Saturday, September 23, 2006

Spiritual Gifts, Part II

It's Saturday evening and I haven't got a clue what I'm going to talk about tomorrow for our youth group devotional, much less next Tuesday night's bible study. So I suppose it makes a great deal of sense to be sitting here blogging about last week's lesson, eh? If you're a procrastinator like me, it makes perfect sense. Anyway, on to the lesson...

Last week, I started with Romans 12:3 which introduced the idea of what spiritual gifts mean to the individual believer who posesses them. This week, I'm going to focus on the other half - what they mean to everyone else - which is what Romans 12:4,5 focus on:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

The concept of many members, but one body is hardly new. However, I find it interesting that Paul qualifies the idea that "each member belongs to all the others." The point, most simply, is that as a Christian, service is due to other Christians. This imperative pretty much destroys any justification for the "I'm-a-Christian-but-I-don't-believe-in-church" attitude. If you're a Christian, you need to be in a church or at least be accountable to some local body of believers somehow. Period.

So why does it matter?

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:7:

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

Note that Paul qualifies the gifts of the Spirit as the "manifestation" of the Spirit. That is, our spiritual gifts serve as visible evidence that God is working within the Body of believers. Thus, the first principle regarding corporate expression of our gifts is our gifts testify to the glory of God. It should be readily obvious to believers and non-believers alike that God is at work in a local Body that is effectively using it's spiritual gifts.

But Paul's real point in 1 Corinthians 12:7 is the second principle of the corporate expression of our gifts: Our gifts are intended to serve the common good. God's glory is often revealed in the meeting of material needs. Why else would Jesus tell his disciples that however one treats the poor, they also treat Him? (Matthew 25)

The last principle is potentially arguable, but I believe it is Scripturally sound enough to state outright. Examine 1 Peter 4:10:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (NASB)

First is Peter's command to "employ" or in the King James, "minister" one's gifts unto other people. He also qualifies Christians as "stewards" or "caretakers" of spiritual gifts. I go into greater detail on this point in the first part of this study on spiritual gifts, but it bears repeating: Spritual gifts from God are tools we must care for, and use for, God's purposes. They are meant to help others and glorify God, not make their posessors look good.

Peter qualifies God's grace as "manifold". "Manifold" means "diverse" but not extremely so. There's another word Peter could have used had he meant "diverse in the extreme". To that end, it would seem there is a limit to the expression of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gives to believers. Nevertheless, I think it is yet reasonable to assume the Bible's lists of spiritual gifts is not exhaustive.

In defense of my view, look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:7:

I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

In context, Paul is referring to his comfort level with his bachelor lifestyle or, more specifically, his ability to deny his sexual desires. The word "continence" used to mean specifically that - the ability to control one's desires (usually, sexual). Paul goes on to recognize that other men have other "gifts". That implies Paul thought of his bachelor lifestyle as a gift. Thus, one may say Paul was endowed with the gift of sexual continence.

Most who have taken a spiritual gift assessment probably know that "sexual continence" isn't considered a spiritual gift. Yet, it would be hard to argue that Paul's gift in this area didn't testify to God's glory or build up the Body.

So there you have it. The three principles for the corporate expression of spiritual gifts are:

  • They testify to God's glory.
  • They are intended to meet others' needs.
  • They are diverse and not necessarily limited to any one list.
Have a great week.

- Graffy

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