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ON ASSIGNMENT

(A Series in I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 11/22/98 a.m.          I Corinthians 12:27-31

PROPOSITION:  All true believers are attached to the body of Christ and placed there by God with different spiritual gifts for His purposes.

I. introduction

-     ONE of the greatest needs in human nature is the need to have sense of purpose.

-     JUST about the time you learned to talk and could say, “Mamma and Dadda,” someone came up to you and asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

-     WHAT was being conveyed at that early age was that a sense of purpose will be provided by what you do for a career.

-     AND at first you picked careers that looked like they had an element of excitement to them....so you said,

*     When I grow up I want to be a fireman.

*     When I grow up I want to be a policeman.

-     THAT was when excitement seemed to you like it would provide a sense of purpose in life.

-     THEN when you got older, you learned about the power of money and possessions....so you said,

*     When I grow up I want to be a millionaire.

-     OR maybe you were motivated by the thought of power as meaningful purpose in life...so you said,

*     When I grow up I want to own my own business, be my own boss.

-     OR maybe being in the public eye conveyed to you a sense of significant purpose....so you said,

*     When I grow up I want to be a politician, or movie star.

-     THAT sense of purpose in life doesn’t come to us all in the same way.

-     SOME believe that there is a difference between the sexes with respect to finding purpose in life.

-     DR Dobson says that men find their sense of purpose in their careers, and that women find it in their family.

-     THAT is why seasons of life change, like retirement and/or the empty nest are such shaking times for us all.....our sense of purpose is threatened.

-     THAT is why people jumped out of multi-story buildings during the depression....when they lost their jobs or their fortunes, they lost their sense of purpose.

-     THE world has clearly established for us the purpose of life....and dishes it up to us daily in heavy doses of indoctrination in the TV and other media.

-     ONE of the functions of the church of Jesus and worship services like this is to allow the Holy Spirit and the Word to re-orient us away from the values of the world and on to the values of the kingdom of God.

-     JESUS provides us with the purpose of a man or woman.....and it has nothing to do with his or her career, money, success, fashion, or power.

-     IN His very own words, in response to a question about the greatest commandment, He said,

      “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

-     THIS verse tells me that I will find purpose and fulfillment in this life in proportion to the vitality of my relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.

-     THEN, in Matthew 6:33, speaking of the futility of all the things that the pagans run after, Jesus said,

      “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

-     THIS verse tells me that, after the priority of my personal relationship with God, the next place that I will discover my purpose in this life is in committing myself to His kingdom priorities.

-     WHAT is the earthly expression of God’s kingdom?

-     IN the Old Testament it was Zion.

-     IN the New Testament it is still Zion......the church of Jesus Christ.

-     HEBREWS 12:22 says,

      “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (23) to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.”

-     GOD is doing one thing in the world today....He is building His church.

-     SO, contrary to what the world says about your purpose in life, would you not agree with me that your purpose really is...

1.   Knowing and loving God.

2.   Committing yourself to His priority on earth of building His church.

-     IF He has you doing that......

*     ...as an NFL wide receiver, like Steve Largent.

*     ...or as a neural surgeon, like Mike Haglund.

*     ...or as a captain in a firefighting division, like Joey Means.

*     ...or as an engineer at Boeing.

*     ...or a student at the UW.

-     ALL of those things are secondary to knowing Him and pursuing His kingdom priorities in and through the body of Christ where He has assigned you.

-     THE heart of the last five verses of I Corinthians 12 addresses your role in God’s priorities....placed by Him in the church of Jesus, the body of Christ.

-     TURN with me please to I Corinthians 12:27-31 (page 1137).

ii. YOU all are PLACED in the body

-     VERSE 27,

      “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27)

-     THE Greek word for you, in verse 27, is in the plural. Paul is not a southerner, but he may as well have said, “ya’ll.”

-     YOU all are the body of Christ....Corinthians believers.

