Loving Use of What We Are Given
1. What are the gifts of the spirit mentioned in First Corinthians, chapter 12, and for what purpose were they given?
AFTER Paul had written to the Corinthians about the need to consider others in connection with food he went on to deal with many other things. In the twelfth chapter he brings into consideration various gifts of the spirit that were provided to the early Christian congregations. These gifts were given to the individual Christians, not merely for their own pleasure or benefit, but for the benefit of others. So Paul writes in 1 Co chapter twelve, verses seven to eleven: “But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for a beneficial purpose. For example, to one there is given through the spirit speech of wisdom, to another speech of knowledge according to the same spirit, to another faith by the same spirit, to another gifts of healings by that one spirit, to yet another operations of powerful works, to another prophesying, to another discernment of inspired utterances, to another different tongues, and to another interpretation of tongues. But all these operations the one and the same spirit performs, making a distribution to each one respectively just as it wills.”
2. How did Jehovah require these gifts to be used?
2 All Christians were members of one body, and all the things received from God were for the benefit of the whole organization. Each one had his position in the body as it pleased God, but it was important how they used the things God had given them as co-workers in the building program. God is a great builder in love; so those who work together with him must also have love as their motivating force. Because one had received a gift of the spirit, such as speaking in tongues, or prophesying, that did not mean he would be acceptable to Jehovah, unless he used the gift in the proper way and with the right motive. Said Paul: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding piece of brass or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophesying and understand all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.”—1 Cor. 13:1-3.
3. (a) Why were the gifts to cease? When? (b) In contrast, what quality would not cease, and how is that quality expressed by Christians?
3 A building program was to be carried on following the death of Christ Jesus. Special gifts were provided through the spirit of God to impress many persons with the Kingdom message. These gifts were in operation in the early Christian church during the lifetime of the apostles, but with the death of the apostles the giving of them came to an end. The apostle Paul knew they would come to an end; so he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:8: “Whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will be done away with.” But while they had these gifts they were to use them in love for the building up of others. Love is expressive toward others and is a quality that is going to continue to be found among Christians forever. Gifts of the spirit may have passed away, but love does not. Love never fails, the apostle says. To show how love is expressed, Paul wrote: “Love is long-suffering and obliging. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”—1 Cor. 13:4-7.
4. If the transmitting of the miraculous gifts of the spirit ended with the death of the apostles, why is so much about them preserved in the Scriptures for our consideration now?
4 The giving of the gifts of tongues, prophesying and healing ended with the death of the apostles, and these gifts are not practiced today. Yet there is much information written in the Scriptures about them. Why has God preserved these writings for our consideration? Though the miraculous gifts of the spirit came to an end with the death of the apostles, we are taught a lesson by the instruction given in connection with the use of these gifts. In chapter fourteen Paul ties in the pursuit of love and the use of the spiritual gifts and in a way makes comparison, showing that some gifts were more to be desired than others. The gifts were very beneficial in the early Christian congregation, because when the Christians met together to be built up each one was not fully equipped with a complete Bible and many commentaries and magazines that help one study the Bible, as The Watchtower does today. Which one of the gifts was to be preferred?
5. Which gift was preferred, and why?
5 The one preferred was to prophesy. But why was prophesying more to be desired than the gift of healing or the gift of tongues? “For he that speaks in a tongue speaks, not to men, but to God, for no one listens, but he speaks sacred secrets by the spirit. However, he that prophesies upbuilds and encourages and consoles men by his speech. He that speaks in a tongue upbuilds himself, but he that prophesies upbuilds a congregation.” (1 Cor. 14:2-4) This counsel is very practical. Paul showed how a person speaking in a tongue would be building himself up, but unless there was someone to act as an interpreter or translator the congregation would not receive any upbuilding benefits. He compares speaking in tongues to bugles sounding indistinct calls for battle. It is better to speak in a language easily understood so that those who are listening will know the meaning and will benefit. Thus if one did have the gift of tongues Paul urged him, in verse thirteen: “Therefore let the one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may translate.” So he stresses the need for people to understand what is being said, and certainly anyone who is interested in others and not just himself would want to do something beneficial for the others. Very forcefully in 1 Co 14 verse sixteen Paul draws attention to the giving of thanks in a tongue and raises the question: “How will the man occupying the seat of the ordinary person say Amen to your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?” Hence in a congregation it is better to speak five words with understanding and instruct others verbally than to speak ten thousand words in a tongue that others would not understand.
