Our Text – Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; Romans 12:7-8; 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:11-16
Our theme – “God commands believers to lovingly exercise their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church”
When James was a college student, he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer‘s showroom for a long time. He knew that his parents could afford it and told them, that this car is all that he wanted as a gift on the day of his graduation. Graduation day came and his father called James into his private office. He told him: “I’m very proud to have such a good son like you.” He told him how much he loved him and handed him a lovely wrapped gift.
James felt disappointment, but he was curious to know what it was, so he opened the box and saw a leather-bound Bible. “You are so wealthy and all you can give me is a Bible” as James shouted at his father with anger and left the house. Time passed and James became a very successful businessman. He was happily married and had two children. Their family lived in a beautiful house. However, his heart and soul still hurt due to the broken relationship with his father. James hadn’t seen his father since his graduation day.
One day he received a letter, which told him his father passed away. According to the father’s Last Will and testament he had inherited all of the possessions of his father. When James arrived at his father‘s house and began to look for a important paper, he accidentally found the Bible, still gift-wrapped. Sadness filled his heart and with tears in his eyes, he opened the Bible and read a verse that was underlined by his father: “And if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give to those who ask Him?” Suddenly a car key had dropped from the back of the Bible.
He knew that it was the keys to the same car that he desired at that time. James also found a tag with the date of his graduation on it and the words “Paid in full“. God has also given us a precious gift in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ for salvation. All we have to do is accept His gift – the price has been “Paid in full” by the blood of Christ. Have you accepted His Gift for Salvation?
What kind of a person would take his mother to the senior prom or a college freshman who walks across campus with his mom and dad in tow? Or what first year student at Randolph-Macon College rates a news conference before and after his first day of classes? The answer to all these questions is Gregory Smith, a 10-year old genius. Before Greg’s second birthday:
(1) He was adding numbers and memorizing books.
(2) At the age of 7, he completed the second through eighth grades, racing through Algebra 1 in just 10 weeks.
(3) During his first year in college, he enrolled in 17 credits including Calculus I, Physics, and French III.
Gifted and talented is how we describe intelligent people who inherit that kind of brainpower and sets them apart from others. Many individuals often work hard to develop their ability, but as for others such as Gregory, it came as standard equipment when they were born and is a natural gift. The Scriptures affirm that every believer has at least one spiritual gift.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines a spiritual gift as a phrase to denote the endowments bestowed by the Holy Spirit in the Church. A spiritual gift means any extraordinary ability, which operated for the furtherance of the welfare of the body of Christ, and which was itself produced by the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Having the opportunity to use our spiritual gifts to serve others is a wonderful and uplifting blessing and gives us opportunities to build others up spiritually.
The key to understanding and exercising our spiritual gift is the grace of God. In Romans 12:3 the Apostle Paul summed it up this way, “By the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” In verse 6, he continues, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Again, the source of our gift is God’s grace.
A Biblical understanding of spiritual gifts can help a person purge the consumer way of thinking that plagues the church today. Natural people evaluate the church based on how well they think it meets their needs. This way of thinking is consumer driven and self-centered. It often manifests itself in a judgmental spirit because church consumers evaluate every aspect of the service based on its potential for making them feel better. Those who expect the church to meet their needs misunderstand the nature of church. The church is designed to equip people to serve God, not just to teach people coping skills so they can deal more effectively with their problems.
Certainly, God uses the church to meet needs but not as an end in itself. We serve God by serving others. We imitate our Savior, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). To be like Christ, we must serve others.
Our study is about God’s reasons for our service and the role of the Spirit in that service, which includes our spiritual gifts. Each of the gift passages (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:9-11; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30), teach the general purpose of gifts are to “edify” or “build-up” the Body of Christ. In some way, each gift listed in these passages contributed to the maturing of the New Testament Church. In some cases, the gift might contribute to the building of the body by bringing lost people to trust the Savior.