-     YOU all are the body of Christ....Westgate Chapel believers.

-     THIS is not just some organizational entity, recognized by the state as a non-profit 501C3.

-     THIS is not a group of people gathering every week to study the Bible and sing songs.

-     THIS is not a group of people united by a common doctrinal position.

-     THIS building doesn’t define us.

-     THIS location doesn’t define us.

-     OUR ministry programs don’t define us....nor our style of worship, leadership structures, or pastoral staff.

-     WE all, here together, are the body of Christ.....who just happen to be identified as Westgate Chapel to this community.

-     “...and each one of you is a part of it.” says the end of verse 27.

-     YOU can’t get out of it if you want to.

-     DOESN’T matter if you like the idea or not. God didn’t ask you if you like it....if you are a follower of Jesus, you are attached to the body of Christ in some local expression.

-     AND if you are not attached, and don’t think you want to be attached to come local body of Christ, then you better examine your heart, because it is entirely likely that you are not part of Christ.

-     EACH one of you is part of the body of Christ here at Westgate Chapel.

-     THAT is part of your purpose in life.

 

 

 

 

iii. YOU all are placed in the body with gifts

-     BUT God didn’t place you in the body of Christ for you and me to just exist there....just changing addresses when we got saved, but no change in purpose.

-     NO! When God placed you in the body of Christ He endowed you with spiritual gifts so that you could further His purposes in that location.

-     LOOK at verse 28 with me.

      “And in the church God has appointed....”

-     THAT word, “appointed,” is the key word in these last five verses of I Corinthians 12.

-     IT comes from the Greek word, etheto, and literally means “placed.”

-     THIS Greek verb, placed, is in a special tense that means, “God placed you in the body of Christ for Himself.”.....i.e. for His own purposes.

-     I DON’T know if this strikes you like it does me, but I am in awe of the fact that God Himself put you in this body to further His purposes.

*     You are not here just to worship on Sundays.

*     You are not here just to learn about God.

*     He put you here for His purposes.

-     THEN, in verse 28, Paul describes the spiritual gifts that God has given to those He has placed in the body of Christ. 

      “....first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers....

-     THESE first three gifts are “equipping gifts.”

-     THE words, first, second, third....are not there to connote a hierarchy of gifts, but rather the order or sequence in which these gifts were given the church.

-     APOSTLES were the original 12 plus Paul...

*     They were placed by God in the body to be the first ones sent out in pioneering church planting and missions work.

*     They were recognized in the New Testament as those who had seen Christ in the flesh.

*     They were sent out with great authority in missionary ministry to the rest of the world to establish the church of Jesus.....many writing what came to be accepted as the New Testament.

*     There are not apostles today in the same sense as Paul and Peter and James....but there are those with special pioneering, church planting ministry....who go in power where no one has gone before.

-     PROPHETS are those who speak out from God under special anointing, calling people to repentance, restoration and righteousness.

*     Initially the prophetic gifting in the New Testament connected Old and New Testament truth.....like Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost.

*     It also was the anointing that penned what has come down to us as New Testament Scripture.

*     Today the prophetic gifting is used to proclaim a message of exhortation, edification and comfort to the church....with Jesus at the center of the proclamation.

*     The role of the prophet is to keep the immediacy of God in the church.

-     TEACHERS were needed in the early church as now, to instruct the people in the Word of God, equipping them for life and ministry.

*     The teacher instructs, counsels, exhorts, and imparts something of his life and testimony so that others will go and do the work of ministry.

*     The teacher builds carefully one truth upon another, line upon line...until  the student can learn for him or herself.

*     The teaching gift is more studied and less spontaneous than the prophetic gifting, but just as important.

-     THE next five gifts are ministry gifts, contrasted with the first three equipping gifts.

      “... 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.” (I Corinthians 12:28)

-     THE first two of this list require no added explanation...miracles and healing.

-     THE ministry of helps are those who show mercy and special kindness to others by supernatural empowerment and direction.