6, 7. (a) Why did God give the gift of tongues to the early Christians? (b) How was prophesying beneficial? (c) What loving use of gifts or abilities given by God is shown to be the Christian objective at First Corinthians, chapter 14?
6 Why, then, did God give the gift of tongues to the early Christians? Evidently it was for the purpose of showing that these were God’s true servants. Said Paul: “Consequently, tongues are for a sign, not to the believers, but to the unbelievers.” (1 Cor. 14:22) After making this argument Paul explains the good reasons why the prophesying was to be preferred. It is preferred out of consideration for fellow Christians, or brothers, or those who desire to serve Jehovah. The use of prophesying or the preaching of the good news with understanding and teaching others would result in benefits to those in the congregation and even unbelievers; or ordinary people who might come along could be instructed and come to learn how to worship Jehovah God. “Whereas prophesying is, not for the unbelievers, but for the believers. Therefore, if the whole congregation comes together to one place and they all speak in tongues, but ordinary people or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are mad? But if you are all prophesying and any unbeliever or ordinary person comes in, he is put right by them all, he is closely examined by all, the secrets of his heart become manifest, so that he will prostrate himself and worship God, declaring, ‘God is really among you.’”—1 Cor. 14:22-25.
7 While each one of the gifts that Jehovah provided had a use and benefit, this gift of prophesying was to be preferred because it was most beneficial for the upbuilding of the brothers and for the teaching of people in the worship of Jehovah. No matter what gift of the spirit an individual did receive, the principle of love stands out; and the ways in which these gifts were to be used showed that consideration was to be given to others and was to be of benefit to them. So it is with whatever Jehovah God provides for those who serve him. “What is to be done, then, brothers? When you come together, one has a psalm, another has a teaching, another has a revelation, another has a tongue, another has an interpretation. Let all things take place for upbuilding.” (1 Cor. 14:26) Obviously the true Christian attitude is, let everything be for the upbuilding of others.
THE MODERN BUILDING PROGRAM
8. Since the miraculous gifts of the spirit are not used by the modern Christian congregations, what provision is made for their upbuilding?
8 It is clear from the Scriptures that the giving of miraculous gifts of the spirit for the upbuilding of the early Christian congregation came to an end with the death of the apostles. Gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, are not used by true Christians today. Other means are available today for the building up of the Christian congregation. Jehovah has given his Word, the Bible, and it is now available in more than a thousand languages. In addition there are many theocratic publications, which serve as guides in the teaching and building work. Jehovah made provision for this day by his command: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:23-25.
9. How is being present in the congregation meetings regularly considerate of others?
9 Regular gathering together in congregation meetings must be enforced. Individuals ought to discipline themselves to attend congregation gatherings and should encourage one another, especially in these evil days as we come near the end of Satan’s wicked system of things. Leaning on his own reasoning, someone might feel his time could be much more profitably used in private study. But what is he doing in this course of action? Obviously he is not being considerate of others, but is thinking only of himself. Being present regularly at congregation meetings shows we are considerate of others, that we have interest in others and love for others. We go there not merely to gain benefit by hearing what others have to say, or receiving instructions, but to have a share in building up one another. It is in these gatherings that there are expressions of our hope made audibly so that others are built up. Our public declaration should not be spontaneous or without prior thought, as if by inspiration; but, because we are in an orderly, theocratic organization, we know the theme we are going to consider and we prepare ourselves beforehand, contributing upbuilding thoughts for the benefit of all. This is the provision of Jehovah for all of his servants in modern days.
10. How can interest shown in others and loving use of what we have result in the building up of the congregation?
10 Knowing that the regular gatherings of Jehovah’s servants are beneficial for upbuilding, it should be our desire out of love for neighbors and family and persons of good will to invite them to attend meetings with us, or even to go out of the way, putting ourselves out and considering the spiritual weakness of those who do not appreciate the importance of the meetings, and try to find them, and bring them with us. If we own an automobile we can use it well to bring persons of good will, even though it might mean spending some extra time going miles out of our way to help them. If we have a telephone we can call others and lovingly remind them of meetings. Appreciation for the efforts we put forth should be shown on the part of others in the congregation, and we, in turn, should show our appreciation of the efforts made by others in bringing persons of good will to the meetings. We should be quick to welcome strangers who come into our midst and be interested in others.—Phil. 2:1-4.
