Two Journeys Ministry
In-Depth Biblical Content by Pastor Andy Davis

The Study of Spiritual Gifts (Sermon 8 of 14)

The Study of Spiritual Gifts (Sermon 8 of 14)

October 21, 2001 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Spiritual Gifts

Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on 1 Corinthians 13. The focus of the sermon is spiritual gifts.



I want to step back a little bit. We've been looking at 1 Corinthians 13, but we'll be able to get through that relatively quickly. But I want to set before you again, the image of what it is that's happening and what God is doing in this world so that you would know how spiritual gifts fits in. God is building his church in this world. Jesus Christ is building his church. Remember what Jesus said in Caesarea Philippi, very first sermon I ever preached to you, Matthew Chapter 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” And so Jesus has been building his church for 2000 years. And it's not finished yet, is it? What a project. But he's working on it and he's building and it's rising to be a holy temple in the Lord.

Take a minute and look at Ephesians 2, and we're going to see that again. I want to put that image ever before you so that you know every day that you wake up when the sun comes up in the east and you draw your first breath and put your foot down on the ground for the first time that day and you begin to serve, why you're here on earth. It's the reason that God has left you here on earth, namely to build his church in the ways that he has appointed for you. If you look at Ephesians 2:19 and following, there the apostle Paul speaking to the Ephesians says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” I cannot stress enough how important that foundation is. That foundation, the foundation of the apostles and prophets is the Scripture I believe. You have in your hands now, as you're looking at the Bible, the apostles and prophets, that's a good summary for the Scriptures.

"It's the reason that God has left you here on earth, namely to build his church in the ways that he has appointed for you."

And so we have the New and the Old Testaments, we have the word of God and all of it testifies to Jesus Christ, doesn't it? The old covenant testifies to Christ, the new covenant testifies to Christ as well. He is therefore the chief cornerstone of that foundation; it all points to him. And so this household that he's referring to is built on a solid foundation that cannot be moved. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” And so there's this solid foundation, and we've got this household, this structure being built on this foundation with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. And then in verse 21, “In him,” namely in Christ, “the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” That is what is going on in this world right now. Whether you're an inner varsity staff worker or you're a church member here at First Durham or a missionary in Papua New Guinea, no matter what you're doing as a Christian, you are building this holy temple that's rising in the Lord. And it's far more glorious than Solomon's temple ever was. Nothing, no earthly structure can compete with it. Doesn't matter how magnificent the cathedrals were in medieval Europe, it doesn't matter what kind of stained glass graced their walls, it doesn't matter what kind of carved wood, it doesn't matter how glorious was the temple that God himself commanded Solomon to be built, inlaid and covered with gold and with ivory and decorations. None of it compares with the glory of this temple. This is a spiritual structure being built together and rising to become a holy temple in the Lord.

Verse 22, “And in him you too are being built together.” So the building materials are people. “You too, the Ephesians were building materials for that holy temple,” “you too, are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” There's no temple in the new Jerusalem because we are the temple. We are the holy dwelling place for God and he will dwell in us and with us and God himself will be with them and be their God. And so that is the temple that's being built. And it's not finished yet. There is a blueprint for it. He is the architect of that structure and he's also the builder of the structure. And everything's going according to plan. The structure is right on schedule. It cannot be derailed in any way. There's no way that it will not be finished. There's not going to be any cost overruns either. You don't need to worry about that. It's going to cost just as much effort and blood of the martyrs and witness and sacrifice as he ordains. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” And, “Unless the kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it bears many seeds.” And so they also fall to the ground and die. And the thing just keeps building and growing, and day after day you die to yourself and serve him and the church grows and it rises. So you have this sense of a holy temple structure being built on this foundation and it's growing and it's rising. And that gives value to the work we do, doesn't it? Everything we do has eternal value.

