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The Stewardship of Talents

Multiplying the Life Through Our Spiritual Gifts

Introduction

For years, the body of Christ, the church, has been hampered by a clergy mentality that makes a strong distinction between the professional clergy and the lay person. This clergy or minister mentality fails to see and function under the New Testament truth that every believer is a ministering priest who is to be ministering for the common good of the body of Christ according to the gifts God has given him.

I have had the privilege of pastoring several independent Bible teaching churches over a period of 28 years. While some of the people attending these churches were new converts, many came from different denominational backgrounds and naturally possessed the typical view of the local church and its pastor. On a few occasions, I had people introduce me to their friends as their “minister.” In other words, they saw me as “the Minister” or “the Pastor” who was there as the paid professional to preach, teach, counsel, visit, and keep the administrative wheels running smoothly.

As the chapters that follow will seek to show, believers individually and the church as a whole exist to be good stewards of the truth of God in evangelism and discipleship through the exercise of the gifted members of the body of Christ. We exist for the mission of penetrating the world and building believers so that they become healthy ministering saints. And while other factors hurt this mission, certainly one very large contributing factor is the “clergy/layman, retailer/consumer” mentality that is so prevalent in our society. The idea of becoming a mission-oriented church with every believer a minister scares people. They are much more comfortable with the concept of paying others to do the work of ministry for them. But the New Testament teaches us that church leaders are to be like coaches who should be training others for the work of ministry according to the spiritual gifts of each believer.

Ephesians 4:11-16 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. 15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

This clergy/layman mentality has produced a crisis in the church today that is having serious consequences on the spiritual health of the body of Christ. Concerning this condition Hull writes:

The evangelical church has become weak, flabby, and too dependent on artificial means that can only simulate real spiritual power. Churches are too little like training centers to shape up the saints and too much like cardiopulmonary wards at the local hospital. We have proliferated self-indulgent consumer religion, the what-can-the-church-do-for-me-syndrome. We are too easily satisfied with conventional success: bodies, bucks, and buildings.123

Hull continues:

What obvious truth causes the saints to squirm? Simply this: the church exists for mission. The church lives by mission as fire exists by oxygen. The church does not exist for itself. This collides head-on with the self-indulgent ego-driven psycho-babble mentality that dominates evangelicalism. Look at the best-selling Christian books, listen to the television evangelist, talk to the average parishioner; the common thread is preoccupation with felt needs … the preoccupation and prioritizing of felt needs over Christ-commanded activity must stop.124

There are two purposes for this chapter: (a) to demonstrate from Scripture that every Christian, as a member of the body of Christ, is a believer priest whom God has gifted for the purpose of ministry, and (b) to encourage the discovery and exercise of one’s spiritual gifts for ministry to the church and in the world. Only then will we become good stewards of God’s grace since recognizing and using our gifts is a very important part of being good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us.

The Apostle Peter challenges us with our mission as God’s people in 1 Peter 2:9 which says:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

But vital to our ability to proclaim the excellencies of God is Peter’s word to us in 1 Peter 4:10-11.

Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

For reasons of time and space, and in keeping with the purposes just mentioned, this study will not attempt to discuss, at least in detail, some of the more difficult subjects of spiritual gifts as: Are all the gifts listed in the New Testament in operation today such as the miraculous gifts of miracles and healings, or tongues and interpretation of tongues, etc. (the cessationist versus the non-cessationist issue)? Are the gifts listed in the New Testament just illustrative of the kinds of gifts God has given, or, when combined together, do they give us an exhaustive list of the gifts God has given to the body of Christ? Though the cessationist issue will be briefly mentioned, a detailed discussion of these issues is beyond the scope of this study. The goal here is to awaken believers to who they are in Christ (gifted servant/priests) and to encourage them to become functional for the Master as His ambassadors in a hurting and fallen world.

Key Passages on Spiritual Gifts

Romans 12:3-8 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. 4 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, 5 so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. 6 And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; 8 if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.

Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

1 Peter 4:10-11 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6 Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands.

Stewardship Principles From Scripture

1 Peter 4:10-11

Verse 10. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.

(1) The word “gift” is the Greek word, carisma, which means “a gift of grace, a free gift.” It is especially used of special spiritual abilities given by the Spirit for God to enable Christians to serve the body of Christ. They are grace gifts sovereignly given by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4, 11, 18). A friend of mine put it like this: “ Spiritual gifts are those endowments of power which enable us to carry out the vital functions of our body life in Christ as members of His body. These endowments are a supernatural enablement so that supernatural results are produced.”125

(2) All believers have at least one spiritual gift. There can be no fudging here. Regardless of what you may think, God’s Word teaches us that every Christian has a spiritual gift. The same truth is expressed by Paul in Romans 12:6 and 1 Corinthians 12:7. At the point of salvation, when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, we become members of the body of Christ by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit who places us into union with Christ. According to the analogy portrayed in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, each believer becomes a gifted member, like an arm, or a foot, or an eye with ability and a function to perform. This is a matter of grace and the sovereign work and choice of the Spirit, never our merit or works (1 Cor. 12:4, 11, 18).

(3) Our gifts are to be viewed as a stewardship for which we are responsible as “good (Greek: kalos, noble, praiseworthy, useful) stewards.” The word “steward” is the Greek oikonomos, “a manager or servant of a household.” The management activity usually involved financial transactions requiring a careful accounting of funds received and disbursed. The concept of responsibility then extended to non-financial matters. So a steward is not an owner. Instead, he is a manager of what belongs to another and is held responsible to carefully account for his stewardship.

The parable of the faithful and sensible steward in Luke 12:41-48 illustrates the issues involved here. The steward of this passage was responsible to see that all the other servants were properly fed, but his performance was subject to review by his master with the possibilities of reward or loss based on his faithfulness. In verse 48, the word “entrusted” is used in connection with the concept of stewardship. This is the Greek paratiqhmi, that, in this context, carries the idea of what is entrusted to the care, protection, and/or investment by another.

