The Church; Individuals with Spiritual Gifts ~ 20090125~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
1/25 The Church; Made up of Individuals with Spiritual Gifts
We've been talking about the church. We've been focusing on the big massive truths about the church. We saw that the church is a community of people called out from the world by the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his identity, and united by the new birth. We saw that the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of Jesus and she will overcome. We took a look at what characterized the early church; they were filled with awe at the awesome works of God, they were filled with joy and generosity and praise, and they devoted themselves to studying and hearing God's word, to intimate community life, to worship and remembering Jesus' finished work, and to seeking God in intimate conversation with him.
Today I want to ask the question 'so what's my part?' Paul says:
So if we are Christ's body, the church, and the church is made up of individual members, then what is my specific role and function in the group? As an individual member, what part do I play? What do I contribute? We are going to look at spiritual gifts.
There's a lot of confusion in the air on the topic of spiritual gifts. In some churches there is an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, especially a few particular gifts. In other churches, there resistance and fear to even talk about the gifts. Paul tells us that he doesn't want us to be ignorant or uninformed about the gifts. We can't afford to go through life not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.
We went on vacation one year to visit family for Christmas, so we were out of town for my work Christmas party. A few days after I had returned to work, they were cleaning up the holiday decorations and a co-worker came to by cubicle and said 'hey, did you ever pick up your gift?' What do you think my response was? 'Eh. Whatever. Can't you see I've got work to catch up on? I don't have time for a gift.' How many think that's how I responded? How would you respond? 'Gift? Gift! What is it? Where is it? I want it....now!' How many of you know that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How many know that it is still pretty blessed to receive?
The word translated 'spiritual gifts' in our bible is just one word in the original; 'pneumatikon' [pneumatikwn], which simply means 'of the spirit' or 'of the air'. You have pneumatic tires on your car. We had a pneumatic shop where I worked. Pneumatic simply means 'of or relating to air; powered by air'. We built elaborate control systems that would operate by air power. We had a giant air compressor in a shed outside the building, and air lines piped in and run all over the ceiling, with air drops for connecting pneumatic equipment. We had pneumatic drills and pneumatic wrenches and pneumatic screwdrivers and pneumatic presses and pneumatic nail guns. Each tool had its specific function, but they all ran on air. When they were not connected to the air lines they were useless. When they were connected to the air source, they had great potential to get a lot of work done efficiently and effectively. They also had the potential to do a lot of damage if they were misused. The air press would neatly and efficiently press a part into place, but it also had the potential to permanently disfigure your finger if you misused it. The air nailer would effortlessly and precisely pound a nail into a 2x4, but it would just as effortlessly put that nail through your foot if you weren't careful, as one of my co-workers found out. The things that are of or pertaining to the 'Pneuma'; the Spirit are powerful tools for good, but they can also be used inappropriately and result in harm.
That's one of the main reasons that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. This church was misusing the gifts of the Spirit to their own harm. They were selfish and boastful and proud and Paul wrote to correct their problems and put them back on the right track. So Paul tells them up front 'I do not want you to be uninformed concerning spiritual gifts.' There are things you need to know about the gifts of the Spirit. Not just that there are gifts and which ones you have, but how to use them in a way that builds up the body and brings honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what he says in v.2:
Notice he's talking about being under the influence or control of another. The word he uses of being 'led astray' was the word commonly used of leading a condemned person away for execution. That's the picture we have of our life before Christ – being led to worship worthless things by demonic powers. Paul is concerned not with the fact that what you say was supernaturally induced but where it came from. The spiritual source is revealed by the content of what you say. God's Holy Spirit would never induce you to say something against Jesus. On the flip side, here's a true gift of the Spirit of God: acknowledging that Jesus is your King! As Jesus told Peter 'flesh and blood has not revealed this to you'; surrendering to Jesus as Lord and King is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God in your life.
He goes on to talk about the unity of the body in the diversity of the gifts:
Gifts 'charismaton' [carismatwn] is from the root 'charis' [cariv] grace or free gift; there are varieties of gifts, there are varieties of service, there are varieties of activities; but the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God gives and empowers. Notice the triune God here? God is one; but God gives a unique manifestation of the Spirit to each individual. Pay careful attention to the last phrase: 'for the common good'. That is key to the discussion of spiritual gifts. Your gifts are not for you. Your gifts are for others. My gifts are for your benefit. Selfishness and pride are contrary to the purpose of the gifts. You can't hoard the gifts you have been given and you can't boast about the gifts you have – they are gifts given freely by God as he chooses. The gifts are for the common good.
Let's look quickly at some of the gifts. Understand there is no comprehensive list of gifts given in the bible. We'll look at a few passages that list some of the gifts – but the point is not to exhaustively list them but to give us an idea of what kinds of gifts and abilities God has given to his church to use for the common good. And remember, don't just go down the list checking off 'that's not my gift, that's not my gift, does not apply...' The gifts are for the common good, so although no one has all the gifts, we all benefit from the gifts of those around us, so an awareness and appreciation of those gifts in others will be beneficial to you as an individual and to us as the church. [I am indebted to pastor James MacDonald for the definitions of the gifts.] Buckle your seat belts, here we go.
