Category Archives: Topical

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

God’s body parts

Discussion Question

Name three body parts that you could live without. What difference would it make to your life without those three?

Background (Context)

Division in the church has been a considerable theme in this whole book. There have been divisions over which leader is best, legal issues, freedom in Christ issues and selfish seclusions. In Chapter 11, Paul dealt with the disunity in the church manifested at the Lord’s Supper which was harmful and damaging to the church. There was a double meaning with regard to the Lord’s Supper because it refers to the body of Christ. This refers to Jesus’ literal body that was hung on the cross. It also referred to the bread that is an image of remembrance for his body. It is, as we shall see clearer here, also the church that has come together because of the sacrifice of Christ. His body has given life to the body which is the church. If the church is one body, there ought to be no such thing as division because, who would ever think that a body should be dismantled like that. A head needs a neck…

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The principle laid out (12-14)
  • What this means for the ‘lesser’ parts (15-20)
  • What this means for the ‘greater’ parts (21-26)
  • Putting some flesh on the principle (27-31)

The principle laid out (12-14)

“Just as a body…so it is with Christ.” Verse 12 is simply put but holds the full weight of this passage. The end of the sentence points us to Christ. This is not simply instruction on how to relate to other people at church but about our relationship with Christ and His body. The principle of this passage is quite clear and simple and will not take much time to understand it. The outworking of this is a little trickier but the hardest part will really come down to who is this included in this passage! If we presume that all at church are part of Christ’s body then this becomes a message of church organisation and structure or something like that. If it refers only to the real body of Christ who are truly born again then how do we discern who is and who isn’t part of the body of Christ? It may then set a huge discussion in motion but hopefully we will come back again to understanding that the body of Christ is a creation of God the Father since it is the church of God that we are referring to. And Paul, in his entire letter has been addressing it to all the saints at Corinth – the church of God, sanctified in Christ and called to be holy. We will teach the principle to all at church and live it out and those who are not truly part of the body will be revealed eventually.

“For we were all baptised by one Spirit…all given the one Spirit to drink.” Using the power of context: Paul wrote in Verses 1-11 about the Spirit distributing gifts to believers and the primary gift is the truth to call Jesus Lord. We become members of the body of Christ as we declare Jesus as Lord by the Holy Spirit – we are baptised in this way. We drink as the Spirit has distributed to each one gifts. The theme of unity, or anti-division, is continued as Paul talks about Jew v Gentile and slave v free. The point of Verse 13 is the same as Verses 1-6. We come to Christ and are enriched in Christ by the work of the Spirit.

“Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” Here is the new angle that Paul wants to focus on. Being one in Spirit does not make us clones of one another. What we do and how we express our service and works for God will differ and yet will continue to be sourced by the One Spirit and for the good of the church. We then look at what it means to be a body (church) made up of different parts. In applying this text, we need to keep in mind the different layers of what church means. It needs to be applied at the level of the local church, at the level of partnering churches (the Anglican structure), and at the global or universal church (which is every representative body of the authentic Spirit of God). And yet, the primary application will be the local gathering.

What this means for the ‘lesser’ parts (15-20)

“Now if the foot should say…” Verses 15-17 are fairly straight forward. Paul has given a good illustration toward what he is saying. Those who feel themselves to be of less worth to the body should not think that they are not part of the body. These words are here to give courage to those who feel they have little importance to the body. You can live without feet. Many brave humans have demonstrated that. But this is not a lesson in what we could possibly get by without. It is about knowing that the body is the body – no matter how small. In fact, it is when a lesser thing is lost that the rest of the body needs to compensate for the loss! Paul will cover that later.

“…in fact God has placed the parts in the body…just as he wanted them to be.” Have you ever wished that you could speak like that person can? Or if you could play an instrument or sing like that person. Or if you could be as charismatic as that person! Here we are told that God has placed people in a church like instruments in an orchestra. Nobody seeks out to be the oboe player! But the many parts make up the glory of the whole and God Himself has orchestrated that. We’ll see that some of the parts do not even look good when you point them out. But we must thank God that they are all part of the body. If we were God, we would just make every Christian a well toned, beautiful, intelligent, well-off person. You know: Come to Christ and your life will look amazing like the person on the cover of this book! But, the church is about saved sinners who come together because of the great mercy of God.

“If they were all one part, where would the body be?” Paul’s logic is that a body, by definition, has parts. If it did not have parts then it would simply be an object: square, cube, eyeball, etc. The body has to have parts and if the parts are not present then there is no body. So, if you are at church, and engaged with the gospel, you are a part of the body. That is the perspective we all should have.

What this means for the ‘greater’ parts (21-26)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” Now we look at the perspective of those who seem to be more important at church. Their perspective is to be the same: don’t dismiss the other parts because it will damage the body that you are a part of.

