We can get tangled up in debates over spiritual gifts, but is that why Paul wrote this chapter?
Around a decade ago, my Father-in-Law gave me a gift: a Black and Decker cordless drill. It’s a very no-nonsense, straightforward tool. It does a great job at putting holes in things, and tightening screws. I’ve used it in two different houses, and on more projects than I can count. I love the thing, even though it doesn’t have some of the fancier features newer models have (like an LED light to see WHERE you’re drilling). I’ve gotten more use out of that thing than I ever anticipated. It’s awesome!
But you know what I had to do to make it work? I had to open the box. I had to get the drill out, see what I had, and figure out how it was meant to be used.
This is not unlike our spiritual lives! We have a Father in heaven who desires to bless his children.
James 1:17 (ESV) - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Everything we have comes from God. And you know what? He gives good gifts!
He gives us BREATH. Life. Purpose.
And, he gives us SALVATION by grace through faith, and a MISSION to make disciples of Jesus.
Part of the way God blesses us is through SPIRITUAL GIFTS. These are divine enablements which are meant to empower our lives as we seek to live for Christ, and engage in the Great Commission work all followers of Jesus are called to.
Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 12 to see what we can learn about these Spiritual Gifts.
Starting in 1 Corinthians 12:1, we read Paul’s introduction to the Corinthian church regarding these gifts:
1 Corinthians 12:1–7 (ESV) - Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 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. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Verses 4-7 are very Trinitarian, and point us to GOD:
Varieties of Gifts (Different Enablements from the HOLY SPIRIT)
Varieties of Service (Different ways to USE the gifts, on behalf of JESUS)
Varieties of Activities (Different aspects of life, thanks to GOD The FATHER).
Verse 7 says “7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
In other words, each of us has a gift – at least one – from God. And they are meant to be used for the “common good” of His church as we minister to the world around us.
Now, did you notice that word VARIETIES showed up three times? That’s important. It means there are many types of spiritual gifts. This chapter we are in goes on to list a number of them, such as:
However, that’s not an exhaustive list. While there is some overlap between this list and what we find in Romans 12 there are some mentioned there that aren’t here:
And there are even some like CELIBACY and HOSPITALITY that are mentioned in other passages on their own.
Now, we could look into some of the less-understood gifts such as tongues, and chat about whether all of these gifts are still active and given to us today. If that’s something you are interested in, it would make for a great dialog over coffee. In fact, the Theology & Worldview group will most likely get into that at some point after it resumes this spring.
However, the larger point here is to focus on the larger principle this passage teaches: that God can and does give gifts to His children to enable them to accomplish His redemptive work.
1 Corinthians 12:11 (ESV) - 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
God gives these gifts. Not based on us. But based on His will, for the outworking of His redemptive purpose.
The question is, what does his redemptive purpose look like, worked out? We see more of the answer in verses 12-20:
1 Corinthians 12:12–20 (ESV) - 12 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. 13 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. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
You know, it’s funny... When we think about “Church Membership”, I think most often the image that comes to mind is Business Meetings. Gathering together as an organization to hear reports and have a vote.
And while there is immense value to the congregational church governance structure that we have as Baptists, that’s not the only aspect of church membership – or even the most important aspect.
Here, we have an image of church membership that is much more holistic. Where each member of the body is a member not because they went through an interview process, but because they have something to DO, somewhere to BELONG in the larger body of Christ.
God gifts each of us SPIRITUALLY because we each have a role to play in His church. We each have something unique that is needed for the body to be healthy and functional.
For the church to do its work, we NEED people to teach. We NEED people to be generous in giving. We NEED people to have immense faith during difficult seasons. We NEED people to have discernment against false teachings. We NEED people to be servants and ministers of mercy.
But we don’t need the SAME people doing ALL of these things.
There’s an old saying that 20% of the church does 80% of the work of ministry. But that’s not the Biblical model. The Biblical Model is what we call people-empowerment-intensive. It’s about releasing ALL the people of the church to serve in the work of God.
We need all the people God brings into His church, being faithful to be using all the gifts he blesses them with.
As Paul closes the chapter, he writes:
1 Corinthians 12:29–31 (ESV) - 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
The implication is that NO, not every person will have the same giftedness. Not everyone will be a teacher, but some will, and we need them to grow others. Not everyone will have a heart to give generously, but some will, and we need them to be a blessing. Not everyone will have a spiritual type of discernment, but some will, and they are meant to protect the body.
The purpose of the gifts is to build one another up and to care for one another, not to flaunt one’s own spirituality. (ESV:SB)
Every single one of us, who have trusted in Christ, has been blessed with a spiritual gift. And every single one of us is NEEDED for the larger work God has called His church to.
So, if you haven’t grabbed it yet, here’s the big idea for the message:
Each of us has been gifted by Jesus to Glorify Him, to grow the church (both numerically and in maturity), and to serve others and to meet the needs that exist in our community. That said, if we’re going to do those things, we need to know HOW God has gifted us. What is your spiritual gift (or gifts)? How many don’t know?
Okay. So, how can we find out?
SPIRITUAL GIFTS TESTS – Not bad, but not perfect. These are like a personality test, and a lot of times the responses line up with areas where your personality and skills are already strong. However, God may want to supernaturally enable you in an area you aren’t comfortable with (like me and anything having to do with being in front of people), but this won’t appear on a written test.
PASSIONS... - ask yourself some questions... For example:
And BURDENS –
Once we’ve found our gift, the next step is pretty obvious, isn’t it? We need to USE it, for God’s glory and the common good.
When my Father-in-Law gave me a drill, I had to get it out and use it. In the same way, when OUR Father in heaven gives a spiritual gift, it’s time to get it out and use it in the Body. We all have a part to play, so we need to be serious about the ministry he calls us to.
So, as we close our time together this morning, I’ll leave you with this simple challenge:
FIND your GIFT, and USE your GIFT!