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For the Glory of God and the Good of the Church

Original Date: 
Sunday, August 28, 2016

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 "Jump in! For the Glory of God and the Good of the Church"

""The Middle Fork of the Flathead River""
Well, it’s good to be back up here. By my count, it has been five Sundays since I last preached. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest stretch of Sundays I have gone without preaching in the last 18 years. I’m glad we had the opportunity for Jenna, Eric, and Jesse to all preach. I’m very excited about the opportunities we have as a church to build up young leaders (although Eric isn’t that young, and I’m not that old!) And I’m glad we had the chance to hear about what is happening in the Middle East from Jim Harrison last week. But I’m also glad to be back.

The reason I missed two of those Sundays was because of vacation. Beth and Ellie and I had the chance to take my Mom up to Glacier National Park. It was a great trip. Glacier is a beautiful park, with amazing mountain scenery. We did some hiking. We drove over the Going-to-the-Sun road. And we even got a glimpse of two bears.

But here’s the thing about that trip: I hardly recognized my wife. She discovered her sense of adventure.

We stayed in a condo on the ski mountain outside Whitefish, Montana. Now, obviously, they don’t offer skiing in late July. But they don’t completely shut the resort down either. Instead, what they did was convert some of the ski runs into a zip line course. You ride up the mountain on the ski lift, and then you zip line back down over a course of 8 zip lines. One of them is over 1800 feet long. Another one gets about 300 feet high over the valley floor. You zip along at speeds of over 30 miles per hour.

It sounded really cool. And it was safe for 9 year olds. But I figured there was no way Beth would be interested in something like that, and we wanted to make sure everything we did on this trip was something we could all do. But my Mom was excited about it. Ellie thought it sounded awesome. And to my surprise,--after watching a couple of Youtube videos--Beth said “Let’s do it.” Here’s some shaky cell phone footage I took of Beth and my Mom on one of the shorter zip lines.

Play Video

But what really surprised me was when Beth said she would go white water rafting. Whenever I get out to the mountains, I like to take a rafting trip. I’ve probably gone a half a dozen or more times. But Beth doesn’t really like water. She’s not crazy about activities where there is the possibility—however slight—of broken bones or serious injury. But on this trip she threw caution to the wind, and we booked a trip down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Here’s a picture of us going through the rapids they called “Bonecrusher”:

Show Picture

Now, I have to admit that there came a point, right before we hit these rapids, where I had second thoughts. I mean, here I was with my 9-year-old daughter; my Mom, who turned 70 this year; and my wife, who doesn’t like to swim; in a little rubber raft hurtling down a river that had been snow less than 48 hours earlier, over the top of rocks the size of a Toyota Prius.

But we got through Bonecrusher OK, and about 4 rapids after that. In fact, most of the boats with us had at least one unintentional swimmer, but not us. We all stayed in the boat. I think our guide, Tyler, was getting a little cocky. Then we came up to a rock called “Repeater.” Tyler said it was the most technical rapid on the river. And he told us we had a choice. We could take the easy way, or the hard way. We voted 7 to 0 to take the hard way. (Beth abstained).

So, the idea was that as we approached this big rock, Tyler would turn our boat sideways and we would slide up the rock before the water caught us and shot us to the left into the rapids. It was cool. We could feel our side of the raft rising up the rock. But then, something went wrong. And instead of pulling us to the left, the river pushed us even farther up the rock. Suddenly, Beth and I were looking straight down at Ellie and my Mom. The lady next to me shot right across the raft and went head first into the water. Beth, Ellie, and I all jumped into the middle of the raft. But my Mom flipped over backwards into the water. It was like it was happening in slow motion. I saw her foot, up in the air, I grabbed at it, and then realized that if I had her foot, and the rest of her was in the water, then I’d just be holding her under. So I pushed her all the way in and she popped up a little further down stream.

Anyway, it was fun. Everybody got back in the boat none the worse for wear, and Beth made the whole trip without going in. I think she’s secretly glad she did both things, but I also believe her when she tells me once is enough. I don’t think she’ll be rafting again.