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it…” It’s fun to think of all the parts of your human body and consider which parts are ‘less honorable’ or ‘unpresentable’. Which parts of the human body lacks honour? Perhaps the feet. Of course, there are parts of the body that we do our utmost to protect and guard and never flaunt around! And yet these parts are very special to us! If that has grabbed your imagination and raised your eyebrows, then good. Now consider the church. Are there parts that we should care for and protect and treat with utmost respect even though we may not place them out the front.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” As the body of Christ we move through highs and lows together. When you cut your hand, the rest of your body is aware of it and compensates. It stops and treats the suffering part. It provides rest for that part while the rest of the body functions a little less vibrantly as it did before until that body part is healed or recovered. We ought to look for a connectedness in our church like this. Growth Groups are just one way of being connected so that we can care for one another. But make sure that your group is not just talking about theology but also listening and rejoicing and praying and lamenting over the things of life – especially as we grow in our maturity in the gospel together.

Division in the church should disappear when we see one another as part of the one body. But now Paul will put some specific details onto his initial principle.

Putting some flesh on the principle (27-31)

“Now you are the body of Christ…” We have been referring forward to this verse a little bit but it has finally come. We are the body of Christ. A great truth which says: you are not Anglican or Baptist. You are a member of Christ’s body.

“…and each one of you is part of it.” For those who are wondering who all this applies to, it is all who are reading and engaged with this text. If you are attending church then you are to react to this news that you are part of the body. We treat all as potential or actual members of the body of Christ. Those outside the church are highly unlikely to be members of that body since it is a very Christian response to actually attend church! Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car! BUT…garages are made for cars and churches are made for Christians. Churches are the number one location that people give their lives to Christ. There is no other comparison (I don’t mean that conversions only happen under the roof of a church building but that conversions 9/10 times happen as a result of someone being in contact and engaging at church. People don’t arrive at church generally saying, I’m saved and thought I’d come to church. Rather, they say, I’ve been thinking of getting back into church and then some time later give thanks that they did because it was there than they found Christ.

“And God has placed in the church…” Remember that God has made up our physical bodies exactly how he planned them to be with special parts and indispensable parts etc – God has placed parts in the church too.

“…first…apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then…” There does appear to be a hierarchy here of gifts which correspond to the parts of the body that seem to be of greater worth – yet they are not greater than the other parts of the body. They are key pieces of the body and the order of apostles, prophets and teachers seems interesting and significant. He ends Verse 30 with instructions to desire the greater gifts. So Paul, while maintaining unity and equality in the church as many parts of the whole, he is also drawing attention to some gifts as of higher value. Let me put it this way, when churches do not have these parts, the body really suffers. Miracles, healing, helping and guidance appear to sit on a second rung to apostles, prophets and teachers.

Teachers – This is the least controversial gift. Some people are capable of teaching. They are able to learn stuff in a way that they can then present to others to know for themselves. They are instructors. When applied to the church, teachers are trainers of the faith through the word of God. Is this the preacher? Preaching and teaching appear to be two separate and yet closely linked things (Matt 11:; Romans 2:21; 1 Tim 4:13; 5:17). Preaching is like exhorting which is to direct people strongly in a direction and yet teaching is more like instruction on scripture. Preaching would go hand in hand with teaching. Not simply knowledge of the scriptures but what to do about them.

Prophets – You may have a gut feeling about what a prophet does cause you imagine a wise old monkey sitting with a stick in its hand and when people come to enquire of the creature, they make strange markings on the wall and predict what the future will hold. But we will rather reflect on what the scriptures tell us about prophets. A prophet is someone who speaks the words of God. It might be helpful to look at the example of Aaron in Exodus 7:1. Moses was feeling incapable of doing what God had told him to do before Pharoah and the people of Israel. God then instructs that Moses will be like God to Pharoah and that Aaron will be your prophet. Aaron is not described as a prophet of God but a prophet of Moses. So that, what Moses intends to say, Aaron will speak the words. He will be like Moses, speaking the words of Moses. Now, sometimes, the Old Testament prophets would take a word from God to the people and it will contain aspects about the future. But by and large, they were expounding the words of God in relation to the promises of God in the past. Yes, they were announcing the words that God speaks. But the words were not a brand new message that contradicted anything that God had said previously. Two judgments are made concerning a prophet: 1) does it contradict what God has already said? 2) did what the prophet say was going to happen come to pass? If either of those are false then the prophet is a false prophet. While the scriptures were still open for addition in the New Testament times, it seems that the gift of prophecy was present and Paul even says to pursue it. Now that the scriptures are complete, it is a fair argument to have whether prophecy has ended, become less frequent, or does it continue under the banner of preaching the gospel to all nations. The word of God has come and His Spirit has been poured out to believers so that we can talk about the result of people believing or rejecting the gospel.

Apostles – The third (and first word) in the list has a double meaning. The word means sent one. And so, all of us who have heard the gospel and the call to go and make disciples are a type of apostle. Paul described himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (sent by Christ 1Cor1:1). He pleaded that surely the church in Corinth recognised his apostleship because they are the proof or seal of this title (1 Cor 9:2). It is a word that can be used widely by someone who has been sent by someone else or by a church (Acts 15:22). But it also has a specific use when we talk about the Apostles of Christ. Paul and Peter and James and John and the other men (not Paul or Judas) who were Jesus’ twelve disciples. Their ministry establishes the first century church and gives us the final word of God in the scriptures. We teach that the scriptures closed with the death of these Apostles. Our church is built upon the Apostolic teaching which is the Word of God about Jesus Christ.

