[Here are the sermon notes for Joel's Wednesday night message on Spiritual Gifts.]
Joh 9:1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. Joh 9:2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Joh 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. Joh 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Joh 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. Joh 9:6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, Joh 9:7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. Joh 9:8The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Joh 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. Joh 9:10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? Joh 9:11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Joh 9:12Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. Joh 9:13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. Joh 9:14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Joh 9:15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Joh 9:16Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. Joh 9:17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. Joh 9:18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. Joh 9:19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? Joh 9:20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: Joh 9:21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. Joh 9:22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Joh 9:23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. Joh 9:24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. Joh 9:25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. Joh 9:26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? Joh 9:27He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? Joh 9:28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. Joh 9:29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. Joh 9:30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Joh 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Joh 9:32Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. Joh 9:33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. Joh 9:34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. Joh 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Joh 9:36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? Joh 9:37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. Joh 9:38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. Joh 9:39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. Joh 9:40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Joh 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Isn’t that story hilarious? I love that line, “Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.” But notice how this story of the blind man refutes the very tenets of everything the charismatic movement would tell you today. They would say that in order for you to be healed YOU must have faith. And this is how they explain away those who come to healing revivals but don’t get healed. They’ll say that the problem was YOU. YOU didn’t have enough faith. And yet here, in the story of the blind man, he didn’t even know who healed him until AFTER he was healed. It wasn’t until after he encountered Jesus a second time that he even learned who Jesus was! THEN he believed on Him as the Son of God. This story refutes everything the charismatics teach, because clearly, faith was not a requirement for healing. And yet, you might remember the story in Matt 17:14-21, the boy who was so badly vexed by a devil that he would oftentimes fall into fire and water. The disciples tried to cast out that demon, but they couldn’t. So when the boy was brought to Jesus, He rebuked the disciples for – what? Lack of faith! Faith was necessary to PERFORM the miracles, not to have a miracle performed on you!
The miracles did more than affirm that Christ was the Messiah and that the message about the kingdom at hand was, in fact, true. Those miracles were also a foretaste of what life in the kingdom would be like when the sin-curse would be lifted off of creation and mankind shall experience health and long-life. In addition to that, each of those miracles conveyed a spiritual message about the Messiah’s relationship to His people. He would be the great healer of illnesses and deliverer from Satan’s dominion. This brings us to the whole false notion advocated by the charismatics and Arminians and Calvinists, that everything in the Bible is written to us, and it’s all about us, and we’re all spiritual Israel, which simply isn’t true. This period was about Christ fulfilling the promises made to the fathers of Israel about the coming Messiah to establish His kingdom here on Earth. This is not our mail. The Lord’s words during His earthly ministry were not meant for us Gentiles, which is why the Lord said in John 4:22, “Salvation is of the Jews.” Christ would tell His disciples in Matt. 10:5-6, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When a Gentile woman came with her request to the Lord, He first refused to help her and later told her “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). The Lord’s message was to Israel and for Israel because God had promised His people a kingdom on Earth, and they would be the instruments of His offer of salvation to the world.
Paul’s New Message
After Pentecost in Acts 9, the Lord did something that had never been prophesied. Instead of unleashing His wrath upon the world, He reached down in utter grace and saved the man who was leading the rebellion of the nation of Israel. He saved His greatest enemy, a man named Saul, who would later become the Apostle Paul. The enemy, who was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” (1 Tim. 1:13) and who called himself the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), was saved by the exceeding abundant grace of God and commanded to present to the world a message that had never been revealed before.