Jump In!
So, that’s my latest rafting story. And, if you’ve been around Hope Church for a while, you know we use white water rafting as an analogy for the Church. Because the thing about rafting, whether you’ve ever been before or not, is as soon as you get in the raft they give you a paddle. And they tell you that how well you paddle is going to affect the kind of ride you have.
And I like to say that’s a lot like church. When you become a part of the church, you need to pick up a paddle—that is to say, you need to find a place to get involved—and the more involved you are the more it will affect your experience in the church. Another way of saying this is that we all have a job to do, we all need to do our part in order for Hope Church to be the best church it can be.

And that’s kind of the point of our ministry fair, and why we are calling it “Jump In!” We want to give you an idea of the different ministries here at Hope Church, and we want to encourage everybody to find a place to be involved and serve. Like Beth, we want you all to discover your sense of adventure and “Jump In!”
And to encourage us all in this, we’re going to be looking this week and next at 1 Corinthians 12, which is a chapter of the Bible that talks about using our gifts for the glory of God and for the good of the church.

So, let’s look at the text. 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Controversy Over Spiritual Gifts
As the first verse says, this section of scripture is about spiritual gifts. Paul says that he does not want us to be ignorant about gifts of the Spirit.

Now, a little background on this letter. You may be aware that the church in Corinth had some issues. Most of 1 Corinthians is Paul addressing areas where the Corinthians either didn’t understand the gospel, or where there was controversy in the way they were conducting the life of the church.

And one of those areas, apparently, was around the use of spiritual gifts.

Now, spiritual gifts can be defined as any talent or ability empowered by the Holy Spirit for serving God or the church. Spiritual gifts include, but are not limited to, the things Paul listed in verses 8-10; things like prophecy and healing and speaking in tongues. What we might call some of the more supernatural gifts.

But spiritual gifts can also be things like leadership or administration or hospitality or teaching or singing or—really—any ability you use for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. All those opportunities to serve that are represented in the ministry fair in the lobby are places where spiritual gifts can be used.

But in the Corinthian church, spiritual gifts were a point of controversy. Apparently, there were some people who were claiming that their gifts were better, and the way they served the church was more important than the work others did. And, apparently, there were some others who were jealous that their gifts were not as “cool” as some other people, and so there was a lot of posturing and claiming to have gifts that might not have actually been present.

I imagine it something like this: Martha stood up at worship service one week and sang a solo. And her singing was obviously anointed by the Holy Spirit and everyone in the congregation was moved by it. So everybody fell all over themselves to tell Martha how wonderful it was. But when other members of the congregation noticed how much attention Martha got for singing they volunteered to sing as well. Only they didn’t have the same gifting as Martha, and week after week it started looking like audition week for American Idol. And then Martha, seeing how much better she was as a singer than everybody else, started getting a big head about it, and she started to bad mouth the others.

Something like that was happening in Corinth, only it was people prophesying and talking in tongues instead of singing.

So now, Paul is writing to set them straight. And his point can probably be best summarized in verse 7:

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Wait a minute, Paul says. Each one of you has a gift, they all come from the same Spirit, He’s distributed them as He sees fit, and the point is not personal pride or self-promotion but the common good of the church. I’ll put it like this, and this is the main point for us to learn this morning: God has given us all gifts so that we will use them for the glory of God and for the good of the church. In other words, God wants us all to jump in. He wants us all to pick up our paddle and join the adventure of the church.

There are four key words or phrases in verse 7 that I will let serve as our outline today. Four things we can learn about spiritual gifts.

To Each One
First, let’s look at the words “to each one.” “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Here’s what we can learn from this: We are all given gifts. Everyone in the church has been given a gift of the Spirit.

Now, before I talk about the implications of this, we should ask the question: “What does Paul mean by ‘each one’? Who is he talking about? Does he mean everybody in the world has a gift of the Spirit?”

No. Paul is clearly talking about those who follow Jesus. Gifts of the Spirit are available to those who belong to Him. This is clarified up in verse 3:

3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the deal: If you have the Spirit in your life than you cannot say “Jesus be cursed.” You have made a break with your former, pagan life. So if the Spirit is in you, then you cannot hate Jesus.

