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Likewise, our church office will be open by appointment only. 


The Greatest Gift

March 15, 2020 Speaker: Shane Kohout Series: Holy Spirit

Topic: Sunday Sermons

The Greatest Gift


1 Corinthians 12:1-11


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.





I wanted to bring you all into my home life a little. 7 months ago the Lord blessed me and my wife Arden with our second daughter, Eloise.


Buttoning up Eloise’s pajamas. Getting to the top and finding that I have an extra button with nothing to snap it into. (Story)


Paul is writing to the Corinthian church in response to a letter he received from him. We don’t have the letter the Corinthian church sent so we are left trying to piece some parts together from context clues. But we do know this, the letter the Corinthians sent was filled with questions about how to hold church gatherings, deal with conflicts that arise, walk through church discipline and, as we will start to look at this morning, how to use spiritual gifts properly.


Paul when beginning this conversation on spiritual gifts wants to make sure the Corinthians are starting on the right button. He knows, that they have gotten their buttons wrong and he wants to correct the problem. It matters because, If they are confused at the foundational level then everything that comes next will be out of order.


In our passage today, Paul is snapping these truths into place, one by one, for the Corinthians. Let’s not be passive and cold hearers of the word today. Let’s follow along and even expect that the Holy Spirit would snap some truths in place for us this morning.


  1. True spirituality is bowing down to Jesus as Lord


Let’s look at verses 1-3 again,


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.


I do not want you to be uniformed “concerning spiritual gifts”. This verse in greek actually doesn’t say gifts, but instead uses a word that translates to “spirituals”. All the following verses use the word charismata which means “gifts of grace”. The switch might be slightly corrective. The Corinthians in their letter might have used the word meaning “spirituals” but Paul seems to prefer “gifts of grace”.  Translators decided to use the context of the following passages when putting the word gifts in this verse.


So Paul is more literally saying concerning spirituals I do not want you to be uniformed. Presumably, Paul will now inform them. But before he does that, he contrasts their ignorance with something they used to know.


In verse 2 he moves to something they have prior experiential knowledge in, their former pagan worship. The church in Corinth was made up of gentiles who used to worship pagan gods. These gods were represented by physical idols that they could see and touch. And they were led astray by them.


Paul has already made clear in chapter 10 that idols have nothing behind them except demons. The idols in their most literal sense were mute. But these demons might have counterfeit ‘gifts” like spiritual utterances.


See, Satan is predictable like this. We don’t find Satan creating, but we often find him counterfeiting. God creates, Satan appropriates. He is a thief.


I imagine Satan and the demons gathered together in a conference room, because we know conference rooms and work meetings were conjured by an evil mind.


They are spit balling ideas.


We can’t create a living creature


*Looks around*


I’ve got it! Puts the thought in man, “lets shape that metal or wood to look like a living creature.”


It can’t move. Hmmm, I know, lets shake it a bit.


It can’t talk so what can I do, I know, men and women can talk so we will use them.


And that is the baggage the Corinthians are carrying in. They used to belong to cults and temples of pagan worship. These were known as the mystery religions and they would often hold experiences of uncontrollable ecstasy as the height of spiritual worship. There was a hierarchy of spiritual experience. Literally, to be possessed was the highest form. If you were speaking utterances and convulsing, the god was using your body.


Gee, I wonder if these experiences might have set the Corinthians up to snap the wrong button in place from the very beginning. Their prior knowledge of “spirituals” is not helping.


By contrasting, Paul is saying, What you have known in the past might not serve in your understanding moving forward. For them, it was their pagan past that is setting them up for a misunderstanding. I wonder this morning if we have some experiences informing our understanding.


Do we have things in our past that might lead us to be uninformed about spiritual gifts? Maybe it was a positive experience like a Revival (The good days). Or maybe it was a negative experience like being hurt by a church or its leader.. Has the enemy sabotaged your view of spiritual gifts? (Hurt/ exalting the gifts) Possible conclusion thoughts or application.


Brothers and sisters, let’s acknowledge that our past experiences may or may not be serving us well. Let’s make sure that the buttons we already have snapped in place line up with where we see them snapped in scripture.


