Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Part Five
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 22, 1999
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
We have been considering the gifts of the Holy Spirit, also known as spiritual gifts or gifts of grace. We have observed that there are two types of gifts--speaking gifts, which are used to minister to the spiritual needs of God's people, and service gifts, which deal especially with meeting the physical needs of God's people. We notice this distinction in 1 Peter 4:11, "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."
In our previous study we examined speaking gifts, but now we want to examine service gifts--gifts given for the purpose of serving the physical needs of God's people--as described in Romans 12:3-8.
Several Greek words are used to refer to these gifts of service. The first word is diakoneô. In its original meaning it means to serve, especially the service of waiting on tables, and it is used in that sense in the New Testament. From that word we also have the words diakonos, meaning deacon, and diakonia, meaning the diaconal ministry.
Next, in 1 Corinthians 12:28 we find the word antilêmpsis, which is translated as helps. The verb is antilambanô, which means to come to the aid of another who is in need.
In Romans 12:8 we find the word metadidous, "He who contributes," from the verb metadidomi, which speaks about the spontaneous, generous contribution of an individual for the needs of others. In the same verse we also find the phrase ho eleôn en hilarotêti, which means one who shows mercy with joy. These four terms are used to refer to the spiritual gifts that are designed to meet the physical needs of God's people.
Before we examine these gifts, I want to say that since the founding of this church, we have taught and practiced these scriptures. Consequently, as a church we are interested in the needs of one another and we help one another when needs arise. In James 2:14-17 we read, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." We try to accompany our faith with action.
Distributing food to poor people was practiced in ancient Judaism. Every Friday the poor of the community would receive money for fourteen meals from the poor basket, and every day strangers would receive food. The officers of the poor would go about from house to house and collect food for this official distribution by the synagogue.
The first word we want to examine is diakonia, the diaconal ministry. The noun is diakonos, and the verb is diakoneô, from which we have the word deacon. It has the meaning of waiting on tables to meet the physical needs of people. This word is used in John 2:5 and 9 in reference to the servants who were commanded by Jesus to fill the water pots and then draw and serve the wine to the guests. It is also used to refer to Peter's mother-in-law who, after Jesus healed her, got up and ministered to Jesus and those with him. It is used in Luke 10:40 in reference to Martha being distracted by all the food preparation that had to be done. So it has the idea of making food, waiting on tables, and providing for people's physical needs.
In Acts 6 we read that the apostles delegated the ministry of food distribution and waiting on tables to seven men who were full of faith, full of wisdom, and full of the Holy Spirit. They were to be in charge of the daily distribution because it would not be right for the apostles to neglect the ministry of the word of God. So they chose Stephen, Philip, and others to provide for the physical needs of God's people in the church.
In the introduction to Paul's letter to the Philippians, we find two kinds of officers of the church: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons." Overseers, or bishops, were the elders and pastors who gave the ministry of the word--the speaking gifts--and deacons, who were in charge of meeting the physical needs of the people of God.
Types of Deacons
It appears there were both male and female deacons, although some people may disagree with the idea of women deacons, or deaconesses. However, when we read Romans 16:1, we are introduced to a sister named Phoebe who was a deacon of the church of Cenchrea. In this church we have both men and women deacons, even though they are not officially so called.
In 1 Timothy 3 we are given the qualifications for deacons. In verses 8-10 we read, "Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons."
In verse 11 we read, "In the same way, their wives. . ." but in the Greek text the word for wives could also be translated deaconesses, so this verse could also be translated, "In the same way, deaconesses are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything." Then in verses 12-13 we read, "A deacon must be the husband of one wife and must manage his children and his household well." This is also a qualification of a minister. "Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus."
In Luke 8 we find some women who were engaged in ministering to the physical needs of Jesus and his apostles: "After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."
In our own church, we have dozens of deacons and deaconesses who all work together in the service of the people of God. These people are not interested in recognition, but their heavenly Father sees them and will surely reward them for their labors.
The Gift of Grace
Such people have received charisma--grace--from God to function in the ways they are functioning. We read about this in Romans 12:6, "We have different gifts according to the grace given us." This is the charisma, the gift of grace.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1 Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches." Paul is not speaking about the grace of salvation but the grace to minister to the spiritual needs of people. And in verses 6 and 7 he writes, "So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us, see that you excel in this grace of giving." In other words, Paul is speaking about the spiritual gift of giving. It is grace given by God to various people in the body of Christ for the benefit of the whole church and ultimately for the glory of God.
In 1 Peter 4:10 we read, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." This diaconal ministry, this gift of meeting the physical needs of God's people, is a charisma from God. It is not our own; it is given to us as a gift.
