Spiritual Gifts Build the Body of Christ toward Perfection (Ephesians Sermon 24 of 54)
January 10, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Grace, Marks and Purposes, Spiritual Gifts
So this week I had the opportunity to eat lunch with a dear friend who's a member of this church, and we were talking about evangelism, and the desire that we have to share our faith, and both of us acknowledge that we don't do it as much as we'd like, that we would like to be more faithful in sharing the Gospel. And he told me about a friend of his in Raleigh, who was at a restaurant, and he wanted to share with the waitress that was working the table. And so, at a certain moment when there was time to talk, by the way, that happens right as they're bringing you the check. They're very chatty at that time, I've noticed. You ever notice? They're really eager for a conversation. They're really friendly at that moment, for whatever reason. And that's a good time, that's a good moment. If the restaurant's not too crowded, that's maybe a chance that you can talk to somebody. But anyway, this friend asked this question, "Why are you here? Why are you here?" Now, She answered here at this restaurant and etcetera, but no, no, no, he meant, “Why are you here on Earth?” Have you ever asked that question? Have you ever asked, “Why am I here on Earth?” And that opened the door to a marvelous Gospel encounter.
So, I would commend that to you as a way of beginning a Gospel conversation, because people want to know ultimate reasons and meaning, and, “Why am I here?Do I have a purpose in life?” So much of us feels empty. We don't seem to have a direction, don't seem to know why we're here. And it's sad if that happens to Christians, because there's no good reason that that should ever happen to a Christian. So why are you here? And I don't just mean here this morning, but why are you here on Earth?
And the bigger picture would be another question similar to it: What is God doing in the world? And beautifully, those things come together for me today as I look at Ephesians 4, on the topic of spiritual gifts. I believe that God has left me on Earth, after I've come to faith in Christ, after I've won the victory that there is to win in this world, which is faith in Christ. I didn't die, God didn't take me immediately into His presence in Heaven, He left me here on Earth. Why? And I believe spiritual gifts and the good works that flow from spiritual gifts are a big part of the answer, not the only answer, but they’re a big part of it. I am here, in part, to use my spiritual gifts to do works of service, to build up the Body of Christ. And so are you. If you're a believer in Jesus, that is why God left you here after He saved you through Christ.
And so for the second week now, we're going to look from Ephesians 4, at the issue of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts, it's just a marvelous topic. It's rich and full. And if I can just lay my cards on the table, my desire is that you would be convinced from Ephesians 4 that you have, as a Christian, that you have a spiritual gift package that should flow into a regular pattern of good works, organized by those spiritual gifts, for the up-building of the Body of Christ, that you have spiritual gifts. And either way, no matter whether you can see that kind of ministry going on in your life or not, that all of us would look in the mirror of God's Word here and study our lives and say, "Lord, am I being fully fruitful here with my spiritual gifts? Am I using my gifts maximally?"
Now, let's just settle this thing in terms of context. Ephesians is a marvelous 6 chapter epistle, very brief, breaks into two main sections; Ephesians 1-3 gives us the doctrine and salvation, reaching back to eternity past, before the foundation of the world, Almighty God set His love on us, the elect, in Christ, and then at the right time, saved us through faith in Christ, and just three chapters of marvelous doctrine. But then in Ephesians 4-6, we have three chapters of application, of practical application. It begins with this marvelous statement in Ephesians 4:1, "As a prisoner for the Lord then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." And I think everything that follows could be a subset of that; How do we live a life worthy of our calling as Christians?
One in Christ
He immediately goes from that into a strong assertion of unity, and the need that the Body of Christ has to be one in Christ. So look at verse 3-6, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." So there's this strong assertion of unity. But then we saw last week in verse 7, there is this change of direction with the word "but". “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” So we go from unity, I think, to diversity; the diversity of gifts, of spiritual gifts, and a role that we play in the Body of Christ. And he says but, and this is by way of review, we went over this last week, but “to each one of us,” etcetera. So every single Christian has a spiritual gift package, or array of spiritual gifts that God, that Christ has given to you.