And, more importantly, unless the Spirit is in you, you cannot say “Jesus is Lord.” I mean, you could say the words. The president of the Atheist Association of America could say those words, but he wouldn’t mean it. What Paul is saying is that the only way you can truly have a saving, loving relationship with Jesus is if the Holy Spirit is present in your life.
And what that means is that, if you are a Christian, if you do love Jesus, then you have the Holy Spirit. Do you see that? If you call Jesus your Lord and Savior then the Holy Spirit is present in your life. He has to be. Because there’s no way you could claim Jesus as Savior otherwise. So you don’t have to wait for a later, fuller filling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a bonus add on. He is standard equipment for all believers.

So it follows: if you are a Christian, then you have spiritual gifts. You are one of the “each ones” Paul is talking about in verse 7. If you believe in Jesus, then you have the Holy Spirit living in you and He is empowering you to love and serve God.

Manifestation of the Spirit
Second, let’s look at the words “manifestation of the Spirit.” “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” To manifest something is to show it. A manifestation of the Spirit then is evidence of the Spirit in our lives. These gifts are given to show that the Spirit is at work in us. I’ll put it like this: Our different gifts reveal the same Spirit.
Consider verses 4 through 6:

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Notice Paul’s use of the word “same.” The “same Spirit.” The “same Lord.” The “same God.” In the next 4 verses he uses the words “same Spirit” at least 3 more times. He wants us to understand that a variety of gifts all trace back to the one true God.

I think this goes back to what Paul said about their former pagan way of life worshipping idols. In an idol worshipping culture, different gods would be said to be responsible for different abilities. So if you wanted to be a good speaker, there would be an idol you would sacrifice to for that. If you wanted to be a good leader, there would be a different idol for that. You get the idea.

But Paul’s point is that these varieties of gifts all come from the same Spirit. A diversity of gifts all point to a unity of source. We are different in our abilities and the way we serve and the kind of work we are good at—but those differences do not come from a variety of spirits or disobedience or bad faith or anything like that. Those differences come from God.

Also, notice how profoundly Trinitarian these verses are. Trinity is not a word that is found in the Bible, and the doctrine of the Trinity is not fully explained in the Bible. But it is clear that Paul wanted to include Father, Son and Holy Spirit in these verses.

One of the implications of what Paul is saying about manifesting the Spirit is that God is the source of all true Christian ministry. That is to say: we should make sure that all the work we do for Him is done in the strength He provides.

One of the great dangers any church faces is the danger of doing ministry according to our own strength and ingenuity. We can figure out the most efficient way to run a church nursery, we can find the best practices for a small group ministry, we can brew the best coffee and so on. Those can all be good things. But if all we are doing is the best we know how to do, without relying on the Holy Spirit and drawing on His strength, then there will be nothing to distinguish us from any other human institution.

When we serve in the church we want to make sure that we are depending on Him. The question we should always be asking is: what is being glorified: the efficiency of human effort or the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ? Whatever we do, we should do it in the power of the Spirit that the Spirit might be made manifest.

Third, let’s look at the word “given.” “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The lesson here is that our gifts have been given exactly as God has designed.

Consider verse 11:

11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

The point here is that the Spirit is Sovereign. He distributes gifts as He sees fit. Each of us is wired the way we are by design.

That means that God has put us together as a church exactly the way He wants it at this time. If you believe what verse 11 is saying, then you should believe that God has given us all the gifts and abilities that we need in order to accomplish His plans for us at this time.

Each of us is gifted the way God wants us to be. And our church is gifted the way God wants it to be.

Now, this might be a good spot to say something about the more spectacular gifts. Anytime you talk about spiritual gifts this is going to come up. And especially a passage like this, where Paul makes mention of things like speaking in tongues and healing and prophecy. Sometimes these are referred to as supernatural or miraculous gifts because, unlike gifts such as leadership or hospitality, these are abilities that are completely absent without the presence of the Spirit.

