Thursday, July 21, 2011

THE CHURCH NEEDS YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT


TEXT : 1 Corinthians  12: 12-31  
TITLE:    The Church  needs YOUR   Spiritual  Gift !
DATE :    17  /07 /2011

So  you became  a Christian . You were baptised and  you  became a member of the local church.  And then  you  were “just there”  …a little duty performed here and there . Somehow  you  had  never thought of yourself as a  gifted  and vital  member of the church, whose spiritual gift actually makes a difference  . You thought that it  is elders, deacons   and other committed people that make  the  real  difference  in the church . On top of all this you had  perhaps never  quite figured out  what your spiritual gift might be , and so you  were  a member  just visible enough to alarm no one , but if the  truth  be  told  , you wouldn’t be missed if you quietly disappeared  from the church- the body of Christ  .
That  of course is quite unthinkable  when you think about  your physical body .  The  pancreas   is an invisible , unassuming organ  -  a small gland , producing  enzymes and hormones which helps break down  the foods we eat. One of the most known hormones it produces is insulin.  When this little   gland fails ,  your life- your body  is immediately at  risk !
Today,   we want to  take  time  to  hear what our text   has to    say in response to such  secret  thoughts we may have ,  as   My spiritual gift  does not matter to the church  or “ I am  not important- the church can get on without me before we  close with  a number of important principles and applications .

The primary theological truth  of this section is that Christ by His Spirit  has fitted us    together  ( v 12 ,13) . We are Christ’s  and we are  each other’s .
v. 12  The church of our Lord Jesus  Christ   may best be described as one body composed  of many members. Who is a member  ?

v. 13 tells us :  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks , slaves or free – and we all were made to drink of one Spirit .”   The common experience is  baptism ( immersion)  in  or by the  Holy Spirit into Christ  , or if you like  conversion’ . It is the conversion experience  that makes us  one with Christ and  one   with  His  body .   That is why we should never separate baptism from conversion   and from church membership. We are Christ’s and we are one another’s.
Paul looked at this disheveled church  at Corinth  and he is convinced of this .  But is the church- are the individual members of the church convinced of this ?  We may  have a genuine Christian experience  , but  our heads   are not always in alignment with our hearts  in this matter . The Corinthians had a very ‘ me centered’ or self centered approach towards  life in the church  and  towards the gifts that God had sovereignly dispensed among them . The members acted as if they each were the only member of the church . So we see then  that from v. 14  onwards  Paul deals with this mindset . It seems  that church members in Corinth expressed  their  participation in the body  or their lack  thereof   in two ways :
Vv 14-20 -  “ inferiority “  - you don’t need me
Vv 21-27 -  “self-sufficiency”  - I don’t need you

1.     vv 14-20 : “Inferiority   - you don’t need me
Vv 15-16: 15 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. 16 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.  
What is the problem with this kind of thinking  ? It is feeling inferior to the other gifts or members of the body  .  I  am a  foot . I don’t  think that this  gift is as significant as being a hand  .  I am an ear . I don’t feel significant. I think an eye  is more significant … therefore you don’t need me  .”    Therefore there is  a lack  of willingness to get involved with each other.   You  think that if you're not like somebody else , you are inferior   and you say to yourself – “I’m not good enough “ . This  church , this body can get along without me. My gifts are not important.  My presence there makes  no difference .
If  on this account  of feeling useless  people withdraw their  gifts , we need to know  that   this is felt in the body . The burden falls on the rest. The rest of the body will have to work harder , and therefore may be in danger of  becoming exhausted , and if exhausted then irritable  and if irritable  then in danger of sinning .
This is true  of your own body . Say for instance that  your right  knee is injured  and out of action  ; the left knee  will compensate, but soon that left knee or your back  will show signs of strain and degeneration .  We weren’t made to walk on one leg alone . We have already  seen  what  the improper functioning  of the  pancreas or  thyroid  gland  can do to the body .   

