First Corinthians 12.1-3


1. There was a time in my life when I was an absolutely rabid sports fan. I enjoy sports somewhat now, but as a younger man I ate, dreamed, walked and talked sports.

2. While a student at Oregon State University I would cut an entire day of classes to stand in line outside Gill Coliseum so I could get a good seat at a basketball game.

3. I tell this on myself with shame, but to illustrate how fanatical were my tendencies. I remember going to a high school championship wrestling match on the campus of Oregon State and cheering so loudly for the hometown boy who was my brotherís good friend, and shouting such derisive remarks at his opponent from my balcony seat, that the opponentís mother left her seat, told me to shut up, and then slapped my face.

4. She never did realize how very close she came to dying that day. She was ignorant of her proximity to death. Yes, I was a real nutso sports fan in my unregenerate days.

5. I remember watching a pro basketball game on television in which Bill Russell, the great center for the Boston Celtics, was being interviewed by Chris Schenkel, an old television basketball announcer.

6. After listening to the reporter talk about how much better Wilt Chamberlainís personal statistics were in scoring points, blocking shots, never fouling out, etc., Bill Russell broke into a big smile and said, "But my team always wins."

7. Folks, with that brief statement was summed up the difference between two great athletes. One of them played for personal glory, the other for team glory. One of them, probably the superior athlete of the two, was ignorant about the ultimate goal of the team player; the other was not. And the difference was reflected in the number of championships won by the teams each played on during their careers.

8. Boy, do I see Christianity in capsule form in that real life occurrence. Just as Wilt Chamberlain didnít have any real idea what basketball was until so late in his career, how many of you here today have no clear idea whatís going on in the Christian life?

9. My friends, throughout recorded history it can be seen that mankind did not know what he did not know. Profoundly unaware of our own ignorance. And I am sure that each of you knows someone who typifies this human tendency. He doesnít know much and what he doesnít know he doesnít believe is worth knowing. We are all like that to some degree . . . some more than others. The lady I almost killed for slapping me, Wilt Chamberlain in basketball.

10. Now, just because youíre a Christian doesnít mean youíre immune to this problem. I know from experience that one of a pastorís greatest difficulties lies in dealing with Christians ignorant of their ignorance. Not that people are stupid or anything, but many people just have never imagined the possibility of certain things being true. This evening we begin a study of First Corinthians chapters 12 through 14.

11. Folks, these three chapters are profoundly important to your Christian life. And I guarantee that most of what we will be studying, no matter what you think you know about the subjects involved, will be truths that are quite new to you. So do me a favor. Do yourself a favor. Open up your mind and your heart. And be willing to say to yourself, "I didnít know that!"

12. In these three chapters Paul addressed some of the most gifted believers who have ever lived. They were people just like you here tonight. But as gifted as they were they needed instruction, they needed to be taught. They needed to receive certain spiritual truths.

13. That Paul might teach spiritual truths, he first had to orient them, he first had to point them in the direction they need to be pointed. What he had discerned, as he was moved by the Holy Spirit of God to write this portion of Scripture, was that the Corinthians did not comprehend the goal of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. That is, they did not know what the Holy Spirit wanted to do in their lives.

14. Paulís first task, then, was to teach them what it is the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in the life of each and every child of God. My friends, what they needed to learn you need to learn. The orientation they needed you need.

15. The problem is, many think they already are oriented. They think that itís "others" who need to be pointed in the right direction. But beloved, James tells each of you to "receive with meekness the engrafted Word." In other words, believers, each and every one of you, must approach this subject of spiritual truth, these three chapters of such importance, with humility, as if to say, "Lord, I know so little. Teach me, I pray."

16. In First Corinthians 12.1-3, three concepts written to enable us to understand what the goal of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer really is. Turn to that passage, if you will, and stand as we read those verses together: "1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 3Wherefore 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."

17. What are the three concepts that will give us understanding of the goal of the indwelling Spirit of God in your life?


"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant."

Folks, there is very little agreement in Christendom on this whole topic. And I am convinced that one reason there is so little agreement is because so few people start at the same point. In order for us to reach the same conclusions about such subjects as spiritual things we must begin with a common understanding. We must have the same jumping off point in our exploration of Godís Word for truth. And this verse is it. And what would this verse compel us to do? Recognize reality.

