Mark D. Roberts

Part 1 of series: Spiritual Gifts in the Body of Christ
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I just recently finished an extended series on the church as the body of Christ. Building on that foundation, I want now to consider the function of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. Little is more important for the health and growth of the body of Christ than the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in what we call spiritual gifts. Through such bits of grace, the Spirit builds the body of Christ. In fact, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that the Holy Spirit is a bodybuilder.
During my freshman year of college I took a job washing dishes in one of the Harvard dorms on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings. After spending a couple of hours in a hot, steamy dish room, I was pretty hot and steamy myself, so I took advantage of my condition and worked out in the weight room of the Indoor Athletic Building. I wasn’t planning to bulk up or anything like that. I just wanted to remain in reasonably decent shape.
Every time I went to the weight room, there was Mike. He was a honors English major at Harvard. Now if this description conjures up in your mind an image of a skinny person with glasses whose head is buried in a book of obscure poetry, you’d be partly right, but only about the poetry. Mike did love his poetry! But he was, besides a fan of English literature, a committed body builder. He looked more like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator than Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter!
Mike approached weight lifting from a completely different perspective than I did. In thirty minutes, I’d quickly work each muscle group and be ready to hit the showers. Mike, on the other hand, would focus the whole time on one particular muscle. I found it fascinating to ask him: “So, what are you doing tonight?” He’d point to a place on his body and say, “I’m working on my left anterior deltoid. It’s a little bit smaller than the right one and I need to be more balanced.” Then, by using free weights to exercise this particular muscle, Mike would continue to mold his body as if working with clay. This molding, however, took not a few minutes of artistic manipulation, but years of strenuous exertion. Mike’s goal was to have a perfectly shaped body, a paragon of physical strength. All of his effort paid off in the end when Mike won the title of Mr. Collegiate America. (Photo: No, not a picture of Mike. Not a picture of me either.)
The Holy Spirit is a bodybuilder rather like Mike. With even more dedication than he demonstrated, the Spirit of God seeks to build up the church as the body of Christ. Like a committed bodybuilder, the Spirit invests years–indeed, millennia–of effort to help the church grow to perfection. Of course ultimate perfection won’t come this side of the eschaton. But, in the meanwhile, the Spirit molds the church, using members of the church–people like you and me–in the process.
In order to help us build and shape the church, the Spirit gives us gifts of power. These gifts are described in detail in 1 Corinthians 12-14. To this passage and its context we’ll turn in my next post in this series.

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