BUILDING A GREAT CHURCH THROUGH FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP OF MINISTRY GIFTS
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10)
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” – I Cor. 12:4 (NKJV)
We are in the last days. The Bible says so many things, both positively and negatively, about the last days. Unfortunately, the church is so much conscious of the negative things the prophets of old prophesied would happen in the last days that we have lost consciousness of the beautiful things the same prophets said would be the heritage of the church of Jesus in this period in our history.
It was made plain in the scriptures that the church will be attractive and strong in these last days. While we cannot deny the reality of the misdemeanors that will characterize this end time, the truth remains that the Church occupies a strategic position to conspicuously make manifest the power and the glory of God. Isaiah clearly put it this way:
“Now it shall come to pass that in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 4:2). This same prophecy was repeated by prophet Micah in Micah 2:4
The implications of these prophecies are that the church will demonstrate unequal supernatural abilities and manifest undeniable and outstanding wonders in the last days. The church is designed by God in this age to carry supernatural strength that comes from the Holy Spirit. The church, by the clear demonstration of the power and gifts of the Spirit, is to bring timely intervention into human predicaments.
There is no doubt that God has a special package for His children in these last days so much that the church must carefully locate, harness and dispense in a way that God’s ultimate agenda for this time will be realized. This is where our stewardship attitude comes in.
God intends that His kingdom should experience expansion, as members of His body embrace the gifts of the Spirit and carefully engage the same in the work of the kingdom. God intentionally made the gifts available to His church in diverse manner so as to meet the corresponding diverse needs of both the ecclesiastical and secular communities.
Therefore, the church must come to the fresh understanding of the provision of God for and the place of the Holy Spirit in the overall ministries of the church in these last days. consequently, we must employ our stewardship attitude to make the good use of these gifts for the sole purpose of expanding the Kingdom of God here on earth before He finally returns to rapture the saints. This is the consideration of this message.
THE PROMISE OF THE GIFTS
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).
This was God’s promise as far back as the time of Joel. He saw an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the Church in the last days. By this Spirit, believers would be empowered to see and manifest the supernatural. Unfortunately, the prophets of old did not enjoy these blessings. It was actually not meant for them; it was for the glory of the latter day church. They only had a foretaste; just a tip of an ice berg. But it was for us that this fullness is designed.
God fulfilled this promise on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4; 16-19). The church was overwhelmed and soaked in the power of the Spirit of God. The early believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke in diverse tongues, prophesied, exercised the gift of healing and performed outstanding miracles. The fire was so much that the barrier against the gospel was shattered.
The beautiful thing is that the gifts are not meant to end with the early believers. It is designed by God that it will be the heritage of the church till Jesus returns:
“For the promise is for you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2: 39)
THE PURPOSE OF THE GIFTS
“Therefore He says when He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and He gave gifts to men. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some Evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:8, 11-13)
“But the manifestations of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (I Cor. 12:7)
These passages are very clear and straight forward. They give the blue print of why God poured out His Spirit on the church. The moment these are not the results of the presence of God’s Spirit among His people, aberration and perversion will definitely set in.
Now, the word “profit” has connotations of building up, being advantageous or edifying. So we can think of Spiritual gifts in the framework of contributing to the growth of the church.
The Ephesians’ passage above gives a summary of why the gifts of the Spirit are given to the church:
• EQUIPPING the saints: The gifts of the Spirit prepare believers for fruitful and impactful ministries. God meant that the work of the ministries should not be done with the arm of the flesh. His desire is that through the manifestation of the Spiritual gifts the manifold wisdom of God might be made know by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10)
• EDIFYING the church: The gifts of the Spirit, when used in the right way within an atmosphere of love give robustness to the church. The church should not be ordinary in her outlook. Through the exercise of Spiritual gifts the church takes up a supernatural outlook. When the early church believers spoke in unknown tongues, this immediately drew the attention of onlookers and mockers and it was declared thus: “…We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).
• UNIFYING the church: The gifts of the Spirit help the church to fight against the deceptions and wiles of the devil. God actually designed and meant that the operation of the gifts of the Spirit will bring the church under focus in such a powerful force to resist the enemy, the devil, whose ultimate purpose is to cause confusion among the brethren. It was through the manifestation of the combination of the gifts of discernment and word of knowledge that Peter brought solution to the problem of circumcision that confronted the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15).
• FULLNESS of Christ: Jesus ministered, not in the power of God, or not as God, not as divine, but ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit as a man, operating by the touch of the Holy Spirit working in Him. Acts 10:38 “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” The desire of God is that all believers will also operate at this level as we get hook to the Holy Spirit. That is one of the reasons for the outpouring.
THE PRINCIPLES OF OPERATING IN THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
• The Principle of teaching: The church must provide an adequate biblical teaching on Spiritual gifts and how each member can discover his/her own. Whatever you don’t know you cannot enjoy. No believer should be ignorant of the availability of this supernatural endowments.
• The principle of desire and expectation (John 7:39): Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to desire Spiritual gifts. In like manner, we must encourage believers of our time to have deep desire for an authentic manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will only work where He is welcomed.
• The principle of the right atmosphere (Acts 13:1,2): The Holy Spirit manifests easily in an atmosphere of faith and genuine worship. There is a minimum requirement of prayer level, faith level and worship level before the Holy Spirit can manifest. Before we can have electric light we need the right filament, the right amount of electricity and the right electrical connections. When all these are in place, light results. So it is with the Holy Spirit; we must create the right atmosphere for Him to move among us.
• The principle of love (Psalm 133): The early church witnessed a very powerful operation of the power of the Spirit because the God’s kind of love (Agape) was clearly evident among them. The Holy Spirit rejoices where there is love. So, the present day church can only enjoy His activities if the atmosphere of love is generated and consciously sustained. To this end Paul enjoined the Corinthian believers to pursue love as much as they will also desire the gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 14:1)
THE PEOPLE WHO DEMONSTRATED THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
• Daniel: In Babylon He demonstrated unprecedented gift of wisdom and discernment (Daniel 5:12).
• Solomon: By the gift of discernment he put an end to dispute between two women over the ownership of a baby and by the gift of administration provided a wise rule in Israel (I King 3:16-28).
• Joseph: He put an end to famine and saved the economy of Egypt by the demonstration of the gift of wisdom.
• Barnabas: He demonstrated the gift of help (or Giving) so much that he was surnamed the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36-37).
• Paul: Paul manifested a combination of several gifts but notable among these was his ability to speak in tongue, raise the dead, express faith at all times and heal the sick ( I Cor. 14:18).
It was Youngi Cho who said, “It does not matter how diligently you study scriptures; it does not matter how diligently you pray. If you do not have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you will not have the fullness, the power to be able to reach out and share the Gospel with unbelievers.” It therefore means that if the church will actively be involved in the great commission assignment and truly make it her mission, it is very indispensable to prepare her members in such a way that the gifts of the Spirit will be part and parcel of their daily Christian experience.
The above is the text of the message preached at the first service at convention sunday at First Baptist Church, Oke-Elerin Ogbomoso during 2019 Baptist Convention in Session by:
Rev Gideon Akanbi
President & International Director
The Godly Brains Ministry Inc.