The Epistle to the Romans
Lesson Number 38
SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND SERVING GOD
12:3 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. 4 For as
we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have
the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and
individually members of one another. 6 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; 7 or ministry, let us use it in
our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in
exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence;
he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8)
Having introduced us to the proper application of the marvelous proclamations and expositions of the first eleven
chapters, namely the presentation of our bodies to God, the Spirit now develops the reason for this response. It is
often the nature of Christian men to approach matters of religion from Mount Sinai. Thus, words like commandment,
authority, duty, and obligation, rise to the surface of their vocabulary, becoming the primary motivation for living
unto God. While there is some merit to this approach, it is certainly not the highest level of involvement, nor does it
represent the most noble incentive. When lawful, it is largely how those who dwell in far off places are addressed -
those living in practical aloofness from God.
The presentation of our bodies to God, without defilement and acceptable to Him, has been described as our
"reasonable service," or "spiritual act of worship." NIV As such, it is utterly unreasonable not to make this
presentation. To fail in this presentation constitutes one unspiritual and unacceptable before the Lord. If this
assessment is true, and I am persuaded it is, it completely changes the way in which the contemporary church is
evaluated. Many of its boasts fall to the ground as worthless.
The text before us elaborates on the reasonableness of the sacrifice of our lives to God. Those in Christ have been
called into holy involvements, and they are to be properly prepared for them. There is an underlying assumption that
we have been placed in the body of Christ for a reason. There is a work to be done by each individual that requires
the presentation of one's body as a living sacrifice to God. It is a work that requires holiness on our part, and
acceptance on God's part. What is more, apart from this work, there is no reason to be added to the church (Acts 2:47),
or be placed in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:18).
I understand this may appear too harsh. Some would rather imagine we were called out of unholy involvements,
but not into holy ones. Such cannot conceive of God's employment of every member of the body of Christ, choosing
to think of only a few select souls being placed into actual Kingdom activity. Of course, there is a religious
superstructure in place that encourages such vanity of thought. But it is seriously wrong, and must be thrust from
us as the plague it really is. It will defile the soul!
At the very outset of creation, God declared the purpose for man: "let them have dominion" (Gen 1:26,28; Psa 8:6).
Initially, that "dominion" related to the creation itself: "over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over
the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." The Psalmist stated
it this way, "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth
through the paths of the seas" (Psa 8:6-8).
Do not imagine for a single moment this is the most precise statement of God's purpose for mankind. It was more
of an introductory statement than a complete one. Governorship of the natural creation is far from being the pinnacle
of the "dominion" God intends for man. There is sufficient revelation on this matter to make it sure to our hearts and
minds. Men do not now have dominion over the creation.
Three times Paul suffered shipwreck, often involving storm and tempest (2 Cor 11:25).
The perils to which he was subjected involved "perils of waters," "perils in the wilderness," and "in perils in the
sea" (1 Cor 26).
"Hunger and thirst," and "cold and nakedness" were also among the experiences he endured (2 Cor 11:27).
Saints of old time who ranked high before God "wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute,
afflicted, tormented . . . wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Heb 11:37-38).
These precious souls did not appear to have dominion over the elements, as some boast today. But that does not
mean they had no dominion, or that they were not given authority. Further, they will surely rise up in the day of
judgment against those who have misrepresented the will of God and the nature of His great salvation.
The thrust of the application of our salvation is not dominance over the natural realm, but the
presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Do not imagine that God has called you into Christ
to avert storms and famines. Whatever you may think of the possibility of such things, they are not the framework
within which Divine fellowship and utility is realized.
When Jesus sent out the seventy, He told them, "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). But this was by no
means intended to declare the nature of future involvements with Jesus. It related to the fulfillment of a work, not
a domain of authority. James was killed by Herod. The Apostles were beaten by the Jewish council (Acts 5:40).
Stephen was stoned by the council (Acts 7:59). Paul was stoned at Lystra (Acts 14:19). Antipas was martyred by the
enemies of Jesus (Rev 2:13). Such noble souls as these would surely wince if they heard some of the nonsense that
is preached in the name of Christ today.
The immediate area of our dominion will be defined in our text. It will be seen as bearing directly upon our
relationship to the people of God. That relationship will involve Divine endowments, the grace of God, and the benefit
of the saints.
12:3 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
This is an elaboration on WHY we are to ascertain the will of the Lord: i.e., "so that you may discern what
is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect." NRSV The strong intimation is that living pleasingly and
profitably before the Lord is not possible while one is ignorant of His will. God is not served in a state of ignorance.
In fact, ignorance of God actually alienates the soul from Him. As it is written, "They are darkened in their
understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of
their hearts" (Eph 4:18).
As the above text indicates, an ignorance of God is a mark of being unregenerate. It has no place in the believer.
Wherever the smallest portion of it is found, a hearty effort must be extended to rid ourselves of it. One of the key
marks of the New Covenant is, "for
all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them" (Heb 8:11).
Thus we have been admonished to "present" our bodies to God, a sacrifice of life, in order that we may come to
know the good will of God. With determination, we are to avoid being conformed to this world. Rather, we are to be
transformed by the renewing of our minds, which transformation will enable us to know the will of the Lord.
The Spirit will now delineate a chief aspect of God's "good, and acceptable, and perfect will." It is essential to
understand this is not an academic matter, involving merely the human intellect. This will involve our participation
in the will of God as well as our knowledge of it. In salvation, we have been called into fellowship with Christ (1 Cor
1:9). We become laborers together with God (1 Cor 3:9), and the extension of Christ's own Person. The church is "the
fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23). It is the repository in which His character and power are being poured.
Here is where His will is executed and His purpose is being fulfilled. Our identity with Christ in His death, burial,
and resurrection (Rom 6:4-6), has been in order that He might live in us and work through us.
This marvelous circumstance is seen in the words,
"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen,
to the glory of God
through us" NKJV (2 Cor 1:20). Again, it is written,
"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in
triumph in Christ, and
through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place" NKJV (2 Cor 2:14). The weight
of this situation is also seen in Paul's testimony concerning His own participation in this purpose.
"Now then, we are
ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading
through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to
God" NKJV (2 Cor 5:20).
Not Limited to the Apostles
The Apostles have been placed "first" in the church (1 Cor 12:28). They are "first" in priority, with the greater
responsibility of putting the foundation in place, and making known the formerly hidden purpose of God (Eph 3:5).
This Divinely orchestrated circumstance has led some to view the Apostles as separate from the rest of the body
of Christ. This view is largely in the background of people's thinking, yet has moved them to live as though there were
no God-ordained ministries in Christ's body today, or at beast, very few of them. Thus masses of professing Christians
have been reduced to mere spectators, with relatively little, if any, involvement in the good will of God. However, there
are a great number of ministries that have been put into the church "after" the Apostles. These ministries are called
"spiritual gifts" (1 Cor 12:1; 14:1,12). Those possessing them are called "stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet
4:10). As the Head, Christ works through them to minister grace to His people (Col 2:19).
