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United in Power: Overcoming Division with Grace (1 Cor 12:4-7)

Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

This is true of America, but this was true of the Church at Corinth. Division has rendered them useless for the sake of the Gospel.

“Many of us [in the church] are like porcupines trying to huddle together on a bitter cold night to keep each other warm, but the closer we get...we continually poke and hurt each other.” —Howard Hendricks

The church just isn’t naturally good at math: We keep adding to or subtracting from the Word of God, and we have been called to multiplication, but we end up dividing.

In his introduction to his commentary on First Corinthians, John MacArthur said:

“What the Lord laments and opposes, Satan applauds and fosters. Few things demoralize, discourage, and weaken a church as much as bickering, backbiting and fighting among its members… Because of quarrelling the Father is dishonored, the Son is disgraced, His people are demoralized and discredited, and the world is turned off and confirmed in unbelief. Fractured fellowship robs Christians of joy and effectiveness, robs God of glory, and robs the world of the true testimony of the gospel. A high price for an ego trip!”


  • The church was struggling with arrogance… they knew better than Paul.

  • Their church was struggling with pragmatism… there was more of the world in them than them in the world.

  • The church was struggling with worldly wisdom overriding spiritual truth.

  • They were finding worldly solutions to their spiritual problems, taking things to secular court instead of solving the issues within the body.

  • Celebrity Christians became the aspiration, rather than selfless service and the elevation of Christ.

Chapter 12

  • Paul said you were pagans… now you stand in Christ.

  • Paul said you were led by dumb idols who could not speak, now God has spoken, and you are led by His spirit.

  • Paul said, with the Spirit of God at work, it is going to drive everything you do to point to the Lordship of Christ!

Verses 4-6 give the outline of whats to come in this discussion.

  • v. 7–11 focusing on the working of the Spirit (v. 7, 8, 9, 11)

  • v. 12–14 focusing on the body of Christ (the Lord)

  • v. 15–31 focusing on God and the way he put the body together (v. 18, 24, 28)

Paul is indicating that every person in the Body of Christ is gifted by God, and has no grounds to boast. It shouldn’t lead to arrogance, but to humility as we spend ourselves in service to each other. We are to exercise stewardship of the gifts that God has granted. The result will be that the honor and praise offered to God increases (1 Pet 4:10–11; see also Rom 12:3–8; 1 Cor 12:4–11; Eph 4:7–16).

Only God can bring us together. How does he bring us together?

1. He brings us together by overcoming our emptiness, by giving us undeserved gifts.

“variety of gifts but the same Spirit”

1 Cor 4:6-7 “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

Only God overcomes our emptiness. How? By giving us what we don't have. Paul introduced this as “concerning Spiritual things”. He uses two words in this section. Pneumaitca, which emphasizes the things that come from the spirit, and the charismata, which indicates the endowments of Grace…these words are interchangeable.

What are the gifts? The term gifts appears frequently in this epistle with reference to the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. The gifts of the Spirit are expressions of power that enable each Christian to function in the body of Christ.

“Supernatural abilities Sovereignly given to Strengthen His Saints who are to Serve one another and be good Stewards of the grace of God.”

What are these Gifts?

"A spiritual gift is a channel through which the Holy Spirit ministers to the Body. A gift is not an end in itself." (John MacArthur, The Body Dynamic)
"extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the Church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit." —Thayer
  • Not Fruit of the Spirit - Spiritual gifts are not the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23. The Spiritual Gifts charismata are sovereign manifestations of the Spirit’s power.

  • Not Skills, Character, Talents, natural inclinations

  • Not Offices in the church: Ex. Rick Warren etc. Eph 4:11

  • Spiritual gifts come only as a result of salvation. Spiritual gifts are special capacities bestowed on believers to equip them to minister supernaturally to others, especially to each other. Consequently, if those gifts are not being used, or not being used rightly, the body of Christ cannot be the corporate manifestation of its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the work of God is hindered.

  • Psalm 101:5 David speaks for God and says, "The man of haughty looks and an arrogant heart I will not endure."

  • Proverbs 16:5, "Everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord."

  • Rom 12:6 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us...”

  • Act 1:4-8  And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses...”

2. He overcomes our arrogance by giving us obligation to serve. “variety of service but the same Lord”

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be SERVED (diakoneo related to word "ministries" - diakonia), but to SERVE (diakoneo), and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Mk 10:45+).

Jesus left each of us as His disciples "an example for you to follow in His steps." (1 Pe 2:21+)

The Bible says we are given spiritual gifts for a purpose.

  • In Romans 12:8 we are told to use the various gifts according to the character of God and His revealed will “with simplicity . . . with diligence . . . with cheerfulness.”

  • In 1 Corinthians 12:24–25 we are told that “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

  • In 1 Peter 4:11 the purpose of the gifts is “that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

3. Overcomes our weakness by giving us overcoming power. “variety of activity but the same God who empowers”

1 Cor 8:5-6 “...yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Commentary: That the distribution of these gifts proceeds from “the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” and “the same God” suggests at least two lessons: One is that there is within this abundant variety a profound unity. The other is that since the gifts come from the same source they should not be the occasion for rivalry, discontent, or feelings of superiority.

  • Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

  • Col 2:13 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,”

  • Rom 12:6-8 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” using them in proportion to our faith.

We will only overcome our weaknesses when we are empowered by God. This is what unites us… when we are empowered to serve with the gifts he gives us.

Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


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