May 28, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”—1 Corinthians 12:27–31 (NIV)
The sum is greater than its parts. This is true of your smartphone, a football team, bread, the human body, and most importantly the body of Christ, the Church! Now, while it’s true that God works through individuals in incredible ways, when the Church walks in unity and each person operates in their gifts, He accomplishes “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).
Leading up to today’s passage, Paul has explained how spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit to individuals “for the common good” and not the elevation of any person or gift. They’re all different expressions of “the same Lord” to accomplish His purposes and further the work of the gospel. He then drives home that each person, with their gifts, is vital to that work.
In this passage, he tells us that God has appointed us to different roles within the body, but follows it up with something curious and confusing if you don’t look for the full context and discern the underlying heart behind it. He says, “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Doesn’t this conflict with his previous thought that “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be”? Shouldn’t I be satisfied with the gifts I am given?
We should desire the greatest gifts and calling on our lives the Holy Spirit has to offer. And what are those gifts? What is that calling? Is it something specific from the list in verses 27–29? Is it apostleship? Tongues? Healing? Teaching? Prophecy? Well, that’s just it . . . it all depends on you! What Paul is telling us is that we should desire the best gift that will give God the most glory, be the most helpful to the body of Christ and the advancement of the gospel in the world, and that will enable us to live and walk in greater love for God, our brothers and sisters, and the world! For you, it may be teaching or it may be helping. Both are valuable and necessary, and neither is greater than the other for you if it’s the gift the Spirit has ordained for you.
This often becomes an issue because we see certain gifts as more glamorous and valuable, and then we think if we have a different gift than those, we’re not as valuable. That’s wrong! On your phone, the internal components like the graphics chip or the touch screen sensor is just as important as the camera lens and the screen itself. It would be foolish for the sensor to try to be a speaker or camera lens because it won’t work properly. It’s the same for us! It would be foolish for us to seek to operate in a gift the Spirit has ordained for others while forsaking the gift He’s given us. It hurts us and the Church, because that important area will be neglected!
Do you know what the key is to this? Love! It’s the most excellent way Paul references here that he’ll go into detail on in chapter 13. If we operate from a posture of love for God and His people, we will desire the gift the Spirit deems is right for us to be used in the Church to edify, build up the body, and to further the work of the gospel in the world.
Pause: Why is it important that we “earnestly desire the most helpful gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31 NLT) and not just the gift we think is the best and coolest?
Practice: Take a spiritual gifts test online this week. We recommend using this test.
Pray: Father, I thank You for the Holy Spirit in me and in each person who is part of Your family. I thank You for bringing us together under the banner of Christ to accomplish Your wonderful work in us, in the Church, and in the work for Your glory. Holy Spirit, I ask that You would fill me with the very best gift there is . . . the gift that will best serve Jesus, the Church, and the advancement of the gospel. I don’t desire any other gift other than the one You have for me. Daily, I ask that You reveal this gift to me and develop it in my heart, mind, and life so I may operate in it as others in the Church operate in their gifts and together we walk in the good works that You have prepared in advance for us. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.