Different Gifts, But One Fundamental Purpose

(Part 34 under the Category, “Connect. Grow. Serve.”)

imagesIn our study of 1 Cor. 12, we noted two things. First, there are different spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. Second, there are different gifts for everyone in the body of Christ.

Third, in the body of Christ, there are different gifts given to everyone, but for one fundamental purpose. Paul wrote, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7, emphasis added). The preposition “for” (pros) in the accusative case speaks of a goal—“for, for the purpose of.” (Gingrich) Paul is saying that the Spirit gives the gifts for the purpose of the “common good.”

What is this “common good”? The Greek is just one word—sumphero. It means, “to be of an advantage to someone.” (Louw-Nida) Paul used the same word in Acts 20:20. He told the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable [sumphero], and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of    repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus, the meaning of sumphero is what is advantageous, what is beneficial, and what is profitable to others. In the context of the church, Paul is concerned with the common good—the spiritual benefit of the members of the church.

In 1 Cor. 12:7, Paul mentions “the manifestation of the Spirit.” The context is clear. The manifestation of the Spirit refers to the spiritual gifts of the Spirit. To teach that the manifestation of the Spirit refers to the slaying, dancing, and miracle working of the Spirit is to teach what is alien to Paul. Paul is saying that the manifestation of the Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit. Now the gifts of the Spirit are meant for the spiritual benefit of the church—for the common good. The Spirit gives the gifts for the spiritual growth of all members of the body. That is the fundamental purpose of the gifts of the Spirit.

Conversely, the gifts of the Spirit are not given for the good of an individual only. The gifts are not given for your personal benefit. The gifts are not given for your self-edification. Paul is not concerned with individual gratification of the gifts. Instead, he is concerned with communal satisfaction. He does not encourage personal edification. Rather, he emphasizes church edification.

We see Paul’s emphasis on church edification in Chapters 12, 13, and 14. In 1 Cor. 12:7, he says that the gifts are for the common good. In vv. 21-24, he writes that we should value the less honorable parts of the body—the hands and feet.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it

In v. 25, he gives the reason why. “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25). It is to prevent division in the body. To prevent division, everyone must give the same care to others. We should give the same concern for the less honorable members that we give to more honorable members in church. There should be no discrimination.

This is a good question for us today. Do we give the same care for the less important and the less honorable members of our church? God honors the less honorable parts of the body of Christ. We are to give the same care for them. If you care for one another, you seek the good of each other—the common good.

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