And He gives it to you according to His measure of grace. He measures out. I love the word "metron", a sense of the measuring out of spiritual gifts. Again, I think of an array or a package of gifts, and He gives some of this, a little of that, a lot of the other, etcetera. Then He puts it together in a package, and that's your spiritual gift package. And He gives each of it, each of us this gift according to His wise measure. It's a beautiful thing to think about, as Christ apportioned it. So Christ thought about you, pondered you, and then measured out a gift package to you. It's marvelous, isn't it?
Spiritual Gift Package
And then in verses 8-10, again by way of review, these spiritual gifts are flowing to us as a result of Christ's triumphant descent from Heaven to Earth. His work on the cross, His bloody redeeming work on the cross, His bodily resurrection from the dead, and then His ascension through the heavenly realms to sit at the right hand of God, filling the whole universe with His greatness. You get a picture of a victory train going from Earth to Heaven, and we, the former captives of Satan, are in His victory train, and Jesus, this conquering hero, is just dispensing booty and plunder and just giving out gifts, and it's just flowing. And so all of our spiritual gifts are blood bought. They were very expensive. And so, Jesus shed His blood to give you this spiritual gift package, a marvelous picture.
What Kinds of Gifts?
And then in verse 11, he gives us examples of the spiritual gifting that can happen. But it's not just any that He chooses, we'll talk about it more later in the message, but I've already said what. And it says in verse 11, "He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers." So those are examples of gifted individuals who then have a ministry to play. But it's not just any that he chose there. I believe, as I said last week, those five roles, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers,” are the delivery system from Almighty God, from the mind of God to the hearts of the people of God of the Word of God. The Word of God delivered from God's heart to ours by means of the “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.” We'll talk more about it later in the message. Did mention it last week. And then, as the Word of God flows to the people of God, verse 12, these apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, are given to prepare God's people, that's all of us, to prepare God's people for works of service, good deeds, acts of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up.
So, the ministry of the Word of God, as I said last week, primes the pump for an incalculable number of good deeds, small and great, and the good deeds grammatically, the good deeds build up the body to maturity, all of them, not just some of them, not just the preaching, teaching, everything builds it up. And so that's the whole doctrine here. And the goal is, we'll talk about more in a moment, is total conformity to Christ.
What is a Spiritual Gift
So what is a spiritual gift? Spiritual gifts is a special ability given by Almighty God to believers in Christ for the purpose of building the body up to maturity. Special ability. What we call in common everyday secular language, a talent. We could even use "gift". He's really gifted, a gifted musician, or a gifted scholar, etcetera, a sense of gifting or appointment by God. Now, as I've counseled with individuals, especially young men, Seminary and others that are growing, they want to know what are my gifts? What's my ministry going to be? I've really benefited from these two words that help me differentiate gifting and non-gifting, and it's the difference between functioning and flourishing in an area, between functioning and flourishing. So what do I mean by that? Well, spiritual gifts, generally take a common Christian activity. And in the hands of Christ, by the power of the Spirit, in the life of an individual, it just flourishes like a a verdant garden, that functioning area just flourishes. So, spiritual gifting has to do with flourishing, not merely functioning. So, let me give you some examples.
Functioning vs. Flourishing
I'll take an example from my own life. I was asked recently rather pointedly, not negatively, but pointedly, "Why did you leave the mission field?" We were on a two-year church planner apprentice program with the IMB, and at the end of the two years, it was a time of evaluation, they evaluated us, we evaluated them, and evaluated the life. I came to the conclusion that I did not have the spiritual gift of a missionary. I was functioning in Japan, not flourishing. I felt that God had a better sight of ministry for the way He'd put me together. The next step for me was to go to Southern Seminary and get a PhD because I have an academic or bookish bent to me, to develop those gifts, and then God led me here, because I was gifted more as a shepherd than a professor. So it was gifting that led me eventually here. But I would stand and say, I am not gifted to be a cross-cultural missionary. I was functioning, I wasn't flourishing. So that's an example from my own life.
