Living in the Spirit and in the Body for the Common Good

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Focusing on Four Words 

I think the main point of this passage is verse 7: "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." There are four words I want us to look at.

  1. The first is the phrase "each one." "To each one is given . . . "—that's you, all of you who are Christians and each of you individually.
  2. Second, the word "Spirit." "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit . . . "—that's God, the same God that brooded over the waters of Genesis 1:2 and joined in the creation of the universe.
  3. Third, the word "manifestation." "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit . . . "—that's the connection between you and God. God is manifested in your life. God, the Spirit, becomes visible through you. You are to show the Spirit. Professor Don Carson of Trinity Seminary wrote a whole book on just these three chapters (12–14) and he titled the whole book on the basis of this one verse: Showing the Spirit. To him that is what the whole section is about. I would say that is what the whole Bible and all of life is about—showing God, making God as seen as an invisible God can be seen.
  4. Fourth, the phrase "common good." "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." That's a result of the manifestation of God the Spirit in the life of the church—good comes to people. It is good for people to see God. It is good for us to see the manifestations of God's Spirit in each other's lives.

Glory to God and Love for People

So here again we have one of the pillar convictions of our ministry here at Bethlehem: the pursuit of God's glory (the manifestation of God) and the pursuit of what is good for us are not two separate pursuits. If you want to do good for people, you manifest God to them. If you want to manifest God and make him known, you do good to others, because that is the way he wills to manifest himself. That is what he is like.

The church is the place where these two things come together. The world often tries to do good for each other. But they leave God out. And so they do some temporary good, but no ultimate, eternal good. And some Christians try to experience God's manifestations alone, but do not do it in the context of an interdependent body, and so they may have some ecstatic experiences, but they don't see God as he really is, because he is the kind of God who manifests himself for the common good, not for individualistic religious raptures.

So this verse (v. 7) is right at the heart of what it means to be Christians individually, and what it means to be the church corporately. So let's take these four words, one at a time, and see what the context tells us about them, and about what we should be at Bethlehem.

1. "Each One"

"To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

Who Are the "Each Ones"?

Who are the "each ones" who are given the manifestation of the Spirit? Are you included? That's what verses 2 and 3 are talking about.

You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

Who then are the "each ones" in verse 7? They are those who once were pagans led away from Christ by idols—idols that have nothing to say. Dumb idols. Idols with no message, no good news.

But all that has changed because of the work of the Spirit. The "each ones" of verse 7 are people who have ceased treating Jesus as a curse to be rejected and now follow him as Lord. So the essence of who the "each ones" are is the Lordship of Jesus. The key sentence is at the end of verse 3: "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." The "each ones" in verse 7 are people who live under the Lordship of Jesus—who aim to think the way he says to think, and who aim to feel the way he says to feel, and who aim to do what he says to do. These are the people who each have a manifestation of the Spirit, because they cannot live like this "except by the Holy Spirit."

Those Living Under the Lordship of Jesus

The reason I say that LIVING under the lordship of Jesus is the mark of "each one" rather than just saying "Jesus is Lord" is that Scripture and experience teach us that people can indeed say that Jesus is Lord without the special work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. For example in Matthew 7:22–23 Jesus says, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

So you can see from those words that "practicing the lordship of Jesus" is the issue, not just saying that he is Lord. That's what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 12:3b, "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' [and mean it], except by the Holy Spirit." So the "each ones" of verse 7 are those who are so changed by the Holy Spirit that they say it and mean it and live it: Jesus is Lord. He runs my life. I consult with him. I don't do what he forbids and I do what he commands. And when I fall short, I feel bad and I repent and seek his forgiveness and press on to trust him and obey him more and more fully.

All from the Spirit

And all this comes from the Spirit. It cannot be experienced except by the Spirit of God. The Spirit's main business in the world is to glorify Jesus and make his Lordship real in people's lives. Jesus said in John 16:14, "[When the Spirit of truth comes] he will glorify me." Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "We all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." It is the Spirit that changes us from one degree of glory to another in the likeness of Jesus.

That's who the "each ones" are in verse 7—people who have set their face to be like Jesus and follow him as Lord because the Spirit is at work in them.