(4) Peter also teaches us gifts are given for “serving one another.” They are for the common good of the body of Christ as an expression of love (1 Cor. 13) and never for personal gain or selfish agendas (1 Cor. 12-14). The Apostle Paul defines the common good by such things as edification (building up the body of Christ), exhortation, consolation, and instruction, attaining unto a mature man in Christ, etc. (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:3-5, 17, 19, 26, 31; Ephesians 4:11-16).

Verse 11. Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

(5) While all gifts are designed to serve others (vs. 10), the Apostle Peter classifies the gifts into two basic categories, (a) speaking (teaching, exhortation, etc.) and (b) serving (showing mercy, helps, administrations, giving, etc.) (vs. 11). But the emphasis here is not so much on the nature of the gift, but on that which should govern the use of the gift.

(6) For those who speak, that which should characterize what is spoken is the Word of God rather than their own viewpoint. Man’s tendency, of course, is to espouse his own ideas in accord with his personal agendas or bias, even when claiming to be teaching the Bible. Many times teachers use the Bible to lend authority to what they are teaching. And too often the Bible is misused through very poor exegesis, which means a careful explaining of the text based on context, grammar, contextual meaning of words, historical/cultural background, etc. The result of such a failure is eisegesis in which the person reads into the text their own ideas. James warns that being a teacher of God’s people is very serious business because of the responsibilities involved (Jam. 3:1). So God requires us to be dedicated students who handle the Word of God carefully so that our teaching is truly based on God’s truth and not our own ideas.

2 Timothy 2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.

(7) For those who serve in other ways, Peter teaches that they must do so by the strength which God richly supplies rather than in their own strength (see 1 Cor. 15:10; Col. 1:29). All stewards need to be serving out of the source and sphere of fellowship with God and dependence on Him (John 15).

(8) With the words, “to whom belongs the glory and dominion, …” Peter reminds us that no matter what is done, the purpose or ultimate goal is God’s glory and dominion (rule) through the Lord Jesus. This forms a fundamental principle and a warning that should guide the whole of the Christian’s life and ministry as a steward of the various aspects of God’s grace. Due to our innate self-centered tendencies, it is far too easy to serve from selfish agendas—to be accepted by others, or for praise, position, or prestige. This was one of the problems that Paul addressed with the church at Corinth. Some of the Corinthians were using their gifts, especially the more spectacular or showy gifts like tongues, for personal gain. Paul said, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, …” (1 Cor. 14:4a). In other words, they were using this gift for selfish purposes. Though the one who speaks in a tongue does not understand what he is saying (vs. 14), he is still edified personally by the emotion and satisfaction of the experience. Clearly, his primary motive is not according to the excellent way of love for others (1 Cor. 12:31b-13:13; 14:4b, 12) and, therefore, it cannot truly be designed to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).

1 Corinthians 4:1-3

In verses 1-2, Paul teaches us three principles that are tremendously important to the exercise of spiritual gifts as stewards of God. The principles apply to how we should view others and the exercise of their gifts, and how we should think of ourselves in the exercise of our own gifts. Typically, people tend to focus on the style and personality of others in their ministries and in the use of their gifts, especially in connection with pastors and expositors of the Word. As 1 Samuel 16:7 teaches us, people are impressed by things like human charisma, dynamic personalities, physical looks, voice, intellectual prowess, and oratorical skill. God, on the other hand, sees the heart and shows no such partiality (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9). He looks for something far different in a steward; He looks for faithfulness that stems from a heart of love and devotion to Him (cf. Rev. 2:1-5 with 1 Thess. 1:3). The Thessalonians also had works, labor, and endurance, but it was the product of faith, love, and hope which focuses our attention on the inner life as the real resource of the good works of the Thessalonian believers. So what are these principles?

(1) “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (verse 1).

Rather than idolizing others, putting them on a pedestal, or comparing people with people based on human standards of measurement (cf. vss. 6-7; 2 Cor. 10:7-12), we are to see other believers (including ourselves of course) as simply instruments, servants, and stewards of God’s grace. (Note and see the preceding context of 1 Cor. 3:5-9 as the background to 4:1-2.)

“One should think about us this way …” is a direct imperative, a command. It clearly states how God demands that we regard our teachers or others in the use of the stewardship of their gifts. Paul used the third person perhaps to make it more general (it should not be viewed as a permissive imperative), but what he said here is a command and is equivalent to, “You regard us in this manner.”

“Think” is the Greek logizomai which means “to calculate, reckon,” and then “to evaluate, estimate, look upon, put in a class as.” It is used in the Greek Septuagint in Isaiah 53:12 in the sense of “he was classed among the criminals.” How then are we to view people in the use of their gifts?

We are to view them “as servants.” This is the Greek $uphreths. Originally it referred to one who was “an under rower on the lower tier of a ship.” It then came to be used of a servant or an assistant who serves a master or superior. It carries the idea of subordination and stresses the servant’s relation to the Lord and to others as a servant, not a superior. We are to view one another as servants under the authority of Christ.

“Stewards” is oijkonomo" and, as seen previously, focuses on the fact that none of us are owners, but servants who have been entrusted with great responsibility and accountability. The Apostle Paul was responsible to dispense the Word of God to other servants. Any positive and godly results that come from a person’s ministry is always the result of God who “causes the growth” or gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).

(2) “Now what is sought in stewards is that one be found faithful.” (verse 2).

This verse points us to the second principle. What God requires, and so what we are to look for in ourselves and in the stewardship of others, is a faithfulness that flows from a heart that is right with the Lord.

“What, then, are we to look for and require in ourselves and in others? Dynamic, scintillating personalities? NO! We should look for those who are “trustworthy.” “Trustworthy” is the Greek pistos, “reliable, faithful, dependable, inspiring faith, trust.”

What is needed for a man or woman to be faithful? The key to this question is found in the two parts of our word “faith-ful.” A faithful person is one who is full of faith. At the same time, such a person inspires faith and faithfulness in others. Pistos is used of God and of the truth of Scripture, both of which inspire faith.

(3) “So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” (verse 3).