These gifts are the theme of this section of the twelfth chapter. Their presence and functionality are the reason
why we are to know the "good and acceptable, and perfect will of God." As we will see, the point is not merely to know
about these abilities, but to actually be a part of their fulfillment.
SPEAKING THROUGH GRACE
"For I say, through the grace given unto me." Paul does not speak out of the reservoir of flesh! Nature is not the
domain from which his knowledge of the things of God has been obtained. He does not speak as a Roman citizen and
resident of Tarsus. Neither, indeed, does he address the people from the perspective of one who sat at the feet of
Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He does not speak as an expert in the Law, trained and disciplined among the most strict sect
of the Jews, the Pharisees (Acts 26:5). In the flesh, he was, indeed, all of these things. Yet, they were a wholly
unsuitable context from which to address the people of God.
The man of God speaks "through the grace" that was given to him. By this he means he is speaking "as God's
messenger." NLT He speaks in the capacity of an Apostle, where God has placed him in the body. He does not venture
his opinion about things, but declares what grace has enabled him to see. He has been entrusted with a message, and
he now speaks in strict accord with that message.
Spiritual gifts are dispensations of the
grace of God. For this reason, those possessing them are "administering God's grace in its various forms" NIV (1 Pet
4:10). Words that are spoken through the grace of God are words of love and benefit. They declare gracious
provisions, and announce congenial desires. They are good for us, and yield good results. They announce God's
"thoughts of peace" toward us (Jer 29:11). Such words must not be received as harsh laws, but as revelations of God's
goodness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Paul speaks with authority, but it is authority to edify, not to bludgeon and coerce. As it is written, "according
to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction" (2 Cor 13:10). Again he writes, "our
authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction" (2 Cor 10:8). When this
intention is perceived, Apostolic admonitions become sweet and precious to us.
Let us devote ourselves to speaking more from grace. As it is written, "Let your speech be alway with grace" (Col
4:6). Thus will our words be "good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph 4:29).
SPEAKING TO EVERYONE
" . . . to everyone who is among you." The words that follow are not addressed to the leaders alone, but to
everyone. They are not intended for the wayward only, but for everyone. In a day fraught with specialized ministries
to special groups, it is exceedingly refreshing to read a word that is for everyone!
This circumstance should come as no surprise to us. The Gospel has been declared to be God's power to effect
salvation in "everyone who believes" (1:16). Glory, honor, and peace are promised to
"everyone who works what is
good" (2:10). Christ is announced as
"the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (10:4).
"Everyone" who names the name of Christ is to "depart from iniquity" (2 Tim 2:19). Christ tasted death "for
everyone" (Heb 2:9). Messages of grace are for "everyone."
This observation may appear rather elementary, and even crude and unnecessary. However, we are living in an
era when the power of the truth has been decidedly neutralized by addressing special groups within the body of Christ
rather than the whole body. Often differing vocabularies are used to declare varying emphases. You will find no such
approach in the Word of God. John the Baptist gave counsel to the soldiers, but his message was for everyone. Jesus
spoke to everyone, with occasional words to groups like the Pharisees.
The more a word is addressed to special groups of believers, the less power it has to edify. The Apostles
were appointed to minister to two major bodies of people: the circumcision (Jews) and the uncircumcision (Gentiles) -
Gal 2:7. Their message, however, was essentially the same. They laid the same foundation and declared the same pivotal
realities. A Gospel that cannot be preached to everyone ought not to be preached to anyone. A message that
is confined to one part of the body of Christ is one that ought to be viewed with suspicion, and received with great
reluctance. The message before us is "to every one of you."
HOW NOT TO THINK
" . . . not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think."
Other versions read, "not to have an over-high
opinion of himself," DARBY
"Be honest in your estimate of yourselves," NLT and
"never pride yourself on being better
than you really are." NJB
We Are God's Workmanship
At the root of this admonition is the fact that we are God's "workmanship" (Eph 2:10), and have been placed in
the body of His Son in strict accordance with His good pleasure (1 Cor 12:18). To think "more highly" of ourselves,
or pride ourselves in being better than we really are, is to think of ourselves apart from our placement in the body.
It is to assign a value to ourselves that does not comport with what has been given to us by God.
According to the Measure of Wisdom
To view it from another perspective, it is to conduct ourselves as though we had more wisdom that we really
possess. This would involve making judgments we are incapable of making. It also involves speaking as though we
had authority about matters concerning which we have no "spiritual understanding."
Abilities That Are Received
Yet another way in which persons can think too highly of themselves is to treat their abilities as though they had not
received them. As it is written, "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now
if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" NKJV (1 Cor 4:7).
Probing Matters Unrevealed
There are matters that ought not to be probed or investigated. These are things God has not been disposed to
reveal to men. It is written, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God" (Deut 29:29). Although the curiosity
of man is disposed to look into such matters, it is better to confess with the Psalmist, "LORD, my heart is not
haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me"
A remarkable amount of corruption has entered the professed church through preachers and teachers who have
thought more highly of themselves than they ought to think. As well, a considerable amount of unlawful controversy
and division has taken place for the same reason. This is an area where every person must take care.
" . . . but to think soberly." To think soberly is to think within the context of reality. Rather than extending
ourselves beyond the borders of what we have experienced and seen, thinking "soberly" humbly acknowledges one's
Those in Christ are to make a proper estimation of their own gifts and abilities. In so doing, they will be able to
minister to and advantage the people of God. To fail to do this will only bring disruption and discord among the saints.
Each believer should so conduct their life as to avoid the aphorism, "If I could buy him for what he is worth, and sell
him for what he thinks he is worth, I would make a significant profit."
THE MEASURE OF FAITH
" . . . as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." Other versions read,
"as God has allotted to each a measure
of faith," NASB
"in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you," NIV
"each according to the measure of
faith that God has assigned," NRSV "measuring your value by how much faith God has given you," NLT and
that God has given to each one his measure of faith." NJB
It is true, there is only "one faith." From one point of view, ones possession of it can be referred to as "little faith"
(Matt 6:30; 16:8), or "great faith" (Matt 8:10). That, however, does not refer to a "measure of faith," assigned by God,
but to the reception and use of that faith. Peter spoke of the faith we have received as being of the same kind as that
which the Apostles received: "to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours" (2 Pet 1:1). This, however,
is not the perspective of our text.
The word "measure" does not refer to quantity, i.e., a lot of faith, or not so much faith. It refers to a vessel used
for measuring, such as a cup, bowl, bushel, omer, etc. The size of the vessel does not determine the value of the
substance placed in it. One may use a small spoon for measuring salt or flavoring, but a large multi-cup vessel for
measuring flour or sugar. The capacity of the vessel, or the measure, is determined by what the substance
it measures is used for.
