Our Relationship to Ourselves: Being Humble about our Spiritual Gifts Part 2 – Romans 12:6-8
Pastor Mark Hardy October 20, 2013
The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, willed his marvelous violin to Gen/o/a—the city of his birth—but only on condition that the instrument never be played upon. It was an unfortunate condition, for when it comes to wood as long as it is used and handled it shows little wear and remains effective, but as soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. And that’s exactly what happened. Never being played the exquisite, mellow-toned violin became worm-eaten in its beautiful case. The very violin that once played such beautiful music in the hand of the master was now ineffective and valueless except as a relic.
How sad! However, it is infinitely more tragic to see how many Christians today become ineffective and valueless in helping to build up Christ’s Church because they keep their spiritual gifts stored, instead of using them to serve the Lord who gave them the gifts. This morning we are going to see how we as believers are supposed to view our spiritual gifts. Turn in your Bible to Romans 12.
Having set forth in Romans 12:1-2 the fundamental obligation in every believer’s relationship to God, which is total commitment to Jesus Christ, Paul then shows in 12:3-15:13 that our true heart commitment to Christ is always expressed in our relationships. And the first relationship that he addresses in vv. 3-8 is our relationship to ourselves.
In Romans 12:3-8 we see three responsibilities regarding how we as believers are to view ourselves, Christ’s church, and our spiritual gifts. Last time we saw the first two responsibilities:
• To exhibit the proper attitude of humility (v. 3).
• To perceive properly the body of Christ (vv. 4-5).
This morning we are going to look at the third responsibility, which is this:
I. To Exercise our spiritual Gifts with Excellence
A. In v. 6 Paul reveals four essentials concerning spiritual gifts. Look what he says: Since we have gifts /that differ /according to the grace given to us, /each of us is to exercise them accordingly: (Stop there)
1. The first essential concerning spiritual gifts is: Every believer has a spiritual gift. Paul says, “Since we have gifts…”
• The word “gifts” (charismata) here refers to “spiritual gifts,” which are gifts of grace or “grace-gifts.” At the moment of salvation each and every believer receives a spiritual gift.
• For 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (Verse 11) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
• Ephesians 4:7 states, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” And we read in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift…”
• It is clear that every believer has at least one spiritual gift or “gift-mix” and no one is left out. Spiritual gifts are like basic colors from which the Lord mixes the unique combination and degree of giftedness for each of His children, much as an artist mixes colors on his palette to create the exact shade he desires for his painting.
• The result of each believers spiritual gifting blended with his or her own personality, talents, abilities, training, experiences, and effort, makes every Christian like a unique snowflake, with no other having the exact same pattern.
2. The second essential concerning spiritual gifts is: Everyone has a different gift. Look again at v. 6, “Since we have gifts that differ…”
• The word “differ” (diaphora) underscores the diversity of the gifts in the body of Christ. Last time in vv. 4-5 we saw, “For just as we have many members in one (physical) 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.”
• In the one body of Christ, it is God’s intended design that there is diversity in unity to make His church rich, strong and interdependent upon one another.
3. The third essential concerning spiritual gifts is: All gifts come from God. Notice that we all have these different gifts “…according to the grace given to us.”
• Here we see that the source of all spiritual gifts is God and His grace. Just as God’s grace had made Paul an apostle in v. 3, so His grace (charis) bestows different “grace-gifts” (charismata) on each one of His children.
• Therefore, since God makes the choice as to what gift every believer receives according to His will for each one of us, no one should be proud about his gift or see themselves as less because they don’t have what someone else has. We must think humbly about ourselves because we know God has gifted us according to His “good and acceptable and perfect will” for our lives.
4. The fourth essential concerning spiritual gifts is: Everyone must exercise their gift. Look what Paul says, “…each of us is to exercise them accordingly.”
• Paul is not going to just list some spiritual gifts; he exhorts us to faithfully exercise our spiritual gift. Just as no believer is exempt from having a spiritual gift, no believer is exempt from using it.