The gifts we ought to hold as key to the body of Christ is the apostoloc teaching, the word of God spoken and the teaching of this word to the whole body. It’s like the head is a significant part of the body because of the brain and the mouth which feeds the rest. It doesn’t change the lesson that the whole body is the body. It does teach that there are those roles that are incredibly necessary for the church to be the church.

“Are all…do all…Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Each part of the body will demonstrate different gifts, but as the body overall, there are greater gifts that we need the body to include. These are the gifts of the gospel being presented to the church through teaching the very word of God as handed to us by the apostles.

“And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” This sentence is the intro to the infamous Chapter 13! It almost wipes out everything that we have said because it points us to love. BUT, love without proper teaching soon becomes greed and lust. The most excellent way of love is best understood when the body is taught to understand it well. And then the body will all, every part, express and experience the great gift of love.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Anyone in the church is to see themselves as part of a greater thing than themselves. Those who feel unhelpful and insignificant must understand the blessing that they are for being part of the body of Christ. Those who have significant parts to play must understand that they too are only placed there by the mercy and grace of God for the benefit of all who are there. The WOW gifts of healing and miracles are to be reoriented to lesser than the message of Jesus Christ who gave his body and blood for the life of the church of God.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The joy of being you. You are wonderfully and beautifully made. Like everybody at church, you have Christ to thank for your salvation and your knowledge of God and all His works. The Spirit that you have is the same Spirit that all the members of the church have. No more and no less. You are special because Christ died for you. And you are a member of the body of Christ. You may not be something else that you would love to be but that is a distracting thought away from the best thought that you have been made by God, saved by God and sealed by God with the Holy Spirit. What a blessing you are when you know and love that.

Topic B: The joy of knowing others like you. The body of Christ is made up of many parts that all do their part just as God has made them to be. We are all growing in Christ and being transformed, that is a work in progress that God has promised to complete. But look around at what God is doing in the lives of others at church. Praise God for the servants, the workers, the speakers, the encouragers, the prayers, the readers, the visitors and the faithful men and women who have held the gospel in this place for decades.

Topic C: Be keen for better things. A church that sits on the routine of rosters and meeting times will lose sight of the greater gifts. What we ought to eagerly desire is the word of God to feed us and grow us. If we are one body with many parts, then all of the parts can work together to ensure that what we love best is good spiritual food. And that food is the word of God spoken to us. Taught. Exhorted. Applied. At our church, we meet weekly in large public times to sing and to pray and to hear the bible read and taught. We meet mid-week in smaller groups to coach one another in life through Christ by reading the bible, teaching one another and caring for how we are each progressing in the faith. We also hope to commend and support everybody in a habit of good personal and family bible times. Just as an organism will eagerly desire food to survive, the body of Christ must eagerly desire to be fed by the word of God. That, after all, is how the body with all it’s parts learns to live together as one through love.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

The gifts of the Spirit

Discussion Question

What thoughts or questions do you have about gifts from the Spirit?

Background (Context)

Paul has written a letter to the church in Corinth who need to be pointed away from thinking just like the rest of the world thinks and to consider Christ – the only LORD to worship and the only Saviour of the world. Knowing this changes everything we do.

We cease boasting in people and boast in the Lord. We stop thinking of freedom as an invitation to have everything but turn our hearts to serving Christ, even with our bodies. From Chapter 8, we are warned to flee idolatry but rather glorify God in everything. Chapter 11 turns to a positive view of worship as the theme of worship and relationships is examined. The Lord’s Supper shows us that we are no longer a people who worship in order to get something, but we worship because we have already received in full. The final chapters of 1 Corinthians celebrates how amazing it is to know God and adopt the same character as him. We are no longer tossed individuals in the world responding to things in anger and division but we are a saved people who worship together in love and truth.

What were the people in Corinth doing that Paul didn’t like? We are about to read the passage and hear Paul talk about things gifted by the Spirit of God to the church. About healing and prophecy and miracles and tongues. Were these things happening in Corinth? Was it wrong? Should we get these? We’ll deal with those questions as the study goes on. Whether we know what the church was doing or not has little benefit to what Paul says to us about them. Much wisdom from the scriptures is overlooked when we go looking for background info to shine a light on any passage. The bible has been put together to listen to from any nation in any time.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The primary Spiritual gift (1-3) to call Jesus Lord
  • One Spirit, One Lord, One God (4-6)
  • Different gifts but still the same Spirit (7-11)

