Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: 1 Corinthians 12
Text: Romans 12: 3-8
What is your gift?
1 Corinthians 12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Use of Spiritual Gifts
12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking [a]by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is [b]accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except [c]by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith [d]by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of [e]healing [f]by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the [g]effecting of [h]miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the [i]distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For [j]by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [k]any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [l]any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, [m]it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we [n]deem less honorable, [o]on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no [p]division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is [q]honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has [r]appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then [s]miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of [t]miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way.
Text: Romans 12:3-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, [a]according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if [b]service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with [c]liberality; he who [d]leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
What is your gift?
Reading: 1 Corinthians 12
Text: Romans 12: 3-8
Why are you a Christian?
The answer to that question can be found in Heidelberg Catechism LD 12. I am a Christian “because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in His anointing, I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself as a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life and afterwards to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.”
Last week we spelt out what it means to be a sacrifice of thanks, that we serve Christ with our bodies and minds, no longer conforming to the world but being transformed more and more into the image of Christ.
This week we find that it also involves realising and exercising our spiritual gifts.
Since the Holy Spirit is the one who made us Christians and who gives us our spiritual gifts we can’t say that we don’t have one or more of them. It says in verse 6 that we each have gifts according to the grace given us. In 1 Corinthians 12:4 it says “there are varieties of gifts but one Spirit and verse 11 “But one and the same Spirit works all these things distributing to each one individually just as he wills.”
So how are we to realise and exercise these spiritual gifts? Three things are apparent here in Romans 12:3-8.
1. The first is that we are to exercise sound judgment when it comes to our spiritual gifts.
Verse 3 says “For through the grace given to me I say to everyman among you not to think more highly of himself then he ought to think but to think so as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each as a measure of faith.”
So we may not think too highly of our-selves because we are creatures. We are God’s handiwork and we have been given spiritual gifts “according to the grace given to us”. So one has this gift and another has that and the Holy Spirit is the one who decides who receives which gift(s).
Paul acknowledges that himself here in verse 3 which says “for through the grace given me.” He is acutely aware that his apostolic authority wasn’t anything to brag about but was purely a gift of God’s grace especially given what Paul was before he became an apostle. He was someone who as far as the church was concerned had very no grace.
Pentecost reminds us of that too. The disciples became apostles because they were empowered and gifted by the Holy Spirit to become apostles. In Acts 20:28 Paul tells the Ephesians elders watch themselves and the church of which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. And then as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:3 we can’t even call ourselves Christians unless we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. And further on in verse 7 of that chapter we learn that all the other gifts we possess are given to us by the Spirit as well.
Nevertheless if we are honest we do (according to our fallen human nature) tend to see ourselves and our gifts through rose coloured glasses. If that wasn’t the case Paul would not have said what he did in verse 3 or in Philippians 2:1-4. So it is best to try and take those rose coloured glasses off when evaluating our own abilities and think more highly of others than ourselves.
However that’s not to denigrate ourselves because whatever gift God does give us is valuable. It has been given to us by the Holy Spirit and according to God’s grace and the measure of our faith. Plus we are all different. God has given each of us different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses and different gifts.
So we can be thankful for your and one-another’s spiritual gifts; for the wonderful variety of gifts which God the Holy Spirit has given enabling our church to function as well as it does.
2. And that takes me to the second thing use your gift for the sake of Christ and His church.
Paul says in verse 5 we who are many are one body in Christ. Further on in chapter 14:7 it says, “for not one of us lives for himself and not one of us dies for himself. For if we live we live for the Lord and if we die we die for the Lord therefore whether we live or die we belong to the Lord.”
This can be illustrated by the example of Bezalel who we come across in Exodus 31. There it says that Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding, knowledge and in all kinds of craftsmanship. The Spirit’s purpose was for Bezalel to make “artistic designs in gold, silver and bronze, and in masonry and carpentry” so that he could help build the tabernacle and fabricate the utensils, the ark of testimony and other articles necessary for the worship of God.
The New Testament parallel to the OT tabernacle is the church and so Paul writes to the Ephesian church in chapter 4:4 & 12 that Christ gives gifts for works of service and the building up of the body of Christ. This means that whatever spiritual gift we are given its purpose is to help build up the church. Now Ephesians 4 lists preaching and teaching gifts 1 Corinthians 12 adds a range of other gifts including gifts of healing helps administration, and tongues and in our text, “serving, giving, leading, showing mercy and exhorting” are included.
Now in the Bible we find that there were some in the church who have ability but who are unspiritual and use that ability in a selfish way. Let’s think for a moment about the churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3.The church at Laodicea had wealthy members. They were rich but the Lord Jesus said that they were miserable, poor blind and naked because as a church they had become Luke warm and complacent. Jesus said that he was ready to ‘vomit them out.” Though they were wealthy they were not rich towards the Lord and perhaps did not give generously to the Lord’s work. Another example in seen in Revelation 2 where we find that people in the church at Ephesus were theologically astute and were able to put the false apostles to the test. They could see heresy coming a mile away but they had no love. As Paul points out in Romans 13, our refutation of error is as winsome as clashing cymbal unless there is love.
And then there were the so called super apostles in the church at Corinth. They were great orators. Their audiences would hang off every word and they made the apostle Paul’s oratory skills pale by comparison. But they were preaching another gospel and were looking to gain a personal following rather than a following for Christ or to build up the church at Corinth. In fact the church there suffered divisions because of that very reason according to 1 Cor. 1 & 3.