So it is with the "measure of faith." While all of God's people are given faith, each possess it is a measure - a
capacity to fulfill a particular function in the body of Christ. The faith of the Apostles made them adequate
for the Apostleship. The faith of Philip and Timothy equipped them to be evangelists (Acts 21:8; 2 Tim 4:5). The faith
of Apollos made him an apt exhorter (Acts 18:27-28). The faith of Barnabas made him an able encourager and consoler
It is important to note that faith, not training, makes us effective ministers for the Lord. Men are prone to view
educational attainments as kingdom credentials, but they are not. It is what God gives us that equips us for
effective work in His kingdom, not what we gain rom men. That may appear to be very rudimentary, but it
can easily escape our attention.
The exhortation to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, and to think soberly, is an
admonition to concentrate on what our faith equips us to do. We are to come away from philosophizing about faith
and ministries. Ministry to the saints is to be accomplished, not talked about. It is the peculiar prerogative of faith
to do this. Thus we are exhorted to allow our faith to be the directing influence of our work. Our thinking is in view
of our faith. Our labors are to be motivated by our faith. Our gifts are made effective by our faith.
WE ARE MANY, YET ONE BODY
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,
5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another."
The people of God have been called into a single body, each individual being endued with faith that qualifies him
to provide needed resources to the rest of the body. Thus it is written,
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
to the which also ye are
called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Col 3:15). The Spirit will now show us that God
has so devised nature, particularly our bodies, that it reflects His intention for the church.
THE PORTRAYAL OF NATURE
"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function . . . " Our bodies
are a demonstration of different parts working in harmony.
This same perspective is provided in the book of First Corinthians. "For in fact the body is not one member but
many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? And if
the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body
were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has
set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the
body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need
of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' No, much rather, those members of the body which
seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we
bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need.
But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism
in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another" (12:14-25). The following should be
The body consists of many members.
Being part of the body does not consist of everyone being the same member.
All members are not the same.
If there were not multiple and differing members, there would be no body.
No part of the body can say it has no need of the other parts.
Parts which appear to be weaker are often even more necessary.
The parts of our body that are not of themselves attractive, are attired in a more comely manner.
There is no need to vaunt the more prominent parts.
All of this is a deliberate arrangement so there will be no schism, or rupture, in the body.
MANY, YET ONE
" . . . so we, being many, are one . . . " The word "many," in this case, means many different kinds. "Many" are
numerically large (Rev 7:9), but numeracy is not the point. Just as the body has many different functioning parts,
and all of them are necessary and beneficial, so the body of Christ has many different, yet essential, parts. They are
"parts" in relation to function. They serve differing, yet harmonious, purposes.
Every part of the body of Christ is functional, deliberately placed in it to minister the grace of God.
The call to sober thinking summons us to think in harmony with what God has called us to do.
The Human Body
In the human body, there are external visible parts such as the head, torso, shoulders, arms, legs, hands and feet.
There are also external parts that are of a different nature, like the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. There are other
external parts that have different characteristics, like hair and skin. There are internal organs like the heart, liver,
kidneys, and lungs. There are internal members like bones, tissues, sinews, and blood vessels. Blood and water are
a vital part of the body, as well as the brain. Within the bloodstream there are microscopic bodies that are necessary,
like white and red cells, and numerous antibodies. There are entire bodies of knowledge that deal with segments of
the body. Histology is the study of tissue structure, while Cytology is the study of cell structure. The human body is
indeed marvelous for its diversity and complexity, and more marvelous still for its unity. How true it is, "I am fearfully
and wonderfully made" (Psa 139:14). No wonder those with insight confess, "Know ye that the LORD He is God: it
is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves" (Psa 100:3). That applies to the realms of both nature and grace, the
flesh and the spirit, and it is marvelous to cons ider.
The Body of Christ
As we might expect, the realm of the Spirit is even more marvelous than the realm of nature. Nature is only a faint
reflection of the domain of the Spirit. The vast variety of spiritual functions within the body of Christ, together with
their harmony with one another, and effectiveness for the purpose of God, is evidence of a great God with a great
There are no exhaustive lists of the various functions within Christ's body. Occasionally, the Spirit will mention
some of them. They are largely viewed from the standpoint of their variety and effective ministry. Too, those that are
provided are given in view of the church addressed by the Epistle, and are therefore not intended to be a completed
listing. Some samples are provided below, confirming what marvelous variety is found in them.
ROMANS. Prophecy, ministry, exhorting, giving, and showing mercy (12:6-8).
In Romans, the gifts are viewed
from the standpoint of faith, which is the means through which they are executed.
FIRST CORINTHIANS. Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy,
discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostles, prophets, teachers, helps, and
governments (12:8-10, 28). In First Corinthians, the gifts are viewed from the standpoint of their origin
and effectiveness. They are distributed by the Spirit (12:4), administered by the Lord (12:5), and
activated by God who works all in all (12:6).
EPHESIANS. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers (4:8-10). In Ephesians the gifts are seen as
Christ's provision for the church during the time of our absence from Him.
FIRST PETER. Speaking and ministering (4:10-11).
Peter speaks of the gifts in relation to the grace of God,
declaring in their execution we are stewards of the manifold grace of God-or the grace that, in the gifts,
takes various forms.
WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME OFFICE
" . . . and all members have not the same office."
Most versions read, "the same function." Behind this is the
postulation that every member is functional, or serves a specific and needful purpose. No believer can say they do not
belong to the body of Christ because they are unable to do what they conceive to be most important. On the other
hand, no believer can boast they have no need of the other members because they imagine them to be inferior.
The roles we play in the body of Christ have been assigned to us, not selected by us. The faith that has been given
to us is in strict accord with that assignment. When our faith is strong, we will fulfill our function to the glory of God
and the help of His people.
ONE BODY IN CHRIST
" . . . are one body in Christ . . . " Elsewhere it is affirmed, "there is one body" (Eph 4:4). Much is made of this in
Scripture. Those who are in Christ "being many are one bread, and one body" (1 Cor 10:17). Believers
"are one body,"
and "by one Spirit," have been "baptized into one body" (1 Cor 12:12,13). The precise statement of our text
being many, are one body") is also made in First Corinthians 12:20. It is also declared that in Christ, Jews and
Gentiles have been reconciled unto God "in one body" (Eph 2:16). We have been
"called in one body" in order that
the peace of God might "rule" in our hearts (Col 3:15).
This "one body" has been reconciled unto God and freed from the tyranny of the devil, the flesh, and the world.
What is objectionable about them has been cut away from them, and they are being built together for "the habitation
of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:20).
The term "one body" is not a synonym for "one church," as ordinarily conceived. With great care, the Spirit
applies the concept of oneness to the functioning members - "one body." This is not an institutional view, and
designedly so. Those who use a text like this to disenfranchise other believers reveal the wretchedness of their own
hearts. If anything, the concept of "one body" excludes those who are idle and non-contributive. Even that would be
an inappropriate use of the expression.
