In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul was writing as a spiritual father to the church in Corinth, addressing several problems going on in the congregation. Though it was a spiritually gifted church, there was also immaturity in the attitude of many people there.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 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.
1 Corinthians 12:1–3
Paul was bringing corrections on some issues such as factionalism, immorality, and eating food sacrificed to idols. But in this passage, Paul was instructing the Corinthians so they would not be ignorant concerning the importance of spiritual gifts in keeping the vibrancy of the life of the church.
Paul emphasized that the source of the spiritual gifts was none other than the Holy Spirit. Even their ability to confess that Jesus is Lord was by the enabling of the Spirit, unlike the time when they were deceived into worshiping mute idols.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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.
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
1 Corinthians 12:7–11
From the very beginning, God’s desire has always been to dwell with His people. Through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, the way was opened for God to be with us in the Person of the Spirit.
This is reinforced by Paul’s use of two metaphors concerning the church: the church as the new temple of God where the Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19), and the church as the members of the body of Jesus Christ through whom the Holy Spirit ministers to the needs of the people.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13
We know from other Scriptures that God revealed Himself as One God in Three Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a mystery of our faith, but when we believe His word, we experience the fullness of His love, power, and presence in our lives.
We see this revelation of God as One God in Three Persons in Paul’s explanation: The variety of spiritual gifts point to the reality of the Spirit’s presence in their midst. The different ways of service point to the reality of Jesus Christ’s ministry. And the various kinds of working point to God the Father’s activity in His people.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:4–6
The spiritual gifts then are the evidence of God’s presence among His people as the body of Jesus Christ, and our willingness to be used as members of His body enable us to be the physical representation of Christ to minister to the spiritual needs of His people and the lost.
There are three lessons we can learn from Paul’s instruction concerning spiritual gifts:
1. God bestows gifts upon every believer. “Gift” in the original Greek language is the word translated as charisma in English. This is not about a charismatic personality, but a supernatural ability from God to minister to the needs of others. If you are a follower of Christ, then the Holy Spirit lives in you, and therefore you have the ability and power from the Spirit to bless others.
Remember that these are gifts. They’re not something you work for or earn, but something you can desire out of love for the people of God (1 Corinthians 14:1) and grow in through training.
Also, Paul understood the revelation of the church as like that of a human body, in which every part gives and receives from the other parts. The joy of being part of the body is that we can both give and receive spiritual blessings from one another (1 Corinthians 12:24–26).
2. There are a variety of gifts to meet the various needs of the people. Paul enumerates at least nine kinds of spiritual gifts in this passage, although other passages also reveal more gifts available for God’s people to minister in (1 Corinthians 12:27–31; 14:1–5; Romans 12:4–8).
We can observe from these passages that though there are some gifts that are resident in some members, the various gifts can also operate in all the believers as the spiritual need arises.
For instance, there are disciples who walk in the gift of healing or prophecy. But when there is someone who needs healing at that moment, you don’t need to wait for someone who has the gift of healing to pray for the sick. The members present should pray already, believing that the Spirit will work through them to bring healing.
We can all prophesy or give a word of knowledge or word of wisdom to minister to the church or even people who don’t know Christ, as long as we do it in the context of the church gathering (1 Corinthians 14:26–33).
3. The gifts of the Spirit are distributed by the Spirit to bring strength, encouragement, and comfort to the church (1 Corinthians 14:1–5). God never intended for us to walk this journey of faith alone. So He placed us in community and His body so that through the spiritual gifts operating in and through us, we can build one another up.
Our motivation to do so ought to be love, as Paul pointed out in the great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13). Many couples want to use these verses for their wedding invites, which is fine. But let us remember that the context of Paul’s exhortation on love is about the use of spiritual gifts. Furthermore, spiritual gifts are also one of God’s means to open up the hearts of unbelievers to God’s word (1 Corinthians 14:24–25).
The gifts of the Spirit are available to every disciple so we can encourage, strengthen, and comfort one another, and for us to minister to those who don’t know Christ yet.
Let us honor the Spirit’s ministry in our midst by offering ourselves to be His instruments to proclaim and demonstrate the reality of the gospel of the kingdom to the world!
This article is based on a preaching of Bishop Manny Carlos during an online staff meeting of Every Nation Philippines in May 2020.
The last few months have been a time of disruption and uncertainty for all of us. In this very hour, the whole world is certainly being shaken economically and politically through this pandemic. Throughout biblical history, we see authors talk about God shaking the nations—and we wonder what that means. Here is what it boils down to: We are called by God to build His house, and God’s prerogative and initiative is to shake the nations as we build His house.
How do we renew our faith and prepare ourselves for the days ahead as God shakes the nations of the world?
In Haggai 2:1–9, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai, to the leaders, and the people of the remnant to stir them up by the Spirit, so that they might rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God on the earth, where His people worship Him. God encouraged them to be strong three times in Haggai 2:4,5. He wanted to strengthen them physically and emotionally because God is determined to build His house, where He would dwell.
When Jesus Christ commissioned the Church to go and make disciples of all nations, He also taught that God will no longer dwell in a temple, because He will dwell in the Church, as each one receives the Holy Spirit. And as He builds the Church, He is going to shake the nations in order to do so!
God has a purpose in shaking the nations; He does not do it out of impulsiveness. The question now is, why?
Three Reasons God Shakes the Nations
“‘I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
Haggai 2:7 (NIV)
Bible commentaries often say the phrase “desired by all nations” as a reference to the Messiah, but more likely, they are people—Jews and Gentiles—who will come to faith in Christ as a result of the shaking, bringing their treasures with them. These treasures refer to the people who will come to faith in Christ because of the shaking (Haggai 2:8).
The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
Every time there are kingdoms that rise and fall, wars, and even political leadership changes, it brings instability to the nations. Historically and even in our present time, there have been many shakings on the earth. God will not allow any empire on earth to be perpetuated forever.
In contrast, God exalts His servants, like He did with Zerubbabel. The Lord made Zerubbabel like a signet ring, which corresponded to a throne. Zerubbabel is part of the lineage of David and part of the ancestry of Jesus Christ.
We may not see this immediately, but God will raise men and women of His kingdom to take the lead and to serve His purpose. He will use the shaking of nations to do this more and more.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
After the church was birthed in Jerusalem on the Feast of Pentecost, the Roman Empire tried to snuff it out again and again. But after 300 years, the Roman Empire became Christian.
To this day we see that the kingdom of God has been advancing, and it has brought political and economic freedom, salvation, and deliverance from spiritual bondage, idolatry, and all kinds of bondages in the nations.
God is going to shake the nations once again so that something will be established—a kingdom that cannot be shaken. God has a reason for these shakings. It is not because He is not for us. It is so that the things that can be shaken will be removed. For many of us, there have been shakings, but in this hour that we are living in right now, everything that can be shaken has been shaken. This is because God is establishing His kingdom in our personal lives, in our church, and in our nation.
The primary way by which God shakes the nations is through His voice. It is the voice of God that brings the shaking, and His primary means of speaking His voice to the people is through His chosen servants, the Church.
Every time we preach the gospel, every time we prophesy, every time we pray, the voice of God is going through the earth, and it is that preaching of the word that brings a shaking to our communities, to our cities, to the nations of the earth.