Oswald J. Smith reflects on his own salvation and says, “Do you realize that you owe everything you are to the printed page? Had it not been for the Word of God, you would not have been a Christian. The Bible says, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). How then can we expect the unbeliever to hear and be saved if they do not even have it (the Word).”
How thankful we should be for translators who work through sacrificial love to get the Bible into indigenous languages. How often do we pray for God to give them efficiency in translation? May our God burden our hearts more and more in prayer for the unsaved and the various ways He wants to reach them.
Smith, Oswald J., The Challenge of Missions, page 82.
In this final blog of the series, I point you to 1 Peter 4:7-11. In considering how we use our spiritual gifts, Peter gives us several key principles that must be employed as we use our gift.
· Be self-controlled and sober-minded.
· Love one another earnestly.
· Do not grumble.
· Use your gift to serve one another.
· Speak understanding that authority is in what God says.
· Serve with the strength that God supplies.
All of these principles are to be seen in the way we use our gift for one ultimate purpose; that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. If man is exalted in any way through the use of a spiritual gift, then we have missed the purpose for which the gift was given in the first place. BE ALERT!
In the context of Paul listing some of the spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4:11, he also lists character qualities that must accompany these gifts.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3)
If any one of these qualities is missing in using of our gift, our ministry will be ineffective, self-centered and misrepresent the Giver of the gift. Not only that, but we will miss the purpose for which the gifts were given; “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” and that “we all attain to the unity of the faith…to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:12-13). A mature church will multiply rapidly!
Can you see the enormous growth that will take place when we see our gifts and use them for God’s purpose and eternal glory? The possessor of the gift becomes smaller as God uses the gift through us to accomplish His plan for the church, the Bride of Christ. God becomes greater because it is His power working in us by His Spirit through the gift He has given.
Moving forward in 1 Corinthians 14, we see some over-arching principles that must govern the exercise of our gifts. The references in this chapter I have listed below underscore the principle that all gifts must be used for the building up and edification of the body of Christ. Please read each one and consider their implications.
1. “The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (14:3).
2. “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (14:5). Note: “prophesies” means to “speak inspired or divine utterances” as in the Word of God (see 2 Peter 1:20-21).
3. “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (14:12).
4. “When you come together…let all things be done for building up” (14:26).
Paul is making the point very clear that we must examine how we use our gifts in the body of Christ to make sure that we serve others in the church with a single objective; that they are built up and brought to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13). I firmly believe that if this principle was better understood and lived out, the church would be far more effective in reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
As we continue this study on spiritual gifts, focusing our attention on 1 Corinthians 12 to 14, there are more key principles that must govern our thinking irrespective of the gift(s) we have. Paul makes an excellent sandwich by placing chapter 13 between 12 and 14. In chapter 13 he describes the quality of love that must govern our motives and actions in using any spiritual gift. “Agape” love will not allow me to use my gift and at the same time envy others, be boastful or rude, nor insist on my own way. With this kind of love, I cannot be irritable or resentful, neither can I rejoice at wrongdoing. In addition, this kind of love prohibits competition in the use of our gift(s). As Paul begins chapter 14, he again makes the point by exhorting us to “pursue love” or “strive for a purpose by using love”.
In using our spiritual gifts, are we truly seeking the highest good of others (love) so they receive the greatest benefit? This point will be further expanded in tomorrow’s blog. Stay tuned.
The Apostle Paul takes time in his first letter to Corinth to explain in detail the many aspects of spiritual gifts and how they are to work in the body of Christ, the church. In the next few blogs, we will explore Chapter 12 to 14 of First Corinthians. I will not get into the individual gifts, but look at the general principles that Paul employs which govern how the gifts should be used and why they are important to the church.
As Paul lists the various gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, he repeatedly uses the phrase “the same Spirit”, or that through the use of each gift they “manifest the Spirit”, or that the function of the gift “is given through the Spirit” or “by one Spirit”. These phrases remind us that the source of all the gifts is the Spirit of God and He must be central to their use. Notice what Paul says in verse 11; “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills”. That word “apportion” is very important to grasp as it helps us understand that not only are we given different gifts, but they are “distributed or divided” among individuals in the body of Christ with the exact capacity each one needs to accomplish the work God has given that person to do. A clear understanding of this preserves us from spiritually unhealthy jealousy or covetous emotions, or from insisting that others use their gift in exactly the same way we do, which leads to judging others using human measurement.
God the Holy Spirit has given each gift to be used in harmony with Himself, not as ‘copy-cats’ of others. This drives us back into the vital truth that unity in the body of Christ begins with my personal relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When this is working properly in each person, there will automatically be harmony and unity in the church, because Christ and the Spirit are the center, not us.