"One body in Christ" underscores that we are not only individual members, but that we are connected to the Head
of the body. Jesus ministers vitality to His people through the individual members, making them a cohesive whole.
It is from Jesus as "the Head" that "the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows
as God causes it to grow" NIV (Col 2:19).
The Fulness of Christ
One of the most remarkable descriptions of the church is found in the book of Ephesians. Earlier I alluded to this
text, but it will bear further scrutiny. With great power it is affirmed,
"God placed all things under His feet and
appointed Him to be head over everything
for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything
in every way" (Eph 1:22-23).
Although Jesus is "the Head of the church" (Eph 5:23) and "the head of the body, the church" (Col 1:18), that is not
the point of this text. The Spirit is not speaking of authority over the church, but of provision for it. God has
made Jesus "Head over everything," investing Him with "all power in heaven and in earth" (Matt 28:18). He has authority
over all of our adversaries to restrain them. He has power over all the armies of heaven, to marshal them to work for our
good. He has authority over the dispensing of the gifts of grace, so that we may receive them. He has been made Head over
all of these things "for" [the benefit of] "the church, which is His body"
By calling the church Christ's "fulness," the Spirit is affirming that Jesus is filling His people with Himself. This
is another way of saying they are "made partakers of Christ" (Heb 3:14) and of the "Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). But
He is not simply filling them with attitudes or character traits, although that is involved. Rather, He is endowing
them with the capacity to minister in His name - to advantage His people by doing for them what He Himself does.
Thus, they become workers together with Him.
MEMBERS OF ONE ANOTHER
" . . . and individually members of one another."
Other versions read, "each member belongs to all the others,"
NIV "we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others," NLT and "as different parts we are all joined to one
The body of Christ is not comprised of disconnected members. That is the condition of those without spiritual life,
not those who are alive unto God. Disconnected members are like Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. They were not
connected together. It was not until the word of the Lord came in power that "the bones came together, bone to his
bone," forming something that would eventually be functional (Ezek 37:7). Then, the bones became
"members of one
The point here is that no individual member of the body possesses all of the fulness of Christ. To put it another
way, no member is sufficient of itself, or can live in isolation from the rest of the body. Thus Titus was
refreshed by the Corinthians (2 Cor 7:13), and himself comforted Paul (2 Cor 7:6). Onesiphorous "oft refreshed" Paul
(2 Tim 1:16), and Phebe succored, or helped, him (Rom 16:1-2). Paul was comforted by the faith of the Roman
brethren, and they were comforted by his (Rom 1:12). Aquila and Priscilla ministered to Apollos (Acts 18:26), and
Apollos "helped them much which had believed through grace" (Acts 18:17). Mary "labored much" for Paul and his
coworkers (Rom 16:6), and Epaphroditus "ministered to" his "wants," or need (Phil 2:25). All of these were "members
of one another," supplying needed graces in accordance with their personal faith.
Believers Fit Together
The people of God fit together. They are a spiritual house that is "fitly framed together" (Eph 2:21). Other
versions read, "the whole building, being joined together," NKJV and
"the whole building, being fitted together." NASB
The factor that knits and fits us together is not mere commonality, but what Jesus supplies through
us. That supply is like the mortar that bonds the people of God together, thereby making the house, or temple of God,
strong. Thus, from the Head, Jesus, "the whole body" is
"being fitted and held together by that which every joint
supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part" NASB (Eph 4:16). It is the flow of grace through the
individual members that fits them together - when "each part is working properly."
We Need One Another
Thus, the body is not held together by its profession, but by the working of each individual member. When we
come into Christ, we are "added to the church," making us one with the rest of the body (Acts 2:47). Our responsibility
is now to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3). This is not done by getting together, discussing,
and ironing out our differences. That is too philosophical, and has not yielded extended and profitable benefits.
The "unity of the Spirit" is kept, or maintained, by means of mutual ministry, or edification. That
is the whole point of the fourth chapter of Ephesians (vs 12-16). That is involved in being "members of one another,"
and is the point that will now be developed.
The Promotion of Humility
There is an uncomely quality in the flesh that seeks to arrive at a point where others are not needed. To be able
to stand alone, and function without the assistance of anyone else is thus thought to be an attainment of great value.
First, such a state is not possible. It is purely an imagination, whether in nature or in grace. However, this is
particularly true in Christ Jesus.
Our interdependence upon one another is a great promoter of humility. It regularly reminds us that our
sufficiency is of God, and that it has been largely ministered to us through Christ's body, which is His means of
expression. Humility opens the door for effectiveness.
GIFTS THAT ARE DIFFERENT ACCORDING TO GOD'S
6a Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them . . . "
"Having then gifts differing . . . " Other versions read, "And since we have gifts that differ," NASB "We have
different gifts," NIV and "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well." NLT Those who are fond of
applying the pronoun "we" to the Apostles, when speaking of "gifts," will have a most difficult time doing so with this
passage! This text is not speaking of the Apostles, but of "the body," and all who are "members in particular." That
includes the Apostles, but is not limited to them.
It is a foregone conclusion that all of those in Christ "have gifts." They are different, to be sure, but they are very
real and need to be cultured and expressed. When Paul admonished the Corinthians to "covet earnestly the best gifts,"
he was not suggesting they were in the body without already possessing spiritual abilities. Prior to that he reminded
them, "But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" NASB (1 Cor 12:18).
His point was not that they should seek after particular gifts, but ones"wherewith one may edify another" (Rom
14:19). That, of course, is why he showed them an even "more excellent way." It is the way of "charity," which edifies
(1 Cor 13).
The Spirit will now reason with us concerning spiritual gifts. He begins with the posit that we do have them. They
are an aspect of our faith, and are determined by our "measure of faith." There are no members in the body of Christ
who do not have faith, for that is what constitutes them "the children of God" (Gal 3:26). Further, no one has faith that
does not have a connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, no person is connected to Christ that does not have
an aptitude to benefit His brethren. Those are the underlying assumptions of this text, and are a key to understanding
ACCORDING TO GRACE
" . . . differing according to the grace that is given to us." All versions, whether literal or paraphrased, read the
"Gifts" are Kingdom abilities, or aptitudes. They fit together, yet are "different." In accounting for the difference
in these abilities, the Spirit takes us to the grace of God. Prior to this (verse 3), the gifts were traced back to a
"measure of faith." How is it that they are here associated with grace. The answer is simple. In all of its aspects,
salvation is ever "by grace through faith" (Eph 2:8). Grace has to do with what is given, faith with how it functions.
Grace assigns the gifts to us, and faith delivers them. Grace makes them "gifts," faith makes them ministries.
Grace is "manifold," or multifaceted. Thus, the gifts grace brings are various, different from each other, yet
harmonious in their objective. Grace saves us, yet does it through faith. As it is written, "For this reason it is by faith,
that it might be in accordance with grace" NASB (Rom 4:16). Faith is the means through which the grace of God
becomes effective, whether in saving the soul, or enabling it to minister to the people of God.
