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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Distributions of the Triune God

08/31 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Distributions of the Triune God;Audio available at:

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 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.

Paul is addressing a new topic, the topic of who is spiritual, of what distinguishes someone as a spiritual person. The Corinthians, who were all about status and position, impressing others and being thought well of, emphasized the more dramatic and showy manifestations of the Spirit like the supernatural ability to speak in an unknown language. Paul brings them back to the basics of the gospel again, reminding them that all of humanity falls into only two categories, those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1:18); those who serve idols and those who worship Jesus and own him as their King. Authentic belief in Jesus as Lord is evidence of the Spirit’s work in the heart, because “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” Paul says in Romans 8:

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Everyone who belongs to Christ has the Holy Spirit, and is therefore spiritual. The confession of faith ‘Jesus is Lord’ is enabled by the Spirit. So there can be no ranking of believers within the body of Christ as to who is more spiritual or less spiritual, because by Paul’s definition of spiritual, all those and only those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit are spiritual.

Spirituals and Grace-gifts

In the next verses, Paul looks at the various distributions of gifts to individual believers. Where in verse 1, Paul used the Corinthians’ word [πνευματικῶν] ‘spiritual ones’ or ‘spiritual things’, focusing the attention on the status of the one who possessed a specific manifestation of the Spirit as spiritual, in verse 4, Paul changes to a different word [ χαρισμάτων] ‘grace-gift’, which shifts the focus to the giver and the free and undeserved nature of the gifts. This word has its roots in the word ‘grace’; a free and undeserved freely given gift. Paul used this word back in chapter 1 when he said:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— …7 so that you are not lacking in any gift,

Because of the grace of God given to you, you were enriched in him and lack no grace-gift from him.

He uses this word again in chapter 7, referring to the gift of self-control in singleness and the gift of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:7 …each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

In Romans 12, as here in 1 Corinthians 12, he uses this word to refer to the free gifts of divine enabling by the Spirit.

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

These are grace-gifts, they are given to us freely by God’s undeserved grace. Peter uses it the same way in 1 Peter 4:10.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Grace-gifts are something we have received, they are a grace-gift, and they come to us through God’s multifaceted unearned favor. In Romans 5 and 6, Paul points to justification and eternal life as a grace-gift from God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice the contrast between what is earned and what is freely given. The Corinthians wanted to boast about their spirituality, as if certain gifts were evidence of higher spiritual achievement. Paul undercuts their boasting by pointing to the free and undeserved nature of God’s grace, who freely gives good thing to the undeserving.

Varieties or Distributions

1 Corinthians 12:4 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 highlights the various distribution of these grace-gifts three times in this passage. The verbal form of the word translated ‘varieties’ is translated ‘apportions’ in verse 11:

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The word means to separate or distribute, and the focus is on the freedom of the Spirit to apportion or distribute what he wants to whom he wants. The emphasis of the context is on the sovereign distribution of various gifts to various individuals more than on the multiplicity of the gifts. There is a distinction arising from different distribution to different persons (Thayer). We could translate: ‘there are distributions of grace-gifts, …distributions of services, …distributions of activities …the same Spirit who distributes to each one individually as he wills’.

Gifts, Services, Activities

1 Corinthians 12:4 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 uses three words to describe the gifts of the Spirit. He calls them grace-gifts, services, and activities. We have already looked at ‘grace-gifts’ as pointing to the free and undeserved nature of the gifts.

The word ‘service’ or ministry is used in different ways. Sometimes it is used of serving food to the needy, sometimes of delivering money to the poor, sometimes of delivering the gospel to sinners. The root of this word is where we get our English word ‘deacon’, which is a servant or a minister. There are various distributions of of services, some that minister to physical needs, some that minister to financial needs, some that minister to spiritual needs. Services shifts the focus to the others-centered nature of the gifts.

There are distributions of activities. The word ‘activities’ and the word ’empowers’ later in this verse are the noun and verb forms of the same word [ἐνεργέω], where we get our word ‘energy’. It means ‘activity, effect, operation, that which is worked’. There are different things that are powerfully worked, but the power for working comes from God. There are various distributions of energies, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all.

