Christians around the world often face conflict within the local church. In this message on 1 Corinthians 12:1–11, David Platt reminds us that any conflict in the church is always due to deficiencies in us, never deficiencies in Jesus. When we encounter conflict in the church, we should let it drive us to deeper love for Jesus as we recognize that he alone is perfect.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does—let me invite you to open with me to 1 Corinthians 12. As you’re turning,
I want you to hear Romans 12:1–11. Basically the context here is that there was division in the church in Corinth concerning spiritual gifts. We saw last week that it was the Lord’s Supper, but spiritual gifts were also causing division. People were saying, “This gift is better than others, therefore I’m spiritually superior to you because I have this gift.” Specifically these were gifts of prophecy and tongues. We’re not going to have time to talk a lot about this today, but will cover prophecy and tongues a few weeks from now.
Reading from 1 Corinthians 12:1–11
So to set the stage today, we’re going to read these words from God:
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Why would God ordain that we would gather in this room right now and hear this word from Him at this time? Not just in our church family, but in the middle of whatever is going on in your life. What is God saying to us? I want to show you four pictures of the church in what we just read that God is speaking over us right now through His Word.
1. We’re a supernatural family.
“Concerning spiritual gifts, brothers…” This is family language. As you read throughout this whole section, the picture is a spiritual family united by the same Spirit. “The same Lord…the same God…to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit…one Spirit…the same Spirit…faith by the same Spirit…by the one Spirit…the same Spirit.” You see it over and over again.
This is what a supernaturally formed family is. The Spirit of God forms a spiritual family called the church in a supernatural way. What a powerful picture. What brings us together is not natural, man-made, contrived means. Spiritual means make the family of God. We’re a supernatural family.
2. We have supernatural faith.
Verses two and three say basically that you were all worshiping other idols, but now you’re saying, “Jesus is Lord.” How did that happen? Only by the Spirit of God. You cannot say, “Jesus is Lord” and mean it if the Spirit of God has not done work in your heart to lead you to say that. That’s so important; we could camp out here.
Suppose I were to ask you, “How do you know, Christian, that you’re going to go to heaven when you die?” If the first words out of your mouth are, “Well, because I did this, I did that or I believed this,” that’s altogether wrong, but you may be in danger of missing the point. The first words out of your mouth should not be, “Because I…” They should be, “Because God…” The only reason that I believe Jesus, that I know Jesus, that I love Jesus, that I have intimacy with Jesus is because Jesus loves me, He pursued me, His Spirit opened my eyes to Who He is and to the truth of the gospel. That’s all by the Spirit of God.
Even when you look in verse one—“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers…”—the range of meanings for the word ‘gifts’ includes not just the gift of utterance, wisdom, prophecy, tongues or whatever; it’s the gift of salvation. We have received salvation. It’s a gift given to us by God, specifically by the Spirit of God. We have a faith that began supernaturally, not naturally. Salvation is not man-made or contrived. It’s supernatural.
3. We each have supernatural gifts.
So we’re a supernatural family. We have supernatural faith. And third, we each have supernatural gifts. That’s the whole point of verses 4–11. Verse seven summarizes it: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit…” Is that not an awesome phrase? The manifestation of the Spirit of God. We’re talking about the Spirit of God.
Picture Genesis 1:3, the first time we see the Spirit in the Scripture, hovering over the waters before the world was even formed. That Spirit has been manifested to each of us. Let this soak in. This is mind-blowing. It will knock you out of your seat if you think about it. The Spirit of God dwells inside you. That’s supernatural gifts from the Spirit dwelling inside each of us. If you’re a teenager or a child and are tempted to tune out, don’t. For everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus, we have the same Spirit.
It’s not like this person who is more mature has this Spirit, but this person who just became a Christian has a different Spirit. I have the same Spirit. You have the same Spirit. “The same Spirit” is what 1 Corinthians 12 says over and over again. The same Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us. It’s an awesome thought.
4. We all have supernatural power.
So we each have supernatural gifts and with that comes spiritual power. Look at the end of verse six: “…it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” The same word—“empowers”—is used in verse 11. God gives us supernatural gifts from His Spirit, with supernatural power to use them to build up others. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m using the term “supernatural” here very intentionally and it is not an overstatement. It actually makes me think about something.
I’m going to show you the shirt my wife and my kids gave me for Father’s Day. It says, “Daddy, you are as incredible as the Hulk. You are as amazing as Spiderman. You’re as mighty as Thor. You’re as smart as Iron Man. You are as honorable as Captain America. You are our super hero.”
I said to them, “Aw, guys, that’s so awesome and kind. I really appreciate this.” Then one of my kids, who will remain nameless, said, “Dad, it’s just sentimental. It’s actually not true.” So it was like he was saying to me, “Let’s be honest, Dad. You’re not stronger than the Hulk. You may like to think you are mightier than Thor, but you’re not. You’re not smarter than Iron Man and Spiderman’s a lot cooler than you are.” So the shirt says all that, but it wasn’t actually true.
That’s not the way Paul is using this language here. I want you to feel this. If you are a follower of Jesus, then put aside imaginary super heroes. You have true supernatural power from God dwelling inside you. The Spirit of God—Who created this planet and the stars and the galaxies—His power resides in you through gifts He has given to you.
