A COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" 4:10 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."
(1 Peter 4:10-11NKJV)
The people of God have a great ministry to one another. This is not a mere obligation, but something for which salvation adapts us. Because of the complexity of the life of faith, and the many needs all saints have, the Lord has strategically placed each member in the body of Christ. There are no unnecessary or unimportant members. Each believer possesses spiritual qualities that bring advantages to other believers. Further, walking by faith tends to enhance those qualities, so they may be joyfully and profitably fulfilled. The life of faith also equips the believer to receive and benefit from the various dispensations of grace that have been given to the other members of the body. When we are ministering and being ministered to, life becomes a great blessing to us. Burdens are lightened, and joys are enhanced. This text will exhort us to minister with the ability that God gives.
EACH ONE HAS RECEIVED A GIFT
" 4:10a As each one has received a gift . . . " NKJV Spiritual gifts are mentioned several places in Scripture. A wide variety are identified. Romans 12:6-8: (1) Prophecy, (2) ministry, or service, (3) teaching, (4) exhortation, (5) giving, (6) ruling, or leading, and (7) showing mercy. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10: (8) the word of wisdom, (9) the word of knowledge, (10) faith, (11) gifts of healings, (12) working of miracles, (13) discerning of spirits, (14) different kinds of tongues, and (15) interpretation of tongues (this passage also mentions prophecy, as Romans 12:6). 1 Corinthians 12:28: (16) Apostles, (17) prophets, (18) helps, and (19) administrations (this passage also mentions teachers, miracles, healings, and different kinds of tongues, as Romans 12:7 and 1 Cor 12:8-10). Ephesians 4:8-11: (20) evangelists, and (21) pastors and teachers (this passage also mentions Apostles and prophets, as 1 Corinthians 12:28). 1 Peter 4:10-11: (22) speaking (this passage also mentions ministry, as Romans 12:7). It is my understanding that these are not intended to be exhaustive listings. Further, each church was told of the gifts prevalent among them. In contradiction of some teaching concerning spiritual gifts, the Word of God nowhere mentions "the nine spiritual gifts," a phrase regarded as most holy in some circles.
There are several key points the Holy Spirit makes about spiritual gifts. It will be apparent that He is not intending to provide us with a sort of manual of definition and proper usage. The thrust of this teaching far removed from the flesh and worldly wisdom.
01. We are to think soberly, or seriously, about this area of life in Christ (Rom 12:3).
02. The gifts are provided through "a measure of faith" that is received by all (Rom 12:3-4).
03. These gifts differ according to the grace that is given to us (Rom 12:6).
04. There are varieties of gifts, but they are given by the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:4).
05. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord dispenses them (1 Cor 12:5).
06. There are a variety of activities, but the same God who works in them all (1 Cor 12:6).
07. Each gift is given for the common good of all of the members (1 Cor 12:7).
08. The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as He wills (1 Cor 12:11).
09. Each person is to perceive their gift as appropriate and needful (1 Cor 12:14-17)
10. God has placed the members in the body where it has pleased Him (1 Cor 12:18).
11. No member can say he has no need of the other members (1 Cor 12:21-25).
12. The gifts are for the equipping and edifying of the saints (Eph 4:11-16).
13. Gifts are to be ministered in accordance with the ability God gives (1 Pet 4:11).
14. The objective of these gifts is that God may be glorified through Jesus (1 Pet 4:11b).
Notice the assumption of our text. It does not read, "IF any man has received the gift," but "AS each one HAS received the gift." That gift is part of the new creation. It was placed in you when you were put into the body of Christ. Everyone has a spiritual gift, or ability. It has been granted by Divine discretion, and for the purpose of benefitting the people of God. No spiritual gift is for private enjoyment, but for the "common good" of the whole body. Every gift is harmonious with and complementary of the other gifts. When employed by faith and through grace, they will improve the brethren, enabling them to also minister their various abilities effectively. Further, men will grow in their use of them.
It is not the prerogative of men to determine which gifts are required or appropriate. Although men are prone to engage in such decisions, they are completely out of order in doing so. Further, nowhere are men admonished to decide which gifts are still in order, and which are not. All of that is under Divine administration. This is carefully and powerfully declared in Scripture. God places the members where He wills (1 Cor 12:18). The Holy Spirit has charge of the variety of the gifts (1 Cor 12:4). The various services performed by them are controlled by the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 12:5). The various activities are under the strict control of God Himself (1 Cor 12:6).
There is no room for controversy on this matter. No gift is to be denigrated, and none is to be unduly exalted. The point of our text is that they are to be employed in strict accord with the ability God gives. This is not an area of kingdom life to be studied and debated, but to be used for the glory of God and the edifying of His people. It is that simple!
MINISTERING GRACE TO ONE ANOTHER
" 4:8 . . . minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." NKJV The book of Romans approaches ministry to one another from the standpoint of faith: " . . . think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office" (Rom 12:3-4). First Corinthians approaches them from the viewpoint of their origin, the Godhead: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Cor 12:4-6). Ephesians majors on the effects of the various gifts, showing how they contribute to the spiritual maturity of the saints. "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:12-13).
