Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GIFTED TO SERVE (1 Corinthians Chapter 12)

1 Corinthians 12:7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14 have to do with the matter of spiritual gifts.  It is apparent, by Paul’s response to the Corinthians, that some were misusing their gifts.  Emphasis was being placed on particular gifts and those lacking those gifts were deemed to be less important.  Gifts were also being misused for selfish purposes, hence the instruction regarding the preeminence of love in chapter 13.

Every believer in Christ has at least one spiritual gift.  Various terms are used to describe them.  The phrase “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:1) translates the Greek pneumatika and emphasizes the source and nature of the gifts.  “Gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:4) translates the Greek charisma which is related to the Greek word for grace (Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the term as “a gift of grace).  A diversity of gifts have been graciously provided to the members of the body by the triune God (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6).   

Spiritual gifts are not talents.  A talent is the ability to do a thing in the natural realm.  A spiritual gift is the God-given supernatural ability to do a thing in the spiritual—in contributing to the health and growth of the body of Christ.  For example: everyone is to show mercy (Cf. Colossians 3:12), but some have the gift of mercy (Cf. Romans 12:8).  Those having the gift of mercy have a unique, supernatural, desire and ability to recognize and respond to needs.

There are four main passages in the New Testament which speak to the nature and practice of spiritual gifts.  1 Peter 4:10-11 speaks of two broad categories of gifts: speaking gifts and serving gifts.  Ephesians 4:11-12 gives a list of various gifted men.  Romans 12:6-8 provides a list of the various gifts.  Two lists of gifts are provided in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 (12:8-10 and 12:28-30).

The Spiritual gifts have been distributed amongst the members of the body such that there might be mutual dependence upon one another (1 Corinthians 12:25).  The analogy of the human body is used by Paul to describe the proper functioning of the body of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).  The human body, being fearfully and wonderfully made, is made up many complimentary members.  Each part of the body, “presentable” or not, is important.  It is the same with the body of Christ—each gifted member serves an important function.  W. A. Criswell, “Each gift is needed and is not to be neglected.  Every member is essential to the body.  No great church became that way on a one-man ministry.  All, each, every one, great, small, rich, poor, old, young, have essential parts.”

The “mutual dependence” nature of the distribution of the spiritual gifts can be illustrated by the specific response of each gift to a particular need.  Imagine a family gathered together for a meal when someone drops the dessert to the floor.  One with the gift of mercy might say, “Don’t feel badly, it could have happened to anyone.”  Serving?: “Oh, let me help you clean it up.”  Teaching?: “The reason that fell is that it was too heavy on the one side.”  Exhortation?: “Next time, let’s serve the dessert with the meal.”  Giving?: “I’ll be happy to buy a new dessert.”  Administration?: “Jim, would you get the mop?  Sue, please help pick it up and Mary, help me fix another dessert.”  Faith?: “Maybe God didn’t want us to have that pudding.  If He does, He’ll supply something better by the end of the meal.”  Evangelist?: “Say, that’s just like our lives before we trusted in Christ.  God has provided a way to clean up the mess.”

It is important that Spiritual gifts be practiced in the right way and for the right reasons.  Spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love in serving others (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 1 Peter 4:10), for the common good (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7), for the building up of the body (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:12), unto the glory of God (Cf. 1 Peter 4:11).

You can know what your spiritual gifts are.  Here are some questions that might help: 1)               What is it that you most enjoy doing in serving the body of Christ?  2) What is it that you are best equipped to do?; and 3) In what kind of activity are you most effective in serving?  The key concern is that you endeavor to serve Jesus by serving others.  The Holy Spirit can lead you to serve in roles that are in keeping with your particular area of giftedness.  But it’s useless to steer a vehicle that is not moving.  You’ve been gifted to serve.  The body of Christ needs your gifts.  God is glorified when your gifts are well utilized (Cf. 1 Peter 4:10-11).  You’ve been gifted to serve.

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