Other gifts might aid the spiritual growth of new believers or meet the physical needs of a brother or sister in the Lord. Always remember that God never gives a person a task without also providing them with what’s necessary to perform the responsibility. God gave (1) Moses a rod, (2) David a sling, (3) Samson the jawbone of a donkey, (4) Shamar an ox goad, (5) Deborah the talent for poetry, (6) Apollos an eloquent tongue, and to each believer the ability to use that gift for God’s service.
ARE WE USING GOD’S SPIRITUAL GIFT FOR HIS SERVICE
The film Miracle tells the true story of the 1980 US Olympic ice hockey team as it marches to an improbable gold medal. At the outset of the story, coach Herb Brooks is shown selecting the players for his team. When he gives assistant coach Craig Patrick a list of names he has chosen, Craig says in surprise, “You’re missing some of the best players.” Brooks responds, “I’m not looking for the best players, Craig—just the right ones.”
Brooks knew that individual talent would take the team only so far. A willingness to fit into his style of selfless play would be far more important than talent. Clearly, team success, not individual glory, was the priority. My beloved, the biblical call to service also has a similar emphasis. In God’s purposes, each believer does his or her part, but the results are team-oriented. After explaining the wide differences in the spiritual gifts of believers, the apostle Paul says, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthian 12:7).
When we use the skills God gives us, His purposes are accomplished, and He gets the glory. In God’s service, it’s not about being the best, the most talented, or the most gifted. It’s about being the right people—the ones God “set . . . in the body” (v.18)—joining together to serve the same team. Remember that there are no unimportant people in the body of Christ.
. GOD’S REASONS FOR OUR SERVICE IS TO A. FULFILL OUR PURPOSE
Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”
Our purpose in life is to serve God. Emphasizing the grace of God for salvation is of the utmost importance; however, God’s grace for salvation isn’t an end in itself. Salvation by grace opens the door for a life of service to others and especially to God, our Creator. The word “Workmanship” in Ephesians 2:10 refers to the work God is doing in our lives to change us.
The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives as we are faithful to God in our service. “Workmanship” is a reference to that fruit. We are “in Christ” (Ephesians 2:10) at salvation, which allows God to make us like Christ after salvation. God wants us to be like Christ so that we can fulfill our purpose of doing good works. Many believers see good works as optional.
What matters the most to them is that they are saved and guaranteed eternity in Heaven; however, they have missed the fact that good works are the point of their salvation! Before we were created God planned for us to do good works.
Thus, God has a plan for our lives that He laid out before we even existed. Part of His plan is for us to do good works. There is a lot of talk today about finding ourselves and discovering our purpose in life. For a believer, that should never be an issue for we know God wants us to serve Him, and we can be confident He will let us know where and how He wants us to serve Him.
B. GLORIFY GOD
1 Peter 4:10-11, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it 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 forever and ever. Amen”
As we use our lives to do good works for the Lord, there is always the temptation to make the work all about us. We want people to notice what we are doing because we like the attention. It feeds our egos; however, God didn’t ordain us to do good works so we could have our egos stroked. We can’t take the credit for our good works because it is God Who supplies the ability to even do good works and only He should get the glory for our service to Him.
The verb describing the supplying of “ability” (4:11) is a strengthened verb for giving and conveys the idea of abundantly supplying. The fact that God abundantly supplies for our service for Him means that He has given us a stewardship (4:10). He wants us to do something with the supply that He owns and has entrusted to us. He expects us to be faithful in our stewardship (1 Corinthian 4:2) and thereby bring Him the glory.
God expects us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to our care, whether it is our gifts, time, children, money or possessions. One day we will give an account of our stewardship to God. We will have no excuse for not serving Him. Our complaining about having to serve Him is highly offensive to God.
So, as we fulfill our purpose to do good works, we bring glory to God because He is the One who abundantly supplies the ability to serve Him. None of this would be possible without Christ’s death on the cross. Peter recognized that and praised Him, ascribing glory to Him forever and ever (1 Peter 4:11).
II. THE SPIRIT’S ROLE IN OUR SERVICE
So, what is the supply God gives us that allows us to serve Him effectively? We need to look to the Holy Spirit and His work to understand the supply God gives us to serve Him.