What is Paul's remedy for this  thinking ?
He  challenges this sort of thinking   with three  strong arguments  :
(i)    vv 15 and 16 : It is not true  that your spiritual  gift  is inferior .   Paul  argues that  if  you make such a  comparison between your gift and another person’s gift  and conclude that yours is inferior , then you are wrong !    There is no such thing as an inferior   member in the church .  The truth (fact )  is that every part contributes to the whole !  You are a part of the body and therefore you are important  .
 (ii)  vv  17-18  :  “Imagine we all  had the same gifts ! “  v 17  : If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of  hearing be? If the whole were an ear , where would the sense of smell be? The illustration is hilarious  and powerful . Imagine all of us had the same gift   . That would  be  the same as saying that the whole  body   is   an eye  or an ear . Imagine an  eye or an ear coming to church  . Imagine  we all had  the gift of  helps – who would teach us ? Imagine  that we all only had the gift of   administration !  We would organize this church  to perfection , but  we would never  evangelize or do works of mercy ; we would never  have anyone to preach and teach  or exhort  or speak into our lives .
Note how  Paul responds to this  in  v.18:  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them , just as He wanted them to be.  Do you see this  ?  God has given  us the necessary variety of  gifts.  So , stop arguing about what you have or  what you do not have . Put that which you have  into practice !  Above all trust that God is sovereign and wise  in His design of all the parts of the body.  Trust Him to have made no mistake when  He gave you your spiritual  gift ! And think about this :  If you  say  you  are useless,  not only do  you  deny to the idea of the variety  of the body, but worse still – you are challenging the wisdom of God , and you are challenging God’s design in your life ! You are actually insulting the God who made you and who has gifted you !
(iii)  vv  14 and 19-20   : Feeling useless in the body is opposed to the very concept of the body.  Paul shows in that there are many parts to the body . The body is not made up of one part , but many." That's what it means to be a body !  The logic in v.19 is inescapable  :”If they were all one part, where would the body be?" In other words, the body would not exist if there were no diversity. If all were one, there would be no body. V. 20 repeats that. The point of verses 14 and 19-20 is that the very existence of the body depends on having  a diversity of parts.  That's what it means to be a body. You are an essential part of a diversity .

2.     Feelings of self sufficiency : “I don’t need you!” ( 21 – 27)
Here Paul  addresses the opposite end of the spectrum :
V. 21: "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; or again the head cannot say to the  feet, 'I have no need of you.'" 
V. 22, "On the contrary…”  i.e. quite the opposite , I should say  that do  'I have  need of you'.   This is especially important to say to the members of the body which seem to be weaker !  Now that is profound , and  a very sensitive way of talking. Paul says they "seem" to be weaker. We must beware of the temptation to feel and think  and give the impression that those “who appear weaker” are obsolete or irrelevant .  Paul goes further and says in v. 25 that we ought  to have equal concern for each other. Life in the human body is like that  . And the reason why we need to respect all the members of the body  lies in the fact that we must  have respect for God’s composition of the body . Vv 24b-25, "God has combined  the members of the body." 
The weaker or less honourable or the less visible parts of the body are not insignificant , as we have seen in the case of the  pancreas ort the thyroid gland . Brothers and sisters , it does not help to have a church that is sound in doctrine ,  exercising the gifts of teaching , preaching , exhorting  and all the speech gifts  respectably without having  a lot of good deeds and mercy and helps and sound administration  accompanying  the preached gospel . Don’t despise  the  so called small gifts .  A big door  turns on small hinges .  A big  ship is  steered by a small rudder and is driven by a comparatively small propeller . The impression that a church makes on  those  who are not Christians  is  more often not made by  its preaching , but by its many good deeds  in the community .  It is of course not the good deeds that will change them , but the gospel  !  But  a show  of good  deeds  makes many a non Christian  want to listen to the gospel without bias .

CONCLUSION :

What is it that you need to hear?   Do you still wonder  if you have a place or purpose  the church?  
 Then settle these principles  in your mind :
1.       Nobody is useless in the church ! Every true Christian is needed  in the body of Christ!
2.     Are  you not sure of your gift ? Allow me to remind you again of some tests that you may apply  :
·         Pray ( ask)  God to reveal  them to  you  .
·         Study the Scriptures to discover  their nature and purpose
·          Examine your God given desires in ministry
·          Confirm them  through  ability
·          See whether there is blessing  following the exercise of your gifts

3.       Understand that it is not the  visibility  of the gift that matters .What  matters  is  that you use your gift faithfully !  Whether you are a foot or hand , eye or ear  does not matter  . You will be judged by God by how you exercise your gift.  It does not matter  whether you get attention or not, whether what you do is seen by others.  If you possess  a higher  "higher gift,"  ( one that gives you  more attention)  then remember that  it is  God’s gift  through you  for the benefit of others .  Paul told some of the proud Corinthians in 4:7: "What do you have that you did not receive?"  So , don’t   exalt yourself  .  And  you with the so called ‘ lesser gifts’ don’t envy those with the higher gifts . They will be held more accountable. Pray for them that they may not fall  into error  or sin . 

4.     Consider how freeing this teaching about being  gifted members of the church body is.  Everyone of you is needed . Everyone  is valuable .  Those with the so-called lesser gifts no longer have to be burdened with guilt that you do not do more spectacular work.  God desires obedience to what you have been   given ,  and not how your gift  compares with anyone else.  Those of you with the more visible gifts  may  also know  that you were  not given your gifts because you are in any way better . You are merely God's servant . When you have exercised your gift, God commends you merely for doing your duty with the gift He has given you.   Consider also how freeing this teaching is for the church body.  There is no need to  show our gifts off  ; there is no  reason for jealousy or pride.  We are all merely doing what God has chosen each of us to do , and if we do it  then we also know that what we do , we do in God’s authority and strength , and we know that this will be a blessing to others . 

5.   Spiritual gifts are grace gifts Christ has  won  for us the favor to be used by God.  The Holy Spirit gives us all we need to do what we are called to do  , and the result is  that  we  can achieve the purpose for which we were made – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. 

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