Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"The Purpose of Gifts" Sermon: I Corinthians 12:1-11



“The Purpose of Gifts”
[I Corinthians 12:1-11]
November 8, 2015 Second Reformed Church
            We are stewards of everything we have and are.  That means that we do not own anything – we do not have the ultimate say over anything.  We understand that God is the Owner of everything – even the Creator of everything – including everything we have and everything we are.  God has appointed us to be stewards of His creation – He calls us to have “dominion” over everything that is.  We are to care for and use everything that God has made and everything we are in ways that are pleasing to God – in ways that are glorifying to God – in ways that show God to be God.
            Now, if someone gives you or me a gift, whose is it?
            “If someone gives me a gift, it is mine, mine, mine!  It is for me and I can do whatever I want with it.  No one has authority over me to tell me what to do with a gift that is given to me.”  Right?
            The church in Corinth was in Greece along the trade route.  Since it was along the trade route, all kinds of products came through it – as well as all different philosophies and religions.  Having all these competing views coming through caused confusion in the church, and Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians to correct errors and to lead them in right biblical understanding and living.
            The text we heard read this morning is part of Paul’s response to the disunity that had arisen in the church over spiritual gifts.  We may remember that Paul gives several different – and, thus, incomplete – lists of spiritual gifts in his letters.  He gives an overview of what some of the gifts are, but doesn’t list them all.  And some of us have taken quizzes or “inventories” to figure out what our spiritual gifts are.
            Briefly then, what are spiritual gifts?
            Spiritual gifts are those gifts, giftednesses, abilities, inclinations, and so forth, that God the Holy Spirit gives Christians.  A Christian usually has one – or a few gifts – that he or she is specifically gifted in – though each of us may have many areas in which we are inclined and helped by the Holy Spirit.
            One description Paul gives is this:
            “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8, ESV).
            Paul lists a number of gifts that Christians are given:  prophecy – and by this he does not mean what we think of “prophecy” today, but (primarily) preaching, service, teaching, generosity in giving, leadership, and mercy – and there are others.  And all of these are not done in drudgery, but as Paul indicates, in joy – the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit give joy.
            So, if you love to teach and get great joy out of teaching – helping people to know and understand Christianity – that may be your gift.  If you love to serve people for the sake of Christ and His Gospel – to make sure everyone has what they need – to make sure everything is in its place and clean and fresh – that may be your gift.  If you love to give to the church in thanks to God – money – time – things – if your greatest joy is giving to others that they may have joy – that may be your gift.  If you get joy out of taking charge and leading people in the church – that may be your gift.  If you love to help people in the church who are in need and you are filled with joy when needs are met – that may be your gift.  And so forth.
            With that background, we turn to our text and consider what Paul tells the church at Corinth, and us:
First, only Christians have the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“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.”
Paul begins by explaining that there is a difference between having gifts and abilities and being gifted by the Holy Spirit – even though they can look very much alike.  Paul reminds them that before they believed in Jesus savingly – when they worshipped idols, they and others with them exhibited excellence in teaching and serving and mercy and generosity and so forth.
Don’t we all know non-Christians who – as far as we can see – are wonderful, giving, merciful, knowledgeable, etc., people? 
So the Corinthian Church had people coming into the church with what seemed to be the gifts of the Spirit, but they were not Christians. There were people coming into the church with what seemed to be the gifts of the Spirit, and the Corinthians were saying, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”  But Paul explained that that was not the case.
In fact, there were people coming into the Corinthian Church with what seemed to be the gifts of the Spirit, but they were denying that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – they were denying the Gospel – they were denying that salvation is though Jesus Alone.  And they were not denying Jesus in a casual or polite way – no, they were saying, “Jesus is accursed!”
That is still a very polite translation – the word Paul uses is the word we bring into the English language as “anathema.”  They were saying, “Jesus is anathema!  Jesus be damned to Hell!”
And Paul tells them that there is no way that someone who denies Jesus as God the Son and Savior can receive the gifts of the Spirit – especially when they are verbally – unashamedly – calling for Jesus to be damned – because they disbelieve Him  and His Gospel so much!
No, only true believers receive the gifts of the Spirit, and true believers are those that unashamedly confess, “Jesus is Lord.”
And again, we miss something in English – the word that Paul uses here for “Lord” is the Greek translation of the word that was used for the Name of God that God gave to Moses at the burning bush.  What that means is that here Paul defines a Christian as someone who confesses with their heart and mouth that Jesus is the Almighty and Sovereign God of Israel.  If you do not believe that Jesus is the One True God, you are not a Christian, and you do not have the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
So, Paul tells the Corinthians – and us – that anyone who seems to have the gifts of the Spirit – no matter how “gifted” and persuasive they are – if they deny Jesus is God the Son and Savior, they are not Christians and they don’t have the gifts of the Spirit.
