Friday, April 21, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit IV

But now are they many members, yet but one body.   And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.   Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (I Corinthians 12:20-26)

A few years ago, doctors routinely removed children’s tonsils because they so often became infected.  They were shocked to find that those who had their tonsils removed were more susceptible to various diseases.  They discovered that the tonsils were the first line of defense against certain diseases.  Especially during the depression children didn’t get adequate nutrition, and immigration and trade policies allowed them to be exposed to more pathogens than they could handle in a malnourished state.   When they were properly nourished the tonsils protected the children from disease. 

Frequently, in the church there is a person who doesn’t seem to contribute very much, but they may be praying or encouraging others in ways we aren’t aware of.  If they are hurt or ignored the entire church will suffer, even though they don’t realize why.  Every member of the church plays a vital role in the church’s health.  We need to learn to have equal concern for the little old man or woman who can’t do much as for the youth or the church leadership.  They are all part of the body. 

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (I Corinthians 12:27-28)

When God started the churches, he started with the apostles, who laid the basic foundation and wrote out what they had been taught by Christ.  He gave them special gifts such as healing, miracles, and speaking in tongues as a means of convincing people they were actually messengers from God.  Paul referred to those gifts as signs or proofs of apostleship in II Corinthians 12:12. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”   When the apostles were no longer present these gifts disappeared as well.

Because the scriptures were not yet complete and people were not familiar with how a church should run, God gave certain men a gift of prophecy so they could tell people about things that had not yet been addressed.  Once the scriptures were complete and the principles established, this gift would cease as well.  John and Matthew were written very early, apparently before about 37 AD.  As persecution began to grow in 37 AD, the Christians were forced to scatter, taking copies of John and Matthew with them.  The Holy Spirit gave certain men a special gift for teaching so they could explain the scriptures to the people in the different communities. 

The people in these other communities still had the same needs as those in Jerusalem, and the gifts of healing or miracles were still common in the churches, although only the apostles are described as having them later in Acts.     In addition the Holy Spirit gifted certain men with abilities to help people physically, emotionally, and financially.  As the churches grew there was a need for people to administer or govern the church and some people were gifted in that area.  As they moved into gentile communities and began to reach out to them, the need for people who could speak the different languages grew and some were given special gifts for speaking different languages. 

“Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:29-31)

Even in that day, there was no need for everyone to have the same gifts.   Only 12 were chosen as apostles.  Not everyone had a gift for teaching, or for healing or speaking in tongues.    Some gifts were more important and desirable than others, and as we saw in the first post on Spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit is far more important than any of the gifts.  Without it the gifts are worthless.   

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