Let me open us up in a word of prayer. Father, we’re grateful for Your church , grateful for this morning, and grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit that He seeks to guide us into all truth. I just pray, Father, that we’d be open to His leading, open to His teaching today. We just invite the Holy Spirit to, if we’re not saved, Father, convict us of our need to be saved, but also Father, as we as Your children move into the area of progressive sanctification and maturity and growth, we know there are many areas in our lives that You seek to conform to Your image in our daily lives and we just invite You, Father, also as we have open hearts today to do that gentle work in us where we might be conformed and transformed in our daily life into the moral image of Jesus Christ. We know that’s our ultimate calling and we know Father, based on the promises in Your Word that You use all things; You don’t say all things are good but you say You use all things for good, for that purpose of conformity into the likeness of Christ. And so we know You also use Your Word to do that and so we ask that You’ll do that work within us as Your children this morning; we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
If you’re lacking a handout just put your hand up and Ron will help you with that. Whoever ordered the cool weather, thank you for that, thank you for getting your order in and it’s much appreciated.
We, in Sunday School, are continuing on with the doctrine of the church, ecclesiology, and we, for the last few weeks have been spending some time on the purposes of the church. We’ve carefully gone through three purposes: the church exists, number one, to glorify God. Number two, to edify the saints. And then ultimately number three to fulfill the great commission. And the reason I think that of all of the teachings related to the doctrine of the church this may be some of the most important you can get nailed down in your mind, because if you don’t have a clear understanding of why a local church exists you’re going to be pulled into, churches will be pulled into what I call misdirected purposes.
And almost everywhere I go today it seems like the church is being pulled into one or more of three assignments that God never gave to the church. Those are (we went through these last time) holistic redemption, social gospel, and bringing in the kingdom. I mean, those are very different things than the three things I gave earlier—to glorify God, edify the saints, fulfill the great commission. Satan would like nothing better than for the church to become occupied with something that God never assigned to the church and as that happens the church loses its power because God is only authorized to empower things that are in His job description for us. If we get outside our job description the power leaves.
And I was going to just sort of move on to another kind of sub topic but before I did that I ran into this quote today, it wasn’t today, it was this week, it was so poignant I had to share this with you. This is a book I’ve been reading, I’m about halfway or two-thirds through it. It’s a book by John A. Stormer and the title of it is None Dare Call is Treason. And the title of it is The Carefully Documented Story of America’s Retreat from Victory, written in 1964.
And as the story is sort of narrated to me John Stormer was a pastor, continues to be a pastor, and his book had such an effect on Ronald Reagan, who as you know became one of our Presidents, that Reagan actually would buy these books by the box load and just pass them out to people, and Reagan would quote Stormer’s book, 1964 book. Reagan and Stormer met in Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign. They met there in 1964 and Reagan would typically quote from this book during cabinet meetings and things. And it’s an interesting book because… you say well, it’s 1964, isn’t it dated? I haven’t found it dated at all. It’s a blueprint, if you will, for how Marxists intend to topple the United States. And in this book it’s very clear that they’re not going to use an external attack, from without, they’re going to use an internal attack from within. And one of their targets of the Marxists is the church; the Marxists target the church, the Marxists target the seminaries. And this all sort of came out in the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
And I was reading what Stormer writes here and he quotes an individual named Ward, who at that time was a Marxist, and Stormer says of Ward this: “Ward recruited pupils, associates and disciples to his crusade to produce, in his words: ‘…a changed attitude on the part of many church members concerning the purpose and function both of the Church and Christianity.’” “[America’s Retreat from Victory The Story of George Catlett Marshall Paperback – 1965, by Senator Joe Joseph R. McCarthy]
So what this book reveals is it’s an actual Marxist strategy designed to get into the thinking of the church and use the church sort of as a mouth piece to start talking about all of these sorts of issues that relate to redistribution of wealth and things like that, that Marxists think are going to bring utopia. So to have a mindset where you want a redistribution of wealth you have to hear a lot in churches about social justice and structural racism and all of these kinds of things. And it’s interesting that as the Together For the Gospel Conference was going on this week, this BIG conference, 12,000 people, I believe it was this week, or last week, you hear a lot of talk in that conference about social justice, racial reconciliation, the environment, and it’s almost as if history is repeating itself. I mean, what the Marxists were able to do in certain mainline denominations is happening right now as this Marxist ideology is seeking to penetrate the church.