Peter now associates these gifts with the grace of God. Romans declares faith is by "measure," appropriately adapting each believer to be profitable to the brethren. Here grace is said to be "manifold," or has "various forms."NIV Not only, therefore, are we "saved by grace" (Eph 2:5,8), but the grace of God works through us in differing ways, bringing edification and comfort to those who are strangers and pilgrims in this world. In fact, grace is a stewardship-given from God to be handled by us. This marvelous verse reads as follows in the NIV. "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
Is this not a refreshing thought? The grace of God is not only received, it is also administered by the very ones receiving it. The Apostles received grace (Rom 1:5), and faithfully ministered it through their preaching writing. Consider, for example, how effectively Paul ministered the grace that was given to him. Ponder how you have been profited by his writings. Behold what things have been opened to you through his Epistles, and how you have been made the better for it. Powerful effects are wrought in the hearts of men when grace is faithfully ministered!
I remember when the thought first registered on my heart that grace could be ministered BY me as well as TO me. Is it not written, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph 4:29). Grace brought us into Christ, and it has equipped us to be useful in Him. In his measure, each believer must seek to confess with Paul, "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor 15:10). Even as a special measure of faith has been given to you, so grace has been specifically apportioned to you. In both cases, quantity is not the point, but ministry, or being used of God to give His people the advantage in life.
This is one of the profound secrets of unity among the people of God. As they minister to one another in the ability that God gives, a certain interdependence is created. God has graciously placed "the solitary in families" (Psa 68:6), giving them such advantages as challenge the mind, while comforting the heart. If a believer chooses to restrict his fellowship, cutting off this member and that member as though they had no kingdom worth, he shall deprive himself of needed grace. This is one of the great curses of sectarianism. It is why God will not honor divisions among His people.
When developing lawful preferences for fellowship, our text unveils a fundamental consideration. Where will I experience the most effective ministry? Where will I be able to use the abilities I have most effectively? From the standpoint of an assembly, there must be provision for the saints to be good stewards of the grace given to them. There must also be a format that allows for mutual edification and ministry. It is the responsibility of each believer to ponder his place in the body. Such pondering is not to produce confusion, but open the door for joyful ministry in God-ordained ways to those who are heirs of God.
SPEAKING AND MINISTERING W/GOD-GIVEN ABILITY
" 4:11 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." NKJV Here, the Spirit refers to spiritual gifts in a very broad sense, narrowing the divisions down to two: speaking and serving. A number of gifts are included in each category. SPEAKING: Prophecy, teaching, exhortation, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, different kinds of tongues, and evangelists. MINISTRY: Giving, showing mercy, gifts of healing. Some gifts are themselves broad, including ministries in the areas of both speaking and serving: Apostles, helps, governments, leading, etc. The point of this text, however, is not WHAT is done, but HOW it is done.
By saying "IF," the Spirit is not suggesting some are without spiritual abilities. Rather, He is focusing on all speaking and serving. Both the NASB and RSV versions capture the sense of the text: "Whoever speaks . . . whoever serves." The words are sobering, making no provision whatsoever for the flesh to express itself. No person is to attempt to serve God as a mere professional. None are to speak or serve as a mere elected officer of the church. Every aspect of a ministry is to be accomplished within the framework of faith and grace.
IF ANY ONE SPEAKS. Speaking to the saints of God is always a serious matter. Such times are occasions when God is to minister to His people through the speaker. They are spaces when the things of God are to become clearer, and the things of this world more disdainful to us. Many a poor soul is rarely exposed to such times. Regularly they are subjected to lectures and studies that are nearly altogether devoid of both faith and grace. Such speaking is not approved of God, and will not be blessed by Him. When one speaks for the Lord, it is to be "as the oracles of God." The RSV reads, "as one who utters oracles of God." The NASB reads, "let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God." The NIV reads, "as one speaking the very words of God." There are two sides to this. First, the Scriptures are to be the prominent part of the speaking. Divine utterances, such as the Law, are called "the oracles of God" (Acts 7:38; Rom 3:2; Heb 5:12). Second, the speaker is a spokesman for God, and is to speak with a lively sense of that circumstance upon his heart and mind. In my judgment, this rules out a significant amount of speaking that is being done in the name of the Lord. Further, if this verse is taken into the heart and seriously pondered by those speaking for God, it will significantly impact upon how and what they speak.
IF ANY ONE SERVES. Saints are admonished, "by love serve one another" (Gal 5:13). None of us live or die to ourselves (Rom 14:7). We have a twofold relationship. First to the Lord, and second to His people. Serving is not simply doing something nice. It is providing something that is needful-something that strengthens the person being ministered to. Ministering, or serving, is very broad. It includes such things as assisting with burdens, supplying needs, and showing mercy. But when serving is done, it is not to be mechanical, or without life. Rather, serving is done with the ability God has given. No person is asked to do something for which they are not equipped by God. This is another way of saying we are not to depend upon the flesh in our various ministries. Neither, indeed, are we to regard the abilities we have been given as small and inconsequential. God gives no such abilities.
There is a grand objective to speaking as the oracles of God and serving with the ability He gives. It is that God might be glorified "in all things through Jesus Christ." Men ought to ponder how much glory God receives through what they speak and minister. Note also that God is glorified "through Jesus Christ," not merely through what is said or ministered. Among other things, this indicates it is actually Jesus who, as the Head, is ministering through the various "joints and ligaments" of His body (Col 2:19).
Some may wonder what ability God has given to them, and how they may use it. This is made known to us as we live by faith and in fellowship with the Son. The Lord will faithfully lead us to see our role in His body. This is part of growing up into Christ in all things (Eph 4:15). It is involved in being changed "from glory unto glory" (2 Cor 3:18).