In this verse, Paul shows us another important principle and one that is certainly related to understanding and trusting in the principles of verses 1-2. The only opinion that really matters is God’s, and since I am His servant and what He wants from me is a faithfulness that stems from loving Him, I must not derive my sense of significance and confidence from the opinions of people. In the context of 1 and 2 Corinthians Paul deals with human opinions or judgments, those based on human standards where the focus is on the outer man, the kind mentioned above (again, cf. 1 Sam. 16:7 and 1 Cor. 4:6-7; 2 Cor. 10:10). Certainly there is a place for proper assessment from the right people when discerning our gift and its development. And we should also be open to loving rebuke when we are walking contrary to the Word. But we must guard against putting too much stock in the praise or criticism of others. We simply must not look to the opinions of people for our sense of significance whether negative or positive. A good friend whom we trust that will honestly level with us is different. Their input can be a means of positive growth and change.

Since gifts are the products of God’s grace, they should never become a matter for boasting in self or in others nor in self-depreciation because of the lack of a gift that another Christian has. This is true even when one diligently uses his or her gift(s) because in the final analysis, it is God who works in us both to will and to do (Phil. 2:13), and who both gave and prospers the use of our gifts (Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 15:10).

Romans 12:3-8

The Context and Root for the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12:1-2)

The first 11 chapters of Romans are doctrinal and lay the biblical foundation for the Christian life. With chapter 12, Paul moves to the practical application and results that should follow for the Christian in his day-to-day life in a world that is very much opposed to the plan of God. The key idea or focus of this practical section is on relationships. Ours is a world of relationships and it is vital that we learn how God wants us to live in those relationships. So the Apostle discusses six relationships that are vital to our ability to live in the world as the people of God:

  • In relation to God (12:1-2)
  • In relation to the church (12:3-16)
  • In relation to society (12:17-21)
  • In relation to the state (13:1-7)
  • In relation to the future (13:8-14)
  • In relation to Christians when they disagree (14:1-15:13)

The most important and foundational relationship of all is a person’s relationship to God. If that is wrong all our relationships will be wrong whether in the home, in the church, or in society. In all of this there are really only two main relationships. One is with God and the other is with people. The Savior taught us that the Law (or the Word of God) can be boiled down into two great commands: to love God with all your heart, and then, out of that relationship, to love one’s neighbor (Matt. 22:34f; Mark 12:29-31).

Here in Romans, the Apostle teaches us the same truth. Romans 12:1-2 is a call for the consecration or presentation of the believer’s life to God as a reasonable act of worship that should flow out of the awesome mercies of God described in the preceding chapters. It is in essence the launching pad for the believer into the service of God in all the other relationships of life.

This service must first and foremost be to God, expressed through service to others. Our service of worship should be the logical outflow of God’s Word and His work in our lives. It is a reasoned worship, not at all like the frenzied, sensual, self-indulgent worship of the heathen. To practice this kind of worship, we must cease being shaped by the world around us, and have our minds renewed and transformed so that we look at all things from a divine perspective.

The verses which follow spell out the exercise of this renewed mind in greater detail. Paul outlines in verses 3-8 the Christian way of thinking concerning spiritual gifts.126

Paul, an Illustration of Spiritual Gifts at Work (12:3a)

“For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you…” Here Paul shows us that even his teaching about spiritual gifts that follows is the product of his own spiritual gift, “the grace given to me” (cf. 1:5). Whatever our ability and function in the body of Christ, it is the product of gift(s) given to us by God. Note also that the exercise of his gift here was done through a letter written from afar. This illustrates how God can use our gifts in various ways from all over the world through the medium of letters, books, magazines, radio, TV, computers, and now the Internet.

The Call for Sound Personal Evaluation (12:3b)

“To every one of you.” This serves to emphasize the universal meaning and application of the whole issue of spiritual gifts. Again, no believer is exempt from the need to know and apply this truth.

“Not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment.” The NIV has, “think of yourself with sober judgment.” Sound or sober judgment is swfronew, “to be of sound mind, be reasonable, sensible.” It is used of the demoniac who, after the demons had been cast out by the Savior, was described as “clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).

So there is a call here for each believer to know what his spiritual gifts are, and, based on that knowledge and conviction (i.e., “faith”), seek to know what ministry or ministries God wants him to have in the body of Christ. This conviction begins with a sound evaluation of our spiritual abilities with the result that we arrive at a well-balanced evaluation of our gifts. But contrary to the focus in our society today on self-esteem, the warning here is against arrogance or thinking too highly. So, there is in this a call to think soundly, sensibly. The standard for how we think is “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith,” or as the NIV translates it, “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” But what is “the measure of faith” God has given or allotted?

“Allotted” is merizw, “to deal out, assign, divide, apportion.” That which God gives or apportions is called, “a measure of faith.” But what is the measure of faith? “Measure” is the Greek metron which may be used of the instrument of measure, or, as here, the result of what is measured out, the quantity and quality of what is given. In this context, it refers to spiritual gifts, the spiritual endowment of power given by God to each believer to minister to others.

“Of faith” points us to the source or the channel. Either it is looking at the fact that God gives spiritual gifts to those who exercise faith in Christ, or it refers to faith that must be exercised to grasp the nature of one’s gift as given by God, and then to exercise it in ministry. Both concepts, of course, are true.

A great amount of hurt occurs to the body of Christ when believers overrate their own gifts or those of others (1 Cor. 3), or undervalue their gifts or the gifts of others (1 Cor. 12). Wiersbe writes:

It is not wrong for a Christian to recognize gifts in his own life and in the lives of others. What is wrong is the tendency to have a false evaluation of ourselves. Nothing causes more damage in a local church than a believer who overrates himself and tries to perform a ministry that he cannot do.127 (Sometimes the opposite is true, and people undervalue themselves. Both attitudes are wrong.)

The Call for Faithful Cooperation (12:4-8)

(1) The Analogy of the Body (12:4-5). Using the analogy of the human body, Paul describes the relationship all believers have as gifted members of the body of Christ, the church. In forming the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit has created a unity in diversity just as with the human body. Though we are one body in Christ, we are many members and each believer is a vital part of His body and has a special spiritual function to perform. This analogy is explained in more detail in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Verse 5 stresses three important elements: unity (we are one body), diversity of functions (individually members), and mutuality and dependency with each member belonging to all the others (one of another).