The primary Spiritual gift (1-3) to call Jesus Lord

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” Ironically, I also don’t want you to be uninformed (or ignorant) about this first verse! Although all major translations say spiritual gifts or gifts of the Spirit, the word gifts is not a given in the Greek text. The Greek word used means ‘pertaining to the spirit’, or ‘spiritual’ and the translations have looked forward to Verses 4-11 to look at what the spiritual things is pointing to. We could read, Now about the things pertaining to the Spirit, or Now about spiritual things. See how the major translations are correct and yet, if we are uninformed, we presume that there is a special thing or things called spiritual gifts. The way the rest of the passage plays out will not be affected by this nuance very much BUT the existence of the phrase: spiritual gifts gives license for the uninformed to discuss grand powers as a right in their spiritual experience. The only place in Scripture where the phrase spiritual gifts is ever actually used rather than implied is in Romans 1:11 where the usage in context is clearly about strengthening one another by the truth of the gospel. Note also 1 Cor 1:7 mentions gifts but does not carry with it spirit. The full words of this section plus Chapter 14 explore gifts given through the Spirit. We desire to listen intently without jumping to a world where Christians automatically get super powers.

“You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.” Paul uses the word pagans (gentile, nations, people) as the pre-Christian diagnosis for all. Before coming to Christ, we were all pagan. When we enter this world, we are of the world. We are fleshly and ignorant of the true God. In many and various ways, we are lead to worship false gods. We love to adore things or people. But adoring the One True God is just not in our nature. By default, says Paul, we will be idolaters. Ephesians 2:1-9 (esp V2) expresses it well. There are many and various superstitions around that go unchecked. There are many gods that we can trust and hope in for future security. Even worship in the Christian realm can be misused as merely a superstition – until it is transformed by the knowledge of the True and Living God through the word of God. The doctrine of total depravity describes that we are unable to muster knowledge or belief in God on our own.

“Therefore…” Paul’s assertion in Verse 2 gives him confidence to say what follows. The effect of knowing that we will all be mislead away from God gives the following conclusion.

“…no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” If our human nature cannot take our hearts and minds to worship the True and Living God in truth (but turn to mute idols) then anyone who professes Jesus to be Lord can only do this by the Holy Spirit. Of course, anyone can mouth these words, or read them off a book, but coming to God is only ever a work of the Holy Spirit. The first thing to know about spiritual things and spirituality is that we need the Holy Spirit to bring us to eternal life. The primary gift of the Holy Spirit is to give us the knowledge of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the work of an entirely different spirit to curse Jesus, to reject Jesus.

One Spirit, One Lord, One God (4-6)

“There are different kinds of gifts…service…working…” Gifts and service are both outward in nature from something to something else. God gives gifts, and service is something done for the benefit of others. Working is about activity and effort. Perhaps it is a triune thought about the source and direction of use. That is, God gives gifts for the benefit of others, not simply the one who receives so that their work can be an expression of God’s good work in the world. Whether these three words are meant to be three sides of one thing or whether they are three different areas of thought will become clearer as the passage goes on.

“…the same Spirit distributes…the same Lord…the same God at work…” The emphasis in these three Verses is the unity of the source. The church is one because our God is one. God is at work in calling and saving the church. The Lord is the revealed Lord Jesus whom we serve. And the Spirit is at work in all of the works of God to distribute and call and teach and save. Notice the matching of gifts distributed by the Spirit. The Lord is matched against service. And our work is matched with the work of God. While 1 Corinthians began with the trouble of division in the church, Paul is celebrating the source of unity! Our Triune God is the foundation of the church and the supplier of all its needs. The church is to reflect the unity of God. Though many, we are one. No division in the church even though there is division in the distribution of gifts. Note that different and division are related words. We embrace unity as we celebrate our differences because we recall that our source and service are founded in One God who is at work in all of us. Just as God is one and yet demonstrates His diversity within the Trinity, the church recognises it’s many gifts and services and works and thanks God for being the resource for all of us.

Different gifts but still the same Spirit (7-11)

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Note that any benefit that we receive from knowing God and receiving from Him is for the benefit of the church (and the world). If we recognise a blessing from God, it is not to be put in your back pocket and sat on. Use it. Express God who has manifested the Spirit in you through gifts that you are able to use for the benefit of others. Gifts for service put to work.

“…through…by…the Spirit…” Recall that when we were simply people in this world, we were led astray to mute idols (V2). When we do or say anything under the expression of Jesus as Lord, this is a manifestation of the Spirit within us. This is the logic of Paul here. If it is for Christ, it is through or by the Spirit. If it is against Christ, then it is something else.

“…a message of wisdom…” This would imply wisdom from God rather than wisdom of the world which Paul condemned in the early part of this book (2:6). Wisdom is presenting the truth of God into this world in a practical way. We see how we are best to live and act and react in the world under the grace of God. In Chapter 2, Paul speaks much on wisdom and declares that the wisdom from God is not something that anybody in this world could possibly have mustered up. We declare something that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived. Wisdom from God is God given. It is through the Spirit. It is to have the mind of Christ. And it seeks to know nothing else but Jesus Christ and him crucified. (2:2). If someone claims to have spiritual wisdom and does not proclaim Christ – it is not the same spirit we wish to be fed from.

