06.12.11 God’s Gifts to the Church, 1 Cor. 12:4-13, Sermon Outline
- The relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit
- Seven ways the gifts of the Spirit are valuable
- Finding your Spiritual gifts
Thank God for Pentecost Sunday, when we can take some of the attention off Jesus and answer some questions about the Spirit. Jesus is great, don’t get me wrong. But what I like about Pentecost is that it acknowledges his limitations while continuing his mission.
Jesus was a man of history. He was born and died. He lived in a particular place, saw things in a particular way, and spoke about things as he saw them. By contrast, the Spirit is contemporary and universal. Jesus was also his own person, but the Spirit is of both Jesus and God. This means someone can be “in” the Spirit of God without knowing they are also in the Spirit of Jesus.
Still, it is the Spirit who creates the church today—the church which is called the Body of Christ. And so those who would seek Christ today (and not just his historical appearance in Palestine) and follow him must do so through his Spiritual presence in the church. And this creation of the church, and the presence of Christ among us, comes through the Spiritual gifts we receive from God.
Following are seven reasons these gifts are valuable.
First, the Spirit’s gifts give each of us a place, a purpose, and a ministry. Whatever else you may be, you are by gift of the Spirit also a child of God and an ambassador of the Good News of God revealed in Christ. And when you are nothing else, when life has you so down you feel worthless, you are nonetheless by gift of the Spirit a child of God and ambassador of the Good News.
Second, the Spirit’s gifts allow a wider proclamation of the Gospel. This was the purpose of the original outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. People gathered from many nations and tongues all heard the Good News proclaimed in their own language by gift of the Spirit. Whatever gifts you have, you have for the benefit of the church and world, as you become an incarnational proclamation of the Gospel.
Third, the Spirit’s gifts provide a place for God’s abundant overflowing Spirit. Two things that cannot contain God are the grave and history. Jesus’ resurrection proves the former; and Pentecost proves the latter. Both are dependent on the Spirit. Jesus would be merely an interesting and provocative rabbi had not the Spirit overflowed him at Pentecost, created the church, and extended his mission by gift-giving.
Fourth, the Spirit’s gifts call for and provide for the continual reformation and renewal of the church. By gift of the Spirit, the church is offered an infusion of ideas, abilities, and ministries through each new person. To benefit from these gifts and experience renewal, the church has to receive these gifts no matter through whom they come.
Fifth, the Spirit’s gifts ensure our perpetual dependence upon God. The Spirit is always leading us beyond ourselves, beyond our perspectives and abilities, through the gifts we are offered. The faithful church actively depends on God by faithfully receiving the gifts of the Spirit.
Sixth, the Spirit’s gifts disclose the mystery and diversity of God. Two more things that cannot contain God are our theologies and our churches. No matter how much we say about God and how detailed our explanations become, God remains beyond the limits of our thoughts and language. We must speak, and we must organize, but we must also recognize that God is greater than our theology and religion. The Spirit’s gifts invite us to acknowledge this.
Finally, the Spirit establishes our union with God and Christ, while at the same time calling and empowering us to manifest it. The confession that “Jesus is Lord” means that we are not, and it frees us to honor the diversity of gifts in the church without feeling threatened. Because Jesus alone is Lord necessarily means that we are already one under him. Through our complementary use of the diversity of gifts received by the Spirit, we can serve one another and the world. In this way, our union with God and our unity under Christ are manifest—all by the Spirit’s empowering.
If you do not know already what your Spiritual gifts you have received, ask God to show you. There are three lists in the Newer Testament found in Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10, 28, and Ephesians 4:11-13. I do not believe these lists are exhaustive, but they are instructive. You can discover your gifts through prayer, reflection, study, in conversation with trusted people—especially other church members, and by trying out various things. By these means God’s Spirit will guide you to the ministry opportunity that is uniquely yours. For you are God’s gift to the church and the world.