You get the same image over in 1 Peter 2. Take a minute and look over there. 1 Peter 2 the sense of the temple. Remember what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, the woman at the well? They were having a dispute over what the proper place of worship was, the Jews and Samaritans were. Samaritans said that they should worship on Mount Gerizim and the Jews on Mount Zion and Jerusalem; and there was a controversy. And Jesus said, “Woman, believe me, the time is coming when neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. God is a Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” There wouldn't be a temple in the new covenant, not that type, but there is this kind of temple, the spiritual temple of people who come to faith in Christ. And so Peter picks up on the same image here in chapter 2:4, “As you come to him, the living Stone- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” just stop there for a minute. You're a living stone in the wall of that temple if you are a Christian. If you come to faith in Christ, you are set into that wall and nothing can remove you. You're there eternally. Isn't that marvelous? But you're living stones. And so the image gets a little complex here because not only are you a stone in the wall of the temple, but if you keep reading, it says that you are living stones, “being built into a spiritual house,” we already had that image in Ephesians 2, “to be a holy priesthood,” so now what is it, Peter? Am I a stone in the wall or am I a priest in the temple? Well, you're both. You're both. We are a kingdom of priests therefore we have a priestly ministry in this spiritual house, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” So the smoke of the sacrifice just rises day after day. And it's a pleasing aroma to God. Just like when Noah got off the ark and built that altar and offered the clean animals as a sacrifice to God. And it said that God smelled the aroma and it was pleasing to him. Well, this is even more pleasing. That was just old covenant sacrifice, even pre-old covenant, before the law of Moses. But now all that's finished. We don't have animal sacrifices anymore, book of Hebrews tells us very plainly that for all time Jesus Christ has done away with those animal sacrifices, but not with sacrifice. There's still a sacrifice to be offered, and it's by us. Day after day we have a priestly duty, don't we? A priestly ministry to offer up to God these sacrifices to him. And the scripture talks in many places about it. Paul talks about his evangelistic ministry in Romans 15. He says he has the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God to the Gentiles. So every day that he went out to evangelize his priestly duty was to proclaim the gospel. And it was… it's just such a beautiful thing. He just went out and laid his life down. And it wasn't a matter of results, it was a matter of his heart of sacrifice to God. And he left the results to God. And they were great results. Churches planted. And he wrote letters to them and we have them, the churches in Ephesus and Philippi and Colossi and all these places that he was praying for and ministering to in mighty ways. So there was fruit. But for himself, he was offering himself every day to God as a sacrifice. And his evangelism was a priestly offering to God. He saw it that way. And also it says in Hebrews 13, that we should offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name through Jesus Christ. So we praise Him, and the smoke from our praise just rises up like a pleasing aroma to God. Isn't that beautiful?

"You're a living stone in the wall of that temple if you are a Christian. If you come to faith in Christ, you are set into that wall and nothing can remove you. You're there eternally." 

There's lots of ways we can offer sacrifice. And I think our spiritual gifts is a conduit or an avenue in which we consistently are offering up these sacrifices to God. That's our priestly duty, our administrations. And as we do it, the holy temple rises even a little bit more. If the Lord doesn't come back in our generation, we will die and we will go and face him, and he will test the quality of our work, 1 Corinthians 3, he'll see what we've done with that work. And if what we have built is gold, silver, and costly stones, if the work that we've done has been, as it says in Titus according to sound doctrine, it's been built solidly, built to last, then it will survive judgment day. If not, it will go away. And I actually want it to go away. I don't want my straw to come with me into Heaven. I don't want it there. I only want those things that were glorifying to God to come with me into Heaven, purified by the fire of judgment day and brought on through by his grace. But I want there to be a maximum of that. I want to maximize that, right? And so there's a daily administration, a daily offering as a priest in the temple of God. And we all do this. It says, “you, also like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Now, if you put it together as we offer our priestly sacrifices, as we evangelize, as we disciple, as we pray, as we work, what happens to the walls in the temple? They keep getting higher, don't they? More living stones come in, more people come to Christ and they grow up in maturity. And so no one image can handle this. So Paul actually gives us the image of the body growing up into maturity as well. So both of those have the same image, namely of an unfinished work. It's not done yet. And so we have work to do here at First Baptist, don't we? It's not finished yet. And we are called to use our spiritual gifts to build this body up.