“…a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit…” Chapter 8 focused on the word knowledge. It shows an understanding of matters. It emphasises understanding and intellect rather than virtues like kindness, patience and love. It is neither a good nor an evil. It is a building block for what we choose to do with our knowledge. The greatest truth about knowledge is not about what we know but about being known by God. The Spirit will guide us to true knowledge but knowledge without love is nothing. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

“…to another faith…” It must not be presumed that some will have the gift of faith and others may not. This letter implies a number of times that all in Christ must have faith (2:5; 7:22; 13:13; 15:14, 17; 16:13) But perhaps there are those who manifest a faith from God that feeds the faith of those around them. That is, faith in the church is caught as we stand beside those whom God has especially gifted with faith. I do not mean by this what some might think I mean: that we have faith tanks that can be filled little or much and that the more faith, the greater our relationship with God. Like the faith that can move mountains! I simply mean that while some may manifest their worries and timidness, others can give courage as they manifest their trust in God. This too is not a measure of a person’s worth before God since it is a gift of the Spirit – they didn’t do this of themselves.

“…to another gifts of healing…miraculous powers…” The list of examples gets more and more ‘interesting’! We know that Jesus had the power to heal and perform miracles. We know that the apostles received similar gifts. We certainly believe this to be the work of God when the result of these gifts and powers are to profess and proclaim Jesus as Lord (keeping the context in mind). We also acknowledge and appreciate that healing happens and in many and various ways, God manifests miracles in people’s lives that sometimes can be difficult to explain. The question remains: ought we expect to receive gifts like these in the church or not? If we had these gifts demonstrated all the time and across the ages everywhere that Jesus was preached then we might calmly say that yes, of course healing and mighty powers goes hand in had with Christian churches. When we notice that this is not happening then we ask: are we doing something wrong or are we looking for the right things. Let the bible answer. The spiritual things that Paul is discussing are all shown to be from the One Spirit when Jesus is proclaimed Lord. This is the purpose of the gifts. Healing and miracles are not a fringe benefit of being Christian – one of the perks like the prosperity gospel implies. Healing and miracles are FOR the gospel. Paul will continue to work through this issue over the next few chapters. If the point ain’t Christ then there is no point.

“…to another prophecy…” Paul will again emphasise this gift in 14:1. Prophecy is done to strengthen, encourage and comfort the people of God. Is prophecy about predicting the future? Is prophecy about speaking the word of God? To cut to the chase and keep things short: both are given to us in the Word of God. The closed canaan of Scripture reveals who the Messiah is, how the wrath of God is real and is paid for at the cross, how the world has a non-disclosed use-by date, how God’s love is demonstrated and given at the cross. All that must be known about God has been made known. While Paul wrote this letter, the full measure of Scripture had not been written yet. The church would hear from God as the Spirit saw fit. If we have prophecy today it is by those who bring the word of God (the bible) to the hearts and minds of the church to strengthen, encourage and comfort people.

“…to another distinguishing between spirits…” 1 John 4:1 helps us to understand this and link it to the previous gift of prophecy.

“…speaking in different kinds of tongues, and … interpretations of tongues.” Paul will later show that you need the latter for the former to be useful. These tongues are best understand as different languages. Note that in Acts 2, when people spoke in tongues, it was clearly for the benefit of those who understood those languages. Paul mentions tongues of angels elsewhere but never endorses it or even confirms that such a thing is anything more than hyperbole. Again, this gift of the Spirit is for the sole purpose of communicating the word of God to people. None of the gifts have steered off course of this agenda.

“All these are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” We must concluded from this section that nobody is to boast about what they are able to contribute to the church of God since it is all flowing from the one Fountain. And not even a Fountain to be approached and taken from – the Spirit distributes and the Spirit determines who, where and when gifts are given. 

What did we learn? (Meaning)

So three lessons flow from this: all church work is fed from one Spirit; all gifts given are for the purpose of proclaiming Christ as Lord; and no gift is given in order to be kept to oneself. Division in gifts but no division in the Giver or receivers. Variety in practice but no variation in purpose.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: What classifies as a spiritual gift? The passage talked about gifts, service and works. The list of gifts were particularly aimed at what we do with our mouths because this is the clearest way of proclaiming the gospel. When we proclaim the gospel we must use our words. But let us not overlook our service and work toward one another. The qualifying mark of a gift of the Spirit is that it points people toward the Lord Jesus Christ. The first and most important and essential gift of the Spirit that we all must embrace and use is the gift of the gospel, first for ourselves and then to those around us. The premiere need of every church is the news of salvation through Christ and that He is the Lord of all. If that is the only gift that you ever receive, you are eternally better off than many souls who do not know it.