Wisdom is the spiritual ability to understand God's perspective on life situations and to share those insights in a simple understanding way; it is a capacity to relate the truth of scripture to real life situations.
Knowledge is the spiritual ability to know things that were not learned through normal channels.
Faith is the spiritual ability to trust God for what cannot be seen and to act on God's promises. Faith is confidence in God. All believers have faith in God, but the gift of faith is an extraordinary ability to believe God for the impossible.
Healing is the spiritual ability to be God's channel to restore health. This is similar to the gift of faith, but specific to healing. I don't believe this is limited to physical healing, but can include emotional and spiritual healing as well.
Miracles is the spiritual ability to receive and display exceptional interventions of God's power in ways that bring him glory. By definition miracles are not frequent and typical but unusual and exceptional. Miracles are things that are not explainable by natural causes.
Prophecy is the spiritual ability to publicly communicate God's word in an inspirational way that convinces unbelievers and challenges and comforts people. It is the ability to persuasively declare God's word in a way that makes the truth come alive and people sense God himself is speaking. The gift of prophecy speaks God's word with authority, bringing conviction of sin and awareness of its consequences. The gift of prophecy is not the same as the office of prophet. There are people today with the gift of prophecy, but we do not call them prophets.
Distinguishing spirits or discernment is the spiritual ability to distinguish right from wrong and to separate truth from error. It is the ability to discern motives and agendas. A word of caution is in order here. There are many so called discernment ministries that are hyper critical and find something wrong with every ministry and demonstrate no love or grace. The gift of discernment used in the flesh is a destructive and dangerous thing.
Tongues is the spiritual ability to speak a message from the Lord or to the Lord through divinely anointed utterances which are languages
unrecognized by speakers and hearers. Like all the gifts, the purpose of tongues is for the edification of the church. The whole point of this section is that tongues is a gift, but it is not the most important gift and it should not attract all the attention in the church. We have two main parameters that will keep us balanced in our thinking about tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:30 tells us that not all believers speak in tongues. It is a gift given to some but not all in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:49 makes it very clear that we are not to forbid speaking in tongues. If we stay between these two boundaries, we can maintain a biblical balance.
Interpretation of tongues is the spiritual ability to make known to the church the message or interpretation of the one who spoke in tongues. It is in combination with the interpretation that tongues edifies believers. That is why Paul demanded:
Lets jump down to verse 27 where he adds some other gifts:
Apostles. The bible is clear that the office of apostle is closed.
The foundational offices of apostle and prophet are not repeated, however there are people today with apostolic gifting. This is the spiritual ability to start new churches and ministries and oversee their development; these are ministry entrepreneurs with a boldness to take the gospel to uncharted territories.
Teachers have the spiritual ability to educate God's people by clearly explaining and applying the bible in a way that causes others to learn. It is the ability to equip and train people for ministry.
Helping is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and take initiative to provide practical assistance to others quickly, cheerfully, and without need for recognition. Thank God for those with the gift of helping.
Administration is the spiritual ability to ascertain the gifts of others and recruit them for ministry. They organize and manage resources for effective ministry. Administrators have the ability to coordinate many details and execute the plans of leadership.
We already talked about tongues. Let's turn over to Ephesians 4 to see some more.
Evangelist is the spiritual ability to effectively communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers; the ability to sense opportunities to share Christ and lead people to respond in faith. Understand, we are all commanded to do evangelism;
But some are specially gifted and evangelism comes naturally.
Pastoring is the spiritual ability to care for the needs of a group of believers and equip them for ministry; ability to nurture people in spiritual growth and assume responsibility for their welfare.
Notice again the emphasis on mutual edification. Let's turn over to Romans 12 to see some more.
Service is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and to invest personal resources to meet that need. A person with the gift of service delights to do get the job done.
Exhortation or encouragement is the spiritual ability to motivate God's people to apply and act on biblical principles especially when they are discouraged or wavering in their faith; ability to bring out the best in others and challenge them to develop their full potential.
Giving is the spiritual ability to generously contribute money and other resources so that the body of Christ might be strengthened and expanded; this person experiences tremendous freedom and joy when they give – they are open handed and open hearted with singleness of purpose.
Leading is the spiritual ability to communicate a compelling vision in a way that produces followers.
Mercy is the spiritual ability to recognize people who are hurting and take action to relieve their suffering. This person is extremely compassionate and gladly carries the burdens of others without feeling inconvenienced.
This was a fast overview of some of the gifts that God has blessed the church with. You might be asking 'how do I know what gifts I have been given? You can get online and find spiritual gift inventories and questionnaires that will help you identify your gifts, but here's the best way to really find out. Get involved! Show up. Be part of the body. Get involved in each other's lives. Step out of your comfort zone. Be stretched and try new things. When you do, there will be three main indicators that tell you you've found your place: you will be satisfied; God will be glorified, and people will be edified.
If you have gifts that you are not aware of, or are hiding, we all are suffering. We simply can't afford to go through life together not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.