In 1 Peter 4:11 Peter gives direction to those who have received this gift to serve, to meet the physical needs of people. "If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides . . . ." In other words, we must understand that we have received this gift of grace from God and know that God will abundantly give us strength to serve.
Peter continues, "so that in all things God may be praised." This gift and the strength to function in it is given so that we can minister to the physical needs of the body of Christ--for what purpose? That God may be glorified. This gift is given for the building up of the church.
In Romans 12:6 Paul writes, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us," and then in verse 7 he says, "If it is serving, let him serve." The word is diakoneô. In other words, Paul is saying, "Get with it! Focus upon it! Be faithful in it! Don't neglect it! Be a good and faithful servant in using this gift of serving God has given you." We have all received different gifts of grace, and we must be faithful to exercise those gifts.
The Gift of Helps
The second word we would like to look at is antilêmpsis, from the verb antilambanô. It appears in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and is translated there as "helps."
The gift of helps is one gift that is given to the vast majority of people in the body of Christ. Most people are not apostles or prophets or bishops or a pastors/teachers, but most people do receive the gift of helps.
This word antilambanô means spontaneously coming to the aid of someone in distress or need. It is used in this sense in the Magnificat, the song of Mary recorded in the first chapter of Luke. In Luke 1:46 Mary, filled with the Holy Spirit, says, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." In verse 48 she says, "For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant, and in verse 53 she says, "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich empty away." In verse 54 we find this word antilambanô, "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." In other words, in the fullness of time, God came in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to the aid of miserable sinners like us.
The same word is used by Paul in Acts 20:34-35, where Paul speaks about his hard work for the sake of the gospel. Paul worked with his hands and made money so that he could meet his own needs as well as the needs of others. In verse 34 he says, "You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions," and then in verse 35 he continues, "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help"--that is the word, antilambanô --"we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
This, then, is what antilambanô means. We are given this grace, this charisma, this gift of God, so that when we see the need and misery of someone in the body of Christ, we run to help that person spontaneously, without having to be told by someone else to do it. The Spirit of God guides us to come to the aid of that person.
Helping the Weak and Needy
We must exercise this gift so that we can help the weak and needy among us. In 1 John 3:16 John writes, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love in words or in tongue but with actions and in truth." In other words, we must not be like those who say, "Yes, I feel your pain," but never lift a finger to help others. John says we must show our love "with actions and in truth."
We find this word antilambanô also in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, in 2 Chronicles 28. During the reign of Ahaz, who was a wicked king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, attacked Judah. Pekah's army killed 120,000 soldiers, and took 200,000 wives, sons and daughters as slaves as well as a great deal of plunder on his way back to Samaria.
But God sent a prophet named Oded who urged the Israelites to show mercy to Judah. So some leaders of Ephraim confronted those who were arriving from the war. In 2 Chronicles 28, beginning with verse 14 we read, "So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly. The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow countrymen at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria."
The Israelites helped these captives in their physical need and misery. They ran to their aid to help them. That is the meaning of this word antilambanô, the gift of helps.
The Gift of Contributing to the Needs of Others
The third word we should look at is found in Romans 12, metadidomi, which means to contribute. Certain people in the church are given the gift of contributing generously, freely, and spontaneously. This is not speaking about the regular contribution that all God's people make, but the charismatic gift of giving.
Some people are always tight-fisted. It is so difficult for them to open up their hands and give anything, and they are always thinking how they can get something from others. But I have seen other people who are always open-handed, who always give to others without regard to their own well-being.
I had a grandfather who was always giving. My parents warned me not to emulate him, but when I became a Christian, I also began to practice this great gift, and throughout my life I have proved that what we read in Proverbs 11:24 is true: "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but comes to poverty." Jesus taught the same thing in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
How to Give
Jesus instructed us how to exercise this gift of giving. In Matthew 6:1-2 he says, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men." That is what these people did. "Ring bells, blow trumpets," they would say, "to let everybody know that I am giving gifts to God and others." Jesus continues, "I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." So we are to give, not before men, not to be seen by men, not to be honored by men, but before God, who sees it secretly and who will reward us.
We have a classic example of this type of giving in Luke 21. There we find a very poor widow coming to the temple to worship. This woman was so poor that she had only two mites, which were two small copper coins of very little value. There were three options open to her. First, she could come to God and say, "God, you know that I am a widow and don't have much, so I know you do not expect me to give you anything at all. I know you understand all of that." Or she could have given fifty percent--one mite. But, you see, I believe this woman had this gift of contributing, so what did she do? She gave everything she had to the temple. The Lord Jesus Christ was observing her and he commended her, saying, "You know, she gave everything she had--more than any other person. She gave one hundred percent to God."