Topic B: When will I know I’m using a spiritual gift? Let’s not equate spiritual gifts with super powers. The work of God is subtle and almost always goes on without much attention. As you meet together this week, with a chocolate biscuit in one hand and your bible open in the other, and you open your mouth and encourage the people of your Growth Group that Jesus Christ is Lord – risen from the dead and He is Lord. That the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 is a message from God to encourage us that we all worship and serve the One True God. And show love and care for somebody that you have learned to do because you know the love of God – you are using your gifts given to you, not from your own brilliance but by the grace of God. Can you share other moments when you or others can be exercising their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others?

Topic C: Our church is equipped and built up by the power of the Spirit of God. Do you ponder whether you belong to a spiritual church? Do you lament sometimes that our church could be more spiritual? Let’s remember that it is God who equips, he distributes, he determines how his church will be fed and grow. It is God who is at work. It is Jesus Christ whom we serve because He first served us. It is the Spirit of God who gives life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us never forget that the power of God is the gospel itself (Romans 1:16-17). The Spirit of God works through the word of God to teach and to correct and to rebuke and to grow. The fruit of the Spirit is unity manifest in love, kindness, gentleness. If we proclaim Jesus as Lord, then we can only do that by the power of the Spirit of God. No man can lead us back to God without the power of the Spirit.

2 Samuel 22-23

Hope, Strength and the Kingdom

Discussion Question

(This question will work if you intend to look at all of 22:1-23:7 or just 23)

Pretend you are the CEO of Boost Juice and you are at your retirement party on your last day of work. The microphone is passed to you so you might give a rousing final word of encouragement to your staff. What would you say? What might the balance be between your own achievements, the company’s achievements and future potential? 

(If you are looking just at chapter 22)

When you last praised someone, what did you say to them and why? Do you struggle to praise people who have succeeded in the present but failed in the past? Do you think you praise people enough?  

Background (Context)

In Chapter 22-23 we hear lots of words of David – including what are described as the “last words” (23:1). The narrative appears to stall as the section begins with us listening to a song sung to the Lord when the Lord delivered David from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul (22:1). 

But we ought not view this pause in the narrative as disjunctive. Remember back in 2 Samuel 21 – David and his men conquered the Philistines in 4 back to back battles (that may not have been back to back but are written as such). Throughout the Old Testament it is not uncommon for a song to be sung after a significant battle or salvation moment (cf. Exodus 15; Judges 5; 1 Samuel 18:7).

The song before us carries further significance because this enemy has been Israel’s constant nemesis and now it appears they have been finally routed at the arm of David and his men. 

In addition to these comments on literary context, it is worth remembering the theological context of these chapters. Remember that David is the LORD’s King who he has strengthened (2 Samuel 2:10), and made promises to (2 Samuel 7:12-16) and been with (2 Samuel 5:10). In the midst of all his failings he has always been the LORD’s king who the LORD delighted in. The LORD has never departed from David as he did from Saul and indeed David redeemed himself in 21:1!

You may wish to refresh the events of 1 Samuel 16, 2 Samuel 5, 7, 11 and 12 to your mind in preparation for this study. 

As a final note, although 2 Samuel 23 contains the “last words” of David, David is not yet about to die. He has a few more things he needs to do and you can read about them in 1 Kings 1-2.

Read 2 Samuel 22-23

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Why David Sings (Part 1) – 22:1
    • A God worth having (v.2-4)
    • A God who powerfully saves his King (v.5-20)
    • A God of righteousness (v.21-31)
    • A God who gives strength to the King (v.23-46)
    • A God worth having (v.47-51)
  • Why David Sings (Part 2) – 23:1
    • The God who speaks (v.2-3a)
    • The Word God speaks (v.3b-4)
    • The impact of righteousness (v.5)
    • The impact of unrighteousness(v.6-7) 
  • David’s Mighty Men and David’s Mighty Failings
    • The Big Three (v.8-17)
    • The Other Two (v.18-23)
    • The Thirty (v.24-39)

Why David Sings (Part 1) (22:1)

“when the LORD delivered” – when the song is sung is a critical question for interpreting the words of the song. Psalm 18 (where this song is repeated) gives us no help! The natural reading of v.1 is to say that it was sung after (and its meaning ought to be taken as being after) the events of chapter 19-21. The Philistines and Absalom were the last of David’s enemies who have now been defeated. Note that David took up a lament reflecting on Saul’s life in 2 Samuel 1. Is this now a song reflecting on his life? If it is, he has a lot to praise God for and he does it with vigour!

A God worth having – 22:2-4

“My…my…my…my…” – note that for David his relationship with God is not just religious but is personal and it is based on all that God has done for him in protecting him from enemies and danger. It is important to note the interaction between these verses and the setting for the Psalm. The narrator tells us “when” it is written and David tells us “who” is worthy of praise and “why” he has the privilege of singing this song. His enemies are clearly defeated because of the work of God and David is saved by the hands of God. We might ask of David, what was your role in all this?

A God who powerfully saves his King – 22:5-20

“Death…destruction…death…” – the language here is extreme and shows the way David thought about his time as King. He was constantly under threat. Note that some of these threats were self-induced because of his sin. His sin lead him to the edge of death at the hands of his enemies. Noting this will help us as we decipher v.21-25.

