Grace For The Journey
What do you call someone that has some body part that does not function properly or is missing? Proper terms include “handicapped” or “disabled,” though some now consider those to be insensitive and politically incorrect language. Such people tend to label the function that is impaired and say the person is “challenged” in that area. For example, a person with poor eyesight is “visually challenged,” a person with poor hearing is “acoustically challenged,” and a person with a bad leg has a “mobility challenge.”
Over the last several blogs I have been pointing out to you the analogy that Paul makes in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 of the physical human body with the church, which is the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ. And just as the physical body is handicapped when a body part is not functioning properly or is missing, so it is with the church when someone who is supposed to be part of it is not functioning properly or is missing altogether. The Body of Christ is left handicapped, or to use more politically correct language, the church is left “ministry challenged.” We cannot function the way we are supposed to and therefore cannot properly accomplish the ministries God has called us to do, if we can accomplish them at all.
It is for that reason that we will be taking a close examination of all the various spiritual gifts listed in not only Romans 12:6-8, but also in other New Testament passages. We need to have an understanding of these various examples of gifts that God has given to His people and how we are to work together.
We begin today’s study in Romans 12 verse 3 where 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.”
The Bible teaches that the Christian is to “think as to have sound judgement” and never “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” because 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.
Every gift and ministry are needed
For the body of Christ to be healthy.
If any body part is injured or no longer functioning properly, then the body is handicapped. If those in the church are not using their God give ministry gift, then the whole Body is handicapped. No one can be proud, because everyone is needed, and in some ways those whose ministries are done quietly with little or no public recognition are especially needed.
Another reason that all Christians are to be humble is because their spiritual gift, their ministry, and the effectiveness of that ministry are all up to God, not the individual. As Paul stated in verse 6, each of us “have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Paul is even more clear in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 stating Verse 4, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord. and there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.” 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 Christian has no basis to boast about themselves and where they fit into the Body. That is all according to God’s grace given to you.
And a final reason for the Christian to think with sound judgement concerning their place and functioning within the body of Christ is because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Whatever gifts, ministries, and their effectiveness you have in serving the Lord are all for the purpose of the common good of the whole Body. I know I mentioned this last yesterday, but it bears repeating. There are no “manifestations of the Spirit” that are for your personal benefit, and keep in mind that “manifestations of the Spirit” here in 1 Corinthians 12 refers to any spiritual gift used in a godly manner reflecting the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.
The error in the Corinthian church
Is commonly repeated today
Because people do not
Keep that truth in focus.
That is why so many Charismatics fail to understand 1 Corinthians 14 and end up promoting the very thing that Paul was seeking to correct. They had become proud and sought to use their gifts for the benefit of themselves instead of for the whole Body. Let us always be humble and keep in mind that every gift and ministry is given for the benefit of the common good of the church, the Body of Christ, and never to feed our selfishness or pride.
There are many different gifts and ministries within the Body of Christ and those in turn will vary in their power or effectiveness all according to the grace of God in keeping with His will. As I pointed out yesterday, there are several New Testament passages that list out different spiritual gifts including Romans 12:6-8. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 2:7; and 1 Peter 4:11. None of these lists are comprehensive in themselves. Each of them lists gifts not mentioned in the other passages. It is for that reason that I believe that each of these are only examples of the kinds of spiritual gifts that God gives. I do not believe you have to know what your gift is in order to use it. In fact, usually a person does not know what their gift or gifts might be until after they have been using them and are affirmed in that by other mature Christians. They simply give us some idea of how God desires to use His people in serving Him and that is why we are taking the time to study them as we are. I want you to think and pray about how God may have equipped you to serve Him.
