Ephesians 3: 1f.; 1 Corinthians 12: 1-7; Romans 12: 4-5; 1 Corinthians 12: 14-21; 27-28
Paul sets forth a profound truth which has not been known before,
but which was given to Paul in a special way to be shared with all of God's people.
The real secret of the functioning of the will of God in the lives and conduct of Christians,
so that believers can live together in blessed communion with mutual love and esteem,
is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1: 27)
It is the indwelling Christ, who enables believers to live in the will of God with love and good will
toward all men, so that all human distinctions and earthly categories are gone.
Paul is speaking of the grace given to him.
Can you understand that each Christian, as a member of the body of Christ is given something
to do in His will, which no one else can do?
Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus that they might know the meaning of the grace of God in Christ.
Paul uses himself as an example:
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God
which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery."
Through this teaching they would come to know more about the grace of God that was in Christ Jesus.
This is an important message for any Christian.
Paul says, "I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."
He is saying, "I've got something to say and I'm responsible to say it."
"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me
for you." (3: 2)
Paul had been entrusted with an understanding of the grace of God which he was to share
with other believers.
Those of us who have this wonderful news have a responsibility to pray and to tell others.
You have something to do, something to say, something to show, something to suffer,
and something to give that no one else has.
The assignment you have from God is specific.
Each believer has a task that is uniquely his or hers.
God does reveal to each individual his or her individual responsibility.
It is often implied that if a person were a Christian, he would be good and he would do good.
Unconsciously perhaps, yet nonetheless, it is felt that the person, the believer, is the doer
all the way through.
This whole line of thought is wrong.
If this were true, the person who seemed to do well would become proud.
In this connection, if such a person seems to be obedient and seems to be doing the right thing,
he may well become smug and self-satisfied.
If he seems to fail, as sometimes he will, he becomes depressed and frightened because
he thinks it is all up to him.
This person feels his life to be barren, and begins to doubt.
He feels that there could not be anything real about his faith because he is not doing anything.
All these things are the result of a great big mistake.
It is natural to feel that if one is ever to achieve anything, he has to strive to do his best.
We are so slow to realize our natural pride.
The natural person feels it is all up to him.
But, notice what Paul has to say in Romans 12: 6:
"The gifts we possess differ as they are allotted to us by God's grace and must be exercised accordingly."
Here, Paul uses a Greek word meaning, "grace gifts."
This word is frequently used in the New Testament to describe our new spiritual capacities.
The significance of it is that it ties the idea of our gifts to the grace of God.
We know "grace" means "unmerited favor."
God has given me something I did not deserve.
He did not present me with my gifts because I was highly skilled, or properly born,
or spiritually perfect.
My place in the Lord's body is an act of grace.
My function as a member of that body is an act of grace.
My service for Him, using the "spiritual gifts" is a function of grace.
There isn't a single reason why I should ever brag about my gifts.
They are not mine.
How I use them and when I use them and where I use them must be God-directed.
I must not be doing my own thing.
When I do my own thing, I am out of the will of my Father.
I am deep into self-serving.
All is out of whack in my life, home, and church.
When I was in seminary, one of my fellow students was a spastic.
He made straight "A's."
There was nothing wrong with his mind.
He constantly strained trying to get his body to respond to his will.
He was trying to bring his rebellious muscles under control.
His condition is similar to the church comprised of those who are not jointly committed to the Head.
They desire to "do their own thing."
The same with "this church" -- "our church."
When the Head of the body (Jesus Christ) enters our life, we are placed into that body quite deliberately!
We are given a practical function to perform.
A hand or an eye must do its specific job in the body's life.
The human body is an amazing creation -- every part of the body does something.
1 Corinthians 12: 7 explains that the Spirit is given to our lives so that we might
function "for some useful purpose."
Therefore, the Christ-given Gift comes to us with gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 12: 1, the term, "gifts of the Spirit" is, in the Greek,
simply "the spirituals."
Listen: "About gifts of the Spirit, there are some things of which I do not wish you
to remain ignorant...
In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some useful purpose."
So, here the term, "gifts of the Spirit" or "the spirituals,"
describes specific capacities produced in us by the entrance of the Holy Spirit.
This means that I have received spiritual abilities,
so that I might be used adequately as a member of Christ's body.
The Spirit's life within me is a practical possession.
He is not mine to enjoy having, as I would enjoy playing with a toy.
He indwells me to use me to carry out the tasks directed by the Head.
We must be certain that He directs us, and that is not we doing the directing.
God, who outfitted the human body, has also outfitted the body of Christ.
In Romans 12: 4-5, Paul says,
"For just as in a single human body there are many limbs and organs,
all with different functions, so all of us, united with Christ, form one body,
serving individually as limbs and organs to one another."
As I said earlier, there is no reason why I should ever brag about my gifts,
nor is there any earthly reason why I should be jealous over the "spiritual gifts"
possessed by another member of the body.
Remember, he also has them by grace.
When I was born into the physical world, I was endowed with certain talents related to my function in it.
The use of these human talents, or skills, makes it possible for me to contribute to human society.
Man's ability to be an accountant, to be an artist, to design a bridge, makes him a productive person.
"Spiritual gifts" are given to us in order that we might be productive, functioning
members of that new world in Christ.
These gifts are obviously much more than our natural, or physical talents.
We have missed the teaching of the Scripture if we think that "spiritual gifts"
refer to using natural talents for the glory of God.
Someone playing the piano in church instead of in a beer joint is not exercising his spiritual "gift."
He is simply using his natural talents for the glory of God, rather than for the devil.
There is a world of difference between the talent of teaching practiced by an atheistic college professor,
and the gift of teaching practiced by a spiritual, Biblical teacher.
Many Christians are blind to the very fact that they even possess grace-gifts.
Notice that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12: 14-21:
"A body is not one single organ, but many... the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you.'"
Nothing is more foreign to the New Testament than the idea that spiritual gifts are to be
exercised privately, or that the individual receives them for personal enrichment.
We are not to be "Lone Ranger" Christians.
A believer is missing what God made him to be
when he is not intimately joined to a local body of Christians, called the "church."
Salvation of the individual is a personal thing, but the very act joins us to the "family of God."
For one to be a member of the family demands an active relationship with its members at all times.
John warns against hating other members of the family.
Paul tells us that members of the family are never to be unequally yoked to non-family members.
We are cautioned in the book of Hebrews against neglecting fellowship with our brothers and sisters.
Peter describes the family as a group of "living stones," carefully fitted to each other.
How does the average Christian select the church he will join?
He may possibly weigh such matters as:
quality of preaching, newness of buildings, adequacy of the choir,
effectiveness of youth programs, size of congregation, convenience,
how much they go on over him, how much they visit him...
What kind of a freak does a church become when one or all these reasons become the standard
of deciding which church to join.
Too often, these things are the standard!
A person should be asking the Lord where He would have him join.
What we should ask, "Is this where the Holy Spirit is leading us to join?"
Has the Holy Spirit led you here?
If He hasn't, you shouldn't be here!
If He has, then you should be here all the time,
with all your abilities and all your spiritual gifts.
1 Peter 4: 10:
"Whatever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one another,
like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms."
"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father's throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
"To love someone more dearly everyday,...
To help a wandering child to find his way,
To ponder o're a noble tho't and pray,
And smile when evening falls,
This is my task!"