But you look at all of the gifts, like the gift of, let's say, the gift of serving. Alright. People with the spiritual gift of serving, well, all Christians are called to serve, we're all servants. But somebody with the gift of servant-hood, they just see serving tasks far more abundantly than those that don't have the gift, and they do them and things just shine when they do them. So it's just a beautiful thing to watch. Or let's say the gift of hospitality, all of us are called unto be hospitable, to open our homes, but people with the gift of hospitality, it just flourishes. It's more than just the mint on the pillow, you know what I'm saying? There's just a flourishing of the gift of hospitality. You just feel like they couldn't wait for you to come, not that they couldn't wait for you to leave, you know? There's a sense of, you just love having us here, it's like we're doing you the favor. It's a gift. Or the gift of prayer. I love being with people, praying with people who have the gift of prayer, there's just a way that they pray that you just feel like you're ushered into the presence of God. And some of that gift, the gifting of prayer, most people never see it, people “go into their room and close the door, and they pray to their Father unseen,” and no one ever sees it.
So you can have a spiritual gift ministry and be flourishing and no one hardly even knows about it. But it has led to specific deeds again, and again, and again. You took a matter and got on your knees and prayed. So there are actions. The gift of evangelism, we are all responsible to share the Gospel, and I believe it wouldn't be surprising if for every single one of us, there is an elect non-Christian out there, and God wants you to bring them to Christ. And you may not lead tons, dozens and dozens of people to Christ, but you're going to lead that person to Christ. And so all of us are evangelists, we're called on, we have a responsibility for evangelism, but we're not all gifted in evangelism, and it just flourishes in that area, etcetera.
Then there's the gift of giving, alright. We don't all flourish in the gift of giving, but Christian giving is part of the healthy Christian life. Some people, let me tell you, they flourish at Christian giving. It's not just how much they give, it's the delight and the freedom and the way that they give. So that's what I mean by flourishing not functioning. I hope that's helpful. So now let's look at the goal of spiritual gifts.
God’s Goal: Perfect Conformity to Christ (vs. 13, 15)
Perfect Unity by Conformity to Christ
God's goal here is perfect conformity to Christ. Look at verse 13, again, at verse 15. The idea here is that these gifts are given, verse 13, until “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and to become mature," this is the NIV, "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." So the word "mature" sometimes is translated perfect, but that's misleading. I mean, we're heading toward perfection in Christ, but it's like the perfecting work or the maturing work. I just love verse 13. Listen to ESV, which you just heard Ben read, verse 13 in the ESV says, "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Or then the Holman Christian Standard Bible has it this way, "Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ's fullness."
So the picture here is, let's take it like the Apostle Paul, or even Jesus, growing from an infant to a toddler, to a boy, to a teenager, to a young adult, to a mature man, to mature manhood. The idea is one of development, fully mature in all respects. And so this is the unity of the Body by each individual member becoming more and more Christ-like, more and more conformed to Christ. You get the same thing also in verses 14 and 15. Look at verses 14 and 15, it says, "Then we'll 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 and 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. Same image, same goal. So the goal of the spiritual gifts is the maturing of the saints, the maturing of the Body of Christ to full maturity, conformity to Christ, that we will be made like Him, that we will be like Christ in every way.
What is Perfect Conformity to Christ
Now, Christ-likeness, conformity to Christ, is the goal of sanctification, it's the goal of the Christian life. Once you come to faith in Christ, God has set before each of us those two infinite journeys we've talked about again and again, the internal journey of sanctification, of becoming more and more conformed to Christ, and then the external journey of evangelism and missions, leading others to faith in Christ that they would be mature. So that's the idea. So our goal then, personally, individually, in our internal journey is total conformity to Christ. I want to be like Christ, I want to be like Him.
Conformity of Mind
Well, in what way? I want to be like Him in my mind, I want to think like Him, I want to think like Him about everything. I want my thoughts to be totally conformed to the thoughts of Christ. I'm told I have the “mind of Christ,” I want to use it all the time. I want to think like Jesus does about everything. I want to agree with Jesus. And the Word of God tells me what Jesus thinks about everything. I want my mind conformed to Christ.I want my thought life to be like Christ. I want to think about what's “true, and noble, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and excellent, and praiseworthy.” I want to have the mind of Christ all the time, I want to be conformed to Christ in my mind. I want to be right doctrinally, I want to be pure in my mind that's conformed.
