Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gifts of the Spirit and the Body of Christ


Gifts of the Spirit & the Body of Christ

Based on "Wonderful Spirit-filled Life" by Charles Stanley

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:13a
“For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body…”

Introduction

People are interested in the gifts of the Spirit.
Much has been published on the topic.
There are all kinds of tests you can take
to determine your gifts.

And yet,
despite all the information available,
there is still confusion…
even controversy.

The Bible has a lot to say
about the gifts of the Spirit.
But we’re going to limit our discussion
to the meaning of spiritual gifts
in relation to the Spirit-filled life.

One thing is clear from 1 Corinthians 12

We cannot think about the Gifts of the Spirit
outside of the body of Christ…

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts…” (12:12a)

“For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body…” (12:13a)

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (12:7)

Paul says in verses (7,8,11,12,13,27,28),
that all believers together are the body of Christ…
the church…
and each one of them (12:11)
is a separate and necessary part of it…
appointed by God
and gifted by one and the same Spirit (12:8)…
just as the Spirit determines…
enabling him to fulfil the purpose
for which he was appointed,
for the common good…

We cannot think about the Gifts of the Spirit
outside of the body of Christ…

If we accept this fact,
we have to ask where this body of Christ is…

In the seventies,
there was a movement that called themselves
“the invisible church”

We find that Paul refers in his epistles
to a number of local churches,
and every time addresses them
as if they are the body of Christ…
like he does in 12:27
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

But at the same time,
he includes all other believers…
He writes to
“…the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… their Lord and ours…” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

We as Reformed people believe

that the body of Christ
always finds its physical expression
in a local church…

This was not always the case…
Before and after the Reformation
the Roman Catholic church has seen itself
as the only church
and as the body of Christ
with the Pope as God’s personal representative on earth… and what the Pope says
has the same authority as the Holy Scriptures…

During the sixteenth century,
the Reformed churches in the Netherlands
were exposed to the most terrible persecution
by the Roman Catholic government.

To protest against this cruel oppression
and to prove to the persecutors
that the supporters of the Reformed faith
were not rebels,
but law-abiding citizens,
who professed the true Christian doctrine
according to the Holy Scriptures,
Guido de Bres prepared the Belgic Confession in 1561
and the following year
a copy was sent to King Philip 2…

According to this Belgic Confession (article 29),

the true church can be recognised
if it has the following marks:
  • It engages in the pure preaching of the gospel
  • It makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them
  • It practices church discipline for correcting faults

In short,
it governs itself according to the pure Word of God,
and holds Jesus Christ as only Head.

As I have just said,
we as Reformed people
believe that the body of Christ
always finds its physical expression
in a local church…
showing these marks.

De Bres himself died
as one of the many thousands
who sealed their faith with their lives…

According to 1 Corinthians 12,

these marks of the true church
can not be present in the church,
unless the gifts of the Spirit
are operational in the church

This is also true of the local church.

The Holy Spirit displays God’s power
through each believer in a local church
for the common good of the local church. 

A Life of Interdependency

The Spirit-filled life is a life of interdependency.

We are to remain dependent on the HS.
But we are to live interdependently
with other believers.

Just as the members of a physical body
work interdependently with one another 
to accomplish the will of the brain,
so the members of Christ’s body
are to work together
to accomplish His will.

Everybody is Somebody

As we’ve said,
every believer in Jesus Christ as Lord
is a part of the body of Christ…
the church…
which finds its expression in the local church…

None of us are the entire organism…
The believer is only one part of the local church…
and the local church is only one part
of the entire organism…

In spiritual,
as well as biological terms,
our survival,
both as individuals
and as individual local churches,
hinges on the health and well-being
of the other members of the entire organism,
and vice versa…

None of us can be an independent operator.
What is true for the physical body,
is true for the body of Christ as well.

I cannot say of any member,
“I don’t need you. I don’t need to restore my relationship with you. I can do just fine without you” (Romans 12:25-27).

There should be no division in the Body.
On the contrary…
we should make a priority
of caring for one another…
because when one member suffers,
we all suffer…
just like a physical body.

When ailing members (congregations)
go uncared for,
the functioning members are being forced
to carry the load of the dysfunctional members.

Eventually,
the uneven work load
will cause the good members
to be overloaded,
and they will begin to break down.

This is the sad story
of many individuals
and local churches of all denominations
across the world.

Why so many church splits?
Why so many denominations?

Because the people
in those local churches and denominations
can’t get along with each other…
so they compete…

They start new churches for this selfish reason,
instead of planting new churches
in obedience to the Great Commission
of our Lord Jesus Christ!

This division must truly grieve our Lord.

Imagine the members of a physical body
competing with one another…
one leg trying to outwalk the other…   

In the body of Christ,
everybody is somebody!

We can’t walk in the Spirit apart from functioning in the Body of Christ

What does any of this have to do
with the Spirit-filled life?

The Head of the body is Christ (Ephesians 5:23).
He has a plan and purpose for His church
just as He has a personal will for your life.
In fact, the 2 overlap.

As a member of His body,
what you do or refuse to do as an individual
affects the whole of the body.
Your participation counts.

God’s will for your life includes
·        Discovering your niche in the Body and
·        Fulfilling your responsibility within the Body.

Accountability

We tend to resist this kind of accountability.
Most of us would rather free-lance
our way through the Christian life.

Being accountable to Christ is one thing.
Having to answer to the whole body of Christ
is something else.

Regardless of how far you advance
in your personal holiness,
you will always need other believers…
(and they will need you).

Not because you are weak.
Not because God is not sufficient for you.
But because God planned it that way.

Walking in the Spirit is not a solo mission.
A believer who pulls away from the pack
to do his own “spiritual” thing,
cannot be walking in the Spirit.

You cannot walk in the Spirit
apart from functioning in the body of Christ.
You can’t.
Spirit-controlled Christians
do not function as Lone Rangers.

Instead,
they actively pursue relationships
with other believers.
They look for ways to be involved
in the body of Christ.

A person’s role in the body of Christ is determined by his spiritual gifts.

A spiritual gift is a special ability…
a tool to use in building the body.

Through the distribution and networking of spiritual gifts, God has created a system ensuring that
·        Every believer has a significant role in the body of Christ
·        Believers work together to accomplish His overall purpose, using the gifts they’ve received from the Holy Spirit.

Example

Its like having babies…
a man and a women has to work together
in the process of having a baby,
and then of taking care of the baby…
this is what it means to be a family…
God planned it that way…

The HS distributes gifts according to His will…
and according to the Father’s plan for the church
(1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

Conclusion

This is the reason why
“… we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13a).


 
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