Saturday, 11 December 2004 17:29

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (32)

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Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (32)

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Broadcast: September 27, 1998; Message Number 1491

Spiritual Gifts (3)

The Bible uses many figures of speech to describe the church. Sometimes Scripture speaks of the church as a family, a flock or an army. At other times it is compared to a building--a temple, for instance--or a bride. Here in I Corinthians, the apostle Paul likens the church to a body. Perhaps this is the best illustration of what the church really is, and it certainly helps us to understand what the Bible teaches about spiritual gifts.

We saw that when God gives gifts to believers they should not use them for their own selfish ends, but for the benefit of the church as a whole. To show us how this principle operates, Paul uses the example of the human body with its many members all working together. Since we all have a body, we have quite a good idea of the role played by the various body parts. We don't need a PhD. in anatomy to understand that feet walk, teeth chew, hands grasp and ears hear. These observations are quite obvious, but what is not so obvious is that the same truths apply when it comes to the church.

Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? What would you say if some Pentecostal brother approached you and put this question to you? If you said "yes," would you know what you were saying "yes" to? But what would be the implication if you answered "no?"

You would first have to understand the exact meaning of the term "baptism with the Holy Spirit," wouldn't you? That is not such an easy thing. There are many conflicting views on what this baptism consists of. Some make a distinction between baptism with the Spirit and baptism of and by the Spirit. It is all very confusing. I think that the passage we are studying here will help us get a handle on this complex issue. We will learn not only what the baptism of the Holy Spirit consists of, but also when it occurs and who are the subjects of it.

When we studied verses 4 to 11 of this chapter, we learned that spiritual gifts have their source in God, come in great variety and are to be used for the good of the church. Paul now goes on to elaborate this last point, namely that God gives these gifts for the common good of His church. He says in verses 12 to 13: "For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."

When the apostle says that the church is the Body of Christ, this is more than just a figure of speech. It is literally true, for notice what he says, just "as the body is one, and has many members, ... so also is Christ [or so it is with Christ]." He doesn't say, so it is also with the church, but so it is also with Christ. The reason for putting it this way is to emphasize that the Church and Christ together constitute the Body of Christ.

If you stand in front of a mirror and look at your body, you will notice that it is divided into two major sections, the head and the torso. The head is the control centre of the body, while the torso is the biggest part of it, the part to which the members, the arms, the legs, etc., are attached. This is designed to teach us how the Church should function.

What an amazing thing this is! If we are Christians, we are part of Christ! We are His body through which He does His work on earth. This body has many members, yet it is only one body.

But are there not many churches and denominations? Yes, but that does not mean that there are many bodies of Christ. There is only one Body of which Christ is the head. All true believers are in that body. They are all joined together by sharing the same life and they are all connected to the same Head.

How did we get into that body and when? Paul answers this question in verse 13. "By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." This is a key verse for Pentecostals and other charismatics to support their notion of a post-conversion experience, which some Christians supposedly attain to after their conversion.

According to the charismatics, there are two categories of Christians: the first category consists of those who have only been born again. They are saved and will go to heaven when they die, but their spiritual life and experience is at a low ebb. They are not very active in the church because they lack the necessary gifts for witnessing and other types of service that Christians should be involved in. They have the Spirit, but not in His fullness and power. Only some Christians do, namely those who have received the baptism with the Spirit accompanied by tongue-speaking and other spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, healing, boldness in witnessing., etc. This baptism with the Spirit is something all believers should strive for and can attain to by taking certain steps, including prayer, fasting, mortification of the body, absolute surrender and the like.

But is this what Paul means when he speaks of the baptism of the Spirit? Is this something reserved for only some Christians who meet certain qualifications which other believers lack? Hardly, for notice what the apostle says: "For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body." It is something all believers share, and that is exactly true. The Bible is very clear on this. We read in Joel 2 that when the Spirit would come in the last days He would be poured out on all flesh. This is in distinction from the Old Testament, when the Spirit and His gifts were distributed only to a few select individuals. He would come upon the sons and daughters of the Church. Young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams. The Spirit would come not only on some special saints, known for their exceptional piety and so on, but on ordinary people, including male and female slaves.

The Book of Acts tells us that this is exactly what happened. All the believers were baptized in the Spirit (2:4). Not a single disciple was excluded. In Acts 1 we read that all the disciples of Christ were with one accord in one place. When the baptism came, it came upon all of them. When later, in Acts 2, the three thousand converts are told by Peter to repent and be baptized, he promised that those who would do so would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is exactly what happened. When they expressed their sorrow at having been participants in the death of Christ and submitted to baptism, the Spirit came upon them. This shows that remission of sins and the gift of the Spirit go together.

