Saturday, May 17, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ [Part One]

“The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ {Part One}”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 18, 2008
1 Corinthians 12:1-13:13

We are coming down to the end of our study on the Person and Ministries of the Holy Spirit. We’re on message #11 of 13. This week, next week, and then, Lord-willing, the last one will be on June 1st.

Let me put a chart up here to show you the titles of our first 10 messages, to show you the big-picture of where we’ve been:

1. Who Is the Holy Spirit?

This was the kick-off message where we summarized His Person by seeing that: The Holy Spirit is God, The Holy Spirit is a Person, The Holy Spirit is Mysterious, And the Holy Spirit Is Christ-Centered.

And how many times have we seen these truths again and again as we’ve learned together about the Spirit?

He is God, worthy to be worshiped! We just sang, “The Godhead, Three in One, Father, Spirit, Son! ... How Great Is Our God!”
He is a Person, One with whom we can relate, we can have fellowship with Him.
He is Mysterious. We don’t control Him. He is not “The Force.” And we can’t fully comprehend Him. He’s like the wind!
And He is Christ-Centered. His ministry is not, ultimately, to bring glory to Himself but to shine the spotlight on the Lord Jesus Christ!

And then, for the last nine messages, we’ve been learning together about His ministries:

2. The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ
3. The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Relationship with God
4. The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth
5. The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us
6. The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us
7. The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Be Witnesses for Christ
8. The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ
9. The Holy Spirit Influences Us to Live the Christian Life
10. The Holy Spirit Involves Himself In Our Prayers

He is God’s Empowering Presence, doing all of these things and doing them all well!

Now, if you thought that some of those sermon titles were long, wait until you see today’s!

There is at least one more major ministry of the Holy Spirit for us to consider together.

It’s probably the first thing that most of us think about when we think about His ministries, maybe because it’s been the most controversial in the last few decades.

I’ve saved it for last in this series because I wanted us to see the grand sweep of things that the Spirit is “up to” in our hearts and lives before we get into these matters. Often those other ministries of the Spirit don’t get the attention that they deserve.

But this ministry is also very important, and so, we’re going to spend two Sundays on this one ministry:


How’s that for a title?

And there is no better place to learn about these gifts than 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14.

The Corinthians had major problems with spiritual gifts. It’s not that they didn’t have them, they did have them–plenty of them, but they didn’t completely understand what they were for or what they signified. They had the wrong mindset about spiritual gifts.

And we should be glad that they had these problems.

Because they were so messed up over the spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul had to write several chapters of instruction and correction for them that helps us today.

This week, we’re going to look in-depth at chapter 12 and dip into chapter 13. Next week, we’re going to look in-depth at the end of chapter 13 and all of chapter 14.

And we’re not going to learn everything there is to know about spiritual gifts (that would be impossible!), but I think we’ll get a good overview of the subject and, hopefully, answer a few questions about them along the way. And! Be motivated to use our gifts in ministry.

I have four points this morning. Here’s number one:

1. GOD DOESN’T WANT US TO BE IGNORANT ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS. That’s obvious from chapter 12, verse 1.

“Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.”

That’s pretty straightforward! Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to be ignorant about spiritual things, spiritual people, and especially spiritual gifts.

And I don’t think that God wants us to be ignorant today.

Wayne Grudem has defined spiritual gifts like this, “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church” (Systematic Theology, pg. 1016).

That’s a pretty broad definition, but I think it’s helpful.

“A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.”

John Piper expands on that idea with this definition, “A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else’s faith.”

So, the picture is this. The Holy Spirit gives these “gifts” (these abilities, empowered abilities) to believers so that they can minister to others within the church, the Body of Christ.

This is one of His major ministries, and God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about them.

Now, the Corinthians knew about spiritual gifts. They LOVED spiritual gifts! They loved them too much!

The problem with the Corinthians was that they had an “over-realized eschatology;” which is a $5 way of saying that they acted like all of the blessings of the Kingdom were here and now and theirs today.

And they thought that because they had spiritual gifts operating within the church (some of them, obviously miraculous), that that proved that they were spiritual themselves! That they were mature and godly.

Well, they were mistaken. Our gifts do not determine our godliness!

You can have very gifted people who are ungodly.

And you can have very godly people who only have very weak gifts.

The two are not the same and can’t be equated.

Our gifts do not determine our godliness.

They are a means of expressing our godliness in love, but their existence is no proof that we are godly.

And the Corinthians didn’t know that. The Corinthians needed to be corrected about that. They needed to be informed. They were ignorant.

And God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts!

So, Paul begins to teach them. Here’s point #2. It’s his next point.


Paul begins by pointing out that spiritual gifts are given to spiritual people, that is, people who have the Spirit. V.2

“You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ [and means it!] and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ [and really means it] except by the Holy Spirit.”

