How Important Are Spiritual Gifts? #255
A happy and fruitful and glorious Monday to you, dear friends! Whether you work today or not, I hope that the Lord provides you great rest for your souls. We’ll do a shorter podcast today in order to facilitate you having great times with your family! Our readings today see us leaving 1st Samuel – which has been a rollicking adventure – and moving into 2nd Samuel 1, which starts out just as interesting and…violent…as we’ve come to expect. We also read Psalms 49, Ezekiel 10 and will focus on 1st Corinthians 12, which introduces the longest extended discussion on spiritual gifts in the entire Bible.
Spiritual gifts is one of my favorite topics to teach on in the entire Bible, and it has been an interesting topic to me since childhood. I think this is incredibly important, because – if God desires to give His people gifts, then how wonderful is that, and how important it must be for us to use those gifts in accordance with His will and His Word! So let’s read Paul’s introduction to this topic in 1st Corinthians 12 and then discuss it.
When I read Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Spirit in 1st Corinthians 12-14 and also Ephesians, and a few other places in the New Testament, I sort of get a strange picture in my mind from my childhood. As with all illustrations, this one is imperfect – probably more imperfect than others, but did you ever watch the Transformers? Constructicons – Combine to Form Devastator.
Maybe that is a way – a strange way, I’ll grant you – to view the Body of Christ. We are all part of the body of Christ and each one of us has a function and a gifting that is designed to benefit the whole body. The church is not designed to be pastor or priest-centric, because Jesus is the Head. The church is designed to function just like a body, which means that everybody has a crucial and important role, and we are to be so tightly bound to each other that when one of us suffers, all of us hurt, and when one of us is celebrating, all of us rejoice! Eating a nice bowl of Oreo O’s causes my whole body to rejoice, even though only a few of my members participate in the consumption, and stubbing my pinky toe on a concrete stair step causes my whole body to suffer, even though it is only my smallest appendage that is impacted.
Let me mention three important dynamics that the Word teaches us about these gifts of the Spirit:
We must Desire Gifts; Use Gifts; Grow the Fellowship with Gifts.
- Desire Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:31 “31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. ” AND 1 Cor 14:1, “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.” WE SHOULD WANT THESE GIFTS AMONG the whole Body of Christ AND also FOR US PERSONALLY TO USE.
- Use Your Gifts: How? TO SERVE EACH OTHER. 1 Peter 4:10-11 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
A. Note:1 Timothy 4:14, “14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy,with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all.” AND 2 Timothy 1: 6 Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power,love,and sound judgment. IF IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR TIMOTHY’S GIFTS to be dormant – actually trained by Paul – then I believe it is very possible for many of ours to be dormant!
- Grow the Fellowship with your Gifts. 1 Corinthians 14:12 “12 So also you—since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church.” AND vs 26, “26 What then, brothers and sisters? Whenever you come together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything is to be done for building up. “
We need the evangelists going with the Gospel. We need the encouragers encouraging! We need the mercy-showers pouring out mercy to a lost and dying world! And you know, sometimes, the evangelists aren’t going to go if they aren’t encouraged. The mercy showers might not be able to show mercy if somebody doesn’t show mercy to them. The givers might be be struggling with the faith to actually radically give, and might need a Faith-gifted person to exhort them.
Let’s bring in pastor Sam Storms to say a word about the importance of spiritual gifts, from his book, A Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts.
There’s a crucial principle we need to understand from the outset: Spiritual gifts are not God bestowing to his people something external to himself. They are not some tangible “stuff” or substance separable from God. Spiritual gifts are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us. Spiritual gifts must never be viewed deistically, as if a God “out there” has sent some “thing” to us “down here.” Spiritual gifts are God present in, with, and through human thoughts, human deeds, human words, human love. The language Paul uses to make this point is explicit and often repetitive.
For a fuller understanding of what Paul said, let’s look at the word translated “manifestation” (phanersis) in verse 7. This is Paul’s way of saying that the Spirit is himself made manifest or visibly evident in our midst whenever the gifts are in use. Spiritual gifts are concrete disclosures of divine activity and only secondarily human activity. Spiritual gifts are the presence of the Spirit himself coming to relatively clear, even dramatic, expression in the way we do ministry. Gifts are God going public among his people. To reject spiritual gifts, to turn from this immediate and gracious divine enabling, is, in a sense, to turn from God. It’s no small issue whether one affirms or denies these manifestations of the divine presence. In affirming them, we welcome him. In denying them, we deny him….Whether spiritual gifts are for today is not some secondary, tangential issue that exists only for theologians to debate. It directly touches the very mission of the church and how she lives out her calling. How we speak to the world, the way we encounter the enemy, the expectations with which we minister to the broken and wounded and despairing are bound up in how we answer the question: Shall we or shall we not be the church of the Bible? Shall we or shall we not build the church with the tools God has provided?