2. "The Spirit"

"To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

If we looked at verse 13, we could talk about being baptized in the Spirit (so that he is all around us, like water in baptism) or we could talk about drinking the Spirit (so that he is in us filling us and making us drunk with his holy influences). 

But I just want us to look briefly at the major emphasis of this passage summarized in verse 11: "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as he wills." This verse emphasizes two things.

One Spirit Behind All the Varieties of Gifts

One is that there is one and the same Spirit behind all the varieties of gifts. "One and the same Spirit works all these things." Look at verse 4. "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit." Verse 5: "And there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord." Verse 6: "And there are varieties of effects, but the same God." Verses 8 and 9: "For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings by the one Spirit."

Paul clearly wants us to get the message: we are different in our gifts and ministries and effectiveness, yes, no doubt about it; but those differences are not owing to many Spirits, or to bad faith, or to poor obedience. They are owing to "one and the same Spirit." Variety is owing to unity.

The Spirit Decides Who Has What

The other thing verse 11 emphasizes is that the Spirit is the one who decides who will have what gift and ministry and effectiveness. "One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." The Spirit who is in us and around us is also over us. He fills us and embraces us and rules us.

The Spirit is sovereign. That's the point of verse 11: he does what he wills. The diversity of gifts, the diversity of ministries, the diversity of effectiveness is his doing. He is God. He is the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son, and their one divine will comes to expression perfectly in his. They are one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And they build and rule and guide the church.

3. "Manifestation"

"To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

The reason the Spirit gives the gifts and the ministries and the effectiveness that he does is so that he will be manifested in the church. A manifestation is a showing. When you manifest something you bring it to light. You put it forward for people to see.

A Corrective for a Sometimes Overstated Truth

Now this is a corrective for a truth that we sometimes overstate. We say that, as I did at the beginning, that the Spirit's main ministry is to glorify Jesus. That's implied in verse 3: "No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Spirit." The "Spirit's main business is to exalt the Lordship of Jesus the Son of God.

But we go too far when we say that the second person of the Trinity is totally self-effacing—as if there were no honor and no glory belonging to the Holy Spirit himself. Verse 7 says that the gifts and ministries of believers in the church are manifestations of the Spirit. They are meant to show the Spirit. They are meant to make the Spirit visible. They are meant to make us admire and love and submit to the Spirit.

The Work of the Church Is Thoroughly Supernatural

But let me stress something else about the Spirit here. What this verse is saying is that the work of the church is a thoroughly supernatural work. One of the greatest curses on a church is when its business is down to such a science that it manifestly runs by human effort alone. In that case the verse should read not: "To each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit," but: "From each one is offered a manifestation of human effort." If that's the main thing in a church, the efficiency of man is glorified, not the sovereignty of the Spirit and the Lordship of Jesus.

I rejoice when I see evidences of reliance on the Spirit again and again at Bethlehem. We have much to learn, but I am encouraged that the Spirit is manifesting himself among us. Whatever you do, do it in the power of the Spirit that the Spirit might be seen among us more and more.

4. "The Common Good"

"To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

Finally, the Spirit is manifest for this purpose: the common good. The Spirit does not give gifts and ministries so that we can boast in our spiritual prowess. He gives gifts and ministries for two reasons: to manifest himself and to help us do good to each other in the church. Gifts are for the glory of God and the good of the church.

This is right at the heart of our understanding of biblical theology: the pursuit of God's glory and the pursuit of what is good for us are not two separate pursuits. If you want to do good for people, you try to manifest God to them. If you want to manifest God and make him known for who he really is, you make it your aim to do good to others.

A Concrete Opportunity to Manifest the Spirit 

We close by offering you a very concrete opportunity to begin a new habit of manifesting the Spirit and doing good to others. When you leave, we are going to give any of you that will make a promise to use them this way a pack of three "A Word of Hope . . . from a friend at Bethlehem" cards and three stamps. If you will promise to pray about whom you should send them to, and then send them before Christmas, you may have them as a gift.

It is simply a pump priming effort on our part to help you become more intentional in fulfilling the call on your life in verse 7: "To each one [of you here this morning] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

Words of hope are not the only gift we have to share for the common good. But maybe if we fill Bethlehem with words of hope from each other, all the other means of doing good to each other will increase as well.

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