This is another way of saying that Real Christians all have received the Holy Spirit.

And that the Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

If we are Christians, if we proclaim, “Jesus Is Lord!” and believe that no one else is, then that’s the work of the Spirit. And it’s the most important work of the Spirit–bringing us to Jesus!

And it’s the same Spirit for all Christians!

And yet, He gives different Christians different gifts. V.4

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord [Jesus]. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men [which, here, means all men and women who belong to Christ].”

Notice the Trinitarian thought again! Same Spirit, Same Lord, Same God the Father.

Different gifts, same Spirit.

Why is this important to see? Well, when you begin to realize how incredibly different different believers are from one another and how different their gifts are from one another, then you might begin to think that there is a different Spirit operating here!

But no, the same Spirit is pleased to give different kinds of gifts (v.4–there’s the word “charismata” which could be better translated “grace gifts”) to different folks. V.7

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Notice several things here.

First, each believer gets the manifestation of the Spirit.

Each believer gets at least one spiritual gift. It might be different for each one, and even the same gift will look differently as it operates through each different believer, but each and every believer gets at least one spiritual gift.

Notice also, these manifestations of the Spirit, these grace-gifts, these different workings of the Spirit are given to believers (v.7) “for the common good.”

The gifts aren’t for show.
The gifts aren’t for self-serving attention to be brought to us.

The gifts are for building the body of Christ. They are for the common good.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”

Spiritual gifts are God’s grace given to us to be used for others.

At least, that’s their ultimate use. They build up the body together.

If you see a group of believers where their gifts are being used to make a name for someone (like we often see on television), then you know that those gifts are being used wrongly. The gifts are given for the common good.

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate in the Body of Christ.

Now, again, notice. All of these spiritual gifts come from the Spirit (actually from the same God, Father, Son and Spirit). But there are different gifts. V.8

“To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit [notice how he keeps saying “Same Spirit,” “One Spirit”], to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues [languages], and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”

Now, we don’t know that much about this list of gifts. The “message [word] of wisdom” and the “message [word] of knowledge” in verse 8–that is the only verse in the whole Bible that talks about those gifts! So, that’s not a lot of data to go on to know what they were or are. Could be very miraculous. Or could be the gift of having a wise word to offer or a knowledgeable nugget to share at the right time. We don’t know.

The gift of faith was/is probably the ability to trust God for things that seem impossible to others. A powerful sense of certainty that God is going to do something specific.

Notice that gifts of healing is plural. It’s actually doubly plural: “gifts of healings.” And I think that points, no so much towards one person who is a healer, but to many people who pray and then the Spirit gifts their prayers for healings so that they see people returned to health who wouldn’t have been unless the Spirit had given that gift. Not like Jesus did, not with awesome authoritative power, but people truly healed through the gifting of the Spirit.

“Miraculous powers” or literally, “the working of powers” would be the Spirit doing something we really didn’t expect! I’m sure we’ve all heard some story or another of God doing something through someone else that no one could have predicted!

And then at the end of the list come “speaking in different kinds of tongues [which is another word for languages]” and “the interpretation of” those languages.

And we’ll have a lot more to say about that next Sunday. For right now, I’ll just point out that there’s probably a reason that Paul puts that one at the end of this list. The Corinthians thought it was the most important gift of all!

Where’d all these gifts come from? The same Spirit.

And there’s a lot more gifts than these.

If my math is correct, when you start taking all of the gift-lists from this chapter, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, there are about 2 dozen gifts listed in the New Testament.

And none of the gift-lists are the same! Each list is different. And I think that points to the fact that they are not comprehensive. They are suggestive. They point to things that the Holy Spirit gives to believers to be used to serve the body of Christ.

Abilities that are empowered by the Spirit to do ministry.

Some of them are very miraculous. Like (v.10) “miraculous powers.”

But many of them don’t seem very miraculous at all.

Listen to Romans 12:6-8.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith [okay, that one may be miraculous, we’ll talk about it next week, too.] If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Those are spiritual gifts?

Showing mercy?

I guess I could do that...

If we do it, empowered by the Spirit for the Body of Christ, and God uses it, I think that it was a “spiritual gift.”

And all of them come from the same Spirit. V.11

“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

Aha. The Spirit decides who gets what gift.

That’s interesting. It’s not up to us.

The Spirit decides who gets what gift.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask for a certain gift. It doesn’t mean that we can’t pursue or desire a different gift, but it does mean that we don’t determine what gift or gifts we have.

The Spirit does.

And that leads us to point #3.


The Holy Spirit Gives All of Us Gifts.

And All of Us Need to Put our Gifts Together to Cooperate in Ministry. V.12

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

We saw this verse a couple of weeks ago with verse 13.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us into the Body of Christ.

