Sermon Notes


I am going to talk to you today about things so fascinating that they may appear to some of you as nothing more than fantasy. Yet, I will be speaking of the glorious display of God’s supernatural power that is at work inside of us.
Some of you will hear and agree with what I have to say, yet that ‘reality-nerve’ that awakens your mere intellectual assent to visible belief and conviction, will have no neuron firing.

Brothers and sisters, I speak of things beyond the veil, things hidden to the children of this world and reserved only for the elect of God, and yet your minds (our minds) are ever able to shut our spiritual eyes from perceiving these spiritual delights. If we indeed serve a God with whom nothing is impossible, then must it not logically follow that we as Christians ought to be acclimatized to the impossible.
When we say things like “God is able”, or “Nothing is impossible with our God”, do we hold them as doctrinal paperbacks we have stacked on our shelves of Christian rhetoric, or do we mean that it is real. Have you seen the impossible happen on your behalf? We speak of a God so extravagant and excellent, that we herald him higher with our words than with our eyes.
I urge you to not fear the word of God. Come today and fall not upon my words or opinions, but the clear teaching and instruction of God’s words given to us here. May the Lord bless you with power from on high, and may you meet with the Sovereign today in our study of 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

1 Corinthians 12:4–11 ESV
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.

From the first seven verses of this chapter and considering the context of Paul’s reasons for writing this letter, we’d learned a few important things.

  1. The word ‘Charisma’ used by Paul throughout the NT does not separate the ecstatic manifestations of the Spirit like tongues and prophecy, from the regular manifestations such as kindness and mercy.
    In fact, Paul’s use of it in this chapter is an attempt to unite all these gifts under one banner.
    But what the cessationist is forced to do is to separate these gifts because if they don’t then by ceasing prophecy they must also cease mercy.
    As we continue our series, you will see more and more just how these gifts overlap one another, and you will be reminded of one of the first foundation principles we learned at the start of this series, that things we call normative today are basically miracles we’ve gotten used to. There is much still that we are yet to get used to.
  2. If we stick with this biblical use of the word ‘charisma’, then we are forced to acknowledge that all Christians are by definition ‘charismatic’ Christians in the biblical sense. God has given us all grace-gifts starting with saving faith. Marriage is called a grace-gift by Paul.
    It is important, therefore, that we redeem the use of this word from its contemporary use where it is expected to point only to those ecstatic gifts.
  3. And finally, we distinguish between true and false gifts by the principle that the one inspired by the Spirit of God speaks to the exaltation of Christ’s glory, and the one who pretends will bring a stain upon Christ. Though we may not recognize these in the first instance, in time we will see.


Now, coming back to our passage, we find here that Paul is giving us our first list of spiritual gifts or grace-gifts. Therefore, we are about to begin learning some definitions over a few sermons.
Today, we are going to try and define the first of this list – the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge.
But before we do that, I want us to turn our attention to the details that encapsulate this list. In my study, these surrounding details have been more exciting to learn about than the gift itself. Paul helps us see what matters most, and in doing so, lays the righteous motives that we must have in our study and pursuit of charisma.
Now, remember how Paul began this chapter,

1 Corinthians 12:1 ESV
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

The Bible does not teach us to be ignorant of these things. The reason we learn these things is that God had an explicit intention of teaching us about spiritual gifts, and he makes known to us through Paul, that he does not want us to be unaware or ignorant.
In these sermons, whenever I make a comparison between the cessationist and the charismatic, I want you to understand that I’m using a broad brush to paint a picture and those things may not apply to all who belong to these camps.
For example, cessationists vary from those who are unsure and unaware (who don’t want to learn about these things out of fear of the confusion they may bring) to those who are convinced in their minds that the gift of tongues exercised today is of the devil. So, I want you to keep in mind that when I attack the cessationist doctrines I don’t intend to say that all cessationist holds to that particular view. However, what I am intending to show is just how unhinged from scripture the fundamental belief of cessationism is.
So, my encouragement to those who would rather prefer to be unaware of these grace-gifts is that such a position is a compromise of ‘Sola-Scripture’. If you truly believe that Scripture alone is the foundation of all Christian faith and practice, then you will pursue to be aware of things that Scripture expects you to be aware of.