And so that’s why I think understanding the purpose of the church is so critical because if you understand why God gave the church and what mission God gave to the church you’re not going to be pulled one direction or the other into the siren song of socialism or Marxism or things like that. The church exists, not to advance someone’s political ideology. The church exists to glorify God, edify the saints, fulfill the great commission, NOT to do holistic redemption, social gospel and bringing in the kingdom. Those ideas were under attack in 1964 and they’re under attack right now as I speak.
So anyway, that’s a little something I read and I wanted to share with you that probably fit better in last week’s lesson than this week’s lesson but the quote was too good to pass up. Amen. Because one of the things I like to show is not just a bunch of theology; I want to show you why it matters. I mean, why does it really matter how we define the purpose of the church? Because the purpose of the church is under assault; it was under assault in 1964, it’s under assault right now. In fact, there’s a whole branch of theology called liberation theology, which basically mixes Christianity with the principles of Marxism, as if the two are compatible. And they turn Jesus from a Savior into more of a social justice warrior and a pastor moves away from being an equipper to more of a community organizer. And you can watch this happening in many, many places.
But having said all that I want to focus a little bit more on number two. One of the purposes of the church is to edify the saints. So you’ll recall that we talked about the Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, ““All Scripture is inspired by God….” Verse 17, so that we “may be adequate, equipped for” how many good works, “every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”]
So one of the functions of the church is to edify the saints in such a way, through the perpetual preaching and teaching of the Word of God so that they become equipped for their ministry. That raises a very interesting question, doesn’t it? If we’re here to be equipped for our ministry, individual ministries, whatever those may be, we need teaching on another subject which is the teaching of spiritual gifts. Right. The spiritual gifts become the tools by which God wants to express Himself through you in your ministry that He has for you.
So what we’re going to be doing for the next few weeks is, maybe two, three, four weeks at most, as part of our Ecclesiology study, I’m going to be taking you through a little bit of information on what are called spiritual gifts. Now this is my third shot at spiritual gifts while I’ve been at Sugar Land Bible Church. My first time I taught on this was when we were teaching through the Book of Ephesians and we got to Ephesians 4, which talks about the gift of pastor-teacher and so we started to talk about various spiritual gifts at that point. And all of this information is archived for you, if you want to go back and listen to those prior lessons on our website, I think this was even before we were doing videos, I think these are just audio. I’ve been told that I have the perfect fact for audio [laughter], and if that’s true you can listen to it without having to look at me. Amen! And you can do that also in our current teachings because we have a video option and an audio option.
My second shot at spiritual gifts was when we going through the Book of Romans verse by verse, we got to Romans 12 which talks about spiritual gifts so I tried to hit the subject again. And what’s happened is we’ve had sort of a turnover at this church, a lot of people come and they move away and we get an influx of new people so they’ve never really been under some of those teachings and so some of the elders have asked me to re-address the issue of spiritual gifts. And part of the reason they asked me to do that is because a lot of people want to be members here and there’s a little thing on our membership signup sheet that basically says what are your spiritual gifts, and if it’s not on the signup sheet I’m kind of drawing a blank at this point, it’s something you’re asked in the meeting that the elders have with you, what are your spiritual gift’s, what do you think they are, because we want people to understand that becoming a member of Sugar Land Bible Church, part of that calling is to contribute in some way. So we ask what are you spiritual gifts and a lot of people sit there and kind of give that “dear in the headlights” look during the interview… my spiritual gifts, what are you talking about? So for that reason I’ve been asked to go back a third time and deal with the subject of spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are typically handled under pneumatology. Pneumatology is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. But you can see how they would relate very much to ecclesiology because the life of a church is really dependent upon people stepping in and using their spiritual gifts. If you don’t have people using their spiritual gifts you really don’t have a church. And even this whole thing that went on here yesterday, and this room was very different, there was no carpet in here, the tables were different, we had Kirsten who gave a great talk yesterday, we had servers, we had a banquet, that whole thing couldn’t exist unless people were stepping forward in cooperation with each other and using their spiritual gifts. So yes, spiritual gifts is a subject related to pneumatology but it’s also very related to ecclesiology. And that’s why I wanted to broach the subject here.
So this is why I want to start with 1 Corinthians 12:1, and Paul says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren,” so when he says “brethren” he’s talking to believers, so this is something he wants believers to understand, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” Some of your translations say “I do not want you to be ignorant of spiritual gifts.” And it is interesting that every time Paul says we shouldn’t be ignorant of a subject, I think he say that about three or four times, you can bet your bottom dollar that that’s a subject we hardly know anything about. So people sort of have a vague understanding of what spiritual gifts are.