Paul writes: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…” (Eph. 3:1-3). The Lord Jesus Christ had a mystery, a secret, and He revealed this new message about this new “dispensation of the grace of God” to this new Apostle Paul, who reveals in his letters to us a whole new victory program by God’s grace through Christ’s all-sufficient work on the cross for both Jew and Gentile alike, which is a stark contrast to what had been taught before him. We pointed out John 4:22, in which the Lord said that “Salvation is of the Jews” and how He told that Gentile woman in Matthew 15:24 “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And yet, Paul told us in Romans 10:12 that there is no difference between Jew and Greek. Romans 11 says nothing about us being “spiritual Israel” but that Israel was “cast away” for a season and for a reason. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:15, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” Notice in this verse that the casting away of Israel is only temporary. They are cast away now but they will later be received! This means that we’re living in an interruption of the prophetic program. This is why Paul three times talks about “my gospel” (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8), because his good news was different than the good news of the kingdom being “at hand.” This is why Paul three times under inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us to “be ye followers of me” (1 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1; Php. 3:17), because he is our apostle for today and because Paul’s conversion by grace through faith was to be a “pattern” to all of us who “should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:16). He is a pattern because we are in a new “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2), an interruption in the prophetic program in which God is now dispensing His grace to all, both Jew and Gentile, who come to Him by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son as a payment for all our sins. Turn to Acts 19.
Miracles by Paul
So someone in the charismatic movement might say, “Oh, so you’re one of those Paul followers. Didn’t Paul do miracles, too?” Yes, he did – until the Bible was completed. Act 19:11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: Act 19:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. Why did God have Paul do miracles? For many of the same reasons Jesus and the disciples did miracles. The Jews require a sign. Paul’s miracles affirmed to the believing remnant the validity of his apostleship and his unique message of salvation by grace through faith to everyone through the all-sufficient work on the cross. These miraculous manifestations drew attention to this new creation called the Church, the Body of Christ. These supernatural gifts gave almost instant credibility to Paul’s apostleship and the other members of the Body of Christ who also performed these wonderful works (Acts 19:11-20; 28:1-10; I Cor. 14:25). These gifts were not prayed down, nor were they based upon one’s spirituality. Rather, they were freely given to believers by the will of the Spirit.
I would also just mention that in Acts 28, we have the story of Paul being bitten by a snake and shaking it off without feeling any harm and he healed the father of Publius. And the point about Acts 28 is that Paul doing miracles wasn’t simply a sign for the Jews only but that the Gentiles also were convinced of the validity of Paul’s apostleship and message, and many believed. The miracles galvanized the Gentiles to embrace this new gospel of grace.
Turn to 1 Cor. 12. And of course, we know that the church at Corinth had the ability of miraculous spiritual gifts.
1Co 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 1Co 12:2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 1Co 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1Co 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 1Co 12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 1Co 12:6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 1Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 1Co 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 1Co 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 1Co 12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
Now in this chapter, we have from vs. 8-11 a list of the gifts of the Spirit. And we’re going to go through that list. Then we have in vs. 12-27 Paul dealing with Christ as the Head of the one Body and how each member has his special gift and should function harmoniously with all the rest. This was one of the areas of rebuke in this epistle, the great disorder with their usage of spiritual gifts, and Paul trying to bring some order to the church out of all that disorder. Finally, we have in vs. 28-31, Paul addressing the Father's sovereignty in choosing how He would implement this age of grace, first with miracles and then with saints operating in total love toward everyone. This is why believers in the early part of Paul’s ministry had spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophesy, so that the people could supernaturally hear and understand the will of God until they had a completed, written Bible in their hands. But the great point to be made here is that miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit was not a sign of spiritual maturity. God didn’t give spiritual gifts to the best, most favored, Christians in a local assembly. The church at Corinth was arguably the most carnal of all the churches Paul planted, and yet, many possessed spiritual gifts, simply because this was the operation of God at the time until they had a completed Word of God.
Before we get into the list, I would first point out 1Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. These gifts were not to gain any profit for oneself, but for the profit of all, for the common good. I would also point out vs. 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as HE will. Men didn’t pray for the Holy Spirit. Men didn’t ask for gifts. There was no point in asking, because the Spirit would divide to every man as the Spirit willed what gifts He willed for them to possess.