Differing gifts allow for expanded ministry and a plentitude of edification. More grace can be received by the
individual when that grace takes varying forms and ministries in the rest of the body. The more restricted we are on
the sources of edification, the more deficient we become in our own persons. Those who limit themselves to a single
"minister" can rise no higher, or receive no more, than is ministered by that solitary individual.
Further, we are not limited to those who are in our generation. Those who have completed their race may still
minister grace to us. The Apostles and Prophets are primary evidences of this. Yet, we are not limited in this regard.
Wherever a member of the body existed, grace was given to that member to minister. Some of them received grace
to pass truth to succeeding generations. We may profit from them. The vast array of those who have received a
"measure of faith" to minister to the saints is staggering. While there are no laws or procedures bound upon us in this
regard, we are to know we are "members of one another," even those who have gone before us from the field of battle
and labor. Wherever a gift has been given, whether in the past or the present, it has been "for the profit of all" of the
body NKJV (1 Cor 12:7).
There are some things you cannot receive unless they come from other members of the body. If Jesus
received ministry from others, who are you to suppose you are exempted from such service. We read of
wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance" Luke
8:3). In another place we read of "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who
also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him
Jesus used Peter's boat (Luke 5:3). He wrought a great miracle with a young boy's lunch (John 6:9). Who is the
soul who would think himself beyond receiving from others? Let us learn from our Lord to think soberly.
LET US USE THEM
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them." NKJV Other versions read,
"let each exercise them accordingly," NASB "let us exercise them." NAB Unused gifts become a reason for chastening,
and even condemnation. Gifts are a matter of stewardship, and they are to be faithfully used for the edifying of the
It is particularly important to note Satan has encouraged the development of non-contributory religion. The shell
of religion is kept, yet is wholly lacking in spiritual substance. There is a "form of the truth," but a denial of "the
power therefore" (2 Tim 3:5).
Notice the wording of our text. It does not say "IF we have gifts," but "Having gifts differing." The issue is not
whether or not we have received a spiritual ability, but if we are using it. If God has placed us in the body where it
has "pleased Him" (1 Cor 12:18), let us conduct ourselves in view of that placement! If God has dealt to every person
"a measure of faith" (Rom 12:3), let us see to it that it finds profitable expression through us.
The Spirit will now mention several of these gifts, and how they are to be used. In my judgment, Paul deals with
the more prominent gifts in Rome, as he also dealt with the more prominent ones in Corinth. The admonition will
not be basically corrective, as it was in Corinth. The brethren in Rome, it appears, had conducted themselves more
admirably toward one another, and thus did not require extensive teaching or correction as those in Corinth.
Faithfulness does have its own reward.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
6b . . . if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith."Other versions read, "If a man's gift
is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith," NIV "such as the quality of a prophet, let it be made use of in
relation to the measure of our faith," BBE and "if it is a gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
It is most unfortunate that some sophists have sensationalized this gift, limiting it to a declaration of the future,
or coming events. That is not a fair representation of the gift of prophesy, and it has certainly not yielded optimum
benefit to the people of God.
The word "prophesy" means "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 hidden things." Barclay-Newman
Greek Dictionary Prophesying does include the matter of foretelling coming events, but that is a subordinate and secondary
meaning. The primary meaning is forth-telling, or telling forth, things revealed by God.
We are not left to conjecture or etymological resources in this matter. The Spirit speaks directly to the subject.
"But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (1 Cor 14:3). Other versions read,
"But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort," NIV "those who
prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation," NRSV "the word of the
prophet gives men knowledge and comfort and strength," BBE "helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and
comforting them," NLT and "speaks to other people, building them up and giving them encouragement and
Edification involves building up believers, promoting their spiritual strength and stamina. It is related to bringing
clarity to the things of God, so that the hearer understands more clearly and is less confused. The result of edification
leaves the recipient with more spiritual knowledge and understanding, a greater degree of confidence, and a larger
measure of joy and peace. Where these things have been accomplished, prophesying has been done.
Exhortation calls the hearers up higher, urging them to appropriate what has been given to them. It arouses the
soul to action that glorifies God and puts one more fully into the mainstream of the will of God. Exhortation is one
of God's chief ministries to the human will.
Comfort is encouragement. Whereas exhortation rouses the will, comfort awakens hope, causing it to come into
prominence. Comfort causes trials and hardships to be minimized. When comforted, sufferings are seen as
momentary, and the prelude to a greater weight of glory.
PROPHESYING AND FAITH
Prophesying is to be done in strict accord with one's faith - what the prophet is able to see. Before the term
"prophet" became prominent, those who prophesied were called "seers." Thus it is written,
"Beforetime in Israel,
when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet
was beforetime called a Seer" (1 Sam 9:9).
"seer" was someone who perceived or understood. The truth had been unveiled to the person, and he spoke what
he had seen, or comprehended. In this regard, false prophets were those who had seen a "vain vision," or one that was
not true (Ezek 13:7).
Prophets Cannot Be Trained
It goes without saying, but you cannot train a prophet. Such a person is not produced by an educational or
academic process. Like all other spiritual gifts, it requires a "measure of faith" to be a prophet-to be able to edify,
exhort, and comfort the people of God.
The Proportion of Faith
Being a prophet does not qualify a person to speak on matters he does not understand. A person who speaks in
the behalf of God can only declare what he has seen-what he comprehends, or understands. To fail to confine oneself
to this is to refuse to speak "in proportion" to one's faith.
"In proportion" to faith is strict agreement with one's faith, only declaring what has been apprehended, or
understood. It is never right to venture an opinion in the name of a prophet. There must be a direct correlation
between the faith of the speaker and what he speaks. If this Divinely imposed rule was duly honored, a great number
of ministers would quickly resign their positions.
Opening the Scriptures
The person who prophesies is able to "open the Scriptures," as Jesus did to the two on the road to Emmaus (Lk
24:32,45). If one objects that men should not be expected to do what Jesus did, it must be remembered that Christ's
body is where He pours forth Himself. This is where His "fulness" is deposited, and where He ministers to His
A person who is fundamentally ignorant of the Scriptures should not be given license to speak much to the people
of God. Those who do speak in the behalf of Jesus are to "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet 4:11). Other versions
read "let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God," NASB and "as one speaking the very words of God." NIV Their
speech is to not only be in words "taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" NIV (1 Cor
2:13), but in strict harmony with the Scriptures. A real prophet will never declare something that is at variance with
the Word of the Lord.
The person who is gifted to prophesy, speaking unto men to edify, exhort, and comfort, ought not be assigned
menial duties that are unrelated to those ministries. When the Lord has gifted an individual for a noble ministry to
His people, no other work is honorable.
