God has endowed the church with what are commonly called ‘spiritual gifts’.

A study of the various lists of these gifts in the New Testament reveals that the primary purpose and use of the gifts is church-directed. They are not given for the benefit of the individual believer, nor are they given for the benefit of the world. They are given, primarily, for the benefit and well-being of God’s church.

  • When Paul likens the presence of various gifts in the church to the various parts of the physical body he indicates that ‘each member belongs to all the others’ – in other words the various gifts within the church exist for the support, benefit and proper functioning of all the individuals who comprise the church and thus for the well-being of the whole body, the church [Romans 12:4-8; 1Corinthians 12:14-27].
  • The various gifts are given by the Spirit to the church ‘for the common good’ [1Corinthians 12:7], that is, not for the benefit of the individual believer who has the gift, but so that the individual believer will use that gift for the common good of the believers corporately.
  • The communication gifts are intended for the instruction, edification and encouragement of the church [1Corinthians 14:1-19, 26-31].
  • The gifts are given for the edification, unity, knowledge and maturity of the church [Ephesians 4:7-16], to equip the church to stand in solidarity on the basis of God’s truth, protected by that truth against any deviant doctrines that come along.
  • The use of the gifts within the church for the mutual benefit of those who comprise the church [note the phrases ‘each other’ and ‘one another’] results in praise to God [1Peter 4:7-11].

Where the exercise of the gifts is in the context of the world it is with the intention and result that people are convinced of the truth, turn to God, and are added to the church [Acts 2:40-41,42-47; 5:12-14; 11:19-24].

When the church is thus built up, strengthened, supported, cared for, encouraged and protected by the exercise of God’s gifts, God himself is glorified both in and by the church [Acts 2:46,47; 1Peter 4:11b].

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009