Some of the most powerful, yet questioned teachings about the Holy Spirit, arise out of Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth, specifically from 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. Today I want us to look at some key points from Paul’s introduction or foundational teaching for this topic found in 1 Corinthians 12. My prayer is that this will encourage you in your understanding of another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s role in the church today and more importantly in you personally.
Our focus passage for today is from 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 (NIV):
 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.  Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.  Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body---whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free---and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
I included all of these verses so that you may see the context from which Paul begins or provides his foundation for his teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. In this foundation he is stating clearly that there are manifesting, confirmatory or evidentiary type gifts of the Spirit. He tells us we once were not Christians and followed the ways of the world, worshiping whatever idol appeased us the most. These “mute idols” (literally just pieces of clay or brass or other inert material or today any other thing which we consider more important than God), were not able to do anything for us but yet they were our hearts desire. Paul then tells us that now that we claim to be saved, we cannot call Jesus “Lord” unless the Spirit of God enables us to do so. Remember the many references I have made in previous notes about how it is the Spirit of God that comes unto you and speaks to you and breathes life into your dead spirit, bringing it to life. With that He gives you the initial faith to now see and receive Christ and call Him Lord in the first place. You cannot progress to verse 4 unless the Holy Spirit has done His work in you, allowing or enabling you to call Jesus your Lord.
Paul then tells us in verse 4 that there are different manifesting gifts and they are distributed among God’s children by the Holy Spirit. (See also Hebrews 2:4). He then tells us in verse 5 that there are different kinds of service in the kingdom but that service is from and for Jesus Christ. Paul then tells us in verse 6 that there are many ways we work but behind each one of those ways, the One really leading you and empowering your effectiveness to do so is our Father God. Paul is telling us that the Father, the Son and the Spirit all work together, in concert if you will, toward the same end. There is no conflict between the three. They perform in perfect harmony. All of our “differences”, our diversity to use a modern term, is from the One. Our diversity is and should be considered our “unity”. Think about that point. We should all be unified because the Ones (the Holy Trinity) coordinating, guiding, gifting and initiating the differences in the adopted children of God, are totally unified. The way we use those gifts should all lead to a common, unified, “good” result.
My academic training in school was at Auburn University as a civil engineer. As an engineer, we were taught the theories behind things. We were taught “why” materials behaved the way they did and why various shapes of materials reacted different ways. An engineer is essentially trained on the “why” so they can then apply those principles to all of the untold number of challenges you would be faced with in the real world. When you look at the passage we are studying today, I again like to look at the “why” the Spirit gives us gifts in the first place. If we understand the why then we can apply them with the love that chapter 13 describes.
Reading this, one must recognize that there are gifts and that is just a fact that Paul plainly states. These gifts mentioned here are outward working or manifested types. Many today question whether these gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit still exist. Remember that signs or wonders or other places called miracles, were performed by the Spirit of God through many in the Bible besides just Jesus. There was Moses, Elijah, Elisha, the Apostles, and others such as Stephen that we briefly highlighted last week. Every sign or wonder they performed was by the Spirit of God, this same Spirit we are highlighting today and the last few weeks. Paul was telling the Corinthian church members that the Spirit had now come into the world to all of God’s adopted children as of Pentecost, and not just to the Apostles. He, the Holy Spirit, is as mighty and active today as He ever was in the past. We may not understand it mentally and that is okay for the Holy Spirit works supernaturally. Go back to the lesson we taught based on the great hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed”. In that hymn the author kept stating that many aspects of what God does simply cannot be fully explained or understood.
In verse 7 of chapter 12, Paul gives us some of our greatest insight into the “why” the Holy Spirit gives us different gifts and how they are to be used. I want us to dissect verse 7 in order to try and truly walk away today with our best understanding of the “why” gifts are given and manifested. We will focus on four key words or phrases from this verse:
 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Verse 7 is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian individually and what it means to be the church corporately. That said, let’s look a little deeper at these words or phrases.