All too often, this is the tactic of the institution. They ignore abilities God has given to those within their walls,
assigning to them works that are more suited to the goal of the institution than the work of the Lord. I fear this is
a far more serious condition than men are inclined to think. Such actions rob the saints, dishonor Jesus, and ignore
THE GIFT OF MINISTRY
" 7a . . . or ministry, let us use it in our ministering . . . " Other versions read, "If it is serving, let him serve,"
NIV "or the position of a Deacon of the church, let a man give himself to it," BBE and "If your gift is that of serving
others, serve them we." NLT There is a peculiar wording in this verse. The NKJV captures the full sense of the
expression: " or ministry, let us
use it in our ministering." The "it" that is used in ministering is the gift of ministry
itself. In other words, the gift cannot be used for self-serving, but for serving others. The idea is stated most precisely
in the words of our blessed Lord. "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give His life a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28), or "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve." NASB There
is a Divinely appointed intent in the bestowment of spiritual gifts, and they are to be executed in strict fulfillment
of that intention. Men are not at liberty to inhibit these gifts or seek to reassign them.
THE GIFT OF MINISTRY
Those who place an undue emphasis upon spiritual gifts rarely mention this one. The word translated "ministry"
refers to the office, or function, of the "deacon." This is an office of "service," or "ministry," and involves seeing to
the needs of others.
A Unique Need
The need first arose in the church approximately two years after the day of Pentecost had "fully come." The
church had grown exponentially, the number of disciples being "multiplied." A sense of care for one another had
developed. The mass of believers were "of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things
which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts 4:32).
However, in process of time, some inequities began to occur in meeting the needs of various people. It is written,
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against
the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration" (Acts 6:1). Knowing the people of God
have been called to peace, the Apostles immediately set out to resolve the problem. "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" (Acts 6:2-4).
Although the work was important, it was not one to be done by Apostles, who had been placed in the body in a
different capacity. It was not that the work was demeaning. It was, however, something that would require extended
involvements, which would have detracted the Apostles from their commissioned ministry. The importance of this
work of service is seen in the caliber of men who were required to accomplish it. They were to be "men of good
reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom."
The word pleased the people. They did not need a further explanation of the requirements, and they made perfect
sense to them. Finding men duly qualified (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas), they "set
[them] before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them," thereby setting them apart for the
work. They did their work well, for it is written, "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples
multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (6:7).
An Official Office
Unlike the offices of an Apostle (except for Mathias, Acts 1:16-26), and Prophet, men had a hand in selecting
deacons. They did not make deacons, but recognized and set them apart for the work of serving. Because of the
involvement of others, requirements were
specified for these servants (1 Tim 3:8-13). This is a legitimate office, placed in the body of Christ.
There are those, gifted of God to administer practical and business affairs of the church. Such is not a menial
work, as indicated by the qualifications set forth in the sixth chapter of Acts, and the third chapter of First Timothy.
It might be well to briefly recount them.
Men of honest report, or a good reputation.
Full of the Holy Spirit.
Full of wisdom.
Grave, or reverent.
Not double-tongued, giving conflicting words.
Not indulging in much wine.
Not greedy of filthy lucre, or pursuing dishonest gain.
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
Men who are first proved, or put to the test.
Men who are found blameless.
Their wives must be grave, reverent, and dignified.
Their wives must not be slanderers or gossips.
Their wives must be sober or temperate.
Their wives must be faithful in all things.
The deacons must be the husband of one wife.
They must rule their children and their own houses well.
Those who serve well as deacons will experience growth in Christ. It is written, "For those who have served well
as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus" NKJV (1 Tim
3:13). Two notable examples of the fulfillment of these words are Stephen and Philip, both of whom went on to
become great preachers of the Word.
In my judgment, this is a particularly weak area in the contemporary church.
USING IT IN MINISTRY
The gift of ministry is to used in ministering - in serving others. Attention is to be given to the work of service,
and seeing to the needs of others. Some degree of creativity or originality may be used. The idea is to use the faith
given to the individual in the manner in which it is intended to be used.
A person with the gift of service should not be put into a leadership capacity. His ability to lead will be discovered
while he is ministering to the needs of others, working under the leadership of someone else. Neither, indeed, should
gifted servants be required to fulfill duties unrelated to their calling. That would be as unreasonable as an Apostle
serving tables. God is not honored by ignoring His gifts to do man's will.
Expanding the Thought
There is a sense in which this requirement can be fulfilled in every member of the body of Christ. Though He was
the King, Jesus served (John 13:4-5). The Apostles, though placed first in the church, served (Acts 20:34). Prophets
serve the saints by edifying, exhorting, and comforting them.
Regardless of the particular function assigned to the saints, they are admonished, "through love serve one
another" (Gal 5:13), and "be subject one to another" (1 Pet 5:5). The spirit of service is a most wonderful quality.
There is a word on ministering given by Peter. It is appropriate for this discussion.
"If any man minister, let him
do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 4:11). To
attempt to do God's work in the energy of the flesh is strictly forbidden. In fact, it is impossible.
The Lord gives the work, and the ability to do it as well. It is our business to put the ability and the work together.
The purpose for this is clearly stated: "so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." NIV If, then,
these directives are ignored, God will not be praised in all things through Jesus Christ. Who is able to measure the
magnitude of such a transgression? It is on the part of wisdom to avoid such a sin.
THE GIFT OF TEACHING
7b . . . he who teaches, in teaching . . . " As simplistic as it may appear, the one gifted to teach is to use that
gift to teach. Just as worldly abilities cannot be employed to do the work of God, spiritual abilities are not intended
to fulfill worldly duties. Although there may be disagreement on this matter, our text is quite clear on the subject.
Our gifts are involved in being members of the body of Christ, and that body is the target for our ministry. Now we
come to the gift of teaching - the person endowed with the ability to instruct, expound, and clarify.
THE GIFT OF TEACHING
This gift is ranked third in the dispensation of grace: "thirdly teachers" (1 Cor 12:28). Some of the more external
and attention-getting gifts are "after that." Teaching would be involved in "the word of wisdom" and "the word of
knowledge" (1 Cor 12:8). It appears, however, that "teaching" is more consistent than a word of wisdom or knowledge.
Those endowments appear to deal with specific issues, while "teaching" functions within a more broad base. It is also
on a more consistent basis.
This gift is mentioned in Ephesians, and is linked with pastoring, or shepherding - feeding the flock of God (Eph
4:11). A teacher can instruct people in the ways of the Lord. A teacher can "expound" the way of the Lord more
perfectly and thoroughly to someone with an immature view (Acts 18:26).
THE WORK OF TEACHING
The teaching of reference does not pertain to the things of this world. This is a vital distinction that must be
grasped by the saints. The Spirit opens the real nature of teaching in a statement made to the Galatians.
who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches" NKJV (Gal 6:6). Other versions read "taught
in the Word," KJV and "instruction in the Word."
The purpose for spiritual gifts is not the correction of society, or presenting resolutions for social ills. Believers
are certainly not opposed to such things, but they do not require Divine endowments, and we greatly err in imagining
A "teacher" puts a handle, so to speak, on the Word of the Lord, so people can carry it in their minds, and apply
it to their lives. Such a person makes the Word of God come alive, opening it like a precious box of jewels.