Conformity of Heart
And then in my heart; I want to love what Jesus loves, and I want to hate what He hates. And I want to love them to the measure with which He loves them. I want to love God and love my neighbor the way Jesus did, that's conformity to Christ. And then I want to have desires and ambitions for the future the way Jesus does. I want to yearn for what's coming. And I just want to choose it, I want to use my will the way Jesus did, saying, "Not my will, but yours be done," in Gethsemane. I want to live like that. And I want my emotions to be conformed to Him, I want to rejoice at what He rejoices at, and I want to mourn at what causes Him grief. I want to be conformed in every way to Christ in my heart.
Conformity of Body
And then, ultimately, dear friends, I want my body conformed to Jesus. Don't you? Aren't yearning for the resurrection body? Be done with aches and pains, be done with aging. As Augustine said, we'll be 21 for eternity. I don't know that he was right, but anyway, we'll be in maximum physical condition forever, and we will be radiant and glorious, we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father, we will be conformed to His resurrection body, and death will have no mastery over us. That, dear friends, is perfection, that's total conformity to Christ, that's what the gifts are given for. That's what the gifts are given for. The gifts are given to move all of the elect around the world from being dead in their transgressions and sins and in Satan's dominion, rescued, brought over from death to life, and then growing and flourishing more and more in conformity to Christ, until we are all, all the elect are in our resurrection bodies. That's the big picture. And friends, that's exciting, that's why we're here. Amen? You don't ever need to lack for purpose. Like, why am I here? This is why you're here, this is what God is doing in the world, and oh, is it exciting and sweet. Oh friends, don't you want more and more baptisms? Amen. Don't you yearn for that? I would love to see more and more baptisms. And even better, to see those baptized still walking with Jesus five years later, amen. And far more mature in growth, that's what the gifts are given for. So that's it.
God’s Word Gives Life and Growth (vs. 11-16)
Centrality of God’s Word
Now, verses 11-16, we're going to see again and again the ministry of the Word of God is key to everything. I glossed over it lightly before, mentioned it more in depth last week, but I want to zero in on it. I want to focus on it. Throughout this passage, the Word of God is central to everything. Central to everything. Everything comes about because of the Word of His power. Physical creation, the physical universe, the sun, the moon, and the stars, planet Earth, all of the mountains and rivers and oceans, and all of the swarming insects, and the land creatures, and the sea creatures, and man, male and female, created in the image of God, all of it by the Word of God's power. God speaks, and it's so. So, by the Word of His power.
And also, we're told in Hebrews 1:3 that Christ “sustains everything also by the Word of His power.” So it's the continual giving of the Word of God, that's the key to everything. Well, that's strong in this passage, too. It was in Ephesians 1, we know that it was, “when we heard the word of truth," Ephesians 1:13, "the Gospel of our salvation, having believed it, we were included in Christ. And we received the sealing of the Spirit." So, it's in the hearing of the Gospel, so also it's the ministry of the Word of God that primes the pump for everything going on in the Body of Christ.
So look again at verse 11, it was said, “He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers.” What I said last week, and I've already mentioned briefly this morning, the thing that holds those five together is the Word of God. The apostles and prophets are the gifted ones by which we have the Scripture, by which we have the Bible. Then the evangelists are God's marvelous delivery system by which, first, the Gospel and then the implications of the Gospel are delivered to lost people. Evangelists take it within, I think, one culture. Missionaries take it across cultural divides, but they're doing essentially the same work, they're bringing the good news to those who are as yet on the outside. And then shepherds, ESV has shepherds, I love that, pastors and teachers settle in in a locality. And pastors and teachers shepherd those individuals until they die, until they are done, out of this world. Doesn't mean that pastors have to stay with one body and be with those people, etcetera, but God raises up shepherds and teachers to pastor the people for the rest of their time on Earth. The beauty. But all of this is a delivery system of the Word of Go, and it primes the pump for everything.
Faithful Teaching Leads to Works of Service
The immediate effect of faithful teaching, biblical teaching, are “works of service,” verse 12, “to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up.” I love that idea here, to prepare God's people for works. Just think about that. Prepare the people to do the works, but we already had in Ephesians 2:10, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God went ahead of us to prepare in advance." So He's working both sides of the equation. He is out there providentially in the world preparing good works for us to walk in. And meanwhile, here in church, and I just don't mean Sunday morning, but throughout the week, the ministry of the pastors and teachers with the prior work of the apostles, prophets and evangelists, is to get us ready to do those good works. Isn't that beautiful? So God's working both sides of the equation. He's getting you ready right now for the good works you're going to do this week, month, year, 10 years, getting you ready right now for that. And then, conversely, he's providentially, in a very cool, amazing way, getting good works ready, for you in particular to do. Marvelous.
