When the topic of using our spiritual gifts comes up, this illustration comes to mind.
The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, willed his marvelous violin to Genoa — the city of his birth — but only on condition that the instrument never is played upon. It was an unfortunate situation, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. The beautiful, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning. -Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.
But far too often those people resources go under-utilized and sit in our buildings rotting like an unused violin. The apostle Paul wanted the church not to be ignorant about the use and importance of spiritual gifts. God gave the church these gifts to be used and often used for the advancement of the gospel.
The Common Good
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12: 7.
The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the church to unite it around a common good of announcing to the world the reign of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Spiritual gifts are intended never to divide the body or cause in-fighting, or jealousy. The concept Paul introduces of “the common good”, is a powerful and inspiring phrase, one worth holding on and lifting up often in our congregations. The old Adam has a strong desire to live a selfish, self-centered existence, seeking to use his or her gifts solely for personal gain or boasting. However, the new man recreated in Christ through the washing of regeneration understands that our spiritual gifts are for the enjoyment and advancement of the whole body of Christ and the kingdom. This revelation begs the question then, “How can I use my God-given gifts in, with and among the body of believers?” And not “Do I want to exercise my spiritual gift?”
Paul accentuates the authority of the Spirit in the distribution of the gifts (v. 11).
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Next week we will look at the gifts listed in I Corinthians 12 in more detail, but understand this: the Holy Spirit does not give all Christians the same gift or gifts. Rather he gives them “…just as he determines…” (v. 11). I know when I started out in ministry I wanted certain gifts that I thought would make ministry easier and benefit the body of Christ. Like the gift of evangelism. But the Spirit did not grant me that wish. So, while we may pray for particular spiritual gifts, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1. The Holy Spirit has the authority to give gifts as he determines. Gifts that the Holy Spirit feels will benefit the body and meet the needs of the body of Christ. Whatever gifts you have been given, use them to the glory of God and the common good of the body of Christ. The body needs you. The mission of God needs you. Go and be a blessing.