Friday, May 15, 2009

THE IMPORTANCE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
...by John MacArthur

Jesus has made it clear that we who know God are salt and light in the world (Mt. 5:13-14). The Scripture also calls us ambassadors to the world (2 Cor. 5:20) and pilgrims in the world (1 Pet. 2:11). Paul told the Philippians that our citizenship is not here but in heaven (Phil. 3:20). And, we are sojourners in the world (1 Pet. 1:17). So, there is a purpose for our individual existence as believers in the society in which we live -- to turn men to God through Christ. We are a witnessing community -- a group of people placed in the world to draw the attention of the world to God.

The Consideration of Christlikeness

1. THE PURPOSE
Perhaps the most thrilling concept of all regarding our identity is found in Ephesians 4:13: "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." The design of the church is to be brought into Christlikeness -- till we all come to the full stature of Christ. God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors for the perfecting and the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry that the body might be built up. The ultimate goal of the building up is that we might come to a fullness of Christlikeness.

Not only are we to be salt and light, ambassadors, and pilgrims in the world, but we are to be Christ in the world. This is a vital concept. The church is to be Christ in the world. I have chosen to call the church "Body II," and the incarnation "Body I" -- Christ in a human body. We are "Body II" -- Christ alive in the world in the church. This is a vital reality that we have to understand. The Lord Jesus wanted to remain in the world after the ascension by reproducing in us His very essence, life, personality, and character so that we might manifest Christ to the world.

2. THE PLAN
How has God designed us to be Christ in the world? How can we literally represent Him and manifest His character to this world?

a. Indwelling the Individual

The Bible says that He has planted within us the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9b says, "...Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." But we have received the Spirit of Christ; therefore, Paul says, "The life I live is not my own, but it is Christ living in me" (Gal. 2:20). So Christ reproduces Himself in the world by living in the individual believer.

b. Indwelling the Church

Now, Christ not only indwells every individual believer, but He indwells the corporate church. Ephesians 2:22 says that the entire church is built together as a habitation for the Spirit of Christ. Christ exists, not only in the individual life of a Christian, but in the corporate life of the community of believers known as the body of Christ. He produces His character in us first by dwelling in us.

3. THE PROCESS
Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13 contains the simplest explanation of how Christ reproduces Himself in the church. His presence is there, but His character becomes manifested in this way:

a. The Spiritual Endowment

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7). By grace Christ has given the believer certain gifts -- certain divine enablements. Not one Christian is excluded. We don't deserve it, we can't earn it, but these gifts of Christ are measured out individually and uniquely for every Christian. You say, "Why is `gift' singular if some of us have more than one?" I think the plurality of our gifts can be expressed as our single gift. My gift from God may be the gifts of preaching, teaching, and administration all combined into one gift. Sometimes you have opened one package and received three things in one box. But the design of the gift is to manifest His character. He gives us an aspect of His character.

b. The Spoils of the Cross

Verse 8 says, "Wherefore, He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." When Christ died on the cross He gathered some spoils -- the spoils of the souls of the men and women that He won at the cross. He then gave them back to the church as gifts.

c. The Special Men

1) The Positive Result
According to verse 11 He gave the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors. They are the gifted men given to the church. Verse 7 says that He has already given individual gifts to the believer and it is the role of the gifted man to equip the gifted believers to use their gift. Verse 12 says that the gifted men are given for the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry.

The Lord Jesus Christ has given every believer a gift for the purpose of manifesting Christ in the church and ultimately in the world. In order to allow us the fullest use of those gifts and to bring them to maturity, God has also given to the church the gifted men. The result is in verses 12b-13 -- the edifying of the body of Christ until the church together manifests the stature of the fullness of Christ. That is a great concept and very basic in identifying the church.

2) The Negative Response
Now, if the gifted men do not perfect the saints or the saints do not minister their gifts, the body will not be built up or manifest Christ. One of the difficulties in the church today is the fact that it is so fractured -- Christians are disobedient in the area of gifts and leaders are failing in perfecting the saints. The entire body of Christ is crippled, distorted, and confused. The world cannot see the true manifestation of Jesus Christ. The gifts are given to the church to the ultimate end that the church is built up into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. Individually and corporately we should represent Christ.

The Characteristics of Christ

Now, all of the spiritual gifts in their fullest sense are complete in Christ. For example:

1. HIS EXAMPLE
There is the gift of prophecy, or preaching. Did Christ preach? Yes, He was the best. There is the gift of teaching. Did Christ teach? Yes, He was the best teacher. There is the gift of showing mercy. Did Christ show mercy? Yes, magnanimously, like no other person that ever lived. There are the gifts of ruling, helps, giving, and faith, each of which has its perfect example in Jesus Christ. He gave like nobody ever gave, ruled like nobody ever ruled, and had faith in the Father like nobody has ever displayed. In other words, the spiritual gifts are characteristics of Christ that will be manifest through the body corporate as they were manifest through the body incarnate. That is the purpose of spiritual gifts.

You say, "What about the miraculous gifts?" Christ had miraculous ability as confirmation of His identity. These gifts were also given in the early years of the church to confirm the message of God. So, all of the gifts find their perfection in Christ.

2. HIS ENABLEMENT
Now, when we preach, teach, show mercy, help, lead, give, or have faith, we find that our gift is a supernatural activity endowed and enabled by the Spirit of God. It manifests an attribute of Christ to the building of the body. Thus Christ becomes real in the world. The gifts are not random, but they specifically find their source in God, their channel in the Spirit, and their pattern, their example, and their completeness in the person of Jesus Christ. They are essential because they manifest Christ and build up the church.

Pondering the Principles
1. Look up the following verses: Matthew 11:29; 20:28; John 13:34; Romans 8:29; 15:2-3; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 3:13; Hebrews 12:2-4; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:21-24; 3:17-18; 1 John 3:1-3, 16. According to these verses, how are you to be Christlike? On a scale of 1-10, rate yourself in each of these areas. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Which area do you want to improve in most? Ask God to give you the wisdom you need in applying His principles to this area of your life. Make it a goal this week to pursue changes in your life-style that might keep you from being Christlike. Remember, the Holy Spirit indwells you to give you the resources to accomplish this goal.

2. Meditate on the following verses: Ephesians 4:17-18; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 4:3. Take this moment to thank God for saving you from such a life-style and bringing you into His glorious Kingdom.

3. Look up the following verses: John 16:7-14; Romans 8:1-17; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 1 John 4:2-3, 15. What is one name for the Holy Spirit according to John 16:13? Why is this significant in terms of distinguishing what is of the Spirit and what is not? According to these verses, how does the Holy Spirit manifest truth through the believer? How can you tell when someone is truly manifesting the Spirit of Christ? In order to solidify the importance of the Holy Spirit's ministry in your own life, memorize Romans 8:14: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."

3 comments:

Brian said...

I never paid attention before seminary, but look at his beautiful use of homiletical alliteration and outlining.

Of course, the content was also awesome. :)

Wired4Truth said...

I really enjoyed reading that material. Thank you ever so much for posting...

The Final Word said...

John states it very well.

"...He has already given individual gifts to the believer and it is the role of the gifted man to equip the gifted believers to use their gift. Verse 12 says that the gifted men are given for the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry..."

Are we doing this? or are we seeing how big our congregation can become? or how many more people we can add to our pastorial staff?

We are not called to bring people into our church. We are called to bring people into his kingdom.