Purchase the CD of this sermon.
This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
More From This Series
Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 4, verses 7 through 16. I thought about preaching a message on God’s goodness, and God’s gifts, and God’s grace, but here we are. Ephesians 4:7 through 16, which is a section on God’s gifts, spiritual gifts to the church. So, we’re just going to stay on track in our study of the book of Ephesians, and we’ll look at this for a couple of weeks. There’s so much here. Why don’t you stand in honor of God’s word, Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, he says when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to man,” like this. He ascended. What does it mean?
“But that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of man and the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies according to the effect of working by which every part does its share causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
There’s a lot there, and we’re going to make a start on it this morning. You may be seated. I want to speak on something to contribute. The story comes out of England, of Oliver Cromwell’s rein as the Lord protector of England. During his rein there was a shortage of currency in the British realm. They needed silver to finance the government, and so they sought silver and they found silver. The report came back that silver was to be found, and it was to be found in unusual places. It was to be found in the churches and cathedrals of England, and the silver came in the form of statues of the saints.
Now, when Cromwell heard that, he famously said, “Well, let’s melt the saints down and put them into circulation.” Love that story, because it illustrates what the Lord wants to do in my life and your life. He wants to employ us, and he wants to deploy us. He wants to put us all into circulation. He wants us all to serve him by using the unique array of spiritual gifts he has given us for the building up of his church, over which he is the head. Christ is not looking for stationary saints who are all show. He’s looking for active saints who are in circulation, contributing to the growth of the church by the employment and deployment of their various, unique and necessary works of ministry. We see this poignantly stated in the passage we just read, Ephesians 4:7 through 16. Now, we just finished two weeks in Ephesians 4:1 to 6, where Paul calls the church to unity.
So, let’s put this next section in its context. Having called the church to unity and having preached the basis of that unity, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope, one father over all, having called them to recognize the unity that already exists, treasure it, and keep it, and preserve it, Paul now tells them how to do that. How were they to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace? Well, they were to do it by each one of them contributing their various gifts of service to the building up of the body. Their unity would be preserved by their diversity of gifts being used for the benefit of all. The created unity that Paul has celebrated in verses 1 to 6, he believes can be strengthened and made to work through the creative diversity of each member of the body of Christ, who brings a unique contribution to the life of the church.
You see that in verse 12. We’re to use our gifts for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Verse 15, “We’re to grow up in all things in Christ, who is the head, from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effect of working by which,” no one notice? “Every part does it share, causing growth of the body for the edification of itself in love.” This unity was to be expressed in diversity. Although the church enjoyed a fundamental unity, it was gloriously diverse, and those various gifts and those different capacities were for the purpose of building up the whole. Someone has well said that when you’re rowing the boat, you can’t rock the boat.
And that’s how we enjoy unity in the church, by rowing the boat, not rocking the boat. All putting our hands to the oars, all pulling in the one direction, that’s how we go forward in unity as a church. We all make our unique contribution. We live for the good of the other person, and that all adds up to unity, and purpose, and advancement, and growth. So, far we saw that unity is real, already exists. Unity is work. We’ve got the endeavor to preserve it and keep what already exists. Unity is logical, because we’re all one in Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism, one Lord, one hope. So, unity is real, unity is work, unity is logical, but here’s what we’re learning now in 7 through 16, unity is not uniformity. Let me back up, let me say a few things about unity.
Unity is not union, it’s not simply union. Union is outward, unity is inward. Union is organized, unity is organic. I like what Paul Powell said, “You can tie two cats together by their tails, you can hang them over a clothes line. You have union, but you don’t have unity.” So, unity is not union. It’s more than that, it’s better than that. Secondly, unity is not unanimity. We don’t have to see eye to eye to walk arm in arm. We don’t have to be identical twins to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Given the diversity of the church, backgrounds, temperaments, convictions, there’ll be different opinions on secondary doctrines. There’ll be difference of opinions on lesser matters, issues of the conscience, personal preferences, and that’s okay. We can handle those differences, we can handle that diversity as long as we display an attitude of brotherly love.
