- Chad Werkhoven
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 - Gifts With Strings Attached
God's depending on you to change the world by using your gift to build Christ's Church.
Read / Listen
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 55
Q. What do you understand by
“the communion of saints”?
A. First, that believers one and all,
as members of this community,
share in Christ
and in all his treasures and gifts.
Second, that each member
should consider it a duty
to use these gifts
readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment
of the other members.
We just read the first half of chapter 12 two weeks ago as we were reminded that as Jesus rules all things as head of His Church, He does so by pouring out gifts on us His members through the Holy Spirit. Although these are truly gifts in that we've not earned them and they come with absolutely no cost, the Spiritual Gifts you've been given do come with strings attached. Because you've been gifted, you're now obligated.
The gift you've been given as an individual is not meant to be used alone. In fact, Paul here reminds you that your overall purpose in life isn't just taking care of yourself and meeting your own needs, or even your family's needs. Rather, your primary purpose is building up the body of Christ.
Follow the logic that the catechism is reflecting these last few weeks:
God rules all things through Christ;
Christ is the head of His Church;
Therefore, God rules all things through the Church (this does not mean that the Church is called to have authority over every sphere of life, but rather that the Church must point everyone and all things to the truth revealed in God's Word). And...
The Church is the body of Christ and is made up of a diverse membership;
The Church depends on you using the gift you've been given to function properly (v14, 18, 27);
Therefore, Christ depends on you using your gift to build the Church through which God rules all things.
You likely have a whole list of things you wish that were different in this world, and you've likely wondered why God doesn't just change this or that. Certainly God does have the power to miraculously change circumstances, and He does do that from time to time, but ordinarily God brings true blessing and shalom to the world by equipping His saints (that's you) to build His Church. So if you want things to get better, know and use your gifts.
The Apostles' Creed refers to the Church as a communion. You can see the similarity there with the word community. As our passage points out today, every saint plays a different role, but each part of the body is critically important.
There's a tension in today's text. On one hand, be content with the gifts you've been given and do not be jealous of what appears to you to be a more glamorous gift. But on the other hand, "eagerly desire the greater gifts (v31)" - literally seek them out. Work just as hard in your own life and especially the lives of our kids to develop their gifts as what we do to develop their academic and athletic gifts.
One of the biggest needs we have moving forward as we bring reformation to our Reformed denominations is for solid men to step up into the roles of elder and minister. How is God calling you to either support of fulfill this need in Christ's Church?
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be (v18)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for the gifts He's given you, and pray that you'll know what they are, how to use them and that you'll be content with your gift even as you eagerly desire greater gifts.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Romans 6