• Again Peter said in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
• What good is it to have a million dollars in the bank if you never draw from your account? Spiritual gifts that are stored instead of used make us ineffective and valueless in helping to build up Christ’s Church.
• It is only as we each do our own unique part that the church is built up and grows as God intends (Eph. 4:16). And this requires that we exercise our gifts the best we can or with excellence, not half-heartedly.
B. Paul then proceeds to give seven examples of spiritual gifts.
1. Obviously this list is not exhaustive, for there are other lists of gifts in the New Testament (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28; Eph. 4:11). Remember in our study of 1 Corinthians 12, we looked at eighteen spiritual gifts recorded in the New Testament that we divided into four categories:
• The five temporary Revelatory Gifts (apostleship, prophecy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and distinguishing of spirits).
• The five temporary Sign Gifts (faith, healings, miracles, tongues, and interpretation of tongues).
• The four permanent Speaking Gifts (evangelism, pastor-teacher, teaching, and exhortation).
• And the four permanent Serving Gifts (helps, leadership, giving, and mercy).
2. Here in Romans 12:6-8 Paul gives seven random gifts that have no functional hierarchy as is expressed in other lists (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5; 4:11). He also gives an explanation of how most of these gifts are to operate in the church and exhorts us to use them.
3. Let’s look briefly at each of these seven gifts. The first spiritual gift is prophecy at the end of v. 6: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith.
4. The gift of prophecy, like the gift of apostleship, was also an office in the early church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11) and together laid the foundation for the church (Eph. 2:20).
5. The two indispensable elements of the gift of prophecy were the special ability to receive and proclaim divine revelations from God and predict future happenings (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11; Rev. 1:3). Although this was not as extensive as the ministry of the Old Testament prophets to Israel, the Old Testament prophets are more closely parallel to the New Testament prophets than to the apostles.
6. Whereas the apostles’ authority was universal over the entire church and their message was more general and doctrinal, the prophets usually served in a single local church and their message was more personal and practical (Acts 13:1; 15:32).
7. In his book Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Robert Thomas accurately states, “The prophet’s special function was to provide edification to the body of Christ by exhorting and comforting the saints through the revelations granted to them (1 Cor. 14:3, 29-30). Most of those revelations were temporary in application, not needing to be preserved for the body of Christ in other generations. Those that were of permanent value went into written form and became part of the New Testament canon.”
8. Now notice at the end of v. 6 that Paul emphasizes that the prophet’s prophecies must be “…according to the proportion of his faith.”
9. Whereas no prophet was to contradict the norms of the Christian faith, and each revelation was judged by the other prophets (1 Cor. 14: 29-33), here Paul says that gift of prophecy was to be exercised according to the quantity or proportion of one’s faith sovereignly given to him or her by God for the operation of that gift.
10. I like how Everett F. Harrison describes this, “The most satisfactory explanation is that ‘faith’ retains the subjective force it has in v. 3 and that the whole phrase has the same thrust as ‘measure of faith’ there. A prophet is not to be governed by his emotions (1 Cor. 14:32) or by his love of speaking (1 Cor. 14:30) but by entire dependence on the Spirit of God.”
11. Praise God for the prophets and the divine revelation given to us through them. However, with the completion of the New Testament canon both the office and gift of prophecy became obsolete and the prophets, along with the apostles, passed off the scene. Therefore, there are no more prophets, regardless of what you hear on television today.
12. Also, since the receiving and proclaiming of divine revelation and future predictions were indispensable to the gift of prophecy, this gift should not be equated with preaching as many say it does. Preaching is better compared to the combination of the gifts of exhortation and teaching.
C. The second spiritual gift is service. Look at v. 7: if service, in his serving. Those with the gift of service need to use it in serving others.
1. Paul is talking about the gift of service in general, which is also called “ministry” (KJV) or “helps” (antilempseis—1 Cor. 12:28). The word “service” (diakonian) is from the Greek word that we get our English word “deacon,” but this is much broader than the service of a deacon here.