Romans 12:1-8 is a great Scripture to read for getting perspective on this subject. For those of you who think that everyone should have a certain gift, I invite you to reread verse 6; “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” The word “differ” means “different or varied”. God has varied the gifts in the body of Christ because there are different needs in the church and one gift will not meet all the needs. Whatever gift God has given you by His grace, use it in a way that reflects the Giver of the gift so that you minister to particular needs that only your gift can address.
Now, let’s look at the broader context of these verses. In verses one and two, Paul is exhorting us to “present our bodies”, the vessel or housing that contains the gift, “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”. How effective you are in using your gift is dependent on whether you have first given yourself to God as completely devoted to Him in service. By extension, the use of your gift becomes an act of spiritual worship if you have made the glorifying of God your first and highest priority. This means that any gift God has given us by His grace is never for personal gain or self-exaltation. We will discuss this more in following blogs.
There is something very comforting about Romans 11:29; “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” When I consider the ebb and flow, the ups and downs of my devotion to the Lord, I am so thankful that He does not take back what He has given. Our weakness and inconsistency never changes the eternal, timeless promises and purpose of God. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19–20). What God has given us is secure because we are in Christ and His place before God is permanent, never to be changed.
The spiritual gift God has given you, He will never take back. He intends that we use what He gave us to multiply fruitfulness for His glory. If you allow sin to cloud your vision of God’s purpose for His gift in you, STOP, REPENT, AND RETURN to the biblical purpose for your gift. With a thankful heart, use your gift with devotion, energy and purity in every aspect of life. Let the Holy Spirit, the Giver of your spiritual gift, empower you to accomplish God’s will and purpose for the rest of your life.
As a follow-up to the series “Christ Our Life” from Andrew Murray, I want to draw your attention to Paul’s comment in Colossians 2:10, “You have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Note that the word “filled” means “to make complete or finished”. As Murray reminds us, we need the Holy Spirit to reveal this to us so we live, act and speak with the confidence that apart from Christ, we need nothing more. We often see the human deficiencies that cause us to live on a lower plane than God intends us to live. The more we see ourselves as made “complete” in Christ, the more we will live as God has made us, and not as seen by others or the world. Yes, maturity is a process, but that is in view of helping us live in agreement with what God has already done for us in Christ.
Let us see ourselves as God sees us and that will increasingly govern our behavior!
"I would like to address Christian workers. Our great thought has been that of work. But what is needed if God is to bless His workers? How is God’s power to come and to work? Beloved, Christ is the power of God, and we need more of Christ, we need the whole Christ, we need Christ revealed in us by the Holy Spirit; then the power of God will work. We referred to a church so filled with the Holy Spirit that He could say to that church, “Set apart for me the men that I have called for my work.”We spoke of workers as people who are ready and willing to be set apart for the Holy Spirit. How can each church be brought to this condition? Only in one way. John the Baptist preached Christ who baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”That tells me Jesus Christ is the one from whom the Holy Spirit must come in ever new and larger measure; if you want the power of God’s Spirit to be revealed in and through the church, it must come from a closer attachment to Christ, a closer union with Him, a larger revelation of Christ dwelling in believers. A blessing then must come. Did not Jesus say, “He that believes in me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water”? And is not this by faith, by believing that Christ comes and dwells in the heart and becomes the fountain out of which the Holy Spirit flows?
What do we read in the last chapter of the Revelation of John? “And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Yes, when the Lamb sat down upon the throne of glory, the river of water of life flowed out. It is the Lamb who must lead us to the fountains of living water and give them within our hearts, so that we will have power to work among men—not the power of reason, not the power of human love, zeal, earnestness, and diligence, but the power that comes from God. Are you ready for that power? Are you ready to surrender yourself absolutely to God and receive it? Can you truly say, “Lord, I am totally surrendered to you. It is done in weakness and in trembling, but it is done. I have received a small portion of what I know you can give, but as an empty vessel, cleansed and humble, I place myself at your feet again, day by day and moment by moment, and I wait upon you”? And, believer, what no eye has seen nor ear heard, what men have never been able to conceive, what you have not conceived, God will do for those who wait for Him, for those who love Him.
Church life will profit us very little unless it leads us closer to God, to have larger expectations from God, and closer fellowship with God. How can that be? Christ Jesus can do it for us. Christ is our life. He will live in us the same life He lived on the earth. Shall we not expect Him to do it in the fullness of His promise? Shall we not come with every sin, every hindrance, every shortcoming, everything that causes self-condemnation, and cast it all at His feet, believing that the blood cleanses and Jesus gives deliverance? Believe, expect, and accept that God will reveal Christ within us in the power of the Holy Spirit. God grant it to every believer."
Absolute Surrender by Murray, Andrew
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