The List of Spiritual Gifts
We first have in vs. 8, the spirit of wisdom. This isn’t just keenness of insight about life. This is Godly wisdom, which was like Solomon, but I think this was wisdom that was all about the will of God in the age of grace, how we are to function in the age of grace. The gift of knowledge, which is beyond facts. He had knowledge of things without having been told, like when Peter knew the secrets of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. There was also the Spirit of faith, which isn’t controversial at all. Did this mean that God supernaturally forced people to have saving faith in Him? No, of course not. A bedrock principle of the entire Bible is that God never betrays the free will of man. One of my favorite verses on that subject is Luke 13:34 in which the Lord said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” God does not betray man’s free will and force a man to become saved. As Luke had revealed, the Lord lamented that His desires were thwarted again and again simply because His children chose to rebel against His callings.
So what is this Spirit of Faith? I did a deep dive in the Searchable Riches drive. Bryan Ross in his notes on 1 Cor. 12:8-11 cited Romans 11:11-14 and wrote that “it was part of Paul’s provoking ministry during the Acts period. It was a dispensational demonstration that Israel had lost her favored time past status, had been set aside, and that God was now going to the gentiles.” I asked David Reid, and he felt that Romans 12:3 and 12:6 are good cross-references. Rom 12:6 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith…” Faith here being the standard measure of requirement in order to prophesy until they had received the completed Word of God. This parallels how miracles operated during the Gospel period. Faith was required to PERFORM the miracles! Nancy Paulson had an article on “The Gift of Faith.” She did a deep dive on aspects of faith and differences between THE FAITH, the Word of Faith, the Hearing of Faith, and the Measure of Faith. And she wrote that, “Here it appears that Paul links the communication gift (prophecy), the revelation gift (knowledge) with the confirmation gift (working of miracles); it is like the gift of faith is a bridge between the three.” I liked her article, which is available here.
Paul Sadler, in a booklet on the “Supernatural Sign Gifts” wrote that “The supernatural gift of faith… was the ability to perform the impossible as a result of their deep and abiding faith in God.” Ricky Kurth in a Dec. 2017 issue of the Berean Searchlight had connected the gift of faith to the expression “having all faith” in 1 Cor. 13:2. And he wrote, “Someone who had ‘all faith’ would have to have the gift of faith, wouldn’t you agree? And Paul says that a man with that kind of faith should be able to move mountains!” Sounds good, but I don’t recall reading that anyone at Corinth had moved mountains.
Personally, I think that in this case, Occam’s Razor applies. The simplest answer is probably the best one. First let’s ask the question, “what is faith?” “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is our assent to the hope God provides us in His Word, resting on His authority without any visual evidence, because “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Hal made the point that he thinks the gift of faith is tied to the previous verse, vs. 8, For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 1Co 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit… I totally agree. I would suggest that all three of those gifts – wisdom, knowledge, and faith – they were all internal gifts, and they were all designed to be aides to the believer in terms of content and doctrine about the will of God in the age of grace until they had a completed Bible to refer back to. Let’s just assume that the people at Corinth only met on Sundays. A prophet would speak the words of the Lord about the will of God for believers in this age of grace. How long do we remember everything that is said on a Sunday? I’d suggest that a person with the gift of faith would have a conviction about the truth that was spoken, because faith is a conviction about the truth of God in His Word, and so this conviction about what was prophesied would stick with him for a long time UNTIL he had a completed written Word to refer back to. There would be a lot of reasons in Corinth for the average believer to lose faith. The carnality. The divisions. There seemed to be some who were defying the gift they had by claiming that by the Spirit of God Jesus [was] accursed. A Spirit of faith would convict a person about the actual truth that was spoken, and that conviction would stick with him for a long time until he had a completed Word.
I would also point out that evidence that these three internal spiritual gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith had faded away can be found in Paul’s pastoral epistles because for the first time, we find Paul exhorting Timothy to study the Word of God. He’d write in 1Ti 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine... 1Ti 4:15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. And in his final epistle, Paul would explain how to study. 2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. And he would also remind Timothy of the value of the Word of God. 2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Why does Paul emphasize study of the Word in his final pastoral epistles? Because spiritual gifts ceased.