*     Behind the scenes people without whom the work of the kingdom would never be done.

*     Ushers, parking attendants, house cleaning, meals brought over, rides to church, serving Thanksgiving Dinner to needy.

-     GIFTS of administration are those people who by divine power have the ability to...

*     See what needs to be done in order for ministry to take place.

*     Organize the things that need to be done.

*     Inspire confidence and followership in getting things done.

*     Actually get things accomplished, like the deacons who saw to it that the Greek widows in the Jerusalem church were cared for.

-     SPEAKING in different kinds of tongues is self-explanatory, at least for a Pentecostal.....a worship gift given for the edification of the individual.

-     ALTHOUGH it is possible that since the chapter has the local church in view, that the gift of tongues listed here is the kind intended for interpretation in the worship setting.

-     THIS is another partial list of spiritual gifts in these few verses.

-     BUT the bottom line is YOU ALL are placed by God in the body of Christ....and as a part of that body He has given US ALL spiritual gifts so that each part can do its work.

      “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:6)

-     YOU were placed in this body with a gift that God placed in you in order that WE could be all that He intends us to be for THIS DAY and THIS REGION and THIS WORLD.

-     WHAT gift has He given you for His purposes at Westgate Chapel?

-     ARE you functioning in that gift? You and I have an awesome responsibility to be moving in our giftedness for His glory.

-     IT is our purpose!

iv. you all are placed in the body with a variety of gifts

-     LASTLY, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the body of Christ is a multi-colored, multi-faceted, multi-gifted masterpiece of God’s creativity.

-     DON’T try and make it ONE THING created in yours or my image.

-     VERSE 29,

      “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (30) Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (I Corinthians 12:29-30)

-     THE answer to these rhetorical questions is obviously no.

-     BY the way, verse 30 is not, as some think, an argument against all believers being able to speak in tongues.....otherwise why would Paul have said two chapters later, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” (I Corinthians 14:18)

-     THESE two verses are simply a reminder that when the body of Christ is together.....

*     Everyone doesn’t manifest the same gift.

*     There is not to be a side-show of spiritual gifts on top of each other in order to impress the by-standers.

-     GOD has given each one the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (12:7).

-     THE Holy Spirit gives these gifts to each one just as he determines (12:11)

-     SO, expect a creative God to work in creative ways distributing spiritual gifts to EACH ONE in order that the body as a whole would be built up and matured in Christ.

v. conclusion

-     SO what does Paul mean when he writes in verse 31,

      “But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:31)

-     WELL, the first part of the verse that I want you to get is the “eagerly desire” part.

-     I WONDER how many of us can honestly say that we “eagerly desire” any spiritual gifts?

-     IF we are honest, most of us would admit that we are...

*     Afraid of them.

*     Embarrassed by them.

*     Confused by them.

*     Outright reject them.

-     BUT if we realized the depth of our need and the riches of God’s resources available we would “eagerly desire” the spiritual gifts for the work of the ministry.

-     THEN there is the phrase, “greater gifts.”

-     I DON’T believe there is a hierarchy of values to the gifts of the Spirit.

-     THEY are the work of the Holy Spirit who gives them as He determines (12:11)....so how could one be greater than another?

-     I BELIEVE that the “greater gift” is the one that the Holy Spirit is free to manifest through you when the moment calls for it and God’s Spirit determines it....whether or not you are comfortable or have been used in that gift before.

-     IT is a matter of...

*     Recognition of need.

*     Dependence on the Holy Spirit.

*     Desire for the gifts of the Spirit.

*     Surrender to God.

*     Faith.

-     DON’T get too comfortable with your existing spiritual sphere of operation.

-     EAGERLY desire God to use you more fully to accomplish His purposes through you.

-     ASK Him for the gifts of the Spirit. Be open and expectant.

 

IF YOU CAN USE ANYTHING LORD

 

 

 

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