Because unity’s not union, and unity’s not unanimity, unity is not uniformity. We’re not clones. A church shouldn’t have a feel of sameness to it. It shouldn’t be marked by blindness or sterile conformity. I’m going to let John Stott say it better than I can. See, when Paul talks about unity here in verses 1 to 6, he don’t just want us thinking that it’s uniformity, because he now goes on to talk about diversity of gifts. Listen to Stott. “The contrast between verses 6 and 7 is striking. Verse 6 speaks of God as the father of us all, who is above all, through all, and in all. But verse 7 however begins, ‘But grace was given to each of us.’ Thus, Paul turns from the all of us to the each of us.” Did you notice that? He’s talked about all of us and now he talks about each of us as individuals.
He is in fact deliberately qualifying what he has just written. Although there is only one body, one faith, one family, this unity is not to be construed as lifeless, colorless uniformity. We’re not to imagine that every Christian is an exact replica of each other, as if we have all been mass-produced in some celestial factory. On the contrary, the unity of the church far from being bornly monotonous is exciting in its diversity. This is not just because of our different cultures, temperaments, and personalities, but because of the different gifts which Christ distributes for the enrichment of the common life of the church.
Love that. I love the diversity of our church. We’re from different backgrounds, ethnicities, countries, social environments, economic backgrounds, and we’re, spiritually speaking, we’re all different in our abilities, and what we can do, and what we can handle, and what we can’t handle, and what we can’t do. That’s okay. We’ll embrace that, because it all adds up to something wonderfully whole and wonderfully unique. The church is a mosaic made up of broken pieces, wonderfully put together by the Master to reflect his likeness. And that’s what Paul’s getting at here. So, let’s begin to expound this passage having put the text in its context. There’s three headings, we’re only going to cover one of them this morning. We’re going to look at the distribution of the gifts, and that’s verses 7 through 10. Then we’re going to look at the description of the gifts, verses 11 through 12, and then we’re going to look at the design of the gifts, verses 13 through 16.
It’ll take us a week or two to work our way through this, but let’s just cover this first thought this morning, the distribution of the gifts. It’s verses 7 through 10. Let me go back over what Stott just said, because it’s worth getting. I love plays on words, I love something dramatic in the language. And so, here’s what Stott kind of said. We’ve gone from one, one, one to each one. We’ve moved from all of us to each one of us. Paul’s been talking about the whole, the one faith, the one baptism, but now he talks about the individual believer in the church. And he wants each believer to know that they have been given a grace gift. We believe that to be a spiritual gift, which we’ll explain in a moment, “But to each one,” verse 7, “Of us, grace was given.” Look at verse 8.
“He gives gifts to man.” Look at verse 11, “And he himself gives some to the apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints.” So, to each one of us that make up the unity of the church, something has been given that enhances the unity of the church, strengthens it, gives expression to it, and that something is a grace gift, something sourced in the supernatural because it’s from Christ, something undeserved and something clearly intended to play a unique part in the preserving of the church’s unity. Because you see, when these gifts are exercised, the saints are equipped and the body’s edified, verse 12. When these gifts are exercised and every part does its share, question, are you doing your share this morning? Come back to that. When each part does its share, the body grows. So, that’s kind of where we’re at.
Paul is talking here about divine endowments and divine enablements given to each believer for the edification of the whole church. See, we were given these gifts for others. See, that’s why Paul argues for unity. When you and I use our diverse gifts in the proper manner with the proper attitude, it’s for the benefit of others, and as others benefit the church grows and stays united. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? In fact, Paul himself has experienced what he’s talking about. If you go back to chapter 4 in verse 2, he talks about his ministry to Gentiles, his ability to plant churches in the Gentile world. What does he describe that ministry as? He calls it, “A dispensation of grace given to me.” I think that’s where we’re at in chapter 4 verse 7, these gifts, these graces, these capacities, these abilities that God gives, these endowments to pull off the kingdom work.
You see it again in verse 6 and 7, especially verse 7 of chapter 3 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of his power. So, here’s the simple point under this distribution of gifts, we’re going to answer some questions here in a moment, but the fundamental point I want you to get is each Christian, that’s you, if you’re a believer here this morning, each Christian has a unique ministry in the ministry of the church. Have you discovered it? Are you doing it? If not, discover it and get doing it. That’ll help us preserve the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. It’ll help us grow, it’ll help us be all that God saved us and endowed us to be. Simple point, you’ve heard it a million times but you’re going to hear it once more, church is not to be a spectator sport.