1B. To Recognize Reality There Must First Be A Recognition Of The Subject

1C. What is it weíre concerned about, anyway? Paul writes, "Now concerning spiritual gifts...."

2C. If we are honest with each other weíll admit that the phrase "spiritual gifts" causes most of us to think of speaking in tongues, speaking words of prophecy, and such things as that. But Paulís phrase is much broader than that narrow view.

3C. You see, eternal life is also a spiritual gift. Pastors are spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is Himself a spiritual gift. And those spiritual abilities which we normally think of as spiritual gifts are, obviously, spiritual gifts.

4C. Though Iíll not point out each instance, all of these things Iíve mentioned as spiritual gifts are at least alluded to in these three chapters of First Corinthians, if not spoken to directly. Recognize, then, that the subject is spiritual gifts in its broadest sense.

2B. Second, There Must Be A Recognition Of The Student

1C. When giving instruction about spiritual things, what kind of person does Paul seek to teach? Brethren.

2C. When he uses the word "brethren" Paul means believers, those who are in the family of God. A brother in Christ. One who has trusted Christ to the saving of his soul.

3C. And why does Paul not seek to instruct one who is not a believer? Simple. How do you teach a person who is dead in trespasses and sins?

4C. You see, since learning cannot save a soul it does no good to teach the unsaved doctrinal truths. They must first be born again by the Spirit of God before instruction will do them any good whatsoever.

5C. So, once you recognize the subject matter, you must then recognize who the student is; the child of God. You, if you are saved.

3B. Finally, There Must Be Recognition Of The Situation

Paul wrote, "I would not have you ignorant."

1C. Since you cannot get saved via intellect, it is possible (probable) that a believer knows next to nothing about certain spiritual truth that are not directly related to the Gospel

2C. A parallel can be drawn to a baby, who being fully human, knows virtually nothing of humanity.

3C. Think of it this way: The most gifted Christians on earth at that time knew nothing of spiritual gifts.

4C. Folks, it would be folly to deny that an identical situation exists today. And the ramifications of this identical situation which exists today?

1D. Those few Baptists who are converted know nothing of spiritual gifts.

2D. Those very, very few Charismatics who are converted know nothing of spiritual gifts.

3D. Those very, very few Pentecostals who are converted know nothing of spiritual gifts.

4D. Those extremely rare members of mainline denominations who are converted know nothing of spiritual gifts, not really.

5C. How do I know this? Because each of the groups I have named makes a claim to have a hold on first century type Christianity. Yet, according to Paul, first century Christians knew nothing of the gifts they both possessed and used.

6C. What kind of pride does a man have if he thinks he knows more than they did? And they didnít know anything about spiritual gifts. Folks, letís recognize reality. Letís recognize that we donít know what we think we do about spiritual gifts.

7C. Thatís the first step to take toward understanding the Holy Spiritís goal in working in your life. Until you can accept that dose of reality, that you are basically ignorant and in need of instruction, you arenít going anywhere.


"Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led."

1B. Paul First Reminds Us Of Past Heritage, We Who Are Christians

"Ye know that ye were Gentiles...."

1C. Isnít it wonderful to know that the distinctions which divided men in the past are in the past? I think so.

2C. Also, remember that you arenít like your people anymore, now that you are a child of God. You and I have more in common, being different in every respect but having the same Savior, than you have in common with someone who is like you in every respect but who does not know Christ, including members of your own family.

3C. You are now a child of God. Period. You Corinthian, you used to be a Gentile. Now you are a Christian.

2B. There Is Also A Reminder Of Past Harlotry

1C. When Paul wrote about forgetting those things which are behind, in Philippians 3.13, you will notice that he was referring to forgetting about the accomplishments of the past and things that one might be proud of in the past.

2C. When it came to failures, however, he remembered. And he bids us to remember, as well. Not that we might wallow in self-pity or guilt. Oh, no! He wants us to remember the failures of the past so that we might avoid those same sins in the future.

3C. Here Paul warns us, who used to be Gentiles, that we had a great tendency toward idolatry. We had a great tendency to worship that which was created instead of worshiping the Creator.

4C. And why this reminder of heritage and past harlotry? Because those of us who are Christians, but who come from Gentile stock, still tend toward idol worship if weíre not very careful.

