Reverend Anthony R. Locke
September 5th, 2010 www.FirstPresTucker.org at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker.
Romans 12:3-8 Spiritual Gifts English Standard Version
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
8 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.
This morning my 4 young children were enjoying Handy Manny on the Disney Channel. For those of you not watching the Disney Channel every day, Handy Manny is not as good as Mickey Mouse, but way better than that purple dinosaur.
Handy Manny is a handyman with talking tools. He has the basics. A screw driver, tape measure, saw, wrench and hammer. Occasionally, he borrows large or rare tools from friends. He makes visits in the community and helps the people in need. The theme of the show is that the world is a better place when we use our gifts and talents to help each other.
Jesus helped people. He helped people increase their faith. Jesus had more than just talents. Jesus was anointed by God with spiritual gifts.
Jesus borrowed all His tools. This is not to say Jesus wasn’t fully God. Jesus was one person with a Divine and Human nature. But the human nature needed divine enablement to do the will of the Father. Jesus didn’t come to earth to look and act like a God. Jesus came to be found in fashion as a man. Jesus humbled Himself by not using any of His divine abilities, but rather made Himself dependent on the anointing of the Spirit of God. Isaiah 61:1-3 makes this clear as does the first four chapters of Luke.
So Jesus borrowed all His tools through which He blessed others. Jesus had some exotic tools. Jesus was given without measure Messianic equipping, unrivaled Prophetic wisdom, Kingly power, and Priestly tools for reconciliation. Jesus also manifest tools common to the Apostle’s like miraculous healing and raising people from the dead. Finally, Jesus manifest all the common spiritual gifts which are available to us today.
Jesus then ascended into heaven. He didn’t give all His enabling graces to one person. He distributes them variously among the saints. Since this is Labor Day weekend think of it this way. Each of us are enlisted in the family business to bring the Kingdom of God into our world. We must use the family tools, our spiritual gifts, as Jesus did to increase the faith of those around us.
Which tools did Jesus share with you?
Every year in High School a guidance counselor asked me to take a test to identify my spiritual gift. I went to Roswell Elementary, Dekalb Christian and then Shiloh Hills Christian School. Every year I was in a Christian school I was given a test to identify the inner grace of spiritual enabling that the Holy Spirit gave me.
I am not sure if you caught the sarcasm. How can a secular test from a psychologist tell me what spiritual enabling grace was given to me to help others grow in their faith? How come the same test that tells me my spiritual gift, if taken by an atheist, would identify their spiritual gift? I don’t think these tests show anything but personality traits, relationship preferences and talents.
There are four NT passages that deal directly with the topic of spiritual gifts: Romans 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12:1-14:40, Ephesians 4:7-16, 1 Peter 4:7-11. There are at least 18 gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the Bible; maybe as many as 25.
First, what is a spiritual gift? The first time the Bible uses spiritual gift terminology is in Romans 1:11 where Paul says, For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
A spiritual gift is a divine gift of inner grace through which you strengthen the faith of others in Christ. Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are connected to God. Your connection to God brings faith to your spirit, infuses hope into your soul and grows love in your heart. God works grace in us that we might share God with others. Our goal is to minister grace, increase faith, and share God’s love.
Let me approach it from a different angle. When you look at the people around you, how do you aspire to interact with them that their faith in Christ might be more assured? By asking the question in this way you can begin to know your spiritual gift.
Just kidding. We take a spiritual gift test to know that. LOL (hear the sarcasm this time?)
Not to beat a dead horse, but no person in the Bible goes around identifying their spiritual gift. That’s not the biblical use of this information. If we ask the question, “how do I aspire to interact with others that their faith in Christ might be more assured?”, then we will begin to use our spiritual gift. The more we help build the kingdom of God, the more we find our niche. God’s family will tell you when you are blessing them. Listen to their testimony about how you increased their faith and then you will begin to be able to identify your spiritual gift.
By approaching spiritual gifts in this manner we might actually prove useful to the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior! That’s what matters. The goal isn’t to know what tools God gave, but to become useful for Jesus sake.
Paul said, (Romans 1:11) I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Paul isn’t saying he wants to give them a spiritual gift, but that he wants to use his spiritual gifts to increase their faith. Paul used the same terminology in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 where he says, We sent Timothy, our brother and servant in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you in your faith and to exhort you that no one be moved by these afflictions.
When do we get this spiritual enabling grace? When we are regenerate. Acts 2:38 says, And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Everyone here is gifted by the Spirit of God to lead others into a stronger faith and into God’s saving and sanctifying grace. When you look around this crowd you should feel the desire to be a blessing in these terms.
Said negatively, if you have no desire to bless the person sitting next to you, then you are very likely not regenerate.
