Last week we examined the gift of tongues. If you missed that, check out our podcasts.
We are at the end of the series that began November 23, 2008. This is part 20. I hope you have been as blessed to hear these messages as I was to study and prepare them. We have done a complete examination of all the gifts, but we need to look at one over arching command Paul gifts regarding how we exercise our gifts.
Before we do that, let’s take a quick journey and review what we’ve learned.
There are four main passages in Scripture that talk about spiritual gifts.
- 1 Corinthians 12-14.
- Romans 12.
- Ephesians 4.
- 1 Peter 4.
Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit in the life of a believer. Every believer has at least one gift given at salvation when placed in the body of Christ, but not everyone has the same gift. Gifts are for the common good of the body. Gifts were initially given according to Acts 2 at Pentecost where the church began and will be used until the perfect or whole or complete comes. The Spirit of God gives gifts as He desires.
There are two categories of gifts according to Peter: those with speaking gifts are to speak God’s Word, and those with serving gifts are to serve in the strength of God. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul presents the main points of spiritual gifts and he ends the chapter by saying, “I show you a still more excellent way.” What is the more excellent way?
Take one final look at 1 Corinthians 13. The danger in spiritual gifts is exercising them without love. If you are to be all God wants you to be, then you must have love. Without love, Paul says his gifts are useless. Love is better than tongues. Love is better than knowledge. Love is better than prophecy. Love is better than faith.
Before he talks about love, look at what he says about exercising gifts without love. Without love, he said he becomes like noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. A cymbal makes no melody, makes no harmony. Without love, Paul is saying that even though he possesses these spiritual gifts, they don’t serve the intended purpose when they are exercised without love.
Think about the depth of what Paul is saying. Paul says if he knows all mysteries? Ephesians 3:3-5 says, “That by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.”He unlocked the mystery of how Jews and Gentiles could both be saved. Even though Paul knows all this cool stuff, if he doesn’t have love his gifts are nothing, he is unprofitable, he is nothing.
We let the world define what love is. Love is one of the most popular topics for songs. Tina Turner said that love was a second hand emotion. The Captain and Tennille declared that “Love would keep them together.” The O’Jays were on the “Love Train.” Air Supply sang about the “One that You Love” and Paul Simon told us “50 ways to leave your lover.” Stevie Wonder, “Called just to say he loved You” and Tina Turner asked, “What’s Love got to Do with It?” The Bee Gees wondered, “How deep is your love?” Diana Ross and Lionel Richie said it was an, “Endless Love.” Maybe Foreigner said it best when they sang, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
What is love? We looked at it briefly last week. Focus in on 1 Cor. 13:4-7. Love is not a mushy, gooey, warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Love is not what is portrayed in most movies and TV shows. You don’t say I love you in order to get something you want. Love is not sex. That kind of love is never expressed in Scripture. The love Paul talks about is the unconditional love represented by the Greek word agape. Love is patient. It is long-spirited and forbearing. Love is kind. It shows oneself useful, it is to be obliging or willing to help. Love is not jealous. It means that we don’t say, “I wish I had . . . .” Love does not brag. Romans 12:3 tells us that a man ought, “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.”
Love is not arrogant. Remember the context of why Paul is speaking about love. Not only are we not to be jealous of other’s gifts, we can’t say, “Hey look at me and my gift.” If love is not arrogant, why do some people think that since you don’t speak in tongues, you are a second class Christian? Love is not provoked. That means that no matter what anybody says, you can’t respond with anger. Paul is talking about spiritual gifts, but the application is even farther reaching than that.
Love bears all things. Bears means to cover with silence. It means that the faults of others are not broadcast over the church grapevine. Paul’s main point of this whole chapter is to make sure we know that gifts are not forever, but love never fails.
Galatians 5:22-23a tells us, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” The only way you can have love in your soul is for the Holy Spirit to reside in your heart. Spiritual gifts are supernatural abilities – not everyone has the same gift. The fruit of the Spirit is different. Every Christian has these. These are character traits placed in you. They are there if you’re a Christian. This character is how love behaves, how it acts. I encourage you to read all of 1 John 4, but let me quote the main point found in vs. 7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Love is the fulfillment of the Law according to Romans 13:10. Our ability to exercise biblical love is the overarching mark or authentic Christianity.
Having a spiritual gift does not make you spiritual. Even having the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t make you spiritual, it is simply evidence that you are spiritual. Only walking in the Spirit makes you spiritual. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” If you don’t know what your spiritual gift(s) is (are), I encourage you to carefully examine the Scriptures and find out. If you are floundering to find God’s purpose for your life, it’s probably because you are not exercising your spiritual gift for the common good of the body of Christ. This is how God designed you to function within the body. If you know what your gift is, make yourself available to the leadership of the church. Volunteer to serve.
I’ve always been leery of people that promote themselves for various positions in the church, but when the leadership seeks volunteers and it’s within your area of gifting – volunteer. If you are not sure – volunteer. If that’s not where God wants you to serve, he’ll tell you or will be obvious to those around you.
Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the body to be exercised in love for His glory. How are you serving?