Now, it feels like that this morning. Here you are on a seat looking at me, spectating. There’s nothing wrong with that, this is a moment when we preach a monological exposition of God’s word, but it’s for your benefit, but your experience at Kindred Community Church, there’s got to be more than this hour and a half together. Church isn’t a spectator sport. You’re part of the team. I’m playing my role this morning, and you’re benefiting from that, as I believe I’m a pastor teacher, that will wait until the next sermon, but you’ve got a role to play. Maybe you’ve played part of it before you come in here, helping somewhere on campus, serving and children’s ministry. Maybe you’ve done it throughout the week with our women’s or men’s ministry, or our hospital visitation team. But you just need to understand afresh, church is not a spectator sport, and if you’re doing a lot of spectating at the moment in your Christian life, it’s not a good place to be.
I’ve watched a lot of soccer games in my life. In fact, recently I’ve been enjoying revisiting soccer with visits to LA Galaxy, and enjoyed that with some friends here at the church. Let me describe you what it’s like to go to a soccer match, and it’s probably applicable to many sporting events. You pay your money, you find your seat, you chat to a few people around you, you watch the performance of the professionals on the pitch. You sing a little, especially at a soccer game, and if you’re in Britain you’d eat a pie at halftime, or in the United States you grab yourself a hot dog or a burger. Then you sing a little again, and then you leave the stadium and go home. One writer puts it like this in terms of visiting a soccer stadium. He puts it this way, that you slip in, you slump down, you sing up, and you slip out.
And he said this, if you’re a replace the pies or the burgers with coffee and biscuits, or coffee and donuts, it sounds a lot like church for a lot of people, doesn’t it? They slip in, they slump down, they sing a bit, then they slip out. And maybe on the way home they talk about the performance of the professionals. Paul smashes that kind of thinking and image of the church. It’s not that, it’s not a spectator sport. We’re all on the team, we’re all on the playing pitch. So, all of that said, let me answer a couple of questions this morning. Getting just practical rather than moving on to the next part of the text, this description. I’ve got a few questions I want to answer concerning these grace gifts, these spiritual gifts. I think I can rule a lot of it in our text and certainly associate text in 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4, Romans 12, and here in Ephesians 4, here’s the first question, what.
What is a spiritual gift? I’ve given that one away, but we’ll just underscore it. What is a spiritual gift? Well, in the context of Ephesians 4 verse 7, a spiritual gift is described as a gift, a grace, an endowment from Christ. It’s not saving grace, it’s serving grace. Back in chapter 2, Paul talks about saving grace, doesn’t he? For by grace, God’s undeserved favor we’re saved by faith apart from works. God doesn’t want us boasting. Although having saved us by grace, we have become his workmanship created in Christ onto good works. We’re not saved by works, we’re saved by God’s unmerited favor in Jesus Christ, but we’re saved onto good works. So, this saving grace soon becomes serving grace. You realize the Christian life is all grace, by the way? Max Lucado, in one of his books said that grace is all things Jesus.
Now, it could be deeper than that and more specific than that, but it’s not bad because the grace of God appeared when Jesus came, and he was full of grace. And if you put your faith in him, you’ll get saving grace, and now you’re in union with him he’ll give you serving grace, and that’s where we’re at here. We’re not dealing with saving grace, we’re dealing with serving grace. This is additional grace, of his fullness have we received favor, upon favor, upon favor, endowment, upon endowment, upon endowment. So, he gave us the gift of eternal life, and now he’s given us the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives us gifts. So, what is a spiritual gift? Well, it’s a grace, it’s an endowment. It’s an enablement to carry out a specific function in the kingdom of God.
