August 20, 2023

The Essentials of Spiritual Gifts


Three Foundational Truths

The subject of spiritual gifts is often misunderstood and even the source of division among Christians, yet spiritual gifts are actually the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's working among His people. As a correction to the Corinthians' pride and selfishness concerning the gifts, Paul begins with three truths that are essential for a proper understanding and use of the gifts of the Spirit.

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Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn once again to First Corinthians, chapter 12. We’re entering a new chapter this morning and a new subject which is the subject of spiritual gifts. And we’re going to begin this morning by looking at kind of an overview of the first eleven verses of Chapter 12. Follow along as I read them. First Corinthians 12, beginning in verse 1:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

As I said, this morning we come to this new subject, the subject of spiritual gifts. We know from that opening phrase, now concerning, that we’ve looked at throughout this letter that Paul is responding to a letter that was written to him by the Corinthians, asking him questions, and much like his answer to their questions prior to this, especially the one about meat sacrificed to idols, his answer is rather long. The answer is going to stretch from chapter 12 to chapter 14, and chapter 13, which we usually look at in isolation as the love chapter, is part of this whole unit, and it’s really the heart of that unit. So, Paul is going to give a long answer to a short question, sort of like I do to you oftentimes. Whenever someone comes to me and says I have a quick question, I always say I have a long answer. This is biblical warrant for that, by the way. You know, even though they should have been further along in their growth, the Corinthians were spiritually immature, as we’ve seen throughout this letter. And this was primarily due to the fact that they were prideful, selfish people. We see this issue of pride and selfishness rear its ugly head again concerning the matter of spiritual gifts, and particularly as we’re going to see with the gift of tongues and the correct use of prophecy, but predominantly the issue of tongues. And that’s going to cover basically the entire chapter in chapter 14 when he gets to that practical instruction. And what becomes clear as we examine these three chapters, is that the Corinthians viewed the gift of tongues as a superior ability to those who possessed other gifts. Those who had the gift of tongues were viewed as more blessed and more superior, more important. Some have suggested that this is because one of the practices among the pagan idolators was the seeking of an ecstatic experience in which a person would work him or herself up into sort of an emotional frenzy through chants and sort of these kind of things where they would reach this semi-conscious feeling of euphoria, and that was looked at as a communion with some particular god of some sort. And this may well have been one of the contributing factors to the reason why the Corinthians would elevate the gift of tongues over other gifts. But I think it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t ever really address the gift of tongues, in you know, the substance of what that gift is. He doesn’t really define it. He talks about it and how to use it, but he doesn’t really define it. What he does address in this unit instead is the heart issue of selfishness and pride. And then he gives direction again on how to view that gift of tongues properly and how to use it correctly. But this is because the fascination with tongues was really a symptom of the deeper issue. Elevating one gift over another created a hierarchy of gifting, so that the flashiest, most visible, most spectacular gifts were viewed as superior to those that were somewhat modest, unimpressive, maybe behind the scenes. 

And all of this was bound up in the nature of spiritual gifts and in the nature of the human heart, of course–that sinful nature. And spiritual gifts, which are possessed by individuals, are easily looked at as identifying of the individual. If you have that gift you’re looked at as identified with that gift, and when pride runs unchecked, those who possess the more visible gifts may use their gifts to promote themselves–not Christ–not to build up others, but to get a platform and promote themselves. And even if they don’t succumb to that (those who have that gift), others may begin to elevate them. Despite their wishes, I mean, remember back in chapter one this was the issue with the factions about various leaders. There were those who said I follow Paul, I follow a Apollos, I follow Cephas. And then again as I mentioned, the super-spiritual people who follow Christ–they were, you know, separating into these factions. Because they were elevating one gift over another, that was identified with one leader or another, even though those leaders never wanted that for a second. Paul never wanted to be elevated. Apollos didn’t want to be elevated. Peter didn’t want to be elevated. It’s right to elevate Christ, but those people were wrong-minded. And so, this cancer of pride was just distorting the entire intention of spiritual gifts, which are one of the Lord’s primary means of building up his church and blessing his people. And just as the Corinthians were selfish at the Lord’s table like we’ve seen over the course of the last couple of weeks, when they came together, Paul says you come together not for the better, but for the worse. So, they were doing the same thing once again with the issue of spiritual gifts. When they came together. It wasn’t for the better, but really for the worse because pride was winning the day. So in order to correct this, Paul begins by laying down three basic understandings of spiritual gifts in these first eleven verses which help us to understand more fully what a spiritual gift is and how we are to use them. 

