Spiritual Gifts Part Two
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, October 30, 2011
Copyright © 2011, P. G. Mathew
The Importance of Spiritual Gifts
Concerning the lack of spiritual gifts in his day, John Calvin, known as the theologian of the Holy Spirit, said, "Today we see our own slender resources, our poverty in fact; but this is undoubtedly the punishment we deserve, as the reward for our ingratitude. For God's riches are not exhausted, nor has His liberality grown less; but we are not worthy of His largess, or capable of receiving all that he generously gives."1
The Bible does not teach that spiritual gifts (charismata) have ceased. It does teach that the imperfect (i.e., the spiritual gifts) will cease when Jesus Christ comes again, when we see him face to face. I argued this in my dissertation at Westminster Seminary, and many theologians today agree with me. This was also Calvin's position. The Holy Spirit counsels us in the Bible to desire earnestly spiritual gifts. James tells us, "You do not have because you do not ask God" (Jas. 4:2).
When the Holy Spirit is poured out, spiritual gifts are also poured out. I personally witnessed such manifestation of spiritual gifts when the Holy Spirit was poured out in revival more than sixty years ago in South India. As a woman was singing in the worship service, the spirit of prophecy came upon another person, revealing that this woman was living an immoral life. She confessed that she was, in fact, living a life of sin. I also witnessed demons being cast out, people speaking in foreign languages that they did not know, the sick being healed, and sinners repenting and being saved.
In this time when the church refuses to believe the Scriptures, when a Laodicean spirit prevails that says, "We have need of nothing," when many churchgoers are rich only materially while steeped in the theology of unbelief, and when Christians refuse to desire earnestly spiritual gifts, it is no wonder we do not see spiritual gifts in the church. But God is sovereign, and he pours out the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts as he sees fit in times of revival.
I believe that no apostles or prophets exist today whose word is infallible and universally authoritative. Ephesians 2:20 proves this. Yet I also believe the Lord of the church grants certain spiritual gifts to meet the many needs of his church. The manifestation of these spiritual gifts does not add anything to the revelation which ended with the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. God may raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out the demons, and give revelations to people that they may prophesy. When he does these things, it only proves that God is sovereign and does what he pleases to meet the needs of his people.
The self-satisfied will never experience spiritual gifts, for they put their trust in money. But the church needs spiritual gifts to build herself up until her Lord comes again in glory, as we read in the following scriptures:
1 Corinthians 1:7: "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed."
1 Corinthians 13:10: "but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears." That is speaking about the coming of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 14:12: "So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."
Ephesians 4:7: "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."
Ephesians 4:16: "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
1 Peter 4:10: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its [multifaceted form]."
The Bible says we are not to neglect spiritual gifts but to fan them into flame by constant use. Paul instructed Timothy, "Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you" (1 Tim. 4:14); "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim. 1:6).
Spiritual gifts are necessary tools for ministry. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wisely counseled, "One of the greatest dangers, it always seems to me, is to interpret the Scriptures in the light of our experience, instead of testing our experience by the teaching of Scripture."2 We must return to the principle of sola Scriptura in this matter of spiritual gifts. Dr. Lloyd-Jones cites historical evidence of John Welsh, son-in-law of John Knox, raising a woman from the dead. Welsh, along with Alexander Peden, also prophesied events that later happened in Scotland.3
Spiritual gifts are discussed in at least six places in the Bible: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11; and 1 Corinthians 7:7, which lists two spiritual gifts, marriage and celibacy.
There are ordinary (non-miraculous) and extraordinary (miraculous) spiritual gifts. All spiritual gifts are gifts of grace measured out to the church by the triune God so that the church may be built up as each believer faithfully exercises his gifts for the common good. In the Bible we do not find one exhaustive list of all spiritual gifts. For instance, we don't read about skill in music, but it is a spiritual gift. No one is to bury his gift; rather, he must faithfully use it for the building up of the church. There is a temptation when we have only one talent to bury it, but we must not do that. Paul says we must think soberly (Rom. 12:3) to discover our spiritual gifts. The text tells us we are able to do so by the Spirit's help. We must then exercise our gifts in humility, in faith, and in love for the glory of God and the benefit of the church. For example, Paul knew he was an apostle and he used his apostolic gifts faithfully to benefit the whole church. But no apostles exist today in the primary sense.
Each believer has been given different spiritual gifts to meet the varied needs of the church. A spiritual gift is a Spirit-given ability to minister for the building up of the church. All believers, not just pastors, have spiritual gifts, because one person cannot do all the work necessary for building up God's church; all must work together. So we want to consider the seven gifts listed in this passage.
