Monday, March 18, 2024

Seven Spiritual Gifts in the Body of Christ

When examining the human body, there are numerous systems all working at the same time to regulate, protect, strengthen, and heal the human body. There is the respiratory system which brings oxygen into the body and expels carbon dioxide. The brain communicates instructions to the rest of the body. It is amazing how the entire body works together as one to allow us to live.

Similarly, think of a city. All sorts of systems work together. Massive networks of underground pipes distribute water. Electric lines channel power. Supermarkets bring food. Cell towers communicate telephone signals. And it all works together.

Think of a football team, certain players block. Others run the ball. Others go out for passes. Others are defensive. Others have special functions, like kickers or punters. One player leads on offense, another on defense. It all works together for the team to fulfill it’s function, to win games.

It’s similar in the military, an army has frontline soldiers, it has cavalier units who specialize in speed and firepower. They have artillery units that stay further back. They have air units that fly overhead. They have generals who strategize and lead. They have scouts, they have guards, and all sorts of other roles to make a powerful, mobile force that can fulfill it’s mission, to defeat the enemy.

We as Christians are also part of a whole. We are not lone-wolves prowling about by ourselves looking for prey. Instead, we are part of a vast body of believers, all working together to win the world for Jesus, and disciple one another on the journey home.

Along those lines we’ll be looking at Romans 12 today, starting in verse 3, which says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”

We’re told very quickly that it’s important that we look at ourselves with very sober judgment. To me that means firm humility. In our service in the body of Christ we will tend to want to think of ourselves as indispensable to the group. As the worker sometimes says to himself, “Without me this place would fall apart.” But it usually isn’t true. View yourself with humility. Your job isn’t the end all be all. I know that. God can easily replace me, if I were to decide to go back to the sin life. I’m just a small part of the whole.

Notice also that we have our place in the body of Christ ‘by grace.’ It’s not that we worked our way in by being awesome or something. No, we were sinners. And Christ saved us, by his death. So have sober judgment about yourself in this equation.

So Paul says to think soberly… second part of verse 3, “in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

So we have this measure of faith within us, manifested as trust in God, commitment to God, allegiance to God, and this faith is how we’re connected to the whole. It’s through faith in Jesus that we are part of the body.

Next in verses 4-5, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

I have a body with hands, shoulders, feet, knees, eyes, ears, and all sorts of different parts. They do not all have the same function, do they? My feet do very different things from my hands.

Yet they are all part of my body. They work together, not against each other.

And we as Christians form one body, though we’re many different people. Often I’ll meet a Christian, from another church, in another city, and I instantly know they are family. I can sense they are one with me, with all Christians. And we instantly connect. That’s why wherever I go, I meet family in Christ. Because that’s what we are. We are connected.

Each member belongs to all the others.

Then it says in verse 6, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

We each have giftings, areas that we are passionate about, and get excited about when we help others. These passions, these gifts were given by God through faith to you, to be used to bless the body.

But they are very different from each other. One person has a gifting of exhortation, you see them calling out the sins of the world, calling people to repent. Another person has a gift of showing mercy, and they have great compassion for the lost. The two may sometimes be tempted to argue. The one showing mercy says hey stop calling out all those sins that isn’t nice that isn’t going to win people to Jesus. The one giving exhortation says back, this is my gifting, to call out sin and righteousness boldly, and it is a message that is needed. So the two must understand, don’t fight, understand you have different giftings.

Second portion of verse 6, “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith”

Notice again it says in accordance with your faith, or the faith. We want to make sure we’re using our giftings in alignment with God’s will and purpose.

What is the gift of prophecy? This is when God gives you a word to share with someone. You may not even realize you’re doing it at the time, but you’ll say something they need to hear. You simply let the Spirit lead. Other times you may know you have a word for someone and it will burn within you, and then you’ll go and give them that word.

Amos 3:7 says, “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

Some churches say basically the prophet role doesn’t exist anymore. Neither does the apostle, the only problem is it doesn’t say that anywhere in the Bible. So I tend to believe prophets and apostles still exist today.

One example from scripture of a prophet acting was in Acts 21:11, “Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

He gave a prophecy to the Apostle Paul about his arrest.

Do you have a gifting in the prophetic area? This can be a ministry as part of the five-fold ministry. It can also be a gifting for any believer to carry. Paul held a high regard for the gift of prophecy, Paul said desire many spiritual gifts, but most of all ask God to give you the gift of prophecy (1st Cor 14:1).

From the “Outline of Biblical Usage” the Greek word for prophesy means to “speak forth by divine revelation.” So you receive a word from God, something to tell someone that they need to hear, and then you tell them.