So to help us deal with the subject of spiritual gifts related to our doctrine of ecclesiology in the next two, three, max four weeks, we’re going to ask and answer four questions: Number 1, what are some general observations about spiritual gifts? We’re going to start that today. Number 2, we’re going to get into a subject that I hate getting into because the moment you address it, it takes the body of Christ and divides it in two, which is always frustrating because I feel that what unites us is greater than what divides us. But what you’ll discover out there is there’s two radically two different ideas on question two, are all the spiritual gifts for today. And then number three, I’ll actually take you through the spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the Bible and I’ll give you, I don’t know, one sentence of definition of each gift.
And then finally, number four I’ll give you some very practical tips on how to discover your gifting because what you’re going to learn today is you, on the authority of God’s Word, you have a spiritual gift. Most people, I believe, probably have more than one because certain gifts seem to run in tandem, like the gift of knowledge and teaching, to me seem to be a natural fit. It’s hard to teach if you don’t know anything. If you just have the gift of gab but no content… well, that’s teaching but what are you teaching, you don’t know anything so you need to learn so sometimes knowledge and teaching go together. And then leadership and administration go together, and so forth.
But the reality is you’re gifted and the church, whether it’s going to survive and thrive and prosper is largely dependent upon your willingness to use whatever gifting you have in the context of the local church. And if you’re in a church where you don’t necessarily feel you have freedom or room to use whatever gifting God has for you, that is sort of a clue that maybe God has another place for you. So there are many, many churches that I’ve gone to (and not gone to) largely dependent upon understanding how God has wired me and is there room here to use how God has made me. So the knowledge of spiritual gifts is so fundamental it’s going to help you pick a church, it’s going to help you sort of order the direction of your life. It’s sort of, depending on what gifting you have it kind of asks and answers the question, do I need more training? Once I discover what my gift mix was I started getting interested in seminaries and things like that because those were generally designed to equip me for the gifting that I had.
So understanding who you are, how God has wired you, what giftings you have (or don’t have) really answers a lot of fundamental questions in life related to what church should I go to, what kind of calling should I pursue, etc. So what we’re starting off with here are what are some general observations about spiritual gifts. And I have 18 observations, so obviously I don’t think we’ll get to all of those today, amen! So here we go, these are just some general observations about spiritual gifts to sort of unpack this doctrine.
Observation number one: Spiritual gifts are empowered abilities for service, that’s what they are. The Christian life, after you get saved by faith alone in Christ alone God puts a calling on your life into service of some kind. And of course, Jesus role modeled that for us because in the Upper Room… here’s the Son of God, it’s amazing to me, got down on His hands and knees and He began to wash the feet of the disciples. John 13:15 Jesus began to wash the hands and the feet of the disciples and then He said this, John 13:15, “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” So you’ll notice that every single spiritual gift that we’re going to talk about has as its object somebody else. When you use a gift somebody else is being blessed. When you exercise mercy someone else is receiving mercy. When you exercise the gift of teaching someone else is being taught. When you exercise the gift of leadership someone else is being led. And so when God gave these gifts out He didn’t give it for the purpose of popularity, He didn’t give them for the purpose of becoming famous, He gave them for the purpose of you in service being a blessing to somebody else. That’s His pattern. And so the particular way that you serve depends upon your gifting because spiritual gifts are Spirit empower abilities for service.
Number two, and this is very important to understand, God sovereignly bestows the spiritual gifts, so you don’t receive a spiritual gift because you went to a school. I mean, the school exists to equip you in whatever gift you already have but the school or a diploma or a degree can’t give you a gift. As a kid I wanted to be Billy Graham and God had different plans. I’m not Billy Graham, I would love to have the gift of evangelism that he has; God hasn’t made me that way. Now why does Billy Graham get the gift of evangelism and I don’t? Because God has made a sovereign decision, that’s why. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually” speaking of gifts, “ just as He wills.”
So a school doesn’t give you a gift; a desire really doesn’t give you a gift, it’s a sovereign decision on God’s part. Hebrews 2:4 says, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” So who gets what gift is something that God sovereignly determines. A church cannot give somebody a spiritual gift. The best thing a church can do is to recognize what’s already happening in a person in terms of their gifting, and give them an opportunity to under proper leadership to exercise that gift. But a church can’t give a gift, a school can’t give a gift, a degree can’t give a gift, a diploma can’t give a gift, a desire of one’s heart can’t give a gift. It’s a sovereign decision of God. And those are determined at spiritual birth.