11. Though very busy with service matters, how does love move a Christian when strangers enter the congregation meeting?
11 Bringing it down to practical application, we might say that every faithful servant of Jehovah is very busy in these days. When he goes to his regular meetings he will be thinking of the things he must do: obtain literature and supplies for his future service, give reports on his ministerial activity, turn in new subscriptions, or obtain territory in which to conduct his ministerial work. When he arrives at the Kingdom Hall he will proceed to carry out his plan. But if he is one who is loving and considerate, will he put those things ahead of the welfare of the stranger who may be present for the first time? If he is thinking only of how quickly he can take care of his personal matters and get out of the meeting place afterward he may rush to do his duties without thinking of the stranger. But that is not building up the organization. It takes but a few moments to welcome the strangers, to make them feel their presence is desired. Love is expressive, demonstrative. It is not left to the overseers to greet the strangers, but definite arrangements should be organized by them to help in this welcoming of the stranger. This is a way to share the joy we have received from Jehovah. And even if one goes out of his way to welcome the strangers he can be assured that after the study meeting has finished there will be time for him to complete his necessary transactions to prepare himself for the service in the days ahead.—1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:8, 9.
12. Why are strangers truly welcome in the group of builders?
12 A dedicated builder recognizes that each stranger who comes into the congregation and becomes a member of the congregation is going to take on part of the building activity and share the load, and that is a provision of Jehovah God to bring in more helpers for the building program. It is what we should be praying and working for daily. So strangers should be truly welcomed in the group of builders.—Matt. 9:37, 38.
13. What interest should be shown in any who are physically or spiritually sick?
13 As busy as the Christian minister may be, he should not be too busy to observe when someone is missing. If a member of the congregation is not present, what is wrong? Has he fallen ill? Does he need comfort? Inquiry can be made of the overseer, and if someone has become ill proper announcement may be made to the congregation so that the disabled members can be built up and encouraged. On the other hand, there may be some individual who has begun to lose his appreciation of spiritual things and slow down in the building program. He may become involved in other matters and let them interfere with his regular attendance at the meetings. Even in spite of the mandate at Hebrews 10:23-25 this may happen. Here is another opportunity for the diligent builder to make an effort to help the faltering one. Given time and attention, his appreciation of the spiritual things can be rekindled, and he can be re-established in the ministry. We are in a time of many distractions and snares; materialism is a subtle foe. A few appropriate words of upbuilding may accomplish great benefits for a person who has succumbed to some wrong influence. Thus we see the Master Builder, Jehovah, has provided through the congregation organization the means of edifying those who love him.—Jas. 5:19, 20.
ATTENTION TO THE THING BUILT
14. (a) What shows a wise builder is interested in his work? (b) How can one direct his conversation toward building others up?
14 One who builds well is concerned with his building; not merely three or four hours a week, but each day he gives thought to what he is building. It is important and he keeps working at it. He speaks about it. Before he makes a move he has made his plan. He knows what kind of foundation has been laid and what must go on that foundation and he keeps thinking while he is building. (1 Cor. 3:10; 1 Tim. 4:15) His conversation in association with other builders is on what he is constructing. So it must be with the spiritual builder. His vocation is spiritual building and he thinks about it and works for it continually. When he is in association with others his conversation is upbuilding. He follows the example of Jehovah and Christ Jesus and always edifies by his word. There are many good things to speak of each day. We have a text for each day and comments giving us a bit of spiritual food to help us in serving Jehovah during the day. While it may have been read before, yet it is upbuilding. Now as you read this can you recall the text and comment you considered this very morning? In some homes the parents make it a practice at the evening meal to mention the text that was discussed in the morning to see if the family remembers the important lesson learned that day. Among Christians there are many things to discuss. Individuals enrolled in the ministry school have assignments and there are reviews for all. Speak of fine experiences in dealing with the field activities. There are questions raised by persons we approach at the doors or in the studies. We read very important subjects in the publications of the Society. We are impressed by hearing someone repeat them and talk about the new points learned. It is refreshing to keep thinking and talking on spiritual things.—Col. 3:7, 8, 16, 17; Phil. 4:8, 9.