Energies Energized by God

In Philippians 2 we are told to ‘work our your own salvation with fear and trembling’

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

It is God’s working in us which causes our work to be effective and well pleasing to him. In Colossians 1, Paul speaks of the ministry he was given to make the word of God fully know, the mystery of Christ in you. He says:

Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul claims to carry out his God given ministry with the energy that God works in him in power.

Peter, speaking of the grace-gifts received by God’s free grace, says:

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

All service, whether ministering to physical, financial, or spiritual needs, is to be done in the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory. Workings or activities focuses on the divine source of the abilities.

The distributions of the Spirit are gifts of free grace, they are services to the saints, they are the workings of God’s power. Each spiritual gift is an undeserved grace-gift, a service to others, and a powerful working of God’s power.

Spirit, Lord, God

1 Corinthians 12:4 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.

Notice that all the gifts find their origin in the triune God. It is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God who works all in all. The Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father together freely give gifts to the saints.

In verse 11 we see that it is the “Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” But in verse 18 we see that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose.” In verse 24, we see that “God has so composed the body”. In verse 28, ‘God has appointed in the church” the various gifts. We see here both the distinct personality and the full deity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not an ‘it’, a force, a thing. The Spirit is a ‘he’. He performs actions. He wills, he distributes, he gives, he empowers. He is a personal being who chooses and acts, who plans and carries out his purposes. And the Spirit is put on the same level with the Father and the Son. What the Spirit does, God does. In verse 6 it is the Father who empowers all in all, but in verse 11, all the gifts are empowered by one and the same Spirit. God empowers and the Spirit empowers and that empowering is one. The Spirit wills and God wills and that willing is one.

We see this in the giving of the grace-gifts. We also see the work of the triune God in salvation; only by the Holy Spirit can one acknowledge Jesus as Lord, …to the glory of God the Father. In John 6, we see that the work of God is that you believe in him whom he has sent. Jesus said:

John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus came from the Father to give his life for the world.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

The Father gives people to his Son.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Only those that the Father draws will come to the Son.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

The Father gives people to the Son and draws them to him, the Son will raise them up on the last day, but it is the Spirit who gives life. The Father, the Son and the Spirit together give life to dead sinners.

Ephesians 2:18 For through him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Salvation is through Jesus, in the Spirit, to the Father.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are loved by the Lord, chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit. The Father, Son and Spirit together secure our salvation.

In John 14, Jesus spoke of the Spirit who:

John 6:17 …the Spirit of truth, … he dwells with you and will be in you.

The Spirit will dwell in believers. Then in verse 18 Jesus says:

John 6:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. …20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Jesus says ‘I will come to you, I will be in you. Then in verse 23 he says:

…23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We will come to him and make our home with him. The Father, Son and Spirit residing in the believer. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we are told that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God”

The work of salvation is the work of the triune God. The believer is then possessed by the triune God, and the believer is gifted, empowered and placed into service by the triune God.


Paul gives his thesis statement in verse 7, a statement that he will explain, defend and unpack in the rest of chapters 12-14:

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

To each. Every believer is spiritual. Every follower of Jesus has been gifted, empowered and employed in service to God.

Is given. The gifts of the Spirit are gifts. They are undeserved. Freely given by a gracious God.

The manifestation of the Spirit. The gifts demonstrate the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. They show off the Spirit, they make known the Spirit.

For the common good. This is the purpose. Literally, ‘toward the coming together.’ The gifts, and those who are spiritual are for others. We are to serve others. Gifts are not given for personal advancement. Gifts are given to bless others, to benefit all, for the profit of all. Grace-gifts, ministries, empowerings, all the manifestations of the Spirit are for the common good.


To answer the question ‘who is spiritual?’ It is the one who has been gifted by, deployed into ministry by, and empowered by the Spirit, the Son and the Father. This is the one who is spiritual. The one who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the one who confesses Jesus as Lord, the one who believes in God, this one is spiritual. Marvel at the generosity of our God, who raises the dead and gives us life. Wonder at the Spirit who pours out the riches of his unearned grace on us. Be amazed at our Lord, who makes us useful to him. Stand in awe of the God who empowers us to please him.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

August 31, 2014 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , ,

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