“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
God takes what I am, who I am, and what I do and manifests himself through me in a variety of ways. And it’s all by one spirit.
During a kindergarten Sunday school class, the teacher was explaining that when the temple was finished, the presence of the Lord filled the temple. Instantly the eyes of each child got wide and full of excitement. But the teacher discovered that the source of their excitement was not joy that God had come to dwell in temple, but rather, delight at imagining that huge building filled with presents (gifts) from God. Sounds kind of like us and spiritual gifts doesn’t it?
There’s a key word there that you need to grasp. The word “gives” or “giving” is present tense, which means He is continually giving just as He wills. For example, hasn’t just given you three gifts to exercise. He is continually distributing – present tense – to the body through you in a variety of ways. These are things that to build the body up so we can storm the gates of hell.
Gifts Are Distributed Through People
The things he gives are manifestations of the spirit. He gives those gifts in two ways. First, he gives them to the body through people – through individuals. The gift of Christ to me and the gift of Christ to you – what we call the gifts of the spirit – is not necessarily that we have certain gifts.
The manifestation of the spirit is the gift. My ability, my personality, is not the gift. All these are the work of one and the same spirit – through you to people, and HE is the One who gives them – or is giving them to each one.
There are certain manifestations of the spirit that consistently flow through me. You might look at that and say, “Well, he has these three gifts because these things consistently flow through him.”
I believe God takes everything I am and every ability I have, and as I surrender to Him he manifests himself through me. The gift of Christ to me is that as I’m redeemed and as I’m surrendered, he takes everything I am and uses it to build up the body. I’m a channel through which a variety of gifts flow. That’s the gift to me – that I’m a channel through which manifestations flow.
And some of the things that flow through you, come to me. They belong to the Body, and they are distributed by the spirit in a variety of ways, means, and at different times – just as He wills.
Gifts are Distributed To People
So, first gifts are distributed through people. Second, they are distributed to people. The whole point of being distributed through people is that they would go to someone.
We often speak of having a gift. For example, I might have the gift of exhortation, so now you’re here to be exhorted by me as I exercise my gift on you. Do you ever feel like somebody exercised their gift on you? That’s not necessarily a fun experience.
Does that mean God will encourage you through me? That I can encourage people, and I have the ability to have faith? I’m not so sure. I think you may be a channel through which those things flow, and maybe even consistently. But there is a way in which I have a gift and a way in which I receive a gift.
If the way gifts are manifested in the body is through people to people, then the person to whom that gift is manifested is the one who receives the gift.
If I receive the gift of exhortation, I got exhorted at a time just when I needed it. If I received the gift of encouragement it means I’m receiving the grace of God through someone to me at a time when I needed encouraging.
At times when I am beat up, hurt, discouraged, disillusioned and lacking faith, I hear Jesus saying:
“I’m going to build my church. And the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. And the way I’m going to build my church is that I’m going to give it gifts of grace to build it up so it can function in service. People who are committed to me and involved in that service – when they get down I’m going to GIFT them with power and strength and encouragement and exhortation, and it’s going to come to them through other people and the body’s going to be built up.”
When you’re just ready to quit, grace comes. Have you ever had that happen? I have!
Jesus has called these things that the spirit is using in the church “Manifestations.” And these manifestations come in a variety of ways and to a variety of people at various times – but they are all from one spirit for the common good.