15. How do Christian activities build others up?
15 If we think correctly and put into practice things we have learned through Jehovah’s Word we can be upbuilding by our daily example and our activities. Especially is this so in the training program that is organized in all congregations. Here again love and consideration for others will come into the picture. If one is assigned to share in the training program for preaching in the field, helping some of the less experienced persons to improve their ministry, he is going to have to give time, thought, energy and attention to the individual with whom he works. It may mean going out of his way for a considerable distance to arrange to meet the other person, but this is good for the general upbuilding of the Christian organization. If one is thinking only of self he will be quite satisfied to have his own territory or community in which he works and work by himself. We give attention to our own teaching, but we want to help others too so they may be saved. “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Tim. 4:16.
16. (a) Why is it foolish to give all of one’s time to old-world pursuits? (b) How does the Christian builder act with wisdom?
16 If we can keep ourselves and others busy in the Kingdom ministry work with us it will be a protection from becoming involved in activities of this world, which is condemned by Jehovah. What would we think of a person who learns that the municipality in which he lives has condemned a building and is going to construct a highway after a demolition, but the individual buys the building, paints it, decorates it, makes it beautiful and spends a great deal of time in the repair work? Then the municipality comes along and destroys the building. The individual working on that building would be considered foolish. But this is the kind of thing a person does who begins to devote all his time to worldly activities and fails to maintain his ministry. He may believe he is doing something constructive in his community, building up something good, but what is he building on? If he is building on the old-world foundation he is working on a structure that is condemned to early demolition. Time that is put into it is going to be lost and the foolish builder may even lose his life. This is the way with pursuing worldly activities. Time and energy are consumed and nothing lasting is gained. But the Christian must keep his balance and remember that his vocation is the ministry. Paul counsels at Colossians 4:5, 6: “Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside, buying out the opportune time for yourselves. Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” The more association one has with the world the greater are the chances that he will become involved with the world or even become morally unclean because of outside influences. In wisdom he should buy out as much time as he can to improve himself in his edifying speech and share in the active building program now being conducted under the direction of Christ.
17. Because of Christian unity what is being accomplished world-wide, and who should take the lead in maintaining unity?
17 In unity there is strength. By directing efforts unitedly toward the accomplishment of Jehovah’s will, Jehovah’s witnesses are sharing in the world-wide proclamation of the good news of the established kingdom of Jehovah. That kingdom is ruled by one God, who is the great Master Builder of it. He has placed Christ Jesus in the position of King to lovingly direct the activities of those who are sharers in the Kingdom. In Ephesians, chapter four, Paul bids fellow Christians to walk worthily of their calling, to endure, to continue in love, and to maintain the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace. He draws attention to the fact that there are many responsibilities assigned to individual servants, such as missionaries, shepherds and teachers, and all of such have been appointed with a view to the training of ministers and for the building up of the body of Christ. No doubt is left that the overseers in the New World society today have the greatest responsibility in the building program. They must be trainers and teachers, setting good examples of leadership in the field and continually interested in young and old, men and women, yes, all the individuals making up the New World society today. Such spiritual giving leads to happiness. (Acts 20:35) Though in some lands there is opposition to the Christian building work, still it must continue and overseers have the example of Nehemiah in this respect. (Neh. 4:8, 9, 21; Titus 2:1-15) Members in the congregations rightly look to the overseers to teach them how to edify others, and by the help of Jehovah’s organization today the overseers are well equipped for that service. May they give themselves willingly to that work.—Heb. 13:7.
18. (a) Why must all in the New World society co-operate to maintain strength and unity? (b) In this connection, how can we lovingly use the truth that has been given to us by Jehovah?
18 Let all in the New World society today have a share in the responsibility for the spiritual building work. The spiritual building today is lasting building. (Eph. 2:21, 22) Individuals are likened to spiritual stones built up in the body of Christ, and the bond that holds them together is love and consideration for one another. Obviously one or two stones scattered in the midst of a field would be no building, but a building is an organized arrangement of stones closely cemented together. Worshipers of Jehovah today are an organization, a New World structure. It is in unity that Jehovah has gathered them together in these last days of Satan’s rule and each individual must do his share to maintain a spiritually strong building, uniting closely together with others who go to make up the building. Spiritual strengthening of each stone will result in benefits to the others, for it will keep the whole structure strong. Thus in the great storm of Armageddon the building will not be toppled, though the evil one Satan and his hordes may dash against it. The unity and strength of the New World society, including those who are of the body of Christ, can safely be maintained by lovingly using the truth we have been given by Jehovah to build up one another: “But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint which gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:15, 16.