(2) The Responsibility (12:6-8). As with the human body, the nature of this spiritual body demands that each member exercise his gift(s) unselfishly for the health and growth of the body (see 1 Cor. 12:12-31). Seven gifts are listed, but this is, of course, not exhaustive (see also 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-31, and Eph. 4:11).

A brief description of these and the gifts listed in other passages will be given below. For now, the purpose in focusing on the particular passage discussed above is twofold:

First, as part of the process of being transformed by the truth of the Word and commitment of life to Christ (Rom. 12:1-2), we want to help believers grasp who they are in Christ—gifted ministers. As mentioned earlier, God has not called us to be spectators or those who sit, soak, and sour and pay others to minister to us. Rather, He wants us to sit, soak, and then, out of the transforming power of God’s truth, to serve.

The second objective is simply motivation. Understanding our giftedness as members of the body of Christ should help to motivate us to discover our gifts and get involved in ministry.

Definition of Spiritual Gifts128

Positively (What It Is)

Basic Definition and Explanation

The primary Greek word used in the New Testament for spiritual gifts is carisma, “a gift of grace, a free gift.” It is related to caris which means “grace.” Gifts are never merited or earned.

(1) Gifts are a special grace-given ability (nature or essence)

(2) Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit (a divine endowment) (source)

(3) Gifts are given to each believer in Christ (recipients)

(4) Gifts are for service to the body of Christ that it may grow quantitatively (evangelism), qualitatively (edification), and organically (developed ministries and offices in the church) (immediate purpose)

(5) Gifts are for the glory of God (ultimate purpose)

Spiritual gifts are God’s special gifts given to believers to enable them for special service to the body of Christ and in the world. When related to the gift of ministry or service or helps, it may include natural talents received at birth.

Synonyms for Spiritual Gifts

(1) “Gifts” (1 Cor. 1:7; 12:4; 1 Pet. 4:10). Greek word is carisma.

(2) “Grace” (Acts 4:33; Romans 12:3; 2 Cor. 8:7). Greek word is caris.

(3) “A measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3)

(4) “Manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:7)

Negatively (What It Is Not)

(1) It is not an office in the local church like elder or deacon. Certain gifts are needed to function effectively in those offices, but an office and a gift are not the same thing.

(2) It is not a particular geographical area or a place of service. It is the ability to serve, not the place where one serves. A teacher may teach in Sunday School, in a seminary, in a home Bible study or as a missionary in any part of the world.

(3) A spiritual gift is not a particular age group. A person may feel more at home teaching children than adults, or vice versa. But if one really has the gift of teaching, he can learn to adapt to a variety of age groups, though God may very well give him a burden for a certain age group.

(4) A spiritual gift is not a particular specialty or method of ministry. The gift of teaching may be used through radio or through writing or through the classroom, etc.

(5) It is not a certain personality type (vivacious, scintillating, dynamic, etc. (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5 with 2 Cor. 10:10).

Distribution of Gifts

Gifts Are Distributed by the Holy Spirit

According to 1 Corinthians 12:4 and 11, the distribution of spiritual gifts is the product of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4 and 11 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit…11 It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.

The Holy Spirit, then, is the primary agent in the giving of gifts. While the Lord as the head of the body directs the distribution of the gifted people and their ministries, and the Father brings about a variety of effects (1 Cor. 12:5-6), the gifts themselves are given only by the Spirit.

Gifts Are Distributed to Every Believer

As illustrated in life and as stated by Scripture, no one person has all the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:29-30), but every Christian has at least one spiritual gift (1 Pet. 4:10). This helps us to see why it is so important for all believers to know what their gifts are and use them. No one is to be a one man show. No believer can even begin to do all that is needed. The need is for leaders to train, motivate, and delegate ministry to others in the church according to their giftedness and God’s leading.

Gifts Are Distributed on the Basis of Grace

(1) Gifts are not distributed on the basis of spiritual maturity. The church at Corinth was a carnal church yet they appeared to have an abundance of gifts (1 Cor. 3:1-4, 7).

(2) Gifts are not distributed on the basis of education. Compare the disciples (Acts 4:13; 2:6-8).

(3) It also appears spiritual gifts are not distributed on the basis of desire or prayer because they are evidently given by the sovereign will of the Spirit when He places believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:11-13).

Scripture asserts all believers have a gift. If gifts were not given at salvation, then there would be a time when that assertion would not be true. Sometimes 1 Corinthians 12:31 is used to teach believers should pray and seek spiritual gifts, but this verse was addressing the need for the church at Corinth to promote or manifest zeal for those gifts which edify rather than the showy gifts.

First Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 in all probability “refers to what had happened at Lystra on Paul’s second missionary journey. It was then that Timothy, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, had been amply endowed with this gift. Of this and of the character of his task he had been made aware through (dia) prophetic utterance of inspired bystanders.”129 The prophetic utterance declared the fact to Timothy and all those around and the body of elders present with Paul acknowledged it by the laying on of hands.

The Distribution of Some Gifts Were Limited as to Time

While this is a tremendously debated issue, the evidence of both Scripture and history support the view that the Spirit has not given all the gifts to every generation. Certain gifts of the Spirit were employed in the earliest stage of the church to authenticate the message of the apostles and prophets, and to lay the foundation for the church. Ryrie writes:

There were foundation gifts of apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20), which gifts do not appear in the periods of building the superstructure of the church. Those who were contemporary with Christ experienced certain miraculous gifts of the Spirit which were not experienced by the generation which followed Him (Heb. 2:3-4).130

Sometimes it is argued that Hebrews 2:3-4 teaches the miraculous gifts mentioned in verse 4 are continuing today because the present participle, “confirmed,” shows these gifts to be continuing. But this is a genitive absolute which functions adverbially and it is dependent on the main verb of the sentence to which it belongs. Those advocating the continuation of these miraculous gifts try to connect it to the future verb of verse 3, “how will we escape.” They would translate, “how will we escape while or since God is continuing to testify …” or something similar to this.