Now I’m six foot six, I was just standing next to someone four foot eleven so she stood up here and I stood down there just to make the conversation even. I mean, why is she four foot eleven and I’m six foot six? I mean, sometimes I think that’s unfair, I’m the one that has to duck down everywhere I go, I’m the one that has trouble fitting on airlines and things like that. Well, I didn’t have any choice in the matter. My height is genetically determined. See that? So your spiritual gifting is genetically determined based on your spiritual DNA at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.
Observation number three, every believer has at least one spiritual gift, because a lot of people say oh, I don’t have a gift, God will never use me. But on the authority of the Word of God you have a spiritual gift, you probably have more than one. Where am I getting this from? I’ve got three Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 12:7, it says, “But two each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Notice the word “each” there. Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” See the repetition of each, each, each? It’s very different than the Old Testament where God worked in and through certain people. In the Church age as the Holy Spirit has been given to each of us to indwell us part of that grace package is the gifting. In other words, there’s a particular way God desires to express Himself through you as an individual.
This takes us to observation number four, believers obtain their spiritual gifts at the point of salvation. Why would I say that? Because according to Hebrews 2:4 it’s very clear, these are gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His will. [Hebrews 2:4, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”] Now if they’re gifts given by the Holy Spirit when do you receive the Holy Spirit? The moment you place your personal faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. The moment that happens the Holy Spirit enters you. Romans 8:9 says, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” So if they’re called spiritual gifts and you receive the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation that’s the moment in which your spiritual genetics or DNA is determined and you’re given this spiritual gift.
So this takes us to number five, spiritual gifts are not the same thing as natural abilities or talents. Natural abilities and talents…. I grew up with a guy named J. T. Snow, I don’t know if you know that name, his dad, Jack Snow, was a member of the Rams football team, a Notre Dame All American, and so his son, J. T. was one grade behind me, going all the way through school, and no matter what that guy touched athletically he was better than everybody. You put him on the basketball court, he’s better than everybody. You put him on the football field, he’s better than everybody. You put him on the track team, he’s better than everybody. And this always created a little bit of resentment because I was supposed to be better because I was a year older, right? So there’s some jealousy issues there, I’m gradually getting over it as time has progressed [laughter]. But you see, all of these abilities that he had, what do you call those? Those are things given to him by God but they’re really not the same thing as a spiritual gift.
So this chart might be helpful to you, it’s a distinction between a natural talent and a spiritual gift. A natural talent is something from God through parents regardless of whether someone is saved or not. Natural talents are determined, I put here at birth, but probably better said at conception. The moment the conception happens the natural genetics is passed down through the bloodline in the DNA. And you see this in a lot of Hollywood actors and actresses, you look at a talented actor and actress and you start looking at their family line and oh my goodness, they had this famous actor in their family line and that famous actress in their family line. So it’s no wonder they have abilities in this area. And natural talents, I would call them part of common grace. Common grace is something that God has extended to the whole human race, whether they know Him personally or not. So they largely are given to benefit mankind in general. So you look at someone like Bill Gates and you look at what he has created and how humanity has been blessed through his technological innovations. If you have a health issue and you get under the skill of a skilled surgeon you can see how that talent that person has to do that is benefitting humanity as a whole.
And spiritual gifts are somewhat different than that, what I’m talking about here. Spiritual gifts are from God to an individual, sometimes independent of their parents because your parents physically pass things on to you; spiritual gifts are spiritually determined. Spiritual gifts don’t come from physical birth, they come at the point of spiritual birth, spiritual conception. And spiritual gifts, as I’ll show you in just a second, aren’t really given for the purpose of blessing humanity as a whole through common grace; they’re specifically given for the purpose of edifying the church. So the spiritual gifts primarily, with maybe a few exceptions, are designed to edify the church of Jesus Christ.
So I think there’s a valid distinction between natural talents and spiritual gifts. However, I think sometimes that distinction can be overstated and this is why I appreciate this book by Stephen Waterhouse in his book, Not By Bread Alone, and I’ll put out some of those next week, we’ve got a bunch of copies in the office, and he has a great discussion on spiritual gifts. Steven Waterhouse is pastor of a Bible church in Amarillo, Texas. He’s written some amazing stuff, all for free, just go on his website and download all kinds of really helpful things, things about counselling, things about how to deal with the mentally ill, a lot of stuff, counseling type stuff that most churches are not really equipped to deal with. Waterhouse deals with all these and he is very solid theologically, he would agree with what we think at this church from top to bottom.