You can see how powerful this can be. Someone who doesn’t know God, and you tell them something only God would know, has the power to show them the supernatural is real. Similarly with another Christian, they are greatly edified when they receive a word, they may remember it for years, for the rest of their lives, the word you spoke to them, because it was from God, specifically for them.

Prayer: Lord, we ask for the gift of prophecy, for those of us who should have it, please give abundantly in Jesus name, amen.

Next in Romans 12:7, “if it is serving, then serve…”

Serving is a gifting for various highly valuable activities, preparing food, cleaning a widows house, stacking chairs, holding the hand of someone who has just been injured, getting an event ready, preparing a food box, or numerous other ways of general service.

What would the church do without people gifting in serving? The church wouldn’t do anything. We’d be motionless. They are like the muscles and bones of the body if you ask me!

Prayer: Lord, if you are calling me to serve, please prompt me with opportunities in Jesus name, amen.

Next, in Romans 12:7b, “if it is teaching, then teach.”

Teaching is not just a role in the five-fold ministry, it’s a general spiritual gift for all believers. Is this a gift of yours? Are you talented from God, in explaining the Bible to others? That is a valuable gift. Use it. Mentor someone. Sit down with a friend and go through the Bible together. Write about the word of God. Use your talent, volunteer here for Bible study or Sunday school.

What would we do without our teachers? Teachers in the body help us see the word of God from new angles. They help us to go from hearing to application. They are wonderful.

Prayer: God, if you want me to teach the word, show me how, and I will do so Lord, in Jesus name, amen.

Next in Romans 12:8, “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement…”

The gift of encouragement is a beautiful thing. One of the worst things for a Christian is when they are feeling discouraged. They are exhausted with life. They are frustrated with difficulties. They are tired of being sick, tired of health problems. They can’t stand any more persecution or trauma. They can’t make ends meet. And they face discouragement.

Then it takes a faithful Christian in the body to come along and give them encouragement. They come and give them hope from the word of God. They read them a scripture. They recite a verse. You will rise up on eagles wings. Do not grow weary in doing good. I can do all things through Christ. God works all things together for the good of those who love God. When you are tempted God will provide a way of escape. And this gives us encouragement. We get hopeful once again. We bear up under our problem and remember how much we have to be grateful for.

Is this your gifting? We need encouragers so bad in the body.

Now it’s interesting also to note that the word used here in Greek, paraklēsis, for encouragement is the same as the word for exhortation. So exhortation is calling someone toward good deeds. Calling someone to make a change. Calling someone toward the right. So I think it also implies speaking a hard truth as well, not just a bubbly flowery word of comfort, but also a word of truth.

Prayer: Lord, I desire the gift of encouragement/exhortation. Lord please grant me that gift if it is your will, to build up the body, in Jesus name, amen.

Next, still verse 8, “if it is giving, then give generously…”

The gift of giving is beautiful. I think Jesus said it well, in Luke 3:11, if you have two coats and see someone without a coat, give them a coat.

If you see someone without food, provide food for them, if you can.

The gift of giving is beautiful. It can be giving money as well to worthy causes. Many Americans have a gift for giving, in fact the only reason The Salvation Army exists at all is because so many Americans give weekly, monthly, annually to support our mission.

Do you have a gift for giving? It can be a coat, a meal, a bag of groceries, clothing, gas money, many different things.

Giving could be time as well. Giving could be an act of service, repairing an appliance or replacing a door. These are all acts of giving.

Prayer: Lord, grant us the gift of giving. Grant us opportunities to give. Help us to plan to give, set aside finances and resources for that purpose, and then use them to give, in Jesus name, amen.

Again in Romans 12:8c, “if it is to lead, do it diligently…”

Leading is not simply something done by the five-fold ministry. A leader is someone who others gather around. Someone others trust and look to for support and guidance. Many of you are leaders and you don’t even realize it.

The Greek word used for leader is not the same as used for government leaders. So this is leadership in a different way. I think it can mean leadership in the church as part of the five-fold. But I think it also means leading in the way of being a guardian or protector of others.

Prayer: Lord, if it is your will, give us the gift of leadership. Help us to lead those around us toward the good, toward necessary resources, and most of all toward you God, in Jesus name, amen.

Last but not least, still verse 8, “…if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Often in the ministry of Jesus, someone who was blind, or unable to move their legs, or deaf, would cry out to Jesus and say, “Lord have mercy on me!” It pictures someone in a state in which they are hopeless. They can’t help themselves. They are doomed without help.

Similarly, some of us Christians are gifted in the area of showing mercy to those who are in desperate circumstances.

I think I most often think of someone who ministers to the worst kinds of sinners.