But the closest and the most natural verb to connect this participle to is the word “confirmed” of verse 3. “Confirmed” is an aorist indicative active which most naturally refers to a past historical fact. The participle, then, points to the means of confirmation, “by signs …” But the question is to whom? It was “to us (the writer and those of his generation) by those who heard (the apostles who walked with the Lord), God also testifying with them (i.e., those who heard).” In an article published for The Biblical Studies Foundation’s Web page (www.bible.org), Dan Wallace gives a very in-depth grammatical explanation of this passage and then summarizes his conclusions as follows:

All in all, Hebrews 2:3-4 seems to involve some solid inferences that the sign gifts had for the most part ceased.131 Further, it offers equally inferential evidence of the purpose of the sign gifts: to confirm that God was doing something new. The whole argument of Hebrews rests on this assumption: there is a new and final revelation in Jesus Christ (cf. 1:1-2). He is the one to whom the whole OT points; he is the one who is superior to the Aaronic priesthood, to prophets, and to angels. He is indeed God in the flesh. Is it not remarkable that in this exquisitely argued epistle, the argument turns on Scripture over against experience? The strongest appeal the author makes to the audience’s experience is to what they were witnesses to in the past. If the sign gifts continued, shouldn’t we expect this author (like Paul in Gal 3:5) to have employed such an argument?

I do not pretend to think that this sole text solves the problem of the duration of the sign gifts. But whatever one’s views of such gifts, this passage needs to be wrestled with.132

Development of Gifts

Gifts are to be discovered, developed, and used through faith, hard work, and prayer (Rom. 12:3; Col. 1:29-2:2; 1 Cor. 15:10).

Although the Spirit is the source of spiritual gifts, the believer may have a part in the development of his gifts. He may be ambitious in relation to his own gifts to see that they are properly developed and that he is doing all he can for the Lord (1 Cor. 12:31). To covet the better gifts is not a matter of sitting down and conjuring up enough faith to be able to receive them out of the blue. It is a matter of diligent self-preparation. For instance, if one covets the gift of teaching, he will undoubtedly have to spend many years developing that gift. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the giving of gifts, but in the development of them He works through human beings with their desires, limitations, ambitions, …133

Description of the Gifts

Division and Classification

Note that in the following chart, the Word of Wisdom and Word of Knowledge could be synonyms for the gifts for apostleship and teaching.

Romans 12:6-8

Ephesians 4:11

1 Peter 4:11

Prophesying
Ministering
Teaching
Exhorting
Giving
Ruling
Showing mercy

Apostleship
Prophesying
Evangelizing
Pastor-teachers or
Pastors and teachers

Speaking
Serving or support

1 Corinthians 12:6-10

1 Corinthians 12:28

1 Corinthians 12:29-30

Word of wisdom
Word of knowledge
Faith
Healing
Miracles
Prophesying
Discerning of spirits
Interpretation of tongues

Apostleship
Prophesying
Teaching
Miracles
Healing
Helping
Administrations
Tongues

Apostleship
Prophesying
Teaching
Miracles
Healing
Tongues
Interpretation of tongues

As mentioned previously, some believe that these lists are only illustrative of the gifts God gives to the church since the lists vary and are only partial when compared together. However, the New Testament is a unit of God’s revelation to us and together they give us a complete list of the spiritual gifts given to the church. In addition to these, however, there are many natural and developed talents that people have and can use in the exercise of these spiritual gifts. For instance, some teachers are also gifted artists and are able to enhance their gift of teaching through their artistic ability. I have also known artists who were gifted at teaching, and they were able to lend support (helps) to teachers in creating neat overheads in a class presentation.

Classification According to Function and Use in the New Testament

Definition and Explanation of the Gifts134

A. Apostleship (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28)

Apostleship can have both a general and a limited meaning. In a general sense the word means one who is sent, or a messenger. The Latin equivalent is the word missionary. In a general sense every Christian is a missionary or an apostle, because he has been sent into this world for a testimony. Epaphroditus is an illustration, for the word “apostle” is used to describe him (“and your messenger,” Phil. 2:25). However, in the specialized sense of the gift of apostleship it refers to the Twelve (and perhaps a few others like Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14:14). They were the leaders who laid the foundation of the church and they were accredited by special signs (Eph. 2:20). Since this was a gift that belonged to the earliest period of the history of the church when her foundation was being laid, the need for the gift has ceased and apparently the giving of it has too. “And are built upon the foundation of the apostle and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20).

B. Prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:1-40; Eph. 4:11)

This word also is used in both a general and a limited sense. In a general sense it means to preach; thus, generally speaking, preaching is prophesying, and the preacher is a prophet in that he speaks the message from God. But the gift of prophecy included receiving a message directly from God through special revelation, being guided in declaring it to the people, and having it authenticated in some way by God Himself. The content of that message may have include telling the future (which is what we normally think of as prophesying), but it also included revelation from God concerning the present.

This too was a gift limited in its need and use, for it was needed during the writing of the New Testament and its usefulness ceased when the books were completed. God’s message then was contained in written form, and no new revelation was given in addition to that written record.

The gift of prophecy may have been rather widely given in New Testament times, though the record mentions only a few prophets specifically. Prophets foretelling a famine came from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of these was named Agabus (Acts 11:27-28). Mention is made also of prophets in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:10), and Philip had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:9). Prophets were also prominent in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 14).

C. Miracles (1 Cor. 12:28) and Healing (1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30)

This is the ability to perform special signs. Paul exercised this gift at Ephesus when he performed miraculous healings (Acts 19:11-12). And yet, even though he had the gift of miracles, he did not consider it usable in the cases of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:27) and Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23). The gift of healing seems to be a specific category within the larger gift of miracles. An example of the gift of miracles which is not a case of physical healing was the blindness called down on Elymas the sorcerer in Paphos, Cyprus, by Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:11).