Next, we go from internal spiritual gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith to external manifestations of the Spirit beginning with the gift of healing, which is pretty straightforward. Healing heals someone. But I would point out here that evidence of the healing gift fading away can be found in Paul’s final epistle, when he wrote in 2 Tim. 4:20, that “Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” Next, we have the working of miracles. Healing heals someone. Miracles is more along the lines of casting out demons or creating food when there is none like the Lord did with the feeding of the 5,000. The gift of prophesy was simply speaking accurately the words of the Lord, which was necessary to edify the saints until they had a completed Bible. Discerning of Spirits was also important because there were still, at the time, many demon-possessed people, and it was necessary to have a gift to discern between truths from the Holy Spirit and lies from satanic spirits. Divers kinds of tongues refers to the gift of one speaking in their own language and yet the person listening could hear those words in their own language. The interpretation of tongues was simply the ability to act as an interpreter of foreign languages, interpreting one language to another flawlessly.
Some have also pointed out that there are 3 lists of spiritual gifts in this chapter. We just went through the first list of gifts from vs. 8-11. There is another list in vs. 28. 1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. And then there is a third list from vs. 29-31. 1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 1Co 12:30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 1Co 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. In some books, there was discussion as to whether the apostle lists these gifts of the Spirit in order of importance, yet the gift of tongues is found last and in all three lists, which may possibly indicate that it was the least significant of all the gifts. Also, in Paul’s treatment of tongues in chapter 14, he consistently compares tongues as a lesser gift compared to prophecy.
I would also point out that Paul ends the third list by saying yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” And that more excellent way is brilliantly written in chapter 13, the preeminence of love in action in the age of grace. How many Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers would teach what Paul teaches, that in lieu of spiritual gifts, they should pursue the more excellent way of love?
Flip over to chapter 13. After having covered the attributes of charity, he would write:
1Co 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 1Co 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 1Co 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1Co 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Three points made here.
That which was to be done away,
that which was to take its place, and
that which was to now abide.
What was to be done away? Clearly, the sign gifts. In God’s eyes, they were childish things. The greatest and most persuasive quality that would bring someone to Christ is not miracles, but love itself, which is why the quality of love is the greatest asset to a believer. In these passages, Paul tells the Corinthians that spiritual gifts shall fail, cease, and vanish away when that which is perfect is come. Which brings us to the next point.
What was to take its place? That can only be the completed written Word of God. Some might try to argue that that which is perfect is come is Christ, which makes no sense because Christ already came and if Paul was talking about Christ, he would write “come again.” What Paul means here is the perfect, complete, written Word of God, just as he said in Col 1:25 that Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God… And then we have the third point.
What was to now abide? “Faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Love is the more excellent way.
Love is conformity to the nature of God, the living expression of what He is. God is love. The fact that love even exists in the world is because God is our creator. He is love, and it’s a reflection of His nature that love exists in the world, which makes Him the source of all love, which makes Him love itself. And for us to love without reservation to everyone shows that we have been partakers of His nature, which is love itself, because we’re acting and feeling in perfect synergy to what God is, which is love itself. If you really think about it, God isn’t loving. He is love itself. We often talk about how love is a choice for us, but God never chose to love you. He will always love you because He is love itself. That’s who He is. That’s part of His nature. Love is the eternal active energy of His essence. As God Himself is without end, so His love is without end. As no man can measure the heights and depths of God, so no man can measure the heights and depths of His love. As God is eternal, so His love is eternal. Jeremiah wrote in Jer 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love… The Lord wasn’t talking about Israel. The Lord said thee, the singular you. I have loved YOU with an everlasting love. Can this not also be said of each one of us? This to me was one of the most powerful verses on His love. I don’t think He means that He’s loved Jeremiah all the way in eternity past. This is a statement that speaks to the very nature of His love. His love is an everlasting love because He is an everlasting God, and love is the very essence and nature of His being. His love isn’t temporary. His love isn’t conditional. His love doesn’t fluctuate. His love doesn’t stop. His love doesn’t require any effort on His part, nor does He view His love as something separate from Himself or His nature, as if it’s something He has to make an effort to do. He makes no effort to love because He is love itself. His love is a holy signature attribute of His divine nature, and we know that God’s nature never changes. Our love must reflect His. This is the more excellent way above the childish things of spiritual gifts.