifications from Acts 1:21-22 where the Apostles chose a replacement for Judas, and from Paul’s testimony that he was “untimely born” as an apostle. In this way, he spoke of himself as being the single exception to the rule.
The Church is established and Jesus is the head. We have a continuing need for prophets to speak to us for Him, and teachers to help us learn and grow in our faith.
Miracles and healing are necessary as testimony to the power of God working in and through us. The world can look and see that God is clearly with us. Miracles do happen. They are usually counted as coincidence and/or discounted completely. God does not show His presence by levitating bodies, making people disappear and reappear. God shows His presence in ways consistent with breaking the power of sin, setting captives free and bringing good news to a lost and dying world.
Healing is simply the compassion of Christ for physical suffering. It is the hospitals we build, the prayers we say for the sick and the care we give to the suffering. It is a gift. Sometimes God speeds up nature and heals instantly. However, He always works through the compassion of Christ as displayed in His Body.
Since we are many in number, we need those with gifts in administration, service and those that are good with their hands.
Not all are Apostles. Not all are prophets. Not all are teachers. This should be obvious from the analogy of the Body. These offices are parts of the Body, but they do not define the gifts of the individual. Two different teachers will individually have different gifts according to the Spirit’s will, but both will have the ability to teach.
There is a problem that shows itself at this point.
1 Corinthians deals with it in chapter 12 verse 31 and then the entire 13th chapter.
There is a disagreement among those that study these things over 1 Corinthians 12:31. There are two ways to translate it. I am of the opinion that most of our Bibles do not translate it consistent with the context or with what we just said.
It can and should be translated, “You [only] want the better gifts, but I will show you the best thing to do.” (God’s Word Translation, 1995)
We have a tendency to desire gifts that have more status or recognition.
The answer is to operate out of love.
Just because I stand up in front of people every week does not make me more important than the one who does the cleaning. Our office and function is different as are our gifts, but we are both members of the Body and important to each other.
I believe this is why some still call themselves Apostles.
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
The conclusion is to rejoice in the gift God has given you. Do everything for God’s glory. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Do what thrills your heart. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.