Grace For The Journey
In today’s blog, we are going to pick up again in our study of the book of Romans. We had been examining chapter 12 and the topic of Spiritual Gifts. It is important that we remember the context in which Paul presents Spiritual Gifts within this book. The context of Paul speaking about spiritual gifts is part of being a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. The Christian is to “Think as to have sound judgement” and never “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” because the Christians’ very existence is centered on God’s glory and never on his own. In addition, as we have already seen in our previous studies, the gift or gifts you have, the ministries you have, and the scope of those ministries are all according to God’s will for the purpose of the common good of the whole Body of Christ. If you are a true Christian, then you are to serve God as a living sacrifice. You have been crucified with Christ, and the person you were no longer lives, but Jesus Christ lives in you. The life you now live is to be lived by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up for you (cf. Galatians 2:20). If you are a true Christian, then God has baptized you into the Body of Christ at the time of your salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. God has also given you a spiritual gift or gifts by which you can effectively serve Him with joy. Your particular gift or gifts, as well as your ministry and its scope, will differ from those of other Christians, but there is never a reason for either jealousy or pride, because every gift and ministry is needed for the Body of Christ to be healthy. There are no insignificant people in the church. Everyone, every gift, and ministry is important.
The Bible lists quite a few different spiritual gifts in several different passages. Each of these passages include gifts that are not listed in the other passages. In view of this, it is my belief that these lists only give examples of the kinds of spiritual gifts that God gives. They simply give us some idea of how God desires to use His people in serving Him. We are studying them so that you might get some ideas of how God might use you for His glory. Keep in mind that most people do not know what their spiritual gift is until they start serving in an area and are then affirmed in it by other mature Christians.
We have already examined the gifts of prophecy, preaching, speaking, service or ministry, helps and teaching. In each of these we have seen that God requires every Christian to serve Him in each of these areas to some extent, but there are those who are specially gifted to serve the Lord beyond what is generally commanded. In the gifted area they demonstrate great effectiveness in glorifying God and helping other believers in their Christian walk. All of us must at times serve the Lord outside our particular giftedness, but we become quickly aware of it because it can often be frustrating even if you can get the task done. It can be like a right-handed person using their left hand for a task, or even worse, like trying to type using your elbows. When you are serving in the Lord within your giftedness, there can still be a lot of work involved, but there is also a joy and a satisfaction is having the Lord use you.
The gifts of prophecy, preaching, and speaking are all related to declaring God’s message to others. Recall that the root idea of Prophecy is to “bring forth into the light” and refers to someone who is “an proclaimer or forth-teller of the divine will.” We often think of the prophet as the one that God used to reveal what would happen in the future, but actually the more fundamental aspect of this gift of prophecy is that of forthtelling, or proclaiming what God had said. That is the meaning in the context of Romans 12:6. Those who were prophets that predicted the future 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).
In 1 Timothy 2:7 Paul states that he was appointed to be a “preacher.” Having the gift of prophecy and being a preacher are linked, because both are to herald or proclaim what God has said. The gift of speaking also involves proclaiming what God has said, but is more general in nature. A person may have this gift, but not be appointed to be a “preacher.” Every 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), but those with these gifts have special abilities in proclaiming God to others.
The gift of “service” or “ministry,” and that of “helps” are related to each other. The word “service” is a general term for service and literally refers to a table waiter. Its general meaning refers service “manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name.” The word “helps” 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 more personal nature of “helps,” and “service” being more general in nature, though there is much overlap between the two.
Teaching is the gift of being able to transfer knowledge of spiritual things along with understanding so that the truths learned are applied to life. All believers have a certain amount of responsibility in teaching others, but those with this particular gift have a special ability to do so. This gift can be manifested in all sorts of ways with different kinds and ages of people and in different ministries ranging from not only speaking and writing, but also in music, art and drama.
In today’s blog we are going to continue our study by looking at the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:8, starting with exhortation.
Paul says that those who exhort should exercise their gift accordingly in their exhortation. “Exhortation,” comes from a root which means “to call alongside.” This root idea has historically given the word several different meanings, but in the New Testament, it is usually used to mean either “beseech,” “exhort” or “comfort.” Context determines the meaning in a passage.
An example of this occurs here in Romans 12. Paul begins this chapter with the verb form, “parakleo,” which is translated as “I beseech (urge).” In the next two verses Paul calls his readers to be living sacrifices acceptable to God in light of what Jesus Christ has done for them. In verse 8 Paul again uses “parakleo” as a description of the spiritual gift of “exhortation.” The English word “exhortation” means to “urge or advise strongly,” it is to “seek earnestly to persuade” (Webster). You could actually translate Romans 12:1 as, “I exhort you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.” The urging here is strong and could be considered pastoral exhortation to live according to the truth.
The idea of comfort comes from the words usage in such passages as John 14:26 and 15:26 in which the Holy Spirit is called the “comforter” (paraklatos), and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 in which God is called the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction. The same idea of comfort is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 in which the Thessalonians were told to “comfort one another with these words” referring to Paul’s revelation about the future hope we have that those who have died in Christ and those who are alive and remain will both meet Him
in the air at the rapture of the Church.
