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How to Use the Gifts God Provides

1 Corinth 12:1-31

Jim Davis

Paul opens this chapter with an admonishment, "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant." God had enriched the Corinthians with spiritual gifts and knowledge, but they were in danger of being led away through ignorance. How could they have spiritual gifts and knowledge and be ignorant? It happens when we misuse the spiritual blessings God gives us. We see this also happening in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Romans 12:3-8
"For 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. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully" (NIV).

"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought . . ." We face a grave danger when God seeks to enable us in his service—the danger of developing a big head. God didn’t give spiritual gifts to bring attention to those who possessed the gifts.

1 Peter 4:9-11
"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 for ever and ever. Amen" (NIV).

Spiritual gifts were given " . . . so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." Failing to use God’s blessings for their intended purpose is detrimental to my spiritual health and to the cause of Christ. It leaves me ignorant.

The Corinthians had taken a carnal minded approach as they sought to use their spiritual gifts. They sought worldly wisdom to make application of the knowledge of God. Worldly wisdom led them to use their diverse gifts to bring attention to themselves; it resulted in division as they became arrogant about the gifts they possessed.

Paul reminds them the diverse gifts came from one Spirit, whose purpose was to unite the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:7-13
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines" (NIV).

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink" (NIV).

A casual glance over this list reveals the importance of each gift to the whole body. Each gift is interrelated as it supports the work of those with differing gifts. It is important to understand that one Spirit is working through the many members of the church to form one body. When division comes it is not the Spirit’s work.

Does It Make A Difference

Some believe that when we are forgiven in Christ we should forget our past failures. However, there is no reluctance on Paul’s part to remind Christians of their past (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:1-8). Notice how Paul opens this chapter.

1 Corinthians 12:2-6
"You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men" (NIV).

The Corinthians were called upon to look back on their past. The questions the Corinthians had to grapple with were tough ones. Does the same pagan attitude control us as we seek to follow Christ? How are we different as Christians than when we were led away with these dumb idols? Am I doing what Christ would do if he were in my shoes? Am I confessing that Christ is lord of my life by the way I act toward those in the body of Christ? Are the Spirit’s gifts bringing glory to Christ or am I using them form my own glory? What difference has Christ really made in my life not that I am forgiven?

The person that studies the Bible for his/her own personal growth is a person excited about studying the Bible. Understanding the Bible is given for my personal growth makes everything else seem superficial. Comparing the characteristics of our pre-conversion days to how we live now will tell whether we are allowing the Spirit’s teaching to accomplish his purpose.

We have seen throughout this letter Corinthians were having difficulty overcoming their pagan lifestyles as they came into Christ. In the previous chapter their worship services were doing more harm than good. The worship of Christ had turned into an occasion of revelry. They were bringing dishonor upon Christ.

They couldn’t confess Jesus as Lord and live out of harmony with his purposes. The claim to divine inspiration was of no value if the inspired person didn’t acknowledge Jesus as Lord by how he/she served others.

To stop short of allowing the Bible or the Spirit’s teaching to accomplish his purpose in my life defeats the Holy Spirit’s purpose in giving us the Bible. It leaves me ignorant of God’s purposes.

Fulfilling God’s Purpose

God’s gifts are given for a specific purpose. If we could determine the central purpose of the knowledge of God it would be much easier to come to grips with the response we are required to make. When that purpose is overlooked we will be led into ignorance despite our gifts and knowledge.

Ephesians 4:9-16
"(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 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" (NIV).

Spiritual gifts were given for a specific purpose—to enlighten first century Christians with the knowledge of God. Those gifts were designed to deliver a complete system of faith through knowledge of the Son of God.

Clearly the purpose of this system of faith is to bring Christians of every generation to maturity as we measure ourselves by the full measure of Christ—or should we say with the example of Christ. Spiritual growth doesn’t come naturally after baptism. It is not a mystical experience. It is not something beyond our reach. It doesn’t happen by isolating ourselves from others.

Spiritual growth is not measured by how much I know; spiritual maturity is revealed in our behavior. True growth affects our emotional, experiential and relational development. It is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to embrace him in the ebb and flow of our emotional experiences. It is quite another to allow him to govern the tone of our relationships with others.

Real spiritual growth is revealed comes when I begin asking God for the wisdom to use what I know to serve others. Doing so will enable us to grow emotional, experientially and relationally. This is the sum total of what Christ’s life was about.

Peter outlines the purposes of spiritual gifts in the following verses.

1 Peter 4:9-11
"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 for ever and ever. Amen" (NIV).

Peter writes, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." To serve others is to esteem others. In Romans 12 Paul tells us that we are not use these to esteem ourselves but others.

Romans 12:3-8
"For 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. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully" (NIV).

The purpose of service to others is to bring them to a point where they will also be able to serve others. Bringing others into service is always frustrating. It may require others to give up some of their areas of service to allow others to become a functioning part of the body. Giving up some of our duties will not be detrimental to the church. Giving up some of our duties allows us to concentrate more our specific area of service. I am not cheated when others step in and do some of the things I am doing. The church will benefit greatly as I am allowed to increase the quality of my work in more specific areas. The person taking over some of my duties will be able to expand those areas of service I give up also.

A gifted leader makes room for others to serve and grow. It may be uncomfortable at first. Initially, the newcomer may not do as good a job, but given time to learn the newcomer will probably do a better job. This is especially true if we are trying to do too much. Making room for others allows others to expand themselves and it makes it possible to expand the mission of the church.

A great leader will seek to expand his/her area of service until forced to include others. They will actually develop a place for others. When this happens it is a winning situation as responsibilities are delegated to others.

Every member of Christ’s body has an obligation to function in its proper place. No one person has an obligation to do it all; if one person is trying to do it all, that person is trying to do too much. The best way to get others to pick up their load is to quit carrying it for them. Every duty I have given up to others in this church has been as beneficial to me as to others. It has been beneficial for the church. Those persons are doing a better job than what I was doing. Fewer responsibilities allow me to do a better job in my area of concentration.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body" (NIV).

Paul writes, "God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." How do we help others find the place God has arranged for them to be? How do I discover where I fit in? You can’t figure it out by trying to decide what makes others comfortable. It may take trial and error? That may be as uncomfortable for others as it is for me. However, many are so afraid of making an error that they refuse to try. You can’t start comparing yourself with others. Those who compare themselves with others either quit or get the big head, depending upon their performance.

2 Corinthians 10:12-13
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you (NIV)

You may see yourself having to struggle to hard to do what others do with ease. You may think you are not cut out for it. However, often in the final analyses it is the person who struggles the hardest for accomplishment that excels.

Many preachers are great orators, but they are not necessarily great teachers. I have seen great teachers refuse to teach because they weren’t great orators. They hindered the growth of the church. I have seen teachers and preachers who thought they were great.

It is essential to use your strengths rather than your weakness. It is always more comfortable to serve in the area of your strengths. A frequent growth problem for the church is allowing members to occupy a position they are not qualified for. Sometimes those in these positions are forced to do so because others will not pick up their load. We shouldn’t force others to minister in areas where they lack natural talent for extended periods of time. The danger is that these persons may burn out and become bitter. Sometimes it is necessary to pinch-hit for others in areas of our weakness, but pinch-hitting is much easier when we know that we aren’t saddled with the position permanently.

Every ministry position God arranges for us to fill is important.

1 Corinthians 12:21-31
"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (NIV).

Conclusion:

Filling the positions God has arranged for us to fill is important, but it is not as important as the attitude with which we fill them. For it is our attitude toward others that determines the effectiveness of our service.
 
 

 

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