And usually we discover it by the fact that that thing we do or that ministry we pursue, we do with ease and with effectiveness. It speaks of a heaven-sent ability to perform a task God has called us to do. Whatever God asks us to do, he will enable us to do. I’ve always enjoyed the thought, I forget who said it, where God’s finger points, God’s hand provides. So, if God points us over here, I want you doing this, God’s hand will provide, grace will be given, additional grace to minister. And again, spiritual gifts speak of an area of ministry where we minister with ease and effectiveness. It’s not the only thing we do by the way. Think about this. There are different gifts. Go to Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12 to 14, or 1 Peter 4 on top of Ephesians 4, there’s a gift of mercy. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s some in the church are to be merciful in the rest of is unmerciful. It just means that some people will excel in that area of mercy. You’ve met them, they’re tireless, and kind, and a blessing to so many.
And another gift is evangelism. In fact, here there’s a gift of evangelist. Are you and I to deduce from that, that you and I don’t have to win souls, witness, or disciple our children? Of course not. But there’s some are going to excel in being able to reach the lost and make an impact in the culture. I think you get the point. The spiritual gift and that realm of capacity is not the only thing we do, but since it’s a spiritual gift it’s the one thing we will do really well, and we certainly need to give that priority to our service within the kingdom. See, every Christian is spiritually gifted. We’re all assigned a special role, and each of us have been given at least one gift. Don’t have time to go there, but write down 1 Corinthians 12:7, and 1 Peter 4, verse 10.
We’re all given gifts, each one of us, every single Christian professing disciple here this morning. That has big implications, doesn’t it? Because if you’re not serving in that gifted area, you’re despising the grace of God which has been given to you to excel in a particular aspect of church life. Not only are you despising the grace of God, you’re bringing paralysis to the body of Christ. When a whole bunch of Christians don’t do what they ought to do, it’s like one arm of the church it’s not working. There’s a paralysis. So, the church is functioning, it’s being effective, but it’s not being as effective as it could be. I went down a list, didn’t I? Of things we’ve done. But I would assume if we all truly did what we ought to do in the fullness of the grace of God, we could be doing a lot more.
A church is only as strong as it weakest members. So remember, if you’re not serving, you’re despising the grace of God, you’re causing paralysis in the church, and you’re robbing yourself of eternal reward. Now, you won’t be judged for your sin at the judgment seat of Christ, but what does Corinthians tell us? We will be given account for the things we did in the body, whether they’re good or bad, whether they were useful or useless. And if you and I are not serving in an area we are graced to serve in, we’re robbing ourselves of eternal reward. What? What is a spiritual gift? Hopefully I’ve explained that to some degree, although before I leave it here’s a question. How many spiritual gifts are there? Well, there’s a whole debate about that. Plenty of books written about it, go and read. I want to be honest, I would say I don’t know you can be sure.
When you go through the lists of Romans, and Corinthians, and Peter, and Ephesians, there’s possibly upwards of 20 specific gifts that are mentioned. I would suggest to you that those are suggestive. I would suggest to you and I would argue that none of the lists were intended to be a list, because the lists themselves differ in each of the letters, because when Paul addresses those or Peter addresses this issue, he’s addressing a particular situation with a particular focus, and he highlights certain gifts in relation to that. I would guess, and I think it’s a good guess by implication, there could have been other gifts he could have add to that list. So, that’s where I’m at right now. If I’m wrong, help me. But I would argue none of the lists are designed to be lists. So, there’s at least 20 gifts. That helps us identify areas in our lives that we might be able to minister in, but there may be other areas that we could truly call spiritual gifts, and graces, and enablements.
Okay, what, when? When are we given these gifts? Well, it would seem we’re given them at the beginning of grace. There’s a beginning of grace in our lives, isn’t it? When you and I get saved. We don’t believe in the fallacy here that we’re born Christians in America. No, every American needs to be born again a Christian. Jesus said you must be born again. There must come a point in your life, conscious life where you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you put all your hope for heaven in him who died on the cross for your sin as your substitute. That’s when the grace of God has a beginning in our life. My assumption is, given that these gifts are described as graces, that God graces us with these gifts when we are indeed graced in the first place. They’re birthday gifts. I assume that they are given at the time of our coming to Jesus Christ.
