World of Faith

Spiritual Gifts – Part One: Wired to Serve | May 6, 2007

This week I am beginning a brand new series on spiritual gifts. Originally, I was going to begin a series on leadership and influence, but because I’ve been thinking about spiritual gifts so much lately, I thought it would be necessary to have a short, three-part series on spiritual gifts that would lay the groundwork and a foundation for the series on leadership and influence that will follow.

A while back I did a series on “What is Charismatic?” which covered a lot of the basic issues concerning spiritual gifts, but the purpose of this series is to cover spiritual gifts in a bit more depth, and with some other nuances that were not really discussed before.

I believe, along with our different personalities, that God has “wired” each of us as believers with different spiritual gifts, so that we can serve and edify (and if we’re in five-fold ministry), equip the body of Christ. There are four key passages that I believe identifies several of these spiritual gifts: Romans 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12:1-11, 1 Cor. 12:27-31, and Eph. 4:7-16. In this week’s installment, I will look at the passage in Romans 12. Next week I will cover BOTH passages in 1 Cor. 12. And in the third installment, I will cover the ascension gifts in Eph. 4, and explain how those five gifts function differently than the others in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

So, let’s begin by looking at Rom. 12:3-8 (NKJV), “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. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 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; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” The first point that Paul addresses here is that we are to be sober in thought, and not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Paul also wrote in the second half of Rom. 11:20 (NKJV), “Do not be haughty, but fear.” Paul speaks here of the fear of the Lord. In Proverbs, it is written that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” So, we are not to be prideful, and lift ourselves up, but remain in the fear of the Lord, and be sober in our thinking. Paul also wrote later in Rom. 12:16 (NKJV), to drive this same point across, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” It is ironic that I just completed a series on renewing the mind, and now that I am discussing spiritual gifts, this issue of being like-minded comes up again. We are to be sober in our thinking towards one another, as well. We cannot become prideful about our spiritual gifts. But the second point Paul makes here in Rom. 12:3 is that God has given each of us a measure of faith. What Paul is emphasizing here with this second point is that the measure of faith each of us has — we need to exercise it accordingly. This is discussed for each spiritual gift, but I believe that the measure of faith corresponds to a measure of grace that God has also given us as well.

Then, in verse 4, Paul address that although we are each members of the body of Christ, not every member has the same function. These different functions, of course, are different spiritual gifts, which Paul lists beginning in verse 6. But before he discusses the spiritual gifts specifically, Paul makes an important point in verse 5. We are all part of the ONE body of Christ. We are members of one another. We are interdependent, and we need each other, and we need to identify and recognize, and make use of the spiritual gifts of each other, so that we can all be served and edified, and in the case of the ascension gifts, equipped for every good work that God has called us to do. So then Paul writes in verse 6, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.” At this point, I need to make some general comments about these seven spiritual gifts I am about to mention. First, the word Paul uses in the Greek for “gifts” is “charisma,” from which we get the word “charismatic” in English. The best definition that Thayer’s Lexicon offers for “charisma” is this: Grace or gifts denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit. In contrast to the gifts mentioned in Eph. 4, these serving gifts I believe are graces (some translators believe “charismata” should be translated as gracelets), and so each of the seven serving gifts listed here are really the grace to do something, whatever the gift happens to be. For example, the gift of teaching is really the grace to teach, and this is a different gift compared to the gift of teacher, which is listed in Eph. 4, and has a different purpose. Lastly, one other comment before I discuss these seven spiritual gifts more specifically. According to Thayer’s, these grace-gifts are received because of the “power of divine grace operating on the recipient’s souls by the Holy Spirit.” I believe that the Holy Spirit empowerment or enduement with power for service for Christians comes when Christians have received the baptism in or infilling of the Holy Spirit. I discussed this topic further in the “What is Charismatic?” series, but I would just like to emphasize that spiritual gifts do not come at salvation, but when the believer has received the baptism in (or infilling of) in the Holy Spirit, which empowers the believer with spiritual gifts for service in the body of Christ. Acts 2 describes this experience as the Holy Spirit coming to rest ON the believers, and Eph. 5:18 describes this experience as a filling of the Holy Spirit. At salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell our hearts, but at baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit to serve, and that is important to remember, as we begin to study each of the seven serving gifts here in Romans 12.

The first gift that Paul identifies is the gift of prophecy, which is really the grace to prophesy, and without going further, I believe that Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians that this grace is available to everyone. Paul writes, “You may all prophesy,” but at the same time, not all are prophets. I will develop this point further next week, so for this week, I’d just like to explain how the grace to prophesy functions. I believe that the function of the gift of prophecy is two-fold. There is a foretelling function, as regards to future events, and a forth-telling function, of past and/or present events. According to Thayer’s, “prophecy,” or “propheteia,” the Greek word, means this: A discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events. So, prophecy is a revelatory gift, it is divine inspiration that declares God’s purposes, and it especially can be by admonishment, comfort, or the revealing of hidden things. It can be the foretelling of future events, but that isn’t necessary. As I will discuss next week, there are gifts of the word of knowledge, and the word of wisdom, which would be a past or present fact about a person(s), place, or thing, and the gift of prophecy often interacts with the gift of the word of knowledge and the gift of the word of wisdom. But the key point is it is revelatory discourse that declares the purposes of God in the earth. It is not just divinely inspired preaching and teaching of the Word of God, which is something very different.

