#8.

The gifts God gives us are to benefit the whole body in expressions of fellowship
1 Peter 4:10 — As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Ephesians 4:11–12 — And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 1 Corinthians 12:7 — But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. We have begun to think of what it means to have been united with the Lord Jesus Christ and made a part of His body. We have pondered the fact that the body cannot function as it should unless each part does the job for which it has been designed and equipped. Contrary to the spirit of this age, we have come to understand that in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no independent existence - we are dependent first of all on Jesus Himself but then He has arranged things quite deliberately so that we are dependent in the church on one another. An English poet once recognized the truth of this fact in the world at large when he penned the words, "No man is an island", but if it is true in a general sense for all mankind, it is strikingly so in the church, and it is critical that we understand this and renounce the worldly thinking that threatens to dismember the body of Christ in the 21st century western world. It is totally consistent with this thinking, then, to see in God's Word that He did not give each of us our gifts so that we might either ignore them or keep them to ourselves for our own benefit alone. In every passage of Scripture where the Lord instructs us about the gifts we have received from Him, He makes it abundantly clear that they have been given to us for the good of the whole body. There are many places in Scripture where this is the clear emphasis and we give three examples above. This is not a matter over which there is any debate or uncertainty - God has made is crystal clear. In a spiritual sense, it is the gifts God has given us that make one believer an eye to the body, another a hand, another a foot and so on - and God ensures that each local expression of the body of Christ has all the gifts that it needs in order to be complete and to function effectively - but only if all the gifts that are given are expressed in the life of the church through fellowship. We can review some of the aspects of fellowship we have seen so far in this way: we each receive gifts from God because we are united with Christ and "when He ascended on high, He gave gifts to men". Our gifts flow from that union with Him, and the use of the gifts is an expression of that union, which is what real fellowship is all about. We cannot be Christians and possess no gifts to use in His service. In the next few weeks, then, God willing, we are going to look at the gifts God gives us and then at how those gifts are to be expressed in the life of the church, for the good of the body, in true fellowship. This will underscore again how shallow the modern perception of "fellowship" has become. But for now, meditate on these points, which come directly from what we have just been considering:

First, you have been uniquely gifted by God to serve a purpose in the body of Christ (if you are truly a believer). Second, your gifts were not given you for your own benefit, but for the good of the church. Third, if you ignore your gifts, or do not use them in the body of Christ as you should, or use them only to benefit yourself, you are injuring the body of your Lord, which must be a very great sin. Jesus told parables about people who were given gifts but did not put them to use in His kingdom and His displeasure with them is made very evident when they are called to account. Fourth, as we shall see, the manifestation of these gifts within the body of Christ and for the good of the body is the substance of true fellowship in Him, which is a very great blessing and privilege for every true child of God. Let's take these things to heart and begin (or continue) to apply them in our church in the coming week!

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