I’ve been studying spiritual gifts for the past several months. I’ve learned much these last 11 lessons about spiritual gifts: what they are, their purpose, and how to use them. But this last lesson, lesson 12, is a bit different and, at first glance, would seem not to fit. It is a lesson on love. What does love have to do with spiritual gifts?
It turns out, it has everything to do with it.
As I learned many weeks ago, the spiritual gifts can be classified into two main categories: speaking and serving. I know that I have been given the gift of mercy (serving) and the gifts of prophecy and teaching (speaking). It’s been eye-opening to study these gifts in depth. It’s been convicting and humbling. In 1st Corinthians, chapter 12 the apostle Paul tells believers in Jesus Christ not to be ignorant regarding these gifts. I daresay there are many within the body of Christ who are still unaware of their gifts, and many others who are misinformed regarding them. I would also say there are even some who may know they possess a particular gift, but aren’t using it.
Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit. Paul addresses the problem of some members exalting certain gifts above others and a demeaning of the gifts. People in the church had a wrong evaluation of spiritual gifts. I contend that some churches today have the same issue. We need to understand that these gifts are given as the Spirit wills, and the Lord distributes them in a variety of ways. The church body is benefitted greatly when its members use their gifts in the area (ministry) Christ supplies.
When we use our gifts in the proper ministry, we build up (edify) the church and glorify God. There are many, for example, who have the gift of teaching. However, the gift of teaching for me may not look the same in someone else who has the gift of teaching. For instance, my teaching gift is, I believe, in the ministry, or area, of small children. I adore teaching two and three year old Sunday School. Someone else with the gift of teaching may have their ministry in teaching adult women’s Bible study. We both have the gift of teaching, and one is not more important or valuable than the other. Teaching two and three year old’s, for example, isn’t demeaning or “less” than. It is the Lord who gives the various ministries for these gifts to be exercised in. Therefore, we don’t need to be jealous or envy one another’s ministry. We can work within the realm of the ministry that Christ, our master/ruler, gives us. Furthermore, there are those within the church who use their gifts in the wrong area. As a result, they resent serving. Many serve out of obligation instead of prayerfully considering, “Where does God want me to serve?” “What gift has He given me, and how am I to use it?” Friends, we do no one any favors when we serve with reluctance or out of compulsion. In fact, 1st Corinthians 13 addresses this very issue.
If we use our gifts without love, we benefit no one.
Not only are we to discover our gifts and seek to use them in the ministry that the Lord supplies, but we are to remember that it is God who provides the results. The effects aren’t our doing. 1 Cor. 12:6 “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” The results of our ministry are not up to us. Numbers (or lack thereof) aren’t the proof of “success” in our ministry. The effects of our ministry are God’s. There is no room for boasting. Nor is there room for self-deprecation. If we are using our God-given gifts how He desires, then we need not be ashamed of the effects of the ministry, no matter the size.
The study on spiritual gifts wraps up with 1 Corinthians 13 and a question on the purpose and value of this chapter on love. What does love have to do with exercising our spiritual gifts? Why is this chapter included? After weeks of studying spiritual gifts, Paul ends with a word of exhortation to believers. He explains the relationship between spiritual gifts and love. He reminds us, as author Stephen Covey said, “to keep the main thing the main thing.”
And the main thing is love.
Love is the glue that holds it all together. Without love, the church is merely going through the motions. Without love, its members will lack distinction; Christ will be missed by those watching. We are made in the image of God, and we are called to glorify Him. We glorify Him when we use the gifts He’s given us properly and position love in the driver’s seat. Spiritual gifts are Love’s passengers.
Seeing this well-known “love” chapter in context blew me away. I was convicted of my own reasons for serving and use of the spiritual gifts I’ve been given. I’ve been humbled to see how gifts have been misused and misunderstood, but excited to share what I’ve learned so that my own church would not, as Paul urged, “be unaware.” When we fail to understand spiritual gifts, the body will not work properly. There will be imbalance and weakness. Spiritual gifts, used rightly, will build a strong, healthy church. The body will function properly and order will prevail. Unity and edification will result. Above all, God will be glorified and Christ will be proclaimed.
I leave you with this, my brothers and sisters in Christ: Are you using your gifts? Do you know what they are? Will you glorify God with them? I pray you would discover your spiritual gifts, use them within your local church body, and build it up, with love as the reason for doing so. You will, indeed, be a reflection of Christ to those within the body and without.
Remember that all these things will end, but love never ceases.