I think that’s the implication of one Peter 4:10 to 11, Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12 verse 7, where the gifts are described in the past tense as if something already is theirs. Here’s an interesting little footnote. The Greek word for gift is [Greek 00:26:34], grace. And gifts, there’s the Greek word charismata, gifts. This is a word that was used by Greeks for birthday gifts. I love that thought. I think we can connect those dots with some justification. When you and I were born again, when we became part of God’s family, we were given birthday gifts for the benefit of the church and the growth of the gospel. It may take time to discover what gifts we’ve been given. Not sure you discover that five minutes after you’re saved. Might take five months, might take five years. At some point you’ll discover what you were given, and then it’ll take a lifetime to improve upon your gifts, and hone them, and develop them so you become really good in some areas.
You’re working in all kinds of areas, but there’s some areas you’re really good at, and we are all the beneficiaries of that. And it brings a smile to the face of the church, and it warms the heart of God’s people and church is united because we’re all helping each other. Unity in diversity. Now, here’s a little footnote or a sidebar. I think spiritual gifts are distinct from natural abilities. I’m looking out this morning at a group of very talented people. You look around going, “Who’s he talking about?” I was never told that. In fact, my mom and dad, or my friends, or my school teacher put me down, told me I was no good. Not true. You were wonderfully created in your mother’s womb, and endowed with gifts from the creator himself. The creator created you to be creative, to exercise dominion on the earth, to build, to construct, to advance, to develop.
You’ve got gifts to do that. Now, even our natural billies differ. Some of us are more head and some of us are more hand. Some of us are athletic, some of us are scholarly. Some of us belong in an office, some of us belong on a work site, some of us belong on a farmer’s field, some of us belong on a sports field, and the rest of us will visit Mrs. Field. No, I’m only kidding. But we’re all got natural abilities that we get at birth. And then I think the argument is, and this is distinct, we’re given spiritual abilities, capacities, enablements to serve the church. So, we’re very talented people. We’ve got innate natural abilities, and now as Christians, we’ve got these spiritual abilities, this additional grace from the hand of Christ. By the way, they are distinct, although they do compliment each other, don’t they? They can work together.
Here would be an example. In fact, let me talk about Paul and then give you an example. Think about Paul himself. Listen what Paul says in Galatians 1, verse 15, that God separated him. Where does it begin? In his mother’s womb onto the gospel. So, think about the apostle Paul’s background that uniquely gifted him, qualified him to be an apostle to the Gentiles. One, he was born and brought up in Tarsus, a Greek culture. His home life and upbringing was Judaism. He was taught and schooled at the feet of Gamaliel, all preparing him to be an apostle to the Gentiles, a writer of 13 books in the New Testament. Well, he was an apostle by spiritual gifting along the other things, but also his natural abilities and his background all played into that. And there’s a beautiful blender. Take for example, say God calls a man to be a preacher of the word, an expositor of the text.
That’s a spiritual gift, pastor teacher, but that might be complimented by natural communication skills, a strong voice, an ability to deliver in oratory, to reason well and argue well. A man may be in a debating society long before he steps into a class at a seminary, and God uses all of it to make him the true servant of God, blending natural gifts with spiritual gifts. So, they are distinct but they often blend, which is a wonderful thing. Let me move on here, but not before we maybe illustrate that. Chariots of fire, you’ve seen that, you know the story. This Scottish Presbyterian, Eric Little, who was a gifted athlete became an Olympian, 1924, but he wouldn’t run in the race he had practiced for because it was Sunday and the Sabbath, and he ended up running in the race he hadn’t practiced for and still got a gold, made the headlines.
But if you know something of the story, there was a tug of war going on a little bit in the family, because his sister Jenny questioned him going to the Olympics in Paris. He was the son of a missionary, and she believed that God had called Eric to the mission field in China, and he agreed with that. He believed that was true. And so, they have this dialogue outside Edinburgh in the movie, and it goes something like this. As Eric speaks to his sister, Jenny, “You’ve got to understand, I believe that God made me for a purpose for China, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” And so, he did run, and felt God’s pleasure, and won a gold in Paris. But he did go to China and exercised his spiritual gifts on the mission field. In fact, there was a blending of those.
If you know the story, watched the credits at the end of the movie, he ends up in China, he’s captured by the Japanese and an attack upon China he ends up in a Japanese concentration campaign, and he dies of a brain tumor. But even there, there was a blend of the spiritual and the natural. He led the kids and helped the family survive by putting competitions on, and games, and running for the children. He was a strong man physically and spiritually. In fact, one of his fellow prisoners said that he exhibited a muscular Christianity, a blending of the natural and the spiritual. Okay, what, when, who? Well, it seems clear from the text, the risen ascended Lord Jesus. Look at verse 7. “But to each one of us, grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Look at verse 8, which is a reference to Psalm 68, applied to Jesus Christ.