So why are you here? For that. Those good works are the way that God builds up the Body of Christ, that's how it happens.
And so we have this image of the body of Christ in Ephesians 2:21. Some of you can just look there on the page or just listen. It gives you this beautiful picture of the Church as a building, a spiritual temple. Ephesians 2:21, "In whom the whole structure being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord." That's weird. By the way, it's my job to tell you when something's a little weird and interesting, and pausing at it, you look at it. It's like, "What's so weird about that?" Okay, here's what's weird: The verb is a biological verb, the image is an architectural image. That's what's interesting about this. So you have a growing building. Isn't that amazing? A living building. And then here, amazingly, in verse 12 it says, "To equip the saints for work of ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ." What do we have there? A biological image of the Church with an architectural verb. So, we're going to construct the body, and we're going to grow the temple. And it's really amazing this mixing, it's the living reality, this church, and God is working on it, He's growing it and building it all the time through these spiritual gifts.
Goal: Doctrinal Unity
Now, the goal of this is doctrinal unity. Unity in the faith, it says, and in the knowledge of the Son of God. And become “mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of God.” So, the purpose of ongoing pastoral ministry, preaching and teaching, is to get everyone thinking the same things, doctrinally. That we all agree about biblical doctrine. There's the unity, unity in the faith. The words "the faith" in the New Testament is a body of doctrine. Starting with the Gospel, teachings about Christ, how He was born of the Virgin Mary, fully God, fully man, lived a sinless life, died an atoning death on the cross as our substitute, was raised bodily from the dead. The the things that Abby said she believed in, that's the Gospel, that's the faith. But it's more than that, but that's the start, the Gospel. Raised from the dead, ascended to Heaven, sits at the right hand of God. If you trust in Him, all of your sins will be forgiven; past, present and future, that's the faith.
So I just want to pause and say, spiritual gifts are for Christians, not for non-Christians. They're not given to non-Christians. If you're here today, and you know you're on the outside looking in, you're not yet a believer in Christ, I'm just calling out to you now. And when I went over the sermon this morning, I prayed just for this moment. I just prayed that you would hear forgiveness in the Gospel, that you would hear that Christ is reaching out with His hands and saying, "Don't stay on the outside, don't stay under the wrath of God. Come into faith in Christ, trust in me for the forgiveness of your sins. And if you do, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." And part of the gift of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual gift package. So, come to faith in Christ, don't walk out of this place under the wrath of God. I'm pleading with you. I'm pleading with you. But that's what unity in the faith is. But the faith doesn't end just with the basics, the milk of the Gospel, there's all kinds of doctrinal truths that just expand from there. Expand. And so, we're going to get good teaching so that we grow in our understanding and embracing of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. So it's more than just doctrinal like facts and figures, and getting things right on the test, it is that, it's like you're going to be tested. But that there are perceptual truths that we believe, but oh, it's so much more than that, isn't it? The knowledge of the Son of God.
Like we were talking about the end of Ephesians 3, that you would have power together with all the saints to grasp how much Christ loves you, that you have a sense of the dimensions of Christ's love for you. Regularly, that idea literally brings me to tears, and did this morning. I'm like, "I've got to pull myself together, I got to go preach in a couple of minutes. It's no good to have my face red and puffy. Oh Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me. But can we talk more about it later? I need to get ready to preach." Because it melts me. And so it's doctrinal but it's also experiential of knowing that Christ loves you, the knowledge of the Son of God, that's what he's talking about here. And then as a result of this experiential and doctrinal maturity, we will, verse 14, no longer be immature. We're no longer going to be infants. So the issue here, the picture is of instability.
