Spiritual Gifts: Use 'em or Lose 'em (Sermon Notes)

Last Sunday I preached on Spiritual Gifts as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12.  Here are some of my notes.  Audio of the message can be found on this page, dated January 23, 2011.

I don't like to put labels on things. I'm not a big fan of “-isms” because I don't think that everything can be neatly tucked in a box and filed away as being one thing. So while I don't really like the idea of Pentecostalism, there is little doubt that (I) share at least some of the ideals of what Pentecostalism is, especially a belief that we have a direct, personal experience of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Now, part of what we consider to be the baptism of the Holy Spirt, what being “spirit-filled” means, what being Pentecostal means, is that God fills us with the power of the Holy Spirit, just like He did the twelve on Pentecost.

As soon as the twelve were filled with the Spirit, then began miracles, signs and wonders. People were healed, prophecies were spoken, miracles were performed. They, with Paul, wrote letters with timeless wisdom in them. John wrote with great detail about the end of days. Demons were cast out, people raised from the dead.

So where are we today? Why aren't these things happening all the time in the church? I mean, at the frequency that they happened in the first years of the church, they should be commonplace today. And I'm not saying they don't happen, or that they don't happen here. But something is missing...

Who can tell me (no peeking) what James 4:2 says?

It's a long verse, actually. But the last sentence in it says “You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Are we really asking? Do we seek after the power of the Holy Spirt? Do we really seek after miracles, signs and wonders?

There are three lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, plus one in the Old Testament. Did you know that? Four separate lists of spiritual gifts. Three of them were written by Paul. He wrote three different lists of spiritual gifts. Either he was losing his memory, or he was trying to tell us that the Holy Spirit has a LOT of gifts for us.

You can takes some notes. There's a list in Ephesians 4, which talks about administrative categories in the church. There's a list in Romans 12 which talks more about callings on members of the body.

I want to focus on 1 Corinthians 12. So let's look at it. (verses 4-7)

Before we go anywhere, let's understand that God gave us the GIFT of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These are GIFTS of the Holy Spirit; abilities that help us build up the body. We'll get back to that.

Let's get to this list (verses 8-11)

Clarify the list.

  • Knowledge – supernatural knowledge of facts that there is no natural way for you to know, from one to benefit another
  • Wisdom – a supernatural understanding of God's plan, a God-given insight
  • Faith. - this is not human faith. This is “great faith,” not attainable by human effort.
  • Healing – there is a difference between having faith that one will be healed, and understanding the source of healing, which is God. This always benefits another. Paul asked for healing for himself and was denied, because his faith did not require it.
  • Miracles – supernatural manifestations that are not naturally possible.
  • Having a supernatural connection to the Word of God. Prophecy is different from the Word of Knowledge in that it benefits the church a whole or a large group of believers. Prophecy is not fortune telling. (most abused gift)
  • Discernment of Spirits – understanding from what spirit the impulses of the soul emanate.
  • Speaking in tongues – releasing one's spirit to commune with the Holy Spirit, such that there are utterances of no earthly language. In this context, it is meant for the church, not the individual.
  • Interpretation of tongues. If God gives a message in tongues for the church, then He will provide the interpretation. 1 Cor 14 says that if a message is given in tongues, the church should pray for an interpretation.



Paul uses the word “charismata” to describe these – same word he uses in Romans and Ephesians and other places. It's literally means “grace gift.” So we know that these charismatic gifts are not something we deserve, they are not rewards, they are not something we earn like merit badges.

Being gifts, we don't get to pick them. (sometimes we pick our own gifts, but not this time) We don't get to decide what they are. The bible tells in verse 11 that the Spirit distributes the gifts to each one AS HE WILLS.



In verse 7, Paul says “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to EACH ONE...”

Paul actually uses the word heskatos, which means each or every one, or man, or woman. It basically means “everybody.”

So, everybody has at least one. Probably no one has them all, at least not in equal measure. But you have one. Maybe more than one.

Now, maybe you haven't found it yet. Maybe it's there, waiting to be discovered. Maybe you're afraid of it. Maybe you don't want it to be discovered. Maybe you don't believe it.




It's really important to remember that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for us. They are for the building up of the body. The gifts a man or woman receives is never for themselves. There's never any reason to boast in your gifts, because you didn't earn them, but if you seek after a gift for your own sake, I can guarantee you won't get it. James 4:3 says “You ask and you do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Miracles, signs and wonders are for them. For those who are seeking, for those who are weak in faith, for those who need to know that God has put a hand on their lives.

Think about it. Think about all the times someone was healed, or there was a miracle in the New Testament, someone else always benefited or came to faith.
(Belize – they knew God was there)




In 1 Cor 12, Paul gives us a detailed list of spiritual gifts and in 1 Cor 14, he goes through a whole set of instructions on how to use them in the church. In the middle of that, chapter 13 is this long monologue on love. At first look it seems not to fit, like he dropped the letter and shuffled the pages. But what he's really saying is that if we are not using the gifts out of our love for one another, they are wasted.

If I speak with the tongues of men and angels...

If I have the gift of prophecy....

So he starts with the gifts he just mentioned, and then explains they must be used in love.



There is no reason that we should not expect to see miracles, signs and wonders in the church. But I keep coming back to James 4:2 – “you do not have because you do not ask.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time you asked for one of these gift. I'm not talking about asking for a healing for yourself, or to know what God's will was for you in a certain situation. I'm talking about asking the Holy Spirit for a manifestation of His power, through you, for no other reason than to serve someone else.

If it wasn't today, then it's been too long.  


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