Today, we are going to start a two-part series about spiritual gifts. This week will be more of an introduction into the topic because for many of us, it’s new. I’m going to end part one with some practical applications but I intend to flesh it out much more in next week’s sermon. This sermon is divided into 5 sections. First, we are going to start with some misconceptions about spiritual gifts. Then, we are going to explore why God gives us spiritual gifts in the first place. Third, the question, what is the purpose of spiritual gifts? Next, we’ll breakdown the spiritual gifts across 3 passages. And lastly, we’ll try to look specifically at the gifts listed in Romans 12 and tackle a couple of practical considerations regarding spiritual gifts and its implementation in the church.
First, I want to thank God for the birth of Ezra to Matthew and Minjeong. The last 3 births at our church have been bathed in prayer. First, Elizabeth had a possible complication with her heart that was detected early on. So we prayed throughout the pregnancy and even a month after she was born, there was a possibility she had Downs Syndrome so, as a church, we continued to pray and wait for the test results. And God heard our prayers and she was cleared after a month. Same with Elijah — one of the tests revealed during the pregnancy that he also had a higher risk of Downs and so we prayed for him. And God heard our prayers and he is fine. Then, Elizabeth had Kawasaki, a rare disease that could lead to permanent heart damage if left untreated and that was last year and Jeremiah had the exact same thing the weekend when we first gathered on Villa Street as a Pasadena chapel. What are the chances that 2 of our kids would have the same rare disease in our very small church? And of course, there is the ongoing prayers for Anna’s continued funding for her therapy and Kelly’s allergies.
And then I got a call this past Tuesday from Brother Matthew and we got the news of Minjeong and Ezra — Ezra was born safely but both he and the mom had a fever, and I received the news that he had a possible infection, or worse, meningitis. And I thought, here we go again. And I made my first pastoral visit to the hospital (I know that sounds weird, it sounds weird to me, too). But again, God answered our prayers and Ezra is home and doing well. Just a little jaundice so please continue to pray for the little guy and for Minjeong’s speedy recovery.
I am reminded that Jesus really does hold all things together as it says in Colossians 1. Every birth is a miracle. It’s a gracious gift from God. And our continued health and safety of our loved ones is because God protects us. Jesus holds all things together, in countless hidden ways, He holds us together, He keeps us from harm’s way, He lovingly cares for all the details of our life, He blesses us with good things, He at times allows suffering and trials that we may turn to Him. And it is a great reminder that we ought never to take things for granted. Our kids, we need to pray for each of them every day. The fact that our kids have already received so much prayer must mean that God has a great plan for them. It’s not enough to supply for their physical needs: a home, an education, extracurriculars. Non-believers do the same thing. But as Christians, we have to be intentional about raising them in the ways of God. I was reminded of this as we welcome our newest member into this body of Christ.
Next, I’d like to thank everyone for making last Sunday such a wonderful and memorable ordination service. My main prayer request for the service was that the name of Jesus would be lifted up high above any other name. And I believe, God heard that prayer. After the service, many people said that they were encouraged and they didn’t point to any one component of the service, but it was the entire service as a whole which ministered to them. And as I reflected on that this week in preparation for this sermon, I was even more thankful. Because if Jesus is at the center, if He is on display in all His fullness, then how fitting that it wasn’t any one component of the service that ministered to people. It wasn’t even one speaker or testimony that was the focal point. But it was the entire body of Christ, each one of the members of this church coming together working so hard out of our corporate desire to see Jesus glorified among us.
To pull off last week’s service, so many people had to come together and offer their time, their bodies, their effort, their gifts and as a body of Christ, we pulled off what one person could never do. And we did it because we wanted to honor Jesus and what He has done in our lives. And isn’t that why we gather every Sunday? Every Sunday is a time when the body of Christ assembles to honor Jesus and what He has done in our lives. God’s Word has been really so timely and I am amazed that on the first Sunday after my ordination, we can continue our study in Romans and we reach the section about spiritual gifts and each member offering our individual, God-given gifts for the purpose of building up the body of Christ.
