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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 26, 1999
The Gifts to the Body of Christ
For several weeks we have been examining the purpose and nature of the church. The purpose of Grace Bible Church is to Glorify God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ. We strive to do that by Communicating New Life in Christ – Evangelism. Cultivating New Life in Christ – Edification. Caring for One Another in Christ – Fellowship and – Worship. And for the last couple of weeks we have concentrated on worship – Celebrating New Life in Christ.
We certainly have not exhausted the subject of the proper worship of God, but I believe that if we will keep in mind what has been said in the last few weeks we will do well. Of primary importance is keeping God as our focus of worship. We must also remember that true worship of God is a way of life and not something you do on occasion. As Christians we are to glorify God in all that we do and say. Our worship of God takes place everyday throughout the day, not just for a couple of hours on Sunday.
This morning I want to continue in our study of the nature of the church before we begin our study of the gospel of John in a couple of weeks. The nature of the church is best described by the analogy of a body. Every part of the body is important for it to function properly. There are no insignificant ministries, there are no insignificant gifts, there are no insignificant parts in the Body of Christ.
It is God Himself that redeemed you and made you part of this body. Each of us was born spiritually dead and by nature we were "children of wrath" as well as "slaves to sin" (Eph. 2:3; Rom 6). Salvation comes when God makes us alive together with Christ and adopts us as His children (Eph. 2; 1 John 3:1). We are then aliens to this world (1 Peter 2:11). We are brought into the fellowship of the saints and made part of the body of Christ by God’s grace.
When God does this He also equips us to serve Him. Eph. 2:10 says this directly. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." When we began this series we saw in 1 Cor. 12 that God equipped us according to His own will for His own purposes. Turn again to 1 Cor. 12 and look at verses 4-6.
Verse 4, "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit." The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians, but He gives different gifts to different people. Every Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to serve the Lord. There are all sorts of spiritual gifts which we will look at in a few minutes, but what ever gift it may be, it came by the Spirit.
Verse 5, "there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord." The Lord is the same for all Christians, but He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a variety of ministries as He chooses. To use the gift of exhortation as example, it could be used in different age groups, in different settings (private, public, church, school, hospital, etc.), through different means (preaching, teaching, counselling, etc.), and through different formats (speaking, singing, writing, drama, art, etc.).
Verse 6, "there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all." God is the same for all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING TO GOD. A person who has the gift of exhortation that operates though a ministry of music may use it with just a few people at a Bible Study or with more people at church services or it could be used regionally, nationally or even internationally.
The bottom line is that God has gifted you to serve Him, but the gift or gifts given, the ministry that the gift(s) are used in, and the effectiveness of the gift(s) are according to the Lord’s will, not yours. The purpose of God giving these spiritual gifts and ministries to you is stated in verse 7. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
What are these "manifestations of the Spirit," these outward evidences of the Spirit’s presence? In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a person’s life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. In this text, the evidence is the gift(s) given by the Spirit so that God’s children can serve Him and thereby benefit the whole body.
Which gift manifests the Holy Spirit in a person’s life? Pentacostal doctrine erroneously teaches it is the particular gift of speaking in an unknown tongue. The text here is clear that it is any gift. I will add that any so called "gift" that is not displayed along with the fruit of the Spirit cannot be considered evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Back in verse 1 Paul introduced this topic in response to some question the Corinthians had. "Now concerning spiritual [gifts], brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. Paul is explaining to them about the pneumatikwn (pneumatikon) – the spiritual things. The context lets us know that he is referring to spiritual gifts (which is why your bible has "gifts" in italics for it is not in the text, but implied). Paul will talk about this subject in chapters 12, 13 & 14. He will describe what they are, how they come, how they fit in the body, what is more important, and how they are to operate in the body. Our concentration today is simply on what they are and how they fit together.
