The amazing thing about the church is that we are all different to a certain degree and our diverse roles and abilities enrich and bless the church. Church unity doesn’t mean sameness, but different with different abilities to help make the church function with unity. Paul penned these words “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:4-8. Paul also wrote the importance of this body we call church “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” 1 Cor 12:12-20
Paul reminds us this morning about the importance of diversity, but united under the gospel confession this morning. The gospel confession is not what men should do for God, but in what God has done for men. And that truth is revealed to us in (v7-8) Paul says we as believers have all received a “gift” or “grace” as it says in (v7).
What this means is…… “Grace” here means the ability to perform the task God called us to. This is not refereeing to saving grace but ministry grace. Its grace to serve and build up the body to do ministry. The point for all of us is that we have received this enabling grace in the exact proportion that Christ gave it. When you and I responded to that effectual call of the gospel truth. When you and I realized our lost state and our inability to save ourselves. When you and I embraced this wonderful news through repentance and faith we all at that very moment “grace was given”. And when this grace was given, you and I became “graced” meaning a spiritually gifted child of God for His purpose and plans for the church. As a Christian matures and grows in this grace it will become more and more prevalent and evident in our lives. Prevalent and evident knowing our gifts and roles as a functioning church body. The message of this verse is that all of us (no exceptions) have a serving grace that been given to us for the soul purpose of functionality and unity. We all have a special part to perform as a local body of believers. Why? God sovereignty has given each of us a unique spiritual gift that God individually portions out according to His sovereign will and design for the good and functionality of the church.
These gifts have been divinely given by Christ Jesus, Himself. These gifts given to the church have a spectacular origin (v8-v10). Paul borrows from a line from Psalm 68 and in that Psalm we read that God is pictured marching in triumph before all Israel after the exodus. (v7) “O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, Selah.” When He comes to Sinai the earth shakes under His feet. (v8) “the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.” Then we read the kings and armies are describe as fleeing before Him while His people sleep peacefully. (v11-v14) “The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host: "The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!" The women at home divide the spoil though you men lie among the sheepfolds— the wings of a dove covered with silver, its pinions with shimmering gold. When the Almighty scatters kings there, let snow fall on Zalmon.” Finally we read from Mt Sinai God sets on Mt Zion and claims victory leading captives in His train and receiving gifts from men. (v18) “The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.” Paul in applying this line in Ephesians changes the line from “receiving” to “giving”.
Why Paul changed this word we do not know exactly, but possibly he borrowed it from the Aramaic word “Targum” theologians agree that this word was used exactly in this way…..“Received” to “giving” Please don’t get hung up on this word…… Paul is simply borrowing the imagery of Psalm 68 and applying it to Chris’s incarnation and ascension. Here in (v8-v11). The fact that He “ascended” implies that He “descended” in His incarnation to the “lower region” which is another way indicating of His bodily presence on this earth.
We read in John 3:13 where it says “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” This meant that Jesus set aside the independent exercise of His attributes and submitting the exercise of them to the Father’s will. Christ came low and went even further down in His death by becoming sin for us. 2 Cor 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” But then Jesus is exalted above and now he fills the whole universe as the conquering King of kings. Jesus ascended from earth to Heaven where he forever reigns with the Father. This King now lavishes gifts upon His children and abundant gifts to the church and gives His people the power to fulfill their gifts. “And he gave gifts to men.” The gifts and enabling grace that we have has been given to us as Christ apportioned them. That measure is the gift of Christ, or what is given in Christ. It comes through Him. It is what He has purchased and acquired by His merits. It’s for this reason we have received grace to serve one another.
Peter wrote “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
What are the unique positons God has given to the church? The answer to that is found in (v11)
The apostles….. This was a temporal gift and given specifically to 11 men and the 12 added member Matthias in Acts 1:22. Apostles were sent ones appointed by Christ or the Holy Spirit. The first requirement of an apostle is that he must have had a firsthand experience of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 1:22 says “beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection." Apostle’s second requirement was they possess miracle gifts, sings and wonders, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” 2 Cor 12:12. It’s important to note though! There are no apostles in this sense today; those who claim apostolic authority today are “false apostles”.
The prophets…..were ones who had the ability to receive direct revelation from God and then to communicate the revelation to men.
Some identify this gift with preaching today! That’s a big no, no! As a pastor I do not direct and will not get direct revelation from God Himself. A true called man of God gets his message from the Word of God, God does not appear to me or any pastor through dreams, visions or by speaking directly to Michael. Since there is no longer a need for prophecy, the gift of prophecy came to an end with the completion of the New Testament. As we read in 1 Cor 13:8 “….As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease;...” Heb 1:1-2 reminds us of this transition. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son,…” These two temporal gifts were given to the church age to establish and strengthen the family of God in its beginning…this leads us to two gifts that are functioning still today.