Distinction should be made between miracles and healings and the gifts of miracles and healing. The spiritual gift is the God-given ability to perform miracles and healings for the purpose of serving Him. However, a miracle or healing may be done apart from the exercise of the gifts. The miracle of the physical sign accompanying the filling with the Spirit recorded in Acts 4:31 was completely apart from the exercise of a gift on the part of any person. The miracle of Aeneas’ healing at Lydda was apparently a result of Peter exercising the gift of healing (Acts 9:34), while the raising of Dorcas at Joppa by Peter might not have been the result of exercising a gift but the result of God answering prayer (Acts 9:40). Thus every miracle or every healing is not the result of the respective gift being exercised.

Consequently, then, it does not follow that if one considers the gifts of miracles and healings temporary, he also is saying that God does not perform miracles or heal today. He is simply saying that the gifts are no longer given because the particular purpose for which they were originally given (i.e., to authenticate the oral message) has ceased to exist …

If the giving of these particular gifts was limited to the early church, in what light is one to regard the question of healing today? Here are some issues to consider in finding the answer to that question.

(1) As has been stated, God can and does heal apart from the exercise of the gift of healing. He does answer prayer, and He answers it in regard to physical problems, but such answers to prayer are not the exercise of the gift of healing.

(2) It is obviously not the will of God to heal everybody. For example, it was not God’s will to heal Paul of his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:8-9).

(3) Miracles and healing must not be equated with supernaturalism. In general it is a favorite pressure approach of faith healers to say that if you believe in the supernatural power of God, then you must also believe in His power to heal in the case at hand. This is simply not true, for it is a non-sequitur. God does not have to use His supernatural power to prove that He possesses it. Furthermore, any gift given once has been given to the whole church.

(4) To disregard human means in the matter of healing and simply pray for a miraculous cure is like praying for a harvest and then sitting in a rocking chair without planting or cultivating. God more often than not uses human means in the accomplishing of His purposes. This is true in matters of health too.

(5) Those who claim that the gift of healing is exercised today have to admit that the gift is limited in its effectiveness, for they do not claim to heal decayed teeth or suddenly mend broken bones.

(6) Reports of miraculous healings (within the limitations already stated) may be true (but this is not necessarily related to the gift), may be false, may be the cure of something that was psychosomatic.

Naturally all of these six considerations do not apply to every case, but they are germane to the whole question of healing today.

D. Tongues (1 Cor. 12:10)

Tongues are the God-given ability to speak in another language. In the recorded instances in the book of Acts the languages of tongues seemed clearly to be foreign languages. There is no doubt that this was true at Pentecost, for the people heard in their native tongues; and it seemed to be the same kind of foreign languages that were spoken in the house of Cornelius (for Peter says that this was the same thing that occurred at Pentecost, Acts 10:46; 11:15).

The addition of the word “unknown” in 1 Corinthians 14 (found in some translations like the KJV) has led many to suppose that the tongues displayed in the church at Corinth were an unknown, heavenly language. If the word is omitted, then one would normally think of the tongues in Corinthians as the same as those in Acts; i.e., foreign languages. This is the natural conclusion. Against this view stand 1 Corinthians 14:2 and 14, which seem to indicate that the Corinthian tongues were an unknown language. In any case, the gift of tongues was being abused by the Corinthians, and Paul was required to lay down certain restrictions on its use. It was to be used only for edifying, only by two or three in a single meeting and then only if an interpreter were present, and never in preference to prophecy. The gift of interpretation is a corollary gift to the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues was given as a sign to unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22) and especially to unbelieving Jews (v. 21). If the need for the sign ceased, then of course the gift would no longer need to be given. (See discussion on 1 Cor. 13:8 at the end of this section.)

What about tongues today? One cannot say that God would never give this gift or others of the limited gifts today. But everything indicates that the need for the gift has ceased with the production of the written Word. Certainly the standard Pentecostal position that tongues are the necessary accompaniment of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not valid. … It is usually fruitless to discuss the experiences people have; one can only measure all experience by the written Word. Even if tongues be not limited or a temporary gift, the emphasis of Scripture is not on the use of this gift. Also, one should remember that the fruit of the Spirit does not include tongues, and Christlikeness does not require speaking in tongues, for Christ never did. May God give us humility and faithfulness enough to remain open to all that originates from Him and only to that.

E. Evangelism (Eph. 4:11)

The meaning of the gift of evangelism involves two ideas—the kind of message preached (i.e., the good news of salvation) and the places where it is preached (i.e., in various places). The message is the gospel and the evangelist’s ministry is an itinerant one. In the example of Paul’s own life, the length of stay in one place on his itinerary sometimes lasted as long as two years (Acts 19:10) and sometimes only a few days (Acts 17:14). Apparently one may do the work of an evangelist even though he may not possess the gift, for Paul exhorts Timothy, who was a pastor, to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5).

F. Pastor (Eph. 4:11)

The word “pastor” means to shepherd; therefore, the gift of pastor involves leading, providing and caring for, and protecting the portion of the flock of God committed to one’s care. In Ephesians 4:11 the work of teaching is linked with that of pastoring, and in Acts 20:28 the duty of ruling the flock is added. The words “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” (translated “feed” in Acts 20:28 {KJV}) are all used of the same leaders of the Ephesian church (cf. Acts 20:17 and 28).

G. Ministering (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:12)

Ministering means serving. The gift of ministering is the gift of helping or serving in the broadest sense of the word. In the Romans passage it is called the gift of ministering; in 1 Corinthians, the gift of helps; in Ephesians we are told that other gifts are given for the purpose of helping believers to be able to serve. This is a very basic gift which all Christians can have and use for the Lord’s glory.

H. Teaching (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)

Teaching is the God-given ability to explain the harmony and the detail of God’s revelation. Apparently the gift is sometimes given alone (Rom. 12:7) and sometimes it is given along with the gift of pastor (Eph. 4:11). It is more obvious in the case of the gift of teaching that this is a gift that can be developed and must be trained. If we may assume that Peter had the gift, then it is clear that he had to do some studying of Paul’s epistles before he could explain them to others (2 Peter 3:16).