The Gift of Prophecy
We do not find a clear definition of prophecy in the Bible. Some say it is preaching; others say it is foretelling the future. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says prophecy is "inspired delivery of warning, exhortation, instruction, judging, and making manifest the secrets of the heart."4
Harold Camping of Family Radio proved himself to be a false prophet. He predicted the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011, and the end of the world would occur October 21, 2011. He was very sure of these dates, though the Scripture clearly teaches that no one knows the date of Christ's return. But he thought he received from God the most clear and latest understanding. Now he has joined a large company of false prophets of church history. Jesus said, "And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people" (Matt. 24:11). Camping was a deceiver of God's church. Yet no true elect person will be deceived. So those who are deceived by him are not members of the true church.
A true prophecy never contradicts the Scripture; rather, it always agrees with the Scriptures. So we read, "If anyone prophesies, let him prophesy in proportion to his faith" (Rom. 12:6). This word "faith" can be seen both objectively and subjectively. That is, a man must prophesy in light of the word of God as well as with the confidence God gives him. His prophecy must agree with the Scriptures and he must speak only what he has been given, not more or less.
This spiritual gift of prophecy is not infallible.5 The person who receives a revelation directly from God expresses it in human, fallible words, unlike the holy apostles and prophets, who constituted the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). Their words alone are infallible Scripture.
When one preaches in the church, other elders are to examine what he preached to see whether he interpreted the Scripture correctly. In the same way, when people prophesied in the church of Corinth, because their words were not infallible, others weighed their message to see whether what they were saying was in accord with the gospel. So Paul says, "Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "˜Jesus be cursed,' and no one can say, "˜Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3). He also writes, "Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop" (1 Cor. 14:29-30).
Paul exhorts, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything; hold on to what is good" (1 Thess. 5:19-21). This tells us one can prophesy what is not good. John writes, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Not all "inspired" utterances are inspired by the Holy Spirit. I have seen people speak by demon inspiration, especially in counseling situations. A pastor recently told me about demon-inspired speech that he experienced in a church he was visiting. Someone came to him and said he saw a vision in which this pastor was ministering in a foreign country. The pastor looked at the man and said, "I am not going to that country." The "prophet" did not know what to say. He discovered he could not manipulate this man who knows the word of God.
The evil spirit deceives those who are ignorant of the Scriptures and mentally lazy. To judge prophecies, we should know clearly the standard of judgment, the whole word of God. Most churches today are ignorant of the gospel. They preach a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different Spirit. As a result, error prevails and Satan rules in these churches.
Error prevails also in most charismatic churches, which claim to have an abundance of spiritual gifts, but only preach health, wealth, and power. They have no word and no Holy Spirit. They prophesy to please people, twisting the word of God to make money.
One who prophesies must exercise his gift within the limits of faith and be restricted to his own sphere and purpose. This rule applies to the exercise of every spiritual gift. One who prophesies speaks by the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit in his own words for the benefit of the church.
Both men and women can exercise this gift of prophecy. I include women because I believe in the principle of sola Scriptura. Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, "No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "˜In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy'" (Acts 2:16-18). Paul instructs, "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head-it is just as though her head were shaved" (1 Cor. 11:4-5). Elsewhere he says, "For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged" (1 Cor. 14:31).
The Gift of Service
The second spiritual gift mentioned in this passage is diakonia, from which we have the word deacon. It means service. This is especially speaking of the service the church renders to help the poor. Diakonia refers to the menial job of waiting on tables. In other words, there is subservience, a lack of status, associated with this gift. Yet Jesus himself waited on tables and served his disciples. He was the suffering servant Isaiah spoke about. The word can also mean ministry in general as well as preaching of the gospel. But here diakonia refers to help given to the poor by the church. It is a non-miraculous spiritual gift.
Acts 6:1-4 speaks about the equal distribution of food for all poor Jewish widows in the church, both Grecian and Hebraic. The apostles chose seven deacons-men full of wisdom, faith, and the Holy Spirit-to do this necessary service so that the apostles could focus on prayer and the ministry of the word.
Many who are very gifted find it difficult to exercise this lowly gift. They crave the more glamorous jobs in the church. But Paul says, "If a man's gift is serving, let him serve," and he should do so wholeheartedly.
I remember a young man from a low caste who converted and became an itinerant preacher. He used to do all sorts of lowly jobs before to make a living. But after he became a preacher, he changed. When he came to visit me once, there was a sudden rainstorm. Others began to work hard to bring things in from the rain. But this man did nothing. After all, he was now a preacher! He would not lower himself to do lowly tasks, even though he saw me and all the others working.