In 1 Cor. 12:2, 3 Paul reminds them of their past in paganism and how they came to Christ. In verses 4,5 & 6 He tells them where the gifts, ministries and ability to serve the Lord all come from God according to His will. Then in verse 7, as we have already pointed out, Paul reminds them that all of this is done for the common good of the whole body. I cannot stress this enough. Any gift used in any ministry with any effect is a manifestation of the Spirit, and its purpose is for the common good of the whole body. There are no insignificant gifts. There are no insignificant ministries. There are no insignificant people in the church. Every person, every gift, and every ministry is needed in order for the body to be healthy and carry out its God given purposes of worshiping God, caring for one another, building each other up and declaring the message of salvation from sin by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What are these gifts? 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 mention some. Romans 12:6-8 mention some more. Then there is a scattering of others mentioned or implied here and there throughout the scriptures. Even in 1 Cor. 12 there are two gifts (helps & administration) and two offices (Apostles & teachers) mentioned at the end of the chapter (vs. 28) that Paul did not mention in the beginning. Because the mention of these various gifts are scattered around the Bible, I do not believe the Holy Spirit intended to give us a exhaustive list of all His gifts. The gifts mentioned are simply examples so that the point can be made that God has equipped us, and we are to serve Him.
The first thing to remember about any of these gifts is that they are supernaturally derived. Each is given by the Holy Spirit. They may or may not be related to natural talents. A spiritual gift may use a natural talent or it may function where there is not natural talent or skill, and a person with a natural skill may not have the corresponding spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the body, they are given so that God can be glorified.
Let me use teaching as an example of this. A person may be both skilled as a teacher in the natural sense and have the spiritual gift of teaching in which case the natural skill is accentuated into being used for God’s purposes. A person could be a great teacher in the natural sense but not have the spiritual gift of teaching in which case they may be great at math or English or history or whatever else, but they are not able to impart spiritual truths. At the same time someone may be considered inept according to normal teachings standards and yet be used of God mightily in imparting spiritual truths to others.
Spiritual gifts may or may not have any connection with natural abilities or acquired skills. The key question in determining a spiritual gifts is: Is God using you in that area?
What are these gifts (carismatwn – charismaton – literally grace gifts)? Again, I do not believe the Scriptures give an exhaustive list, but as examples lets examine some of the ones that are mentioned. Keep in mind that a person may have several in all sorts of mixtures. Since we are already in 1 Cor. 12 we will start there.
The list of gifts in verses 8-10 are broken up in three categories. That is not clear in the English translations, but it is clear in the Greek because of the different pronouns used.
The first category is related to the intellect. Verse 8, "For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit." These two gifts appear to be related to the office of Apostleship as verse 28,29 would imply.
All Christians can ask for and receive wisdom which is the ability to apply knowledge correctly (James 1:5), but the word of wisdom is a special provision. It is related to Paul’s earlier discussion of wisdom in chapter 2 and pertains to the ability to communicate the "deep things of God" (2:10). It is the ability to receive and pass on God’s mysteries at the time He reveals them directly to human agents. Paul speaks of this being done through him specifically in Eph 3:3-6, and Peter speaks of Paul doing this in 2 Peter 3:15.
The Word of Knowledge also appears to be apostolic in nature and pertains to the ability to grasp the logical nature and relation of truths already revealed. Apostolic doctrine gives evidence of this since a large part of it is based on an explanation of truths already revealed in the Old Testament or in the teachings of Christ.
The next category is related to faith. Verse 9, 10 "to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits…"
Faith is the general category and the most general gift in this category. This is a faith that goes beyond the grace of common faith that allows us to be saved. This gift enables the Christian to proceed with daring and resolve to surmount any obstacle that may be opposed to the work of God in a given situation.
Gifts of healing – actually healings, its plural – is related to faith in that it rests upon a basic confidence in God. Its operation is specific in one sphere resulting in miraculous healing of various kinds of sickness and disease. The two nouns being plurals indicate that this is a category of several gifts each healing a different sickness. It was demonstrated in the lives of several apostles including Peter (Acts 3) and Paul (Acts 14:9). The use of this gift focused attention on the person that did the healing and earned them a hearing with those that witnessed the miracle. It was an attesting miracle of God’s approval of the message of the speaker.