Now, what builds it up? I'm going to say to you right now that it is not spiritual gifts per se that builds the body. We know it's Christ that builds. And of course the Holy Spirit builds, and what they do is perfect and flawless. But he has involved us in the building. So from the human perspective, what is it that builds the body of Christ or the temple? It is not spiritual gifts, but it is love working through the spiritual gift that builds the body. You can use your gift in an unloving manner and you didn't build anything. That's the point of 1 Corinthians 13: that the use of a spiritual gift in an unloving manner doesn't build anything at all. And so it is love through the channel of the spiritual gift that builds the body.

"What is it that builds the body of Christ or the temple? It is not spiritual gifts, but it is love working through the spiritual gift that builds the body. "

Look at 1 Corinthians 8. 1 Corinthians 8. We've looked at this before, but let's look at it again. 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.” I'm not going to discuss that in context. We'll get to it another time. But then Paul makes one of these statements that stands alone. It's got its purpose in context, but it's also one of those kind of timeless statements as well, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” You see? Or another word for builds up is edifies, right? So there's this edification going on. There's the sense of the building being built up, and according to 1 Corinthians 8:1, it's love that does it. Love builds up the body. And so I want- as we come to the idea of spiritual gifts, I want you to think of it this way: It's not your gifts that build up the body. It's love that builds up the body. And love frequently uses your gifts to do it. So this way, if your gift isn't encouragement, you can still encourage a brother or sister. Love will use encouragement to build up that brother or sister. May not be your spiritual gift, but you can still encourage, please do, actually. Could be some time that in God's sovereignty it'll orchestrate that you are the only one that can encourage this brother or sister at that moment. May not be your spiritual gift, but it's your work to do.

And so it is love that builds up the body, not spiritual gifts. But spiritual gifts are these kind of conduits, and then the love just flows down them again and again. And so you find yourself using that particular manner. My gift is teaching. And so it's just a pipe through which that love for the body just flows. It's my desire to build you up. I want you to go into this week and just have a harvest. I want you to have seven full days of harvest. So I'm standing here to teach you like this so that you're really motivated to go build the body through evangelism and discipleship and prayer and through all the things that God may call you to do.

Isn't it amazing? Look around the room. Take a minute now and look around. Look at each other. You're all going to go off into amazing things. Go ahead. Look. People, right? Created in the image of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, going to spend eternity with these people. They'll look a little different at that point. Resurrection body. Who knows what that'll look like? Better, I hope. But we'll be together. But each one of us is going to go off in lots of different directions this week, aren't we? And we're going to go off into a bunch of good works that God has ordained in advance that we should walk in them, Ephesians 2:10. And you've got your own good works, and nobody on the face of the earth can do your good works for you but you. And so you're going to go off and you're going to do your good works, right? And oh, wouldn't it be great if you hit a hundred percent of them this week? If you did them all. All of the good works that God has ordained, that you should walk in and that you do them all. And if you do, you're going to be doing them through love. And it's love that builds up the body. Love first and foremost for God, love for God's glory and his name and his radiance and his reputation in this world. Love for God above everything. And the love for your neighbor is yourself, a desire to build up and to care for your neighbor.

Well that's a setting in context. Look at 1 Corinthians 13. And we should be able to finish the rest of this chapter because we're almost done last time. But there Paul speaks about gifts and the relationship between gifts and love. And if I make it hard for you to hear 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings for the rest of your life, I'm sorry, it's not my intention, but this is really about spiritual gifts, isn't it? Okay, as you look at it and how love and gifts work together. But don't worry about it when you hear that that beautiful wedding poetry just enjoy it. Weddings are beautiful, and just let it come over- and then it's great, that's fine. But in context, we're really talking about spiritual gifts, all right? Let's read it again, 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease. Where there are tongues, they will be stilled. Where there is knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now, we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I am fully known. And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Now, we've already seen in the first three verses that spiritual gifts, and this is a list of spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, right? Gift of prophecy, right? Gift of faith, the gift of giving. These are spiritual gifts. But what he's saying is that it's possible to use the spiritual gifts without love. And if you use the spiritual gift without love, you have not built the body. “Knowledge puffs up, but it is love that builds up.” And so it's got to be love moving down through the spiritual gift that builds the body. So he says that love is indispensable to the proper use of your spiritual gifts. And actually it is really, that the spiritual gift is a tool in the hands of love to build the body.

