This is episode 10, “The Body of Christ,” part 2. In this study, I consider the principles taught by Paul in First Corinthians 14. Even though we no longer live in an age of miraculous gifts, the principles taught by Paul are timeless.
For example, if we see an opportunity to serve in the kingdom of God, and we are not naturally gifted in that area, God will help us grow into this role of service. When we pair this desire to serve with our genuine desire to motivate one another, we find a powerful and edifying combination.
We Serve the Body of Christ
One of the points that I was emphasizing on our last program was the need for all of us to recognize that we don’t go to church for ourselves. We go to church to serve other people and to worship God. That our focus needs not to be on ourselves but on putting the talents and abilities that God has given us to work in the service of our fellow Christians and in service to him as worship.
This attitude is upheld by Paul in passages like Romans chapter 12 verses 3 through 8, where he tells us to examine the gifts that God has given us and to put those gifts to work put them to use in service in the kingdom of God.
Grow in Our Service
And as we talked about in our last program, Jesus warns us not to bury our talents. To not set these things aside out of fear but rather to put them to work. He expects us to grow. He expects to see an increase in those talents. So put them to work. Put them to use. Grow in them and do so not out of your own personal gain or your own personal benefit. But rather for the benefit of other people. And as I left off on our last week’s program, I was talking about how if you see a need in the church, don’t wait for someone else to do it.
1 Corinthians 14
I’d like to take a moment to talk about the book of First Corinthians, chapter 14. And I want to recognize from the outset that in First Corinthians 14, Paul is talking to a congregation that has miraculous manifestations of the spirit. They’ve got miraculous gifts, spiritual gifts that they are putting to work. Some of them are prophets; some of them can speak in tongues; some of them can interpret tongues; some of them can heal.
Now I don’t believe that these gifts have persisted in the church. I think it’s very clear from the New Testament that these gifts were only available through the laying on of the hands of apostles. Paul was an apostle. He helped start the church in Corinth. And because he was an apostle, he could lay his hands on these folks, and they could receive these miraculous gifts.
So while I don’t believe we’re living in the same type of age where we have miraculous gifts, I do think that the principles that paul is talking about in first corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14 continue to apply to us today. That even though we might not have the same gifts, the principles that are behind putting those gifts to work are universal.
Desire to Serve the Body of Christ
In verse number 1 of chapter 14, he says, “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts but especially that you may prophesy.” That attitude of desiring a spiritual gift — of wanting to do something in the kingdom of God — is still needed in our day and age. And as he says down in verses 12 and 13, in their time, it was possible for them to want to have a spiritual gift to ask God for it. And if they asked in faith with the right kind of attitude, they would receive it.
He says in verses 12 and 13, “Even so you since you are zealous for spiritual gifts let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” Paul’s point here is if you’ve got a desire to serve in the kingdom of God, don’t desire to be able to do this for your own glory, for your own honor, for your own reputation. Instead, desire it so that you can help make the body stronger.
The idea of edification means we are building up. So I want to do this thing — I want to carry out this job or this this this talent — but I don’t want to do so for my own reputation. I want to do so because I want to help the kingdom of God.
And I’ve seen this sort of thing at work. I believe that there are natural abilities, that there are god-given abilities that each one of us receives. But I have also seen people who work very hard and very diligently when they apply themselves to a specific task. They can actually become quite good or quite proficient at that particular task.
Not All Gifts are Natural
Let me give you an example. In the world of music, there’s this thing called perfect pitch. Sometimes it’s called absolute pitch. And some people have this gift. It’s kind of an incredible gift. They can hear a random note, and they can tell you what that note is on a scale. So they hear a B flat, and they’re like, “oh, that’s a B flat.” They don’t have to be looking at it on a piano keyboard or an instrument. They can just hear someone sing that note and tell you what that note is. It’s a really incredible gift.
And for the longest time, we thought this was a gift that could only be acquired naturally. A lot of great musicians down through the centuries had this gift. Mozart, whose name you’ve probably heard before, had this gift. But others did not. Beethoven, who came after Mozart in music history, did not have the gift of perfect pitch. So this is quite an unusual, quite a rare gift. Only one in ten thousand people have perfect pitch.
For a long time, we thought it could only be acquired naturally through genetics. But over in Japan, a researcher took a group of kids under the age of six and actually taught them — over the course of months — perfect pitch. Through hard work and focused practice, they were able to acquire and develop perfect pitch.
Not All Gifts in the Body of Christ are Natural
Now let’s take that example and let’s apply that to the church. I have seen people for whom teaching is not a natural gift, who through effort — because they want to serve in the body of Christ, because they want to help build up the body of Christ, because they see a need and they want to fill it — they turn themselves into very good teachers. They have a desire. They ask God for help. Their desire is for all the right reasons. And so they are able to develop these abilities.
My point here is if you see a need in the church, don’t think that you just have to be naturally talented. Don’t just wait for the person who has quote-unquote “the gift” to do it. If you see a need, decide that you’re going to be the one to carry it out. And I believe that if it’s your desire to do this so that the body can be stronger, I believe God will help you.
That’s why Paul says let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may be able to interpret. Ask God to help you acquire that gift. Maybe it’s singing, maybe it’s teaching, maybe it’s giving. I don’t know what it might be, but ask God to help you and develop that gift through practice. And you know what? You can become an effective member of Christ’s body!
We All Need the Body of Christ!
I want to turn our attention over to Hebrews chapter 10, verses 24 and 25. And I’d like to take us back to a question that was asked of me that I shared with you all last week. The question was, “Why do we go to church? Do we really need the church? Do Christians really need to be a part of a church? Or, can we just serve God without being a part of a church?”
Well, that sort of question is completely foreign to the New Testament, and in Hebrews chapter 10 verses 24 and 25, we see why:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching.”
I love these two verses, and I want you to notice at the beginning of verse number 25, the writer of Hebrews encourages us “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” Don’t abandon attending church.
Don’t Give Up on the Body of Christ!
Now I realize that some people who may be listening to this program have had some negative, very negative experiences with the church. And maybe you’re searching for a church that looks a little bit more like the Bible. But you haven’t been able to find it yet, or you see all sorts of things wrong with various churches. And it sort of turns you off. Well, I want to encourage you to keep looking, keep searching. Remember Jesus’s promise:
“Ask, and you will receive, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
These are promises that you can take to the bank. The writer of Hebrews says we shouldn’t forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Don’t abandon assembling together with Christians; that’s not the answer. The answer is: keep looking, keep searching. And I am confident that if your heart is in the right place, that if you are genuinely seeking the type of church that is found in the Bible, you can find it. It is out there.
“Consider One Another” in the Body of Christ
He says in verse 24, “let us consider one another.” This goes back to what it means to be a part of the body. To be part of a functional body of Christ, we have to be placing our consideration upon others, giving our consideration to other people. Not focusing on ourselves but rather looking at my brother or sister in Christ and saying, “What do they need?” That’s what the writer of Hebrews means when he says to “consider one another.” It means to give thought, to take some time to plan, to give some foresight.
The Amplified Version says, “and let us consider and give attentive, continuous care,” — attentive, continuous care. Barclay, in his commentary, translates it this way, “let us put our minds to the task of spring one another on to love and fine deeds.” The New American Standard says, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another.”
You see, a functional church — a church that is operating as a body — has members in it who are thinking about, “What can I do for my brothers and sisters? What can I do to help out my fellow members of the body of Christ?”
It means you’ve got to have your eyes open. You’re not thinking about yourself; you’re evaluating the needs of the various members of the body. This is what it means to be a part of the church. You’re not there for yourself; you are there for the good of other people.