Every time the Apostle Paul gives any extended teaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit he also teaches about love and preserving unity in the fellowship. We can see this in extended teaching in 1Corinthians 12-14, as well as in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. Paul is passionate about the fact that gifts are given to build up the body of Christ, they are not a matter of pride but rather they call for humility and love. As we are open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit we will find ourselves tempted to be proud of our gift but we must acknowledge that a gift in no way makes us superior to others. The emphasis in the New Testament is on the fact that any gift that we have received is a gift of God’s grace. Gits are given to show how gracious God is not how good we are. Even the gifts that some look at as superior such as the apostle,prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are given to equip the body not to inflate the ego of those who are gifted. let look at some of the passages that I have mentioned, starting with Ephesians 4.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:1–16).
We often concentrate on the gifts,but the apostle Paul is looking here at the importance of unity in the body of Christ. Paul shows that every gift is given so that God’s people will be equipped to serve him, they will show at the same time their love to each other. TheChurch will not grow all the time there is disunity and a lack of seeking the gifts that God wants to use in his church. notice that the ministry gifts are given to equip people to serve the Lord, the ministry gifts are not given so that someone else does all the work but rather to equip God’s people to grow. Paul therefore starts the chapter with calling us to have the right attitude to one another. We are to be humble, loving people who realise that God’s church is united in Christ, but we are a diverse bunch of people who show forth the grace of God. Anyone reading this letter will know how important prayer is for Paul. Chapter 3 closes with one of his prayers and this shows us once again that we need to lead a life of dependence upon God, realising that we need God to empower us by His Holy Spirit. Talking about love, humility and patience reminds us that we are meant to be bearing the fruit of the Spirit as well as using the gifts of the Spirit. Romans 12 illustrates this clearly to us.
12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12)
Notice the sequence of this chapter first of all we are called to be living sacrifices dedicated to God, we are then called to use our gifts for the benefit of the church.
Paul then moves into a section teaching about the importance of love and not only are we to love one another, but we are to love our enemies as well. This links in with the teaching Paul gives when he is writing to the Church at Corinth. We often read 1Corinthians 13 out of context as a wonderful description of love (which it is) but fail to connect it to chapter 12 and 14. We need to see that in the context it functions to show us how our gifts should be used. We need to read this chapter carefully and prayerfully.
The purpose of the gifts is to see that the church of Christ is built up, to show forth the unity of the body. And also to exhibit before a watching world the glory of the grace that is given to us through Jesus Christ.