2. Although all spiritual gifts can technically be called “service” to the Lord, the gift of service is the special ability to identify the unmet physical needs of people in the church and to use their skills to meet those needs. Although every believer is responsible to help others whenever they can (Gal. 5:13), some are impassioned by God to do so.
3. This gift has innumerable applications. It is manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another.
4. Praise God for these gifted believers in the church! Without them the majority of the things in the church would not get done we would be at a standstill.
D. The third spiritual gift is teaching. Look at the end of v. 7: or he who teaches, in his teaching. Those with the gift of teaching must use it in teaching others.
1. Whereas the prophet received his message by direct revelation from God, the teacher derives his message from the diligent study of the already revealed Word of God.
2. The gift of teaching is the special ability to understand the truth of God’s Word, systematize it in an appropriate way, and then communicate it effectively in a meaningful manner, so that others can also understand God’s Word and be changed.
3. Teaching can be done in many different ways and settings, but regardless of how or where it’s done because teaching is so influential, it must be taken seriously! For James 3:1 warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
4. Praise God for these gifted believers in the church! Without them we would all be spiritual babies and susceptible to false doctrine.
E. The fourth spiritual gift is exhortation. Look at v. 8: or he who exhorts, in his exhortation. Those with the gift of exhortation are to use it in exhorting others.
1. The word “exhortation” (paraklesei) literally means “to call to one’s side and aid.” The gift of exhortation is the special ability to minister God’s Word to others in a persuasive way that makes them feel challenged, encouraged, helped, or healed depending on the situation.
2. This gift can take many forms—confronting, exhorting, warning, advising, pleading, counseling, encouraging, strengthening, and comforting. Whereas teaching focuses more on the content of God’s Word and is directed to the mind and understanding, exhortation focuses on living out God’s truth in our daily lives and is directed to the heart, conscience, and will.
3. Although every believer is commanded to encourage one another (Heb. 10:24-25), some believers have been specifically endowed by God to do a much better job of this. The gift of exhortation can be done in many ways and settings. For example, counseling someone who is facing a difficult trial or persistent temptation, calling apathetic believers to action and obedience to God’s Word, encouraging others through words or the medium of music, coming alongside someone who is grieving, discouraged, or depressed to give help in whatever way is needed, and assisting someone in carrying a burden that is too heavy to bear alone.
4. Praise God for these gifted believers in the church! Without them we would have a harder time getting up again after falling down, being discouraged or just plain apathetic.
F. The fifth spiritual gift is giving. Look again at v. 8: he who gives, with liberality;
1. The word “gives” (metadidous) here means “to give a share of, or to impart.” The gift of giving is the special ability to invest large portions of their personal resources and possessions in the work of the Lord out of love for Him, though this may or may not represent a lot of money, so as to help meet people’s needs and the needs of the church.
2. Although giving is the responsibility of every believer (2 Cor. 9:7; Eph. 4:28), those with the gift of giving are specifically gifted by God to support the body of Christ is this way.
3. Notice that Paul emphasizes that those with this gift should exercise it “with liberality.” The Greek word translated “liberality” (haploteti) can also be rendered “simplicity,” which has more to do with the giver’s motivation than with the size or value of the gift.
4. Both translations fit the context very well. If it is “with liberality,” then those who give are to do so generously and sacrificially.
5. If it is “with simplicity,” then those who give are to do so with sincerity that is untainted by the ulterior motives of securing recognition or advantage for oneself.
6. Praise God for these gifted believers in the church! Without them the church would not be able to do all it does financially.
G. The sixth spiritual gift is leadership. Again in v. 8 Paul says: he who leads, with diligence.
1. The word “leads” (proistamenos) means “to stand before others, to preside or have charge over, to direct, rule, govern, oversee, and manage.” Elsewhere, this gift is called “administrations” (kuberneseis—1 Cor. 12:28) or “governments” (KJV).
2. Although the “Elders” in the church are described as those who “rule” (1 Tim. 5:17), there are many believers in the church, both men and women, who have this gift because leadership is needed in all of the various ministries of the church.