Now that Paul has shown them that they are coming in with prior knowledge, he brings correction. He has undone the buttons and now he is going to snap them in their proper place.


Verse 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.


It seems, because of their baggage, the Corinthians had a disposition to rank gifts and to favor those that appeared like their prior worship experiences. This would make sense to why the Corinthians had such disorderly services and their leaning towards the gift of tongues.


It’s not utterances of speech that is definitive evidence of the Spirit but the intelligible Christian content of the speech. Does it exalt the lordship of Jesus.


Now, It’s hard to believe that there were Corinthians that literally said out loud “Jesus is accursed” and the church was confused to whether this was from the Holy Spirit or not.


This is where I said earlier that we only have one side of this conversation comes into play. We don’t know the specific circumstance that Paul is referring to. No commentary I read had the other letter. We don’t know. But what is the clear principle in this verse?


What is truly spiritual, is exalting the lordship of Jesus.


You want to know if a spiritual gift is being properly used, who is it glorifying? Is it lifting the name of Jesus above all other names? Is it causing you and others to bow down to the king of kings?


We don’t want people walking out of our services saying “Wow! The gifts are alive here.” We want people when they leave saying “Wow! Jesus is alive!” We don’t want, “what an incredible worship band!”. We want, “What an incredible God, worthy of all my worship!”


Not “I love the way they preach!” But instead “I love the one they preach about!”


The gifts don’t exalt themselves. The gifts don’t exalt the person with them. The gifts exalt the giver, our Lord Jesus.


We see this clearly in chapter 14. Paul is explaining the gift of prophecy and how it effects outsiders who enter into the church, he ends the section saying


“and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”



“The Presence of the Spirit in power and gifts makes it easy for God’s people to think of the power and gifts as the real evidence of the Spirit’s presence. Not so for Paul. The ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord.”

Gordon Fee


If you find a place that exalts Jesus high, you have found a place where the Holy Spirit is present.


See, the Corinthians thought they were very spiritual because they had great displays of “spiritual gifts” but what was the fruit of this church at the time? Brothers suing one another. Sexual immorality. Affairs. Drunkenness. Divisions. Rivalry. Greed. Position.


If the gifts aren’t lifting up the lordship of Jesus, they are exalting the lordship of something else. And when that happens, Jesus is being accursed. The Corinthians used to bow down to mute idols and that was called spiritual. But what is truly spiritual is bowing down to Jesus.

The mark of a spiritual church isn’t when we last saw a miracle, It’s how exalted is Jesus over our lives. How much of our entire lives are bowing to his lordship.


When I was preparing for this sermon, I had this picture come to mind. There was a cinder block and a sponge.


Do we come to church like a cinder block. The spirit is poured out upon us and washed off and, we say “good service, I’m refreshed”. Or are we like sponges. We come to church and the spiritual gifts are poured out, the Lordship of Jesus is exalted, and it penetrates every aspect of our lives.



  1. There is diversity and unity in these gifts to the church


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.


Paul grounds the first verses we looked at in the Lordship of Christ. He is now going to ground this paragraph in the theological truth. Diversity has its root in the Godhead.  There is a variety of gifts, services, and activities. But the same Spirit, Lord, and God who empowers them all in everyone. And verse 11 goes on to say  “that they are apportioned to each one individually as God wills.”


The Holy Spirit, the son Jesus and the Father Yahweh. Three and yet one. I don’t have time, nor courage, to tackle the trinity in this message but I will say this. Paul doesn’t blink an eye. He doesn’t seem embarrassed. He doesn’t feel a need to explain how the trinity works. He simply states, and embraces this truth. Diversity in people. And Diversity in these grace gifts come from the diverse persons of the trinity.


Why is this important? Because Paul is speaking to a church that elevates specific gifts above others. There is a hierarchy in their view of the gifts and those who practice them. There are people in the in crowd and people who are on the outside. But Paul says that all of the gifts come from the diverse persons of the trinity.


But which gifts? All of them. Which person of the trinity? All of them. To who? In Everyone.


