A Church Full Of Eyeballs? By Keith Giles
"If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body." - 1 Corinthians 12:19
In the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians we learn that God has graciously given a generous helping of spiritual gifts to the Church for the purpose of building up and encouraging the Body.
The Church today, by and large, does not have a very well developed understanding of these gifts. Few churches accept that these gifts are even intended for you and I to operate in today, but even for those who do believe that these gifts are for us to use, there is an alarming lack of Biblical perspective on the practical application and employment of such a wide variety of spiritual manifestations.
Usually we only see a handful of the gifts being elevated in terms of importance, and sometimes even seen as necessary for Salvation and/or as evidence for being truly filled with the Spirit.
Let's take a fresh look at the Scripture and see what God's Word really wants to teach us about these gifts and how to use them.
First, God does indeed intend for the Church to be built up though the use of these gifts as He sovereignly distributes them among us, His Body. (1 Cor 12:18-19)
As one who was raised a good Southern Baptist, I have never desired any of these more outward manifestations such as prophecy or speaking in tongues. Whenever the subject were brought up I was happy to report that I had the spiritual gift to be a teacher, to be a pastor, and to encourage others. This, according to Paul and the rest of the New Testament, is a valid response. These are all identified as Spiritual Gifts and it is the Holy Spirit who is the source of such gifts to the Body.
However, early one morning, a few months ago, as I was praying alone in my living room I suddenly realized that I wasn't praying in English. "Oh," I thought to myself, "this must be what it's like to pray in tongues." Then I wondered what it would be like if I could understand these words. Just as quickly as I thought that, I began to understand what the words meant. The whole thing transpired very matter-of-factly. I didn't feel tingles. I wasn't having an emotional experience. I wasn't even asking God to fill me with the Spirit or to let me speak in tongues. I think I was praying for direction in my life or something mundane. Suddenly, out of the blue, I found myself with a gift of tongues that I never even asked for.
In fact, it was only months later that I wondered if it had been an isolated event or not. "I wonder if I can just turn it on and off myself," I thought, and then I started to try to pray in the same way again. Sure enough, the gift was still there, waiting to be used if and when I needed it.
I don't often tell that story. (I'm a former Southern Baptist, you know.) Even though I've spent several years among the Vineyard churches in Southern California, I have never once wanted to speak in tongues. If God hadn’t just handed this gift to me I would never have asked for it. Maybe God knew that and that’s why He just decided to give it to me. Like a gift, I guess.
The mistake many churches make in regards to the outward gifts is to focus only on these as evidence of being filled with the Spirit or, sometimes, Salvation itself. Both of which are misguided and un-Biblical.
There are 28 specific gifts of the Spirit listed in the Scriptures. These are broken down as follows: Speaking Gifts (13), Serving Gifts (9), Power Gifts (3), and People Gifts (5).
In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12, Paul clarifies for us what our view of these Spiritual Gifts should look like. He explains how it is God who gives us these gifts, as He chooses, for the purpose of making the Body stronger. "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be." (verse 18)
Just below that, Paul makes the final point when he says, starting in verse 29, "Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way," he says, before going on in the next chapter to explain what the "most excellent way" really is. Hint: It's love.
Paul's admonition to us, when it comes to Spiritual Gifts, is first to recognize that not everyone is the same. "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?" (v. 17) We need to accept that not everyone will have the gift of healing. Not everyone will have the gift of tongues. Some might have the gift of Administration (1 Cor 12:28), or some may operate in the spiritual gifting of Craftsmanship (Exodus 31:3) or Hospitality (1 Peter 4:10). If so, we should not treat them any differently than we would someone who could heal the sick or prophesy. Every gift is necessary and important. Every person matters.
Would you want to be part of a church, for example, where the pastor only emphasized the spiritual gifts of martyrdom and celibacy, to the exclusion of the other 26 gifts? How would that make everyone else in the church feel who had one of the other gifts and not the gift of celibacy or martyrdom? When churches focus on only a handful of gifts, they make everyone without those gifts feel unimportant and disqualified from acceptable forms of service and ministry within the Body. This is why Paul encourages us to honor every member of the Body, and every gifting, as being of equal honor and importance. "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?" (v. 17).
