In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul describes the spiritual gifts and how the division of labor was designed within the Church body for the use of these gifts. The Corinthians were a body of believers who were confident in Christ and the promise of His Holy Spirit. However, the Corinthians were beginning to focus too much on the power, signs, and wonders that were demonstrated through the Holy Spirit, rather than the one who gave those gifts.
While the gifts were not a bad thing (as Paul later clarifies), the misguided focus of the Corinthian Church was. The reason for this being that Christ had already addressed the issue of spiritual gifts and displays of power with the Jews, not long before Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
A wicked and morally unfaithful generation craves a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Then He left them and went away. (Matthew 16:4)
The Corinthians began craving the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit more than their craving or desire for a right relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today we see the same thing in many of our cultures. YouTube is filled with videos of supernatural signs and wonders being done at the hands of men all over the world. While Jesus is at work in the world, the problem comes when people try to learn how to do these supernatural signs and wonders by merely following the example of someone they see. People start to think there is some formula or school that can bring about the supernatural powers of Jesus Christ, not knowing that these gifts are called gifts for a reason.
However, when Simon saw that the [Holy] Spirit was imparted through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he brought money and offered it to them, Saying, Grant me also this power and authority, in order that anyone on whom I place my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. But Peter said to him, Destruction overtake your money and you, because you imagined you could obtain the [free] gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is all wrong in God’s sight [it is not straightforward or right or true before God]. So repent of this depravity and wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, this contriving thought and purpose of your heart may be removed and disregarded and forgiven you. (Acts 8:18-22)
No school, book, Facebook post, tweet, or anything you can pay for and do through your own efforts, will grant you the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Satan would like nothing more than to deceive the world into believing that these things could be achieved apart from Christ. We even have our warning in Revelation that signs, wonders, and even healing can be performed by our enemy:
And one of his heads seemed to have a deadly wound. But his death stroke was healed; and the whole earth went after the beast in amazement and admiration. He exerts all the power and right of control of the former beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell upon it to exalt and deify the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed, and to worship him. He performs great signs (startling miracles), even making fire fall from the sky to the earth in men’s sight. (Revelation 13:3,12-13)
Only through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, are we granted the authority to act as His Ambassadors. So Paul clarifies for us the proper importance and purpose for the gifts of the Spirit:
Do all possess extraordinary powers of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love].
God purposefully divided the responsibility of those in the Church so that we would work together as one body but there are some who have gotten confused and desire more than the gifts that have been appointed to them.
For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect). But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded). (1 Corinthians 13:9-10)
When we start desiring the Gifts of the Spirit, over the gift GIVER then we are simply desiring fragments of the power of God that will soon be unnecessary when this world passes away. Healing will not be necessary in Heaven. Knowledge and speaking in tongues, and all the signs used for ministry to draw others to Christ…will not be necessary. When the “complete and perfect comes” …I.E. JESUS…then all the incomplete, and imperfect will vanish away.
That is why Jesus tells us “not to rejoice” that the demons obey us under HIS authority, but rather…that our names are in the book of life. This is also why Paul clarifies that not all members of the body have the same gifts. How can the body hear if the whole body is an eye, or how can the body see if the whole body is an ear? So rather than desiring the gifts that God has appointed to someone else, Christians should be seeking out how best to use their gift in order to build up the body of Christ. This is why God appointed some to each of the gifts rather than giving them all to one person so that no man may boast….and so that no one would mistake a mere man as being equal to Jesus.
Hands can’t feed the mouth if there are no elbows to get them there. All parts of the body are necessary for building up the kingdom of God.
Desire God. Desire Love. Desire His Word. Let Him direct your gifts. Rejoice that your name is in the book of life.