The same thing is true here, in I Corinthians 12. When the Corinthians were converted they were baptized by or with the Spirit, by Christ. It is important to understand this clearly. It is not the Spirit who baptizes, but Christ. As John the Baptist foretold: when He, that is Christ, shall come He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. The baptism with the Holy Spirit means salvation. The baptism with fire represents judgment and damnation or, as John explains in the next verse, the burning of "the chaff with unquenchable fire." Christ baptizes either as Saviour or as Judge. As Saviour, Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit; as Judge, He baptizes with fire. All who believe in Him receive baptism with the Holy Spirit; all who reject Him will receive baptism with fire.

Paul is not speaking here of water baptism as such, although there is a connection. Water baptism does not necessarily mean salvation. Believers and their children receive this sacrament because Christ has commanded this in the Great Commission. It is an outward, physical ordinance which symbolizes or points to salvation, but it is not salvation itself. Spirit baptism, however, does mean salvation. Those whom Christ baptizes with the Spirit are saved. Therefore, it is not possible to be a Christian and not to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Nor is it possible to receive more than one baptism with the Spirit. There is only one Spirit baptism, namely the baptism of Christ with the Spirit that all believers receive when they are born again.

By this baptism all believers are baptized into the body of Christ. By or with one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Paul says. Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, all have been "made to drink into one Spirit." Surely, the apostle here rules out any idea of an elitist experience reserved for a few exceptional saints. All believers are members of the one body and as such are all baptized or drenched in the one Spirit. Consequently, Paul means, all have spiritual gifts that are essential to the proper functioning of the body, so that no one should feel superior, no one should feel inferior and above all, no one should feel superfluous or dispensable.

Paul's argument for the inter-relatedness and interdependence of believers could never stand up if, as charismatics claim, there are these two categories of Christians, namely those who have been baptized with the Spirit and those who have not. All Christians are members of Christ's body and indwelt by His Spirit. Next time somebody asks you, "have you been baptized by the Holy Spirit," don't be bashful and don't be intimidated. Say, "yes, I am." That is not being presumptuous; it is the truth--if you are a Christian.

But doesn't this baptism with the Spirit mean I have to be filled with the Spirit? I'm afraid that's not true of me. Wait a minute. Baptism with the Spirit and the filling with the Spirit are not the same thing. That is why nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to seek a baptism with the Spirit, but we are told to be filled with the Spirit (Eph.5:18). The Greek word for "baptized" in our text is in the aorist tense and means something that happened in the past and that will continue to be in effect. What Paul is saying is this: all believers have been once-and-for-all baptized with the Spirit into the body of Christ. The filling of the Spirit, on the other hand, may be repeated. In Acts 2 we read that the disciples were all filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. We also hear of several subsequent fillings on other occasions. We can be baptized with the Spirit and never experience the complete filling of the Spirit. Much depends on the level of sanctification, on whether we are willing to part with all our sins or are determined to cling to some of them. The Corinthians were baptized with the Spirit; every one of them apparently, but few of them were filled with the Spirit. They were for the most part a carnal lot.

Paul's concern here, in chapter 12, is to emphasize the oneness or the unity of the body of Christ. Every born again believer has a spiritual as well as functional relationship with the body of Christ. It does not matter who we are or what we are or what social status we possess. The moment we come to Christ as poor lost sinners who put their trust in Him, we are baptized into His glorious Body of which He is the Head and we the members. From that moment on we experience a spiritual unity with our Lord and with all who love His Name, whatever denomination we may belong to. The Church is one--one holy catholic or universal Church--as we confess in the Apostle's Creed.

Are you a member of the Church universal? Have you by faith and repentance come to God and trusted in His dear Son, Jesus Christ? Then you have been baptized with the Spirit of Christ and you are led by that Spirit Who causes you to walk in the ways of the Lord. No, you are not perfect yet. You may only be a beginner in grace and therefore not yet filled with the Spirit as some other Christians you know are. But that does not make you a second class Christian. God loves you as much as He does the most eminent of His saints. That should not lull you to sleep or give you the idea that it doesn't matter how you live out the life of faith. This is the will of God, Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians, even your sanctification. For the Ephesians he has this advice: "be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Additional Info

  • Audio: 1305224726
  • Speaker: Rev. C. Pronk
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