A common thread that runs through these various meanings as the word is used in the New Testament is their tie to the truth of God. We urge people to know it; We exhort believers to live according to it; We are comforted by its promises. The “gift of exhortation” would then include the ideas of advising, pleading, encouraging, warning, strengthening, and comforting people with the truths of the Word of God to the end that they might live according to it. It is easy to see then that this gift can manifest itself in many different ways in different ministries and in conjunction with other gifts.
There are general commands for all Christians concerning their need to advise, plead, encourage, warn, strengthen, and comfort people, but there are also people whom God has gifted to be able to do these things in a very effective manner in helping others
become more like Christ. Let’s see what Scripture says about the different ways in which Christians are to practice exhortation. That will give us some idea of how this gift might be used as well as remind all of us what God desires from us, whether we have this particular gift or not.
As noted in 1 Corinthians 1:3-5, we are to “comfort” other believers who are going through some affliction with the same “comfort” we received from God when we had gone through some affliction. Some things will bring comfort to us, such as Paul being “comforted” when Titus returned from Corinth and heard how well they had treated his co-worker (2 Corinthians 7:6-7), but that is a passive comfort. More important is the active comfort we are to bring, such as the love of Philemon which also brought “comfort” to Paul’s heart (Philemon 1:7). A person with this gift and the gift of mercy would not only perform acts of compassion on those who suffer, but would also be able to bring the truths of God to bear on the situation to bring comfort to their souls. That is the idea of bringing to others the comfort by which God has comforted us in the midst of affliction.
- The situation may be bad, the person might be in turmoil, confusion or pain, but the truths of God’s promises can bring peace, and that is comforting.
- You may feel lonely, but Jesus will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
- You might feel overwhelmed by problems you are facing, but Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30), in addition, He ever lives to make intercession with the Father on your behalf (Hebrews 7:25).
- You may be in physical pain, but though your flesh and heart may fail, God remains the strength of your heart and your portion forever (Psalm 73:26).
- You may despair of the circumstances of our life in the here and now, but Jesus is preparing a place for you and He will come again to take you to live with Him in heaven forever (John 14:1-3).
- Fear may grip you, but perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), and Jesus has demonstrated that perfect love for you when He took your sins upon Himself and died in your place while you were still His enemy. In addition, He proved His power to forgive you and fulfill His promises to you when He rose from the dead.
The truths of God’s Word can bring comfort, and the person with this gift can do that effectively.
Another manifestation of this gift is in “encouragement.” Paul and Silas did that in Acts 15:32 when they “encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” It is easy for us to get discouraged in this life, for things often do not go the way that we would like and we personally fail, but the Word of God can encourage us to continue on. It can refresh our vision for the future and for the present so that we are uplifted to continue on in faithfully living for Him and serving Him. All of us would like to succeed at what we do, but sometimes we define that according to the world’s standards of success. The Scriptures remind us that what God views as success is simply faithfulness to Him (Luke 12:42-44; 1 Corinthians 4:2). He wants us to keep our eyes on Him and have our values reflect Him, not those of this world (Matthew 6:33). All of us are to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), but those with this gift are especially good at taking the Scriptures and invigorating the downhearted to live for God again.
This gift can also exhibit itself in the common interaction that is to occur as believers meet with one another. Hebrews 10:24,25 tells that we are to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” This is work for most people because we have to give thought to this before-hand so that we are prepared when we get together with others, but those gifted in this area easily figure out ways of how to help others be involved in the love and good deeds that should be a normal part of the Christian’s life.
This gift can also reveal itself when confrontation needs to take place when a fellow believer stumbles into sin. This confrontation is not done from an attitude of condemnation, but from one of pleading and warning as the sinning brother or sister is admonished and encouraged to forsake their sin and walk with Christ. Paul had to confront and exhort the Corinthians because of the divisions and other sins they had allowed within their congregation (1 Corinthians 1:10), but his correction was born out of an attitude of love for them (1 Corinthians 4:2). The Thessalonians had some people among them that were living undisciplined lives and acting as busybodies. Paul had to exhort them “in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:11).” Now it is important to note here that while exhortation may accompany admonishment, they are not the same and there is not a spiritual gift of admonishment.
I am sure that many, if not most of you, have run into people that thought they had the gift of admonishment, God has not called out anyone to be “spiritual police” who are watching to see when you make a mistake so they can arrest you. The leaders in the church, specifically the pastor, “watch over your souls” (Hebrews 13:17), but even they are not spiritual law enforcement officers. The whole idea of law enforcement within the church is wrong. Even church discipline is not done for purpose of catching law breakers and punishing them, but out of love for the sinner. The desire is to correct and
restore the person back into a proper relationship with God and fellow believers. Being caught in sin does bring Church discipline unless the person refuses to give up their sin by which they demonstrate that they do not love Jesus and therefore have no basis of fellowship with His followers.