Mary, Martha, and other women worked to help support Jesus and his disciples (see Luke 8:1-3). Paul himself did the work of a deacon by collecting money for the poor people in Jerusalem. He also worked as a skilled laborer to support himself and others. Paul told the Ephesian elders, "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: "˜It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35). He wrote to the Thessalonians, "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thess. 5:14).
In the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28, we find a gift called antilêmpseis, which means "helps." It also speaks of humble service to the poor. Peter divides spiritual gifts into two broad categories: speaking gifts and service gifts. To those with service gifts, Peter counsels, "If anyone serves, he should do it in the strength that God [continuously supplies], so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 4:11). Therefore, if we are called to be deacons to do hard work, we must work with the strength which God also provides.
In a true church, people are always working hard. Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This means, as Paul said, we are able to do all things through him who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13). God divides up gifts, and he continuously supplies us with the Holy Spirit power to perform these gifts of service. Jesus himself said, "And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). We read in 1 Timothy 3 the necessary qualifications for diaconal service. This church is a model for such diaconal service. There are many people here with this spiritual gift of humble service.
The Gift of Teaching
The third gift is teaching. The one who prophesies speaks in human words what God has revealed to him. But the teacher (ho didaskÃ´n) passes on truth that is revealed and preserved in the church. In the early church, there were few books, and most people were poor and uneducated. So teachers taught as enabled by the Spirit what they themselves had strenuously studied-the Old Testament and the apostolic teaching of the gospel.
Teacher is one of the five offices Christ gave to the building up of the church (Eph. 4:11). A teacher, therefore, must study hard; he cannot be intellectually lazy. He must study God's word, not just theological writings about the Bible, and not at all popular Christian books, as many modern ministers do, because the Bible says, "What is popular with the world is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). How dare a preacher not preach the Bible in Sunday worship services!
In Timothy 3:2, Paul gives the qualifications of a minister, an elder, a bishop; one requirement is that he must be able to teach. In the King James Version, 2 Timothy 2:15 begins, "Study to show thyself approved." The New International translates it, "Do your best." But our best is not God's best. We say to a child, "I know you are lazy, but try to do your best." But when Paul says, "Do your best," he is really saying, "Work and study hard." What is the purpose? "to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles [interprets] the word of truth." The early church devoted herself to the apostolic teaching, unlike today, when there is a famine of real preaching.
Jesus directed his disciples to teach their disciples "to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). The Bible reveals Jesus to us. A teacher in the church must himself know Jesus experimentally so that he can teach others so they, in turn, will come to know, trust, and follow Christ. Faith comes by the knowledge of the word. So Paul directs Timothy, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress" (1 Tim. 4:13-15). He also declares, "And of this gospel I was appointed [a preacher] a herald and an apostle and a teacher" (2 Tim. 1:11); "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Tim. 2:2). He writes, "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9).
To the Ephesian elders, Paul said, "You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. . . . Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock" (Acts 20:20, 28-29). It is feeding the flock by the word of God that will keep them healthy and strong and able to oppose all errors. So Paul concludes, "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
The office of a teacher is very important and appears in five of the lists of spiritual gifts. A teacher teaches, appealing to the mind. The pastor is also a teacher. A teacher may not be a pastor, but a pastor must always be a teacher. If the pastor is not teaching the Bible, he is not a true pastor, and his church is not a true church but a synagogue of Satan. The preaching and teaching of the word is the first and most important mark of a true church, in which the pastor feeds the sheep by the ministry of the word.
Ask God to give you a hunger and thirst for the gospel truth! Then you will not be deceived by false prophets and teachers. There are always fools whose business is to try to deceive the people of God, if possible.
The Gift of Encouraging
The word for encouragement is paraklêsis, from which we get paraclete-one who stands by our side to help us. (PGM) An exhorter is one who encourages people with short, pointed messages as the Spirit directs to meet the needs of the church. We all need encouragement. We get easily discouraged as we face trials and persecutions.
The Scripture alone gives us encouragement. Nothing in this world can encourage us-not politics, not psychology, not philosophy, not science. God encourages us by his word: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
If we want to be encouragers or exhorters, we need to know the Scriptures. If we are empty-headed and lazy, or if we do not read the Bible to understand it, or if we ourselves refuse to be encouraged by the Scriptures, we cannot encourage anyone. The Scriptures alone are our source of encouragement and comfort.
