Do you plan to do something for someone you aren’t excited about or would prefer not to do? Sometimes we do things for others according to their interests or needs, which is good; Christians are called to submit to everyone. (See 1 Peter 3:8.) In my role in my church family, I do the administration for all women’s events, but that doesn’t mean that I always have the same interests as other women. For one thing, I am not a “crafty” girl—that is, I don’t do or enjoy crafts. I delight in being with my sisters in Christ, and when the activity portion of a fellowship comes around, you might find me talking or doing some hospitality tasks. However we serve others according to their interests, so we are motivated by their need, our calling, or simply the fact that no one else can fill the spot. I have often been the only one who could do something, according to my superiors, elders, or friends. Have you been in that position? It’s not easy when our motivation is low compared to something we love to do. And it’s precisely then that the Holy Spirit has the most opportunity to work in us, to give us his passion for service. God empowers all believers with his Spirit to serve the body differently yet in perfect unity to build up his people. We are more valuable to everyone when we encourage by employing the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and power. We are especially blessed by the Spirit’s work in, through, and for us.
One Spirit Working
Many Christians wholly disregard the Holy Spirit’s role in service or overemphasize it through their obsession with particular spiritual gifts. We have much to gain from considering Paul’s advice to the Corinthians church. “Some Corinthian Christians seem to have been creating divisions over spiritual gifts…Paul wants the Corinthian church to understand how their unity can be enhanced by appreciating the variety of gifts God has given to them. [He emphasizes that] the purpose of the gifts is to build one another up and to care for one another, not to flaunt one’s own spirituality.” (1) “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-12) “Though these gifts, ministrations, and operations, are so different in themselves, and are bestowed upon different persons, yet they are all wrought by one and the same Spirit of God, who is the true Jehovah, and properly God, as these his works declare; for who, but the most high God, could ever communicate such gifts to men?…For as his special grace in regeneration is dispensed when and where, and to whom he pleases, signified by the blowing of the wind where it lists, John 3:8 so his gifts, ordinary and extraordinary, are severally distributed, according to his sovereign will and pleasure.” (2) All believers are empowered with the Spirit to serve differently yet in perfect unity to build each other up.
The Spirit’s Power
Take, for example, the work of William Wilberforce, who effectively halted the slave trade in England. “He grew up surrounded by wealth…he wasn’t a serious student… [but] had political ambitions and, with his connections, managed to win election to Parliament in 1780, where he formed a lasting friendship with William Pitt, the future prime minister. But he later admitted, ‘The first years in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object.’ But he began to reflect deeply on his life, which led to a period of intense sorrow…His unnatural gloom lifted on Easter 1786…He experienced a spiritual rebirth…He began to see his life’s purpose: ‘My walk is a public one,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.’ In particular, two causes caught his attention. First, under the influence of Thomas Clarkson, he became absorbed with the issue of slavery. Later he wrote… ‘Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition’…The pathway to abolition was blocked by vested interests, parliamentary filibustering, entrenched bigotry, international politics, slave unrest, personal sickness, and political fear…His second great calling was for the ‘reformation of manners,’ that is, morals. In early 1787, he conceived of a society that would work, as a royal proclamation put it, ‘for the encouragement of piety and virtue; and for the preventing of vice, profaneness, and immorality.’ It eventually became known as the Society for the Suppression of Vice.” (3) Are you thinking, well, Wilberforce became a believer; that’s what happened! Of course, that’s what happened—the Holy Spirit inhabited him and compelled him to do masterful things with his life in service to his country. Who wouldn’t want to do what Wilberforce did? The blessing of serving his country through the Spirit carried him through intense opposition, and physical ailments with great pain, and the resulting addition to opium, the prescribed pain medication of the day. He was blessed with God’s presence and power in his work and trials.
The Spirit Compels Us
The Spirit doesn’t just help with witnessing (evangelizing), as some might think from Acts 1:8 (“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”) As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12, he gives diverse gifts to the body for the glory of God. “This powerful new work of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost brought several beneficial results: more effectiveness in witness and ministry), effective proclamation of the gospel, power for victory over sin, power for victory over Satan and demonic forces and a wide distribution of gifts for ministry.” (4) “[William Wilberforce] was practical with a difference. He believed with all his heart that new affections for God were the key to new morals and lasting political reformation. And these new affections and this reformation did not come from mere ethical systems…For Wilberforce, practical deeds were born in ‘peculiar doctrines.’ By that term he simply meant the central distinguishing doctrines of human depravity, divine judgment, the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, justification by faith alone, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and the practical necessity of fruit in a life devoted to good deeds.” (5) It’s not just “special” people, pastors, evangelists, or missionaries that God empowers. All believers have his Spirit to serve the body. Do we serve others by employing the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and power? Do we need to ask ourselves the question that Paul asked the Galatians, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3) “‘Receive the Spirit’ refers to the new covenant work of the Holy Spirit that comes after saving faith, at the beginning of the Christian life, to sanctify and to empower the believer in life and various kinds of ministry…In v. 2, Paul mentioned the Holy Spirit’s work at the beginning of the Galatians’ Christian lives; here he mentions an ongoing, day-by-day work of the Spirit. Though Paul had long ago left these churches, and there were no other apostles present, the Holy Spirit was still present and was still working miracles in their midst. ‘Hearing with faith’ is not only the way to start the Christian life but is also the way to continue it day by day.” (6) Do you want joy and power to serve, even for something you have no interest in or desire? Ask for help—the Spirit’s willing. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13)
Related Scripture: Exodus 35:21; Matthew 28:19; Luke 1:15, 67; Luke 3:22; 4:14; 24:49; Acts 2:16-18; 4:31, 33; 10:38; 13:4; 16:6; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Peter 4:9-11.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Corinthians 12:1-26, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-corinthians-12.html
- Christianity Today, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/activists/william-wilberforce.html
- ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, Acts 1:8.
- Piper, John, “William Wilberforce: Reflections on the Life and Labor,” 2002 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors.
- ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, Galatians 2:2-3.
July 28, 2022