Happy Valentine’s Day! This is a day for celebrating love. As believers, we know that God is love. He has commanded us and equipped us to love Him with all that we are. And we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
That is how we Live Out God’s Purpose for our lives. Oftentimes, we think of God’s purpose for our lives on an individual level. What is God’s purpose for my life? That’s fine. God does have a special purpose for your life. A purpose that unfolds throughout a lifetime.
But that purpose is not for you as an isolated person. God’s purpose for every person is to become a believer in Jesus Christ. Then God’s purpose for every believer can only be fulfilled as part of a church family.
Today, our message is entitled “Spiritual Gifts in Action.” Spiritual gifts are one of the most important reasons that we need to be part of a church family.
1 Corinthians 12:12 (ESV) For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes that a local church can be compared to the human body. The head of the body, the church is Christ. The members of the body are the individual believers in the church family.
1 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV) But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
As believers follow the Lord’s leading, He arranges believers in the body, the church, according to various giftings He has given them.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (ESV) Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
This verse was written to the believers at the church in Corinth, but it applies to us today at Life Church. Each member of this church has a purpose, has a function within the church family. The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians that each member has a spiritual gift. In the Greek, the word for spiritual gifts is charismata. The root word is charis, which means grace. So, spiritual gifts really means grace gifts that God gives to each believer.
No one person has all the gifts, so we need each other in the body of Christ. Some gifts are decidedly supernatural, like the gift of miracles or healing. Other gifts have to do with the talents given by God, such as leadership and teaching. If a person in the body of Christ doesn’t function in their gift, the church is weaker. The more each believer develops their gift, the stronger and more effective the church family becomes. If a person is not part of a church family, not only are they not fulfilling their purpose, they are being deprived of the gifts of others in the church. Today, we’re going to talk more about God’s purpose for each one of us in the church.
Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV) walk …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.
The first half of the book of Ephesians, chapters 1-3 gives us spiritual principles. The second half, beginning in chapter 4, gives practical instruction. The goal of the instruction in these two verses is to maintain the unity of the Spirit. God desires for the local church to be unified, rather than divided. Unity cannot be achieved by human effort, but only through the work of the Spirit. When there is unity, there is peace that binds the members together.
The first way to maintain unity is to walk with all humility. Humility is preferring others above yourself. The opposite is pride, which is preferring yourself over others. We are to be gentle and patient with one another.
Let’s look at what bearing with one another in love means. To bear with another person is to put up with or tolerate their less than perfect behavior or words. How do you do that? You simply forgive others and don’t make an issue of their mistakes. Notice that we are to bear with one another in love. God puts up with a lot of things in our lives and so we also should overlook a multitude of faults. The opposite of these instructions leads not to unity but to division. Why does God desire unity in His church?
Ephesians 4:4-5 (ESV) There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
In these verses, what word is repeated over and over and stands out? The word one. There is one Holy Spirit who cannot be divided. There is one universal body of Christ is the world, that is meant to be unified. When someone disrupts the unity of a local church, the Bible instructs for them to be put out of the church so that the unity can be maintained. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
God desires for His church to be unified, both at the local level and around the world. God is working in His church to bring about that unity before Jesus returns. Notice that unity is only achieved with a common belief about Jesus, about faith and about baptism based on God’s Word. Unity is not achieved by everyone believing something different and accepting those differences. God’s Word teaches the only truth and as we walk in that truth by the Spirit, we will walk in unity. Unity is something we should be eager to maintain and pursue.
What is each of our roles in pursuing unity? You might think that the pastor should be the one in charge of unity. As we’ll see, a pastor certainly has a role to play in pursuing unity in the church. However, each member of the church family also has a responsibility to walk in unity as well.
Let’s just look at some practical ways that will help each of us pursue the unity of the Spirit in our church. Unity begins in the relationship that each of us has with God and the Holy Spirit. As we are growing in our personal spiritual lives with God, we are growing in unity with the Spirit.
What must we do personally to grow spiritually? The answer is simple, but fiercely opposed by Satan. To grow spiritually, you must daily take time to read God’s Word, pray and obey what you read. If everyone in a church family is committed to doing that, you’re going to have unity.
Yet, sometimes, we think we’re doing OK with the Lord, yet we tend to have issues with other people. That’s where we must follow Jesus’ instructions to forgive and be reconciled to one another. As we remember that no one is perfect, including ourselves, God will give us the grace to forgive and continue to pursues the unity of the Spirit. God not only desires for us to pursue unity, but also to …
Ephesians 4:7 (ESV) But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
In this passage, we see that when Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave grace gifts to the church. We see in Acts 2, that Jesus began to pour out the baptism in the Spirit on everyone who would receive it. In this passage, we’ll see that Jesus gave each believer grace gifts to serve Him with. Each person was given a different package, as it were, of grace gifts. In this passage, God’s Word focuses on the grace gifts that equip leaders in the church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Jesus gave grace gifts to the church in the form of five different types of leaders. Each of these different types of leaders is functioning today in Jesus’ church. The first is the apostle, which refers to someone sent forth to a new place to spread the Gospel and plant churches. Many missionaries today have an apostolic ministry to reach the unreached.
