The Triumph of Jesus and Spiritual Gifts
Would you ever think that the annual church workday you organize each year is proof of Jesus' victory over death and sin?
Did that twenty-minute lesson prepared by one of your middle-age men for kids church this past Sunday really display the authority of Jesus over all things?
Are we to believe those volunteers who stock the tiny food cupboard in the church basement, and those who organize meal trains for folks who are convalescing truly demonstrate the triumph of Jesus?
Is the deacon who administrates the facility maintenance and enhancements glorifying the Lordship of Jesus by making sure the propane tank is filled and the carpets are cleaned?
At first look, these examples may sound like an attempt to exaggerate the value of menial tasks in the church in order to motivate volunteers. However, we must acknowledge that spiritual gifts are distributed by the victorious, ascended and seated, Christ and therefore have eternal value.
"But grace was given to each one according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.' (In saying, 'He ascended,' what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:7-12)
"...we must acknowledge that spiritual gifts are distributed by the victorious, ascended and seated, Christ and therefore have eternal value."
This passage pictures Jesus after His ascension and session (seated at the right hand of the Father) distributing the bounty of war in the form of spiritual gifts.
First, some background might be helpful.
A ROMAN TRIUMPH
In the Ancient Near East and in the Roman Empire, a triumphant processional would take place when a King or Emperor returned victorious from the battlefield. The procession would enter the city and weave through the streets and squares along routes selected by the military commander. The citizens would also line the streets to honor and hail the conquering hero. The victorious leader would be followed by a large number of impressive-looking captives from the battle. Often, the king or military captain from the conquered land would be humiliated in the processional, by being enchained, paraded and sometimes having his big toes cut off. There were also musicians, those carrying torches and flag-bearers who added to the pomp and celebration. Next came the war-bounty. The more gold and precious stones to be displayed, the better. The victory parade would end at the palace. Once the conqueror was seated upon his throne, he would distribute the spoils of war to his soldiers, and even to those who stayed home.
Before naming some of the spiritual gifts given to the church, Paul quotes from the sixty-eighth Psalm to the Ephesians. In Psalm 68 God is praised for coming down from heaven to meet His people at Mount Sinai. From there, He went before Israel, defeating their enemies along the way, and was ultimately enthroned on Mount Zion. From there, He gave gifts to men.
The same God, in the person of Jesus Christ, descended to be born in Bethlehem, walked through Galilee and Judea, and defeated sin and satan at the cross. Three days later, He arose and defeated the last great enemy, death. After forty days, he ascended and took His seat at the right hand of the Father. From His throne, He dispersed the bounty, the spoils of war, spiritual gifts to His people. This is what Peter declared in his infamous sermon at Pentecost:
"This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing." (Acts 2:32-33)
Consider a few implications:
-All spiritual gifts, whether speaking, serving or leading, are signs of Jesus victory. All spiritual endowments, whether prophecy, priestly or kingly, are the spoils of war which Jesus distributed when He sat down at the right hand of the Father and was rightfully given His new name, "Lord."
-By exercising our spiritual gifts in the church we are displaying the authority of Jesus and the power of His eternal Kingdom.
-No spiritual gift is insignificant. That means that even a water bottle given in the name of Jesus parades Jesus' Triumph. (Matthew 10:42)
Here we discover a grand motivation for employing our spiritual gifts in the church!
My dear friends, we declare "Jesus is Victor" each time we change that diaper in the church nursery, prepare that snack for VBS, weed that flower bed at the church, speak that sermon, update the attendance in the church database, hand-out those bulletins, equalize the sound for the worship team, prepare that meal for Fifth Sunday Fellowship, type in the lyrics for projection, clean-up the empty cups after Lord's Supper, rehearse the songs we will sing together on Sunday, sanitize those toys in the children's wing, write that note of encouragement to that shut-in, having coffee with a young Mom, leading that one-on-one Bible study with your unbelieving friend, arriving early to make the coffee for your church family, leading that conversation at small group, participating in the church prayer meeting, paying that car repair bill for that single Mom in our church, or humbly confronting a brother about a besetting sin.
Church, let's use our gifts and by so doing, display the dominion, authority, Lordship and eternal victory of Jesus!
"in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (I Peter 4:10-11)