That kind of thing isn’t just a 1st century problem. There are still capable people with great ability in the church today but who use their ability to do more harm than good to divide and undermine rather than do good.
Romans 12 gives us the reason for our spiritual gifts and that is to build up the body of Christ. The church is after all the instrument of the Kingdom of God. God uses the church to preach the gospel, and engage in mission work the world over. He uses the church to alleviate suffering through its ministry of mercy. He uses it to display the love of Christ and to restrain evil through the influence of the gospel and the application of the law of God. He uses the church to promote the greatest possible freedom from oppression and enslavement to sin which is to know Christ as Saviour and serve Him. If the Son sets you free you are free indeed!
So is this is why the Spirit blesses churches with spiritual gifts; to help build the church and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.
And this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone somehow needs a job in the Church. Sure enough church work needs to be done including helping out on rosters, attending meetings, assisting the deacon serving on session and so-on. However these are really just one part of life area in which we can use our gifts to further the cause of Christ.
For example the spiritual gifts listed here in Romans 12 can be as effectively use in the home as in the church. Parents are urged to teach their children and I’m sure the gift of encouraging goes a long way in the home as well. If you are a young person what are your ambitions and aspirations for the future? Does the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ figure in those? What are you good at? Are you an academic? Are you a problem solver? Are you creative like Bezalel was? Whatever you’re good at whatever your vocation is,…will you use it to further the cause of Christ and help build his church?
This is what is important because a lot of what we do in this life is fairly mundane and only has temporal value. On the other hand what we do for Christ has eternal value. So does your reputation at work, your compassion and empathy with those who suffer honour the name of Jesus? What about your enthusiasm for the things of the Lord, your love for your neighbour and the use of whatever gift Christ has given you? Will you try to use your gifts to honour the name of Christ and help build his church?
3. That leads to the third point we are urged to exercise our gifts according to the grace given us.
Paul wrote in verse 6 “we all have gifts that differ according to the grace given us and the he goes on and lists some of them.
The first gift listed there is prophecy. In Paul’s day the Lord gave some believers the ability to pass on a word of instruction, encouragement or comfort. For example in 1 Corinthians 14:22 we find that some in the church at Corinth were given the gift of prophecy as a sign for believers and to teach and encourage however any prophecy like that had to be tested by the OT Scriptures. There’s more about the gift of prophecy in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians and the point Paul makes there is that it must be used in an edifying way. Well with the completion of the canon the need for new revelation from God through prophetic utterances has ceased. Christ and the Bible are sufficient for salvation all of faith and life according to 2 Timothy 3:15-17. So the gift of prophetic utterance has become the gift of being able to correctly interpret, to exhort and teach the scriptures and have the ability to make the Bible speak to every life situation. This gift can be used in a variety of ways. You could be a parent or a pastor, a Bible group leader, a school teacher, or a teacher at a university or theological seminary; teaching other men to be pastors; according to the grace given to you.
Some are gifted to serve. Paul wrote, “if service in his serving.” “The Greek word for serve is diakonia which is where we get the word deacon from. But what does it mean to serve? Well during the last supper the disciples once had an argument about who was the greatest. This may have had something to do with the seating arrangement around the supper table. Who had to sit next to Jesus, Peter, James or John? This little tussle for the superior position didn’t impress Jesus at all. So he said to his disciples, “let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as a servant. For who is the greater, the one with the position of honour or the one who serves? But I am among you as one who serves.” And then, to the disciples’ astonishment, Jesus proceeded to wash their feet.
So we can be thankful for our church’s deacons who serve well and who can also encourage us to engage in the ministry of mercy because serving is a gift we are all encouraged to cultivate and as Paul says to serve cheerfully. It can be quite disappointing when something needs to be done and no one wants to do it or it’s done reluctantly and begrudgingly.
Well think about it this way. If Christ were to ask you to serve then consider it a great privilege because it’s far better to be a humble doorman in the house of God than dwell in the tents of iniquity. Therefore let the one who serves do so cheerfully.
Paul mentions leadership in verse 8. “If it is leadership let him govern diligently”. According to the Belgic confession article 30 the council or session of the church has that responsibility. The reasons given are so that so that true religion is preserved, true doctrine is able to take its course that evil men are corrected spiritually and that the poor and afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their needs and that all things are done well and in good order in the church. What a blessing it is that the Lord raises up men in every congregation to serve as elders and deacons who can faithfully lead their congregations. But Christian leadership isn’t confined to that. Anyone can provide leadership influence outcomes, take control of a situation. If you have that ability then you’re urged to exercise it diligently so that it edifies.
Paul includes in his list the gift of contributing to the needs of others. Calvin thought this was also a reference to the work of the deacons who are charged to take care of and distribute the funds collected by the church. It certainly includes that but is not limited to that. Personal giving is involved here to and we are to give according to the measure of grace God has given us, generously, not begrudgingly an without ulterior motives.
In conclusion the message here in Romans 12:3-8 is that whatever gift you have use it diligently. Don’t hide it under a bushel. Jesus says let you light shine before men. And if you are not sure what your gift is you may have to try a few things before you discover what you’re good at. Or you may need to ask, “is there anything that I could do to help serve my church?
And if you know that God has given you one or more spiritual gifts then don’t be like the unfaithful servant who buried his talent in the sand. God wants you to use it, diligently, cheerfully, according to the measure of grace given you and for the sake of Christ and his church.