Is there a particular number of spiritual gifts? That question is difficult to answer. Paul gives two lists here in chapter 12. The first one identifies nine gifts (vv. 7-11). Then in 1 Cor. 12:27-30, Paul identifies another set of nine gifts, but here the list is different. Some of the gifts from his first list are repeated in the second, but others are new. There are three other passages in the New Testament that also list gifts in a formal manner. There are five gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8 lists seven; and I Peter 4:11 mentions two. Not one of the lists is identical to the others. This is just a way of saying there are a great variety of gifts.

The first point Paul makes here when talking about gifts is that there is a diversity of gifts in the Church, and that the diversity corresponds to the nature of God, which is the basis of all reality. It is not difficult to illustrate this. All we have to do is look about the world in which we live and the universe in which our world is located. One thing made clear in the study of science is the intricacy found throughout the whole universe.

As we come to the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul begins to deal with the matter of speaking in tongues. There are a lot of people who do not like this subject. This is true in my own confession; many Reformed churches are against it. That is because they are concerned that if individuals claim to be able to speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what they say should carry the full authority of God because the Holy Spirit is God. If this were true it would undermine the authority of Scripture, which is the final authority in the Church, since a person who claims to be speaking by the Holy Spirit would have the same status as Scripture!

Now, there are two more time aspects to this passage. There is the future aspect, and that is important because we don’t just look to the past. We don’t look to a Christ who died on the cross for our sin and rose again and that’s the end of it. Rather, that same Jesus who died and ascended to heaven is coming again. He said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also." This is the same Jesus. The one whom we look to in the past is the Jesus we look to in the future. This Jesus is coming, and because of that there is the present element as well.

In yesterday’s lesson we looked at three different interpretations of Jesus’ words "This is my body." Then there was the view of John Calvin. Calvin had the correct view, though others may disagree. Calvin’s view states that the Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Communion service, but not in actual body. Rather, Christ is present spiritually. And so, just as the Lord Jesus Christ is with us in a spiritual way by the Holy Spirit day by day, so he can say in a very real sense, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). So Calvin stated that in a very special way the Lord Jesus Christ is with his people in the Communion service. The spiritual presence of Christ is imparted to them as they partake of the elements.