But he makes this very helpful comment; he says, ““The natural abilities of the unsaved are not spiritual gifts. This much is certain. However, it is likely that sometimes the Holy Spirit transforms a purely natural ability by channeling it into God’s work after conversion to Christ. In other cases, the Holy Spirit probably bestows brand new aptitudes, interests, and abilities.” [Steven Waterhouse, Not By Bread Alone, 291]
So if God is the giver of both talents at physical birth and spiritual gifts at spiritual birth God is the giver of that, don’t put it past God to take a natural talent and sort of start redirecting it. I think that is a possibility and I think sometimes when we go through these differences between natural talents and spiritual gifs while we need to recognize the distinction we can drive the wedge too far; there is a basic distinction but sometimes God can use one for purpose of His church, a natural talent kind of rechanneled into a spiritual gift. I remember in 7th grade I had to stand up and do some kind of speech before a class, I didn’t want to do it, and as I started to talk people were amazed at how good of a talker I was. That’s not to brag, I’m just telling you what happened, and I was as shocked by it as anybody else. Now this was in 7th grade and this was long before I was saved. I didn’t get saved until about age 16 and so it’s sort of interesting how God, over the course of time has taken that talent and I believe sort of redirected it into the gift of pastor-teacher, which He can use in His church. The Holy Spirit is the author of both and can redirect one into another. But having said that I think we do still need to recognize the basic difference between talents and spiritual gifts.
This takes us to observation number six; spiritual gifts are given in order to edify the church; edify means to build. Build what? Build people, sometimes build even structures that the church meets in, but primarily people because the church is not a building; the church consists of the people of God. So spiritual gifts are given to edify the church. They are not given to draw attention to the user of the gift. They are not given for purposes of popularity. They are not given for purposes of making people rich. Although some people do get very popular through the use of their gifts, that does happen but that’s not why God initially gave the gifts. The gifts are not there for self-aggrandizement type of thing, look how great I am. When you look at them in the Scripture they’re specifically given to edify the church.
Every gift, as I mentioned before, has as its object somebody else. So when God gifted you He didn’t just have in mind you; He had in mind the people that were going to be blessed through you. See that? Now I’ve got several Scriptures there that demonstrate this.
1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Look at that? 1 Corinthians 14:12, “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:26, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
Of course you already know Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for” what purpose, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” see how in all of these verses when the spiritual gifts are mentioned it also mentions the building up of the church. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Now this is why when you’re in your area of gifting, whatever that is, you’re probably going to be happiest there or maybe happy is not the best word, the most joyful there or the most content. You’re going to probably internally experience the most contentment there than you would anywhere else. Why is that? Because your Bible says it is better to give than to what? To receive. [Acts 20:35, “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”]
Think of these kids running around on Christmas, and where do you get your joy as a parent or a grandparent? Not in ripping open your own presents, you’ve already don that ten million times, it’s in giving something away and watching the joy on these kids, doesn’t that give you an internal satisfaction that you can’t find anywhere else? You’re blessed when you’re in the position of giver. And if the spiritual gift are designed to serve others and if it’s better to give than to receive, as you consistently use your gifts you’re going to find out wow, I really like doing this.
Proverbs 11:25 says, “The generous man will be prosperous,” look at that, “And he who waters [others] will himself be watered.” See, man in his unregenerate, unsaved state thinks he’s happiest by serving himself and the Bible says no, that’s not how it works at all; you’re most fulfilled when you’re serving other people. I remember when I was teaching Sunday School at a Baptist church in California and the pastor had to go away on vacation and he asked me to fill in the pulpit and that caused me really to shake like a leaf, it scared the daylights out of me. I think I was about 22-23 years old at the time. So I got up there, I gave my sermon and I felt the blessing of the Lord go through me, I saw the reaction of the people and I thought to myself, man, I hope he gets sick a little more often. [Laughter] Because, you know, I kind of like doing this. I mean, this brings me a lot of satisfaction. Now that created a lot of confusion in my mind at the time because I was all set in another career and the other career was sort of boring compared to this, I mean, this is exciting, this is eternal, people can be changed through this. And so I went through a lot of confusion, what I should be doing with my life, but fortunately God rescued me from that confusion, put me sort of on the path that I’m on now. But that’s what you’ll discover when you discover who you are and how God has wired you, you’re going to really find a place of fulfillment in that position, in that role as you use your gift, because the gift is designed to be a blessing and the Bible says it’s better to give than to receive.
