Scripture is clear that God has no favourites (Rom 2:11). Although God chose to bless Abraham and made a covenant with him, we know that God’s redemptive plan always included the nations. Abraham is but God’s agent through whom “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). And with the Incarnation of God’s only begotten Son, we see God’s promises being ultimately fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, who himself descended from the line of Abraham.
This is truly good news for the majority of us who are Christians but not Jewish in our ethnicity. For one, it means that we need not become more Jewish in our expression of worship and observances of religious festivals before we can experience God’s blessings. If anything, Paul reminds us that these are “a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:17).
In addition, Scripture assures us that those who have repented of their sins and continue trusting in the saving work of Christ receive the same blessings as Abraham did, by faith in God. These blessings would include being declared righteous before God (Rom 4:2-4), being reconciled with Him and being given the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
In the New Testament, John the Baptist had to warn the Pharisees and Sadducees about their presumption that they would enjoy God’s favour simply because they are Abraham’s descendants (Matt 3:8). Even the Jewish disciples were initially mistaken about how God relates with Gentile believers. It was only upon hearing the testimony of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, that Apostle Peter understood the vision of unclean animals and recognised that “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). In addition, when Peter was criticised by the Jewish believers in Jerusalem for baptising Gentiles and fellowshipping with these converts, he had to remind the former of Jesus’ words and affirmed the truth that “God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:16-17).
From Peter’s clarification, we learn that everyone who has faith in Christ will receive the Holy Spirit. In fact, Apostle Paul would go on to explain that if an individual could acknowledge that “Jesus is Lord”, it is already a sign that the Holy Spirit lives in him (1 Cor 12:3).
Since every Christian has the Holy Spirit, it would also mean that every Christian has spiritual gifts. We do not earn these gifts and it is not dependent upon our spiritual maturity as the gifts are in accordance to God’s grace. Likewise, we would be mistaken to believe that a Christian leader can “impart” certain spiritual gifts through his prayers when Scripture teaches that it is the Spirit who gives as he wills (1 Cor 12:11).
It is rather unfortunate that just like the Corinthian Christians, it seems that Christians today are still prone to favour one gift over the other. Consider how there is so much attention given to the gift of tongues, prophecy and healing and hardly anyone even amongst our Charismatic and Pentecostal brethren ever talk about the gift of interpretation of tongues, service or mercy.
To be sure, some gifts are more upfront while others work behind the scenes. But as Paul reminds us, it does not mean that the latter is of lesser worth and importance. Neither does it suggest that God favours individual with certain gifts over the rest. Therefore, we should learn to guard our hearts against spiritual envy lest we wish that God had given us the more “spectacular” or seemingly “powerful” gifts. We need not desire to be like someone else and give in to discontentment when God has so graciously blessed us with gifts that we do not deserve in the first place.
As Christians, we must be mindful that since “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor 12:18), it means that He is pleased with this arrangement. It is an arrangement where God has a mission for each believer as a member of the body of Christ (which is understood to be the local church). As individual parts, we should strive to do our assigned role well and learn to work together for the sake of the mission. We would only end up sabotaging the cause if all of us covet the role of the eyes since then the body would not be able to function. Likewise, if the eye is only concerned with itself without bearing in the mind the whole body, everyone will be adversely affected (1 Cor 12:25-26).
If we understand that all Christians have the Spirit and are blessed with gifts for ministry, let us then go forth with thankfulness and be eagerly looking for ways to use our gifts in the service of Christ and His church. After all, God’s gifts are not given to make Christians look good or help others feel good about themselves. It is really about how good God is and how good it is to obey and serve Him.
Rev Edwin Wong
May 22, 2016