A. HE EMPOWERS US FOR SERVICE
Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth”; Acts 2:1-4).
There could be no true service for God without the Holy Spirit. He supplies the power we need to serve in the church. In the time between Christ’s resurrection and ascension, Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. They would receive power once the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). On the Day of Pentecost, that is exactly what happened.
The Spirit made His presence known with a rushing wind and flames. Immediately the disciples experienced the Spirit’s power in their lives. The Day of Pentecost is the beginning of the church. Since that day, the Holy Spirit immediately indwells every person who has trusted Christ as Savior. Every believer has the same Spirit in them, so all believers are equally empowered to serve the Lord.
B. GOD ENDOWS US FOR SERVICE
As the Spirit empowers us to serve, He also gives us spiritual gifts to use in our service for the Lord. A spiritual gift is simply an ability God gives us to use in our service for Him. Spiritual gifts aren’t talents. However, we could use our talents as a channel for our spiritual gift or gifts. For example, a person talented in music could use singing as a way to exercise her/his gift of exhortation.
Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4 all give partial lists of spiritual gifts and from these passages we can compile a list that can help us determine what spiritual gifts we might have. We can arrange these gifts into speaking and serving gifts. First Peter 4:11 uses these two categories to classify spiritual gifts as: 1.
DESCRIPTIONS OF SPEAKING GIFTS – (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11)
Speaking gifts include teaching, exhortation, pastor-teacher, and evangelism. Teaching (Romans 12:7) is simply communicating truth from God’s Word in an understandable and applicable way. The gift of exhortation (Romans 12:8) is the ability to encourage someone going through a difficult circumstance.
The encouragement is not just making a person feel better. It is spiritual in nature and helps the person respond to the circumstance in a godly way. This gift might also be used to motivate people to participate in the ministry of the church. Pastor-teaching (Ephesians 4:11) is both a spiritual gift and a position in the church. All men called by God to be a pastor will have the gift of pastor-teacher.
Pastoring is a reference to caring for people. Teaching is mentioned above. Those who aspire to be pastors need to meet the qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Evangelism (Ephesians 4:11) is the gift of being able to communicate the gospel clearly and effectively. God expects every believer to evangelize. Those with the gift of evangelism should train other believers to evangelize effectively. Whose names would you put next to each of the speaking gifts? How have individuals with these gifts helped you?
2. DESCRIPTIONS OF SERVING GIFTS – (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28)
Ministering (Romans 12:7) is the gift of meeting needs. Deacons should have this gift since they are responsible for meeting members’ needs (Acts 6:1-7). Those with this gift are particularly good at understanding needs and finding ways to meet them. The gift of giving (Romans 12:8) refers to those who give of themselves to the Lord. They may give money, or they may give their time and abilities.
What is given is not as important as the attitude with which it is given. Consequently, a person with this gift does not have to be rich. Ruling (Romans 12:8) is the gift of being able to help a church understand and fulfill its purpose. Those with this gift work with the church’s pastor with an attitude of humility and service. They will help him with vision for the ministry and with communicating that vision. God gives some people the gift of mercy (Romans 12:8).
They can comfort and strengthen the hurting as they exercise their gifts. They empathize with the hurting and minister to their hearts. Helps (1 Corinthians 12:28) is the gift of assisting in ministry. Often those with this gift are working behind the scenes to do what others will overlook. Those with the gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28) work with the pastor and those with the gift of ruling. They organize and run ministries in the church that help to fulfill its mission. They also enlist and train people to work in the ministries. Whose name would you put next to each of the serving gifts? Give an example of how a person with one of these gifts has helped you?
3. DETERMINATION OF GIFTS – (1 Peter 4:10)
It seems easy to spot some spiritual gifts. Pastors and teachers can be found at the front of the room, expounding God’s truth for the church members. Their gifts seem so official and easy to count, because when they exercise the gift, they are doing something. However, other gifts do not seem to be so obviously defined. Are you a helper? An exhorter?
