Grace For The Journey
This morning we continue our study of the nature of the church and begin a study of spiritual gifts. In Romans chapter 12 and verses three to eight we read the following, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Recall from our study a couple of days ago, that the reason that we need to “think as to have sound judgement” of ourselves and that no one should “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” is directly related to the fact that every Christian is part of the Body of Christ, and every part of that Body is needed for it to function properly. Just as with the physical body, there are no worthless parts, so with the Body of Christ, there are no worthless members. Just as with the physical body, there are no insignificant organs, so with the Body of Christ, there are no insignificant ministries. This does not mean that the physical body cannot live without certain body parts, for when any body part is injured or no longer functioning, the body is crippled. So it is with the Body of Christ, every gift and ministry are needed for the body to be healthy.
People now are no different now than they were at the time Paul was writing his letters. People still tend to think of certain gifts as more important than others resulting in either pride if they have them, or discouragement or jealousy if they do not. That is why it is so important to clearly understand and live according to what Paul has explained both here in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 about the functioning of the Body of Christ.
Humility is demanded of every Christian because none of us became part of the Body of Christ based on our own merit or abilities.
It was God Himself
In His great mercy
That redeemed you
And made you
Part of this Body.
Every person is born spiritually dead and by nature are “children of wrath” as well as “slaves to sin” (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 6).
- Salvation comes when God in His great love makes us alive together with Christ and adopts us as His children (Ephesians 2; 1 John 3:1).
- We become aliens to this world (1 Peter 2:11), and a process of complete transformation begins.
- We are made into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) and transferred from Satan’s realm into Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
- We develop new desires, attitudes, and actions as our minds are renewed (Romans 12:2).
- It is God in His grace that brings us into the fellowship of the saints and makes us part of the body of Christ.
- God is also the one that equips us to serve Him, so there is no basis on which the Christian can be proud or boastful in Himself.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us directly that, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The gifts, ministry, and effectiveness of that ministry are according to God’s own will for His own purposes. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12 and look at verses 4-6.
Verse 4 says, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians, but He gives different gifts to different people. Every Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to serve the Lord. There are all sorts of spiritual gifts, which we will look at in a few minutes, but whatever gift it may be, it came by the Spirit.
Verse 5 states, “There are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord.” The Lord is the same for all Christians, but He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a variety of ministries as He chooses. To use the gift of exhortation as example, it could be used in different age groups, in different settings such as private, public, church, school, hospital, etc., through different means such as preaching, teaching, personal counseling, etc., and through different formats such as speaking, singing, writing, drama, art, etc.
Verse 6 says, “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.” God is the same for all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING TO GOD. A person who has the gift of exhortation that operates though a ministry of music may use it with just a few people at a Bible Study or with more people at a church services, or it could
be used regionally, nationally or even internationally.
Paul makes the same basic point in a very succinct manner at the beginning of Romans 12:6 when he says, “And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” By God’s grace, each Christian receives gifts by which they are to serve Him. The gifts that each believer has are different from the gifts that other believers have according to God’s grace in giving the particular gifts to the particular Christian. We can summarize these two passages by saying that . . .
God has gifted you to serve Him,
But the gift or gifts given,
The ministry that the gift(s)
Are used in, and the effectiveness
Of the gift(s) are according
To the Lord’s will, not yours.
The purpose of God giving these spiritual gifts and ministries to you is stated clearly in verse 7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. So whatever these “manifestations of the Spirit” might be, their purpose is “For the common good.” That is an extremely important point that must never be lost. The error
in the Corinthian church is commonly repeated today because people do not keep that truth in focus . . .
There are no “manifestations of the Spirit”
That are for your personal benefit
Whether that be spiritually,
Physically, or even financially.
Whatever personal benefit
You receive for your gift will be
Directly related to it being
“For the common good“
Of the whole Body.
That even includes my gifts in pastoring and teaching. They are not for my personal benefit, but for that of the common good of the whole Body. My personal benefit in being able to earn my living through these gifts is directly related to using them for the common good of the whole Body. If I did not do so, then even that personal benefit would be and should be immediately lost.
What are these “manifestations of the Spirit,” these outward evidences of the Spirit’s presence? In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a person’s life. The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In the 1 Corinthians 12 text, the evidence is said to be the gift(s) given by the Spirit so that God’s children can serve Him and thereby benefit the whole body.
Which gift manifests the Holy Spirit in a person’s life? Pentacostal and Charismatic doctrine erroneously teach it is the particular gift of speaking in an unknown tongue. However, the text in 1 Corinthians 12 is clear that it is any gift. I will add that any so called “gift” that is not displayed along with the fruit of the Spirit cannot be considered evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Back in verse 1, Paul introduced this topic in response to some questions the Corinthians had. Paul states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” Paul is explaining to them about the “pneumatikon” – “the spiritual things.” The context lets us know that spiritual gifts are part of these spiritual things (which is why your Bible has “gifts” in italics, for it is not in the text, but implied). Paul will talk about this subject of spiritual things in chapters 12, 13 and 14 and describe what they are, how they come, how they fit in the body, and the spiritual realities that are more important than the particular gifts, and how they are to operate in the body. Today we are simply examining what they are and how they fit together.
