Sabbath School Lesson for February 18-24,2017
As if the Holy Spirit hasn’t done enough for us already: helping us live a holy life and developing our character (spiritual fruit), we now move on to another way He has to provide for the growth of the church.
We find that in order to fulfill God’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19, 20), the Holy Spirit enables us to do it by bestowing spiritual gifts on individual members that benefit the body of believers to which we belong.
This wasn’t new to the New Testament believers either. There were many in the Old Testament who were blessed with spiritual gifts. And these weren’t just gifts of healing, preaching, leading, and prophesying–ones we normally identify as from a spiritual source.
When the tabernacle was first built, God specifically chose devoted Hebrews and bestowed them with craftsmanship skills, in order to make His sanctuary the finest edifice on earth. After all, God had commanded it be built, and He always enables us to accomplish His goals, when we are surrendered to His will.
Memory Verse: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NKJV
Evidently, every follower of God is endowed with some gift. As the needs are different in every church body, so are the gifts. Therefore, people will manifest various gifts, in varying degrees, as the needs merit.
Since God is the One working in all of us as He wills, there is no need for envy or feelings of neglect. Our part is to simply to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and listen to the direction He sends us. The entire purpose is to glorify God in the final product of a pure church, without spot or wrinkle.
So let’s not be a wrinkle in the body of Christ, but do all we can to understand how we can use our gift or gifts to further His cause.
Sunday: The Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit
These gifts of grace are therefore gifts of love from God. Because that’s what grace is: unmerited favor or love. And without love, the foundation of all fruit, there would be no spiritual gifts. The prerequisite of having a gift of the Spirit then is to manifest the fruit of love–as seen by our joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Here are some additional points to ponder about the gifts of the Spirit:
- There is only one fruit, but many gifts.
- The fruit of the Spirit must be manifest in every believer, but we all have different gifts.
- The gifts are worthless without the fruit.
- The gifts are not given for our own pleasure or uplifting, but to enable us to serve others, thereby glorifying God by building the body of Christ.
- God decides which gift to give to individual believers by what is needed by the church in order to glorify Him.
- The more we use the gifts we are given, the more they will grow.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11. Discuss the purpose and value of recognizing your spiritual gift and using it.
Read Ephesians 4:11-16. Why is Christ mentioned so often in this passage? How does the body of Christ, equipped with all the gifts of the Spirit, prevent us from being tossed to and fro? What happens to us if parts of our body are not functioning properly?
Read Romans 12:9-13 and 1 Corinthians 13:13. Why is it necessary to emphasize love, when discussing the gifts of the Spirit?
Monday: God, the Sovereign Giver of the Spiritual Gifts
We are accustomed to thinking of spiritual gifts as being the work of the Holy Spirit. But Ephesians 4:7, 8 mentions gifts of grace as belonging to Christ:
But to each one of us grace given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.’ “ NKJV
We must therefore keep in mind the divine nature of these gifts. They come, not just from the Holy Spirit (which is, in essence, the Spirit of Christ), but from the throne of God Himself.
All persons of the godhead are involved in shaping and molding the church of Christ, just as surely as They formed Adam from the dust of the ground and gave him life, a life meant to bless and glorify God as well.
Since God is the one in charge of spiritual gifts, we can rest assured that every means for us to serve Him is being implemented…at least to the degree that we are willing to invite Him into our hearts to exert this power.
There is no need for envy or feelings of despair when we don’t see the results we desire from our gifts. God’s distribution and timing are in control, and doubt or envy on our part signifies ingratitude and a lack of faith in His ability.
Discussion Questions: Read Ephesians 4:7, 8 and James 1:17. Why is it important to remember that God the Father and the Son are responsible for gift-giving, that it’s not just from the Holy Spirit?
Read John 3:8, Romans 12:6, and 1 Corinthians 12:11. How is grace involved? And why does the Holy Spirit need to be in charge of the distribution?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-31. What’s the difference in a natural talent and a spiritual gift? How do spiritual gifts function in the context of the church as a whole? Why should we perhaps focus on ALL our gifts and not just concentrate on individual contributions by church members?
Tuesday: The Purpose of the Spiritual Gifts
The Holy Spirit is certainly the agent of our sanctification. He directs and empowers our walk with God, and so it is a very personal relationship we have with the Holy Spirit every day.
But when it comes to spiritual gifts, we must understand that their purpose is not to edify or empower us, but to glorify God through the body of Christ, which is the church. We mustn’t forget that God’s perspective is what counts here. The focus is on Him and His glory, and not on our individual needs.
