The Big Idea
The church is the body of Christ, and his presence is manifested through spiritual gifts that he gives to each believer for the benefit of the whole church.
1 Corinthians 12
The Spiritual Gifts are a Manifestation of the Spirit
When we speak about the use of spiritual gifts in the church, this is more than simply a call to teamwork or an observation that everyone has natural talents or abilities (though there may be overlap between these and some of the gifts). The spiritual gifts are intricately connected with the presence of God, and these gifts are one of the ways his presence is made manifest in our gatherings. The gifts are given by God, and this is why the number one sign of the Spirit being with someone is not the expression of a particular gift but the ability to say (and mean) ‘Jesus Is Lord’.
There Is a Variety of Gifts
We are told in verses 4-6 that the Spirit of God enables different people to serve in different ways, but it is all from him. Verses 8-10 list some examples of gifts, particular those used in gathered worship times. Later in the chapter (v27-30) other gifts are mentioned, and there are also lists of gifts in Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Peter 4:11. Take time to explain what these gifts are (especially those that are not self-explanatory), while also pointing out that these are not designed to be an exhaustive list of the gifts, but example of varieties of gifts that the Spirit gives.
The Gifts are Given to Each and to All
Verse 7 highlights that spiritual gifts are given to each of us. As followers of Jesus we have the Holy Spirit and so we also have spiritual gifts. Sometimes it takes time to identify our gifts and see what areas of our service God seems to particularly work through. Gifts can also be developed and honed as we grow in our Christian lives.
As well as the gifts being given to each of us, they are also given to all of us. The gifts are given for the common good, and this means that my gifts are not meant for my own benefit but to serve all, as are all of our gifts. In a very real sense we possess all of the gifts, because we are part of the body and mutually serve one another through them.
Everyone’s Gifts Matter
In verses 12-26, Paul presses the image of a body further, considering how the different parts relate to each other. In particular, he highlights how ludicrous it would be for one part of the body to think it didn’t belong because it was not the same as a different part. In the church we do not all have the same gift, but we do all have gifts from God and we do all belong as part of the body. Furthermore, parts of the body do not look down on each other as ‘lesser’ but treat each other with honour and dignity, and so we should value each other and treat one another with honour as well.