There is a diversity of grace gifts but there is one source that empowers them all. There is no competition in the godhead. There is love and unity. How then should the church look?


When the church embraces diversity and rejects competition. When she doesn’t elevate herself but elevates others. When she throws off the temptations towards hierarchy and position and instead embraces love and humility. She looks like the source of every gift.


What diversity is there in these grace gifts? These verses mention gifts, service, and activities. I believe Paul is being vague and broad. He wants to make the point that all of the gifts in the church and the ministries and service that we see come from and are empowered by God himself. These are all gifts from a good God who loves us.


We see some of this diversity in gifts in verses 8-11. Wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, distinguishing spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.


Each of these are given to different individuals but they have one source. And we see in verse 11 that they are apportioned to each one individually as God wills.


So putting all of these verses together we should acknowledge three things. Snap another three buttons in place.


First, we don’t earn grace gifts. It’s in the name. Gifts are from someone else. It is unearned. And grace is unmerited favor. These are not wages. We don’t earn the gifts from God by doing enough or being holy enough. These are gifts from someone who loves us. It is God’s own prerogative in how much and to whom he apportions the gifts. That means, there is no special gift that God gives to those who really have earned it. They are given and apportioned by his own gracious will. SNAP.


Secondly, because they are gifts, they are apportioned by God as He wills and there is a diversity of the gifts; we should see no hierarchy in the gifts. Having a certain gift doesn’t make you more or less than any other brother or sister. God has designed the entirety of the church to be diverse and unified. Which means we need everyone here using their gifts. And if we remember back to our first button, that true spirituality is exalting the Lordship of Jesus, then it’s easy to see that there is no room to exalt ourselves. Snap.


Now, As I was preparing for this sermon I remembered an embarrassing story from my past. You need to understand this about me, I love gifts. I love receiving them. I wish I could say I loved giving them as much as receiving, and I’m trying to learn to, but I don’t.


I believe it was the Christmas of 95. Toy Story had just come out the month prior and 9 year old Shane had one major gift on his wish list. I wanted the buzz light year ACTION FIGURE not a doll. It was Christmas eve night, and we had a tradition of going to my grandparents house and opening one present. The evening came and I got my present in hand. I hurriedly opened the package, and I can’t remember what it was, but I’m confident of what it wasn’t. I didn’t receive the buzz light year action figure that night.


In my head, wondering if maybe I would get a second gift, a second chance of getting what I wanted, thought it is was appropriate to ask, “Is this it?”.


After finding out it was the only gift for that night, I then took my present and left the room to play with it.


My Mom came and found me and told me how rude I had been. I clearly had a view of what I wanted and I was outwardly disappointed that I didn’t get it. I didn’t receive the gift with joy or thankfulness. And I failed to see that my grandparents had given me the gift out of love. I went back to my grandmother. I thanked her for the gift and she hugged me. I wish I had known then that giver of gifts is always greater than the gifts themselves.


Which brings us to the third truth we need to snap into place. We must recognize the source. Because it’s a gift, by definition there is a giver. Every spiritual gift has one source, God. Take the time in life to trace the gift back to the giver. Rejoice in the one who loves you enough to give it. Snap.



  1. To each for the common good


Lastly, I want to focus on verse 7. It simply says,

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”


To each is given. I’m certain Chris in two weeks will focus on this truth. But I will simply say, It is clear that everyone in this room as been given a gift. There is no one on the outside in this room. If you are in Christ, you have been given gifts. Which means, we need you. God chose not to have super Christians that have all the gifts. He chose to use a diverse group of people with diverse giftings. So you a part of this church for a reason. You have a gift.


And that gift is meant for the common good. Take a moment to look around at those who are watching with you. And now imagine with me those who are a part of our church. Imagine everyone around you holding gifts. Different sizes, wrapping paper, bows and sounds when you shake them. How exciting is it that we all didn’t get the same thing! And the very purpose for these gifts is for everyone else’s good. You have been given a gift for the good of the other people in this room and vice versa. We are all stewards of these grace gifts. We are to steward them in a way that blesses everyone else around us.


