by Mike Ratliff
3λεγω γαρ δια της χαριτος της δοθεισης μοι παντι τω οντι εν υμιν μη υπερφρονειν παρ ο δει φρονειν αλλα φρονειν εις το σωφρονειν εκαστω ως ο θεος εμερισεν μετρον πιστεως 4καθαπερ γαρ εν ενι σωματι πολλα μελη εχομεν τα δε μελη παντα ου την αυτην εχει πραξιν 5ουτως οι πολλοι εν σωμα εσμεν εν χριστω το δε καθ εις αλληλων μελη 6εχοντες δε χαρισματα κατα την χαριν την δοθεισαν ημιν διαφορα ειτε προφητειαν κατα την αναλογιαν της πιστεως 7ειτε διακονιαν εν τη διακονια ειτε ο διδασκων εν τη διδασκαλια 8ειτε ο παρακαλων εν τη παρακλησει ο μεταδιδους εν απλοτητι ο προισταμενος εν σπουδη ο ελεων εν ιλαροτητι (Romans 12:3-8)
The Gifts of Grace
As we saw in the last post dealing with Romans 12:1-2, A Living Sacrifice, genuine Christians have a duty to God to give themselves unto Him completely. It is through become a living sacrifice that the believer’s sanctification precedes to the level of surrender. This process takes place as the Holy Spirit renovates the mind as the believer submits more and more to the Word of God in all parts of his or her life. Those who are on this path of spiritual growth are now ready for service.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8 ESV)
Paul was given undeserved favor in his calling as an apostle. However, his apostleship endowed him with apostolic authority. Along with this, it also produced sincere humility within him.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, (Romans 1:1-5 ESV)
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14 ESV)
Paul used this example of humility to exhort his readers to not think too highly of themselves. Why? To do so would not be of faith and, therefore, a fruit of humility. Instead, it would be of the flesh and, therefore, a fruit of pride. The phrase, “not to think of himself more highly than” is actually these 3 Greek words, “μη υπερφρονειν παρ.” This phrase actually means to “not esteem oneself overmuch.” This is a basic tenet of being Spirit-filled. We cannot be Spirit-filled if we are prideful because only the humble are. The prideful person is all about self while the humble believer is all about God. He or she is surrendered to Him as a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1)
The next phrase is, “but to think with sober judgment.” This is the exercise of sound judgment, which leads believers to understand that they are nothing in themselves. This is the type of thinking that flows from a renewed mind that is being transformed by one who is a living sacrifice. This is a humble assessment of oneself that will yield the fruit of humility. Again, the humble submit themselves one to another and this is the very thing that the Spirit-filled do.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)
The next phrase is, “each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This is speaking of the correct proportion of each believer’s spiritual gift. The gift is the supernatural endowment and ability to serve God according to His will. These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to each believer so they can fulfill their role in the Body of Christ. The “faith” spoken of here is not referring to saving faith. This is faithful stewardship needed by the believer in the correct quantity and kind in order for him or her to use their gift. Each believer is given the exact gift and resources needed to be a fully functioning member in the Body of Christ.
The next phrase is, “For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ” Our bodies are made up of many parts. They do not all have the same function. God has given the Body of Christ a unified diversity. Both qualities are needed. Unity is vital, but God has also provided diversity within that unity.
The next phrase is, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” These gifts are the Spirit Gifts given according to God’s grace. These gifts are chosen by the Holy Spirit for each believer apart from personal merit. He also chooses their use and the results. Therefore, Paul exhorts us saying, “let us use them.” Serving God with our gifts is necessary for the wellbeing of the Church. Then Paul lists some of the more predominate gifts, “if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
This list is different from that found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12. However, the emphasis for us is not on believers finding exactly what their gift is from the list, but on faithfully using God’s unique enablement that he has provided to each one. The lists being different should not trouble us. Here is the one from 1 Corinthians.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:7-12 ESV)
Let us not be dogmatic about which gift we have or don’t have. Instead, let us obey God in all things as we follow our Lord. The differences in the lists imply that God blends them together uniquely for each believer’s life according to His will. It is vital that we remember that these gifts are given for God’s purposes not ours. Therefore, how can we take pride in our service within them? Also, we should not elevate those whose gifts are more public over those whose aren’t. These with the speaking gifts seem more glamorous than those who have the gift of mercy or giving for example, but all are necessary. Lastly, we must not covet the gifts of others. For example, I have seen more than a few men demand to be teachers only to prove they are not gifted there in a very embarrassing way. However, it was through these trials that they “discovered” where they were not to serve.