Number seven, spiritual gifts are very diverse and this is the problem that we make, is we want to kind of shoehorn everybody into one way of doing things and the reality is that’s not how the Holy Spirit works. The Spirit is very diverse in His distribution and use of the spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” Now look at this,  “There are varieties of effects,” so one person uses one gift, like evangelism, like Billy Graham, he has this massive effect, another person uses their gift of evangelism and it’s not the same effect, and we say well, I want the same effect he has or she has. But we’re not really paying attention to what God says. He says, not only are there different gifts, there are different effects, or different impacts, “but the same God who works all things in all persons.” So we have one Spirit, one Lord, one God, but the gifts that He gives are very, very diverse.
Now the spiritual gifts are analogized to the human body in 1 Corinthians 12. Folks, you don’t need two right hands. Okay! If you have two right hands one of your hands is not necessary. If you are exactly like the person you’re sitting next to then one of you is not necessary. Right? So God is so diverse in the way He distributes the gifts and uses the gifts that people, when they use their gifts are not going to use them exactly the same way. And people say well, how come you go off on conferences and you turn the pulpit over to other people? I mean, don’t you know that you’re the pastor and you’re supposed to guard the pulpit as if your life depended on it? Well, here’s the reality of the situation. If you don’t give other people a chance to do anything, in terms of preaching or teaching, like Alex Garcia who’s sitting here, or Gabe or Jim, I mean, how are they supposed to develop. And beyond that, God is going to say different things to you through Alex or Jim or Gabe, God said different things through Kirsten, I would say yesterday, to the ladies that were assembled to listen to her teach, because God is a God of variety. God is a God of diversity.
And the problem is we want it one particular way. And that’s not how God works. God is a God of variety, He’s a God of diversity. I mean, think of the diversity in God when you look at this universe. Look at the variety. I mean, look at the fact that we’ve got what, six to seven billion people on this earth and you look at all of our fingerprints and they’re all different. No one has the same fingerprints. Or when you examine snowflakes under a microscope, of all of the snowflakes that have ever fallen in human history no two snowflakes are exactly alike. And you look at all the different personalities of people; no two personalities are identical. So God, we know, just by looking at natural revelation, is a God of diversity and variety. And that’s how He is with the distribution of spiritual gifts, same God, same Lord, same Spirit, but there’s great diversity in the use of these gifts.
Which takes us to number eight, if you like the rainbow analogy, by the way, as you probably know, the same sex agenda did not come up with the rainbow, okay. That’s our rainbow from our Bible and you can read about it in Genesis 8 and 9 regarding the Noahic Covenant and God’s promise never to flood the earth again.
Spiritual gifts represent different manifestations of His grace. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another” now watch this, “as good stewards” watch this “of the manifold grace of God.” So you’ll notice that the grace of God is described through the adjective “manifold.” And when you do a word study on “manifold” what you’ll discover is it’s sort of like the coat that Jacob gave to Joseph. Remember that? It was like a multicolored coat and that’s one of the reasons that Joseph’s brothers hated Joseph, because they thought he was receiving preferential treatment on account of the beauty of his coat. That’s what manifold means.
The same idea you’ll find in James 1:2-4, which talks about the manifold trials that we go through. [James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”] So the trial you’re in today is not the same as the trial you were in last year, or the one you’ll be in next year. You say are you saying I’m going to be in a trial next year? Well, as we like to tell people, if you’re not in a trial right now cheer up because yours is just around the corner, because God puts us in different manifold trials to kind of… you know, sandpaper some rough edges. You all know we can have some rough edges? You all agree with that? So God has to kind of sandpaper this edge over here, sandpaper that edge over there. How does He do that? He puts you through manifold trials to sandpaper different issues in our lives.
Spiritual gifts are just like that, they are manifold, they are rainbowish, they are multi technicolor. So you look at a rainbow and you see all the different colors in the rainbow; that’s how God has designed spiritual gifts. So if I exercise my spiritual gift or gifts one color comes out. And then you, alongside me exercise your spiritual gifts and we’ve got a different color. Then the person next to you starts exercising their spiritual gifts and you’ve got a different color. It’s very bold and beautiful but slightly different. And you can see what happens when we all start exercising our gifts in harmony with one another is that at the end of the day you have this beautiful rainbow. That’s the image that Peter is giving there in 1 Peter 4:10.