We may think of spiritual gifts as being about our abilities and talents, used in keeping the church going and growing. God, however, is looking at the broader picture and evaluating what tasks and ministries are needed to further His work on earth. The Holy Spirit must be seen as overseeing those who will be blessed and what ministry is most likely to work in a specific location and for the world as a whole.
We must remain closely connected with God for wisdom in how to experience optimal efficiency and success in our mission to glorify Him through the church body.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:8-12. How can these ministries, as different as they are, bring unity to the church?
Read 1 Peter 4:10, 11. How is God glorified by the church?
How can different gifts in the church become a cause of disunity, rather than a blessing? What can we do, as a church, to ensure this doesn’t happen?
Wednesday: The Gift, Then and Now
Many of us wonder why miraculous gifts of the Spirit are not as prevalent as they were in other times of Bible history. Miracle working seems to be on the decline in our modern world, compared to numerous incidents of miracle-working power seen in the early church and even in the Old Testament. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is less active today?
We must remember that God looks at the broader picture, as we’ve mentioned. He knows what kinds of gifts would be accepted in various locations and in different times in man’s history. And just because we don’t hear about them as often doesn’t mean miracles aren’t happening somewhere in the world.
Keep in mind that prophecies have indicated that many deceptive miracles will be performed in the end times by our enemy Satan, in order to deceive people and draw them to him. Even lifelong believers will fall prey to some of these powerful activities of the devil.
This should not make us shy away from every miraculous gift we hear about, but should require us to run to our Bibles for discernment and wisdom in knowing which miracles are truly from God.
God will use miracles in the end times as well. They will surely be used as vehicles to glorify Him and carry out His will of saving the world and our universe from sin. Especially as the latter rain of the Spirit falls, just prior to His Coming, we will begin to see more and more miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit.
Discussion Questions: Read Acts 2:14-21. What kinds of miracles will we see just before Jesus comes?
Read Ephesians 4:13-14. How do we keep from being tossed to and fro? What kinds of miracles could Satan perform that would be contrary to His word?
Read 1 Corinthians 14:1, Matthew 24:23-24, and Isaiah 8:20. Why would prophecy be one of the gifts needed in the last days? How can we tell if a prophet is false?
Thursday: The Holy Spirit and the Gift of Discernment
We are living in the last days and know Satan is doing all he can to mimic God’s gifts, in order to lead us away from God. Therefore, perhaps one of the greatest gifts in our church today is discernment, or the ability to detect false teachings, practices, and miracles from what genuinely comes from God.
Since the basis for all discernment is the Word of God, God’s people must be people who value and promote lifelong Bible study. Besides false teachings, our world is engulfed in occult healing powers, counterfeit speaking in tongues, New Age prophets and visionaries, and misleading signs and wonders concerning what happens after death.
The only way to foster discernment in the church is to continue studying the Bible. Two areas of study that seem to be needed in our world today are what happens at the Coming of Jesus and also what happens to us after we die. The Bible and the Bible only must be our source of belief.
Discussion Questions: Read I Corinthians 12:10 and 1 John 4:1-3. Why is it important to be a discerner of spirits? Can we all have this gift?
Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-33. In what ways is the gift of discernment needed in these examples? What kind of confusion is evident when discernment is lacking in God’s church? And why?
Besides Bible study, how does prayer impact our gift of discernment? Who in your church congregation would you identify as having the gift of spiritual discernment? In what ways are they discerning?
- There are differences between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. (Sunday)
- God gives spiritual gifts at His will and direction. (Monday)
- The purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify the church and thus glorify God. (Tuesday)
- Believers of all ages have been endowed with spiritual gifts, as needed to achieve God’s will. (Wednesday)
- It is vital to have discernment of the spirits, in order to know the true God. (Thursday)
A hundred years ago, Ellen White identified Christian hospitals and doctors as practicing the gift of healing:
“The way in which Christ worked was to preach the Word, and to relieve suffering by miraculous works of healing. But I am instructed that we cannot now work in this way, for Satan will exercise his power by working miracles. God’s servants today could not work by means of miracles, because spurious works of healing, claiming to be divine, will be wrought. For this reason the Lord has marked out a way in which His people are to carry forward a work of physical healing, combined with the teaching of the Word. Sanitariums [hospitals] are to be established, and with these institutions are to be connected workers who will carry forward genuine medical missionary work.” ~Selected Messages, book 2, p. 54
Consider what spiritual gifts are needed in your local church, and do all you can to exercise your gifts as needed. Remember that practice may be needed for your gift to grow. If it is needed and you are willing, then repetition will improve your spiritual contribution over time.
Next Week: The Holy Spirit and the Church
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/