Spiritual Gifts: Spiritual Gifts In The Spotlight and Love Personified

Adapted from the, “Discovering God’s Vision
For Your Life, You and Your Spiritual Gifts.”
By Kenneth C. Haugk.
Part 3 of 4.

Galatians 5:22-23a (TNIV)
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (CEV)
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (TNIV)
1 Corinthians 12:31 (NRSV)
1 Corinthians 14:1 (NRSV)
1 Corinthians 14:39 (CEV)
1 Corinthians 12:28 (CEV)
Ephesians 4:11 (CEV)
1 Corinthians 13:1-7, 13 (CEV)
1 Corinthians 12:29-30(CEV)

Click here for an audio only version

 

Module 5, Spiritual Gifts In The Spotlight

            Related Terms           

As we have been doing in this sermon series, we continue to walk through what spiritual gifts are.  It will be helpful to distinguish them from several other related concepts, because they are often confused with each other.  Three of these such concepts are; office, functions and fruits of the spirit.

Gifts

First, let us define again, what spiritual gifts are.  They are unique endowments from the Holy Spirit, generously shared with Christians in community for building up the body of Christ in practical ways.

Offices

Offices are positions that people are elected, appointed to or hired for.  These such offices would have titles such as; teacher, president of the congregation, director of Christian education, or pastor.

Ideally, the people in these offices, have the necessary gifts to effectively carry out the duties associated with the office.  Congregations that are intentional about spiritual gifts, work to match the gifts with the office.

Functions

Functions are activities that all Christians are involved in and responsible for simply as part of living a Christian life.  Although not all people have the gift of generosity, for example, we are all called to contribute to our congregations.  Even if we do not have the gift of encouragement, we are still called to comfort and support others whenever they can.

Here is an example between gift and function.  If I were to ask someone here who is not gifted in the area of discernment, to analyze and render their opinion about a particular situation or individual, they would probably do the best they could.  But if I were to ask the same of someone who has the gift of discernment, they would probably light up, and they might have already considered the situation and may have drawn some preliminary conclusions that they are ready to share with you.

Fruit of the Spirit

Sometimes fruit of the Spirit and spiritual gifts are confused with each other.  There are nine fruits of the Spirit and they can be found in Galatians 5:22-23a.

Galatians 5:22-23a (TNIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.

We can compare side by side, Gifts with Fruit of the Spirit

It is important to remember that each Christian has unique spirituals gifts given to them but no one is expected to have all the spiritual gifts.  The same fruit of the Spirit is however, planted in every Christian and matures over time as each person’s faith deepens and increases.

Spiritual gifts are usually discovered.  What this means is that one cannot develop and refine one’s spiritual gifts, but the unique gifts are first discovered and then developed.

Spiritual gifts are action orientated.  They direct how we carry out our ministries.  Spiritual gifts are used to build up the body of Christ, the church.  As it says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “…for the common good.”  The fruit of the Spirit in contrast, is a product of our faith that deepens our relationship with God and then with others as we become more like Jesus.

Can Spiritual Gifts Be Sought?

If we use extra effort, if we exert ourselves just a little more, in a particular area, through that effort can we gain gifts that we do not presently have?  In 1 Corinthians 12:11, it would seem that it is not us but the Spirit that activates the gifts in us.  (TNIV) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and [the Spirit] distributes them to each one, just as [the Spirit] determines.

Yet, there are some verses that seem to indicate that individuals can take the initiative in choosing spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NRSV)
But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NRSV)
Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. 

1 Corinthians 14:39 (CEV)
My friends, be eager to prophesy and don’t stop anyone from speaking languages that others don’t know.

In English these verses look like that the individuals can strive for spiritual gifts.  However, if you look at the original Greek, the verbs in these texts are all in the second person plural.  Therefore, they do not address an individual but instead are to the community to which Paul was speaking to.

In other words, become passionate about certain gifts and the Spirit will give them to the community.

Sizing Up Spiritual Gifts

Let’s look again at 1 Corinthians 12:31. It begins with the words, “But strive for the greater gifts.”  Aren’t all gifts valuable to the Christian community?  In the same way, aren’t all parts of the body just as valuable for a functioning body?  If so, how can there be a greater or better spiritual gift?

Paul was speaking to gifts that have a greater overall edification effect upon the faith community.  The spiritual gift of proclamation is one of those gifts.

            1 Corinthians 12:28 (CEV)

First, God chose some people to be apostles and prophets and teachers for the church. But he also chose some to work miracles or heal the sick or help others or be leaders or speak different kinds of languages.

Ephesians 4:11 (CEV)

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers,

 

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (CEV)

Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit. 9 To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick 10 or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God’s Spirit is present. Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean.

The gifts of the Spirit are for different functions.  All the functions are necessary for the body of the church/Christ to live and thrive.

1 Corinthians 12:21-22 (CEV)

That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. 22 In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.

How Permanent Are Spiritual Gifts?

As we learn more about what your spiritual gifts are, you may begin to wonder if your gifts are temporary or permanent.  You may ask, will my gifts come and go?  Will I have new gifts in the future?  Will I lose some of my gifts that I have right now?  These are important questions.  They are important to the individual and to the faith community.

The consensus of virtually all scholars working in this area is that the spiritual gifts you have are basically yours for a lifetime.  The Bible does not indicate that the gifts ae temporary.  Gifts are part of who we are, how we are made.  God does not unmake us.  God does not make mistakes.

