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1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Study Guide: Spiritual Gifts for the Common Good

Community Group Study Guide — For the Common Good
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Main idea:
God gives gifts to his people to manifest the Holy Spirit and build up one another in faith. Spiritual gifts help build love and unity in the church as each person uses what they received for the good of one each other. These gifts are more than just your natural talents, abilities and personality. Though God can and does certainly use those things, these gifts are supernatural in nature and exist in our lives because of our new life in Christ. 

Study Information:
It is pretty amazing to think about what takes place the moment you place faith in Jesus and go from spiritual death to life. You’re regenerated, adopted as sons and daughters by God and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s presence comes with both fruit of the Spirit, which are character traits that God authors in you as a mark of change in your life, and spiritual gifts meant to be used in service, love and unity in the family of faith (Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). These spiritual gifts are exactly that, gifts. You do not earn them, you receive them. No one should be confident in their giftedness because it is not something they authored or even fully developed. Often God can use things that you were good at before you came to faith in Christ and sometimes a spiritual gift is him magnifying that natural ability but by their very nature these gifts are something that point to God and not you. 

Some of us face barriers with our spiritual gifts and using them in the body of Christ because of pride, others are trapped by comparison and are not happy or content with how God gifted them and would rather wish they had been given something else. What Paul helps us see is that each person in the body of Christ is given a gift and there are a variety of gifts, services and activities for us to build up one another in love and faith. The Holy Spirit apportions these gifts as he wills and we’re to faithfully use them as opportunities arise (1 Corinthians 12:11). Spiritual gifts are inherently other centered but naturally our sin nature wants to make them about us. How do we fight that tendency and use our gifts for the common good of the church we are members of?

First, recognize that they’re gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:1-3, 7
Paul starts out this section of 1 Corinthians by directing them to spiritual things. The word “gifts” is not actually in the original language text of verse 1, but is added there by narrators for context. The larger idea of this section is around the things of the Spirit and that is why Paul focuses on how they used to be led by “mute idols” but the Holy Spirit is not dead or mute, but rather leading the people of God towards maturity in Christ. This leading from God and the spiritual gifts that follow are a gift from God. Notice in verse 3 that even our new identity in Christ, claiming Jesus as Lord, only comes from the Holy Spirit. This relationship we have in the body of Christ is all something we receive from God. Verse 7 tells us that each is given this manifestation of the Spirit so that everyone in the family of faith has the ability to love and serve and are therefore important and essential in the life of the church. 

The Corinthian church struggled with ranking each other and competing based on how gifted people were. We got hints of this in the first few chapters with the factions built around Christian ministers and pastors. Paul will focus on the misuse of tongues and prophecy in Chapter 14 to highlight how they ranked these gifts as “higher” than the others. They took a good thing, something God gave by his grace (which shares the same root in the Greek word for “gifts”) and they twisted it for selfish purposes. The more you can realize the abilities, skills and talents you have in your life are really a gift the more you’re able to use them for the good of others in your life.

Second, find out how God has gifted you and ways to use it in the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
There are a variety of gifts, service and activities in the life of the church. Paul is highlighting the diversity and oneness of the body of Christ by showing us the variety of person of the one God. Notice the repetition of variety and one in verses 4-6. God is the distributors of different gifts with many different opportunities to serve and many different forms this can take in the body of Christ. Just like there are a variety of persons yet one God, so there are a variety of members but one body of Christ. These gifts are distributed by God’s grace to build up the community of faith. So what are some of these gifts? Paul turns our attention to a list of gifts in verses 8-10 that were important to the Corinthian church, but you’ll notice that the list is different than other lists of spiritual gifts given in the Bible (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 12:4-11, 27-31, Ephesians 4:7-16, 1 Peter 4:10-12). These partial lists emphasize that God works in a variety of ways as he wills in and through his people. 

There are many ways to generally break down spiritual gifts into categories like help, speaking and mercy gifts; or service, speaking and sign gifts; or kingly, priestly, prophetic. Some of us may find our gifting falls into teaching and speaking gifts or other behind the scenes activities like administration and helps.

To give you a birds eye view here are the gifts listed in scripture: 
teaching, encouragement, evangelism, shepherding, prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, faith, helps, leadership, giving, administration, service, giving, leadership, mercy, hospitality and distinguishing between spirits. 

Speaking based gifts are ones where you use your words to build up and equip others in faith. These are gifts like encouragement, evangelism and teaching. The spirit has gifted people with these gifts so they can help people understand scripture, apply wisdom, hear the gospel and to be comforted through encouragement. 

Service based gifts are often action oriented and behind the scenes. They are gifts like administration, helps and mercy. These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so that those in the body of Christ can have needs taken care of and structure to exist in the life of the church through administration. Service gifts may not get as much up front recognition but they are what often are used by God to help the church feel like a family. 

Sign gifts are the most controversial in our conversation around spiritual gifts. These would be gifts like healing, tongues and miracles. There are some who believe that these gifts have ended with the last apostle and others believe they continue today. We read of things like Paul’s apron and Peter’s shadow healing people or the time when Peter and John commanded the beggar to rise and be healed. Does God work in the same way? Other passages of scripture call us to pray for healing, is that the same or is that different? We will talk more about this in our future study guides, but we should be careful to not form our opinions based on abuses of these gifts in various churches today that may lead us to believe they’ve ended. Likewise we should not form an opinion on if these gifts continue today based on reacting to “emotionless” churches. The point Paul will make in 1 Corinthians 14 is that these gifts were being abused in the Corinthian church and there was a need for correction away from exalting of self to the building up of others with them. As we explore 1 Corinthians 12-14 together over the next 6 weeks let’s have an open mind to learn what the scripture teaches about these gifts in particular. 

When it comes to discovering and developing your spiritual gifts the best thing you can do would be to pray, talk with a mentor or people who know you well, and trial and error. The point is not that these things come natural to us, but rather that the Spirit uses them for the good of the church as we follow his leading. There are spiritual gift inventories you can find in books or online, but just a word of caution those inventories are usually really good at telling you what you already like to do or what you think you’re good at. Try to expand your view a bit or get out of your comfort zone, it could be that the Spirit has equipped you to serve in a way you never expect. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

What are spiritual gifts? Why do they exist in the church?

How does Paul emphasize that these gifts are what we receive and they are not earned? Look to 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 and 4-6. 

Given what you know about the culture of Corinth, how is Paul speaking to jealousy, rivalry and division in our passage of scripture? How do spiritual gifts fight that tendency towards division?

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? If so, share a bit about what they are and how you’ve come to realize and use them in the life of the church. 

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