The Holy Spirit is called another Comforter, Counselor, or Defense Attorney. Jesus said, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [Comforter] Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17). He also said, "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say" (Luke 12:11-12). We see this happening in the book of Acts. After the lame beggar was healed, Peter was brought before the Sanhedrin. Then we read, "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people!" (Acts 4:8). The Holy Spirit immediately filled him.
The Holy Spirit is with us forever. Even when we sin and stumble and fall, the Holy Spirit is with us. He grieves and helps us and convicts us of our sin and tells us to repent, and he picks us up. The Holy Spirit gives us comfort by directing our minds to the Scriptures.
Jesus also is our Comforter. When he said, "I will give you another Comforter," it tells us that Jesus is the first Comforter. Jesus Christ, the one who speaks to the Father, is also our Paraklête. So John declares, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (1 John 2:1). God the Father also is our Comforter. Paul writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4, also vv. 5-7).
I have experienced such comfort from God. One time when I was disappointed and discouraged about an important issue, I was sitting in my parents' kitchen in India. My mother looked at me and said, "The Lord will take care of you." The word came into me, and I was strengthened. I never doubted that matter again.
In life and in death, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit comforts us especially through the Scripture and through the ministry of those who have the gift of encouragement. This comforting ministry also takes place when God's people, especially leaders, counsel us to help solve our problems.
Teaching is directed to the mind, while exhortation and encouragement is especially aimed to the heart, to the conscience, to the will. The apostles gave Joseph, a Levite, the name Barnabas ("Son of Encouragement") because he was an encourager. He encouraged Paul when he came to Jerusalem as a believer in Jesus. When no one else trusted the new convert, Barnabas did, and encouraged him.
It was the custom in the synagogue worship to invite someone to speak a word of comfort from the scripture that was read. When Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth, he was asked to give a word of comfort from the text. "The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "˜The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "˜Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:17-21). In other words, Jesus was saying, "Today in me salvation and freedom has come for you." What comfort!
When Paul arrived in Pisidian Antioch on his first missionary journey, he was asked to give a word of comfort: "After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, "˜Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak'" (Acts 13:15). Paul preached the gospel. What was the reaction? "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). Every time we gather together, we bring a word of comfort and encouragement for those who want it. If Scripture is the medium of comfort, and the triune God comforts us through the Scripture, the church where the word is not preached is a dark, hopeless, godless, and miserable place indeed. Therefore, only go where the word is preached, that you may be truly encouraged.
The Gift of Contributing/Sharing
Paul then says, "If your ministry is contributing [or sharing, in the Greek] let him do so with singleness of purpose" (v. 8). We are to contribute without ulterior motive, generously.
We can illustrate this gift from an incident in this church. There was a dying young black man whose kidneys were not functioning. The Holy Spirit guided a godly white sister in the Lord to share one of her good kidneys with him. A doctor in our church worked very hard to transplant this kidney successfully. As a result, the young man is now living. That is sharing.
This gift speaks of one who shares under the Spirit's guidance one's own resources for the benefit of the poor and needy, doing so without ulterior motive and with generosity. I saw this manifested when I was a boy. One day my father sat down to eat his supper. Then suddenly the Holy Spirit brought to his mind a believer friend of his who had nothing to eat. My father immediately took his supper and walked a mile and gave it to his friend. My father was so happy that he could share.
There are references to this gift throughout the Scriptures:
John the Baptist told those who came to be baptized, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same" (Luke 3:11).
Jesus said, "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" (Luke 6:38). This is called divine passive, that God is the one pouring into our laps.
Of the early church we read, "Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. . . . Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 2:45; 4:36-37).
In Luke 21:1-3 we read, "As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "˜I tell you the truth,' he said, "˜this poor widow has put in more than all the others.'" This is contributing generously.
Paul writes about the poor churches of Macedonia, "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2 Cor. 8:2).
Paul instructed Timothy, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" (1 Tim. 6:17-9).
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?" (1 John 3:16-17).
James says, "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" (James 2:16-17).
Every spiritual gift is exercised by love, humility, and faith. Some Christians may say, "Forget about spiritual gifts; let us study 1 Corinthians 13." But it is not a question of love or spiritual gifts; it is love and spiritual gifts. We are to exercise spiritual gifts in love.
The Gift of Leadership
The sixth gift Paul lists is leadership, which is especially important today. Where have all the men gone? From the 1960s on, it is hard to find men. Since the rise of feminism, most men have become pathetically passive. But Paul writes, "If it is leadership, let him govern diligently." Ho proistamenos means the one who stands before people, which is related to kubernêseis (the gift of governing) in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Some people have this gift.