The first of these we find in verses 1 through 3, but before I give that to you, I want to note that these first three verses have been the source of a lot of debate because to some they seem to be disjointed from the rest of the passage. Part of that debate comes from the meaning of that word translated spiritual gifts. If you have, perhaps the NASB or another translation, the word gifts may be in italics. That means it’s added by the translators. The word actually just means spiritual. It’s an adjective and you have to fill in the blank of what he’s talking about here. So Paul could be saying., here’s how you know who is a spiritual person. Or it could be talking about things which, in the context, gifts are the prominent issue, and that’s why it’s translated spiritual gifts, and I think that’s correct. However, I think the reason why this is so is because a spiritual gift is so closely related to the person who holds it, and I think we’ll see that as we move along. 

Another reason why these verses are debated is because they seem to be relaying some sort of a test of genuineness. Notice that, especially in verse three: no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says Jesus is accursed and no one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit. Now some take this to be a test of genuineness of a spiritual gift and they view this entire introduction to be focused on how to validate whether a gift of prophecy or maybe tongues or something like that is actually a product of the Holy Spirit, or maybe induced by demons. But you know, as I’ve studied this, I’ve noticed that Paul doesn’t go on and provide any further information about this test. Instead, as I said, he just launches into this extended discourse that highlights the unity of diversity among the members of the body of Christ. And the hub of that unity is Jesus Christ, who has placed us into union with himself by the Spirit of God. And Paul emphasizes the fact that spiritual gifts are a display of that Holy Spirit among us, that he empowers us for the purpose of fostering our unity and our spiritual growth. And so, what I believe Paul is doing in these first three verses is highlighting the fact that spiritual gifts are possessed by people who have been indwelt by the Spirit. That’s his point. 

And so, if you’re taking notes, the first essential of spiritual gifts that Paul wants us to note here is that spiritual gifts are possessed by a diversity of people, united by a common profession. A diversity of people united by a common profession–that profession is found in verse 3: Jesus is Lord. That’s our profession of faith that binds us. You remember in Romans chapter 10 and verse 9, Paul says that this is the sine qua non of Christianity: If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s how a person is saved–by confessing Jesus as Lord. Now notice again, Paul begins this section with concerning spiritual gifts. Or I think a better way of maybe translating this would be, as I’ve said, concerning spiritual people who possess spiritual gifts. They’re just so tied so closely together. He says, I don’t want you to be uninformed about this. Now we don’t know what the Corinthians’ question was to Paul, but we can only take a guess, and my guess is they were asking him which gift is the greatest. I think of the apostles walking with Jesus and saying, you know, when you come into your kingdom, can I sit on your right hand and your left hand, right? And Jesus has to give them a lesson and kind of bring them back down to size and I think that’s probably the nature of their question. We don’t really know, but whatever it was, Paul is going to take their quick question and he is going to launch into a long answer to give them the sweeping understanding of spiritual gifts. And in order to do that, he begins by addressing those who possess spiritual gifts, and the answer is: those who possess the Spirit of God–those who are indwelt by the Spirit. And the way you know whether someone possesses the Spirit is if they profess Jesus as Lord–in contrast to how they viewed Jesus in the past. Notice he first addresses the Gentiles among the Corinthians. The word pagans there in the ESV is ethne, where we get our English word ethnicity, right? And it’s typically translated Gentiles (your translation may translate it that way). I think pagans is a fine translation here because he’s referencing the way that Gentiles worship. And the word simply means nations–nations, as opposed to the nation of Israel, which was that special nation that God formed himself, calling out Abraham, right, and promising him that through him all the families or nations of the earth would be blessed. So, you have Israel and you have the nations, and Paul says that when you were among the nations, separated from the promises of Israel and her Messiah, you were being led astray to all sorts of various idols, however you were led. Remember we saw in chapter 10 that behind those idols of the pagans are demons, and First Timothy 4:1 tells us that all false teaching is a product of demons. And so, in other words, what Paul is saying is there is a myriad of demons and false doctrines out there in the world and these are propagating all sorts of false claims and different religious views and all sorts of things. And before you came to Christ, you were led astray in one way or another. You were just of the nations. You were just pagans. You were being led astray. And Jesus was likely not even a part of your pagan worship. But however, even in that early First Century there were already heresies that were developing that tacked Jesus onto them, like Gnosticism, which was a mixture of Greek philosophy and Christianity. And so, all sorts of heresies–and of course, in our day, we see them everywhere, right? You have Jehovah’s Witnesses. You have the Mormons. You have all sorts of different heresies and so forth. And so, we could just lump ourselves in here: when you were part of those nations, you were led astray, however you were led. 

