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Using the Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
We've been here before but look at this again. Paul follows with a list of various "manifestations." Manifestation means making manifest, or easy to see (literally "striking"). What is it that all these things reveal?
This shouldn't be too hard - what I'm getting at is that they are each reveal or make manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit in a way that's hard to ignore.

What reasons might there be for the Spirit to be made obvious in such ways? Check 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 for one reason, and 1 John 3:24 for another.
Think about this yourself - maybe you can think of some reasons other than the ones the verses refer to. The first refers to the message of the Gospel being confirmed by works of power. The gospels say the same thing about Jesus - people recognised he was a prophet from God because of the signs that he did. The second is a more personal application - just as other people can see that we have the Spirit of God, so can we - proving our faith and salvation is sure. If we experience the power and work of God so clearly in us, how can we doubt that he is real and that he is with us personally?

Who does Paul say the manifestation is given to? (remember again that he says is given, and not was or will be)
The emphasis I'm trying to get at here is "to each one." I can write it out in a longer form: "to everyone individually the manifestation of the Spirit is given . . .". The other part is the tense of what he is saying. It is not something that happened in the past, and it isn't something we get when we reach a certain level of holiness - it is given, now, to everyone who has the spirit.

If these gifts are given for the "common good" (for everybody together), what aren't they to be used for?
Simply they are NOT for personal gain or aggrandisement. It is tempting to use (or pretend to use) the gifts to make people think you are holy, or wise or whatever, to garner attention and make people look up to you. Or to try to use a word of knowledge to know what horse will come in first or what the winning numbers will be. Examine you motives when seeking the gifts - are you doing it to serve others and God, or to get something or be someone? This is particularly a problem with gifts like tongues - one it seems Paul had to talk to Corinthians about later in the book.

Lets bring this all together - if the manifestations demonstrate we have the Holy Spirit, and are given to everyone individually to be used for the good of everyone equally (take a breath and digest that) what sort of things are they to be used for?
They are given so that every christian can use them for the benefit of others, and in so doing reveal the power and glory of God, that people may be convinced of the message of Christ, and be firmly established in their faith. Whether it be as subtle as knowing someone's car is not working and offering them a lift, or as spectacular as moving a mountain.

Look through the list of manifestations in verses 8 to 10. They are not referred to as "the gift of," and usually not in the plural. What do you think this means about these manifestations as a whole?
What I mean here is that there is not one permanent gift (not "the gift of healing") but a continuing endowment of each of the gifts. At any time the Spirit may give one person one gift and another a different gift, and later it might be different again. All these gifts are available for everyone at the appropriate time for each gift.

Who decides what manifestation is given when it needs to be used?
This should be easy - the Spirit determines. We may think we need a prophecy, but the spirit may decide a different manifestation is needed. On the other hand Paul says to "seek the greater gifts" - probably those of greatest value to the church such as prophecy and the message of wisdom. Although the Spirit gives the gifts as he determines it is up to the believer to actually use the gifts. He doesn't take control of us he gives us a gift that we have to be willing to use. So many people are not willing at all, or only have the faith (or desire) to use certain gifts.

Take a look at what Paul says about the body of believers working together. How do you think this applies to the gifts of the Spirit? Look at 1 Corinthians 14:27-29 as well.
The church is meant to work together as a body, for the common purpose of serving God. That means each manifestation is to be used co-operatively as well. We don't go off doing our own thing, or trying to make ourselves be heard above everyone else, we work together. The verses in chapter 14 give a couple of examples - one person speaking in tongues, and another interpreting, and a message from one prophet being verified/checked by the others.

If the gifts of the spirit are to be used co-operatively as a body, how is their application affected by the leaders of the body (locally and universally)?
Universally in the exercise of the gifts we must be subject to Christ. After all "the Spirit is the Lord," so he isn't going to go against Christ (like it says right at the beginning of the chapter). Locally, the Spirit of God is not a spirit of rebellion. We must defer to the local leaders (who are appointed by God) whether it be simply not jumping up and prophesying in the middle of a sermon, or some restriction on the use of the gifts altogether.

To finish off, look at the beginning of chapter 13 (verses 1-3) What is the one thing governing over all in the use of the manifestations given? What affect should this have?
Well, obviously, love. If our motivation for using the gifts is love, then we will seek to use them they way they should - for the common good and in so doing glorify and reveal God.

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