I. Faith (1 Cor. 12:8-10)

Faith is the God-given ability to believe God’s power to supply specific need. Every man has been given a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3), but not everyone has been given the gift of faith. Everyone may believe God, but this cannot be the same as possessing the gift of faith—otherwise there would be no significance to its being listed as a separate spiritual gift.

J. Exhortation (Rom. 12:8)

Exhorting involves encouraging, comforting, and admonishing people. Note that this is a separate and distinct gift from the gift of teaching. In other words, teaching may or may not involve exhortation, and contrariwise exhortation may or may not involve teaching.

K. Discerning Spirits (1 Cor. 12:10)

Discerning spirits is the ability to distinguish between true and false sources of supernatural revelation when it was being given in oral form. It was a very necessary gift before the Word was written, for there were those who claimed to bring revelation from God who were not true prophets.

L. Showing Mercy (Rom. 12:8)

This is akin to the gift of ministering, for it involves succoring those who are sick and afflicted.

M. Giving (Rom. 12:8)

The gift of giving concerns distributing one’s own money to others. It is to be done with simplicity, i.e., with no thought of return or gain for self in any way.

N. Administration (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28)

This is the ability to rule the church.135

1 Corinthians 13:8

Some consider that the expression “they (tongues) will cease” in 1 Corinthians 13:8 is a proof that tongues specifically was a limited gift. The argument against such an interpretation is that the passage is contrasting the present state with the eternal state and therefore is not speaking of the gift of tongues. However, it should be noted that the wider and immediate context is talking about the gift of tongues to a very great extent and there is no reason not to consider that it is the gift spoken of in this verse.

It is also worthy of note that the principal thesis in Chapter 13 is that love never fails even though tongues and prophecy do and even though the whole present imperfect state fails. There is no necessity in the passage to make the end of tongues the same time as the end of the imperfect or temporal state. Tongues could cease before time ceases and eternity begins without destroying the point of the passage. Indeed, such a progression may prove the point better; i.e., Paul is saying that (1) when tongues cease love abides, and (2) even when time itself comes to an end, love will abide.

There are positive indications in verse 8 that tongues would cease before prophecies and knowledge. Of prophecies (the oral communication of God’s truth before the books of the canon were written) and knowledge (the special understanding of these prophecies) it is written that they shall be done away ( katargeo, “rendered inoperative”). Of tongues it is said that they shall cease ( pauo). Furthermore, the verb “done away” used in connection with prophecies and knowledge is in the passive voice, indicating that someone (God) shall make them inoperative. The very “cease” used in connection with tongues is middle voice, indicating that they would die out of their own accord. (See Appendix 9 regarding the middle voice.)

Finally, it is rather significant that only prophecy and knowledge are mentioned in verse 9; tongues are not. It is as if Paul meant his readers to understand that the gift of tongues would cease before the gifts of prophecy and knowledge. After all, the fact that there are temporary gifts must have been quite evident in the early church since the distinctiveness of apostles would have been very apparent to all. To indicate that tongues or other gifts were also temporary would have been no shock to the readers of the New Testament epistles. Unfortunately, we too easily forget today that the Scriptures clearly teach that some of the gifts were temporary (Eph. 2:20). It looks as if 1 Corinthians 13:8 specifies that the gift of tongues belongs to that category too.

Final thoughts on the nature and use of spiritual gifts:

(1) It seems gifts differ even within the same gift as with teaching, exhortation, etc. This is evident in the differences we see in the biblical characters of the Bible who had some of the same spiritual gifts. It appears that Barnabas, Paul, and Peter each had the gift of prophecy and teaching, but their ministries were very different and used differently by God (cf. Acts 13:1-2 with 1 Tim. 2:7; 1 Pet. 5:1). Recognizing that our gifts differ (Rom. 12:6) should promote individual freedom in their use according to those differences as long as we are not acting against the Word of God.

(2) Gifts are to be used according to the truth of God’s Word (our index for faith and practice). The are to be used for His glory through the strength which God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 1:29; 1 Cor. 15:10), and in ways that are fitting to the nature and purpose of each gift (Rom. 12:6-8). While individual differences exist in our gifts, how we exercise our gifts and the attitude that motivates us is as important as the fact that we do exercise our gifts. This is evident by the qualifying phrases of Romans 12:6-8 (according to the grace given to us, according to the proportion of faith, with liberality, with diligence, with cheerfulness), and by the warnings of 1 Cor. 13 (with love) and 14 (for the edification of the church).

(3) All gifts are important and needed (1 Cor. 12:15-25). Just as with the members of our physical bodies, there are no unimportant gifts, but all do not have the same priority (1 Cor. 12:28-31).

(4) God both gives and uses our gifts according to His own sovereign choice and purposes in accord with how He places us in the body (1 Cor. 12:4-6; Mark 4:20).

(5) Gifts constitute God’s primary place of ministry for believers. Gifts are a declaration of God’s will and calling for our lives (cf. Rom. 12:2 with vs. 3).

(6) Where and how we are to use our gift(s) is a matter of God’s individual leading and whether or not we are listening to His leading (cf. Acts 16:6-10; 1 Cor. 12:4-6). Therefore, believers need to discern their gift(s) through thinking properly about themselves in the light of Romans 12:3, and through the encouragement and input from other believers (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

(7) All believers are to show mercy, give, walk by faith, and help others, but some believers have special gifts which enable them to excel in each of these areas (Rom. 12:7-8; 1 Cor. 12:9, 28).

Principles Related to Responding to God’s Call

Since every believer in the church age is a priest of God, there is a general sense in which he or she is also an apostle ( apostolos, “a delegate, a messenger, one sent on a mission”), not in the technical sense like the twelve and Paul, but in a general sense as one sent out by God, a representative whom God has called for special works of ministry (Matt. 28:20; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; 3:15; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:25 { apostolos, your messenger or sent one; see also 2 Cor. 8:23}; 2 Cor. 5:20).