But then in verse 3, Paul contrasts one who would declare Jesus accursed with those who would declare him as Lord. And what’s interesting here is this idea of being accursed–even this particular word used here–was primarily a Jewish concept. Unbelieving Jews who viewed Jesus–literally viewed him as cursed. That’s because Deuteronomy 21:23 says that a man who is hanged is cursed by God. And Jesus was hung upon the tree and crucified, and so he was looked at as accursed by unbelieving Jews. Galatians chapter 3, verses 13 through 14 says that Jesus did indeed become a curse for us in God’s wise sovereign design. And Paul says there that was so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. That was the blessing through Abraham to all the families of the earth. So, in verse 3 here, I think what Paul is doing is speaking of a Jewish person who rejects Jesus as accursed, an unbelieving Jewish person. 

And bringing verses 2 and 3 together, what Paul is saying here is simply what he says all throughout the New Testament: that the whole world, both Jews and Gentiles, were led astray from the Lord Jesus Christ before they were regenerated by the Spirit. But those who profess Jesus as Lord give evidence that the Spirit of God lives within them, and it is that profession of faith in the Lord Jesus that brings Jew and Gentile together as Paul (or as John) will say in Revelation: every nation, every tribe, every people, every language brought together in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that profession is Jesus is Lord. Now, you may say, well all sorts of people call Jesus Lord, especially here in America. That’s going to diminish. It already is diminishing. It’s getting harder to call Jesus Lord here in America. But you know, for many, many years, you have so many people who profess Jesus–I can’t count how many people I know and I’ve met along the way who profess Jesus and show absolutely no spiritual fruit–no desire to be together with his people whatsoever. So, you may say, well, it can’t just be mouthing those words. Well, that’s not what Paul is talking about here. He’s not speaking of mere words. First of all, the word Lord here used of the Lord Jesus is speaking of more than just the fact that he’s the Master. By the way, if you are a Christian, Jesus is your Master, okay? You do follow him. He is Lord, and if he’s not the Lord of your life, you’re not a Christian. It does mean that– that is the meaning of kurios–but kurios also is the New Testament equivalent of Yahweh from the Old Testament–the name of the LORD, and Paul uses it that way, specifically in Philippians 2 verses 9 through 11 where we read that the title of Lord is bestowed upon Jesus. And Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23 and applies to Christ what is due to Yahweh in that verse, where Yahweh says, by myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone out in righteousness, a word that shall not return. To me, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance. And you remember there in Philippians 2:11, that’s what we’re told of the Lord Jesus: that at the name of Jesus, who’s the Lord, every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to confess, things on the earth, things under the earth–every creature is going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So, to profess Jesus as Lord is to see him as who he is. He’s very God of very God, he’s Savior. He’s Master. He’s Lord. It’s to have one’s eyes open to the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ; to no longer see him according to the flesh, but to see him as he truly is. And that is the work of the Spirit of God in the heart of a dead person who has been made alive by the Spirit, which is why Paul says no one–notice–he says no one is able to say (that’s the word there–that’s dunamai–it’s the ability), no one can. No one is able to say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit. No one can genuinely say that–that’s his point. So, Paul is prefacing this entire teaching on spiritual gifts with what he’s going to come back to in verse 13 of this chapter where he says, whether Jews or Greeks slaves or free, all were made to drink of that one Spirit. So spiritual gifts are possessed by a diversity of people, people from every tribe, tongue, nation, language, all brought together in Christ, united by a common profession. Jesus is Lord. 

