Ephesians 4:7-16; Spiritual gifts – glory to God, not glory to men.

Class Outline:

1CO 12:1-3

1CO 12:1-3

Now concerning spiritual gifts [pneumatikon - spiritual (neuter: gifts, things, matters; or masculine: spiritual people], brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.


“spiritual” - pneumatikon - has the same spelling whether the word is masculine (spiritual people) or neuter (spiritual things, or gifts). Which one was Paul’s intent?


In Greek, “gift” is a neuter noun and in Greek modifiers must match the genders of their antecedents.


1CO 12:4-7

Now there are varieties of gifts [charismaton - gifts], but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries [diakonion], and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects [energematon - works], but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


“Too many writers treat 1CO 12:1-14:40 as if it were simply an ad hoc response to questions about spiritual gifts (or spiritual persons - pneumatikon) rather than an address to this topic within the broader theological framework of [the entire epistle]. The way in which some ranked their self-perceived “spirituality” of giftedness by the Holy Spirit so as to encourage superior status enhancement which resulted in the attitude, ‘I have no need of you.’” [NIGTC]


The commentary makes the point that the entire epistle can be summarized by the contrast of glorification of God vs. glorification of men.


Take 12:3 for instance. Paul states that everyone who can say, “Jesus is Lord,” is a spiritual person. That overrules any claim to greater or lesser spiritual gifts. Concerning “the spiritual” no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. It is significant that Paul writes this at the start of his teaching on different spiritual gifts. He used the same strategy in Eph 4 when he wrote of “one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift” (EPH 4:4-7).


However, in Corinth, glorification of man won out over glorification of God.


This was manifested in their celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which was only a celebration for the wealthy (1CO 11:17-34).


But this problem did not remain only in the category of rich and poor. There was a more insidious and subtle place for a type of division from a lack of love and understanding and a fullness of pride, and that was in the self-deception of classes of spirituality. Here the temptation is to glory in being “one of us,” meaning, one of those people who are spiritual. This kind of class warfare is more insidious and damaging than economic or social classes. Spiritual class warfare is self-glorying from within a group (the church) which is built upon divine grace from the sacrifice of the only One worthy of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ.


In chapter 8 Paul makes a plea for the strong to put themselves in a position of understanding and love for the weak. The need for love was brought about by the problem that arose from eating meat sacrificed to idols.


The entire epistle of 1Co hinges on the contrast between glorying in God and glorying in man.


1CO 3:18-23

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness"; 20 and again, "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless." 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.


1CO 1:26-31

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that no man should boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."


1CO 4:6-7

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?


Therefore, Paul’s writing about spiritual gifts is not an unrelated issue inserted into his letter. The glorification of God and the loss of self is at the very heart of the function of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians were rich in supernatural spiritual gifts and after Paul’s departure, they began to see them as a means to glorification of self.


Diversity is to be used for life of the whole body (for others), but differences can fool us into self-promotion and competition.


Getting back to:

1CO 12:4-7

Now there are varieties of gifts [charismaton - gifts], but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries [diakonion], and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects [energematon - works], but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


One writer cleverly calls these verses the “Trinitarian ground plan.”


The gifts are followed by service (ministry) and then by works. There are a great variety of them, but one and the same Trinity whom we serve.


The diakonion (ministries) are to the same Lord (kurios) which has reference to us as Christ’s slaves.


Gifts are not occasions for boasting but opportunities for service. In that time, the diakonos was akin to the steward, a servant who was given certain tasks to complete every day. We know Christ’s parables about faithful stewards and slaves. In one of those, where the master is off at a wedding feast and the time of his return is unknown, the Lord states, “[the master] will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them” (LUK 12:37). In the parable of the talents and the minas, both groups were slaves, and the good ones invested on behalf of their master. Obedience as a slave demonstrates in the public domain what confessing Christ as Lord amounts to in terms of practical lifestyle.


“It is not a matter of humiliation, but of willing action … not a matter of waiting until something comes over me.” [NIGTC]


This statement is from a commentary, and not the Bible. The words are not flawless, but I give this quote and the next to press home the point of balance between the leading of the Holy Spirit and our own self-determination to be obedient to our Lord and Master. The flesh can convince us to wait until we really feel led to serve, practically waiting until we are propelled outside of our will to minister. This is a mistake and will only lead to a life devoid of the good works that it is called to perform. God’s indwelling is not like demon possession that we see in the gospels where the possessed lose self-control.


Each of us must find this balance in our own life, where we are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit and we decide on our own that as slaves we must do what we are commanded. This will take study, contemplation, evaluation, and prayer - all of which depend upon our self-determination. Do we really want to be good stewards? And if we can be brutally honest with ourselves and answer that question in the negative, then why don’t we? Prayer and searching the scriptures will give you your answer.


“It is not so much a matter of having a gift, as of being a gift.” [Suurmond]


This is a fine summation. Every believer has a gift, but not all are a gift.