5C. And you can see it today with Christians everywhere worshiping the gifts instead of the Giver. Think about it for just a moment.

6C. Pentecostals and charismatics worship the sign gifts, especially the gift of tongues, attaching a significance to tongues that is all out of proportion to the significance attached to tongues in the Word of God.

7C. But point no fingers, Baptists and Bible Church people. You worship spiritual gifts yourself. You worship gifted men. You worship Hyles and Falwell, MacArthur and Swindoll, Rogers and Roberson . . . do you not?

8C. Hey folks, no matter what the stripe or persuasion, we must all deal with this tendency we have toward idolatry. Thatís why Paul gives us the reminder.

9C. And if you donít see this tendency in your own life you probably have not yet crossed the first hurdle, back in verse 1, of recognizing the reality of your own ignorance. These are problems common to all Christians.


In verses 1 and 2 we learned that we needed to learn, and why we needed to learn. Hopefully, God has granted each person the humility of mind thatís needed to be teachable. If thatís the case, you are now properly prepared to have your mind renewed or healed, that you might properly apprehend the spiritual truths Paul wants to teach through chapters 12 through 14.

1B. As To the Concept Of Renewal

"Wherefore I give you to understand...."

1C. You will notice that the Biblical concept of renewal bears no resemblance to the popular notion of what renewal is in many circles today.

2C. You see, when God renews a believerís mind He repairs the sin damage that exists, so that you might understand spiritual truth.

3C. Turn to Romans 12.2: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

4C. From this verse we can see that renewal is given for the purpose of enabling the child of God to understand the will of God. The lost are not renewed, they need to be regenerated. This is what lies back of Paulís statement, "Wherefore I give you to understand...."

5C. You will never really appreciate spiritual truth or know Godís will for you life until the sin damage to your mind has been repaired by God. And when will that happen? When you admit your profound ignorance, verse 1, and when you admit your tendencies toward idolatry, verse 2.

6C. When you start there, God begins to heal your mind. But so many people are prevented by pride from starting there.

2B. Back To Our Text, See The Content Of Renewal

Looking over verse 3 again, you might spot some of the things that are involved in this renewal. Some of the things which once ignorant believers can understand with a renewed mind.

1C. First, the Author. This is the Spirit of God. I call Him Author because it is He Who leads, Who guides, Who decides, in the Christianís life whose mind and understanding have been renewed. I am persuaded that those real Christians who are not submissive to the Holy Spirit are the way they are because their mind has not yet been renewed. And their minds have not been renewed because of the obstacle of pride that I mentioned a moment ago.

2C. Second, there is the agent. This is the man mentioned in verse 3. An agent is one who acts on behalf of and at the behest of another. A person who is Spirit-led is an agent, in this sense of the word.

3C. Finally, the accomplishment. What is the goal and the work of the Holy Spirit of God through the believerís life? What is the sum and the substance of spiritual gifts, whether the gift is eternal life, the indwelling Spirit, gifted men, or spiritual abilities? Simple. To show Jesus Christ as Lord.

1D. My friends, anything that detracts from or demeans that worthy goal has not the Spiritís involvement. Thatís why you canít call Jesus accursed by the Spirit of God.

2D. And anything that exalts Him is the accomplishment of the Holy Spirit. Thatís why you canít call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost.

5C. That means, Christian, that spiritual gifts, whether the Holy Spirit, the pastor, the evangelist, the gift of teaching or serving, have but one grand purpose to say by speech, as well as by demonstration, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


1. If you are saved, if you are truly converted, if you are born again, you are wonderfully gifted and enabled to serve God.

2. According to the Bible, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior to the saving of your soul, God has given to you His Spirit to indwell you, has given you His undershepherd to equip you, and has given to you certain abilities, normally referred to as spiritual gifts, to use to serve Him.

3. What is the purpose behind all of this? Whatís this spiritual stuff all about? To show the world the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

4. If you will admit your ignorance, and then acknowledge your tendency to worship the creature or the created thing more than the Creator, and then submit your mind to a spiritual renewal, then you will know that this is Godís will for your life for the first time.

5. What does God want from you, but to show that Jesus Christ is Lord? Is that the message and testimony of your life? By your actions, attitudes and utterances, is Jesus Christ shown to be Lord? Or by your lifestyle and poor choices for living are you calling Jesus accursed?

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