In 1 Corinthians 12:2-3 Paul reminds them of their past in paganism and how they came to Christ. In verses 4, 5, and 6 He tells them that the gifts, ministries, and ability to serve the Lord all come from God according to His will. Then in verse 7, as we have already pointed out, Paul reminds them that all of this is done for the common good of the whole Body. I cannot stress this enough, and so I will stress it again.
Any gift used in any ministry
With any effect is a
Manifestation of the Spirit,
And its purpose is
For the common good
Of the whole Body.
There are no insignificant gifts. There are no insignificant ministries. There are no insignificant people in the church.
Every person, every gift, and every ministry is needed
In order for the body to be healthy and carry out
Its God given purposes of worshiping God,
Caring for one another, building each other up,
And declaring the message of salvation from sin by
God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus.
The Different Gifts.
What are these spiritual gifts? Romans 12:6-8 mentions some as we read earlier. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 mention some more. Then there is a scattering of others mentioned or implied here and there throughout the Bible. Even in 1 Corinthians 12 there are two gifts (“helps” and “administration”) and two offices (“Apostles” and “teachers”) mentioned at the end of the chapter in verse 28 that Paul did not mention in his first listing of gifts in verses 8-10. Because there is no extensive listing of all the various gifts in any one place, but instead they are scattered around the Bible, I do not believe the Holy Spirit ever intended to give us an exhaustive list of all His gifts. The gifts mentioned are simply examples so that the point can be made that God has equipped us, and we are to serve Him.
The first thing to remember about any of these gifts is that they are supernaturally derived. Each is given by the Holy Spirit. They may or may not be related to natural talents. A spiritual gift may use a natural talent or it may function where there is not natural talent or skill, and a person with a natural skill may not have the corresponding spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the Body, they are given so that God can be glorified.
Let me use the gift of “teaching” as an example of this. A person may be both skilled as a teacher in the natural sense and have the spiritual gift of teaching in which case the natural skill is accentuated into being used for God’s purposes. A person could be a great teacher in the natural sense but not have the spiritual gift of teaching in which case they may be great at math, English, history, or whatever else, but they are not able to impart spiritual truths. At the same time someone may be considered inept according to normal teaching standards and yet be used of God mightily in imparting spiritual truths to others.
Spiritual gifts may or may not have any connection with natural abilities or acquired skills. The key question in determining a spiritual gifts is . . .
Is God using you in that area?
What are these gifts (“charismata” – charismata – literally “grace gift”)? Again, I do not believe the Bible give an exhaustive list, but as examples let’s examine some of the ones that are mentioned. Keep in mind that a person may have several in all sorts of mixtures. Let’s start in Romans 12:6-8 . . ..
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY.
Prophecy is the first gift listed in Romans 12:6. The root idea of the word is to “bring forth into the light” and refers to someone who is “an interpreter or forth-teller of the divine will.” Paul states that the one with this gift is to use it, “According to the proportion of his faith.” Prophecy is also listed in 1 Corinthians 12:10 in the subcategory of gifts of faith. There is also the office of “prophet” listed in Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. Paul states in the later passage that prophets are the second gift following behind Apostles in importance.
There are two aspects to the gift of prophecy. First, there is the aspect of foretelling in which God reveals something that is going to happen in the future. The word “prophecy” is used to describe this because revealing the future is bringing what is hidden in the darkness of the future into to the light of the present even before it happens. This is what usually comes to mind when we read of an Old Testament Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Joel, Amos, Micah, etc. God had very clear and definite requirements of these prophets and their prophecies. They had to be one hundred percent (100%) accurate. If anything in their prophecy failed to come true, then they were to be judged a false prophet and stoned. This standard was set up so that the people would not be fooled by false prophets into believing lies. In Deuteronomy:20-22 God says, “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
Be aware that there are those around today that claim to be prophets or to have received some prophecy in the sense of predicting the future, but they do not meet God’s standard of one hundred percent (100%) accuracy 100% of the time. You do not need to be afraid or intimidated by them. You can boldly stand up to them and call them what they are – false prophets. They are part of the group of false teachers that both Peter (2 Peter 2:1) and Paul warn us about.
As we move into the New Testament, we find that the gift of prophecy was largely apostolic in nature, for it was something often associated with the Apostles, but there were others beside them that are referenced as having it. Included in this list are Agabus who predicted a famine in Judea during the reign of Emperor Claudius (Acts 11:28) and later foretold of Paul’s arrest and imprisonment 21:10). Others prophets are referred to in Acts 11:27 and 13:1, but they are not specifically named. Those with this gift were important in the early church, but they were not as important as the Old Testament Prophets or the New Testament Apostles who laid the foundation of God’s
revelation that was written down in the Scriptures (Ephesians 2:20). Their prophecies were to be judged (1 Corinthians 14:29), and they could not always give the prophecies interpretation or application (Acts 21:4, 11-14).
