When a baby is born, parents marvel at God’s creative masterpiece. They wonder what this little baby will be like as he or she grows up. They have all kinds of aspirations for this remarkable gift that God has given them. As the baby grows, he/she inherently begins to open and close its eyelids, sucks with its tongue, cries with its vocal cords, moves its arms and legs, holds onto Mommy’s or Daddy’s fingers, digests milk, eliminates waste, and so on. As the baby grows it develops the use of its internal and external parts because this baby was designed by God in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception. The Bible speaks of that in Psalm 139:13-15, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” (NLT). All the parts were designed by the Creator God to work according to His design. As the baby grows, the parts inherently learn to carry out their function and each part grows in its ability to fully work together with the rest of the parts of the body they belong to. As the child grows even more, he or she observes other children and adults using their body parts. The child further enhances their abilities as they observe and practice the use of their body parts as they mature.
The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of the physical body to describe the spiritual body of Christ, the Church. In Romans 12:4-5 Paul writes, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (NLT). Just as a baby has many body parts, so does the Church of Jesus Christ. You and I become a part of the Body of Christ when we are born from above by the Spirit of God. God has given each of us a function in that Body, which is called a spiritual gift. At the moment of our new birth by the Holy Spirit, He imparts at least one spiritual gift to each of us. These gifts are intended to build up the Body of Christ as we exercise them. They are called gifts because we did not choose them or create them ourselves. Just as a child is gifted with physical body parts, so is the Church.
Paul addresses several churches in the New Testament concerning the faithful use of these gifts. His most extensive description is of the church at Corinth. This church was gifted generously but they were misusing their gifts for their own selfishness and not for the good of the Body of Christ in Corinth. He said that they were still immature in their spiritual growth. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-12, Paul explains this gifting, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ” (NLT). Paul instructs the Romans how to use those gifts in chapter 12, verses 6-8. “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” (NLT).
Our spiritual gifts are to be used for the good of the Body of Christ and they are to be used well. Just as a baby grows and inherently uses its body parts in the way God designed them to be used, that baby also uses the parts of the body better as it practices and learns from others. So it is with the church. We as gifted members of the Body inherently use our gifts unaware of them until we begin to know by experience that we have them. I believe the Holy Spirit gives us that insight either by His inward prompting and through the encouragement of others who notice our gifts, just as a parent points out how to use legs and hands and fingers and other body parts to their child. We also derive enjoyment and outward encouragement when we notice that our gifts are effective with other members of the Body who may have different gifts. We learn how to work together as one body with many parts. So, the key is to grow in Jesus Christ and cooperate with God, Who is conforming you into the image of His Son. Use your gifts for His glory and enjoy your part in the Body of Christ in building it up.
Bill Olsen, Elder