Here’s the second essential truth we need to get about spiritual gifts, and this one we find in verses 4 to 6. And it’s this: that among the people of God, there is a diversity of gifts united in a common provider. A diversity of gifts united in a common provider–and the provider is, of course, God himself. And although the Holy Spirit is the one who distributes the gifts, all three persons of the triune God are involved. Notice what he says here: There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, there are varieties of service, but the same Lord, there are varieties of activities but the same God. Whenever you see that word, God, in juxtaposition with Jesus or Lord, it’s almost always talking about the Father in particular. You know, the context of this passage is very similar to Ephesians chapter 4, verses 4 to 6, and there, Paul says there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all who is overall and through all and in all. So, Paul is bringing out the fact that Christians are united to the triune God through our union with Christ, which is affected by the Holy Spirit, who indwells us, and therefore, our spiritual gifts are provided, or supplied, and empowered by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The word gifts there in verse four is charismata which comes from the word charis, which means grace. And grace means gift. It’s unmerited favor. And the other two words in those verses (verses 5 and 6) are synonyms for gift. Notice that spiritual gifts are enablements for service. And they’re also activities or energizings from God that empower us for service. But note the word varieties attached to each of those. He uses those three synonyms, but the same word each time connected. Your translation may, say diversities or differences, and what Paul is bringing out here is the fact that there are all sorts of gifts given to God’s people. Some of them are listed in verses 8 through 10 and throughout these three chapters and in other places in the New Testament, and if you compare them and you put them all together, you find that there’s actually nineteen of them listed in the New Testament total. But even at that, most would agree that it’s possible there’s even more than that–that that’s not an exhaustive list. So, the point Paul’s making with the repetition of that word varieties or differences or whatever your translation says there is that he’s describing the gifts in conjunction with that word same connected to the three persons of the Triune God to show us that there is a diversity of gifts given to the diversity of God’s people, and yet they’re all united in one provider, one source who is the Trinity. And I think what’s wonderful is that underneath this is the fact that just as back in chapter 11, we saw that the nature of man declares the glory of God and his nature since we’re a unity of diversity as male and female–both human, both equal in essence–and yet different in role and function. So it is in the church: our spiritual gifts show that we are a diversity of people, and yet we’re united together in that one God. Well, so far we’ve learned that spiritual gifts are possessed by a diversity of people united by a common profession and among the people of God there’s a diversity of gifts united in a common provider. 

Here’s the third essential truth I want you to get this morning, and we find this one in verses 7 through 11. It’s this: that among the people of God, there is a diversity of abilities united in a common purpose. A diversity of abilities united in a common purpose. Gifts are varying abilities. We see that in verses 8 through 10 and throughout the different listings of gifts. In verse seven, we find yet another synonym for spiritual gift. It’s the word phanerosis and it means to disclose something or declare something or to manifest something. That’s why it’s translated manifestations here. So, these are all synonyms. If you want to just mark that in your Bible somehow, you know, service, activities, manifestation–all synonyms for spiritual gifts. And spiritual gifts, here, Paul is bringing out the fact that they’re manifestations or disclosures or expressions of the work of the Spirit of God among God’s people. Note again Paul’s emphasis on the fact that they’re indeed gifts. These are manifestations of the Spirit. Notice in verse 7 they are given. They’re given by God–they’re grace gifts. And notice in that verse: they’re given to each. That is, each and every believer has a spiritual gift. And in verse 11, notice we’re told that the Spirit apportions to each one individually as he wills. This means that the gifts believers are given are decided by the Spirit of God. By the way, this is just monstrous evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit. He’s the one that is, you know, basically called God here. He distributes these gifts. He’s the one who, in his wisdom, gives them out. And he doesn’t do it randomly. Notice verse 18. It says God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose. And there he’s talking about the spiritual gifting. And there again we do see, right, how closely tied the person is to the gift. We’re tied to one another and we’re interwoven according to our gifts. And by the way, there’s nothing here to say that Christians have only one gift. Every Christian has at least one gift, but some may have more than one. And the distribution of gifts is according to the wisdom of the spirit, not according to what we might think would be the wisest course. 

