[August 21]--The Spirit at Work: Why the Gifts?

1 Pet. 4:10-11

OK, today we’re (finally) wrapping up the mini-series (some of you might call it a “mini-epic”) on the nature and work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have anything totally new today, but I just wanted to spend some time emphasizing a really important point regarding spiritual gifts before we continue with the book of Acts.

Yesterday I mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating: We need to pound into our heads why God the Spirit chooses to give certain gifts to certain people. Paul was extra clear that there's no gift that everyone is expected to have, just like the body needs all its parts and not just the eye or nose or arm or leg. Each member of the body has its part to play, and each is essential. Just like a person without an eye is not whole, neither is a church if each of its members is not fulfilling his/her role and exercising their gift(s). You need the Body, and the Body needs you.

Time for a pop quiz. Today’s passage gives us the two reasons for the gifts. Read the passage again carefully and see if you can pick them out. Come on, it’s only two verses.

All right, time’s up. What are the two reasons listed in 1 Peter 4:10-11 for why we receive spiritual gifts? If you listed 1) To serve others, especially the church, and 2) To glorify God, you win the prize. Let’s examine them one at a time.

The immediate reason why the Spirit gives gifts is to help us serve others. Peter mentions speaking and serving, probably practical service. This leads to the church body being built up. Paul discusses this in Eph. 4:11-16. The apostle tells us that God gave some people gifts in order to equip the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers (from the Greek it looks like the two are linked as one gift). The reason for this is to build up the body of Christ, just like an infant grows into maturity. As the child matures, he gains height and weight. This is done by adding mass onto his body.

Actually, someone gave me this new perspective on the gifts some time ago, and it really opened my eyes: Actually my spiritual gift is the Spirit’s means of giving me to the church. It’s not teaching or preaching or administration which is given to the church. It’s me. I was given to the church. The so-called spiritual gift is just a way for me to contribute. I'm a way for God to manifest his grace. My sister Sally is another way for God to manifest his grace. So is Juan and so is Saeko and so is every other sibling in Christ I have.

The second reason Peter gives for the gifts is for glorifying God. Actually this is the ultimate reason for everything we do. The reason we want to see the church being served and the body growing is in order to give glory to our Savior God.

How does this work out in daily practice? Well, there’s at least one application I see right off the bat.

In this passage which tells us the reasons for the gifts, do you see anything about stroking your ego? Anything about making you feel good about yourself? Anything about bringing attention to yourself? Um, no. The Holy Spirit of God does not bestow a gift on person X for the sake of person X. If your spiritual gift is being used to build yourself up or make you feel better about yourself, then something is horribly wrong.

This is an especially important warning to people like me who have been given some of the more “showy” gifts. I teach, but there are a few others which are really dangerous in this regard: Preaching, evangelism, and pastoring. If someone has the gift of mercy or administration or acts of service, then they aren’t in the spotlight nearly as much. Anyone reading this who’s got one of the gifts which put you in front of other people, be careful. These type of gifts, like fire, can be very dangerous if not watched constantly with vigilance. You’ve been warned.

Father, please give me a servant’s heart. May the breath in my body, the beating of my heart, the longing of my soul be to glorify your name. Please.

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