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Tethering Charismata to Character: The Relationship Between Fruit and Gifts

November 6, 2021 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Holy Spirit

Topic: Holy Spirit Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:1, 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, 1 Corinthians 12:13– 14:1

The Holy Spirit

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

Nov. 7, 2021


Tethering Charismata to Character: The Relationship Between Fruit and Gifts

Thanks to Joel, Ron, and Patrick for helping out while I was away.

Let’s turn together in God’s word to 1 Cor. 12. as we consider Paul’s train of thought in chapters 12, 13, and 14 and how he identifies the important relationship between the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Chapter 12 is all about the gifts that the Spirit gives.

12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed... 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. 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, 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. 1 Cor. 12:1, 4-11

The Holy Spirit gives gifts. The Bible calls them charismata: grace gifts. Paul lists some of them: word of wisdom, the ability to heal, work miracles, prophecy, speak in tongues are some of those he mentions. In other lists he mentions the gift of leadership, administration, and mercy. These gifts are given for the common good of the church, in order to build up the church.

The problem is that the Corinthian church was abusing the gifts by elevating the more outwardly impressive gifts and dismissing the less sensational gifts as unimportant. So those who spoke in tongues were considered very spiritual, and those who exercised a gift like administration was sidelined.

I became a Christian in the 70’s so I’ve seen some misuse and abuse of the spiritual gifts. I’ve seen words of knowledge that were off the wall. I remember a woman coming up to me saying she had a word of knowledge for a guy who had been visiting the church. She said God was calling him to be a leader in the church, and asked me if she could share that word with him. I told her it would probably be better if he became a Christian first.

An older woman in the Bible school that Janice and I attended was so publicly humiliated by a “word of knowledge” that a guest speaker gave her that she quit the school the very next day.

I could go on. Maybe you have some stories too where the gifts – the charismata – was misused or even abused. And for me, it’s created a tendency to back away from the gifts. But that’s not Paul’s response to the Corinthian’s abuse. What Paul does is tether the gifts of the Spirit to the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s pick up Paul’s flow of thought from the last verse in chapter 12 through the 1st verse of chapter 14.

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

14 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Cor. 12:31-14:1

Do you see what Paul does? He exhorts them to earnestly desire the higher gifts in chap 12, then picks that up in chapter 14 saying eagerly desire the spiritual gifts. But he sandwiches this encouragement in chapters 12 and 14 with chapter 13, the love chapter. He anchors his encouragement to pursue the gifts with a stronger encouragement to pursue love. The gifts of the Spirit must be tethered to fruit of the Spirit. The charismata must be tethered to character.

The word character means to engrave upon. In ancient days, letters and numbers were engraved on stone and called characters. If you take a coin today, you’ll see an image engraved in its surface. The image isn’t drawn on the surface of the coin, it’s engraved into the metal alloy.

God isn’t content with making us look like Jesus on the surface. The Holy Spirit works deep within us, beneath the surface, etching and engraving the character of Christ upon our (new) hearts. Fruit is the supernatural work of the Spirit on who we are making us more like Christ. And love is the glue that binds all the other virtues together (Col 3:14).

The gifts are given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). The Spirit’s motive for giving the gifts is love. Love wants the best for others. Love isn’t interested in impressing or being puffed up with pride, it wants what’s best for those it loves. But if we untether the charismata from character, we end up with some serious problems.

  1. The problems of charismata untethered from character
      1. Untethered from love, the gifts are worthless (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3

Paul uses as the example someone who is incredibly gifted: fluent in tongues of men and angels, prophetic powers, understand ALL mysteries, moving mountains left and right with their faith, and even sacrificially generous to the point of giving everything including their very life.

But having all this giftedness has no value if it isn’t motivated by love. Such a person is nothing and they gain nothing. The gifts have great value when they are tethered to love, but without love, the gifts have no value at all.

      1. Untethered from character, charismata often do more damage than good

Men destroy with their character what they build with their gifts - unknown

Reputations, marriages, churches, ministries are destroyed by failure of character more than anything else. Over the past couple years there have been many high-profile, highly gifted Christian leaders who have had to resign in disgrace due to scandal and it does untold damage to individual lives and to the church’s reputation. The greater their giftedness, the greater the damage done when their character fails.

Sometimes the damage isn’t so much an explosion as it is an erosion. A Christian whose character doesn’t match their confession can over time lead to what I call the disillusionment of dissonance. Dissonance is a musical term that describes a tension or clash resulting from a combination of two disharmonious elements. I’m using it as an analogy of the dissonance that is created when what we do (gifts) don’t match up with who we are (character).

If scandals are landmines that can blow up ministries, reputations, and families in a moment, disillusionment of dissonance is the slower damage that comes from a consistent clash between who we are and what we do/say.

An example of this is someone who operates in some visible gift in the church, but are untrustworthy, or treat people badly, are harsh and impatient, undependable, or display some other un-Christlike behavior, maybe not in public but behind closed doors. It creates a dissonance between who they are and what they say and young people in particular are watching and deeply need to see giftedness that is tethered to character so they don’t become disillusioned about Christianity.

Now we are all sinners and there is some degree of dissonance in us compared to the pure, sinless, and perfect character of Christ. We aren’t saved by our character OR our gifts, we are saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and that salvation is the free gift of God. No scandal or dissonance of character is beyond the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive and redeem for his glory when we confess and repent. Confession and true repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Tethering the gifts to the Spirit means that we are pursuing the gifts AND seeking to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.

Now let’s consider the power of the spiritual gifts when they are tethered to the fruit of the Spirit.

  1. The power of charismata when tethered to character

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Cor. 12:31

Love is the centerpiece of that “still more excellent way” but we know it isn’t the totality of it because Paul comes back to spiritual gifts in chapter 14 only now he has firmly tethered spiritual gifts to love. Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts(14:1)

Tethered together, fruit and gifts are the one-two punch of the Spirit’s work: in us and through us. The Holy Spirit has a most excellent way in mind for all of us: conforming us into the image of Christ and using us as ministers of Christ!

God doesn’t just want to work through us, He wants to work in us. And God doesn’t just want to work in us, He wants to work through us. Jesus’ ministry is a perfect example of this. What he did flowed from who he is. He was compassionate, so he healed the sick. He was kind so when he revealed the Samaritan woman’s marriage failures by a word of knowledge, he did it so lovingly that it drew her to him rather than push her away.

The force of Jesus’ ministry was who he was combined with what he did. All that Jesus did emanated from all that Jesus is. Who we are, or our identity, (God’s children) is rooted in Christ, which is then expressed in what we do (how we walk):

Therefore be imitators (what we do) of God, as beloved children (who we are)And walk in love (what we do), as Christ loved us and gave himself for us (who we are)... Eph. 5:1-2

So we want to pursue the gifts and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit that gives us the gifts, it’s the Spirit that bears the fruit in us. But the Bible – and Paul – makes it clear that we are to pursue eagerly the gifts and allow the Holy Spirit to work on our character, cultivating love, patience, gentleness, joy, and other fruits of the Spirit.

We’ll talk in more depth about this, but let me close with two questions for us to consider.

        1. What gift or gifts has the Spirit given you and how can you use them for the common good?
        2. Is your heart open and soft to the Spirit’s desire to cultivate love in you?

More in Holy Spirit

November 27, 2021

Striving for the Work of the Spirit While Avoiding Weird Stuff

November 21, 2021

The Gifts of the Spirit

November 13, 2021

The Fruit of the Spirit