He takes us as individuals and baptizes us into a Body.

So, we are all now body parts in Christ’s Body here on earth, the Church.

Unity in Diversity.

Unity because we’re all in one body.

But diversity because we are all different parts with different gifts.

Like I said before, I like to think of myself as the stomach. All week long, I get to study the Bible, I get to digest it, and then on Sundays, I get to spread out the life-giving nutrients to the rest of the Body. {I think I got this idea from D.A. Carson, but I'm not certain.}

But we’re all body-parts and we’re all important. V.14

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.”

Would it? I don’t think so!

“And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.”

“If the whole body were an eye [that’s quite a thought, kind of a nightmare! “Attack of the Eyebody!”], where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear [don’t think about that picture late at night!], where would the sense of smell be?”

Paul’s joking here. He’s having fun.

But there’s a serious point.

You see, the Corinthians were a divided church. They had so many factions, they had so much disunity, that Paul had to deal with their party-spirit in several different ways.

One was, I think, that they thought they didn’t need each other because of their spiritual gifts.

“Oh, I can handle that. God’s given me this gift!”

And they were looking down on others who hadn’t been given the same gift that they had.

But we’re not allowed to do that. We aren’t allowed to act independently of each other. “Oh, I’m not a hand, I’m not in the body!” Uh uh.

And we’re not allowed to be proud of our gift over someone else’s.

“Oh, you’re not an eye. You’re not in the body.” No. We should be thankful for their gifts!

We’ve got to see that we need each other. V.18

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body [remember, that’s us], every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don't need you!’”

No. We need each other.
We need each other.
We need each other.

The Spirit is intentional about this!

He gives different gifts to each of us so that we know that we need each other!

Does He give all of the gifts to the pastor? No.

He gives all of the gifts to the Body. And we all need each other. V.22

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

That’s what we need in the church–equal concern for each other.

We need each other.

If you don’t get anything else out of this week’s message walk away with this:

We need each other.

The church needs you.

And you need the church.

God gave you a gift, the Spirit gives you gifts to be a blessing to others in the Body of Christ–so that we have equal concern for each other.

I love that phrase. See where he takes it from there? V.26

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

When Bob Owens goes in the hospital, we all suffer.

When our kids get dedicated or graduate, we all rejoice! V.27

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

We need each other!

Don’t just sit there week in an week out on the pew.

Use your gifts in ministry to the Body.

Don’t know what your gift is? Try some stuff out!

I’m sure that Lita would love to give some folks a first-time shot at using their gifts in ministry at Family Bible Week. That’s just one month away and there are still some key positions left to fill. And easy ones, too!

There are “spiritual gift tests” out there that you can take to get a better idea of what you’re good at. Maybe we’ll offer a seminar or something down the line.

But they didn’t have those spiritual gift tests back in the first century, and I think they could figure out what their gifts are.

You figure it out from serving. Trying things out, testing out what you might be good at. Take a risk!

And put your gift to use! We need you to!

No one has all of the gifts needed, except the Body together. V.28

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? [Well? No.] Are all prophets? [No.] Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”

The answer to those rhetorical questions is “No.”

Nobody has all of the gifts.

And notice that tongues is included in that list. A great many of the modern day problems associated with the Pentecostal movement could be solved by just answering that question “Do all speak in tongues” with a clear, “No.”

Tongues are not the definitive sign of Spirit Baptism, and are not a means to maturity, and are not for all believers. We’ll talk more about that next week, but it’s clear that Paul thinks that we shouldn’t make too much of that gift.

Or any gift. They are just gifts, anyways. And not everyone has the same ones.

But each one that we have, we’re supposed to use.

And we’re supposed to do it, in love.

That’s the last point, and it’s the key.


We need to love.

We need to use our gifts in love.

If we don’t these gifts can look great, but be ultimately useless. V.31

“But eagerly desire the greater gifts. [While each gift is important, some gifts are more important for the gathered church–we’ll see more about that next week.] And now I will show you the most excellent way.”

What’s that? Love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

What’s he saying?

He’s saying that we could have the most miraculous gifts you could imagine. Spiritual gifts on steroids!

But if they aren’t exercised in love, then forget it!

And you know the rest.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

And the greatest example of this kind of love is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He truly loved the unlovable.

He used His gifts in ministry.

And then He died on the Cross to pay for our sins.

When we trust in Him, when we look to Him, we see the Love Incarnate, Love in the Flesh.

And we know a love that is beyond knowing!

And that provides us with the ultimate example of how we should love others–especially His people, the Body of Christ.

The key to the healthy operation [cooperation!] of gifts within the Body is Christ-like love.

He’s saved us for us to serve.

He’s blessed us to be a blessing to someone today.