Intro: After World War II, a group of German students volunteered to help rebuild an English cathedral that had been severely damaged by German bombs. As work progressed, they became concerned about a large statue of Jesus, whose arms were outstretched and beneath which was the inscription: “Come unto Me.” They had particular difficulty trying to restore the hands, which had been completely destroyed. After much discussion, they decided to let the hands remain missing and changed the inscription to: “Christ has no hands but ours.”
It is the basic truth of that phrase that Paul emphasizes in Rom 12. The work of Jesus Christ in the world is in the hands of those who belong to Him. As the song depicts: “Christ has no hands but our hands, He has no feet but our feet.”
Read Rom 12:3-8 – For I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
In our two previous lessons we considered what we termed 1) the attitude of Service – humility; 2) the relationship of Service – many members in One Body. In our final installment on these verses we will focus our attention today on 3) the Activity of Service – Using our Gifts.
I. “Having then gifts” – The apostle uses a word here that is familiar to the N.T. The Greek word for gifts here is charismata. It is from the common Greek word, charin, used later in this same verse, which means grace. A gift is an act of grace or mercy. It is not earned, nor is the giver under obligation. What are these gifts that we have?
A. Paul has already said, in vs. 3-4 “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function” . These gifts are “functions” (gk. word – praxis – practices or deeds to accomplish). We mentioned last week that the KJV use of the word “office” here is unfortunate, as the thought is not of a position or rank, but rather of a work to do or task to perform.
1. The implication from vs. 5 is that we all “have gifts”, or tasks to perform. These functions are from God, given to us through His grace.
B. “differing according to the grace” – Although we all have functions, we do not all have the same function, or gift. As a physical body has different members which have different, but complementary functions, so we as Christ’s body, do not all have the same task to perform.
1. This diversity of “gifts” is also presented by the apostle Paul in his discussion to the Corinthian church concerning the temporary miraculous gifts of the first century. 1 Cor. 12:4-7 – 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
C. Do Christians today have “spiritual gifts”? We recognize that the term “spiritual” is not used in connection with the gifts mentioned in Romans 12. (In fact, in comparison, the word “gifts” is not in the original text in 1 Cor. 12, but we understand it to be properly implied from what follows in the context.) We also recognize that the “lists” of gifts in 1 Cor. 12 & Roman 12 are not exactly the same.
1. How does the “spiritual gifts” of 1 Cor. 12 relate to the “gifts” of Rom. 12? Are these miraculous or non-miraculous? We must be careful to recognize the context of each “list”.
2. The context of 1 Cor. 12 focuses on the Corinthians’ misuse of miraculous gifts. Some of those Christians were esteeming speaking in tongues as a more important gift than the others. Paul corrected their misconception through a view of the variety of gifts that God provided, and a call for them to seek love above all of these temporary gifts. I believe that the context demands that we view the gifts listed here as miraculous, temporary gifts. The Corinthian letter was written about 54 AD.
3. The context of Romans 12 is the obligation of every Christian to individually offer his body as a “spiritual” sacrifice to God (vs. 1-2) The list here (vs. 6-8) obviously includes non-miraculous functions. (ministering, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, showing mercy) In fact the only one in the list that demands a miraculous measure is prophesying. The fact that the apostle “mixed” miraculous with non miraculous gifts shows that in some sense the church was to view these gifts together, as equal functions, from the same Spirit. (It might also be noted that Romans was written about 5 years after 1 Corinthians, and those temporary gifts of confirming truth were already less apparent.)
a. Later, Peter also uses the term “gifts” to apply to the non-miraculous functions to which we are all responsible. 1 Peter 4:10-11 – 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Notice here as well that the gift is from the “manifold grace God” and the ability to use the gift is that which “God supplies.”
4. Considering the context of each list we should recognize that the term “spiritual” certainly applies to both the miraculous and non-miraculous gifts that God provides. These gifts are no merely human talents or abilities, but rather they are spiritual functions in behalf of the spiritual body of Christ. Those who have these abilities have acquired them through the influence of the Spirit through the word of God.
5. It seems clear that Christians today do receive spiritual gifts from God. These gifts are different from the temporary miraculous spiritual gifts that were given to 1st century Christians through the laying on of the apostles’ hands. (That is a separate lesson). But the Spirit of God continues to energize and articulate the body of Christ through the power of the word of God. Phil 2:13 – 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
– Go back to Romans 12 –
II. “Let Us Use Them” – This is the activity of service – the use of the gifts God has provided. The growth and development of the body of Christ through the gifts that God has provided to each of us. What gifts does Paul mention here?