“ears…nostrils…mouth…feet…” – in the New Testament we read that God is Spirit and we know God does not literally have human form or come down in human form until Christ. This language (often called anthropomorphism) is used to help us connect with the actions of God and understand the view or action of God by using human forms. But it also underlines the reality that we have read throughout 2 Samuel and again here in v.2-4 – God is the victor; God is the triumphant LORD; God is the winner of battles. The humans involved cannot claim their own power or majesty for God is the powerful majestic God over all people and all the world. 

“because he was angry” – God was angry that his King was threatened with destruction. Sometimes the anger of God is confusing (doesn’t God = love?) but the anger of God against death and destruction and hatred is good news.

“He rescued…he rescued… because he delighted in me” – the confusion starts to set in here. In what way is God delighting in David given what we know of the Bathsheba/Uriah incident and the Amnon’s/Tamar incident and the Absalom incident… v.21-31 take this confusion to the next level.

A God of righteousness – 22:21-31

This whole section ought to have your group saying “say whaaaaaat?”. Just work through the passage and see the number of times David claims that he is OK with God. Verses 22 & 24 are stunning – has David got amnesia; is David claiming he sinned in these ways but never lost his vision for God; is this song placed here by mistake and should be sung at the end of 2 Samuel 10; or is something else going on? It will be important not to disconnect your conversation on these verses from what has already been said in this song. In the structure of the study you may wish to ensure you look carefully at v.1-20 first. 

Note the parallel between v.21 & 25.

Note the parallel between v.22 & 24

This focusses our eyes on v.23.

The laws and decrees of the LORD include pathways for forgiveness and hope for sinners. David says here that he has never lost the reality that God is kind and merciful and wants to be in relationship with his people. He is noting that the sacrificial systems described in the laws and decrees were set up to symbolise forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. They point to the very heart of God as one who is able to delight in sinners because he acts to save them from death and rescue them from their enemies – even the last enemy death. We don’t read that David sacrificed and felt atoned but we know that forgiveness was God’s plan for his people. And David is able to cling to this reality and speak as he does here because he has already been forgiven by God. Do you remember 2 Samuel 12:13? You may want to plunge into Psalm 51 for further reflection on mercy and forgiveness and David.  

David’s evil actions do not undermine the fruit of God’s grace and promise in his life precisely because his wicked deeds have been forgiven, taken away and washed clean. 

“You…you…you…” – v.26-31 almost seem to provide apologetic weight to what we have read in v.21-25 as David focuses on the remarkable work of the God who forgives, saves and rescues.  

 A God who gives strength to the King – 22:32-46

The God who has delivered David so many times from dangers has one more accolade to be laid on him – he had plans to make David a great King. 

“His…his… his…You…you…you…” – David rejoices in what God has done for him personally which looks like the outworking of v.26-31. There we saw what God is like and here we see what he does because of it. 

“You have preserved me as the head of nations” v.44 – The outworking of God’s promises in 2 Samuel 7 has come to fruition. 

 A God worth having – 22:47-51

This rejoinder not only wraps up this song but all the themes of the Kingdom that are interconnected from 1 Samuel 16 through to 2 Samuel 7 and beyond. I wonder if you might imagine this part of the song on the lips of another King? I wonder if you might imagine all the song on the lips of another King. 

I wonder what our response to earthly Kings and heavenly Kings ought to be in light of verse 51?

Why David Sings (Part 2) – 23:1-7

Some people have called these last words, words of prophecy. You might want to ponder that characterisation. There is no inference that they connect to the previous chapter (as in David kept singing) but there are clear thematic parallels. We might (despite what is to come in 1 Kings) judge that these are the last words of David that sum up his life; they are perhaps the key to understanding everything that we have read about David and his whole life.

Note who is taking the action and in control in these verses.

Verse 1 – the layering of four descriptions of David describe his Kingship. The last is a little strange but is essentially noting that the people of Israel triumphed David as King not just the LORD. Working your way through the 4 phrases or descriptions of David here will be worth it for your group. (Cf 1 Samuel 16, 2 Samuel 5:10-15, 2 Samuel 7 for clues as to what the four phrases mean)

Verse 3 – “fear of the LORD” – cf 1 Samuel 12:12-25 – not a scared fear but a reverent and awe-captured fear that promotes submission to the rule and love of God.

Verse 5 – “my house….”  certainly we know his house is not perfect and only a shadow the Kingship to come but God has actually used David in accordance with his promises. 

Note the way this little song points us to the eternal realities of the promises of God in Christ. When our house is right with God, he brings to us salvation and grants every desire. 

David’s Mighty Men and David’s Mighty Failings- 23:8-39

Names, names and more names. The conclusion to this section is obscure if only for the fact that you are going to see lots of names you have never heard of, and the one name you do expect to hear about when we are talking of Mighty Men is only spoken of incidentally. Is the absence of Joab a subtle indication of the tension that existed to the end with David?