Nicodemus knew Jesus was a "Teacher" (John 3:2). His teaching separated Him from all other teachers, for "He
taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mk 1:22). No less than fourteen times the Gospel's say
of Jesus, "He taught." Jesus has taken this aspect of His Person and endowed certain within His body with the ability
to teach His Word.
Paul was ordained a "teacher of the Gentiles" (1 Tim 2:7). In Ephesus he "taught publicly, and from house to
house" (Acts 20:20). Apollos "taught diligently" (Acts 18:25). Paul and Barnabas taught the Word of the Lord (Acts
15:35). For a year and six months Paul taught in Corinth (Acts 18:11). For two whole years he dwelt in his own hired
house "teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). The Apostles were noted for
"teaching the people" (Acts 5:25,42).
The church at Antioch was noted for having several "teachers" (Acts 13:1). Some of them are named: "Barnabas,
and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the
tetrarch, and Saul."
Once again, it is a sin of the greatest magnitude to take members of the body that have been given the gift of
teaching, and assign them to roles wholly unrelated to teaching. Yet, this is being done continually in churches and
various other Christian institutions. It is not unusual to find a certain obstinance in professed Christians that refuses
to recognize the gift of teaching. Such assign their own criteria for teaching the Word of God, for which action they
will surely be judged. When God makes a person a teacher, whether it is Paul, Apollos, or Aquila, it is the business
the people of God to give ear to what is declared by them.
No small number of these teachers have completed their race, and are now among "the spirits of just men made
perfect" (Heb 12:23). Yet, "their works do follow them" (Rev 14:13), being public and known to many. It is never
wrong to learn from such kingdom notables, not lifting ourselves up as though we had no need to be taught. The Lord
gives the gift of teaching because there is teaching to be done. Those so gifted are to devote themselves to teaching.
Those who are teachers should determine to leave the people of God more informed and knowledgeable of the
Word of God. Let them refuse to be moved into areas of spiritual trivia by those who cannot see afar off. Men may
fancy that they can study the Word of God for themselves, needing no teaching from others. But when they have
finished pondering this puff of theological smoke, let them explain why God has placed teachers in the church? Let
them consult with the Ethiopian eunuch who unashamedly replied, when asked if he understood a certain Scripture
he was reading, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:31).
Let the teacher devote himself to teaching, and let him not think his labors are in vain! God has called him to, and
endowed him for, a most noble work. Many a confused and helpless soul will be helped by their teaching. Let them
be strong, and quit like men.
THE GIFT OF EXHORTATION
8a . . . he who exhorts, in exhortation . . . " While a prophet speaks "unto exhortation," the one "who
exhorts" specializes in it. Just as some people's faith equips them to prophesy, the faith of some enables them to
effectively serve others, and the faith of still others makes them capable teachers, just so, the faith of some is tailored
to make them exhorters. The church must make room for the work of these people, for God has placed them in the
church. That is the area where they are effective, not the world.
THE GIFT OF EXHORTATION
An exhorter is one who moves people into Kingdom activity. He awakens sluggish wills, and rallies the people to
activities that honor God and prepare them for eternity. Following their baptism into Christ, Peter
"with many other
words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation"
(Acts 2:40). When Barnabas
came to Antioch, he "exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23).
Judas and Silas, themselves prophets, "exhorted the brethren with many words" (Acts 15:32). Barnabas and Paul
confirmed the souls of the disciples, "exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much
tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). When Apollos was disposed to pass through Achaia, the
brethren wrote letters to the people, "exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them
much which had believed through grace" (Acts 18:27).
There are people within the body of Christ who can move us from slothfulness to faithfulness. Some can stir us
up, so that we will run more energetically and with more consistently. When they address us, the commissions of the
Lord seem more doable, and we are encouraged the more to heartily enter into them.
And what are such people to do? How should one who has been given the gift of exhortation conduct his life? He
must give himself to exhortation. The people of God need his ministry, and he needs to speak that he might be
refreshed (Job 32:20).
However, there is a most unfortunate circumstance in our part of the world. The institutionalized church has
made no provision for the gift of exhortation. They have made room for the lecturer and the scholar, but not the
exhorter! They have adjusted their roster to allow for administrators and assistants, but have no place for the gift of
exhortation. If an exhorter was present in the average church, when would he exhort?
When was the last time you heard a stirring call to lay hold on eternal life, or to save yourself from this wayward
generation? How about a summons to faithfulness, diligence and constancy? When are exhortations sounded to
continue in the faith, and cleave unto the Lord with purpose of heart? For many, these words have a strange sound.
But they are not strange, and those who challenge us with such admonitions are gifts from God to us!
Now, you cannot train an exhorter, for he is motivated by his heart, not his head. His gift comes from God, not
from exposure to human expertise. It is a ministry that flows from a perception of what is needed among the saints.
The one who exhorts has a driving compulsion to see the saints laying hold of the benefits that have been provided
THE GIFT OF GIVING
8b . . . he who gives, with liberality . . . " Although the gifts mentioned in Romans are few in number, they
represent an extremely wide range of ministry. From prophets to servants, and teachers to givers, we are being
exposed to the breadth of salvation. Let me remind you that all of these gifts have two sides. The first is the ability
that comes from God. The second is a heart to do it for the glory of God. Thus a prophet will declare the Word, even
if it jeopardizes his life. The one who serves will do so, even if it is not appreciated. The teacher will expound the Word,
even though it is not popular, and may become inconvenient. The one who exhorts has a heart to do so, even when
it represents a new and challenging thought to the listeners.
The gifts of God come with a longing to do them, and a great dissatisfaction if they are not exercised. The heart
is also looking for an opportunity to use the gift. Now, we will see how those with the gift of giving are to fulfill their
THE GIFT OF GIVING
There are some who despise the thought of having possessions. They believe there is virtue to poverty, and that
God is always honored by having just enough for ourselves. But this is not a fair representation of the case. I am quick
to say that we are not to be covetous, and are to be content with such things as we have (Heb 13:5). But do not
imagine for a moment that everyone in the body of Christ subsists on a meager fare. The Word of God affirms, "not
many noble are called" (1 Cor 1:26). It does not say, "not ANY noble are called."
As already mentioned, there were some noble women who ministered to Jesus out of their substance (Lk 8:3).
During the early days of the church, when unusual circumstances existed, "as many as were possessors of lands or
houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and
distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" (Acts 4:34-35).
They had the gift of giving!
During those days, Barnabas, called "the son of consolation," "Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and
laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:37). He had the gift of giving!
When Paul sent the converted slave Onesimous back to his master Philemon, he said, "If he hath wronged thee,
or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account" (Phile 18).
He had the gift of giving.
When the churches in Macedonia heard of the needs of some of the brethren, they rallied to the cause, gathering
a gift for them. Of them Paul said, "For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their
ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's
will" NIV (2 Cor 8:3-5). They had the gift of giving!