He gives gifts to man. Look at verse 11. It’s in the emphatic in the Greek, speaking of Christ. He himself gives some to be apostles, and prophets, and evangelists. So, these grace gifts are said to be given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. What does that mean? That means that Christ apportions the gifts throughout the church, to each believer as it pleases him, sovereignly, in the measure he deems fit. You are what you are, and you’re meant to do what you’re meant to do because that pleases Christ. He’s chosen that for you. As old Warren Wiersbe used to say, “God gives his best to those that leave the choice to Him.” Embrace God’s choice for you. It’s best. Spiritual gifts are dispersed and independent of our will, because some become pastors, and some become evangelists, and some become apostles. Not all, and that’s decided by Christ.
And that thought, by the way, is reinforced by verses 8, 9 and 10. We could spend the rest of this sermon and next sermon explaining this. I’ve decided not to do that other than to give you the basic gist of the text, because it’s reinforcing this thought that the grace, and the enablement, and the bestowment of ability has been given according to the measure of Christ’s giving. Now, what we have here in verse 8 is a quote from Psalm 68 verse 18, which is a psalm that maybe historically speaks of a returning Israelite king who has conquered on the battlefield, and he comes back and he ascends to the heights of his throne, and he ascends to the city of David. And in his wake comes all these captives who come bearing gifts for him and his kingdom, and they themselves will be dispersed throughout the kingdom to serve the kingdom.
And that may well be theologically a reference to the warrior God who has delivered Israel many times, and conquered and triumphed over their enemies, making their enemies the servants of God’s people. Now, again I don’t have time to develop this. If you look at verse 8, it’s a misquotation of, you could put it that way, of the actual Psalm 68 verse 18. Paul tweaks it, and we put our hands up in horror. He’s adding to the word of God. What are you doing, Paul? You’ve changed words and meanings, but I’m going to argue that that’s okay in this case, because all he’s simply doing is taking this image of the returning triumphant king and updating it in context of the new covenant, and basically saying, “Hey, Jesus,” and he goes on here in verses 9 and 10, talks about someone ascending and someone descending, and you say, “What’s that all about?”
I think simply it’s about the incarnation, it’s about the resurrection and the ascension, that Jesus humbled himself and descended to the lower parts of the earth, was buried, and rose again according to the scriptures for our sins. And then he ascended to the right hand of God, and he sent the Holy Spirit. And you’ve got this wonderful picture, as one writer puts it in Ephesians, “Christ is the victorious conqueror who ascends to his throne in heaven after defeating the spiritual forces.” But instead of receiving gifts, spoils of war from the vanquished, the resurrected and ascended Lord gives gifts. And in this case, the gifts are certain people, apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists. That’s the who. Before we leave there, given the fact that it is Christ who gives the gifts sovereignly, apportioning them in different degrees as it pleases him, I do want to remind myself and remind you, when it comes to spiritual gifts there’s no room for comparison.
This isn’t a competition, brother or sister. What I have, you need to celebrate. What you have, I’ll celebrate. Whatever it is, whatever capacity, whatever role, we all play our part, we all do our share, and the body grows. There’s no room for pride and there’s no room for jealousy. Spiritual gifts have been sovereignly appointed. You can’t feel superior, neither can you feel slighted. These are grace gifts to each one of us. Grace, unmerited favor was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift, which means that you and I, once we’ve discovered our gifts, we don’t sit and compare and we’re not in competition. We just happily serve in any capacity that Christ has called us to serve in, because it’s all gravy, received by grace, and we’re gifted by grace. And grace is undeserved, and therefore we’re happy to serve the one who has graced us and favored us for the good of his church and the glory of his name.