The task of admonishing those who sin is confrontive and belongs to all Christians. Jesus told us in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” Paul tells Christians in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 that we are to, “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.” There is a greater responsibility in this for those who are mature, for Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Exhortation can be confrontive, but it is so from the standpoint of warning and pleading for change. It takes the Word of God and uses it for reproof and correction with the goal of then encouraging and strengthening the person to walk with Christ. Paul told Titus to “speak, exhort, and reprove with all authority” those under his care. We are still to do the same, and that authority is the Bible. Those with a gift of exhortation in this manner are not only able to state clearly where a person may have stumbled into sin, but they can also communicate the need for change and their own heart to help them effect that change. Again, this is something all Christians need to learn to do, but those with this gift are especially effective at it.
Finally, I should point out that this gift is needed for some church leadership positions. Paul placed the requirement on the pastors that Titus was to appoint for the churches in Crete, including that they be able to, “Exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” This closely parallels the requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2 that pastors be “able to teach,” but it emphasizes that such teaching cannot be academic in nature, but must also be motivational to applying what is taught in daily life. The truths of God are not for mental exercise, but to be believed and applied to daily life.
All Christians need learn to exhort one another in different manners, but God has gifted some to be especially effective in this ministry.
The next spiritual gift in Paul’s list in Romans 12:8 is “giving.” This is the gift that few people want to have for it goes against our own selfish nature. Yet, what Jesus said is true. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
To give is to share or impart from your resources for the benefit of another. Paul says that those with this gift should practice it with liberality or generosity. The root idea of is one of “singleness or simplicity.” It is giving without self-serving motives. John MacArthur describes this well saying this is someone who “gives of himself, not for himself. He does not give for thanks or recognition, but for the sake of the one who receives his help and for the glory of God.” Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of their hypocritical practice of having a trumpet blown to call attention to themselves before giving alms because they wanted the honor of men. Jesus said they had their full reward and would get nothing from God (Matthew 6:2-3). Giving with liberality is not just generously, but with the desire to be honored by God without care of any honor from men. Such giving is done in secret instead of with fanfare.
Again, we find that all Christians are commanded to give, so this particular spiritual gift is simply the extension of the Biblical principles beyond what is normal. For example, in 1 Timothy 5:17,18, Paul makes it clear that those pastors who rule well and work hard preaching and teaching should be considered worthy of double honor and be able to earn their living from their spiritual work. Paul had also pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 9 that, even though he did not take personal advantage of this, it was right for him to expect to be able to “reap material things” from them because of they had “sowed spiritual things in them.” That cannot happen if God’s people do not give.
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul gives advance notice to the Corinthians that he is collecting money for the relief of the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He wanted them to be prepared for he expected to receive something from them to help with this need. They might not be as generous as the Macedonians who gave “beyond their ability” and even begged to be allowed to participate in the support of the poor saints, but Paul still expected them to give.
It often surprises people that Scripture states that a purpose of working is so that we will have something to give to those who have need. Ephesians 4:28 states, “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.” All Christians are to give as they purpose in their heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). There are also those who have the gift of giving and therefore they reflect the attitude of the Macedonians.
Perhaps this is a good place to note that the strength of this spiritual gift is not in the amount given, but in the sacrifice required and loving heart demonstrated by the act of giving. This kind of giving reflects the heart that trusts God to meet their own needs even as God uses them to meet the needs of others. Jesus pointed this out when He called the attention of His disciples to the widow who gave the two mites and said that it was more than the great amounts of money the wealthy had put in, because they gave out their surplus, but she gave all she had out of her poverty (Luke 21:2-3). Paul reveals the spiritual encouragement that comes from such giving when he thanked the Philippians for their sacrificial giving on his behalf and called it a “fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:17-18).
While we most often we might think of this spiritual gift in terms of financial resources, it can be broader than that. Paul said in Romans 1:11 that his desire was to come to the Romans that he might “impart” (give, share) to them some spiritual gift. This giving may be expressed out of your finances, your material resources, or your spiritual resources.
The important aspect of this is that it is a giving out of your resources to meet the needs of others for the purpose of spiritual edification and God’s glory.
Giving can take place in a multitude of ways.
- It could be money to help someone else pay a bill.
- It could bags of food or clothes to meet the physical needs of someone else, or even a tank of gas.
- It could be providing a place for someone to stay, perhaps in your own home.
- It could be giving your time or talent so that a project could be completed.
- It could even be giving your blood or having your name on the organ donor list to provide extended life to someone injured or sick.
What ties all these together is that it is done for the glory of God.
Keep it firmly in mind that it is to be for God’s glory. A cup of water given in Jesus’ name is both a physical and spiritual blessing, but the same cup of water without the reference to Christ brings no spiritual blessing. Doing nice things is good, but unless it is for God’s glory, you are not serving God and you are not using a spiritual gift.
What is your spiritual gift? You really can’t know unless you are using it. Are you praying about how God might use you? Use the list in the bulletin to stimulate your mind and heart on how God might use you in the current ministries of this church and in the ministries that could be started to reach this community for Christ if everyone was using their spiritual gift.
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.”