The church needs people who can rule. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule the people of God, and God gave him wisdom and knowledge to govern. A leader needs these qualities. So Paul says, "If your gift is governing, let him do [en spoudê]"- diligently, vigilantly, earnestly, not negligently, being always watchful, knowing what to do and when to do. Too many men weep and moan and do nothing. They cannot command, rule, or govern.
If you are a father, you have a right to go to God and pray, "God, I am a father. Give me the gift of rulership." If you are a husband, pray, "I am a husband. Give me the gift of rulership. I am supposed to rule." God will give you a divine spine so that you can stand up and say something.
A leader must govern with eagerness. It is a very heavy responsibility. A man cannot be a pastor or an elder if he fails to rule, govern, and manage his own family (1 Tim. 3) because if he fails to manage his family, he will mismanage the church, the family of God. A leader's children should not be wild and disobedient, but believing (Titus 1:6). If a man does not manage his family, it will be like an unbound book-sheets flying off, confusion, and chaos, with no one listening to anyone else. Bad leadership destroys a family, a church, a business, and a nation.
So Paul writes, "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you" (1 Thess. 5:12). Managing is hard work. Notice, these leaders are over the people in the Lord, as appointed by God himself. Elsewhere he says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (1 Tim 5:17). He exhorted the Ephesian leaders, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). The Lord Jesus Christ gave some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The Lord gives pastors as a gift to the church, not to be despised, but to prepare God's people for works of service through the preaching of the word, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:11-16).
There are no more infallible offices of apostle and prophets, but the office of pastor/teacher continues in the church. The job of these leaders is to interpret correctly by the power of the Holy Spirit the Scriptures and apply them to the life of the church. They are also to govern the church according to the word of God. So we are admonished, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. . . . Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Heb. 13:7, 17). Peter writes, "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Peter 5:1-4). This tells us that members of a church are under the pastor and are entrusted to him, and he must be an example to them.
The Gift of Mercy
Paul concludes, "He who shows mercy, let him do so with cheerfulness." God has shown mercy to us and saved us from eternal death, as we read in Ephesians 2:4-5: "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive." Paul also says, "Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden. . . . What if he did this to make the riches of his mercy known to the objects of his mercy?" (Rom. 9:18, 23). We didn't deserve anything. Elsewhere he says, "Just as you who were at one time were disobedient to God have now received mercy, and as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all" (Rom. 11:30-32). He also says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercies" (Rom. 12:1).
We were shown mercy; therefore, we must show mercy. We are to show mercy freely and voluntarily as led by the Spirit. Show mercy especially to the household of faith. Show mercy to the poor, sick, orphans, widows, aliens, elderly, disabled, and dying.
We have a couple in our church who have been ministering to the elderly for years, joyfully, and without receiving any money for their labor. In this church, we show mercy as the Scripture teaches, including caring for the sick and dying. We do so, not grudgingly, not with a downcast attitude, nor with a grim determination to get through an unpleasant task, but with cheerfulness and radiant joy, in view of God's mercy to us. We remember that the basis of all spiritual gift ministries is God's grace and mercy to us.
So in Romans 12:3 Paul says, "For by the grace given me," and in verse 6 he writes, "We have different gifts according to the grace given us." Peter says, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its [multifaceted form]" (1 Pet. 4:10).
Listen to what Jesus said:
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matt. 25:34-40)
When we show mercy to a believer, we are showing mercy to Jesus himself. Good works do not earn salvation, but the saved prove their salvation by good works.
Grace is the basis for all spiritual gifts.
It is the triune God who distributes every spiritual gift.
Spiritual gifts are necessary to meet the many needs of the church.
So spiritual gifts will continue to operate until the return of Christ in glory to usher us from a state of imperfection to perfection.
Every true believer receives at least one spiritual gift for him to minister to the church.
One-man ministry is absolutely false and unscriptural. The pastor is not called to do everything.
The church grows to maturity only when each believer serves the community diligently with his spiritual gift. Thus, every believer is to discover what his spiritual gift is by sober thinking. "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it" (Eph. 4:7). "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Eph. 4:16). It is not a one-man ministry. Everyone is involved in the building up of Christ's church by receiving grace from the Head, Christ, and every member is using it to build up Christ's church.
1 John Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, trans. by J. W. Fraser, edit. by D. W. Torrance and T. F. Torrance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979 reprint), 305.
2 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 12: Christian Conduct (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2000), 227.
3 Lloyd-Jones, Christian Conduct, 230.
4 Lloyd-Jones, quoting Vincent's Word Studies in Christian Conduct, 236.
5 See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1049-1061, especially 1052-1055.
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Copyright © 2011, P. G. Mathew
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