Making comparisons is dangerous. It breeds disdain, as with Saul and David, it breeds division, as with the church at Corinth, and it breeds distraction, as with Peter and John. I’d love to develop that, but I can’t. We need to assess our gifts, not to think too highly of ourselves. We’re not in competition, we’re all in the same team, we’ve all got a role to play. I think Ronaldo’s on his way out of Manchester United, if that interests you. It interests Mike Lee and me as Manchester United fans, and it’s time he goes. Brilliant player. Golden Boot in Europe, phenomenal goalscorer. But he’s being disruptive right now in the locker room. He needs to go. A few weeks ago, playing in London, Manchester United took on Tottenham Hotspur, he was a sub, and he was brought on for the last three minutes of the game, which really ticked him off.
And after the game, he just walked down the tunnel. And then he did an interview throwing the manager under the bus and basically saying, “He doesn’t respect me. I’m worthy of more than three minutes.” And to some degree I get that. Ronaldo is one of the greats. Better than Messi? I don’t know. We’ll fight about it after church. He’s one of the greats. I get his struggle being on the bench. But you know what? When the manager calls you to play three minutes, you play three minutes, and you give your best, because it’s not about you. Don’t be carrying this superior spirit into the locker room because that just brings division, and discouragement, and jealousy, and rivalry. I wish it was otherwise, but he’s got to go. He’s going for what he did. I think it’s just an example of this idea, man, don’t feel superior and don’t feel slighted.
We’re all members of the same team, we’ve all got roles to play, we’ve all got to give our share. It might be the whole game, it might be three minutes, it might be this, it might be that, but you better deliver. Why? Why were the gifts given? Well, that’s easy, don’t need to spend a lot of time on this. I want to make a couple of applications and wrap this up. You don’t have to look long for an answer, the gifts were given to grow and build up the church. Look at verse 11 and 12, we’ll get to it. “And he himself gives some to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.” Notice, “For the equipping of the saints, that they might do the work of the ministry to the end, that the church, the body of Christ will be edified, built up, strengthened, comforted.”
Look at verse 15 and 16. “We’re going to speak the truth in love, that we may grow up in all things in him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body joined and knitted together by every joint, supplying what it supplies according to the effective working of that which every part does its share”, notice, “Causing growth of the body.” You get a same similar thought in one Corinthians 14:12 and 1 Peter verse 10, 1 Peter 4 verse 10 says, ‘As each one has received a special gift, employ it in the serving of one another.” That’s the purpose. The purpose of gifts is not to show off, but to build up. They were given to each for the other. See, that promotes unity in diversity. Let me quote Wiersbe and make a couple of applications. Wiersbe says this, I think this is very good.
“Gifts are not toys to play with, they are tools to build with. And if we don’t apply them and express them in love, they’ll become weapons to fight with.” It’s good stuff. No, a gift is not a weapon to beat your brother with, and it’s not a toy to put on show and enjoy just for yourself. It’s a tool to build the body. Okay, we are done and I could let you out, but as you know that’s not going to happen. Here’s a couple of takeaways just for a few minutes, bear with me. Here’s what I want you thinking about, then we’ll pick up the description of the gifts the next time. What does this mean for you and me? This is a challenge to me. Three words, desire, discover, develop, just number one, desire. Can I encourage you to desire spiritual gifts? That’s 1 Corinthians 14 verse 1, “Desire the gifts,” says Paul.
Now, that’s not an invitation for you to go shopping for gifts. You take a look at the 20, you go, “I want number three, number four, and I’ll take number seven at half price.” That’s not what we’re talking about here, because remember, they are sovereignly assigned. We don’t get to shop for gifts. So, what’s Paul saying when he says desire? It’s in the plural. Very important. Paul’s not saying to the individual to go and desire gifts. Paul’s saying to the church, “I want you to desire the balanced, biblical, loving operation of the gifts in the life of the church,” because they were messing it up. A lot of misuse and abuse of gifts in the church at Corinth. So, that’s the point. And the point is this, we mustn’t despise or downplay our gifts. You and I have talents from the hand of Christ, and we must value them.