A. “Prophecy”: The Greek word propheteia is defined as “the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God” – Vine’s. The prophet was one who could both predict the future and reveal the undiscoverable will of God through the direct revelation of the Spirit of God. Both O.T. and N.T. prophecy was by definition a miraculous gift. The prophets, with the apostles, laid the foundation of the church through inspired teaching. (Eph. 2:20)
1. Today, the service most akin to prophecy is preaching or teaching. Although he is not inspired directly, he is commissioned to preach only what the Spirit has revealed in the word. Vine’s N.T. Dictionary says… “With the completion of the canon of Scripture prophecy apparently passed away, 1 Cor 13:8,9. In his measure the teacher has taken the place of the prophet, cf. the significant change in 2 Peter 2:1. The difference is that, whereas the message of the prophet was a direct revelation of the mind of God for the occasion, the message of the teacher is gathered from the completed revelation contained in the Scriptures.”
2. “in proportion to our faith” – The faith here may refer to the objective measure of revelation that the prophet received from God. He was to speak only what God had revealed. This seems to be the admonition of Peter – “speak as the oracles of God”
B. “Ministry”: The Greek word is diakonia which means to serve. It is used to describe all types of service. In a more official capacity it is the word translated “deacon”, those who were selected by the church because of their qualifications.
1. It may be similar to the “gift” of helping in 1 Cor. 12:28. If one has the “gift” (capacity) to serve in any way, then let him (or her) serve. In this sense every Christian is a “minister”.
C. “Teaches”: The word here is also general in meaning (teaching of all sorts). The one who has the gift of teaching is one who has sufficient enough knowledge of God’s word to provide “systematic and regular instruction in God’s word” (MacArthur). The teacher has a heavier responsibility (James 3:1), but in a sense we must all become teachers of God’s word.
1. Teaching is a required follow-up to conversion – “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” – Matt. 28:19
2. Older women are to teach the younger women – Titus 2:4
D. “Exhorts”: The compound word parakaleo literally means to call someone to one’s side. The gift of exhortation, therefore, encompasses the ideas of advising, pleading, encouraging, warning, strengthening, and comforting another Christian in order to build them up.
1. It might involve comforting a brother or sister in the Lord who is facing trouble or is suffering physically or emotionally. It is a gift that benefits those who are weaker or in a spiritually difficult position. In Gal. 6:1-2 Paul called on those who have the spiritual gift of exhorting to restore those who have fallen away and to bear one another’s burdens.
•· Galatians 6:1-2 – Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
E. “Gives”: The idea in this term is sharing. The original word is an intensified form of the usual word for giving, indicating an abundant liberality. Jesus used the word in Luke 3:11 – He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Some Christians are able to give abundantly. They are to use their gift “with liberality” (NKJV)
1. This carries the idea of sincere, heartfelt giving that is untainted by affectation or ulterior motive. The liberal Christian does not give for thanks or recognition, but for the sake of the one who receives his help and for the glory of the Lord.
2. Those who have the capacity to give should not be discouraged or prohibited from giving. If you refuse to be given to, you may be hindering another form using his gift.
F. “Leads”: (rules) – This likely refers to the work of elders (pastors, overseers) as the same word is used to describe their work. (1 Tim. 5:17) The scriptures teach us that not everyone can lead, but those who are spiritually qualified. But those who have the spiritual capacity to lead need to use their gift with diligence -which means with earnest effort or zeal, not casually or leisurely.
G. “Shows Mercy”: The Christian who has this gift is one who has a special sensitivity to suffering and sorrow that may go unnoticed by others. He has the desire and means to help alleviate such afflictions.
1. It is seen in the Christian, who visits the sick in the hospital, the prisoner in the jail, helps the young mother who is struggling with her children, and helps those with disabilities.
2. These activities of mercy are vital, but they can never be done reluctantly or grudgingly, but with cheerfulness. One cannot show mercy out of obligation because showing mercy is giving to someone who does not deserve it.
3. Now does this last gift compare with others? It is as spiritual as any other gift. Consider what one writer wrote: “Would that all Christians with this gift not only would minister it cheerfully but also regularly and consistently. There would be far fewer needy who have to depend on a godless, impersonal government or social agency. And if Christ’s people patterned their lives after His gracious example, far more people would hear and respond to the saving gospel that meets their deepest need.”
Conclusion: It is critical to understand that “spiritual” gifts are not given for our own self-service. In order to properly use our gifts we must be willing to serve others and to use our gifts for the development of the whole body of Christ. We are personally blessed when we use our gifts in the Spirit’s power to serve others in His name, but that blessing is the by-product not the purpose.
Consider again what Peter wrote – 1 Peter 4:10 – As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. We are stewards of God’s gifts.
No gift or ability, spiritual or otherwise, is of value if it is not used. I read the account of a retired farmer in a small prairie town in Saskatchewan, Canada, who owns a large collection of rare and valuable violins. It is highly unlikely that anyone will play those marvelous instruments as long as they are simply stored, protected, and admired. But in the hands of accomplished musicians, those violins could be making beautiful music to inspire and bless countless thousands of hearers.
It is infinitely more tragic that many Christians keep their spiritual gifts stored, rather than using them to serve the Lord who gave them the gifts. How are you using what God has placed in your hand? He has no hands but your hands to do his work today.