Then you say to yourself, well, I don’t like that church, I don’t like that pastor, I don’t like what side of his head he parts his hair on, I’m going to take my toys and I’m going to go home. Okay, well, a color just disappeared from the rainbow; that’s what happened. That’s why Satan is always trying to get us mad at each other, get us irritated at each other, because he wants the rainbow… he doesn’t like the multicolored rainbow, first of all he likes no rainbow and he doesn’t like the different shades and so spiritual gifts are simply different manifestations of God’s grace. I use my gifting, one manifestation of God’s grace comes forward; you use your gifting, a different manifestation of His grace comes forward, and suddenly you’ve got the grace of God being displayed through all of these different giftings and it kind of looks like a rainbow.
Number nine, no single person possess all the spiritual gifts. There are no super hero Christians. And this unfortunately is how people look at pastors, oh, he is pastor, he must possess all the gifts, that means we’ll let him do the ministry while I just sit, soak and sour. Right? What you discover in the New Testament is no single person possesses all of the gifts. In fact, a typical pastor will probably have one gift; if you’re fortunate a congregation a typical pastor may have two to three gifts. I know of some pastors that maybe have more than that, they’re very, very gifted, but if they have two, three, four gifts, that’s probably the most I’ve ever seen in a single person. And yet there are far more spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible than just two, three or four.
So when you understand this you understand that a pastor or a spiritual leader or an elder or a deacon or a Sunday School teacher cannot in and of themselves fulfill the work of ministry. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 says, “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?” And the way this is set up in the Greek is it’s asking for a negative answer to the question.  “All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?” So what God has done is He’s created a body; every member of the church is part of that body, it was never designed by God to rest on the shoulders of one, two, three people supposedly having all of the gifts.
This takes us to number ten, this is important, if we’re all gifted differently then God uses spiritual gifts to promote unity in His church, so Ephesians 1-3 tells us that we’re positionally unified in Christ. Ephesians 4-6 says act like it, let your practice catch up with your position. And if there’s one thing that’s easy to do it’s get Christians dis-unified. Amen? That is so easy to do, to get Christians to fight with each other. It just takes one Facebook post to do that. I’m sort of the expert at that, unfortunately, the Facebook posting, which I don’t do to provoke people, I do it to sort of get people to think. But what happens is people get mad at each other; it can happen just like that, it’s so easy to set off a forest fire.
So given our propensity to go to war with each other because of our sin natures, which we still have, amen, you guys know you still have a sin nature? Okay, just want to make sure I’m talking to the right crowd here, you guys look very spiritual with your Bibles open and so forth. We still have a sin nature, now it’s been rendered inoperative, I don’t have to obey it but it’s still there to go back to. Because of our propensity to be at war with each other God used the gifts to promote unity in His church. So think about this; if you have a gift I don’t have and I have a gift you don’t have, you see how sneaky God is here? That means you need me and I need who? I need you! Well, wait a minute, what if I don’t like you, and you don’t like me? What do I do then? Well, you all are just going to have to work it out, because you need each other, just like the right and left hand need each other. See that? I mean, this is genius when you think about this, genius strategy of God to promote practical unity in His church, when we start figuring out that I don’t have every single gift, you don’t have every single gift, so I need you, you need me, you need the person sitting next to you, the person sitting next to you needs you, we all need each other. And at the end of the day we’re just going to have to, you know, whatever differences we have personality wise we’re just going to have to get over it. Amen!
And this is number eleven, and I’m going to stop with number eleven, I’ll do number eleven and then we’ll stop. I want to mention this because this is big right here. Spiritual gifts are not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is character. What’s that? It’s Galatians 5:22-23, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, have I forgotten any there, goodness, and long suffering, and self-control. [Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”] So when that cake came around yesterday, self-control, that was being tested, and I don’t think I passed the test very well.
But “fruit of the Spirit” deals with who you are character wise. The gifts of the Spirit deals with what you do talent wise. Talent is very different than character. Now the ultimate example of this is the Corinthians, where Paul says, 1 Corinthians 1:7, “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift,” you want to talk about gifted people? That’s who the church at Corinth was. You can’t get more talent on display than the church at Corinth. But there’s a reason that the late Ray Stedman called 1 Corinthians 1 Californians, because these folks had become just like the spirit of the age in terms of their character.