A spiritual gift (“charismata” – literally “grace gift”) is the special way in which God enables you to serve Him beyond what is generally commanded. This service is done with effectiveness and, I believe, also with joy. I find that we often may need to serve the Lord outside our particular giftedness, and though we may be able to accomplish the task, it is usually with difficulty and sometimes frustration that we do it. It would be like a right-handed person trying to write with their left hand, or even worse, trying to write with our toes. With enough practice it can be done, but it is not easy. When you are using your spiritual gifts, it is like writing with your dominant hand. It can still be a lot of work, but it can be done with effectiveness, efficiency, and joy.
Yesterday we looked at prophecy, which is the first gift listed in Romans 12:6. It 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. As we saw yesterday, the root idea of prophecy is to “bring forth into the light” and refers to someone who is “an proclaiming or forth-teller of the divine will.”
A prophet can also refer to someone who was used by God to reveal what would happen in the future. Those who did that had to meet God’s standard of 100% accuracy 100% of the time, or they were to be declared to be false prophets and put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). This aspect of this gift is not in operation in our present age because its purposes have been fulfilled in the completion of the Bible. There are those that claim to be able to reveal the future, but they do not meet the Deuteronomic standard of 100% accuracy 100% of the time. They are part of the group of false teachers that both Peter (2 Peter 2:1) and Paul warns us about.
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, and it is still true today. This is the gift that separates a religious speaker who speaks from man’s wisdom from the preacher that boldly declares God’s will based on what the Bible says.
Keep in mind that all Christians have a certain amount of responsibility in doing what someone who is called to be a preacher (1 Timothy 2:7) is to do to a greater degree. 1 Peter 2:9 tells that everyone 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.” Every believer is to proclaim God and when they do so, they are to speak “as it were, the utterances of God.” We are to speak with all due respect and reverence for what God has said remembering that the Word of God is “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“ (Hebrews 4:12). It is a powerful weapon by which we need not fear our adversaries.
The next gift is listed in Romans 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:11 as “service” or “ministry.” This comes from “diakonian” which is a general term for service and literally refers to a table waiter and is used that way in Luke 10:40 and John 2:5, 9; 12:2. This reflects the attitude that the Lord’s servant is to have in all their service regardless of its specific form. A table waiter must be humble because they are present to enhance the dining experience of the one eating. The focus is not on the waiter, but on the one they are serving. The one who ministers must do likewise in their ministry.
The term as used here has its broadest meaning in referring to any act of service. This gifts has been describes as, “manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name.” There is an aspect of this that is required of every Christian for all Christians are to serve the Lord and each other in some capacity. In John 12:26 Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” In Ephesians 4:11-12 we find that there are various gifted men given to the church for the purpose of “equipping the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Christian service is not doing just any good deed, but doing good for the welfare of others for the specific purposes of glorifying God, as Jesus said we were to do (Matthew 5:16), and helping other believers in their walk with Christ.
In many ways you could say that “service” is a broad gift in which many of the other gifts would be a subcategory. In fact, Paul uses the same word in 1 Corinthians 12:5 to describe the ways in which the various gifts could express themselves. Among the different gifts that are also specifically described as “service” or “ministry” are preaching Christ (2 Corinthians 4:1) and “giving” financially (2 Corinthians 9:1). In Acts 6 we find that the duty given to the seven of making sure the widows were properly cared for is described as “serving.”
In Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 a cognate of this word is used to designate and describe an office in the church, that of “deacons.” In my view, 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to “deaconesses” of which Phoebe is specifically mentioned as being one (Romans 16:1). These are people that have matured in Christ so that they demonstrate certain godly characteristics that enable them to be given leadership in the various general ministries in the church.
While, all Christians are to serve the Lord and one another in some capacity, Paul’s distinguishes the “gift of service” in Romans 12:7 from the other gifts listed. This means that while serving is a broad category under which other gifts are sometimes placed, there is also a specific gift of serving that is different from other gifts. One example of this would be 1 Corinthians 16:15 where Paul commends the household of Stephanas because they had “devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.” Those who have the “gift of service” are to devote themselves to that service without being either jealous of those with different gifts or proud about their own. Such is to be true with each of the gifts.
