One Body, Many Parts

Christ is the head of the church, but each of us plays an essential role.

In recent years, much has been said about spiritual gifts—those God-given abilities He equips us with to serve effectively. And yet, many people in church today still fail to understand and embrace exactly what He’s provided.

Our spiritual gifts are specifically chosen for each of us by God—for our good and for the good of the church. The Lord wants all of us to serve His kingdom in some manner, not just because there’s work to be done but also because serving draws us closer to Him. He’s provided everything we need, so it’s our responsibility to discover our spiritual gifts and then develop and exercise them with the help of the Holy Spirit.


Discovering Our Spiritual Gifts

Paul told the Corinthians, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware” (1 Cor. 12:1). God isn’t trying to hide our abilities from us. On the contrary, He wants us to know what they are and how to use them. Scripture contains several lists of the various gifts. (See Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-12.) Although they differ in many ways, all of them come from one Spirit  (1 Cor. 12:4). To discover our spiritual gifts, we should examine how we respond to situations or needs. Instead of dwelling on what we should do or how others are serving, we must focus on what motivates us. For example, if we have a passion to study the Word and share what we’ve learned, we may have the gift of teaching. If we love to help others or show compassion, that might indicate we have the gift of serving or mercy.

Developing Our Spiritual Gifts

Once we have discovered our gifts, the next step is to cultivate them. Although they are given to us at the moment of salvation, they do not come fully developed. Through practice, we learn how to employ them. It’s similar to the development of a talent: Someone may have a natural musical ability, but if he never receives instruction from a qualified teacher or makes an attempt to play an instrument, that talent will lie dormant. However, since these are divinely given abilities, not natural ones, they must be empowered by the Spirit in order to be effective. Self-effort results only in strain, exhaustion, and fruitlessness. But when we walk in the Spirit, yielded and obedient to Him, He makes our efforts succeed.

We can’t manufacture God’s love any more than we can effectively use our spiritual gifts in our own strength.

The mistake we often make is in thinking that spiritual gifts are all about doing. In reality, they first require abiding in Christ and walking in the Spirit. We must be willing to say to God, “I won’t get in the way of You doing in and with me whatever You choose. Remove anything displeasing and produce in me whatever I am lacking.”

Exercising Our Spiritual Gifts

Once we’ve discovered our gifts and have begun to develop them through training, practice, and submission to the Spirit, we’re ready to put them to full use. Peter says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). No matter how little we have to offer, God wants us to make ourselves available for service. We won’t realize our potential until we act. Therefore, we should never underestimate what God can do through us.

There is one more element that’s essential for the effective exercise of our gifts. Sandwiched between two chapters about spiritual gifts, Paul writes of the importance of love (1 Cor. 13:1-3). No matter how great our gifts or how proficiently we use them, if we do not have love, they are ineffective and profit us nothing. Without love for those we serve, all our work will be burned up in God’s judgment like wood, hay, and straw (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Spiritual gifts first require abiding in Christ and walking in the Spirit.

Although this seems like an impossible standard, we must remember that spiritual gifts are divinely empowered and motivated. We can’t manufacture God’s love any more than we can effectively use our spiritual gifts in our own strength. But when we walk in the Spirit, Jesus lives His life through us.

Appreciating All of the Spiritual Gifts

Jesus Christ is the full expression of all the spiritual gifts because He alone is the God-man who lived a perfect life. After ascending to the Father, He entrusted the church with the task of carrying out His work on earth. To accomplish this, He gave a variety of spiritual gifts to His followers who are now His body. Christ is the head, and He’s the one who fits us together to form a well-functioning body that grows and builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:15-16). When all of us are operating according to our gifting, together we become what we long to be—a New Testament church.

It’s not enough to discover, develop, and exercise our own gifts; we must also value other people’s (1 Cor. 12:18-21). No one sees the entire picture or has all the answers. We need each other to point out our blind spots, teach us humility, and handle matters we cannot tackle alone. God uses our differences to shape us into Christ’s image so we can display the fruit of the Spirit. We each have a job to do in the church. Therefore, let’s be good stewards of our gifts in the power and love of the Spirit so  that one day we will hear our Lord’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21 NIV).


Adapted from the sermon “God’s Children: Gifted for Ministry” by Charles F. Stanley

Related Topics:  Growth of a Believer

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1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.

6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;

8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.

6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.

7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.

14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.

15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?

20 But now there are many members, but one body.

21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."

21 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

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