Chapters 1-3 they’re divided over their favorite speaking styles of their teachers, actually that’s chapters 1-4. Chapter 5 there’s incest going on; there’s sin going on that’s so bad Paul says the pagans don’t even act like this. Chapter 6, they’re suing each other and having sexual relationship with temple prostitutes. Chapter 7 there’s rampant divorce and remarriage. Chapters 8-10 there are the stronger brethren flaunting their freedoms in the presence of the weaker brethren. Chapters 12-14 is where he says your use of the spiritual gifts are out of control. And that’s why in that mix he puts in what we call the love chapter, chapter 13. You’re not using the spiritual gifts the way God intended; you’re not using them lovingly and you’re ecstatic gifts are out of control because you’ve got people talking in tongues with no interpenetration; you’ve got prophets prophesying and they’re interrupting each other as they’re prophesying. And then in chapter 15 they’re denying the resurrection. So how would you like to be the pastor of the church at Corinth? What do you have in Corinth? You have giftings… there isn’t anything lacking in giftings. What is in short supply is not gifts of the Spirit but what? Fruit of the Spirit! So you can be very gifted and talented but not have fruit of the Spirit.
A person in my background, in terms of watching him on TV as a very young person and a very young Christian what comes to my mind is Jimmy Swaggart. I used to watch Jimmy Swaggart at the height of his popularity preach, and his crusades and on television and I’ll say to this day I don’t think there’s a more talented preacher I’ve ever heard in terms of oratory and things of that nature. But obviously some of the things that came out in Jimmy Swaggart’s life related to finances, sexual misconduct and all these sorts of things, obviously you’re got this tragic combination of a gifted person that’s lacking in fruit of the Spirit. See that? And I remember when all of the Jimmy Swaggart scandals happened, I remember when his popularity deteriorated, I remember when he was removed from all of those television stations, and I remember him trying to make a comeback, and he’s even on TV today. And whenever he comes on I always watch and I see in him the same talent, the exact same talent, the talent never went away, it’s just his sphere of influence shrunk because of problems related to the fruit of the Spirit.
So a gift of the Holy Spirit should not be confused at all with fruit of the Spirit. Now here at Sugar Land Bible Church we’re in the process of selecting elders and deacons. How do you even select an elder or a deacon? Your average Christian, when they look for leaders, are looking for talent. Did you know that when you look through the qualifications of elders and deacons, and you can read it through in one sitting, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, I can’t find a single word about talent. I can’t even find a single word about a spiritual gift.
[1 Timothy 3:1-13, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.  An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,  not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.  He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity  (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),  and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.  And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.  Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,  but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.  Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.  Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,”]
There’s just one little thing, he says they must be “apt to teach,” or something to that effect. It doesn’t even say spiritual gifts, it just says apt to do it. [2 Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,”] But other than that, you know, the husband of one wife, not pugnacious, having his family under control, all of those criteria, they don’t even relate to the gift of the Spirit, they relate to fruit of the Spirit, not what you do but who you are. That’s who you select to be elders and deacons. Now if they happen to be talented that’s just sort of an extra bonus. But you see, we’re very confused in the way we look at this. We don’t look at this the way God does. It’s all about talents and abilities and can they get the job done and God is saying no, beyond a gift of the Spirit you have to look at fruit of the Spirit.
That’s why He says at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, you know the verse, “But now faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is” what? “love.” [1 Corinthians 13:13] He even tells them in that chapter that the days when your speaking in tongues is going to disappear. [Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:8] . So your gifting, whatever that is, the day will come when you see Jesus face to face, and we’ll go through the different understandings of what that means. But in general the day is going to come when you’re going to see Jesus to face and you’re not going to have any of this teaching, or administration, or anything else. But here’s something that will continue and that’s what? Love.
So Paul is telling the Corinthians don’t focus on talent, focus on character. You know, like we say character counts. So we think that because someone has a gift of the Spirit they automatically have the fruit of the Spirit and if someone doesn’t have a gift of the Spirit we think they don’t have the fruit of the Spirit. And let me tell you, the story at Corinth demonstrates those are two totally different concepts. And I’m two minutes over so let me close us in prayer.
Father, we’re grateful for the teaching You’ve given us as we seek to grow in what You’ve revealed to us about gifts of the Spirit. Make us good stewards of this and help us, Father, to look into these things more carefully and take time for Q & A the next time we’re together to grow in this area. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…Amen.