1 Cor. 12:4-20, 27-31
Now we come to a topic which has caused a lot of division in the body of Christ, namely the gifts of the Spirit. Again it’s sadly ironic that this topic, like the work of the Spirit in general, is a cause of division instead of unity. The gifts are meant to unite and grow the church, not hurt and divide it.
I’ve gone back and forth as to how to handle this subject. I have some strong beliefs about the gifts, especially as regarding the most controversial one (tongues). I don’t think I’m ready to tackle that sticky topic in this forum, and I’m not sure if I ever will. But there are some principles upon which every fair-minded Christian—no matter your view on tongues—can agree.
First, we need to understand that our gifts are given in relationship to the body of Christ. Notice in today’s passage that Paul links the two concepts together. Your place in the body is defined by what role you have to play. We’ll get into this more tomorrow, but your gift is not given for your own personal use and enjoyment.
Second, we need to get it in our head that one’s value in the body of Christ is not dependent on which gift(s) we possess. The Spirit sovereignly distributes the gifts according to his own purposes. I think a problem a lot of Christians have (especially the less mature ones) is that they place waaaaaay too much value on the more “showy” gifts. They tend to think that because they don’t preach or teach or do great acts for the Kingdom, then they aren’t as valuable. Nonsense.
I don’t have the gift of administration, but find me a successful church without it. There’s a gift of mercy and a gift of hospitality. There’s a gift of giving and a gift of service. As today’s passage points out, there are parts of the body of Christ which we tend to overlook, but we'd immediately miss them if they were gone. You probably never think about your little toe unless it hurts (or somehow got cut off or damaged), but it helps correct your balance as you walk.
Third, this passage tells us that everyone has a place in the body, and the body is hindered or even crippled without that person fulfilling that spot. And the Spirit is the One who put you there to fulfill that role. He chose you for that specific purpose, and there’s no effective substitute for you.
You need the body, and the body needs you. A hand lying on a table by itself is useless (as well as gross), but a hand attached to a body has incredible uses. And no part of the body can say to any other part “We don’t need you.”
Now read the last portion of Scripture again. You might be told by some people that God intends that everyone exhibit a certain gift. If you don’t have gift X, then you’re a second-class citizen in the Kingdom. I don’t know how Paul can make it any clearer: We’re not all supposed to have the same gift. The notion that everyone is expected to exhibit gift X is completely against Scripture, as best as I can tell.
And finally we need to understand that we have to work in unity. I’m not talking about agreeing on every minor issue. But we need to be one in purpose and all going in the same direction under our Head, namely Christ. My hand is there to fulfill its purpose in the body, not doing its own thing on the side.
So what’s your gift? Do you know what it is? Are you using it to participate and aid the body of Christ? Do you feel less significant because you don’t have a certain gift? Hope this helps.
Holy Spirit of God, you’ve picked out a place in the body which is just perfect for me. Thank you. Lord, it’s all for your glory, not mine. Not to me, oh Lord, not to me, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.