What does this mean in practical application? Every Christian is to have a humble attitude and serve one another considering others to be more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3). Some are specifically gifted in the area of the ministry or service. That could manifest itself in any sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name. It is important to stress that this is not just doing good deeds, for non-Christians do a lot of good deeds. But a cup of water given without reference to Christ does not glorify God. This gifts’ main manifestation will be that it will be done in a way to glorify God and will encourage other believers in their own walk with the Lord. The one with this gift will be satisfied with the serving itself, even if they receive little or no personal recognition for it.
Some of the various ways that I have personally seen this gift exhibited include:
- Those who joyfully clean the church facilities.
- Others who take care of our property by fixing things, mowing the grass or making our landscape look nice.
- Those who prepare meals for those in need.
- Taking on some work project around the church, for another ministry, such as a missions project, or for another believer.
- Fixing things that break.
- Those who prepare for and/or clean up after one of our church fellowships.
- Caring for someone else’s children, which includes working in the church nursery.
- Setting up and taking down the outreach tent as well as handing out the cups of hot chocolate and water.
- There are also those that prepare the float, costumes, and work with the puppeteers so all of that is done well.
- There are those that serve by working our sound system, copy tapes and CD’s, and others change our bulletin boards and Scripture signs.
There are a multitude of ways in which people can use their gifts of serving. It is only limited by their imagination of how they can glorify in the Lord in what they do and encourage others in their walk with Christ.
Similar to “service” is the gift of “helps” listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28. The word “heps” is from the term “antilêmpsis” which has a root meaning of “a laying hold of” and came to mean “to aid, help” or “rendering assistance.” The main difference between the gift of “helps” and “service” would seem to be in the personal nature of the ministry given. The gift of “helps” is often specifically associated with rendering assistance to those who are weak. In Acts 20:35 Paul is addressing the Ephesian elders and refers to his own example in his charge to them to “help the weak.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul includes “help the weak’ as part of his concluding general commands to all believers. Every believer has a responsibility in helping one another as needs might arise, but those with this gift have greater ability and desire to be involved in this particular type of ministry.
While there would be much overlap between the two gifts, “service” would be the broader category under which helps would be more specific to helping a person with something pertaining to them personally as opposed to doing something more general. Perhaps this is making too much distinction between the two, but in my own mind, service is more “task oriented” and helps is more “people oriented.” A person with the “gift of helps” would take on a task with more of the idea of assisting the other person rather than of just doing the task itself. For example, a person with the “gift of service” might clean the church simply because it is a needed task to be done for the good of the whole Body and glorifying God by taking proper care of the facilities He has entrusted to us. A person with the “gift of helps” might clean someone’s house because they desire to show brotherly love and glorify God by assisting their friend in completing the task they are doing. Again, there would be a lot of overlap between the two gifts and it might often be very difficult to make any distinction.
How can people help each other? It would include any of the things I said earlier regarding service as well as getting involved in something just to assist another believer. Again, the variety of ways is only limited by the person’s imagination of how they can glorify the Lord in what they do and encourage others in their walk with Christ. How could you help another believer?
“Teaching” is the next gift listed in Romans 12:7. “Teaching” is the God given ability to impart spiritual truths to others. The word here is from “didasko” from which we get our word “didactic.” However, this is not the didactic impartation of knowledge so prevalent in our school systems in which the students learn many facts, but often little about how to transfer those facts to life. Biblical teaching is the transfer of knowledge along with understanding so that the truths learned are applied to life.
All believers have a certain amount of responsibility in teaching others, both Christians and non-Christians. Fathers are to diligently teach their children about God (Deuteronomy 6:7) and raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Children are not to forsake their mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8). Older women are to be godly in their behavior and teach what is good so that they might encourage the young women to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:3-4). As already mentioned, all Christians are to, “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We are also bound by the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Those who are more mature are to be teaching those who are less mature while at the same time learning from those who are more mature than themselves. The result is that the whole Body grows and matures in the unity faith (Ephesians 4:12ff). Who are you teaching and who is teaching you?