We must not treat them lightly. And whatever we do, we mustn’t bury them. Matthew 25:14 to 30, we’re to stir up our gift. Like Paul says to Timothy, “Stir up the gift.” Fan it into a flame, because don’t despise the grace of God. Don’t paralyze the church by your lack of using it, and don’t rob yourself of eternal reward. Fan the flame, use your gifts to the fullest. And so, as we leave today, let’s desire, let’s pray, let’s rethink each one of us how can Kindred express more fully the diversity of our gifts in a mosaic, reflecting likeness to Christ? You know it’s a fact, churches suffer from what’s called the 80/20 problem. You know what that is? That’s 80% of the work getting done by 20% of the people. Even if it’s less than that, any percentage, 70/30, 60/40, 50/50. It’s meant to be 100% in, no one out.
Too many of God’s people are pulling a double shift, because some of you are spiritual no-shows. They’re exhausted and they’re tired. Many hands make light work. Let’s think that through. Churchill said of the RAF, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” It’s true of many churches. So number two, discover. Discover. Now, you’re to serve the Lord indiscriminately. We’re to put you in anywhere at any time. Our spiritual gifts are not the only thing we should be doing for Christ. But I’ll tell you this, they are the one thing we can do best for Christ. And if that’s true, we need to discover them. How do you do that? Well, number one, why don’t you study the subject, 1 Corinthians 12:1. I don’t want you ignorant concerning spiritual gifts. Number two, why don’t you send some divine desire? What’s your passion? What’s God laying on your heart to do for his glory?
Follow that passion. Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord. He’ll give you the desires of your heart,” because he’ll plant the desires in your heart, which is best for your fulfillment in life. Number three, simply serve. Proverbs 18:16, gift makes room for itself. You want to discover your gift? You want to discover what you’re best at, do everything and find out what you’re good at. See, when you and I simply serve you’ll find that your spiritual gift will find you rather than you discover it, because it’ll just become apparent what you excel at, what God makes you effective in. And then finally, seek confirmation. Stir the gift that’s in you, Timothy, that was recognized by the presbytery. Number three, develop, as we wrap up. So, we receive the gift of new birth. Wonderful. Might take time to discover it. Okay. But once we’ve discovered it, you’re going to have to develop it for a lifetime.
Get better at it, get more skilled in it, get some training that will help you be all that you need to be. 1 Chronicles 25 verse 7, King David set apart 288 men for service in the temple through music. And do you know what it says? They were trained and skilled in music. Trained. They honed their gifts, their abilities, their capacities. I’m reading books on preaching all the time, reading books on leadership all the time, because I’ve got to keep getting better. Got to keep refining, keep maturing. So do you, whatever those areas are, study, train, talk, be in the company of people who are better than you at what you desire to be, because we are to desire, and discover, and develop. You know the story of why I came to the United States. Well, some of you do. I was pastoring in Northern Ireland, happily. We’d been in our church for five years.
The year before, I just hosted Dr. MacArthur to Belfast, and enjoyed my time with him and exposure to him. He invited me out to go to a Shepherd’s Conference, was blown away by all that went on there. Saw the school and said, “You know what? If I could dial back the clock, that’s the school I’d love to have gone to.” And he says, “Well, why don’t you come?” And I said, “Talk to June.” That’s massive, that’s crazy. We have three little girls. I’ve got a good church, our family’s there. We’re very happy. And then June and I went to Majorca, which is a beautiful island off Spain, for a vacation. I’m reading The All-Round Ministry by Spurgeon. And while I’m slapping some sunscreen on June’s back, literally, literally, I said to her, “I want to be a silver trumpet.” And she looked at me like, “What?”
I said, “I just read Spurgeon this morning and The All-Round Ministry. And he said, ‘Look, God can use any one of us,'” he’s speaking to these young preachers in London who didn’t have an education. He said, “Look, God will blow through any ram’s horn, but if you have a chance to become a silver trumpet, choose that rather.” And I thought the Master Seminary gave me a chance to be a silver trumpet, and I chose that rather. And in God’s goodness, so did my wife. That’s our story, I want to be a silver trumpet. I don’t say that to blow my trumpet, forgive the analogy. It’s just a hope, an encouragement to you as you see it in me, and we all together. Let’s be better, let’s be more. Let’s seek to be our best for Jesus Christ. Heaven gave its best for us, ought in we to give our best for heaven? Father, thank you for our time in the Word this morning. We pray that you’ll use it to sanctify us and equip us onto every good work. For Jesus’ sake, amen.