The more fundamental aspect of this gift of prophecy is that of forthtelling, or proclaiming what God had said. The prophet was one who was an interpreter in explaining God’s will. This was true of the Old Testament prophets as well as the gift of prophecy in the New Testament. Consider that so much of what the Old Testament prophets said was proclaiming what God had already said or declaring God’s displeasure and warning about something someone had done. In the New Testament, Paul specifically connects prophecy to edification, exhortation, and consolation of the church in 1 Corinthians 14. Even in Paul’s own writings, though there are predictive elements in some of them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 and 2 Thessalonians 2 for example), most of what he writes is just repeating and applying the truths that God had already revealed. The New Testament prophets Judas and Silas mentioned in Acts 15:32 are not recorded as making any predictions of the future, but instead they “encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.”
It is in this second sense that the gift of prophecy is at work in the present age. This would be the gift that enables preachers to be able to speak with the unction of “thus saith the Lord,” (and perhaps in view of what Acts 15:32 says about Judas and Silas, it might also enable them to be long-winded in their preaching, though in this case it would also mean they were saying something worth hearing). There are plenty of people that can speak, some for even a long time, but it is the gift of prophecy that separates those who are declaring God’s will from those who are just long-winded religious speakers.
The gift of prophecy would be a gift that those who preach would need because a large portion of what they are supposed to do is to expose and explain the Scriptures. They are to study the Bible and then declare the truths of God’s revelation to people. They are to bring to light what seems hidden to most people.
Related to the gift of prophecy is God appointing some to be a “preacher” as Paul states he was in 1 Timothy 2:7. The word “preacher” here, refers to “a herald or messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand, and performed various other duties. In the New Testament, God’s ambassador who herald or proclaimer of the divine Word.” Those with the gift of prophecy are not to keep to themselves, they are to proclaim it to others, which we call preaching.
Now in saying this, we must also keep in mind that preaching takes place in all sorts of different contexts and in different degrees. There are those, like myself, that preach week by week in one location to the same congregation. Others have itinerant ministries in which they speak to different groups as they have opportunity. Some preachers speak to small groups, some to large groups, and some to vast multitudes. Some preachers rarely venture out of a church context while others regularly speak outside a local church context. Some preacher can earn their living by preaching and many, many others do not. All that to say this. Do not stereotype the gift of prophecy and the ministry of preaching into thinking it is just referring to people such as myself. I have no doubts that some of you also have these gifts though they are used in different settings.
In keeping with that idea, let me point out that the apostle Peter uses the more general term, “speaks” to describe this in 1 Peter 4:10,11. He also makes it clear in that passage that the authority and power are in the message, not the messenger, and that the purpose of all gifts are the glory of God. Starting in verse 10, Peter says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
To whatever degree a person may or may not have the gift of prophecy or be appointed by God to the specific calling of being a “preacher,” all who speak on the basis of God’s Word, for whatever reason and on whatever occasion, need to do so with the understanding that the Bible is the Word of God. They should, therefore, speak with all due respect and show reverence for what God has said. We are never to use the Bible in a flippant manner and we should strive to make sure we never use its sayings as cliches that have little meaning left. In addition, the Word of God is, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “Living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It is a powerful weapon by which we need not fear our adversaries.
God has given some people the specific gift of prophecy and called some to be “preachers,” but neither of those have to be specifically true of you in order to use the Word of God and speak His truths to others. In fact, to one degree or another, He requires that of all of us as His witnesses. Each of us who is a Christian has been called by God to be “a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Parents, you have the responsibility of speaking the Word of God and applying its truths to your children.
The Proportion of Faith.
Going back to Romans 12:6 we find that the person with the gift of prophecy is to use it “according to the proportion of his faith.” There are two possibilities of what Paul is referring to by this phrase. The first is that is referring to the Gospel message as “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”” (Jude 3). This sense cannot be objected to because to present something other than the clear and unadulterated Gospel is crucial otherwise it is a false Gospel that brings God’s curse (Galatians 1:6ff).
However, as A.T. Robertson well points out, the context here calls for the subjective meaning of faith. The person with this gift must speak to the fulness of their understanding of the Gospel according to the individual proportion of faith that God has given to them.
In other words, there is variation as to the depth of understanding of the will of God that a person will have as they study the Bible. Each one must give their best to both understanding what God has revealed and then faithfully declaring those truths. That sense is keeping with the rest of the passage. Every person is to use their gift to the best of their ability whatever that gift may be. There is not to be any slacking off in using your gift just because God has equipped you to do something better than others with the same or similar gifts.
That is a good thought on which to end this morning’s message. God has equipped every believer to serve Him. Each of us has different gifts, different ministries, and different scopes in those ministries. As we shall see in our continuing study of spiritual gifts in the days to come, not having a particular gift does not exclude you from serving God in a particular area, for there are general commands related to the different gifts that apply to all Christians. Our giftedness is rather related to the special way in which God will use us beyond His general commands to us.
Are you seeking to serve God to the best of your ability as you strive to live a holy life? If not, then you are not using your gifts and you are not glorifying Him the way that you should, but that can easily change as you turn from being self-centered and selfish into being God centered and a servant.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”