Backing up this call are the promises, authority, resources, and provision of a sovereign Lord who has promised never to leave nor forsake us. The word for apostle, the Greek word apostolos, means one equipped and sent out by the provision and authority of another. This means two things: (a) What God has called you to do He has gifted you to do, and what He has gifted you to do He has called you to do (Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 4:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:7; Col. 1:29). (b) Whatever God has called you to do, He will provide for with the necessary resources to do that job or ministry, but according to His timing and in His way (see Neh. 1 and 2).

How do we determine God’s calling?

Negatively: I have too often seen preachers or missionaries work people up into an emotional state in order to get them to give their lives to some kind of full time service. This is basically a form of manipulation. Determining God’s call is not by a feeling, an emotional high, or by allowing someone to make you feel guilty, or by the burden of someone else.

Positively: Determining God’s will starts by the consecration of our lives in response to the mercies of God as we are exhorted to do in Romans 12:1-2.

(1) By biblical vision and understanding—by realizing God can and wants to use each of us. God has given each of us the ability and responsibility to minister. I have known people who were afraid to do the work of ministry because they felt they would be encroaching on the “minister’s” job. Every believer has permission to minister; indeed, he is called to minister. This is God’s plan for the church.

(2) By spiritual gifts. We need to each grasp the concept of spiritual gifts and know the gift(s) God has given us (Rom. 12:3). God’s call begins with Romans 12:1-2, but this should be followed up with Romans 12:3f, evaluation of one’s gift. I have known people who have been convinced by a preacher in a very emotional service, that God had called them to preach yet they had no idea what their spiritual gift was. Such is getting the cart before the horse.

(3) By burden—by letting God put His burden for each of us on our heart. God does, of course, use the preaching of the Word, and He often uses missionaries and others to make us aware of spiritual needs of the world as part of building a burden in our heart. But we need to be careful not to manipulate people. Decisions and burdens need to be of God and not of man. We each need to be asking God to direct us and to give us a burden for what He wants according to His gifts, leading, provision, and timing.

(4) By intimacy and fellowship with the Lord. It’s through the abiding life that we are in a position to hear what the Lord is saying to each of us. It is too easy for us to mistake self-centered objectives like praise and applause for God’s will or call.

(5) By realizing we can make mistakes, it’s okay. God has built into each believer the basics for the ministry He wants us to do (age, background, perhaps even some training, environment, and interests all in conjunction with our own spiritual gifts). Some people hold back from ministry because they have been paralyzed by fear, the fear of failure or of making mistakes.

(6) By realizing that God has called us to suffer because ministry in a hostile world often means suffering, and that He is always with us no matter what (Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:3,9; 1 Pet. 4:19; 3:17; Heb. 13:5-6).

Hindrances to Good Stewardship of Our Gifts

(1) The belief God only calls preachers, evangelists, missionaries, etc.

(2) Fear that we will fail, we will be persecuted, or that we don’t know how.

(3) Personal agendas in ministry for various reasons of covetousness—position, power, praise, applause.

(4) Apathy, lack of devotion to the Lord and the body of Christ.

(5) A wrong view of the church as an organization rather than an organism.

An Organization Versus An Organism

Membership (as in a club)

Disciples, (members of His body)

Spectatoritis—Sit, Soak, and Sour (the spiritual couch potato)

Participants—co-laborers, partners who sit, soak, and serve

Consumerism—I am here to be served and to get

Ministry—Service to others—helping believers grow that they may labor with others

Clergy/Layman—we pay you, the minister, to serve us

Every believer is a ministering priest

Self-centered godliness—making satisfaction, comfort one’s religion; using God like a genie136

God and other-centered godliness—Mark 12:28-31; Eph. 4:11-16

123Bill Hull, The Disciple Making Pastor, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, NJ, 1988, p. 12.

124 Ibid., pp. 13-14.

125 Robert Deffinbaugh, Romans: The Righteousness of God, Lesson 36, Biblical Studies Foundation, www.bible.org, electronic format.

126 Deffinbaugh, Romans.

127 Warren Wiersbe, Be Right, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1977, p. 140.

128 Part of what follows is taken from The Holy Spirit by Charles Caldwell Ryrie, pp. 83-92.

129 William Hendriksen, A Commentary on I and II Timothy and Titus, 2nd ed., Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1964, p. 159.

130Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, Moody Press, Chicago, 1965, p. 84.

131 To be sure, not all of them had yet: John was still to write his Revelation of Jesus Christ. (But since the author of Hebrews was most likely not from John’s circle of influence, for all practical purposes the gift of prophecy might even be viewed as dead as far as he was concerned.) At the same time, “signs and wonders and various miracles” is the normative description of healing and miraculous deeds, not prophetic words.

132 Daniel B. Wallace, Ph.D., Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Hebrews 2:3-4 and the Sign Gifts, The Biblical Studies Foundation, electronic format.

133 Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, p. 85.

134 The material that follows, points A-N and the discussion on 1 Corinthians 13:8, is taken from Ryrie’s The Holy Spirit, Moody Press, pp. 85-91. Keep in mind that the translations of various verses or parts thereof used by Ryrie in this section were taken from the King James Version.

135 Following the translations of the KJV (1 Tim. 3:5 and 5:17), Dr. Ryrie is undoubtedly referring to the ability to guide or direct the affairs of local churches, but in view of the abuses I have seen over the years, I believe a better term for “rule” would be “lead.” This is more consistent with our Lord’s warning in Luke 22:24f and that of Peter in 1 Peter 5:1f.

136 Modern Christians tend to make satisfaction their religion. We show much more concern for self-fulfillment than for pleasing our God. Typical of Christianity today, at any rate in the English-speaking world, is its massive rash of how-to-books for believers, directing us to more successful relationships, more joy in sex, becoming more of a person, realizing our possibilities, getting more excitement each day, reducing our weight, improving our diet, managing our money, licking our families into happier shape, and whatnot. For people whose prime passion is to glorify God, these are doubtless legitimate concerns; but the how-to-books regularly explore them in a self-absorbed way that treats our enjoyment of life rather than the glory of God as the center of interest (J. I. Packer, Keeping in Step With the Spirit, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, NJ, 1984, p. 97).

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Spiritual Gifts