And, if you are a Christian – if you confess with your heart and mouth that Jesus is Lord – that He is the One True God – that His Gospel is the One Way to salvation – the Only Way to be right with God, then you have the gifts of the Spirit.
Christians, and only Christians, have the gifts of the Spirit, and all Christians have gifts of the Spirit.
Second, all of the gifts are from the same One God.
“Now there are a variety 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.”
As Paul issues his next corrective, we see that there was a lack of humility among the Christians in Corinth with regards to their gifts – different Christians were claiming that their gifts reflected different Persons of the Godhead or were innately better gifts, and they were being prideful about it.
People were saying things like: 
“I have the gift of prophecy – no one has heard the Scriptures explained as well as I can explain them, so, obviously, I am obviously a greater person that everyone else in the church.”
“Well, I have the gift of humility, and everyone wants to be humble, don’t you think?  It’s a great burden to be so humble, but I am great enough to carry it.”
“Oh, you have the gift of service?  Well, we do need you people, don’t we?  I am a teacher – like Jesus, nobody greater than Jesus, right?”
“Well, I have been gifted in languages, and I can proclaim the Gospel to many different people groups because of it – the first and best gift of the Spirit.”
Paul counters this sinful thinking by telling them that there is One Spirit and One Lord and One God; the Three Persons of the Trinity are the same One God, and, similarly, the gifts that God gives and empowers are varieties of gifts and service and activities; the gifts of God are one – just as there is a unity in the diversity of the Godhead, there is a unity in diversity in the gifts.
God Who persons in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Who is One God, gives a variety of gifts to Christians, which are different, but equal.  No gift is “better” than another – they are just different. 
We who are Christians have been given gifts by the Spirit in Trinity which are different, but of the same ministry and in the same service to God.
Third, the Spirit manifests Himself in various ways in each believer for the good of the Church.
“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.”
            The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is that they be used for the common good of the Church.  Whatever way God the Spirit has gifted you and me with gifts of the Spirit, those gifts were given to us – not to keep to ourselves – not to brag about to and against others – but to use for the sake of each and every Christian in the church.
            And God has called a specific group a people together in each church and gifted all those Christians in the church with the gifts that we need to share with one another to be the church in this place.  If you are here, this morning, and you are a Christian, you have a gift (or gifts) from God the Spirit that He has given you to use in this church for all of our good and to His Glory.
            God knows each of us and each church, and He knows what each church needs, and He calls us to the churches in which we worship so we might complete each other and our usefulness in Christ.  If you are a Christian, you are here because we need you and you need us to be the church in this place.
If you have been gifted to preach, then we need you to preach, for our sake as the Church and to the glory of God.
If you have been gifted to be generous with you money and things and time, then we need you to give in joy and thanksgiving to the church and to each of us as is fit, for our sake as the Church and to the glory of God.
If you have been gifted with compassion, then we need you to listen to us and hear us and mourn with us and rejoice with us, for our sake as the Church and to the glory of God.
If you have been gifted musically, then we need you to play and sing with us, for our sake as the Church and to the glory of God.
If you have been gifted with tidiness and organization, we need you to help keep the church tidy and organized, for our sake as the Church and to the glory of God.
If you have been gifted with a passion for the lost, we need you to help us to have zeal to proclaim the Gospel to the whole Creation, for our sake as a Church and to the glory of God.
If you have been gifted with leadership and scriptural understanding, we need you to teach – and serve as an elder, if you are called, for our sake as a Church and to the glory of God.
Do we understand?
All we who are Christians have been gifted by God the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Church – we are all different, but we are equal and necessity to the Church.
What gift or gifts do you have?
What gifts has God given you that you are able to share with this church? 
What are you empowered by God to do that reflects Christ and His Gospel and gives you joy?
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we ask that You would be with each one who is here and convict each of us as to whether or not we have believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ – whether we truly believe that He is God the Son and Savior.  We ask that any who have not believed would be changed and confess Jesus as Lord for the sake of the Church and to Your Glory.  We ask that each of us would be assured in our faith and understand what gifts the Holy Spirit has given us to use in this church for this community of believers and for Your Glory.  Keep us from pride or from thinking that the gift the Spirit has given us is unworthy, for we are all necessary parts of Your Body who belong to the Church.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

No comments: