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For Beauty and For Glory: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
Grace Community Church Sunday School
The Spirit gifts each believer according to His will.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
One of the many evidences of the personality of the Holy Spirit is that He acts, and in particular, He acts
according to His will. This language is used to describe both the Father and the Son, so it speaks to the Spirit’s
equality with them as God, but it very pointedly speaks to His personality.
Paul is making a contrast here between the diversity of gifts and the singularity of their source. Notice how
many times he says “the same Spirit”:
“Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit” (v.4).
“…to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the
same Spirit, to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit” (vv.8-9).
“But one and the same Spirit is active in all these [gifts mentioned in vv. 8-10], distributing to each
person as He wills” (v. 11).
Thus, everyone who is born again is given gifts from the Holy Spirit. The gifts are many and diverse, but it is
the wisdom and will of the one Spirit of God who gives them. This then leads Paul into his metaphor of the
many parts of the one body.
Paul’s teaching in verses 12-31, as we’ve looked at before here at Grace, has a twofold approach. There is no
place for someone to declare of themselves, “I’m not needed by the body!” There is also no place for someone
to declare of another, “You’re not needed by the body!” As Chad has put it before, “You are a part of the body,
but you are a part of the Body.”
In the same way, we can look at it from the perspective of the Spirit’s active role in giving those gifts. There is
no one who can rightly say, “I’m not needed,” because the Spirit distributes “to each person as He wills.” We
can boldly declare to every born-again person: You are needed by the Church because the Spirit gifted you
specifically for her.
There is also no one who can rightly say, “You’re not needed,” because the Spirit gifted every believer, not just
certain ones. The gifts vary, but not the fact of their giving.
The Spirit’s gifts to and for the Church glorify Jesus.
“At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the
Holy Spirit according to His will” (Hebrews 2:4 HCSB).
“Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when
you were pagans, you used to be led off to the idols that could not speak. Therefore I am informing you that no
one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the
Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:1-3 HCSB)
“This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is
from God (1 John 4:2 HCSB).
The context of Hebrews 2:4 is the coming of the gospel to the writer of Hebrews. Jesus first spoke it, and the
apostles confirmed that message to them. At the same time, the Holy Spirit testifies to the gospel of Jesus by
“signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will.”
Therefore, since the Holy Spirit continues to distribute gifts according to His will, He still testifies to Jesus in
doing so. Therefore, we are a means of the Holy Spirit glorifying Jesus, just as Jesus said He would do. When
we serve the Church—the body of Christ—we serve the Head of the Body, Jesus. The Spirit invites us and
includes us into His very ministry of magnifying Jesus.
The lists of gifts that the Spirit gives are fairly consistent, but not exact matches across the New Testament. I
believe this indicates that those lists are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather examples. Whatever your gift
(or gifts) may be, use it to serve others that Jesus may be magnified:
“Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of
God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from
the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him
belong the glory and power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:7-11).
Notice the flow of that passage: whatever your gift is, use it to serve others. Doing so is being a good steward of
the grace God has given you. Use your gifts with the confidence of God’s authority and the humility of resting
in Him, because the ultimate result of that service is the glory of Jesus, to whom it belongs.
This passage best ties together the realities that we glorify Jesus by using our gifts for the benefit and upbuilding of the body. Notice that in Peter’s examples, there are both highly visible and less visible gifts in view:
those who speak the words of God are of equal value to those who serve by God’s strength. You may not be
aware of every instance of service that is going on, but it is no less valuable to God or to the Church.
The Spirit’s gifts to and for the Church make us like Jesus.
The Spirit’s gifts to and for the Church glorify Jesus in a very specific way as well—they make us like Jesus.
Notice that the gifts are always other-directed. There are no gifts—not even the so-called “sign” gifts—that are
individual or privately oriented. In fact, much of the discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 comes in
the context of the gathered worship of the Church.
This doesn’t mean that spiritual gifts are only used then, but it does point to the reality that the more excellent
way (1 Corinthians 12:31) of spiritual ministry is the way of other-focused love. As we use our gifts and serve
in this way, we are becoming more and more like Jesus, who is the Incarnation of Love Himself. God’s
Trinitarian love is eternally and perfectly other-oriented; as the Spirit gifts us and empowers us to serve the
saints, we “share in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 HCSB). We don’t become ontologically or substantially gods
(contra Mormon doctrine); we become like the nature of God, who is love.
Here we see again that service to the saints is never wasted; Hebrews 6 reminds us, “For God is not unjust; He
will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints—and you continue
to serve them” (Hebrews 6:10 HCSB). Notice that serving the saints is showing love for God’s name. God sees
the behind-the-scenes, not publicly known service made for His people. It doesn’t have to be famous to be
known and honored by God and to be valuable. It not only benefits the saints whom you serve; it also is a part
of making you more and more like Jesus.