“The LORD brought about a great victory” – v.10, 12 – to miss what is behind these mighty men is to miss the whole purpose of this section. We may have outstanding stories about outstanding men who won outstanding victories (that are tantalising for their lack of detail) but we have one outstanding detail. God is in this. God is in charge of the outcome. God always had the battles in hand.

“He poured it out” – v.16 – what looks like dishonour to the men who risked their lives here is actually ultimately great honour to them and to God. The great devotion and sacrifice they showed really belongs to the LORD so the key words here are those at the end of v.16 – “before the LORD”. Here is David not taking honour to himself but directing great honour to God. He’s just like the LORD’s king should be. 

“Chief of the three” – v.3, 18 – who was chief of the three. It is likely that the footnote in our NIV to v.18 is the better reading. There cannot be two chiefs! 1 Chronicles 11:20 openly embeds the confusion. Abishai appears more likely to be chief of the 30. 

Our section ends with lots of cheering and fist pumping for the victories of the King and the triumph of the Kingdom. But let us not be fooled. There is more here than the Mighty Men and their victories under God. 

David’s men do a great job of overcoming violence with more violence. In the end, this is dissatisfying for the Kingdom of God because what we have been promised in 2 Samuel 7:10-11 is the end of violence and the bringing about of rest. There is no rest for David and the Kingdom. Perhaps 2 Samuel 21 indicated this. The Philistines just keep coming and coming and coming and coming. There must be some other Kingdom that awaits – and there is! Isaiah 9:6-7 and Luke 2:11-14 point us to a King who is Prince of Peace and who will bring peace.

That is not the only problem with the way things end here. Do you note who is mentioned in v.34? Eliam. Have a look at who he is related to!! (2 Samuel 11:3) And then look at the last name on the list of David’s mighty men!!

David’s great might was poisoned by David’s great failings and we ought to ponder whether these lists are here to bear the names that point clearly to David’s mighty failure – and thereby in turn point to God’s great gracious mercy. The mighty men might be mighty and faithful and devoted – but David murdered one of them! This Kingdom consumes even its own. But there is another Kingdom to come that will be characterised by there being no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things will have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4). Oh let us look at David and his mighty men, and while giving thanks for the mercy of God, let us long for the Kingdom of Christ which only required one mighty man to conquer every enemy and who will take us to be with him forever. By his wounds, our enemies and sins are destroyed.  

What did we learn? (Meaning)

At the high point of his kingship (22:1) and at the end of his life (23:1), David waxes lyrical! But his focus is not upon himself! He recognises all that God has done for him and the way the LORD has conquered his enemies, saved him from death and placed him in a safe, secure position. The one who is the Rock of Israel has been for David a secure Rock on which to stand – despite his failings, despite his disgraceful sin, despite his errant ways. We are pointed here afresh to the character of God as the one who forgives sins, keeps his promises and does not deal with his people as they ought to be dealt with. God is indeed compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). He has mercy on failures like you and me because of his unfailing love (Psalm 51:1). 

Although we may want to stand in judgement over David (and be shocked at God’s mercy) the meaning of these chapters ought to be considered from a personal perspective. Have you noticed in the New Testament that God does not label Christians “completely failed sinners who I forgave” but “saints” or “God’s holy people”! (Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1) There is a sense of completion to the forgiveness and mercy of God in and for us through the death and resurrection of Christ such that we are deemed to be holy! Perhaps we are best to reserve our shock at God’s mercy toward David until we consider that the same mercy is towards us in Christ?   

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The Anger of God and the Anger of Man. People sometimes object to the idea that God can be angry. God is love and Jesus was rarely angry at anything except religious hypocrites. However, the anger of God means that life matters to God. The things that go on in the world matter to God. God is more complex than we might imagine and to think that he could not both love the world and be angry at the world at the same time is to underestimate God. You might want to ask your group, “Is it good news that God is angry with the world?” Would they rather a God who did not care or a God who is moved by the state of his creation? 

Topic B: Earthly Kings and the Heavenly King. There are a myriad of people who you can follow in this world. Pop stars like Taylor Swift are kings. Politicians like Scott Morrison and Donald Trump have been treated like kings by some. But are these kings worth having? Who is worth following in the world? You might want to ask your group to think about who influences them in life? Our Kings need not be stars or authorities, they can be family members and spouses. Are these “kings” worth devoting yourself too? How does your devotion to earthly kings get shaped by your devotion to Jesus. How does having (or Does having..) Jesus as your King actually shape your attitude to earthly “kings”?  

Topic C: Waiting patiently for the LORD. There is a real sense of frustration in the world when you see evil prosper. You could discuss what people’s experience of this is like; do they get frustrated, do they feel they need to speak out and act out all the time. Are they willing to leave judgement to the LORD. 2 Samuel 23:6 reminds us that the LORD will deal with people who are evil. You may want to look at Romans 12:14-21 together and ponder how you might encourage each other to wait patiently for the LORD in a world that wants nothing to do with the LORD.