Secondly, Paul reminds us our differences in gifting are by design. God intended it to be this way. We can't be frustrated as pastors or church-members if everyone doesn't speak in tongues or heal the sick. God never intended this. God intended that the 28 different gifts be distributed, as He directs, for the purpose of making the entire Body healthy and effective. We should be thankful that our churches are not made up of people who are just like us.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, Paul reminds us that the greatest of all things is not being an Apostle or speaking in tongues or even prophesying, but instead the greatest of all gifts is the gift to love others. This is the only universal gift of the Spirit to every believer, the spiritual gift to love as Jesus loved. In fact, it's so central to the reality of following Jesus that it's not even an option for us. Jesus commands His disciples to love one another. He says that if we love one another it will be the evidence that we really are His disciples. It's part of our spiritual DNA as followers of Jesus. The one thing all of us should have in common is love for others.
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." – JESUS (John 15:12)
Jesus instructed His disciples to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as they love themselves. (Matt 22:37-40) Paul reminds us of this so that we don't forget that our first goal is to love.
If there could be a return to a balanced view of the Spiritual Gifts in our churches today, I believe that would be good thing. We can use a refresher course on Paul's simple instruction on how gifts are various, and how God's intention is not for everyone to heal or speak in tongues or prophesy, but that everyone should be happy with whatever gift He gives them, not for their own pride, but for use in the service of others.
But, even more than that, I believe what is needed most in our churches today is a realization that, "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that moves mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." – 1 Corinthians 13:2
Maybe we could edit the words of that old worship song to say, "More love, less posturing, more acceptance of others gifts in my life"? But if our hearts could change to be more loving towards each other in this area, maybe our songs could stay the same.
So, if you have the spiritual gift of administration, or service, or acts of mercy, or celibacy, you are an important and necessary part of our Body. You matter. We need you. Be encouraged that God made you for a purpose and that He has gifted you to be a blessing to others. Even if they don't accept you, or your gifting, you can love and serve them anyway because of the example of Jesus.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." - 1 Cor 13:13
BIBLICAL LISTINGS OF THE 28 SPIRITUAL GIFTS OF THE SPIRT
Apostles; Prophets; Evangelists; Pastors; Teachers.
*1 Cor 12:8-11
Word of Wisdom; Word of Knowledge; Faith; Healing; Miracles; Prophecy; Discerning Spirits; Tongues; Interpreting tongues.
Prophecy; Service; Teaching; Exhortation; Giving; Leading; Acts of Mercy
Administration (1 Cor 12:28); Hospitality (1 Pet 4:10); Celibacy (1 Cor 7:7); Martyrdom (1 Cor 13:3); Prophesying in Song (1 Chr 25:2 & 7); Prophesying with instruments (1 Chr 25: 1 & 6); Craftsmanship (Ex 31:3); Dream interpretation (Gen 41:12)
JOB SEARCH: I'm still on the hunt for a new full-time job. So, if you know of any great ministries or organizations looking for someone with a background in writing, sales, marketing, or teaching, please feel free to let me know. Otherwise, I appreciate your prayers for our family during this time of transition.
CHURCH IN THE PARK: Several of us at "The Mission" house church have been praying about starting a Sunday Morning Church in a local park. Our plan is to simply gather, share food, invite strangers to join us, study the Gospels and worship and pray for each other under a tree somewhere each Sunday morning. This has been a wonderful answer to my prayers and I'm excited about stepping out into the community to "be the church" in a public place. Please pray for us as we step out!
New articles are brewing in my little brain. Here's a glimpse of what's on the back burner...
*SUBVERSIVE ARTS: A plan to influence culture via creative subversion.
*THE COMMANDS OF JESUS: In the Great Commission, Jesus gave instructions for His disciples to teach others to obey all that He had commanded. Most of us don't know what those commands were. I think we need to know. At least, I do.
*HOUSE CHURCH 101: What is house church? How is it different from traditional church? A practical observation of basic house church practices.
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