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“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
[1]
Why should you join a local congregation when you become a Christian?
The answer, in part, is that Christians are divinely appointed to membership in a local congregation.
There are great benefits in church membership, though I wonder if modern Christians are convinced of those benefits.
Among the benefits that could be listed are that church membership identifies the believer as genuine, provides a spiritual family, gives the child of God a place to discover and use spiritual gifts, places the Christian under the spiritual protection of godly leaders and gives the saint accountability.
[2]
Tragically, too many Christians appear to view membership in the local congregation as archaic—a relic lingering from an era far removed from the present.
They see church membership as useless, or perhaps even detrimental to spiritual growth.
Membership in a church is associated with paying dues and performing pointless rituals.
However, it is in concert with and in reciprocity with other Christians that we are called to serve the Lord.
Join me in exploring the role divinely assigned to each Christian.
SPIRITUAL GIFTS — “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
The passage before us speaks of charismáton, the plural genitive form of the noun chárisma, here translated “gifts.”
The text is essentially an iteration of ROMANS 12:6-8.
“Having gifts [charísmata, plural accusative form of the noun chárisma] that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
The word charísmata in our text is a synonym for pneumatikôn, which is translated spiritual gifts in 1 CORINTHIANS 12:1 and 1 CORINTHIANS 14:1.
So what is under consideration are “grace gifts,” which are synonymous to “spiritual gifts,” or “gifts of the Spirit.”
Understanding this, we can perhaps discover our role in the congregation.
The Bible speaks of the “gift of the Spirit” [ACTS 2:38], the “fruit of the Spirit” [GALATIANS 5:22-24], and the “gifts of the Spirit” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:1; 14:1].
The “gift of the Spirit” speaks of when you actually became a Christian.
At that time, the Holy Spirit took up residence in your life.
Your body became the temple of the Holy Spirit when you were saved, and the Comforter began living in you.
The “fruit of the Spirit” identifies character qualities produced in your life as a Christian by the work of the Holy Spirit.
These fruits should be seen with increasing clarity as you continue your walk with the Lord.
The “gifts of the Spirit” are enablement given by the Spirit of God to permit you to perform a particular and necessary function in the Body of Christ, the local congregation.
There is a further point of clarification needed before delivering the message.
Paul speaks of gifts [charísmata], of service [diakoniôn], and of activities [energés].
The words, “though representing different perspectives, all refer to the same thing.
What is from one point of view a gracious bestowal (gift) by the Spirit is from another a service [(service)], and from still another an operation of power [(activity)].”
[3] The words speak of the gracious bounty of God, of the purpose God intends in granting them, and of the power at work in giving the gifts.
Think of some powerful truths concerning the “gifts of the Spirit.”
One truth is that God has ensured that the Body is diverse both in composition and gifts.
Another truth is that the Father gifts each Christian.
Implicit is the truth that God values His people and has given each one the best gift that is necessary for a healthy Body.
Consider the diversity demonstrated within any given congregation of the Lord.
Following our text, the Apostle writes, “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.
And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?
If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:12-17]?
God loves diversity.
All one need do to verify that truth is look about and notice the differences that mark our physical appearance.
Among us are people that are short and people that are tall, people that are slender and people that are more generously proportioned, people that are hirsute and people that are less furry.
Among us are people that are light skinned and people that are more darkly hued.
Our interests vary, our recreations vary and it should not come as a surprise that our spiritual gifts differ.
God has taken care to ensure that we are not identical, as though we were punched out with a cookie cutter.
We are saved as individuals, and we are gifted individually.
Each Christian is a gift to the congregation where he or she serves because the Spirit of God gifts each Christian.
The gifts of the Spirit are distributed “to each one individually” [VERSE ELEVEN].
At the point you became a Christian, you were gifted.
The purpose of God’s individual gifting is to ensure that a full ministry is available to the entire Body, and not simply a limited ministry repetitiously performed by a few.
Though the thought doggedly persists that churches hire ministers to do the work of the Lord, the revelation of the Word is that each Christian is a minister charged with responsibility to fulfil the service that God has assigned.
Pastors have responsibility to shepherd the flock of God; but they are not responsible to exercise unilaterally all the gifts of the Spirit, thereby freeing members from responsibility to be ministers of Christ.
It is only as Christians work together, exercising their individual ministries and strengthening one another, that the fullness of the Body of Christ is revealed to the eyes of the watching world.