Evangelists…..the gift of evangelism is the supernatural ability to excel in presenting the Gospel to unbelievers. This is obviously a speaking gift for sure. All believers are to be witnesses and are to be able to present the gospel. But there are those who have been given the ability in a unique way to draw unbelievers to Christ. Example: My friend Kirk Hubick with his gospel presentation through sketch boarding and interaction with people walking by as he speaks the gospel. It’s a gift that is in the same line as preaching… holding the attention of a group of people for a certain period of time. We see this in the scriptures as well! “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip…” Acts 8:4-6. And we read in Acts 8:12 “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” We all have a responsibility to tell the good news but special people are gifted to proclaim the gospel to lost people.
Shepherds & teachers…..This is not referring to gifts of pastors but one gift working together in unison. The responsibility of pastoring the flock is tied to office of elder…men called by God to lead and shepherd His people. Peter penned these words “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:1-4. Elders are to be pastors and shepherds under God not lords or masters treating the church as slaves. The qualifications for pastor/teacher (elder) are clearly laid out in Paul’s letter to Timothy. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” 1 Tim 3:1-7. Not everyone has the gift to have the office of elder and this is a calling from God and it comes with a great responsibility as a leader and for the flock of God.
There is a reason for this though! There is was a reason for the temporal foundational gifts of apostleship and prophets. Without apostles we wouldn’t have established the guidelines for leaders and the gift of leaders for the churches. Without prophets we would have nothing to read to God’s people and we would just be staring at one another. Without these two temporary gifts to establish the church we wouldn’t have evangelists and preachers. The purposes for those specific gifts are for the purpose of what we read in (v12)
“to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”
It’s the church leader’s responsibility to prepare, train, and equip God’s people to God’s work. We all have a work of ministry because we all have spiritual gifts given by Christ.
Gifts such as…..
Faith which enables us to face overwhelming obstacles and human impossibilities and do great things for Christ.
Wisdom the ability to apply wisdom gained from spiritual insight.
Knowledge to understand the facts of Scripture from a human perspective.
Discernment the ability to tell things are from the Spirit and which are not from the Spirit.
Mercy is the ability to show deep compassion to those who have spiritual, physical and emotional needs.
Exhortation is the ability to encourage, motivate and the ability to come along side someone.
Giving the direct reference to the material ministry of giving food, clothing, money, housing and so on as needed for the church.
Administration/Leadership as we see pastors/elders, in a church board, missionaries’ societies, youth ministries and other functioning boards inside the church.
Helps the ability to aid in time of need or bear one another’s burdens as the situation arises.
Service is the working for the body of Christ in areas of physical ministry such as serving food, performing maintenance.
When you see gifts at work, you should adore Jesus who gave them to us. When someone’s gifts bless you, you should see at Jesus blessing you. Everyone here plays a vital role to the body and plays a vital role to a healthy church. It’s the leadership responsibility to help guide and steer you in ways that stretch you out of comfort zones and to use you for the glory of God. Because Christ is the one who goes before us in victory over sin and death. Christ is the one who has given us a measure of grace to do and fulfill His will for the church. The bible contains many commands and requirements, many standards to be met and obligations to be fulfilled. The worthy Christian walk is carried out through the gift He has given in to us. And these gifts are given to the church for the reason to do the ministry that God has given to each and every one of us.
Understand! Spiritual gifts are freely given and graciously given. A gift is not earned, it’s given for the purpose to glorify God. Spiritual gifts are a means of serving the body of Christ. Gifts are not to exalt the person, they are to be used to serve one another. Spiritual gifts necessitate the activity of the possessor the more you grow the more you discover your gift.
Don’t be a person sitting on the fence waiting for the coach to put you in or that person who hides behind those who are using their gifts in the church.
What do I mean?
Here are some reasons I’ve heard and found in an article of people who give for not serving their church.
I’m too busy with work.
I’m too busy with family commitments (we have kids).
I’m too busy with family problems (e.g. my sister’s sick).
I’m too busy with other things.
I’m married to an unbeliever who doesn’t like it when I go out.
My husband/wife and I don’t get to spend much time together so the week nights/weekends are precious to us.
I don’t know what opportunities are available.
I don’t know what gifts God has given me.
I don’t have the skills required to serve in the available areas (e.g. I don’t know how to use the computer to operate PowerPoint)
No one asked me.
I’m serving in other ways outside of church.
I don’t want to commit to anything in advance (I’d like to keep my options open).
I live too far away and it’s a struggle to get to church outside of service times.
The staff team is paid to serve so I don't have to.
I don’t know anyone who’s serving in the area I would like to.
I serve the people I know by encouraging them in their faith.
I’m generous in other ways (e.g. with my money).
Serving is what the young people do – they’ve got the time and energy.
We’ve just got married and we’re concentrating on our marriage for the first year.
Everything seems under control – I’m not needed.
I offered to serve, and no one followed me up.
I offered to serve, but I wasn’t needed (e.g. I was told the ministry was full).
I served for a while, but I felt unappreciated and no one thanked me.
I don’t get anything out of it.
I just don’t want to.
Maybe this is you this morning?
Maybe you could even add a few more reasons to that list. I think if we really slowed down and pondered the truth that is before us this morning we would see this grace that has been given to us is from God Himself for the purpose to fulfill His will for the church. A measure of grace for ministry has been given to everyone in this church for the sole purpose to function for the glory of God in Heavenly places.
My Sunday question is this.
Are you using your gifts or are you sitting on your hands?