There is also the specific “gift of teaching” listed in Romans 12:7 by which God uses particular people to impart to other people knowledge of Himself and understanding of how He wants His followers to live. This gift can manifest itself in many different ministries. This gift might be used in one individual only in personal situations, while in another only in small groups, while another might be able to teach multitudes. One individual might only be able to teach young children, another only teens, and another only adults, while yet still another can teach any age group. The kind of ministry the teaching is manifested in can also vary. Most of the time it is through speaking, but it can also be manifested in writing, music, art, and drama.
Paul did a lot of speaking, but his writing has taught immeasurably more people than his speaking ever did. Most of us are probably not even aware how much we learn through music, but it can be a very effective means of teaching. That is the key reason that the theology and philosophy taught in a song is much more important than its style. Yet, too often people tend to choose the music they will listen to based on style instead of content. Even in the church a lot of songs and hymns are sung based on style without much thought to the heretical doctrine it teaches. Drama also teaches. Those who are discerning realize how much we can be negatively affected by drama, but drama can also be used to impart wonderful spiritual truths. These same things are also true of art. Who here has not only been moved emotionally, but also taught something through an artist’s rendition of some Biblical event or truth? Drawings and diagrams of such things as the Tabernacle and the Temple add a lot to our understanding of them and the magnificence of the God who was worshiped within them.
Perhaps you have the gift of teaching? If so, how are you using it? And more importantly, are you being careful to make sure that you are imparting the truths of God and not your own musings.
Again, the “gift of teaching” is not about being able to just impart information and get other people to believe you. Many secular teachers can do that, and they are taking a lot of people to Hell with them. The “gift of teaching” is about imparting the truth of the Word of God so that the person believes and follows God. Let me stress that last part, they teach so that the person follows God. A good teacher does not encourage or allow people to cultically follow them. That is the mark of a false teacher. A person with the Biblical “gift of teaching” keeps pointing their followers to Christ even as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 11:1 saying, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
The gift of teaching is of critical importance to the health of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul lists some who have the “gift of teaching” that are also identified as having the office of teacher within the church, and he states that they are the third most important office in the church. Only the offices of apostles and prophets are of greater importance because they are the ones that laid the foundation of the Word of God upon which the church is built (Ephesians 2:20). Only those who have this gift are to hold spiritual leadership positions in the church. Pastors are required to be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). Titus 1:7 expands on this requirement saying that an overseer/pastor must hold “fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” The pastor must be able to handle both the positive and negative aspects of teaching about God and His will for man. From the positive side he must be able to “exhort in sound doctrine” those who want to learn. At the same time, from the negative side, he must know the truth so well that he can refute those who have departed from the truth and so contradict it with false teaching. In Ephesians 4:11 Paul expresses the requirement for the pastor to be able to teach by joining the office of teacher with that of pastor. The term “pastor” comes from the Latin word for “shepherd.” The pastor is to “shepherd” his flock (1 Peter 5:1-2). The term “pastor” simply describes the work that a “bishop, elder, shepherd, and overseer” does. They are the same office.
The “gift of teaching” is also vital to the continuation of the church. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul told Timothy, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Paul taught Timothy, and Timothy was in turn to teach faithful men who would in turn teach other faithful men, and this is to continue until the Lord’s return. Without the “gift of teaching,” this plan could not continue and the church would die. The church always has been and continues to be one generation away from extinction, but God always calls and equips His people to serve Him, therefore, the church will continue until Jesus returns for her.
This pastor/teacher plans to continue . . .
To glorify God by leading our church family
To make disciples of Jesus Christ until He returns,
And that can happen because God
Has equipped His people to serve Him.
The only question is are you serving the Lord with the gifts He has given you? If not, you leave the rest of the Body handicapped. As a new year approaches, it is a good time to resolve to either continue to use your spiritual gifts or begin to use them and see what great things God will do in 2021 and beyond.
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.”