The “each ones”
The “each ones” outlined in verse 7 refer back to verses 2 and 3. The key point about the “each ones” is the description that “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit”. They are born-again having experienced that great miracle of spiritual rebirth or regeneration. The use of the term “Lord” is significant. The “each ones” are those that live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They aim or purpose to think the way He says to think, purpose to feel the way He says to feel, and aim to do what He says to do. These are the people that manifest the Spirit.
Why specifically call out Lordship this way? Well Matthew 7:22 – 23 tells us that there are many who prophesy, cast out demons, and perform many miracles to whom Jesus will say on the last day, “I never knew you, depart from me you evildoers”. In other words, some who are “manifesting” what some would say are works of the Spirit are really not one of these “each ones,” and their works are not of the Spirit of God but of someone or something else. Their “works and miracles” were performed for the wrong reason, the wrong “why”. They were not manifested for the common good. They were not manifested to glorify Christ, the ultimate work of the Holy Spirit as outlined in John 16:14. More on that in three more weeks.
There are several things in our focus passage that we could look at about “the Spirit” but I want us to look at verse 11 first. Here Paul tells us that there is one and the same Spirit who is behind all the varieties of gifts. This ties back to verses 4, 5 and 6. Then, in verses 8 – 10, Paul outlines some specific “different gifts” that come from the Holy Spirit. Paul is trying to help us see that our differences that are to be manifested – different gifts, different ministries, different effectiveness – all are owed back to one and the same Spirit. Here the variety is sourced from and grounded in the unity of the Trinity.
The other key point in verse 11 is that you do not decide which type of gift you are given by the Spirit. The Spirit is the one that decides what gift goes to whom, what ministry goes to whom, and how that ministry is worked out. The Spirit does it as “He wills or determines” is best for God’s ultimate purposes which may not always align with the way you personally see or desire things. He does it as He knows it will best fit within the needs of our corporate body in our specific location and for those whom we will come in contact with. Remember back to our lesson on Ephesians 2:10 where Paul told us that God’s children are really His masterpieces. Paul told us that God created us, each one of His children, in a certain way because He had a special plan for each one of us to accomplish, something He planned long, long ago. All of us are blessed or gifted or favored in different ways by God for a specific planned result in this present kingdom of God.
What is a manifestation? Well, one definition is that it is “a showing”. Another is a “demonstration” and yet another is “evidence”. The evidence of the Holy Spirit within us is shown outwardly through these gifts that He distributes to us for a specific purpose, a common good.
The Spirit does not give gifts and ministries so that we can boast. The lesson we sent out on October 23rd of last year was titled “Boasting”. In that lesson we saw where Paul said we should only boast in the cross of Christ. He said in Galatians 6:15 that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (the outward “proof” people wanted to focus on during that day and time), means anything; what counts is the new creation”. Here Paul again lays out for us in black and white, that it is not outward things that matters. All that really matters is whether or not we have been made a new creation, being born not of flesh and blood but of the Holy Spirit. We boast in what He does and not what we do. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to confirm or attest that what you see happening is from God for His glory, not yours. It is evidence that the Spirit of God is working through an individual or body to meet a specific need of the one you are ministering to. It shows the one you are ministering to, when and only when the Spirit tells you to, that God the Father and God the Son loves them and desires to meet their specific need. It is not about you.
It is worth noting that the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit are not meant to confirm or corroborate that God exists. Scripture makes it clear that all nature itself confirms the existence of God and “all are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20). Any manifestation, big or small, through you does not prove the existence of God but it does prove that God cares about meeting a specific need in a specific way. That may be a specific Word from God or from His written Word, a physical need met, a healing delivered, an encouragement granted, someone simply loved on, or many other manifestations as God wishes to fulfill for the individuals good in accordance with His specific will and plan. He lets you share in the joy of being a part of it.
