“Profiting from Our Mutual Fund of Spiritual Gifts”
1. Given by the Spirit
2. Given in Variety
1 Corinthians 12:1-7
(1) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: (2) You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. (3) Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (4) There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (5) There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. (6) And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. (7) But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: (NKJV TM)
In the name of Jesus Christ, dear Christian friends:
There are a lot of investment options available today. There are stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, etc. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. Stocks can have the advantage of gaining a lot of profit. Yet they also have the disadvantage of being unstable and uncertain with respect to any profit. Bonds, which are quite stable, practically guarantee a gain. Yet these also
have a disadvantage, not bringing very much profit. So there are plusses and minuses for all investment options. But there is one investment option that, in a way, attempts to combine these two … stocks with their risky nature and bonds with their conservative nature. This option is called a mutual fund. A mutual fund exists because all of the people involved have put their money into a pool. This pool of money then is put into various investments. Everyone who invests in this receives the same rate of return. That is why it is called a MUTUAL fund. By joining with others, everybody mutually benefits, every individual makes a profit.
All of us as Christians mutually share something as well … our spiritual gifts. These have been given to us by the Holy Spirit. And being that we are in one common group – a group of believers – each person will have different spiritual gifts and abilities. So in essence, we too, have a mutual fund, so to speak, from which we all can draw and profit. As we are told in verse 7: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: ”
Let’s discuss: PROFITING FROM OUR MUTUAL FUND OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
First, we learn that the spiritual gifts that we each have – and we each do have them – have been GIVEN to us BY THE SPIRIT. Verse 2: “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.” When the Apostle Paul wrote these words, he was dealing with a congregation that had largely worshipped heathen gods. They had been spiritual dead. And such was our state before our conversion. My friends, before each of us had come to faith – most of us perhaps by Holy Baptism – we were heathen. There was no faith in our hearts. We were just as these Gentiles at the Corinthian congregation. As we are told in Ephesian 2:1: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
We were spiritually dead. No heartbeat. No breathing. Not even spiritual brain waves. Have you ever seen a dead person come alive all by him or herself? Humanly spe aking, it isn’t possible! Sure, some people who were momentarily “dead” have come back to life. Perhaps a paramedic or doctor shocked one’s heart back to beating. But in all these cases, someone or something other than the person himself brought him to life. Death was our state before we came to faith. And yet by God’s grace we did come to spiritual life. The Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel in Word and in Baptism, brought us to life! Simply all by God’s grace! Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” By grace! By God’s unconditional love for us! We couldn’t merit our faith. We couldn’t earn it. God kindly chose to call us to be His own. And He did this through the work of the Holy Spirit. As it says in verse 3: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
It is only by the Holy Spirit that we are able to truly confess that Jesus is our Lord. That means that He is our master and we are his servants. We seek His glory alone, and not our own. That’s the distinction we need to keep in mind. For there are surely many people in our day who will say that “Jesus is Lord.” And yet they fail to realize what that means. As Jesus once said in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Yes, they might SAY that the Jesus is Lord. But do they confess with heartfelt authenticity that Jesus is Lord? For those who desire to have Jesus as their Lord will desire to follow what He says. After all, a servant should do what his Lord – or master – says. But that’s often not the case. Whenever someone teaches or does something contrary to what God has said in His Word, they are setting themselves up as Lord and thus lowering the glory of Jesus. And thus the first half of verse 3: “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
We are to be a people who desire to hear the Lord and His Word. THAT’S the instrument through which the Holy Spirit calls us to faith. That’s the greatest spiritual gift we all have received. But the Word is also the instrument through which the Holy Spirit gives us all other spiritual gifts. Just like our faith is totally ours by the grace of God, our spiritual gifts are totally ours by the grace of God. We didn’t merit them by anything we did. They are GIFTS of grace, gifts given to us freely like gifts we might receive on our birthday.