And the reason for each and every one of these gifts (notice in verse 7) is for the common good. That’s a purpose statement. That’s the reason for spiritual gifts–for the common good. Listen, nowhere in the Scriptures are we told that a spiritual gift is given for our own benefit. I’m aware that many believe chapter 14 verses 2 to 4 to teach a secondary function of the gift of tongues that can be used individually to edify oneself in some sort of special prayer language. But as we’ll see when we come to that passage, I contend that Paul is actually being a bit sarcastic there to reprimand the Corinthians for their wrong use of that gift. And then he corrects them to do it the right way. And that is, after all, what is consistent with the foundational teaching we see here and throughout the entire context of these chapters. So spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit for the common good, and what that means is that we would be built up–that we would be edified–that we would grow in Christ through serving one another according to those gifts. And as we’ll see graphically illustrated in verses 12 through 26, that illustration we’re all very familiar with in this chapter, of the body of Christ, that means that Christians need each other. We need each other. In fact, one of the reasons we’re commanded in Hebrews chapter 10, verses 24 and 25 not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together is because we’re to come together under the word of God, but also to serve one another, to minister to one another through our giftings. And we can use those giftings even outside of the assembly at times. And we’re to be doing that. And each of us has a responsibility to others to employ the gift God has given us. We’re called not to come to church merely to receive, but to give. And that’s a big problem with the American Church and has been for so long. And leaders have designed the church to be sort of a consumer activity where people just come and sit and they get entertained or they get their felt needs met and then they leave. God says no, you come to give, and you will receive. That’s the way he’s composed it. The songwriter summarizes this point well: channels only, blessed Master, but with all thy love and power, flowing through us, thou canst use us every day and every hour. See, we’re channels of God’s grace to one another. He empowers us. He gives the gifts. And we need one another. Now, the majority of gifts listed in verses 8 through 10 are sign-gifts, or revelatory gifts, that I believe have ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, and we’re going to get into that more in the future. But they were obviously active and needed in the church at Corinth at this time and in all local churches during that time because they didn’t have a completed New Testament. They didn’t have the completion of revelation, and so they still needed revelation and they still needed that revelation to be verified. And that’s what a lot of this stuff is about, distinguishing between spirits and, you know, the spirit of the prophets is according to the prophets and so forth. But what they do give us here is a sampling of the dependents of believers upon one another. Because Paul makes it clear that not everyone had all the gifts. I want you to note, as he lists these off, he uses these phrases over and over: to one is given this ability to another, that ability to another, that ability. And he continues to hammer home that they’re given by the same Spirit, by one and the same Spirit. And so, every gift is needed. That’s the point. And the gifts are given to individuals, and therefore they are identified with us individually and so we need each other to minister those gifts in order that we might mature and grow correctly as God intended. Now notice verse 11 (this is kind of a summary, kind of a bookend to the whole section here) he says, all these (these these gifts) are empowered by one and the same spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 

Three essential truths about spiritual gifts. Paul is just laying the groundwork here. This is what we need to get as we wade into this subject, we need to understand this, that spiritual gifts are possessed by a diversity of people united by a common profession, which is Jesus is Lord. Secondly, among God’s people, there is a diversity of gifts united in a common provider, who is the triune God. And the Spirit of God in particular is the one who indwells us and distributes those gifts and empowers us. Third, among God’s people, there is a diversity of abilities united in a common purpose, which is building up one another, not to promote ourselves–not to edify ourselves–but for the common good, to build one another up. And the one central truth that holds all this together like glue, that is really the foundation of all three of these essentials, is that we, as God’s people, are a unity of diversity and the gifts that we have declare that unity. That’s why he just keeps hammering home one and the same spirit, the same spirit. The same God. Over and over and over. And then he’s going to illustrate it with that picture of the body. And therefore, there is not one gift that is superior to the other. And listen, brothers and sisters, therefore, there is no person who is superior to others. We have different roles. And God calls us to function according to those roles, but not one of us is more superior in our value and our necessity. 

Now as we pull all this together, we can formulate a biblical definition of spiritual gifts. Now, I’ve been to Bible College and Seminary. I’ve read all sorts of books about spiritual gifts. I’ve reread them, getting ready to do this. I’ve heard so many definitions of spiritual gifts. But what I committed to do here was to not read any of those (I mean, I confess, I’m probably biased because I got all that in my head) but what I really wanted in my head was this passage. And so, what I did, is I just went back through my exegesis of the passage, and I put together a definition of spiritual gifts that’s drawn directly from the text. I’m sure there’s others that are way better than mine, but I want to read it for you so that you can see that we’re drawing this right out of the text. This is what a spiritual gift is, okay? 

Spiritual gifts are special abilities given and empowered by the triune God, and specifically distributed by the Holy Spirit to those who have been regenerated by the spirit through the gospel for the purpose of the building up of fellow believers. That definition, I think, really draws out what Paul is communicating here. That’s what a spiritual gift is. And in that definition, it helps us to see how we’re to view those spiritual gifts and how we’re to use them. 