Effecting of miracles is also in the general category of faith and refers to being able to perform some overtly supernatural event. This gift is also seen in the apostles such as Peter raising of Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:40), and Paul blinding Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:8-11). It was used in the same way as healings in that it won the person using it a hearing among the people that saw the miracle.
Prophecy as listed here refers to a gift of faith that resulted in what was miraculous either a prediction of the future, or a revelation of a mystery, or the ability to perceive the thoughts and motives of other persons. In many ways this gift was also apostolic since there were several that demonstrated this gift, but there were others beside apostles with it including Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10), Judas & Silas (Acts 15:32), and others (Acts 11:27, 13:1). Those with this gift did not have the authority of either the Old Testament Prophets or the New Testament Apostles, for their prophecies were to be judged (1 Cor 14:29), they were not always accurate in the details (Acts 21:11 cf. 21:31-33), and the prophet could not always give the prophecies interpretation or application (Acts 21:4,11-14).
Distinguishing of Spirits mentioned here is more than just discernment, for all Christians are expected to be discerning (1 John 4:1). This gift is also related to faith and especially in passing judgement on the source of an utterance given in an assembly. It was especially important before the New Testament had been written to have people who could tell whether a person was speaking for God, himself or the devil. Paul had this gift and used it in Acts 16:17,18 to recognize and cast out the demon in girl that kept following him around and saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." She was correct, but we really don’t need demons doing our advertising.
The last two gifts, listed in verse 10, are related to speech. "and to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues." We could spend the rest of our time with these two because of all the false teaching on them, but we are not because I don’t want us to be sidetracked. Even with all the confusion that commonly exists about them, they are not hard to understand. "Tongues’ is the from the word "glwssa / glossa" and it simply means language. Speaking in various tongues or an "unknown" tongue means to speak in a language that you do not know. Interpretation of tongues is being able to understand a language you do not know. It is not "ecstatic utterances of glossolalia" or the babbling and gibberish so often promoted in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.
How can I be so confident? Simple. Both the purpose of tongues and its practice in Acts demand "tongues" to be actual languages. The purpose of tongues is found in 1 Cor. 14:21,22. Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11f and then says, "so then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers…".
Even a cursory study of Isaiah 11 show that it is a sign to the Jews of God’s judgement on them when God starts speaking through the gentiles instead of them. The first fulfillment of this in Acts 2 makes this even more clear because the various tongues spoken are listed in verses 8-11 – Parthian, Median, Elamitian, Mesopotamian, Judean, Cappadocian, Pontusian, Asian, Phyrigian & Pamphylian, Egyptian, Cyrenian, Roman, Cretan and Arabic. This was not nonsensical babbling, but speaking a language they did not know.
Two more gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 are found in verse 28 – helps & administrations. Helps here has a literal meaning of "taking on myself in the stead of." It is helping primarily in the physical aspect. These would be people who have a God given desire to jump in and do things for other people. They enjoy helping others.
Administrations or governments (KJV) is the ability to handle the organizational tasks of the church. The word is derived from the concept of piloting a ship. It is a God given ability to chart the course and steer the ship to its destination.
Most of the gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12 are no longer active in the church in the same manner as they were at the time of the Apostles. The purpose for their presence in the body passed with the Apostles and the completion of the New Testament and so they have passed away too (1 Cor. 13:8-11).
Romans 12 also mentions quite a few gifts. Prophecy is also listed here, but in this context it would also have reference to the "forth telling" of the Word of God which is preaching/proclaiming what God has said.
Service or ministry (KJV) is diakonian diakonian – table waiting. This is similar to "helps" but a broader more general term which includes helping someone spiritually or emotionally.
Teaching is the God given ability to impart spiritual truths others. It is not the didactic impartation of knowledge so prevalent in our school systems, but the transfer of knowledge along with understanding so that it can be applied in life.
Exhortation is a Holy Spirit inspired ministry in which a person comes along side of another (which is the root meaning of the word) to counsel, comfort or admonish as needed to move the person to greater Christ likeness.
