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:

'Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others ...' Read Romans 12:4-8.

'Now the body is not made up of one part but of many ... God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be ... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other ... you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.' Read 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:

In 1Corinthians 14:1-19 and 26-31 we read phrases like 'for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort', 'edifies the church', 'that the church may be edified,' 'build up the church', 'done for the strengthening of the church', 'so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged'.

These communication gifts are given for the edification, unity, knowledge and maturity of the church, 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.

' prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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 ... we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ...' Read Ephesians 4:7 - 16.

There are many other gifts besides the communication gifts, and these, though less in the public view, are just as important. The use any of the gifts within the church is directed towards the mutual benefit of those who comprise the church:

'... love each other deeply ... offer hospitality to one another ... each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms ...' Read 1Peter 4:7 - 11.

But there are also two other outcomes that follow:

Where the exercise of the gifts is in the context of the world and in the sight 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 [Read Acts 2:40-41,42-47; 5:12-14; 11:19-24].

When the church is  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:

'If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be glory and power for ever and ever.' [1Peter 4:11]

God's 'intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord' [Ephesians 3:10, 11].

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009, 2021