The Bible speaks frequently in the New Testament of spiritual gifts. The main places that these are discussed are 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. I get the title of this blog largely from Romans 12:4-8 which says:
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."
So we see that all of us Christians ARE part of the body of Christ, but we do not all serve the same function, the same role, the same purpose. We do share the same ultimate purpose- glorifying God, but the way we do this is different according to the spiritual gifts that God has given us. In verse 6, God commands us to use the gifts that have been given to us by grace, whether that be prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, or showing mercy.
When we bring in the other passages that speak about spiritual gifts and their purpose, such as 1 Cor. 12, we begin to see the full picture of the spiritual gifts and why God gives certain gifts to certain people. Notice 1 Cor. 12:14-26
14 "For in fact the body is not one member but many.Here we see that God has made things so that we all have differing spiritual gifts, and that God has made each spiritual gift an honorable one. Therefore, we should not be envious of someone else's spiritual gift, nor should we brag about our spiritual gift, as if ours were more important than some other person's spiritual gift. The body is just as dependent, if not more dependent, on the feet and the hands as it is the eyes and the nose. So there is an interdependency amongst the spiritual gifts. We all need each other to function properly and to properly honor God and be the body of Christ.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 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? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 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.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 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, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."
The implications are huge. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 goes on to say that there are apostles, prophets, teachers, and after that miracles and then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and varieties of tongues. Paul then points out that not all of us are going to be apostles or prophets or teachers or miracle workers. Not all of us will have the gift of healing or speak with tongues, and then Paul leads in to chapter 13 by showing us a more excellent way, and this more excellent way is to do all that we do, whether teaching or prophesying or being full of faith and a person of prayer or feeding the poor or being martyred, with love. Christian love. So we must not only find out what our calling and spiritual gift is and do it, but we must do it in a loving way. We must have the right heart attitude and motivations for doing what we are doing, or else what we are doing, no matter how much outward good it may appear to bring, is not pleasing in the sight of God.
We have not been desiring that God manifest His glory through all the various gifts. Too often, our attitudes and demands of others show that we expect and want God to manifest His glory through our particular spiritual gift only, or even perhaps that the only way God can show His glory is through our spiritual gift.
There should be unity in diversity when it comes to our gifts and particular callings and ministries. Those who teach and preach the Word of God, and those who are more inclined towards gifts of ministering to the needy and poor and sick should not be pitted against one another, as if they are serving to different causes or have two different agendas. Does not true, biblical teaching and preaching seek, in part, to proclaim the true doctrine of how we are to minister to others, both believers and unbelievers, and why we are to minister to others, both believers and unbelievers? And is not true that right biblical thinking by preachers and teachers is what leads to right biblical living and ministering by the body of Christ?
Also, it should be noted that there are the offices of both deacon and elder in the church. Deacons are servants, dealing more with the monies and ministering of the local church, and elders have more to do with the teaching and spiritual oversight of things. These two offices are part of the same body of Christ and are ultimately dependant on one another to function properly and to rightly glorify God. Yet how often are these two offices pitted against one another! Those who are inclined to teach and deal with theology often turn their noses up at those who are just out there living out the faith, and those who are out there on the streets ministering to the poor and needy often turn their noses up at the theologians and preachers, accusing them of not being passionate enough about living out the faith!
I think there is a key point that both sides are missing and that is this- SOME have been called primarily to minister to the believers, the church, while SOME have primarily been called to minister to the unchurched, the unbelievers. This does not mean that those who have been giving teaching gifts, or gifts primarily for the edification of believers (see Ephesians 4, particularly verse 12) are "freed" from the call to share the gospel to unbelievers, or to extend mercy and compassion to others. However, the truth is, there are some who are called to spend the great majority of their time and their lives honoring God by teaching His people the truths of His Word, and it is the job of the sheep, the flock, to listen and obey their shepherds, ordained by God.
There is a reason we minister to the poor and needy, but I will bet you the reason is not what you think. There is a reason that God has called us to preach the gospel to every nation and to do good to all, but I bet the reason we are to do so is not what you think, at least not fully. Remember, we are to do all things for God's glory, and the only way we can do all things for God's glory is not simply by doing what He says, but by doing what He says with love, and to do what He says with love means to rightly see the reason that we do what He has commanded us to do and to rejoice and delight and praise God for the reason that we are doing it.
In other words, if we are doing outwardly what is right without understanding, or for the wrong reasons, we are not functioning properly as the body of Christ. And this is precisely why teachers and pastors are needed. Many today want to do away with theology and orthodoxy and just do orthopraxy. Instead of talking about what to do, just do it is the philosophy of the day. The problem with that is the assumption that we actually know both what we are to do and why we are to do it. This is a bad assumption. I thought I knew quite a bit about this Christian life and about God before I became a Calvinist, but once I saw the doctrines of grace I quickly realized I had a very very shallow understanding of the gospel itself!
Another important point- God has created us in such a way that the truth and knowledge of why we do what we do gives us a delight in the doing (the carrying out) of what we do. The more, the clearer, the better we understand why we are doing what we are doing, the more our delight will be in serving God and serving others. Further, our delight and joy in living for Christ and living for others will not only be magnified, but we will also do it rightly more consistently. We will better know how to respond and react and treat others, both believers and unbelievers, when we study the word and listen to the word of God being preached. And the depths and riches of Scripture are so great that we do need some whom God has gifted to spend their whole lives searching His Word for these great, hidden truths so that they can be proclaimed to the sheep. And we also need those who are gifted as evangelists and have a special heart for the poor and needy to spend the great portion of their lives proclaiming the gospel to these people, denying themselves of modern comforts and living amongst these people proclaiming the good news of the gospel to them. This is why some are called to be missionaries, some pastors, and some are simply called to live a regular 9-5 job and just be good sheep, listening to their pastors, studying Scripture, raising their children in the ways of the Lord, and influencing those in their own sphere.
Now, next time, I am going to discuss what I think will be the actual controversial part of this mini-series. And that is going to be on why we minister to unbelievers, both spiritually and physically. I need time to fully gather my thoughts on that and gather the verses that illustrate what I will be trying to say. All I ask is that you let Scripture speak for itself. If you do this, I am convinced you will see that I am only echoing what God's Word itself teaches and commands us.