Sunday, January 1, 2017, 9:37 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Keeps Me Singing.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 12 (Select vv. ESV).
Spiritual Gifts (vv. 1, 4-7, 11)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed… 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… All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Spiritual gifts are first of all given to believers in Jesus Christ. Non-Christians don’t have gifts of the Spirit of God. The gifts are also given to us from the Spirit of God as he wills, not as we will. Although the scriptures do teach that we should desire the higher (or greater) gifts (v. 31), it is still God who determines which gifts we get. As well, spiritual gifts are not to be confused with natural talents. We might have a natural talent for singing, drawing, writing, playing a musical instrument, organization, sewing, cooking, teaching, etc., but if we had these talents prior to being saved, they are natural talents, not spiritual gifts, although they, too, come from God.
Also, spiritual gifts are supernatural. In other words, they will often be something that we did not have in the natural, or that the exercise of them goes way beyond what we were able to do naturally. For instance, God may give us wisdom beyond our years, or beyond what we had naturally, so that it will be obvious that this came from him and not from ourselves. He may give us a gift for writing spiritual songs when we did not have this gift before, or he may give us the supernatural ability to have understanding of how God is working in our culture, or in our day and time, so that we can relay this to others as a practical application of the Word of God to today.
As well, spiritual gifts are not for us alone. In other words, they are for the common good, i.e. they are to be used within the body of Christ, or out in the world, depending on the gift, for men’s and women’s strengthening, encouragement and comfort, as well as for the edification (instruction, building up and spiritual maturity) of the church. And, each one of us has a part in using our gifts to minister God’s grace to others. We grow and build ourselves up in love and faith as each part does its work, not as only a few people work while the others are spectators, like attendees to a show.
One Body, Many Members (vv. 12-13)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within us to counsel, guide, lead, empower, strengthen and equip us for ministry (for service) to our Lord, and to others. The Spirit of God then gives us spiritual gifts as He determines. And, God assigns all of us parts (roles) within the body of Christ which we are to fulfill, which are spiritual roles, and as he chooses. These body parts were predetermined by God, as he had chosen us in Christ even before the creation of the world (See: Eph. 1:3-4; 2 Tim. 1:8-9).
These God-given assignments are not to be confused, therefore, with man-created assignments. They are not the same as being asked to work in the nursery or to teach a Sunday School class or small group, or to serve on a committee, though there may be some overlaps in these areas. Nonetheless, God may guide a church leader to ask us to serve in a capacity as directed by God. And, this may be our God-given assignment, but it may not be if the leader making the decision is not in tune with the Spirit of God, and/or if he is following man-made role models for church ministry, rather than being guided by the Spirit and the Word of God.
You see, too many institutional churches are following man-made models for how to do church instead of being guided by the Spirit of God, and so the body ends up being all lopsided, because the “pastor” is the one giving out all the messages, visiting the sick, counseling the hurting, and managing the daily operations of the church, and all else seems to revolve around this one man (or several) and his (or their) ministry. But, this is backwards! For one, the ministry of the church should revolve around Jesus Christ and be guided and operated by the Spirit of God, not by man. And, all of us should have a part, i.e. all of us should share in the ministry, yet not as man determines, but as God determines (See: Eph. 4:11-16).
“I Don’t Need You” (vv. 14-26)
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
The result of the church being guided by humans, rather than by the Spirit of God, is that there are many gifted people within the body of Christ whose gifts and roles are being snuffed out or ignored. Either they are being made to feel as though their parts (roles) and gifting are unimportant or of less value, and so they feel they are not necessary to the body, or else they are being told, in one way or another, that they are not wanted because they “don’t fit” in with man’s goals and objectives for the church, i.e. with their man-made businesses, which are marketed as such, too.
The sad reality of all this is that many of our pastors and lay leaders are being trained in how to market the “church” to particular people groups, and how to push away or send away the “unwanted” who don’t fit with their particular church role model. More and more the “church” is being marketed to the world, and formed around the “seeker-sensitive” role model of how to attract the world to the “church,” and in how to keep the world coming back and craving for more of the Christianized version of what the world is offering, i.e. entertainment to feed the flesh. So, in order to do this, they have diluted the gospel or they teach a half-truth gospel message in order to make it more appealing and acceptable to the people of the world.
But, they forget that Jesus is the one who will build his church, and he will do it his way, not man’s ways. They forget, as well, that the church is the body of Christ with Christ as the head, instead of a business (corporation) of human-making with the US (or other) government as the head. And, they forget that the gatherings of the church are intended for the building up, strengthening, encouragement and spiritual maturity of the body of Christ, as EACH PART does its work, and as God has chosen and has assigned. And, that the church is then to go out into the world with the gospel so that people may come to faith in Jesus Christ, and THEN become part of the body of Christ, his church.
And, thus, many mature Christians who have much to offer the church have been pushed aside and forced to go someplace else, often to only find more of the same someplace else, and wondering where they can find the body of Christ, where Christ is truly head, and where the Spirit of God is the one gifting, equipping and empowering people in ministry so that everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their God-given roles and to exercise their God-given gifts, according to the teachings of scripture.
Yet, God has allowed all this to take place for his purposes, and he will come out on top, and his will will be accomplished through it all for the sake of his body, his church, in reviving them, and in renewing them in their walks of faith and fellowship with him. And, I believe that even where men may reject us and cast us aside, that if we are listening to God, and we are following his lead, he will make the way for us to be used of him despite man-made religion and their rejection of many of the Lord’s servants. Where we are dishonored by men, God will honor us, and he will use us for his glory, if we are following him in obedience and in surrender to his will.
He Keeps Me Singing / Luther B. Bridgers
There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low:
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.
Though sometimes he leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See his footprints all the way.
Soon he’s coming back to welcome me
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown;
I shall reign with him on high.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.