It seems more difficult to know whether you have such a gift and whether you are doing what you are supposed to do with it. Start by examining yourself – the confusion reflected above is the effect of viewing gifts from the wrong perspective. Ask yourself some probing questions to determine whether you are fulfilling a role in the Body of Christ or are just coming to church.
Some of these questions could be as follows:
(1) Am I submitting to others’ gifts? Spiritual gifts are designed to bring maturity to the Body. In the local church, the pastor is charged with the responsibility of training God’s people to do the work of the ministry. Are you following your Pastor’s lead in service? Are you willing to be trained to serve where he believes the local body needs service? When others point out areas where you need spiritual growth, do you thoughtfully consider their advice? God’s design for the Body of Christ is a member-to-member ministry under the guidance of the Pastor.
(2) Have I grown in Christ? Some parents measure their children annually against a doorframe or on the back of a closet door. The annual markings show the dramatic changes that are not noticeable from day to day. We might wish that spiritual growth could be measured so exactly, but it cannot. However, if we were to look back over the last twelve months, can we notice any growth into the image of the Savior? The increase of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives can be a helpful indicator. Do you notice more love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (self-control)? If you have been applying the Word to your specific needs, those changes will occur.
(3) Am I willing to serve? Hebrews 5:12, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again.” The essence of spiritual gifts is in service. Even the weakest among us can participate in sports, but only the strongest can survive as spectators. According to a heart specialist, when you become a spectator rather than a participant, the wrong things go up and the wrong things come down. Body weight, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and triglycerides go up. Vital capacity, oxygen consumption, flexibility, stamina, and strength go down. Being an onlooker in the arena of Christian living is also risky.
The wrong things go up, and the wrong things come down. Criticism, discouragement, disillusionment, and boredom go up. Sensitivity to sin and the needs of others, and receptivity to the Word of God go down. Sure, there’s a certain amount of thrill and excitement in hearing someone’s testimony about how God has worked. But it’s nothing like knowing that joy yourself. There’s no substitute for piling up your own experiences of faith, and using your own God-given abilities on behalf of others. If we’re to be maturing and growing stronger as followers of Jesus Christ, we need to venture out in faith and that is risky. However, remember, it’s a far greater risk to be only a spectator.
(4) Am I concerned with the growth of others? When members of our church do not become like the Lord Jesus, we cannot sit by idly and hope they figure out what their needs are. We must invest time with them, ministering the Word to them and showing them how to apply the Word to their lives so that they can grow. Great churches do not grow by accident. Growth requires the care of each member for other members. We should never let the lack of knowledge of our spiritual gift keep us from serving within the local church. We must be more concerned about our willingness to serve God.
Using your spiritual gifts is enjoyable when you are devoted to God and dependent on the Holy Spirit. What you like to do is usually in line with what your gifts are. As you begin to serve God in ways you find enjoyable, other believers will notice your service and recognize what you do well. Their affirmation of your service is a good indicator that you are exercising your spiritual gift. You should not have to search for ways to use your spiritual gifts. God in His sovereignty will give you opportunities to use your gifts; however, you must be willing to serve, without hesitation.
4. GOD EDIFIES THROUGH OUR SERVICE – (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10)
God intends for us to use our spiritual gifts for the benefit of other believers and they are counting on us to do our part in the ministry. The word “minister” in 1 Peter 4:10 means to be a servant; thus, we all are servants of the Lord. The exercise of our gifts reveals His presence, His power, and His character. When we serve each other through exercising our gifts the whole church profits because all members are connected in the body of Christ.
“Love” (Ephesians 4:16) is vital to the edification within a church. If members don’t have love for one another, then they won’t build each other up in the faith and their walk in the Lord. The absence of love in a church is actually evidence of a lack of Spirit-led believers because love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We show love as we learn to depend on the Spirit and live according to His enabling.
There is an old legend about three men who were crossing a desert on horseback at night. As they approached a dry creek bed, they heard a voice commanding them to dismount, pick up some pebbles, put them in their pockets, and not look at them till the next morning. The men were promised that if they obeyed they would be both glad and sad. After they did as they were told, the three mounted their horses and went on their way. As the first rays of dawn began to spread across the sky, the men reached into their pockets to pull out the pebbles. To their great surprise, they had been transformed into diamonds, rubies, and other precious gems. It was then that they realized the significance of the promise that they would be both glad and sad. There were happy that they had picked up as many pebbles as they did, but sorry that they had not collected more.