A few Sunday mornings ago, I saw one of the kids of one of our musicians. She's beginning to walk, actually, she's beginning to run. I never knew she could walk, and now she's running. But it's a tottering kind of run. Have you ever seen little kids? They just like skipped the walking and went into running, and it was just fun to watch. But a little nerve wracking, but it was right down here, so I felt pretty safe. If she were running along here, I'd be nervous. There's a teetering instability to immaturity. And that's the image that Paul gives us in verse 14, isn't it? He brings in the weather image of blown and tossed like you're a little dinghy in a bad storm, and you're just blown and buffeted and tossed back and forth by false doctrine, unable to resist false doctrine. It seems so alluring. And there are so many different false teachers, prosperity gospel teachers, and legalism teachers, and others. And we're drawn by it, it seems so plausible, and it's cunning and crafty, and Satan is behind it, and he's alluring, and if you're immature, you can't resist it.
But, if you sit under good teaching, and you take it to heart and you grow. To change the metaphor, but you get a root system now. And you're not moved anymore, you're stable doctrinally, and you're able to refute false teachers, like elders need to do in Titus 1. And like the church at Ephesus was able to hear and reject the Nicolaitans and the false doctrine. Just knew it and said, "No, that's wrong." And so we're no longer infants blown back and forth. Let me tell you something, I think this is one of the big problems in the American Evangelical Church, is that there's a lot of doctrinal immaturity. Doctrinal immaturity. People haven't grown up into maturity, they're not able to face hard verses and talk about hard words like predestination or election or whatever, and they shrink back from it. Look, it's not that they're not brothers and sisters in Christ, but they haven't grown up into full maturity dealing with the meat of the Word. And so we'll no longer be infants, we'll no longer be immature, Satan buffeting us.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Instead, verse 15, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ.” And so this image here is of a mature church, a local church, or individual, brother or sister in Christ, speaking right doctrine, that's what I think it means here in context. Speaking right doctrine, the faith, in love. Isn't that beautiful? Now, I've heard so often “speaking the truth in love” has to do with going to a sinning brother or sister and be willing to say hard truths, say some hard things, you confront them and deal with them and their sin. Look, that's a biblical theme but that's not what this verse is about. Other verses teach that. Galatians 6:1, "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should go gently and restore them." Got it. That's great. That's Galatians 6:1. This is not about that, this is, we're going to speak out true doctrine, the truth, mature doctrine. We're going to talk about it, but we're not just going to talk it like head knowledge, we're going to delight in it and love God and love our brothers and sisters and love others. We're going to be characterized by love.
So, having grown up into maturity, we are characterized by love. And that's, I think, the whole purpose of 1 Corinthians 13, isn't it? 1 Corinthians 13 is situated in a series of chapters about spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12, about spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 14, spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13 is about weddings and should be read at weddings. Well look, it should be read at weddings, I think love is vitally important in marriage, but it's about spiritual gifts. And if you look at it, 1 Corinthians 13, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels," that's the gift of tongues, "But I have not love, I'm only a resounding gong” or a, “clanging symbol.” “If I have the gift of prophecy," he says, "and I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." So there's all these gifts, gift of faith, gift of prophesy, gift of tongues. "If I give all I possess to the poor and I surrender my body to the flames but I have not love, I gain nothing."
Alright, well, what is love, Paul? “Love is patient, love is kind.” “Love is patient, love is kind,” just that. That's maturity, to be a consistently patient kind man or woman. It isn't rude, it's not proud, it's not easily angered, it's mature. There's a maturity there, a mature love and delight in the Body of Christ. That's what these gifts bring about. So, we're going to speak right doctrine in love, in that kind of love. So verse 16, all of God's people are spiritually gifted to serve. 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. Now, here's how I think about it; individuals and the whole body, both grow by these spiritual gifts.
God’s People: Spiritually Gifted to Serve (vs. 16)
Maturity Comes Through Experience
You grow individually by getting out and about with your spiritual gift and doing ministry. That becomes the matrix of your own personal sanctification, as you're busy doing works of service. Meanwhile as you're busy doing works of service, the whole body is growing up. This local church, yes. But the universal Church of Christ is growing by people actually doing works of service. And as each part does its work, the whole thing rises to maturity. And that's a beautiful thing. That's how the spiritual gifts work.