The “Common Good”
If you want to do good for people, and that should be the mission of our church, then you manifest God directed power to them. The church is the place where “manifesting God” and “doing good” come together. The world often tries to do good but they leave God out. Our government may try to do good but has drifted so far from our “In God We Trust” roots that it now aims to do it’s best to strip God out of everything. The outcome or result of such an attempted good is at best temporary and may actually be harmful if not God directed and not in accordance with His Word / Will. The ultimate good is always based upon “love” as the superior gift as outlined in chapter 13.
Peter tells us the same message as we have looked at today in a much more succinct manner in 1 Peter 4:8-11. Peter loved what Paul taught but he was not shy about admitting all of the detail Paul provided was often hard for even him to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter tried to keep things simple, very simple and straightforward.
I hope today you have begun to see the “why” behind the manifestation of spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit as Paul and Peter described them. I believe if you see the why, you will be more effective and agile as you serve God each day. If you focus solely on a particular gift rather than listening to the one that gives the gift, you may lose out on many, many opportunities where we can be used by the Holy Spirit to fulfil the common good. You may be so focused on your gift that you do not hear the simple and still voice of God through the Holy Spirit in the first place. Paul devotes much of chapter 14 toward someone’s “desire” for gifts. If you are desiring a gift, which is encouraged (14:1), Paul outlines which type are more beneficial to the common good and thus should be desired and utilized the most.
Some try so hard to “categorize their gift” based on what is outlined in chapter 12 that they never simply take action on what the Spirit is guiding them to do. They never “go big” for God, even in simple and small things. They never just “Go Already” as Cory encouraged us to do. If you are a Christian and thus born of the Spirit, then it is that Spirit that strengthens you to “Go”. The disciples and others from Acts forward, all were ready to “Go” only after they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit. The “Go” was not a big thing to them once that occurred.
If our focus is to love, as seen in chapter 13, then what we do will lead us toward doing works that are for the common good. It may be visiting someone in the hospital or calling a friend that needs to hear an encouraging word or feeding someone that is hungry or thousands of other things. It may be praying for that particular person God has planned for you to pray healing for or any multitude of ways the Spirit may achieve the mission He has for you, God’s masterpiece. Paul may not have written “visit your friend in the hospital” or “serve in the Church nursery” in 1 Corinthians but that can be just as much of a manifestation of the Spirit as those specific gifts listed in chapter 12. Don’t miss out on God by thinking the only way you can manifest gifts from the Spirit is by doing one of the categorical things listed by Paul. God still does those handful of things today that Paul categorized as examples but they are not the only ways the Spirit will lead you to manifest the love of our wonderful Triune God. God is not only in the “big things”. He is just as much in the small things and they are just as important because all of our actions are guided by the One. Manifestation of your gift when the Spirit commands it is just as powerful and anointed to do what it was planned to do as the gift of any preacher you have ever met.
Let me say the above in another way. I personally believe that God truly does have a specific plan for each of His children and He is constantly at work in you preparing you for execution of that plan (Ephesians 2:10). He called and chose you for that plan, long, long ago. I believe that the Spirit has distributed the appropriate gifts needed to you for execution of that plan. You may have different gifts distributed to you at different times based on what the plan is for the “good” that He has planned at that time.
Religion today and somewhat our abuse and half-truth application of God’s Word, has led us to think that the Spirit can only be manifested through what people see as the “super anointed”. Such thinking has led to inactivity or lack of manifestation of our gifts by the rest of us. There are needs, plenty of needs out there that are good, that are common good, that God desires be fulfilled. Our Father and Lord wants us, His children, His humble, meek, loving children, to meet those needs; all of us. You do that by taking off your shoes and seeing that you are always on Holy Ground. You are always listening to the voice of the Spirit in all things. I can tell you with no reservation that He did not call you and did not gift you for sitting on the sidelines. He made you a new creation for a specific purpose far beyond just the joys of an eternal life with Him in Heaven. There is a plan, a well-developed, intricately interwoven plan, initiated from the throne of God and empowered through the Holy Spirit that you, as one of God’s adopted children and new creation's, are to be an active participant in.
Let the Holy Spirit work through you in all things, big and small. The more you do, the more He will show you that it is all Him in the first place. It is not you. It is Him.