Okay, so we've got to have love. So then he tells us what love is. It's a series of character traits. It's a way of carrying yourself. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy,” as just as we just read. This is what love is like. Now as you read through these, how often would you say that these adjectives characterize you? That's a challenge, isn't it? I find 1 Corinthians 13 to be one of the toughest chapters in the entire Bible. It's way beyond beautiful poetry to me now. It's saying, “God, is it really possible that I could end up like this? Is that really possible at the end of sanctification that I could end up like this? Andy is patient. Andy is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast. He is not proud. He is not rude. He is not self-seeking. He is not easily angered. He keeps no record of wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, trust, hopes, and perseveres. Is it really possible that I'll end up like that?” Well, it's not just possible. It's promised to me. It's promised that I'll be glorious. I'll be as morally perfect as Jesus and so will all of you in Christ. That's incredible, isn't it? But still a daily challenge as you take your life and line it alongside what it should be in scripture.

But then the third section of this, basically he's saying that spiritual gifts are temporary. They're temporary. They'll come a time that we don't need them anymore. Isn't that remarkable? Now, think about what I've been saying so far this evening. What is the time? When will the church no longer need spiritual gifts? What's that? 

[Audience speaks]

Well, yeah, when it's finished, when the building project is done, do you think it'll ever be finished? Of course. It's not one of these endless kind of boondoggle type things that God just wants to keep going and going. He's got an omega day, doesn't he? “I'm the Alpha and the Omega.” There's an Omega day. There's going to be a final day of human history. And then the work's going to be done. The temple will be completed, and then we won't need spiritual gifts anymore. But also for us individually, we personally won't need spiritual gifts anymore when we die and go to the Lord. Because spiritual gifts give us a source of information now about God, don't we? We're talking about God now. Secular people or atheists say that God talk is foolishness, right? It's just a human phenomenon. We know better, because we have prophecy, right? We have a word from the Lord, and he's told us about himself, self-revelation. And so it's not nonsense or foolishness for us to say God is love or God is light because he told us about these aspects of His character. But we only know in part, prophecy does not give us the whole picture, does it? Not even the apostles and prophets put together gives us the whole picture. The Bible's incomplete. It's perfect and yet incomplete. But there'll come a day that our knowledge will be complete. And it's not going to come to us through spiritual gifts, but through a direct mediation of God himself when we see him face to face. When we see him face to face we won't need the pipelines of spiritual gifts anymore. We won't need it. We'll be beyond that. We will know fully, even as we have been fully known by God. We will all know God. We will see him face to face. We'll be in his very presence. And we won't need spiritual gifts anymore.

And so don't stress out about whatever your spiritual gift package is. It's temporary anyway. You're going to use it for a while until God takes you home. So just use those conduits, whatever they are, and then others that aren't your spiritual gifts, use them too. Encourage even if you're not gifted with the gift of encouragement. Use those gifts and use other opportunities when you can to build the church up in love. Build the church every day of your life until God calls you home. And then you will leave these tools behind you. You'll leave the tools that have been in your hand called spiritual gifts behind you. But love will come with you, won't it? Love is eternal. The love for the body of Christ is eternal. That's never going to go away. It's going to be perfected in heaven, but it's going to come with you.

And so spiritual gifts are temporary. That's the whole point of the third section. Very poetic. And we get more things in here than that and we could meditate on it. But that's the central lesson of the third section of 1 Corinthians 13. Spiritual gifts are temporary, but love is eternal. So don't be discouraged or covetous or yearning or envy filled about somebody else's gifts, whatever. Do your gifts. Do them to the glory of God. Use your gifts in love to build the body of Christ every day of your life. And you as a faithful co-laborer with Jesus Christ will be fully rewarded. God is not unjust. He will not forget your work or the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them, Hebrews 6:10. He's not going to forget. He will fully reward you. But do it. Go out there and do it. Use your gifts to build the church this week and pray for each other that they would use their gifts. We are still, as a church, not using our spiritual gifts fully, not the way we should. We need to keep growing in this. But realize the superiority of love. It is love that builds the body and not the spiritual gifts.

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