The Purpose of Gifts
Turn to 1 Cor. 12 - continue our discussion on the gifts of the Spirit. Remember, we’re taking our time. No rush - building a foundation - take one question or issue at a time.
The vision that we are working toward here at Sunnyside is Helping people reach their full potential in Christ: physically, spiritually, emotionally. Part of reaching our full potential in Christ is utilizing the tools He has given us.
Think about it – in any job or profession, there are tools that will help a person reach maximum effectiveness. Whether it’s a warehouse worker and a forklift, an artist and a brush, a doctor and a scalpel, or Sunday school teach and curriculum – all jobs have tools to maximize effectiveness and reach goals. We call these tools of the trade.
Children’s Moment with the Ultimate Handy Man - Ed Hobbs
Being a Christian is no different. We have tools for the trade. God has called us to a “profession” of holiness, righteousness and love. He has called us to be priests, ambassadors, healers, evangelists, preachers, servants, light bearers and salt shakers. We have duties and responsibilities as Christians, all in the context of a relationship with God, of course
And here’s the wonderful thing about God – He doesn’t just say, “Go and do what Christians should do.” He says, “Go, and I will be with you always, and here are some tools to accomplish what I’m calling you to do.”
So, what are these “tools?” God has given us Spiritual Gifts. We answered the question last week - what are spiritual gifts. If you were not here, I recommend listening to the sermon online – because we need to approach this subject in love and unity. We have different backgrounds, and experiences and different paradigms – so, unity is essential. This is not a subject to fight over – understand that we may not all agree, and that’s ok - as long as we’re biblical. However, I encourage all of us to be open to a paradigm shift – this shift should not from me, but from the Spirit of God.
We’ll cover these “tools” in more detail after Easter, but this morning, I want to answer one question – What is the purpose of spiritual gifts. Let’s look at 1 Cor. 12. Paul, writing to the church in Corinth says this:
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Now about the gifts of the Spirit (pneumatikōn – which is perhaps best translated as “spiritual things”), brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be ignorant or uninformed. “Verse 1 reads like a slap in the face. Paul does not want his audience to be ignorant about the very things that the Corinthians thought they were most well-versed in - spiritual gifts.” Let me set you straight.
You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” (and mean it) except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds (variety) of gifts …
Gifts here is in the Greek - charismatōn – root word charis – anyone remember what charis is? Grace. What is significant about grace? Unmerited favor.
Always keep that in mind when we talk about spiritual gifts. No one earns or deserves, but God gives.
But charismatōn literally means “special operation of the Spirit.”
Again, not natural talent or skill, but a supernatural (above natural) ability given to a person.
Different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Again, no one can take credit for the gift they have been given - nor should any gift be overemphasized or neglected. They are all from God.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
What I am about to say is imperative -
Spiritual gifts are not things that we receive. The Holy Spirit is the gift.
We receive the Holy Spirit and He works within us to do things that we could not do otherwise. A spiritual gift is God Himself living and working within the believer as the believer allows and submits and obeys. The manifestation is the Holy Spirit revealing His presence. So, when I say tools, I’m not referring to things - I’m referring to the Holy Spirit.
So, what are the purposes?
The Purposes of Spiritual Gifts are …
1) To help people reach their full potential
In verse 7, we see the words
“common good,” which literally means to bring together, to be to someone’s advantage or to be better off.
Practically, that means that God has given you a spiritual grace that is to be used to help put someone back together, or fill in some gaps, and to help them be better - I would suggest to be better with the Body of Christ, than without.
Each of us should be continuously better because of one another.
Each one of us should be becoming better, moving forward, growing, maturing, becoming complete -
So, here’s the question – How am I helping people become better? How am I helping people be more like Jesus? And how is that connected to your gift?
Going back to something I said last week that each of us should consider - Am I helping people merely survive, or am I helping people thrive?
Number 2, The Purposes of Spiritual Gifts are …
2. To help the Church reach her full potential
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
What does “built up” mean other than to reach a potential? To become bigger, better, stronger …. Again, God has given each person a gift for the purposes of building up, completing, constructing the Body of Christ – adding to it (evangelism), repairing it,
NT Wright and cathedral construction – no one knew how their part completed the whole – they were faithful to their role, task.
So, here’s the question – How am I helping the Church to reach her full potential? How am I using what God has given me to make the Church better?
Number 3, The Purposes of Spiritual Gifts are …
3. To serve others
Spiritual gifts are not for self or about self. Not about preferences or personality. They are not for show; not to amuse or to entertain; they are not to impress others; not to make us look good or spiritual; not for us to gather a following.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
That’s clear and there is no need for me to expound upon that, except for this – spiritual gifts are given to each Christian to help other Christians reach their full potential in Christ. Your gift is given to you specifically to serve others.
Notice that verse 10 says “as faithful stewards.” Are you and I proving to be faithful stewards of what God has given? We have a responsibility to be faithful stewards – faithful managers of God’s grace. I like that –
We are called to be faithful managers of God’s grace.
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Of course, in Matthew 25, Jesus tells the Parable of talents – emphasizing the responsibility to do what we can with what we have been given.
So, here’s the question – how are you serving others with your spiritual gift? How are you serving others, empowered by the Spirit, to do something that you naturally could not do?
Number 4, The Purposes of Spiritual Gifts are …
4. To make much of God
God gives us spiritual graces to glorify Him - which is to make much of Him, which is to point people toward Him. “Hey, look over there.” Again, a spiritual gift is never to highlight the individual.
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
So, here’s the question – how are you making much of God with your spiritual gift?
Number 5, The Purposes of Spiritual Gifts are …
5. To be God’s teammate
When Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples … and behold, I am with you always,” He was saying, “We’re partners. We’re in this together.” Think of all the religions in this world - what God says that? “Yes, you worship me - and obey me - but we’re also partners.”
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
So, here’s the question – Where am I in partnership with God?
Number 6, The Purposes of Spiritual Gifts are …
6. To be rescue captives
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”
Spiritual gifts are not a New Testament thing. We see miracles, healings, prophecies, preaching, wisdom, words of knowledge throughout Scripture. In the OT, these were reserved for Israel, now in the last days, God has poured out His Spirit on all flesh - Spiritual gifts are now for Jew and Gentile alike.
In Exodus, we see God doing miracles through Moses to deliver - to rescue captive Israel.
So, the question is – Where am I in partnership with God in setting captives free?
The purposes of spiritual gifts: help others and the Church to reach their full potential, to serve others, glorify God, to work alongside God, to be in partnership with Him in the rescue of captives. This is an impossible task to do in your own power and strength and volition.
Some of you don’t know what your gift is - we’re getting there - I’m just laying the foundation. But now that we have a foundation - from last week, we know what the gifts are, and now we know their purpose - you can begin to seek God and seek spiritual gifts. Start asking, “Lord, what are the gifts that you have given me? Lord, reveal to me the gift or gifts you want me to use for your glory.”
But don’t just ask - you must listen and obey. There might be some preliminary work to do before God reveals to you what your gift is.
And as we take this journey together, I encourage you to stretch yourself - try - practice -
This needs to be a safe place - give each other permission to try, to fail, to learn, to grow…
It all begins with knowing Christ as Lord and Savior ….
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.