3. The gift of leadership is the special ability to determine direction and goals in accordance with God’s purposes, organize a plan to reach them, and skillfully mobilize, motivate, and manage people and resources to accomplish the stated goals for the glory of God.
4. Notice that Paul emphasizes that those with this gift should exercise it “with diligence.” The word “diligence” (spoude) means with “eagerness, earnestness, and zeal.”
5. The good leader takes his or her responsibility seriously, earnestly looks for and spots any needs that arise, and acts as quickly as possible to meet those needs with the right people and resources. They don’t procrastinate and are not careless and half-hearted in their leadership.
6. Praise God for these gifted believers in the church! Without them there would be no goals, no organized direction, and nothing but chaos in the church.
H. The seventh spiritual gift is mercy. Paul says at the end of v. 8: he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
1. The word “mercy” (eleon) refers to the outward manifestation of pity and compassion toward those who are distressed or afflicted. Therefore, this gift involves much more than mere sympathetic feelings; it is feeling put into action.
2. The gift of mercy is the special ability to consol the mourner, relieve the sufferer, and provide various kinds of assistance for distressed people. Since this gift is closely related to the gift of exhortation, it is not uncommon for believers to have a measure of both.
3. Although every believer is responsible to follow Jesus’ example and compassionately show mercy toward those who are hurting and distressed (Gal. 5:22-23; Jam. 3:17), those with the gift of mercy make compassion and kindness their lifestyle and passion!
4. Those with this gift gravitate toward the emotionally hurting, the grieving, the sick and disabled, the poor and needy. They can deeply sympathize and empathize with those who are hurting and they have a passion to do all they can to help.
5. Notice that Paul emphasizes that those who shows mercy are to do so “with cheerfulness.” The word “cheerfulness” (hilaroteti) means to be glad, joyful, and happy.
6. John Calvin rightly said, “For as nothing gives more solace to the sick or to any one otherwise distressed, than to see men cheerful and prompt in assisting them; so to observe sadness in the countenance of those by whom assistance is given makes them to feel themselves despised.” (Murray pg. 127)
7. Therefore, showing mercy to others must never be done with a begrudging spirit that simply communicates to people that they are a problem, a duty and a burden. Instead, showing mercy must be seen as a privilege, a delight and a blessing.
8. Praise God for these gifted believers in the church! Without them we would have no living examples of God’s love and compassion toward us that restores our soul.
I. Every single one of the spiritual gifts that God gives to believers is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning and building up of the body of Christ, and therefore, must be exercised with excellence.
1. When we all exercise our gifts together in service, the whole body benefits; but when we don’t, the whole body suffers. For Ephesians 4:16 says, “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
2. John MacArthur summarizes this passage well when he says, “The purpose of offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices is not mystical or monastic but eminently practical. Devotion to the Lord and active, faithful ministry for Him are inseparable. We cannot be truly sacrificed to Him and be inactive in His work. And, on the other hand, we cannot be truly successful in His work without being genuinely devoted to Him. Service to God brings honor to Him and blessing for us only when it is the outflow of our worship in offering ourselves as living sacrifices. Such commitment naturally and inevitably produces effective ministry. There is no godly commitment without God-blessed ministry, and no God-blessed ministry without godly commitment. This passage utterly destroys the notion that a Christian can be committed to Christ but be inactive in His service, that he can love the Lord but not obey the Lord, that he can be surrendered to the Lord but not minister for the Lord. True worship cannot be divorced from service.” (pg. 154)
In closing, since we all have different God-given gifts in the body of Christ and are therefore interdependent upon one another for our growth, let me ask you: Are you exercising your spiritual gift with excellence? Or are you disregarding and neglecting your spiritual gift? To do so not only disdains God’s sovereign grace in your life and causes other believers to miss out on the God-intended blessing that your gift could make in their lives, but it also causes you personally to miss out on the God-given joy of ministering your gift to others according to God’s will for you and you forfeit the rewards that He has for you.
Every believer’s spiritual gift from God is to be used to its fullest because every gift is divinely ordained and meant to be divinely empowered and employed. May we all remember Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 4:10-11, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”