The second type of leader is the prophet, who is gifted to prophesy God’s will and plans to His people. Not everyone who prophesies in a church is a prophet. Only those who have a significant prophetic ministry would be a prophet. The third type of leader is the evangelist, who takes the Gospel to the lost. These first three types of leaders could do ministry in a single local church, but often minister in multiple areas and churches.
The shepherd is the pastor of a local church and shepherds God’s people there. The teacher is someone who accurately teaches God’s Word, but is not in leadership over a local church. There is not a clear cut distinction between these give different ministry callings. For example, most shepherd pastors are also teachers, but not all teachers are pastors.
What is the job of these God-given leaders? The leader’s ministry is to equip believers to do the work of the ministry. Every believer in a local church should be involved in ministry in the church. When every believer is doing their part, with their God-given gifts, the church, the body of Christ is built up, it grows.
Ephesians 4:13 (ESV) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
What is the goal of this church growth? God’s plan is for the church across the world to have a unity of faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The world-wide church will become mature and function like Jesus before He returns. Are we there yet? Not by a long shot.
There a many different types of churches that have different types of teachings. That is not God’s plan and God is going to bring about huge changes in the church in the coming years. The true church across the world will be unified in faith and teaching before Jesus returns.
In other places, God’s Word speaks of false apostles, false prophets and false teachers. These false leaders will always exist, but the true church will reject them, their teaching and their false churches. God’s leadership gifts for the church will ultimately bring unity through the Spirit.
Even though we’ve been focusing on God’s gifts of leaders in the church, He also gives spiritual gifts to every believer. God desires for us to respect and rejoice in the spiritual giftedness of others. Each one of us as believers has different gifts from God. Our task is to discover our giftings and use them to serve God and others.
How do you discover your spiritual gifts? First of all, the Bible instructs us to earnestly desire and seek spiritual gifts. As we pray for them, God will begin to reveal them to us. Spirit baptism is an essential key to releasing the spiritual gifts God has for. Then, God will guide you to begin learning to use those spiritual gifts to serve others. Everyone has spiritual gifts and God wants to activate them in us.
Respect and listen to the leaders in the local church. They are there to help you grow in God. As your pastor and teacher, my heart is to equip each one of you to grow in God and serve others with your gifts. As each of us grows in using our spiritual gifts, we will grow and God’s church will grow.
Next, we’re going to look at a brief example from the life of Paul in the city of Ephesus, to whom the letter of Ephesians was written.
Acts 19:11-12 (ESV) And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
Paul was an apostle, sent to take the Gospel primarily to the Gentiles. God was using Paul to do extraordinary miracles. In a way that I don’t fully understand, handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul used had the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. As all healing is a function of the Holy Spirit, apparently the power of Spirit was so powerful in Paul that it remained in his clothing. Just as Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons, Paul was doing the same thing through spiritual gifts that God had entrusted him with. As we read all of Acts 19, we see that Paul was teaching the Gospel every day in the city, as well as healing people.
In that area, there were seven sons of Sceva who were observing Paul ministry of casting out demons. They tried to cast the demon out of someone by using Jesus’ name as Paul did.
Acts 19:15 (ESV) But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”
The evil spirit then caused the demonized man to attack them and severely hurt them. What we learn from this example, is that the power of the Spirit is not dependent on saying just the right words or even using Jesus’ name. The power of the Spirit only flows through those who are believers and filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul had power over the demons, but these seven sons had none of the Spirit’s power and so paid the price.
Acts 19:17 (ESV) And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.
Everyone in the area heard the story, they feared God and praised Jesus Christ. Many became believers and repented of their ungodly practices. Apparently many were involved in occultic magic and they burned their occult books in a huge bonfire. This was a sign of true repentance and turning away from their old way of life. This incident was part of Paul the apostle’s work in Ephesus over a two year time period of planting and helping the church there to grow. God wants each of us to learn to move in spiritual gifts.
Before we dismiss this story as not applying to us, let’s think about it a bit more. Yes, Paul was probably the greatest apostle recorded in the Bible. Yet, Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians to be imitators of him as he follows Jesus. Probably, none of us are going to heal someone with our handkerchiefs. But the first point is that healing and deliverance is still God’s will in this world.
How can you figure out if you have the gift of healing? Begin to pray for those who are sick. Pray for those who are stuck in addictive habits. Bring people who need to be healed to church to be prayed for by our leaders. Believe that God still works miracles today.
God desires to show more of His power in our lives and through our church. Let’s pray that we have the faith to move in spiritual gifts in a greater dimension this year.
God the Father, the Son and the Spirit have perfect unity in the Trinity. He desires for our church Life Church to grow in unity with one another. Unity comes as each of us continues to grow to become more and more like Jesus. God also desires for His church across the world to be unified in beliefs and the knowledge of Jesus.
That’s part of what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we pray and grow in our spiritual giftings and follow our leaders, that unity will grow.
One day, Jesus will return, when the Gospel has been preached to the ends of the earth and the church is unified in the Spirit. Finally, God’s Word is filled with examples of believers doing supernatural things through spiritual gifts. Don’t’ count yourself out. Each of us has spiritual gifts. God desires for you to discover them and use them for His glory.