Last time I spoke a few weeks ago, I spoke about God’s will for every believer. And we talked about how our tendency is to think of God’s will in a personal, individualized way. But after posing the topic of God’s will, Paul begins v3 with the word “For.” “For” is one of those connecting words that you have to look for in the Bible. “For” clues us in that we ought to pay attention to the argument that is posed prior and the verses that follow usually can be read as the author’s answer to the preceding argument.
Starting from v2, we read — Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. And Paul spells out God’s will for every believer. 3 FOR by the grace given me I say to every one of you… and then he goes on to explain the practical working out of God’s will in a believer’s life in the context of a church.
And it’s interesting that Paul uses the body metaphor and I want to say a little about it now and we’ll unpack it a bit more later on.
If you’ve been tracking Paul’s argument through the book of Romans, he explains the human condition, the result of sin being the exclusive use of our bodies for sinning. Idol worship, degrading our bodies with one another, our bodies are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. And Paul when he was Saul, before he was saved, he was an extremely religious man. He was a Pharisee among Pharisees, he was zealous to live a life according to the law, a life of religion and he thought he was pleasing God, but he shares his testimony in Romans 7, he was utterly powerless to do the good he wanted to do and the evil he did not want to do, this is what he kept on doing. And he cries out from this deep struggle, what a wretched man I am, who will rescue me from this body of death? And into this cry, Jesus comes, the gospel floods his heart and he is able to testify, through the saving work of Jesus on the cross, thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So you have a body that was exclusively used to sin in Romans 1, then you have Paul’s testimony of how the gospel saved him individually. And then you have the climax in Romans 12, as saved children of God, now Paul urges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. And this is not an offering of our bodies as individual persons, but together, we offer our lives as part of the body of Christ.
Romans gives you a portrait of 3 bodies: 1) a body used to sin exclusively before we met Christ, 2) a single body redeemed by the saving work of Christ on the cross, and 3) a group of believers coming together to build up the body of Christ.
And we call this group of believers, the body of Christ or the church. The word for church in the Greek is ekklesia and this borrows an OT idea referring to an assembly. Even secular gatherings were referred to as an ekklesia, an assembly. And so in the first century, Christians gathered at a specific location and it was an assembly of believers and that assembly was called a church.
…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. ~Romans 12:5
The question I asked last time was — do you attend a church, or do you belong to a church? There is a world of difference.
Many attend a church. This view of church makes membership to a particular church no big deal. Because after all, most of us are just passive spectators. We’re just coming to hear a preacher or a praise leader.
Church is not a one man show like golf or tennis. Church is like playing football. You can’t win a game on the talent of one person. Even if you have a great quarterback, you need a good offensive line to give the quarterback protection. And what good is it if you throw the ball and none of your receivers can catch a single pass?r And even if you score, if your defense of special teams is lousy then you have little chance of winning. But many people think church is a one man show and I am going to be entertained or have my needs met. And now with podcasts and youtube videos, we have the phenomenon of Christian celebrity speakers: people like Tim Keller or Francis Chan or Mark Driscoll or John Piper. And we listen to all of their podcasts and read all their books and if we happen to meet them, it’s like we are standing before Bono or Obama. Some of us, I won’t mention any names, we meet one of these Christian celebrities and we are speechless before them and we stumble over our words. That’s an inside joke that I can explain later if you are interested.
Church is not a one man show, nor is it a spectator sport. It’s a winning team where all players need to do their part to continue the winning streak. This is the portrait of church that emerges in Romans 12. It’s a group or assembly of Christ-centered, committed relationships. And each member belongs to all the others. Have you committed yourself to people that they can say of you, that brother, that sister, we belong to each other? Life’s joys — we will celebrate together. Life’s sorrows — we will mourn together. We are in it, all of life, together for the long haul.