How grateful we can be, therefore, that we have such gifts! And we are to use them so that everyone profits, not just ourselves. Verse 7: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: ” That’s our mutual fund, so to speak. We are all put into a pool – or Christian group – so that all might have a mutual profit. And what is it? That those in the Church are built up and edified. To edify those in the Church! That’s the mutual profit we receive. Think of all those gifts among us. Some have that spiritual gift of a courageous faith. Of course, faith that saves is a fruit in all Christians. But some have a special gift of faith that is bold and seems to rarely crumble even in the most dire of situations. Some of us have the gift of joy, the true joy that doesn’t even diminish during those times of grief but is so often glad in the Lord. Some of us have such gifts as gentleness and kindness. Some of us even have patience, wisdom, or common sense.
But all such gifts are not there to satisfy our own wishes. That would be self-serving. They are to mutually profit all those among us. They are used to strengthen and support our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Just think how all of us have been blessed with VARIOUS spiritual gifts for everyone’s benefit. Isn’t that what makes life interesting? That these spiritual gifts have been GIVEN IN VARIETY? What if we were all just a bunch of cloned Christians that looked and acted alike? Wouldn’t that be absolutely boring? Variety adds spice to life. But it also makes the puzzle of the Christian Church to fit together. Each piece of the puzzle is shaped just a little bit differently – it is unique on its own. And yet each piece completes the full picture and therefore is important. So Paul says in v. 1: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:”
The Apostle Paul did not want the Christians in Corinth to be oblivious to the fact that they all had different and varying degrees of spiritual gifts. See, at the time that this letter was written the people were having quarrels among themselves. Some thought it was better to be followers of the Apostle Paul. Some thought it better to be followers of Peter or Apollos. And yet all these men taught the same, true Word of God. So where did they differ? In their gifts. And so some of the people ended up favoring the gifts of one apostle over another. This ended up causing strife and jealousy among themselves.
Now you’ve had a few different pastors here at Grace over the years. Each of us has had various gifts and abilities. We weren’t all the same. Some were (or are) gifted in various ways and degrees. But we all have taught the same Word of God. And for THAT, dear children of God, we all ought to be thankful. For even though there have been different pastors, the same Holy Spirit has been active and blessing. As it says in verses 4-6: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
The same Spirit. Different gifts. That’s what we all need to appreciate among our little flock here at Grace. But the devil seems to come into the picture quite often, doesn’t he?! Just like the Christians in Corinth wrongly disputed over which apostle was “better,” perhaps some among us have wrongly disputed over or wrongly thought about which former pastor was “better.” When we do so, we aren’t really disputing over the person. We are really disputing over the Holy Spirit. For it is the very same Spirit who has blessed all of these men with different gifts and abilities.
But this not only goes with pastors, but with all of us as Christians. Look at all the various Spirit-given abilities among us. We ought to be grateful for what we see. They are many and varied. Instead of being grateful for our fellow Christians and the mutual profit they bring us, the temptation is that we might gripe or complain about them instead. Those who do so are not really complaining about the PERSON. They are complaining against GOD Himself, the One who has given such gifts. Yes, you may notice certain weaknesses among your fellow Christians. But do you notice your own weaknesses? As our Savior said in Matthew 7:3: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”
ALL of us are sinful human beings with a weak sinful flesh. And we need to consider our own weaknesses and how the Lord has had mercy and patience with us. Only then will we be merciful and compassionate to our fellow Christians when their weaknesses show forth. That’s why Ephesians 4:32 is to always be our guide: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”
It is with such a forgiving attitude that we will begin to recognize the positive traits that our fellow Christians have instead of emphasizing the negative. For all such gifts that these people possess are gifts that we NEED. We need the courage, the strength, the wisdom, the patience, the kindness, the gentleness, the support of our fellow Christians … we all need the variety of spiritual gifts among us. They are there for our mutual profit, for our mutual edification, for our mutual encouragement. For just as a variety of stocks and bonds make mutual funds more stable and profitable, variety within the Christian Church makes our group stable in unity and profitable in Christian growth.
With such thankfulness for these spiritual gifts, we will find that the bond of unity amongst ourselves grows. We’ll have a healthy mutual fund of spiritual gifts. With such a mutual fund that we possess as Christians, we will find great value and profit for us all. My friends, let’s get our spiritual mutual fund growing and send it soaring to the sky! Amen.
Submitted by Pastor John Hein
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church