Many Christians would find it uncomfortable or difficult to minister to someone addicted to crack, or someone who is a prostitute, or someone who has had five abortions, or someone who has committed adultery. It’s difficult. They hate those sins, as they should, but it’s then hard for them to minister to that person.

However, many Christians are gifted in showing mercy. They are able to look beyond the horrid sins, and see the person there made in God’s image. That is the gift of showing mercy, a miraculous ability to look past the sins and see the worth of the person.

Do you have that gifting? The body needs heroes like that. They are beautiful in their mercy.

What did God say? I desire mercy rather than sacrifice. Show mercy to your neighbor. Show mercy to someone who has wronged you. It’s a little miracle when it happens.

Desire this gift, if you dare. God will provide.

Prayer: Lord, grant us the gift of showing mercy, for those whom you’ve called to it, to have mercy on those who are in sin and evil, help us to see their worth, in Jesus name, amen.

There are other listings of spiritual gifts in the scriptures, particularly in 1st Corinthians 12, but other areas as well. The scriptures seem to imply that God gives us these gifts, and that we develop these gifts through experience and growth in the Holy Spirit.

All of these gifts together form us into the body of Christ. And as the body we use these heaven-sent gifts to bring forth the kingdom of God on Earth, in the will of Jesus Christ, who is the head of the body. Jesus gives the orders, just as the brain gives the orders to the human body.

Now what happens if we don’t use our gifts? Nothing happens. And that’s not good.

Also understand it is your obligation to use your gifts. That’s why you have them. Remember the parable of the talents, the one who didn’t use his talents, but hid them, was rejected. And Jesus said those who don’t produce fruit are not of Him. They are like branches that wither and fade away, and such branches are gathered up, and burned. They are worthless. Remember the fig tree that was found without fruit for several years. Christians who don’t produce fruit are showing they have no faith, because faith without works is dead. Is your faith living or dead?

I’m trying to impress upon you how important your gift is. But in conclusion let’s put it all together.

I’m a new Christian say, freshly born again. God uses a prophet to speak a word into my life, challenging me to grow and build. What would happen without the prophet? No prophet, then I miss that blessing. I’m now getting complacent.

Next, I go to an evening meal service, a dinner church, but the doors are shut when I get there. People with the gift of serving never stepped up to serve, so the dinner church shut down many months ago.

Next, God calls an older man to mentor me in the Bible, sit down with me once a week or so, and go through the Bible over coffee and donuts in his den. But this man never does so, he's too lazy, decides he’d rather watch the price is right in the mornings. He has a gift of teaching but he doesn’t use it.

This new Christian is really being neglected! He’s starting to get discouraged. So God calls a woman to go and encourage him after church. But she decides not to. She has other things she wants to do, go shopping, get a Starbucks. So this new Christian leaves church discouraged and alone.

Now, we see this Christian is on his way to work, but his car breaks down. God sends a Christian who is driving by to stop and help them. But they just keep going. They have a gift of giving, but they don’t do it. Now this Christian loses his job.

This new Christian is going to a church, but the leader decides he doesn’t want to be a leader anymore, he resigns the ministry, and the church shuts down. Now this new Christian has no church to attend nearby.

He drifts off, and becomes homeless. Yet he still hungers for God. He still has hope that maybe someone will help him. God sends someone with the gift of showing mercy along to minister to him, invite them to their church, to a new church, and to help them find a place to stay, maybe drop them at the local shelter. But instead this person sees him, but just keeps walking, she’s too tired that day.

Then that night he commits suicide.

This is a graphic example of the value of the body of believers. We need each other. Do I believe God could still help someone, even if they miss some of these ministry opportunities? Of course.

In this scenario could God easily bring someone else with that same gifting over to help them? Absolutely.

So I don’t think it necessarily will end that way. But many a time I’ve felt I needed something, but it never came. Can you relate? You matter. Your gifting is not optional. And no, someone else won’t just magically do it for you. I think we get that idea in America, well, there’s another person who will do this for me. Maybe back in the 70s and 80s during the Billy Graham crusades, not anymore. If it’s going to happen it’s got to be you. Take responsibility, and serve in your place. It’s not too much. It’s not overwhelming. It’s quite natural actually. You'll do great! 

Review of Main Points:

1. View yourself with Sober Judgment, as one saved by grace through faith
2. Members of the body have differing functions, but belong to each other
3. The gift of prophesy means to speak word from God
4. The gift of teaching is explaining God’s word
5. Encouragement/exhortation is to help a believer stay strong
6. Giving is meeting someone’s need
7. Leading is being a guide or protector to other Christians
8. Showing mercy is seeing the value in someone caught in sin
9. Other Spiritual gifts exist as well (see 1 Cor 12)
10. Your Gifting is necessary to the body, use your gift faithfully