************ Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 1, 1998
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
"Every Believer is Gifted"
Topic: GiftsThis little story, congregation, illustrates so very well the way it should be with the body of Christ. It isn't the minister or the elders or the organists or anyone else you care to name who does the work of the church. We all do.
Subtopic: Spiritual, Promised
Title: We did pretty well, don't you think?
A talented organist, in the days before motor-driven or electric organs, gave a very magnificent concert in which the big pipes sent forth glorious, thunderous tones. After people finished congratulating him, the little boy who had worked with all his might at the bellows remarked, "We did pretty well, don't you think?"
The organist scornfully replied, "And what did you do?" He gave the boy no credit at all.
A month later, during another concert, the organist came to a stormy passage that required all the wind of which the bellows were capable. Suddenly the organ began to fade away. The organist signaled for more wind. Instead, the little lad pulled aside the curtain and said, "Is it I or is it we?"
I don't know if you have ever seen a team of horses pulling a plough. I see this every time I visit my parents because there is a large Amish community by my hometown of Aylmer, Ontario, Canada. In order for the job to be done right all the horses need to pull together. It is the same way with the church. We share the work. We pull together for our Lord and His body and His kingdom.
I want to spend some time this morning looking at how we are all gifted children of God. Let us look at how we all have a contribution we can make to the life and growth of the church.
I Every Christian Has a Gift(s) of the Spirit
A Sometimes when someone is asked to do something for the church or kingdom we hear a response like, "I can't help out. I can't do that." That is one problem.
Here is another problem. In too many churches a few people seem to run everything. And there always seems to be one person running around doing fourteen different jobs. In some churches, the minister and/or his wife are expected to do everything. Thank God this had not been my experience, but this has been the experience of a classmate of mine. He ended up serving as both the president and clerk of council, Sunday School Superintendent, he was in charge of VBS, and he had to type up and duplicate the bulletin. His wife was the church organist and pianist, a Sunday School teacher, and one of the leaders of the youth group.
You know one of the things that attracted me to serve this church as pastor? The fact that so many members are involved in the ministries, programs, committees and worship of this church. I was both excited and impressed with this because this sentiment is so very Biblical and Reformed: it recognizes that every believer is a gifted child of God and has a contribution to make and a role to play within the church.
B Look at verse 7: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given ..." Verse 11 tells us that the Spirit has gifts which He gives "to each man, just as he determines."
Without exception, every new believer receives a gift or gifts. Those fresh from heathenism – new believers in Brazil, Zaire, India, and Taiwan – have been given spiritual gifts. Unschooled and unlettered converts have also been given gifts, for gifts bear no relation to education.
Even the wicked who repent are given gifts immediately upon repentance. Look, for instance, at the Apostle Paul. He had been a violent persecutor of the church, even to participating in the death of the saints. Yet the Spirit gave him gifts in abundance the moment he was saved.
This means, my brothers and sisters, that you are a gifted child of God. You have been given at least one gift by the Holy Spirit for use in the church and kingdom.
No Christian ought to have an inferiority complex and no Christian ought to be jealous of other believers as being more gifted than they because every Christian is a gifted child of God and has a gift that is needed by the church and the kingdom. No one should moan about being a "nobody."
Not every Christian is exercising his or her gift, nor may even know what it is, nevertheless, every child of God has received one or more gifts to be used for the upbuilding of the church and the advancement of the kingdom.
C In New Testament Greek the word for "gift" is the same word used for "birthday gift." And in a certain sense that is what the gifts of the Spirit are – they are birthday gifts. These gifts of the Spirit are given to us on our spiritual birthday. Our gifts are assigned to us when we are born again. At the moment a person receives Christ as Savior and Lord she is given a gift of the Spirit by God.
D When we examine the Scriptures it soon becomes obvious that there is a great variety of gifts. God does not give every believer the same spiritual gift or gifts.
Many Pentecostal or charismatic types would have us believe that speaking in tongues is the only or most important spiritual gift. This is certainly not the case.
When we look at 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 we see a total of 18 different gifts mentioned: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, ability to distinguish spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostleship, teaching, helping, administration, exhorting, giving, showing mercy, evangelism, pastoring. Beyond this, many significant gifts can be identified today which are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Some of these gifts are: defending the faith, leading in worship, calling in the community, fund-raising, Christian nursing, tutoring the mentally or physically disabled, foster parenting, playing a musical instrument, directing a choir, singing, poetry, writing, drawing.
The point here, congregation, is that every member of Trinity is given at least one of these gifts and many are given two, three, four, or more gifts.
E According to verse 7 spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit. They show that the Spirit of Christ is living within you and is at work in you. According to verse 11 it is the Spirit Who inspires the gifts and gives them to each individual. So the gifts are a sign that you are a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led person.
Each gift is a manifestation of the Spirit. There is no reason for saying that one gift displays the Spirit's presence more than another. Some gifts may be more extraordinary and spectacular than others, some may be more visible and more readily noticeable than others, but it does not follow that those who have them are more spiritual than others. A minister's gift of preaching does not mean he is more important or more spiritual than she who has the gift of hospitality or the gift of helps.
Why do we get differing gifts? And why do we get the particular gifts we do? The sovereign Holy Spirit simply assigns to every man and woman as He wills. Clearly, the distribution of gifts is by divine providence through the Spirit.
F Because it is the Spirit Who distributes the gifts and gives to each one as He wills no one should boast of his or her gifts. In a previous chapter the Apostle Paul asks:
(1 Cor 4:7) For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?Because our gifts come through the gracious sovereignty of the Spirit, and not through any worthiness or excellence of ourselves, they should occasion no bragging on our part.
