First Mennonite Church
September 1, 2019
Empowered to Do the Work (The Gifts of the Holy Spirit)
Romans 12:1-8; 1Corinthians 13:8-10
In our passage in Romans 12, Paul gives instructions to the Roman Christian community on how to respond to God’s grace and calling. The believer’s response to God’s grace and calling is to offer him/herself as a living sacrifice to God. (Someone said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they crawl away from the altar.) Paul describes this sacrifice as the true and reasonable service or worship the believer must give to God. (KJ) Paul calls for logikon latreia, reasonable worship, meaning, a worship that is within the grasp of our logic/understanding. It is not a worship characterized by hysteria, frenzy or ecstasy, as were some pagan rituals known to the Roman believers. A reasonable worship is a worship in which God reveals himself to the worshippers, transforming and renewing the way they think of themselves and of the world. It is a worship in which God, through his Spirit guides and empowers the believer to serve in ways that benefit the whole community. Therefore, Paul reminds them that just as each member in the human body has a particular function, so are they in the body of Christ. Christ, in his grace, has bestowed upon each member a particular capacity with which to contribute to the wellbeing of the body. So, in verse six, Paul says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
So what are those gifts? Let us go back to the list of gifts of the Spirit Paul gives in 1Corinthians 12, verses eight to ten.
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.
First in that list is wisdom. The gift of wisdom seems to be the ability to make decisions and to give guidance that is according to God’s will. This gift is closely related to the following one, knowledge. The gift of knowledge is the ability to have an in-depth understanding of a spiritual issue or situation.
Often times the church is confronted with situations in which it needs more than just good reasoning or professional advice. There are situations in which the church needs to know how to navigate through some critical junctures in its life. The gift of wisdom and knowledge enables a person to have some kind of a 20/20 vision about how to proceed. Most often we have a 20/20 vision, but only in retrospect. The gift of wisdom gives that 20/20 vision in foresight, instead. Church leaders, councils, and boards need God’s wisdom and knowledge to make critical decisions that directly affect church life and ministry in the short and long term. Often times, lack of wisdom and knowledge paralyzes the church from moving forward or in the right direction. The words of Hosea describes this situation when he says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
‘Because you have rejected knowledge . . . .’” We must remember the advice James gives: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. I guess we need to keep asking God to give us wisdom and knowledge of his will about what to do on the issues that we have at hand.
Third, in the list of gifts is faith. The gift of faith is being able to trust God and encourage others to do the same, no matter the circumstances.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch, a category five hurricane destroyed Honduras, especially in the northern coastal region. The hurricane remained for a couple of days stationary near the coast, causing the worst devastation in the history of hurricanes in Honduras. In November of 2002, I went to teach a class in the city of La Ceiba. One day, we were talking about God’s faithfulness and our need to trust God in difficult situations. Chayo, Rosario is her real name, wanted to tell her story of what happened to them during the hurricane and its aftermath. Her family had a sawmill, which along with all the timber, was washed away into the sea. Her house, although damaged, managed to survive the beating of the monster hurricane. But as her neighbors began to lose their homes they began to seek refuge in Rosario’s home. At the end of the hurricane Rosario and her family had about 40 people in her house. “It was crazy,” she said with a smile. Rosario and her family were serving whatever food they had to these people who had nothing. As the days went by and with no help arriving from outside, feeding a large crowd of people became more difficult, Rosario said. “I just told the people, let us trust that the Lord will provide what is necessary for each day.” Some of Rosario’s friends and relatives were telling her she was crazy to do what she was doing. “One day, we ran out of everything we had,” she said. “We did not know when any assistance would come nor what we would have for the next meal. I only prayed that God would show to our neighbors his faithfulness,” Rosario said. But from that day on, people began to bring us food. Once, the grocery store manager showed up at our door and said, “We have this meat, which if we leave it longer in the freezer room, it will spoil because there is no electricity.” Rosario said, “I only prayed that God would provide and prove himself faithful to our non-believer neighbors. He did.” Faith is the ability to trust God’s faithfulness, which oftentimes would be, not for our own benefit, but for others.
The gift of healing is the miraculous ability to use God’s healing power to restore a person who is sick, injured or suffering.
The gift of miracles is being able to perform signs and wonders that give authenticity to God’s Word and the Gospel message.
The gift of prophecy is being able to proclaim a message from God. Often times, prophecy is thought of as the prediction of the future. Paul says that prophecy brings edification, encouragement, and comfort to the body of Christ (1Corinthians 14:3).
The gift of discerning spirits is the ability to determine whether or not a message, person, or event is truly from God.
The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in a foreign or unknown language. When the disciples spoke in languages, as recorded in Acts 4, they spoke actual languages recognized by the foreign pilgrims who were in Jerusalem at that time. Paul says that this gift only builds up the speaker of the unknown language, even when he or she cannot understand it. The speaker speaks directly to God in his or her spirit. Because the language spoken when someone speaks in tongues is unknown, Paul prefers that the one given this gift use it for personal edification and during personal time with God. It should only be done in the church if there would be someone with the gift of interpretation of tongues, which is the following in Paul’s list.
The gift of interpreting tongues is the ability to translate the tongues so that others would know what is being said.
In Romans 12, Paul mentions some other gifts: prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, and doing mercy. In Ephesians four, Paul says that Christ gave gifts to his people. Paul says that Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (12).
Maybe back in of our mind, we might be asking ourselves, “So, what is my gift so that I can start serving the Lord?” Let me tell you that that is not how it works. There is no magic formula or spiritual gift test that can tell you what gifts of the Spirit you possess. What we need to focus on is serving God. Do you see a need in the church? Begin by doing what you can to meet that need. Do you see some areas of ministry not being met? Pray to God if whether the awareness you have of that need is because he wants you to fill it. If we seek God’s will and obey His leading, He will always equip us with whatever gifts of the Spirit we need. God gives us the ability to serve him when we have a passion to serve him. God would not empower us even to stand up if we have no desire to get up from our couch. God will not give us a gift if the only thing we like to do is finding fault in those who are doing something. God will empower you with His Spirit when you prayerfully consider filling in a void, a need you see in the church.
As Paul says in 1Corinthians 13, time will come when tongues, knowledge, faith, prophecy and most certainly, all the other gifts will cease. But for now, God wants to give those gifts to his people.
Once again, the Gifts of the Spirit are special abilities provided by the Holy Spirit to Christians for the purpose of building up the body of Christ.
Let me close with the words of the Apostle Peter. In 1Peter chapter 4, verses 10-11 we read: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.