Lately I have found myself thinking about the Church and the fact of the Church is a community of a believers. In part 1, I identified the the Church as community. In part 2, I talked about how the ordinances are an expression of the covenant community to the world. Now I want to look at the Church as a community that is edified by spiritual gifts. Fellowship without a pursuit of holiness isn’t biblical fellowship or community (1 John 1:5-10). The Covenant Community is marked by constant edification through spiritual gifts as we admonish each other to pursue godliness.
The Holy Spirit Indwells Every Member of the Covenant Community
The Spirit baptizes individuals, causing them to have a newness of life that is manifested in service among the body of Christ, the local church, the Covenant Community. The Spirit does not merely baptize believers, causing a new of life that was unseen by Old Testament saints but he also indwells believers, continually causing that new life to manifest within the Covenant Community.
All the saints are sealed by the Holy Spirit that is to say that there is no Christian who does not have the Holy Spirit either indwelling them. Paul wrote, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Cor 1:21,22). The seal of the Holy Spirit implies the security of the believer because the Holy Spirit is the down payment of the eternal glory that awaits believers in heaven. Paul told the Ephesians, “In Him, you also, after listen to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of your inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:13,14). In other words, the saints all have the Holy Spirit and because the saints have the Holy Spirit they can be assured that they will inherit eternal life. The future fulfillment of the present down payment is again guaranteed by Paul in Ephesians 4:30. Old Testament saints did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit like New Covenant saints who “testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16).
In the New Covenant age the Spirit of God does not merely dwell with or among His people, nor does He merely regenerate His people, but He lives in his people and indwells them. In the ministry of the New Covenant, the Spirit of God is still with His covenant community yet the Spirit’s ministry is extended within the New Covenant community to go beyond so that the Spirit is now dwelling within His New Covenant people individually. David stated, “Do not cast me away from Your presence; And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11). David knew that he was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament saint is baptized, sealed, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit and has no fear of losing the Spirit. Furthermore the Spirit gives purpose for the individual within the Covenant Community.
The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts for the Edification of the Covenant Community
The Spirit gives gifts for the sake of ministry in the local body of believers. The Spirit gives certain gifts to individual saints for specific ministerial purpose. Paul states, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor 12:11). As an example, “Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. For it says: When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people…And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:7,8,11). The purpose of these gifts was “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (v.12). Paul told the Corinthians that was the purpose of any gift that the Spirit sovereignly bestowed, stating “to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).
Peter also states that the gifts of individual saints are for the benefit of the covenant community (1 Pet 4:10-11). Spiritual gifts are to serve the congregational good. Spiritual gifts are not given to promote individual personal psychic growth or for personal therapy’s sake. Nor are the spiritual gifts meant to foster Christian celebrity, as though the gifts were an unfailing index of the depth of Christian character. Spiritual gifts are about ministry “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:11).
Spiritual gifts within the covenant community are for the function of the covenant community. Paul wrote, “But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Cor 12:18-20). Spiritual gifts express the unity of the covenant community. “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor 12:24-26).
What does this mean for the Covenant Community we are a part of?
How do we use our spiritual gifts within the Covenant Community? Do you seek to build up yourself or to edify and build up the church, the covenant community of Christ? Remember love expressed within the Covenant Community is the greatest gift of all (1 Cor 13:13) and is to be expressed in the Covenant Community. Purse love! Seek to excel in building up the church (1 Cor 14:12)! We ought to be constantly serving each other, praying for each other, admonishing each other with the Word of God. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:13-18). Are we pursuing these things within our local church, within the Covenant Community to which we have been called as saints?