1 Corinthians 12:4–6
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.

  • Do you see what Paul did there? He starts by introducing the variety in the grace-gifts given by God, but all that variety still comes from the same source, and what is that source?
    Paul tells us that it comes from the Spirit, the Lord, and God. In the NT epistles, the general pattern is the use of the word ‘Theos’ to refer to God the Father, and ‘Kyrios’ to refer to God the Son, and these words are rendered here as God and Lord.
    If you have questions about the necessity or the validity of charisma, this ought to be the answer. That Paul introduced charisma as the function or workings of the Trinity.
    The clear and intentional use of this Trinitarian language can be seen as an emphasis on the seriousness and purposefulness with which God manifests these gifts.
    The Gifts of the Holy Spirit is a Trinitarian agenda. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are in fact the Gifts of the Trinity.
    Now, you might argue that Paul associates gifts here with Spirit, but for the Lord, he associates service, and for God, workings or activities. However, most theologians agree, given the broader context of 1 Corinthians and other parts of Scripture, that Paul is not intending to separate gifts, service, and activities as distinct functions. After all, the very words show us the overlap that exists between them. The giving of a gift is indicative of the service it employs, and the exercise of the gift is the workings of God.
    In other words, gifts, services, and activities cannot be any more separated than Spirit, Lord and God can be. They are one.
    According to Dr. Sam Storms, “Spiritual gifts are capabilities or abilities imparted to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to exceed the limitations of their finite humanity to serve other believers to the glory of God.
  • Beloved it is not a different God who imparts and uses these Spiritual Gifts in people. The same God who sent his Son to die on our behalf, the same Lord who gave his life for our redemption, and the same Spirit who raised him from the grave, is the One who works to distribute these varieties of gifts to his elect for the service of the church.
    And when Paul unites all these gifts under one banner – charisma, we need to understand that at its root these gifts are meant to serve the same purpose.
  • A word on ‘variety’. God’s intention as we will see in the rest of this chapter, is to use a variety of gifts that are distributed across the church so that the use of these gifts by each of the members works together to build up the whole body of Christ. I like how the ESV Study Bible writes, “The diversity of divine persons within the unity of the Trinity should be reflected in the diversity of gifts within the unity of the body of Christ.

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

To each is given. Nobody is left out in this operation of the Holy Spirit. We need to stop seeing the charisma as something we are yet to receive. Our faith in Christ is the very first charisma we’ve received.
These gifts are manifest in us. They are undeniable and evident for all to see.
And these gifts work for the common good. Any gift that is exercised selfishly is not a manifestation of the Spirit at work, but a misuse of the gift God has given, if at all it is a true gift God has given.
This becomes clearer when we see the last verse of this section.

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

  • The Holy Spirit not only apportions, but he also empowers the workings of these gifts. The word for empower is ‘energeo’ which means to energize or to carry into effect.
    And like any gift, we are capable of misusing many of them, and in several such cases, the Spirit who apportioned these gifts does not energize the misuse. A lot of people find this difficult to understand.

Why would the Holy Spirit gift a person with miracles and prophecy if He knew they were going to misuse it?
My answer. Does the Spirit not gift us with marriage when many misuse it? Does he not gift us with talents such as music, and many there be that misuse it?
In Matthew 7:21-23, we read about the many that relied on their exercise of spiritual gifts as proof of their inheritance of eternal life. Yet, note the response of Jesus. He does not say your gifts were fake, or that they were pretending. Instead, he tells them, “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”
We can be gifted by God, and yet use those gifts as workers of lawlessness.

  • His will is the primary cause. God is King over the Christian Kingdom and he decides what his servants will do. As a righteous King, he apportions to each of us gifts, services, and activities that we are to perform by his will.
    Our will is the secondary cause, as we will see further on in our exposition of 1 Corinthians, that we are instructed to desire and pray for these spiritual empowerments. We are instructed to appear before our King and ask for these gifts by which we can serve him better by strengthening his people. And our King is kind to answer our petition, according to His sovereign plan and will.

