1 Corinthians 12:4-13, 27-31
There are spiritual truths I will never grasp and Christian standards I will never attain except as I share in community with other believers. This is God's plan. The Holy Spirit ministers to us, in large measure, through each other.
This has immediate implications for evangelism. The individual believer's responsibility is first of all to the Christian community and to its head, Jesus Christ. The first task of every Christian is the edification of the community of believers. If we say that reaching non-Christians is the first task of the believer, we are ignoring what the New Testament teaches about spiritual gifts and place a burden on the backs of some believers that they are not able to bear. Further, it puts all the emphasis at the one point of conversion and undervalues the upbuilding of the church, which is essential for effective evangelism and church growth.
This leads us to affirm the priority of community in relation to witness. Fellowship and community life are necessary within the church in order to equip Christians for their various kinds of witness and service. In one way or another all Christians are witnesses in the world and must share their faith. But we can be effective witnesses only as we experience the enabling common life of the church. And this common life is truly enabling only as the community becomes, through the indwelling of Christ and the exercise of spiritual gifts, the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.
• In the body of Christ, who are the members you would most like to be like and why?
• What do you do to make the most significant contribution to the local body of Christ?
• What can you do to be more content and fruitful in your place within the body of Christ?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, 27-31:
1. Verse 3 says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” How does the exercise of the Spirit's gifts enable the church today to declare the lordship of Christ in the world?
2. Gifts must be seen not as spiritual fringe benefits but as completely central to the life experience and functioning of the Christian community. How is each of the gifts in verses 8-11 central to the community and not a fringe benefit?
3. How do these gifts contribute to the two directions of spiritual gifts: outward ministry in the world and inward ministry within the church?
4. In the New Testament there is no hierarchy of value or hint of a “ladder” concerning the Spirit's gifts (vv. 4-6, 12-13). How can each person's gifts within a community be equally valued?
5. How has your church shown (or how can it better show) that your gifts are appreciated and to be used?
6. How can the organization and order of the church enhance the exercise of each believer's gift and faith?
How can a church's organization and order undermine the exercise of gifts in the faith community?
7. How can you encourage those who minister to the body of Christ by the exercise of their gifts?
• Since gifts are given to meet the needs of a certain faith community and the area of the world in which the community is located, what spiritual gifts are needed in your church for its witness, work and fellowship?
• Plan to talk to someone in your church who knows you well and ask what gifts of the Spirit they see in you. Ask this person for prayerful advice and accountability as you exercise this gift. Talk with an elder or pastor about the results of this assessment.
From Christ's Body: The Community of the King by Howard Snyder. Copyright 1996 by Howard Snyder. Published by InterVarsity Press.