So how do they work? Well, very practically, as we look at just application, spiritual gifts, as a stream of good teaching is going on, gifts start to rise and flourish and function in the Body. Okay, so those with leadership gifts, they exercise them, they organize God's people in faithful outreaches to win the lost in the community. The leaders lead out boldly, they set an example so that more inexperienced evangelistic Christians can just follow their example. That's how my discipler at MIT taught me how to share my faith. So just be quiet and watch. I really do want you to be quiet, okay, because I had nothing good to say. Anyway, just be there and listen and watch. But I felt so at peace. He was taking the heat, but I was learning Evangelism by watching him do it, by operating, leaders going out.
Gifts in Action
People with the gift of hospitality, as they use their gifts, they provide a warm, inviting matrix for Bible studies, for home fellowships, for discipleship going on, for mentoring between older couples and younger couple, hospitality. As people with gifts of service exercise them, as I already mentioned, the hundreds of behind the scenes details for putting on a worship service like this or a short term mission trip, all the phone calls that have to be made, all the logistics. Friends, if it were left to me, things would get left behind. Mistakes would happen. I love it when you get on the plane and someone dear to you, someone very dear to you says, "Do you have your passport?" I'm like, "We're already in the air." Or, "Do you have... " The time to think of that is ahead of time, and people with those gifts think ahead of time, that detailed gift. Alright.
I think about Jack Evans, and how many mission trips he organized to the Caribbean. Those of you who have been on a mission trip with Jack, you know what I'm talking about. The details. I'm so glad it was him and not me. He used to gather all our passports and get us through customs, and that was awesome to watch. So people with gifts of service. People with gifts of prayer exercising their gifts, and as they do, and nobody sees what they're doing, but guess what? Doors start to open, visas are given by reluctant governments. Hesitant bosses suddenly are interested in the Gospel. You've been trying to share with them, but you've got a workplace evangelism thing going on. Church planners suddenly find that school officials are willing to have that church plan to meet in their cafeteria. Why? People were praying, invisible, behind the scenes.
Brothers and sisters, do you realize that First Baptist Church made our Lottie Moon goal? $153,600, I think. Now, days ago we were about halfway there. Days, not weeks, days ago. How did we get from halfway there to all the way there? Ponder. People with gifts of giving gave by faith, generously. What's the result? Missionaries go out, more acts of service through the IMB, because people gave, because of the giving. Praise God. I'm just blessed by that. That was just a sweet moment for me, so praise God. And many gave small gifts along with those big gifts. As people with gifts of counseling use their gifts, then marriages, broken marriages are healed, and they don't go and get a divorce, but instead they're together. Or people that are struggling raising their kids get some good insights on parenting. Or premarital counseling is given and a couple is on a solid basis before they even get married. People with gifts of counseling. As people with gifts of discernment use their gifts, they see wise paths of action, and they give good counsel to what ministries, let's say the church should be involved in and what we should not. It's very difficult to discern between good, better and best.
Future Sermon: 4 D’s
Now, next time we talk about spiritual gifts, I'm going to talk about 4 D’s. Not going to take time today, but 4 Ds. Alright, 4 Ds. And I think these are going to help us. Alright, next time. Not next week, next week's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, but two weeks from now, we'll finalize this sub-series on spiritual gifts. The 4 Ds are… What are they? Sorry. Discover your gifts, delight in your gifts, develop your gifts, and then deploy your gifts. These are the four, and we're going to talk about it especially from Romans chapter 12. I think is the best sub-section of Scripture on how to do these things. So discover what your gifts are, and what the gifts are. We've been doing that already. And then delight in them, that that would already be happening. You just see the wisdom and the delight of God in this and you'd be motivated by it. And developing the gifts, we'll talk more about that next time, but that the gift would be much better and sharper and more skillfully done 20 years down the line. And then, deploy. Now, the standard verb would be "used", but it doesn't begin with a D. So deploy, that's what we'll talk about next time. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the time we've had to study today. Thank you for the Word of God. Thank you for the truth of spiritual gifts. Thank you for this church. There's nowhere else I'd rather serve than here. And I'm grateful for the brothers and sisters that just really, abundantly use their gifts. I can think of dozens of brothers and sisters whose gifts I've seen operating today already, and who have blessed me by what they do. God, help us. I pray, if there any that are here that are not using their gifts, maybe they've held back or they've been a little worldly in the way they've looked at life, God, help us to repent and be willing to start serving in vibrant, new ways. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.