This is a continuation of part one of this post, Top Ten Foundational Truths About Spiritual Gifts, #1-5. CLICK HERE to read it first, and then read the below, which are foundational truths #6-10.
6. When we serve with our Spiritual gifts, the fellowship/congregation (us) will grow. This appears to mean growth in Spiritual maturity(see below), and in numbers. Eph. 4:16, “16 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.” Ephesians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. It is so deep, powerful and beautiful, and shows quite clearly that God has given gifted people to the church in order for the church/Body of Christ to grow in love, to grow in numbers, to grow in encouragement, to grow in strength, and to grow in maturity. As each part of the Body of Christ DOES ITS WORK, the whole Body will be brought to maturity and growth. Conversely, when even a few parts of the local Body of Christ are not exercising their gifting/doing their work, then there will be immaturity, less love, more discouragement, more weakness, and a decrease in ability to reach the lost and fulfill the Great Commission.
7. Every gift and gifted person is necessary. Stop and think for a moment, and try to name all of the pastors that you know, both local and national, living and dead. If you have been a Christian for any number of years, then I imagine you can name at least two dozen pastors. Some of my favorites are: John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, Tim Keller, Dick Lucas, Matt Chandler, Martyn Lloyd Jones, Mark Dever, Frank Barker, Edwin Jenkins, David Platt, Ron Lotz, David McConnell, Hudson Taylor (who pastored as a missionary), and many others. The funny thing about us knowing so many pastors is that the word “pastor” in the New Testament really only appears ONCE in terms of describing an actual role or office in the church. As well, unless I am misremembering, I don’t believe that the New Testament ever identifies a pastor by name, though you could possibly make the case that Timothy was a pastor, maybe Titus as well. The reason I bring that up is that we are in a very pastor-centric state right now in the Western church, but the New Testament itself is not at all pastor-centric. I’ve always found that odd. As a pastor myself, I’m not offended personally that the church is very pastor-centric, but I am offended biblically speaking. We are pastor-teacher heavy! Paul takes careful pains to disabuse the Corinthian church of the notion that only some giftings are necessary or highly spiritual. In fact, he warns them to consider every gift “NECESSARY.” Necessary is a strong word. You can’t live without necessary things, and Paul clearly outlines in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22 that ALL of the gifts – even ones that might not seem important, or might seem odd – are necessary. We all need each other – we all need every gift that the Holy Spirit chooses to distribute in a particular fellowship at a particular time.
This particular foundational truth is a big deal to me. At the church I am privileged to be on the elder/pastor team at, we have a saying that helps define us, “Everybody plays ball.” It is one of my life statements, and, I believe one of the clearest teachings of Scripture that the modern church often misses. I realize that it is a sports analogy, but what is meant here is that every saved Christian has a gift that is CRUCIAL and NECESSARY and even INDISPENSABLE to the Body of Christ. Everybody gets to participate and use their spiritual gift. Everybody gets to have the joy of being used by God to build up His people. Everybody gets to be on the great adventure of ministry. There are NO benchwarmers in the Body of Christ – everybody plays ball!
1 Cor. 12:20-22, “So the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 Now there are many parts, yet one body.21 So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”
8. Spiritual gifts cannot be neglected, lest they become dormant. I find it fascinating that somebody that was as fruitful as Timothy would require not one, but two reminders in Scripture to fan his gifting into flame, and not let it lie dormant. Keep in mind that he was on Paul’s apostolic team, a church planter, probably a pastor, possibly an apostle, and co-author of more biblical books than anybody save Paul himself. If Timothy needed those kinds of reminders, then how much more do we? Don’t let your gift lie dormant – fan it into flames!
2 Timothy 1:6-7, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
9. The variety of spiritual gifts given, and the variety of roles that gifted people will have, are meant to bring UNITY (in diversity) to the Body of Christ, not disunity. The way forward to unity, real unity in the Body of Christ/church, is kind of interesting. Rather than God making all of His people similar, with similar passions, roles and giftings, He has instead purposed to fit the body together with remarkable diversity and differences; and He has done so with the intention that there be NO DIVISION IN THE BODY. Yes, we are different! Different passions, different gifts, different callings – but that should not separate us – we should be so unified that when one of us suffers, we all suffer, and when one of us is honored, then we all rejoice. Gifts of the Spirit aren’t meant to divide, but to unite!
1 Corinthians 14:24-26, “Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, So that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. 26 So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.“
10. One can apparently be remarkably gifted in terms of spiritual gifts, but not be at all mature or loving. Such a person should not be praised, emulated or followed due to the dynamism and strength of their gifting – they are NOTHING. Let me say again – a person can be remarkably gifted as a pastor, or teacher, or prophet, or evangelist, or televangelist, and the fact that they are strongly gifted does not mean that they are to be imitated and followed. Spiritual fruits (see Galatians 5) are a much more reliable indicator of maturity than spiritual gifts. Moreover, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that one can be very gifted – with some of the highest or most spiritual seeming gifts, but if they aren’t manifesting obvious love, then they are of no count in the Body of Christ – they are nothing! I believe that one of the reasons why the Western church has seen so much scandal in the past fifty years is because we have elevated strongly gifted people to prominent (and unaccountable) positions of leadership, but we have not rightly evaluated the maturity or love level of those people to discern whether or not they should be in such places of leadership.
1 Corinthians 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
I will close with one more big chunk of Scripture. I believe that 1 Corinthians 14:26-31 MIGHT be the clearest and deepest picture we have of the powerful, fresh, first century gathering of believers – one of the most detailed descriptions of a church gathering in the Bible. Note that Paul is upholding an ideal here – this is, I believe, what we are to look like when we gather. We don’t look like this. Indeed, I don’t believe I know of any gathering of Christians in America that does, but this is the picture of the first century church, given to us in Scripture, that I believe we are supposed to seek to attain:
1 Corinthians 14:26-31, “26 What then is the conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification. 27 If any person speaks in another language, there should be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and someone must interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, that person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should evaluate. 30 But if something has been revealed to another person sitting there, the first prophet should be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged. 32 And the prophets’ spirits are under the control of the prophets, 33 since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”