It is not without reason that the Apostle refers to us as the Body in this portion of the Word.
Christ the Lord no longer walks in the flesh throughout the world, but each church is identified as the Body of Christ.
Each congregation as the Body of the Lord in the world where that church serves has opportunity to reveal Christ to the world.
Within the congregation are some who speak prophetically, revealing God’s will to their generation, just as did Jesus to His generation during His days in the flesh.
Among the people of a congregation are some gifted to be merciful, showing gentleness and compassion just as the Son of God showed gentleness and compassion during His days in the flesh.
There will be some who are generous, some who are wise in administering the affairs of the congregation, some who are merciful.
Together—and only together—do believers united in love and in service reveal the fullness of Christ to the watching world.
In our difference lies one of our greatest strengths.
It is precisely because we make one another complete through our differing gifts that Christ is glorified as we strengthen one another and as we build one another in this most Holy Faith.
Because we are not all identical, we have opportunity to grow, to change and to grow into a people that reflect the wholeness of the Living God.
There remains the question, “Why has God gifted us as He has?”
Why did you receive your particular gift(s)?
The text teaches that the gifts distributed by the Spirit are given in order that they may be invested in the Body of Christ.
In our text, we are taught that whatever gifts we have received are for “the common good” [VERSE SEVEN].
In other words, the gift(s) you have received have eternal value only as they are invested in the Body of Christ—the congregation to which you have been appointed.
There is quite a list of gifts when we consider the appropriate biblical passages.
The several lists are not meant to be exhaustive, but they are rather suggestive.
Just as God is infinite and the facets of His Holy Character are infinite, so the Body of Christ will reflect His infinite character as the spiritual gifts are expressed through His people.
However, reviewing the pertinent passages, [4] some knowledge concerning the character of the spiritual gifts is provided.
Reviewing Peter’s words [see 1 PETER 4:10, 11], categorising the gifts as speaking gifts, serving gifts and sign gifts seems appropriate.
The SPEAKING GIFTS include the gifts necessary to permit appointment to the offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor and teacher.
Additionally, the speaking gifts include the gifts of prophecy, teaching and exhortation.
Obviously, appointment to the office of teacher will of necessity mean that the one appointed has the gift of teaching; but not all that have the gift of teaching will necessarily have the gifts required for appointment as a teacher.
The same is true for appointment to the office of the prophet.
Though some will enjoy the gift of prophecy, not all that have that gift will have the gifts required for appointment to the official office within the Body of Christ.
SERVING GIFTS include administrating, helping, service, generosity, leading, acts of mercy, faith, the utterance of wisdom and the utterance of knowledge.
SIGN GIFTS include; gifts of healing, working of miracles, ability to distinguish between spirits, various kinds of languages, and interpretation of languages.
It is important to keep in mind that each gift is intended “for the common good.”
If a Christian gifted by the Spirit of God should fail to invest in the Body of Christ the gift the Spirit has given, she has prostituted the gift of God; the gifts of the Spirit were never given to make the individual feel good about himself or herself, nor were the gifts distributed for the sole or even the primary benefit of the one holding the gift.
The gift(s) received are intended for the benefit of the Body of Christ where each one serves!
Christ is to be glorified through the exercise of my gift among His people, the church.
If your ministry consist of grumbling about the length of the service, merely occupying a pew or being present at each and every potluck meal, you may be assured that you are failing to fulfil the ministry God intended for you.
If that dreadful description applies to you, you are abusing the gift(s) you received and you are therefore depriving the congregation of the benefit they should rightfully expect from your presence among them.
Each Christian is called to a life of service, and our service consists of exercising the gift(s) we have received to the glory of God.
The gift(s) we receive are precisely what are required for a healthy congregation.
Since the gifts are apportioned as the Spirit wills, it follows that God desires that we will function together as one Body, with Christ as the head of that Body.
Throughout the New Testament are admonitions to live in harmony with one another [e.g.
ROMANS 12:16], to agree with one another [see 2 CORINTHIANS 13:11], to have the same mind and to be in one accord [PHILIPPIANS 2:2] and to have unity of mind [1 PETER 3:8].
Clearly, God places a premium on harmony within the Body of Christ.
In the same way, it must become the desire of each member to see the Body of Christ working in concert with each part functioning properly.
We are not an organisation, but we are a vital, living entity.
As a church, we are not a mere collection of individuals, but rather we are unified in Christ.
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