I’m convinced that this common good is right back where we started. I’m convinced that the common good of the church is the exaltation of Jesus. That through the gifts in this church, Jesus’ lordship would be more real over every area of our lives. We are being prepared for eternal glory. An eternal treasure. An eternal gift.


God himself. The gifts we have point to the giver of every gift. The gifts we have exalt the lordship of Jesus. The diversity of gifts we have find their root in the Godhead. Gifts are not about us, they are about Him.





Now that we have done the work of snapping these buttons into place, lets draw some practical conclusions. How can we respond rightly to this passage. It’s one thing to have truths. For many in this room, nothing said is new. You know these things. But knowing where the buttons go doesn’t mean they are in place. Often what we believe, doesn’t match up with what we practice and feel. So let’s give practical application that can, if take these truths and work them into our lives.


This isn’t comprehensive but here are 4 suggestions for application.


  • Let’s be a people who trace all the gifts back to the Giver and worship Him. It will take intentionality. The challenge is we all know that the gifts come from God. It almost seems silly to say that we need to do this. But acknowledging isn’t worship. Ascent isn’t thanksgiving.


When you receive an encouraging word from a brother or sister, thank the person for being faithful, and then together take a moment to thank the God behind it. What are we doing? We are both tracing the gift back to its giver and worshiping him. When you serve quietly and no one notices or acknowledges your hard work. Don’t let that fester into bitterness. Trace the gift back to the giver. Remember it’s God who has given you the strength. He sees what you do. And worship Him for showing you what it means to be a servant.


A prayer of thanks in your home or leaving community group.


  • Recognize the diversity of gifts in this church. Remember, everyone has different gifts. If you are only around the same people in this church all the time, you have limited access to gifts that are meant for your common good. And you are limiting others from benefiting from the gifts you are stewarding. So go spend time with one another. Get involved in a community group. Invite a family out to lunch. Seek accountability with someone else in the church. Or I don’t know, here is a crazy idea, go befriend someone! And when you are together, use the gifts God has given you. We are all stewards. Steward well. As families and smaller groups, spend time using the gifts God has given you.


  • These gifts point to Jesus. Each gift is meant to point to the truer gift. The treasure of heaven. I wonder what would happen if when we gathered together we boasted in Jesus? What if we rejoiced in our shared gift this week? I mean vocally. What would happen to our church if we spent time speaking, singing, praying about our delight in the giver of every gift? I believe we would be truly spiritual. The Holy Spirit delights in exalting Jesus. If we are Spirit filled, let’s do the same! Make it your aim this week to talk more and more about Jesus. Because he is the greatest gift the world will ever know.


  • And lastly, Let’s be the church this week. As Chris said earlier this week, our building and our gatherings are not the church. We as people are. We know that God is in control of all things. Throughout my life, much of my personal growth has come during the moments of trials and suffering. Which makes me confident, God is going to use this disruption and trial for our good. I wonder, like when the early church in Jerusalem was forced to spread throughout Europe due to persecution, if the Lord is sending the church out of it’s buildings across the world, not shelter in our homes but to bring the comfort and peace of Jesus to those around us. I wonder if the Lord in his kindness is reminding us that we don’t need church on Sunday mornings, but instead that we need the church every day of the week. That we need one another and the gifts that we have. I wonder if Jesus is answering a long prayer of ours, that we have cried out for revival in the world, and perhaps, through showing the fragility of life to mankind the Lord has just tilled the hard hearts of people so that in the coming years when we cast the seed of the gospel it will land in good soil.


Let’s be the church. Clinging to the truths in the word. Using our gifts. Exalting Jesus. With our families, neighbors, friends, and each other.


Earlier I said that the Spirit of God doesn’t create a hierarchy of gifts and people. I might have been a little too definitive. Let me say it this way, the only hierarchy the Holy Spirit is concerned with regarding gifts is the hierarchy of Jesus, that he would be exalted above every other name.


More in Holy Spirit

March 29, 2020

An Imperative and Comforting Filter

March 22, 2020

Ephesians 4

March 8, 2020

Filled with the Holy Spirit