I wonder if we will have a similar feeling when we get to heaven. We will be happy for the treasure we laid up in heaven while on earth, and joyful for the rewards Christ will give us. However, we will also experience regret for not having done more to serve Him while on earth. We need to make the most of our opportunities so that we’ll be more glad than sad of our service for the Master.
GIFTED BY GOD
How do you feel after hearing someone teach a great Bible lesson or preach a powerful sermon? I wish I had gifts like that, you might think. Your own gifts seem less important by comparison. When we compare spiritual gifts, it’s like comparing the usefulness of each part of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-20). The apostle Paul pointed out how ridiculous that is. God can use anyone’s gifts, and the body of Christ needs each of them and you! God realized that Moses needed skilled help in building the tabernacle. Although Moses was a gifted prophet, even he recognized that designing and building or a tabernacle would only frustrate him and the unfortunate few who had to work with him.
No need to place a help-wanted ad because God knew of two workers, (Exodus 31:1-5), who had the right skills and knew enough not to strangle themselves with a tape measure. God endorsed these men by saying, “I have filled them . . . with skill, ability, and knowledge” (v.3). Their craftsmanship was not a genetic accident; it was part of God’s plan to build His tabernacle. Moses could instruct the people about God’s law. But when it came time to build something, he needed help, and God provided it through others.
You might have filled out spiritual gifts inventories, where you determine whether your gift is teaching, helps, or administration. Why not do a skills, abilities, and knowledge inventory to determine how you can put your gifts to work? God’s design for His body incorporates those skills as strategically as it does the spiritual gifts. Sure, He needs teachers, but even the most effective teacher recognizes the need for hands-on gifts. The key verses in this chapter, surrounded by illustrations, are 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, 18 and 25.
The gifts are for the common good (v.7), and God determines what gifts He gives to each believer (v.11). God has arranged the Body (v. 18) so that the needs of the whole may be met (v. 25). The diversity in the gifts should produce harmony as God directs their use. We should take full advantage of our differences, because our needs will be met through them.
In Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12, we can find similar themes and ideas, such as:
(1) Both passages teach that only God is the giver of gifts and they exist for His purposes.
(2) That through spiritual gifts, one believer edifies another. Thus, gifts have an “others-orientation.”
(3) That although the gifts have one general purpose, they are quite diverse.
(4) The unity God desires in the church grows from diverse gifts assisting in bringing maturity to the Body of Christ. We should view spiritual gifts as the ministry by which God assigns to each believer (directed and empowered by the Spirit) to help others become conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
A visitor was being shown around a leper colony in India. At noon a gong sounded for the midday meal. People came from all parts of the compound to the dining hall. All at once peals of laughter filled the air. Two young men, one riding on the other’s back, were pretending to be a horse and a rider and they were having loads of fun. As the visitor watched, he was told that the man who carried his friend was blind, and the man being carried was lame.
The one who couldn’t see used his feet; the one who couldn’t walk used his eyes. Together they helped each other, and they found great joy in doing it. Now imagine a church like that, each member using his or her strength to make up for another’s weakness. That’s what should be happening in every congregation of believers. The apostle Paul likened spiritual gifts to various parts of the human body. Eves see. Ears hear. Hands work. Feet move the body forward. All are essential and when each fulfills its function, the whole body benefits. God has given at least one spiritual gift to each of us as believers, and He provides all we need to carry out our individual responsibilities (1 Corinthians 12:6-7).
We are all essential in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). Acknowledging these truths isn’t only a source of comfort and encouragement, but it is also a sobering reality, for it places before us an important obligation. God’s gifts to us must not be squandered! They must be fully used, because someday “each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). So, what has the Lord given you? Are you using your spiritual gift for His glory and for the blessing of others? Don’t waste your gift – use it!
There is no such thing as insignificant service for Christ