The second gift that Paul identifies is the gift of ministering, which really means the gift of serving, or rather the grace to serve. The word in the Greek that Paul uses here is “diakonia,” from which we get the word “deacon” in English. The first definition that Thayer’s offers for this word is “service, ministering, especially of those who execute the commands of others.” Clearly, those who have the grace to serve are those who follow those who have the grace to lead. Those who have this gift therefore are ministering at the command of others. Another definition that Thayer’s offers is “the office of the deacon in the church.” While I disagree with the concept that a “deacon” is an “office” in the church, being a deacon is a function, which is different than the function of elders. The first appointment of deacons is found in Acts 6:1-4 (NKJV), which says, “Now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and SERVE tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Thus, the deacons were those who were appointed to serve and meet the daily, practical needs of the saints (here the widows), and the elders (for lack of a better term) devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. By the way, the “ministry of the Word,” really is the study of the Word of God as to prepare the student to PREACH and TEACH the Word of God. This is why I believe Paul makes the point in 1 Cor 9:14 that those who preach the Gospel should make their living by the Gospel.

The third gift that Paul identifies is the gift of teaching, which is really the grace to teach. Paul uses two Greek words here, but I will focus on the first one, “didasko,” from which we get the word “didactic” in the English language. The primary translation that Thayer’s offers for “didasko” is “to teach.” More specifically, “to impart instruction, instill doctrine, to explain or expound a thing, or to teach one something.” Thus, one that has the gift of teaching will do these things — such a person will have the grace to impart instruction, the grace to instill doctrine, the grace to explain or expound on a thing, etc. This gift is also different than the ascension gift of teacher (1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11), which has a different purpose that I will cover in two weeks.

The fourth gift that Paul identifies is the gift of exhortation, which really is the grace to exhort. Again, Paul uses two Greek words, and I will focus on the first one, “parakaleo,” from which we get the Bible word (in English), Paraclete, which is a name for the Holy Spirit. The reason why the Bible calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete is because the Holy Spirit is to come along side the Christian believer and provide comfort, consolation, etc. Thus, one with the grace to exhort has a similar purpose. Thayer’s translates “parakaleo” as “to call to one’s side, to address, speak to, which may be done in the way of entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.; to admonish, to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort, to instruct and to teach.” Thus, one who has the gift of exhortation, i.e. the grace to exhort, will be able to speak to others in this manner.

The fifth gift that Paul identifies is the gift of giving, which is really the grace to give. Paul uses the Greek word “metadidomi” for this grace-gift, which means according to Thayer’s “to impart.” Thayer’s also translates this grace gift as “to share a thing with any one,” and also “he that imparts with his substance.” Thus, one who has the grace to give, and the gift of giving will impart, share, and give of his substance, and should do so with liberality (generously).

The sixth gift that Paul identifies is the gift of leadership, which is really the grace to lead. Paul uses the Greek word “promistemi” for this grace-gift, which means according to Thayer’s “to set or place before, to set over, to be over, superintend, or preside over; to be a protector or guardian, to give aid, to care for, or give attention to.” One who has this gift will have the grace to lead and to set over, preside over, give aid and care for whatever God has entrusted that person with as a stewardship of ministry or service. This gift is different from the 1 Cor. 12:28 gift of administration, which is translated from the Greek word “kubernesis.” I will develop that thought next week, but this gift specifically is the grace to lead in a serving capacity.

Lastly, the seventh gift that Paul identifies is the gift of mercy, which is really the grace to show (or demonstrate) mercy. Paul uses the Greek word “eleeo” for this grace-gift, which means according to Thayer’s “to have mercy on, to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the afflicted or wretched, etc.” Thus, one who has the gift of mercy, or who has the grace to demonstrate mercy will be drawn to and help the afflicted, bringing whatever aid is necessary to relieve such affliction, for that is the motivation behind one with the gift of mercy, that is to aid the afflicted and relieve their suffering.

So, those are the seven serving gifts of Romans 12, which are really graces to serve the body of Christ in specific ways, whether it be the grace to prophesy, the grace to serve, the grace to teach, the grace to exhort, the grace to exhort, the grace to give, the grace to lead, or the grace to show mercy. Remember that Paul emphasized that we are to be sober-minded about these gifts, and should recognize and identify the graces that God has given each of us, because we are members of one another in the body of Christ, although with different functions (with different graces). Further, we need to exercise our faith in each of these graces, in proportion to our faith; if the grace to prophesy, then in proportion to our faith, if the grace to serve, let us use that as we have faith; if the grace to teach, let us use it when we teach; if the grace to exhort, let us use it when we exhort; if the grace to give, let us do so liberally; if the grace to lead, let us do so diligently; and if the grace to show mercy, let us do so cheerfully. Whatever God has given us the grace to do, let us do so according to the measure of our faith. Amen.

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