Now let’s put all four of these truths together. Make the connection. This is what 1 Corinthians 12 is teaching. God gives you and me supernatural power to use your supernatural gifts—for what purpose? To strengthen others’ supernatural faith in the supernatural family called the church. That is 1 Corinthians 12:1–11. God gives each one of us supernatural power to use these unique supernatural gifts.
Don’t get caught up in the list of gifts here. There are definitely different lists of gifts in the New Testament. The point in the Bible here is that we all have gifts and do you know what they’re for? They’re for the strengthening of one another’s faith.
Let me give you another text. Romans 1:11–12: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you…” Paul wanted to see them to impart a spiritual gift that would make them strong, so that they, “…may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith…” That’s what the gifts are for—mutual encouragement in faith. The gifts are designed to be used in the power of God to strengthen one another’s faith in the supernatural family of God. This means that if you want to experience all God has for you, you need to be in a body, committed to a body, where you are building up others’ faith with the supernatural power inside of you, not using those gifts to tear down others inside the body.
I want to show you this quote from a Bible teacher who has had a huge influence in my life. I’ve preached with him at different conferences and he has invited me to the college he founded to speak. I’m so grateful for how much God has taught me through John MacArthur. He summarized this passage by saying this:
1 Corinthians 12:1–11 Tells Us that Holy Spirit Gives Believers Gifts to Unify the Church
The Holy Spirit gives gifts to believers to express and strengthen the unity they have in the Lord Jesus Christ. But misuse of those gifts shatters unity, divides believers and ruins their testimony before the world.
Is this not exactly what God is saying to us today? God has made us a supernatural family with supernatural faith. He’s given us supernatural gifts with supernatural power to build each other up, not bring each other down. They are to express and strengthen unity, not shattering it, dividing believers and ruining our testimony before the world.
Let me illustrate as we close. My older brother Steve is in town and I want to invite him out here. The only way I could get Steve to agree to do this is if he didn’t have to speak. He doesn’t love being on stage and this was a big step for me to ask of him. If you’ve been around here for very long, you’ve heard me talk about Steve. I grew up as a little feeding scrawny kid; Steve grew up the opposite. We had a football coach who would say, “What did they do, push you away from the trough at home?” That was the kind of language I grew up hearing, implying, “You guys don’t belong together.”
Steve was a star football player on the offensive line and defensive line. Heavyweight state wrestling champion. When he only weighed 225 pounds, he was wrestling guys who were 275-300 pounds. He would just pick them up and throw them down. I work out a lot—more than he does now—and I’m nowhere close to being like Steve.
So growing up, I learned real quickly to not wrestle with Steve. The only thing I had was to run. But every once in a while he’d get his hands on me and it was not good. His power poured out on this little guy was not good. I could be in all kinds of positions. Then, as we grew up, I learned what a blessing it was to have his power working on my behalf. I’ve told the story before about summer basketball camp when I was a freshman. There were seniors there and they were initiating freshmen. This guy came in the dorm room to take me out. He was about to carry me out, put my head in the toilet and flush it. As soon as he turned to take me out of the room, this other senior rounded the corner and said, “No, we can’t take him.” I didn’t know who this second guy was, but I immediately loved this man. He said, “We can’t take him. That’s Platt’s brother.” I remember how the guy who was holding me looked me up and down and said—these are his exact words—“This is not Platt’s brother; this is Platt’s left leg.” I don’t think he meant that as a compliment. But I was pretty proud to be Platt’s left leg. He put me down and walked out.
Then another story: My granddad had given me a jacket that I just loved. I had taken it to school one day and laid it down at the beginning of the day. When I came back at the end of the day, it was gone. Somebody had stolen it. Our dad came in and was talking to the principal about what had happened. I was sitting to the side, pretty distraught. Steve came over to me and said, “David, what happened?” I told him and he said, “Let me take care of this.” I watched Steve walk directly over to the guy in school who was kind of in charge of these sorts of activities. Steve put his arm around him and said, “I just want you to know, my brother’s jacket was stolen. If you don’t have it back to me by tomorrow, then we’ll have a talk.”
So the next day, I was sitting in my first morning class and looking out in the hall. Coming around the corner, I saw Steve and you’ll never guess what he was holding in his hand. My jacket. He handed me my jacket and he said, “David, I just want you to know, no matter what happens to you, your brother always has your back.”
I could tell many other stories about this brother who’s a hero of mine. Okay, one more: I remember living in New Orleans where I was teaching expository preaching at a seminary. Steve and his wife had just had a baby and were living in Atlanta near Mom and Dad. I got a call late one Monday night from Steve, telling me that Dad had just unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. It was such a comfort to know I did not need to walk through that alone. My brother had and has my back. My family had and has my back.
That’s my point. We all face challenges in this world of sin, sorrow and suffering. We all face trials. We face attacks. We face all kinds of things and when you do, isn’t it good to know you have a brother who has your back. You have a sister who has your back. Maybe even better than that, isn’t it good to know you have a picture in other believers of the God Who has your back?