Roles and Responsibilities

It is overwhelmingly positive for all concerned to discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts.  At the same time, there can be a danger.  If someone is presented the option to fulfill a role that is outside of his/her gifts, they could try to avoid the opportunity by using the excuse that, “That’s not my gift.”  The response is not a good gifts theology.  Just because we discover our gifts, we do not get to escape our responsibility in other areas of living.

Just because we may not have the gift of compassion or mercy, does not mean that when confronted with the opportunity to be compassionate or merciful to someone, we get to just say, “Well, that is not one of my gifts.”  We are still all called to love one another, as Christ first loved us.

Discovering our gifts helps us to share for the benefit of the body.  Refusing to be open to other aspects that may not be a “spiritual gift”, harms the body of Christ, the church.  It is incumbent upon us to build up the body of Christ, always.

Module 6 Love Personified

            Love: The Heart of Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 13, is considered a great love chapter in the Bible.  It is placed, strategically I might add, between two chapters where Paul deals extensively with spiritual gifts.  By wrapping spiritual gifts around love, Paul makes his point:  Without love, spiritual gifts are utterly worthless.

Paul, at the end of chapter 12, emphasizes that love, is more than just a gift.  It is a “still more excellent way.”  For Paul, love forms the heart of spiritual gifts.

I am going to walk through some verses in chapter 13, starting at verse 1.  I will be using the TNIV Bible, unless I indicate otherwise, as I walk through the verses.

Verse 1  If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

It does not matter how good the words sound coming from someone’s mouth, if it is not grounded in the love of God.  Beautiful words of truth and inspired teaching or preaching are merely pretense if love does not accompany them.  They must be undergirded in love.

Verse 2  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

No matter how gifted the proclamation, the knowledge and faith one has, it is nothing, if they don’t have love.  It will still equal up to zero.

Verse 3  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body ⌈to hardship⌉ that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

If my gift is to give generously, even to the point of giving of myself, but I don’t have love, then none of the sacrifices do me any good.

Verse 4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

In the New King James version, it says that “Love suffers long”.  Love puts up with much, because it is there for the long haul.  Love being kind, includes being merciful.  Proclamation as a gift is good but it is no good if it is polluted with biting sarcasm.  If that happens, no matter how true it may be, it will most likely fall upon deaf ears.

When you love, and do not belittle or devalue the gifts of others, then love is not envious.  Love does not envy.  Love also does not get puffed up or conceited.  It is the proud and conceited people that use gifts to increase or enhance their own standing, rather than building others up.  Here is an idea, brag about the gifts of others, not your own.

Verse 5  [Love] does not dishonor others…

In other words, it is respectful of others.  It is not rude and it is respectful and is full of decency and courtesy.  It does not disgrace or take advantage of others.  Love is not self-seeking, it does NOT insist on its own way.  Nor does it “pursue selfish advantage”, as translated in the Phillips edition of the Bible.  Love is not easily angered.  It is not resentful and it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love enables people to forgive and not grow bitter.  Ask yourself, is there something I am bitter about?  Love enables you NOT to be bitter.  When you love, you do not grow bitter.  When experience true love, bitterness, goes away.

Verse 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

If I would delight in the triumph of evil, why would I want to exercise my gifts for the good of the body?

Verse 7  [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers.

Love can and does, cover a multitude of sins.  Not only that it believes that all good things are possible.  Love lives in the certain hope that God’s promises will be fulfilled…..NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul wraps up chapter to the people of Corinth, but for us today as well, in verse 13th.  Paul ends by saying, And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But this is where Paul puts in the kicker, the capstone on.  He says, but the greatest of these is love.

The Jesus Connection

It would seem as though Paul had Jesus in mind when he wrote this.  Hmmmm, maybe he did.  If you substituted Jesus for Love, then this whole chapter make perfect sense.  Love and Jesus and God. Okay, inserting Jesus in place of love, may not be a real stretch.

How about inserting your name, my name or another’s name?  Does that make you uneasy?  It does me.  We may have difficulty claiming such a high standard of behavior.  Yet, this is the way God sees each of you already.  God sees you this way because God sees you with eyes of love.  Beneath that sinful nature exists the true nature you were created in.  That creature was created to love.  In Jesus, we are created new, to live out as this new creation in love to one another.

You may be saying right now, yea right!  Easier said than done.  Know this, Love is expressed and nurtured through the gifts of the Spirit.  To love is to use your gifts for the benefit of Christ’s body, and to use your gifts is to love.

One night during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was walking through a hospital ward.  She paused and bent over a seriously wounded soldier.  As she looked at him, the soldier looked up and said, “You are Christ to me.”  These same words could be spoken to every one of you by those on the receiving end of your giftedness.  When you use your spiritual gifts, you are being Christ to those you serve.

Spiritual gifts are not only an important part of the relationship God has with individual Christians but also the relationship God has with each Christian community and the whole Christian church.  The source of spiritual gifts is vertical, but the use of spiritual gifts is horizontal.  Love personified when individuals use their gifts in community with one another.

The church is strong because of the diversity within it.  Many gifts given in grace to the whole church.  The church is diverse because that same Spirit apportions unique gifts to each Christian.

Let me end today with something from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from the book Life Together.  Strong and weak, wise and foolish…pious or impious, the diverse individuals in the community are no longer incentives for talking and judging and condemning and thus excuses for self-justification.  They are rather cause for rejoicing in one another and serving one another.  Each member of the community is given his particular place, but this is no longer the place in which [they] can most successfully assert [themselves], but the place where [they] can best perform [their] service.

Church, a family, a team.  God’s team to love and serve one another throughout the world.

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