And that brings us to our list. The NT lists the spiritual gifts five times, and no two lists are entirely the same. Two of those listings appear in this 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 12:8–10 ESV
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.

Word of Wisdom and Word of Knowledge

For our consideration today, we will look at the first two, which the ESV translates as utterance of wisdom and utterance of knowledge.
Now there are many debates regarding the specific manifestation of these gifts due to multiple reasons, the most important one being that the NT does not mention these two gifts anywhere else, and here Paul does not expand on them either.
Another reason that makes defining these gifts difficult is the overlap they seem to have with each other, and with the gift of prophecy. That begs the question if these are entirely separate gifts or are they different manifestations of the same gift of prophecy.

  • They are distinguishable to a certain degree.
    I, myself am compelled by the broader context of Scripture that these are indeed distinguishable gifts, although I do concede that there is some overlap in the nature and service of these gifts. The lack of direct biblical instruction should dissuade us from being entirely dogmatic about what these gifts are.
    However, even though we don’t have the mention of these gifts anywhere else in Scripture, what we do have are several uses of the words for ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’. And the overlap of these two words is obvious. If knowledge is the perception and learning about something, then wisdom is the trait of utilizing such knowledge with common sense and insight. So, you see, an act of wisdom requires knowledge, and the proper use of knowledge requires wisdom.
    Another reason to distinguish them is that Paul distinguishes them here in his list of spiritual gifts. At least as far as ‘knowing’ and the ‘use of knowing’ are distinguishable.
  • Are they natural or supernatural manifestations?
    One argument that theologians have is that the utterance of knowledge and wisdom, are gifts of preaching. They would argue that these are not so much supernatural in that they are not divinely endowed beyond a person’s natural capacity (a capacity given to him by God) of growing in knowledge and wisdom.
    I disagree with this thought because wisdom and knowledge cannot be isolated to the gift of preaching, as we can think of many other areas of Christian life and church life where words of wisdom and knowledge are necessary. Wisdom and knowledge in that capacity are given to all believers, and yet, here in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul’s very aim is to say not all are given these gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30
    1 Corinthians 12:29–30 NASB95
    29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
    30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
  • Then, what are these gifts?
    Well, we have many references in Scripture to the activities of Christ and his apostles that can be analogous to these gifts. Now, remember, there is only a certain degree of certainty we can have, but in my spiritual walk, I lean toward this understanding.
    For example, there are many instances where Jesus is recorded as knowing the thoughts of people around him (Matt 9:4, 12:25, Luke 6:8, 9:47)
    Or how about Paul’s knowledge of Elymas the magician’s intention in Acts 13, or the demonic girl in Acts 16 where Paul understood that she was under the influence of “a spirit of divination”.
    What about the revelatory nature of the knowledge given to Peter regarding the sin of Ananias and Sapphira.
    In many of these instances, we find Jesus and his disciples gaining certain knowledge that they otherwise would not have known, supernaturally interposed upon their Gospel service at that particular time.
    Now, you could argue that Jesus is God after all. He is omniscient. But here I agree with Sam Storms, who points out that Jesus in his human incarnation depended on the Holy Spirit for his ministry. Sam mentions, “To live a fully human life, God the Son voluntarily suspended the exercise of certain divine attributes (such as omniscience). He, in no sense, ceased to be fully God, but he chose not to make use of those attributes that would have proven inconsistent with genuinely human life of weakness and finitude.”
  • What that means for us
    God in his eternal mercy intends to give us the gift of utterances in that time of need, where we can speak with knowledge and the consequential wisdom which we otherwise do not possess.
    This shouldn’t be so strange to us considering Jesus’ words in Luke 12:11-12
    Luke 12:11–12 NASB95
    11 “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defence, or what you are to say;
    12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”


How did God gift a cessationist in this manner?
This is why many of my heroes in the faith are cessationists. Because despite their shortcoming in this regard, the excellence of Christ and their love for God’s church far supersedes many who would call themselves Charismatic.
Remember, our foundations, we fellowship with all who pursue the Giver above the Gifts.
We love our cessationist brothers and sisters and we learn much from them. And God is not hindered from gifting them in supernatural ways just because of their doctrinal stance.
Christ died for us all!