I have really had a good time studying this subject of spiritual gifts with my staff. It has been a pleasure for me learning right along side my staff members and you as well if you have been reading the posts on spiritual gifts. The previous two lessons have been very eye-opening for us as a staff. To recap, here they are:
This week’s lesson is powerful and freeing when properly understood. There was a lot of confusion in Corinth when it came to the subject of spiritual gifts. Some false teachers had come in and led many of the believers astray, even trying to turn them against their mentor, the church founder, the apostle Paul. Apparently, these false teachers were teaching that some of the Spiritual gifts were more important than others and that everyone needed to have certain gifts in order to be true believers. There was mass confusion. Paul takes quill, ink, and parchment to write to the believers and clear up the misunderstanding. Here is what we can learn from him as he was inspired to write all of this by the Holy Spirit. Please take a moment and read the following verses from I Corinthians 12:1, 4-11, 28-31
I. The gifts
First and foremost, the gifts are super important to the ministry and the growth of the church. Believers can be ignorant of the spiritual gifts which creates a huge mess and actually impedes the progression of the Gospel. According to verse 4, there are a variety of spiritual gifts. They are not all one and the same. These gifts are given to accomplish the different ministries in the church which is what verse 5 teaches us. Each believer is given at least one of these gifts, according to the choosing of the Giver (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). These gifts and ministries are for the common good of the church (serve the members and extend the kingdom of God by proclaiming the Gospel). These gifts are given by the will of the Giver and not by the desire of the recipients. You cannot pray for a specific gifts or all of the gifts. According to verses 8-11 and then 28-31, these are the gifts mentioned for the ministries in the church:
- word of wisdom –
- word of knowledge
- distinguishing of spirits
The list below is a definition given of what these words mean. It is taken from Precept Ministries International.
Verse 29 tells us that the same gift is not for everyone. We will not all speak in different languages or perform miracles, or interpret different languages. Not everyone has the gift of teaching. Here are a few important truths that the recipient of the gift(s) needs to understand:
- you do not choose the gift
- the gift is given for a specific ministry
- you do not choose the ministry, it is based on the gift
- you are not responsible for producing results
Let’s take a look at what we learn about the gift Giver.
According to verse 4, He is One and the same. When verses 4-7 are put together, we see that He is One manifested in three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He gives many different gifts but they all point to the same thing, glorifying the gift Giver. He lines up the gifts, ministries, and the results of serving according to those gifts. He chooses who receives what gift. He cannot be manipulated into giving certain people certain gifts. The Giver of the gifts also appoints the ministries on the church where those gifts can be used. A couple of the ministries mentioned in this chapter are apostles (what we call missionaries today), prophets (those who explain the Word of God to the body, usually from the pulpit) teachers (those who teach others how to know God through His Word). The focus of the spiritual gifts is not on the gift, or on the ministry, or even on the results. The focus is on the gift Giver. I receive the gift and ministry from Him. I stay connected to Him as I serve Him and He produces the the results in me and through me. He gets the credit. He does the work and I am just the conduit. I stay attached to Him, discover what my gift(s) is and serve according to that gift, bringing the glory to the gift Giver. Now, what is the purpose of the gifts, the ministries, and results.
III. The purpose
God has given these spiritual gifts with a specific purpose. From the previous lessons on spiritual gifts, we have learned that we receive gifts to serve one another and not ourselves. When we serve one another, we build each other up. As we serve one another, the ministry grows and the people who have received speaking gifts continue to teach and equip so that new believers discover their gifts and serve accordingly. The Gospel continues to be communicated clearly to people who have not yet been saved. Their lives are transformed and they begin to grow and serve, repeating the process. In first Corinthians 12, we see that the purpose of the gifts is for the common good, just like what we learned in Ephesians. Paul gives us further insight to the purpose when he shares about his calling to the ministry to serve according to the gifts that he has been given. We see this in the book of Acts.
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
The ministry is received and the purpose is to testify solemnly of the Gospel of the grace of God. This is the calling that we have all received as followers of Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, we see that the gifts are given to accomplish the ministry. The ministry is to build up the body and communicate the Gospel to the world around us. If we are ignorant of our spiritual gifts then we run the risk of serving in a ministry that does not line up with our spiritual gift and we will be miserable and the ministry will not function properly. I do not choose the gift or the ministry. I receive them both from the Lord and He will produce the fruit as I allow Him to minister in me and through me. What about you my friend, do you serve according to your spiritual gift? Do you realize that it is up to God to produce the fruit through you, or are you trying to drive the ministry to get the right results? May the Lord help us understand the connection between gifts and ministries and serve accordingly.