That is what this spiritual gift means. The Holy Ghost comes upon us and enables us to give without any regard to our own survival, knowing that God will take care of us.
You see, there are only two gods: one is money and the other is the true and living God. Jesus himself said so. We either trust in money or in the true and living God. But Jesus also said where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So when we come to have authentic faith in the triune God, money comes out of us. We lose our grip on it and just give it away. This doesn't mean unbelievers don't give, but when they give, they do so for a certain reason, whether it is to be seen or to be honored by men, or whatever.
Not only is this gift of giving generously a spiritual gift but it is also an indication and declaration that our trust is not in material things, but in God, who created the universe. It is our affirmation that God has come and taken up residence in our life and we know that everything will be all right, no matter what happens to us.
We see this same type of generous giving to the needs of God's church on the day of Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2:42-45. We see the same thing in Acts 4:32-37. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the people of God spontaneously brought monies and possessions to help with the needs of others in the church. The text tells us they even sold land and brought the money, putting it at the apostles' feet so that distributions could be made to meet the needs of the people of God.
So in Romans 12:8 we read, "Ho metadidous en haplotêti", meaning the one who gives, who contributes, must do so--and it is difficult to translate exactly the the phrase en haplotêti. It can mean generously--he must do so generously, without grudging--or it can mean with sincerity, without ulterior motives like Ananias had, as we read in Acts 5:1-11. So the idea is that he who gives, he who has this gift, let him contribute generously, liberality, with only one motive--the glory of God.
The Gift of Showing Mercy with Joy
The fourth word is found in Romans 12:8 also. In the Greek it is, ho eleôn en hilarotêti, meaning the one who shows mercy, let him do so with cheerfulness, with joy, in hilarity. This gift enables an individual to show mercy to the miserable, to the sick, to the dying.
When we show mercy, we are imitating God, who is known as the God of mercy. In Ephesians 2:4 we read that God is rich in mercy, and in 2 Corinthians 1:3 we find God called the Father of compassions and the God of all comfort. In Romans 12 Paul beseeches us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices in view of the great mercies God showed to us. What were the mercies God showed us? We were powerless, we were sinners, we were ungodly, we were enemies of God--wretched, poor, dying, miserable--and yet Christ died for us.
God wants us to show mercy, in other words, because he himself is merciful. In Hosea 6:6 God tells his people, "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice." And in Micah 6:8--this famous verse which is, again, a summary of the whole law as far as I am concerned--we read,"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
We see the gift of mercy exercised in the parable of the good Samaritan as recorded in Luke 10:25-37. A merchant was caught by robbers and left lying on the road, stripped and beaten, helpless and dying. A priest came past him, but he did not show mercy. Then a Levite came, but he did not show mercy either. But then a Samaritan came, and we are told that the Samaritan took pity on the wounded man. In the Greek the word splagchnizomai is used, which means being moved to the bowels of mercy, showing true compassion, truly feeling the pain of another. This Samaritan got down from his donkey, bandaged the man's wounds, took him to an inn, and paid for his care. That is what mercy is all about.
We find this idea also in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus declared, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
Jesus also gave an illustration about showing mercy in Matthew 25:35-36. Speaking to those who are on his right side, he said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." And those on the right asked the King when did these things happen. "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.'" That is where this gift comes into play.
So Romans 12:8 tells us "the one showing mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness, with joy"--in other words, not grudgingly, not harshly, not patronizingly. It is a terrible thing to show mercy with a patronizing spirit. We should always remember that God showed mercy to us as sinners, as miserable people. We must always keep in mind that we are simul justus et peccator--at the same time justified and sinners. That type of knowledge should enable us to rejoice in the privilege of showing mercy to those who are in misery. Then we can fulfill what we read in Proverbs 17:22, "A cheerful heart is good medicine."
Mother Teresa possessed this gift of showing mercy with joy. She came from Yugoslavia to Calcutta and began a work among the poor and dying people of that city. You see, the people in Calcutta were not caring for these people. It is Christianity that cares. So this woman showed mercy to the poor, to the sick, to the dying, going about collecting them into homes, ministering to them while they were still alive, and burying them when they died.
May We Exercise These Gifts!
These, then, are the gifts God has given the church to meet the physical needs of his people. May God help us to continue exercising these gifts of God's grace so that the church may be strengthened and built up and, above all, so that God, who has given us these graces, may be glorified. Amen.
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Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
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