Mercy, at the end of the list, is similar to exhortation but with a concentration upon comfort brought about by selfless acts of love to those who are in need. It is a gift that reflects God’s mercy to us and so brings glory to Him and comfort to others.
Giving is not limited to those who are wealthy. It is giving directed by the Holy Spirit that is beyond the ordinary. Frankly, this gift seems to be more prevalent among the poor and decreases with increasing affluence. That says a lot about man’s heart.
Leading or ruling (KJV) is related to administration but the emphasis here is on more on the management of people than just administrative tasks. This would be more descriptive of the person who calls out the destination rather than those who chart the course and pilot the ship there.
These are all examples of gifts that the Holy Spirit gives so that you can serve. You may have one of them or a mixture of them. But again let me emphasize again that the Bible does not list out every possible gift.
The very practical questions now arise of How do I know what gift I have? And how do I begin to use them? First, you don’t need to be that concerned about labeling your gift. Generally, you find out what gift you have after you have been using it for awhile. The primary concern is just serving the Lord.
Serving the Lord must start with your walk with Him. The more you know Him and the closer you walk with Him the greater will be your ability to serve Him. The greater the harmony between your will and His will the more God can use you.
Next, as you walk closely with the Lord, see what desires He has He placed in your heart. That is the point of Psalm 37 where it says, "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." As you delight yourself in the Lord, your desires change to match His, then He grants those desires because they are according to His will.
So then you need to try and serve Him in some specific area. How can you know whether the Lord has gifted you in an area or not if you have not tried? Too often fear keeps us from the blessings God would have for us if we would just trust Him and step out in the face of our fears.
Finally, evaluate whether the Lord used you. Do other mature believers confirm you as having that gift? I am suspicious of missionaries and others who say they want to do some great ministry somewhere else, but they have never done any similar ministry that could confirm whether they are gifted or not in that area.
I did not know God had gifted me to teach until I was challenged to do it. I tried it. I saw God use it in other peoples lives and those more mature than I confirmed it.
The last aspect in determining where you should serve the Lord is what I will call your compulsion-joy level. If we are properly serving the Lord He will do one of two things. He will either give us a great joy in the midst of the service or He will compel us to do it. We will either have a sense of pleasure in the serving knowing we are doing God’s will, or we will be like Jeremiah. God called him to a thankless ministry of rebuking the Hebrews and even told him that the people would not listen. Not surprisingly Jeremiah did not like that ministry, yet when he refrained he described it as "burning fire shut up in his bones" and he was compelled to continue preaching to those stubborn & obstinate people.
In the bulletin today we have placed a sheet entitled, "How Can God Use Me?" On the front side are some of the Biblical commands & admonitions concerning serving the Lord. On the back are some more specific suggestions of what you might be able to do, but these only scratch the surface, because there are thousands of possibilities. What will the Lord have you do? Will you do it?
Sermon Notes – 9/26/1999 a.m.
The Gifts to the Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
God Equips the Saints
What are Spiritual Gifts?
Examples of Spiritual Gifts
Word of Wisdom
Word of Knowledge
Gifts of Healings
Effecting of Miracles
Prophecy (1 Cor. 12)
Distinguishing of Spirits
Various kinds of tongues
Interpretation of tongues
Prophecy (Rom. 12)
Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the purpose of the church? How do you get a spiritual gift(s)? What is the general purpose of spiritual gifts? Should we ever be envious of another person’s spiritual gift(s)? Why or why not? Does the Bible list every spiritual gift? What Scriptures do list spiritual gifts? 1 Cor. 12:8-10 list three categories of gifts. What are those categories and which gifts listed fit in each? Describe in your own words each of the following gifts: Word of Wisdom; Word of Knowledge; Faith; Healings; Miracles; Prophecy (1 Cor. 12); Distinguishing of Spirits; Various kinds of tongues; Interpretation of tongues; Helps; Administration; Prophecy (Rom. 12); Service; Teaching; Exhortation; Mercy; Giving; and Leading. Which of these gifts were Apostolic in nature and operate as they did then? Which of these gifts to do you think you have? Has a more mature Christian confirmed that? How are you using your gift(s)?
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