Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spiritual Gifts 01: They Should Promote Unity

It seems to me that the topic of spiritual gifts has been either abused or ignored in the life of the church. Some people wrongly emphasize one gift over all other gifts. They have abused the purpose of these gifts, making them into a personal sign of spiritual maturity. On the other hand, there are some who, being scared of wrongly emphasizing the gifts, have swung the pendulum so far to the other side. They have ignored the teaching in the Scriptures on spiritual gifts.

I shared yesterday that I preached a sermon on this topic on Sunday. The importance of spiritual gifts so impacted me that I wanted to take more than one blog post to articulate what I learned from my study and teaching. I plan on doing that this week through three different blog posts. 

One of the main things I learned and have become convinced of is that spiritual gifts were given as a sign that should promote unity. In almost every occasion we read about spiritual gifts in the Scriptures, there is an emphasis of the body of Christ. The ONE body of Christ. Not two, but one. The Apostle Paul makes this point well when he writes . . .
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
If you are a Christian, the spiritual gift you have received is a sign that you are part of the body of Christ. And even though each part of that body is different, it is still a part of the whole. These gifts came through a common spiritual experience to each person in the body.

Everyone has the same spiritual story. There is a commonality in the fact that we were all born sinful. Then beyond that, if you are in Christ, you were saved the same way everyone else has been saved: through faith by grace based upon the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Nobody is saved differently than anyone else. Don't get me wrong, we might have different testimonies (some might have been saved young, some old). But the process of coming to salvation is the same for each person.

But it is even more than that. We also share a common spiritual experience of being baptized into the same spiritual body. The Spirit of God has unified us through what Paul calls baptism by the Spirit (he reiterates it by the phrase, "made to drink of one Spirit").

I have come to love many of my "charismatic" friends. I love their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. I love their passion for worship and the lost. But this is one area that I think some of them have completely misunderstood. Paul's point seems to be the exact opposite of saying someone is saved (part of the body) and then only later they receive the baptism of the Spirit in some form of second blessing. It sure seems his exact point is that there are NOT two bodies of Christ (those not baptized and those who have been). Paul is saying there is only ONE body of Christ and that all who have been saved have received it when they were made to drink of one Spirit.

We are brought into the body of Christ together and the gifts that the Spirit gives at that time are meant to promote unity in that body. There should be no fear that our diversity in the body of Christ, or our diversity of gifts should fracture our unity. Our unity lies up and outside of whether we can speak, lead, evangelize, or organize like someone else. Our unity lies in the fact that we have a common spiritual experience of salvation in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has led to a common spiritual experience of being baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ.

But Why Don't We Feel This Unity?

That is what I will try to address in the next post.

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