Neither should we follow, nor idolize, nor become the devotees of any human leader out of admiration for his gifts. Paul warns against this in 1 Corinthians 3 pointing out that those who exercise and have the gifts must not be allowed to be greater than He Who gave the gifts. Leaders are only fellow-servants, as are ministers, elders, and deacons.
Also, of course, we should never envy anyone else's gifts – not someone's wisdom and knowledge, nor someone's singing or music ability. Rather, we should be content with God's choice of gifts for us. Discontent is really criticism of the way the Lord Jesus and His Spirit runs the church. For instance, one woman may be blessed with the gift of hospitality but finds teaching impossible. If this woman accepts God's sovereign wisdom in giving her the gift of hospitality she will entertain newcomers frequently and be a real blessing to her guests. Another woman may enjoy teaching but find it hard to entertain. If she accepts her gift of teaching she will not need to have guilt feelings that she does not entertain as much as the first woman. Instead, she will be a real blessing in her teaching. These two women can thank God for each other's gifts instead of envying each other.
II Gifts Are Given For The Common Good
A Why does God make His Church a gifted church? What is the purpose of the gifts? Why are you and I and every member of Trinity a gifted child of God?
The Spirit-inspired Apostle tells us in our text: "Now to each one the manifestation of the spirit is given for the common good." Did you catch that? They spiritual gifts are given "for the common good." They are given so that Christians may minister to each other in the body of Christ. The same thought is expressed by Peter:
(1 Pet 4:10) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.Our gifts are not meant to be used for and by ourselves. Rather than being individualistic they are communal in scope. They are meant to be used for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.
One of the places they are meant to be used for the common good is in public worship. That is why, for instance, we use the gift of music in worship: choirs and soloists sing, organists and pianists and flutists play, and so forth. Another place the gifts are to be used for the common good is in the activities and programs of the church. We recognize member's gifts when we elect them to church office or appoint them to be leaders, teachers, committee members, and nursery attendants. Another place the gifts are to be used for the common good is in various kinds of kingdom work: in the Christian school, for instance, or in prison ministry, or in LOVE Inc, or in Visalia Rescue Mission.
B If God has given us the gifts of the Spirit so that we can minister to each other, it stands to reason, doesn't it, that these gifts must be used.
Imagine being given a birthday present. It has beautiful wrapping and a bow and a card under the bow. Would you say thank-you to person who gave you the gift and then put it on the shelf unopened for days or weeks or months. That would be really dumb. Yet, that is what happens when Christians don't use their spiritual gifts.
More than once Paul uses the analogy of the human body with its many parts – eyes, ears, hands, feet – to illustrate the varied gifts in the church of Christ. Just like the body needs all of its parts in order to function properly, so the church needs the varied gifts of the different members in order to function properly. In the human body, a hand or an eye that does not work is a hindrance to the body and handicaps the body in its work. So likewise with the church: a member who does not use his or her gifts handicaps the church.
Topic: GiftsGifts are given to build up one another and to enable us to serve and glorify Christ together. So the eye cannot say it has no need of the ear. If all were hands how could we walk? Each part of the body is needed to make the whole function. The exercise of our gifts is needed to strengthen the other saints. And we, in turn, will be helped towards maturity though the gifts of others.
Subtopic: Spiritual, Promised
In Argentina everyone is required by law to spend two years in the military service. One fellow showed up at the induction center objecting, "What good would I be? I have no arms!" They put him in the army anyway. At basic training camp his commanding officer said, "See that fellow up there on the hill pumping water? Go tell him when the pail is full. He's blind." Both men were needed in order to get the job done properly.
Topic: GiftsWhat I am trying to say, congregation, is that being a gifted child of God commits a person to at least one significant involvement in Christian service through the church or through Christian agencies beyond the church.
Subtopic: Spiritual, Promised
A well-known conductor was holding a rehearsal one night with a vast array of musicians and a hundred voice choir. While the mighty chorus sang out there was also the peal of organ, blare of horns, and clashing of cymbals. Far back in the orchestra the piccolo player thought, "In all this noise it doesn't matter what I do." So he stopped playing. Suddenly the conductor flung up his hands stopping the music. Someone, he knew, had failed to play his instrument. The shrill note of the piccolo had been missed.
Just as many notes are needed to make a tune, and many colors needed to make a painting, so many gifts are essential for the functioning of the body of Christ.
My hope, my prayer, and my goal for this church is that every professing member is involved in something beside worship in a significant way. I don't want, the Council doesn't want, and the Lord does not want members who are simply bench-warmers. Every member is expected to be involved in the life of the church.
I don't know yet if it is true for this church but in far too many churches too many Christians are content to sit back and let others do the work. An unknown poet has written about this:
There's a clever young fellow named Somebody Else –
There's nothing this fellow can't do.
He's busy from morning 'til late at night
Just substituting for you.
When asked to do this or asked to do that
So often you're set to reply:
"Get Somebody Else, Mr. Chairman --
He'll do it much better than I."
There's so much to do in our church;
So much, and the workers are few.
And Somebody Else gets weary and worn
Just substituting for you.
So next time you're asked to do something worthwhile
Come up with this honest reply:
If Somebody Else can give time and support,
It's obviously true, so can I.
It is important to use our gifts. At the same time, though, Paul lets us know that this is not the most important thing. In verse 31, after speaking about gifts and the use of those gifts, Paul says to us, "And now I will show you the most excellent way." He then proceeds to tell us about love for 13 verses.
To use your gifts, this is important. But it is even more important to use your gifts in love. Take any gift – tongue speaking, prophecy, wisdom, musical ability – this gift means nothing apart from love.
My brothers and sisters, each of us have been gifted by the Spirit for the common good. Now I must ask you, do you use your gifts? And, do you use your gifts in love?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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