There are people, strategically placed within the body of Christ, who have the means to assist others. They also
have the heart to do so. They are quick to see lacks that need to be met, like the good Samaritan who saw the beaten
and robbed man by the wayside (Luke 10:33-35). He had the gift of giving! How are such people to give? What
is to be their reaction to need?
GIVING WITH LIBERALITY
"Let him do it with simplicity." The word "simplicity" means most sincerely, without seeking self interests, and
with personal sacrifice. It is giving without the clutter of pride or the quest for glory. Consequently, because of this
glorious simplicity, the giving is bountiful and liberal, with no thought of having less because of giving generously.
Other versions capture this sense. "He who gives, with liberality," NKJV "let him give generously," NIV "let him give
freely," BBE and "give generously from the heart." NJB Concerning this ministry, it will be enough to remind you of the
words of our Lord: "freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt 10:8). And again, "It is more blessed to give than to
receive" (Acts 20:35). God be praised for these liberal souls! They have been placed in the body to relieve it of undue
concerns, and sweeten life's cup. Only eternity will reveal the effects of their generous spirits.
THE GIFT OF LEADING
8c . . . he who leads, with diligence . . . " Other versions read, "he that ruleth, with diligence," KJV "if it is
leadership, let him govern diligently," NIV "he who has the power of ruling, let him do it with a serious mind," BBE "if
one is over others, with diligence," NAB and "if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious." NJB This word will
be intimidating to those who do not like to be a subordinate, and challenging to those possessing this particular gift.
THE GIFT OF LEADING
There are some who believe everyone in the body of Christ is equal. But this is not the case at all. There are some
who "are over you in the Lord, and admonish you" (1 Thess 5:12). These do not lead by coercion, or the exertion of
carnal authority, but they do lead. Remember, it is God who gives this gift. First Corinthians refers to this gift as
"governments," KJV or "administrations" NASB (1 Cor 12:28). First Timothy refers to the "elders that rule well," or
"direct the affairs of the church well," NIV affirming they are "worthy of double honor." These are particularly singled
out as "those who work hard at preaching and teaching" NASB (1 Tim 5:17).
The thirteenth chapter of Hebrews also speaks of those "that have the rule over you." They are described as
watching for men's souls, and those who will give an account for their responsibility. Heb 13:17,24). Peter admonishes
elders, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for
dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock"
(1 Pet 5:2-3).
These are not bosses, like those who govern the men of this world. They lead by example (1 Pet 5:3), and by their
faithful admonishing, teaching and preaching (1 Thess 5:1;2 1 Tim 5:17). They are watching for men's souls, not their
business, not their homes, and not their private lives. They do not have the kind of authority that makes men
answerable to them. However, they are answerable to God for how they handle their stewardship.
A "leader" is directing people in a path he himself has taken. He is demanding enough to keep the people moving
forward, but gentle enough not to discourage them. I have found there are not a lot of this type of people, and it is
probably good there is not.
LEADING WITH DILIGENCE
What is a leader to do - a person who has "power with men" (Gen 32:28)? Some, because of the recalcitrance of
people, withdraw from leadership. They do not feel it is worth all of the aggravation. But if a person is genuinely gifted
to lead, the word of the King is straightforward: "he who leads, with diligence."
The word "diligence" means with earnest care and consistency. Those he is leading do not wander from the
straight and narrow path because of his indolence. The Lord was serious in dispensing the gift of leadership to him,
and he is serious in executing it to the glory of God.
While the Apostles and other disciples were awaiting Divine empowerment for their work, Peter "stood up in the
midst of the disciples," calling their attention to the need to replace Judas. He correlated the matter with Scripture
and, under his direction, a replacement was selected by God through them (Acts 1:15-26). He was a leader, and he
led with diligence.
Early in the history of the church, dissension arose over the acceptance of the Gentiles, and what laws would be
binding upon them. Paul and Barnabas, and certain other men, were sent to Jerusalem "about this question." Instead
of calling for a congregational meeting, they appealed to "the Apostles and elders" (Acts 15:2-4). They were endowed
with the gift of leadership, and executed their gift with diligence (Acts 15:23-31).
As with the other spiritual gifts, spiritual leaders cannot be trained, even though men speak as though they can.
They are gifted by God, not educated by men! They are to understand that God is with them in their work. He has
equipped them for effective ministry. That will motivate them to be diligent in the execution of their responsibilities.
Jesus is surely with them throughout the duration of their ministry.
THE GIFT OF SHOWING MERCY
8d . . . he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Here is a gift for which the flesh has no longing. It can
more easily covet to prophesy, teach, or rule. It can even seek recognition through giving like Ananias and Sapphira.
However, to show compassion or mercy is not attractive to the flesh. There is a great need for this ministry, and thus
God has especially gifted some to show it. There is a sense in which all believers are to show mercy. Jesus said,
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt 5:7). In fact, the "wisdom that is from above" is "full
of mercy," and will be exhibited by all receiving it (James 3:17).
THE GIFT OF SHOWING MERCY
Those with the gift of mercy abound in the grace of being merciful. It is their strength, and they delight to show
it. They have a sense of the need of mercy, detecting candidates for it before others do, and being quick to meet that
need. Mercy involves compassion, and helping the needy out of a sense of profound pity for, and empathy with, them.
When Jesus interrogated a certain man concerning the good Samaritan, He asked him, "Which now of these three,
thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?" The man wisely replied, "He that showed mercy
on him" (Luke 10:37). Mercy, therefore, relieved the afflicted person, provided for his continued care, and took care
of any debts that were incurred.
Let it be clear, "he who shows mercy" is the person particularly endowed with the ability to detect the need for
mercy, and meet it. While this word may be applied to anyone showing mercy, whether particularly gifted or not, it
has specific application to the person who has been placed in Christ's body to show mercy. What is to be the manner
in which that individual "shows mercy?"
SHOWING MERCY WITH CHEERFULNESS
"Cheerfulness" involves a cheerful disposition: gladness of heart because of the opportunity to show kindness to
the needy. It also involves a "readiness of mind," which finds great joy in exhibiting the mercy. The person with a
"ready mind" looks for an opportunity to "do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).
In this manner, the gifted person is participating in the Divine nature. It is said of Jesus, "I delight to do thy will,
O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psa 40:8; Heb 10:7). Also, it is said of God Himself, "He delights in
mercy" (Micah 7:18). There are some to whom the Lord has especially given this quality.
We see from this brief but pungent passage, that spiritual gifts involve the consent of our wills and the exercise
of our faith to become effectual. They come to us because of the grace of God, and our faith is the means through
which we are both qualified and enabled to use them. They are designed to bring advantages to the body of Christ.
They also bring great satisfaction to those who faithfully handle them, becoming one of the primary means through
which they accrue rewards and treasures in heaven. Give due attention to what you can do for the Lord, and do it
diligently and energetically.