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And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 31

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and dif I deliver up my body to be burned,1 but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures (protects) all things.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

God has given (as in free, through grace) each of us in the body of Christ gifts.  The purpose of these gifts is not to exalt one believer over others, but to serve in the building and maturing of every member of His church so that we can look like Him and minister like Him. The gifts and offices are given by grace.  Grace is unmerited favor, something that is not bestowed because we “earned it,” and it does not make us “better” than others. When we get caught up in self pride in our office or gift and forget the purpose, we take what is meant to be exercised in love for the building up of others and instead turn these gifts into a wrecking ball, crushing spirits and destroying the body.

1 Corinthians 13 is strategically placed after chapter 12, which is a discussion of the gifts, and chapter 14, which discusses orderly worship.  Love is to be the “more excellent way.”  If we are behaving in such a way as to confuse or hurt someone, whether inadvertently or purposefully, we need to take heed. 

Alistair Begg in his Truth for Life sermons has presented an invaluable series on Christian love in the church this week.  I would encourage all to listen to the series.

www.truthforlife.org/broadcasts/archive/

 

 

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:19-26

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:5-6

17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another

Proverbs 27:17

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-26

None of us are perfect.  We all mess up from time to time, and hopefully, are consciences are tender enough for the Lord to lovingly correct us, pick us up, and send us on the right path.  But sometimes our hearts have been hardened, and we don’t want to hear correction.  The mere suggestion that something might not be right is met with our flesh rising up and lashing out in anger.  The flesh is fighting for its life.  It does not want to lay down and be over taken by the seed of image of Jesus Christ, planted in us by the Holy Spirit. It will convince us that we are right, and that our discomfort is because of the other person, and our anger is a “righteous indignation”.

This is why James tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”  When we refuse to listen to others, cutting them off before they can finish their thought, we can miss what the Lord may be trying to tell us.  When we get angry quickly and allow ourselves to be offended by the message, then we trample the opportunity for the Lord to correct us, or prune us.  And that behavior does not produce righteousness.  Self-righteousness is not a fruit of the Spirit.  It is a work of the flesh, and we must be vigilant to shut it down when it rears its ugly head.

The Lord uses each of us in the body of Christ to sharpen, or hone, each other.  Paul says in Romans 12:3:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

We must be careful not to surround ourselves with an entourage who will only tell us what we want to hear.  A faithful friend will try to tell us the truth in a loving way.  It is up to us to be willing to receive it in a loving way. 

Finally, God loves us so much, that he won’t give up on us.  If we rebuff correction time and time again, He will keep at it.  If you find yourself in the same ugly circumstance time and time again, that would be a clue.  Stop and listen.  And be quick to love.