So what do I think about such gifts? Well, they are mentioned in the Bible, so I do believe that God gives these abilities to some people. The use of these gifts is not something we make a feature of in our worship services, but that doesn’t mean that God does not gift some people in this way. I often describe my view on these gifts as “open, but cautious.” I’m open to the idea that some people have the gift of prophecy or healing or tongues, but I’m cautious about elevating these gifts too high. This week I heard somebody describe themselves as “charismatic with a seat belt.”

And the caution is this: some churches and Christians will choose certain of these gifts and make them a necessary or expected part of every Christian’s life. They will talk about pursuing these gifts, and sometimes they will use them as a mark of true Christian maturity. And I believe that flies directly in the face of what Paul is saying here. We do not decide what gifts we have, the Spirit does. And Paul’s whole point seems to be that none of these gifts should be expected to be present in everyone’s life.

My other concern about these more spectacular gifts is that sometimes it seems like the gift itself becomes the point. People get very excited about miraculous events and the presence of healing. But we should see from what Paul is saying here that the possession of any gift is never an end in itself. Rather, the point is always to point people toward God and to serve others.

For the Common Good
Which brings me to the final part of verse 7: “for the common good.” “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” I’ll put it like this: Our gifts have been given to be used. Our gifts have been given to us to be used for the glory of God and the good of the church.

Paul uses the words “common good.” Each one of us in the church has been given gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of the whole church. For one another. For the good of all. Next week we are going to look at the second half of this chapter, where Paul uses the analogy of the human body. And this is his whole point there: the eyes need the hands just like the hands need the eyes. Every part of the body needs to do its job in order for the whole body to benefit.

I’ve been using the phrase: for the glory of God and the good of the church. And you might say: “Wait a minute Russell, I see where the good of the church is written in the text. But where does it say anything about the glory of God?” Paul doesn’t explicitly say that in this passage.

But think about it: If you want to do good for people, what’s the best thing you can do for them? Isn’t it to show them the One, True God? And if you want to glorify God, then what’s the best way to do that? Isn’t it to love the people made in His image?

So when we use our Spirit-given gifts for the sake of Christ’s church and Christ’s mission, then we are bringing glory to God. We are making manifest the Spirit. We are doing our part to make the Church the best it can be.

So my challenge for you this morning is this: Jump In! Look around at the different ministries and service opportunities we have here at Hope Church and find a way to be involved. There are a lot of tools out there for finding out what spiritual gifts you have—you can take a class like Networking or find online gift assessments—but one of the best ways to discover your gifts is to get involved in a ministry and see what sorts of strengths emerge.

Plus, a lot of different giftings can be used to accomplish the same jobs. You might think: “I can’t help with Sunday School because I don’t have the gift of teaching”. But if you have the gift of hospitality and you can make student feel loved and valuable, then you could be a part of Sunday School in that way.

The point is: If you belong to Jesus, then you have gifts of the Spirit. He is in you and empowering you to reveal Him to the world. He has designed you precisely the way He wants you, and He has put all of us together in this church to accomplish His purposes for us. So Jump In! Find your sense of adventure and find a way to use your gifts for the glory of God and the good of the church.

Greater Things
Finally, I want to close with this though. In John 14:12 Jesus says one of the harder things to understand in the Bible. He says:

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Scholars have spent a lot of time trying to figure this one out. Jesus did a lot of amazing things. He walked on water, He turned water into wine, He brought dead people back to life. He even walked out of His own tomb. So what does He mean we’ll do greater things than these? I’ve got a tell you, I’ve said “Rain, rain go away”; but I’ve never stopped a raging storm with a single command.

It’s not likely that any of us are going to do miracles more spectacular than Jesus did. But what if Jesus was talking about “greater things” not in the sense of bigger and more flashy, but in the sense of more?

What Jesus is saying here is that when He leaves He will send the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit will live in His followers. And there will be more and more followers spread out all over the world. And we might not be able to multiply fishes and loaves, but with the Spirit working in us we’ll be able to accomplish all kinds of things for Jesus. By using our gifts, and working together, we’ll be able to change the world.

That’s Jesus’ vision for the church. That’s what He is calling us to do.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”