Now I want to close with just a handful of applications to think about, drawn from those truths that we’ve looked at this morning and the first one is this: I just want to ask you a basic and vital question. Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ? Do you confess Jesus as Lord? That is the biggest question that you will ever face in your entire life, because those outside of Christ will perish for eternity. And the Bible leaves no mystery about how one comes to Christ. Again, if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s the promise. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. And that’s what it means to call upon the name of the Lord. The Bible says you’re not saved by doing good works. In fact, the Bible says that when we think that way, God is just disgusted by it, and he rejects it out of hand. So, we come by God’s grace. Grace gifts are really just another communication of the fact that everything we have is the grace of God, which is a gift that we cannot earn. And what we’re going to do this morning around this table in the Lord’s Supper, like we’ve talked about in the last couple of weeks, is an expression of what Christ has done for us and what binds us together. Really, these teachings go hand in hand. We so easily divorce them from each other, move on from one passage to the next. But really, these go hand in hand because around the Lord’s Table we declare our unity in Jesus and what he’s done for us. And here we learn that spiritual gifts are possessed by those who have that profession. And so, are you one of those this morning? And if you’re not and you don’t fully understand what I’m talking about this morning, but you’re interested and God is convicting you right now, I’d love to talk with you and share with you how you can come to know the Lord Jesus and be one of those who belongs to him. And you can do that right where you are this morning. 

Secondly, if you have put your faith in Christ, you have been united with him and you are indwelt by the Spirit of God and you possess at least one spiritual gift. And that gift–listen, brothers and sisters–is an evidence of God’s grace in your life. And when we’re empowered to do this (I think what that means is that there’s sort of a compelling where we just want to use that gift), and so, if you have that compelling, that is comforting. That’s exciting. And you need to move towards that because that is one of the evidences of God’s grace in your life and a means of assurance that you belong to him. 

If you have professed Christ as your Savior, third, whether your gift is one that brings you into the spotlight or keeps you behind the scenes, you must never think too highly or too lowly of your gift, and connected to that, of yourself. Take a sober assessment, as Paul says, in the same context in Romans chapter 12. Nor must you think too highly or too lowly of others. But remember that all are necessary. We need each other. Never permit pride to tempt you to use your gift for the purpose of drawing attention to yourself or elevating one teacher over another in the body of Christ. But make sure that you view spiritual gifts as for the mutual edification of the body. 

Using your spiritual gift is not an option. It’s not an option. If you’re not using it you’re being disobedient. You’re called to exercise it. You say, where’s your Scripture for that? First Peter, 4:10 commands, as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. That’s why in our church membership class, we tell you one reason for church membership is the stewardship of your spiritual gifts, because you need to commit to a local assembly where you’re going to use those gifts. God has distributed his gifts in such a way that others are counting on you to exercise those gifts. We need you. 

Just as others need you, you need them. This is the great equalizer. This is the great pride-crusher. That’s what Paul’s getting at here. There’s no room for Lone Rangers or John Wayne Christians that are rugged individuals who just don’t need nobody else. We need each other. We need to go towards others, both to receive as we give. It’s a lot to draw out of just these first eleven verses and we’re not done with them, by the way. We’re going to come back and talk about what all those gifts are, so don’t worry about that. Don’t think I’m trying to just skip over stuff. Let’s bow together as we prepare for the Lord’s Table this morning. 

Father in heaven, these are wonderful, glorious truths. You have been so kind to us, lavishing your grace upon us sinners who deserve only justice. And yet we have received mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ. We deserve to be punished in an eternity of hell, separated from you. And yet you have given us eternal life, forgiveness of all of our sins, a right standing before you where we can come boldly into your presence at any time and find mercy and grace. And all of it is because of our Lord Jesus Christ. Justice was meted out in him as you placed our guilt upon him and punished him. You crushed your own Son in our place, instead of us; the perfect one, the just for the unjust to bring us to God. And yet, because he is that perfect God-man, he rose from the grave and conquered sin and death and hell forever for all who will put their trust in him–all who will call on his name: Jesus is Lord. And we have received that grace, and not just that measure of grace, but grace upon grace upon grace. And your grace-gifts are part of that, and we’ve received them for a purpose, that we might declare our unity together, that they might be a testimony of the fact that we need one another, that we’re united in Jesus. And so, Father, would we be eager to obey these admonitions this morning from your word, to use our gifts not for self-promotion, not to make ourselves superior, but to bless others by your grace. As we come to this table this morning, Father, would you remind us of all of these things that we’ve talked about and prayed about this morning, our Lord Jesus and all that he’s done for us? May we remember him. May we proclaim him. May we anticipate him, may we participate with him and with one another around this table, the table of our King. We pray in his great name, Amen.