1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
I recently ministered at All Nations Discipleship Church, near Kampala–a church pastored by a faithful servant of Christ and a good friend of mine. I shared on the topic that “Together we Build God’s Church.” During the process of my study, I discovered something I had never noticed before. But before we delve into my “discoveries” let me say this: My assumption is that we all agree that the church is God’s people—not buildings or denominations. 1 Peter 2:9 gives us a succinct description of what the church is “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” So, here is a statement of our identity—a people belonging to God, and our purpose—to declare the praise of the ONE who called us.
Now, passages that talk about spiritual gifts are 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4. As I studied these passages I was amazed by what I saw; that every passage follows an almost a similar pattern. Here we go [emphasis is mine]:
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:3 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Romans 12:9-10 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Is it a coincidence that all passages talking about spiritual gifts begin or end with an exhortation for believers to love one another? Of course not! Love, which is deep, sincere, sacrificial and self-giving, is the foundation for building the church of Christ. The purpose God has freely given us spiritual gifts is not that we build our own kingdoms, make money (see 1 Timothy 6:5) or impress others. Rather, spiritual gifts are given to us so that we will express our love for God and others through faithful service. Love expresses itself through humility, working toward the unity of the church of Christ, and selfless service. We are truly Spirit-filled when our lives are marked by love, humility, unity and service.