Next, one gift isn’t better than the other. That brings us back into our text of Romans 12. Verse 3, For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
We are all equal participants in the measure of faith, the spiritual gifts, that Jesus sent to the Church after His ascension. None of us are better or more necessary than someone else. Some of us serve in more prominent roles, but we are all equally necessary.
Also out of Romans 12:3, we need to be serious about our stewardship. We can’t come to church and always be asking ourselves if we like what we got out of it. Jesus made an investment in us when we came to faith in Christ. Ask yourself, “Is God getting full bang for His buck?” Is He getting a good return on His investment?
Never think of yourself as less important than others within the church. You are not spiritually disadvantaged. If you are born again then you have spiritual grace to help others grow in their faith. We have to think this way. We have to work in the church with this focus. We need to take our spiritual stewardship seriously or we will stand before God unprepared.
I covered verse 4 through 6 in my introduction. Let’s move on to the end of verse 6.
Verses 6-8 lists seven spiritual gifts that are most common in the life of the church. Before I go through these, read again the first half of verse 6. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. We all have different gifts. Let’s get busy. Paul is not speaking deep mysteries about these seven spiritual gifts. The Greek text holds no special word studies. The language is short and abrupt. Paul is preaching here. He is saying, “Come on now, let’s do this.”
if prophecy, in proportion to our faith. The non-miraculous use of prophesying in the New Testament is to publically proclaim the inerrant and authoritative word of God. People who do so must preach in full proportion of our faith, or better translated “the faith.” Jude 3 says that we should contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. That’s really what’s meant in this verse.
if service, in our serving. If you find people in your church that would have their faith strengthened by helping them out, then do it. Get busy serving one another and so fulfill the law of Christ that we should love one another as Jesus loved us. (if you can serve, then get busy serving!)
the one who teaches, in his teaching. Many of us here teach in different contexts. Remember to always teach in full dependence of the Spirit with the aim of strengthening the faith of your listeners. (if you can teach, then get busy teaching!)
the one who exhorts, in his exhortation. Who needs a word of encouragement in our church? A word of rebuke? A word of exhortation? Don’t put it off. Don’t tell yourself someone else will do it. Go in love and speak a word that will minister grace to the hearer.
the one who contributes, in generosity. There were people who traveled with Paul and used their personal money to pay for his ministry expenses. Rich women especially performed this ministry of giving. If God calls you to reach into your pocket and pull out some money for a special ministry need, do it with a heart of generosity. Give of your wealth to bear the message glorious. Smile. Don’t begrudge that the Spirit prompted you to spend your money to speed ministry on it’s way.
the one who leads, with zeal. This Greek word zeal could be translated as a positive energetic diligence. If you are called to lead the Women of the Church, to lead a special homecoming event, or lead in another aspect of church life, do it with all your heart as unto the Lord and not unto men. Bear up under the burdens. Don’t act surprised when people disagree with your leadership decisions. Don’t get flustered when you are criticized. Don’t be shy or unable to make a decision. Enter the work with a positive, energetic, diligent spirit that you are in it to win and expand the kingdom for the glory of God. (if you can lead, then get busy leading!)
Spiritual Gift number seven, the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Don’t get glum that someone is unable to get their life together on their own and you have to help them. Don’t be so proud that you feel put-out when you give a helping hand. Be excited that Jesus is keeping score and He will reward even a cold cup of water given in His name. Jesus takes it personally and says, “When you did it unto them, you did it unto Me.” (if you can minister mercy, then get busy ministering mercy!)
These are the most common spiritual gifts in the life of the church today. Jesus desires to build His kingdom through you with these spiritual enabling graces. So which one do you have?
By the power and anointing of the Spirit you can manifest any one of those spiritual gifts depending on the necessity of the situation. Jesus was anointed with all these spiritual gifts. He was Spirit filled to build and to strengthen the faith of those who knew Him. You can bless the world exactly the same way.
How? Pray to God, “how can I build the faith of Your people today?” It won’t matter which gift you think you have, God will use you to strengthen the faith of others around you and the kingdom of God will be enlarged.
And remember, spiritual gifts are good, but love is better. 1 Corinthians 13 is clear on this. It is also one thing to have the gifts of the Spirit, it is another thing to bear the fruit of the Spirit. If you do not have the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control) then the use of your spiritual gift will not build up the body of Christ, but will rather build up your own vain glory.
And to repeat, don’t confuse your role in the church with the use of your spiritual gift. I am a minister, but my role is to build up your faith with the measure of grace God gave me. We all help lift that burden of kingdom advancement. Our ministry roles keep changing, but our goal always remains the same.
Over the last four weeks we have heard a series of sermons about our communion as saints. We have looked at elders, deacons, women and now spiritual gifts. This is our communion as the saints of God. We are connected. We need one another. We can’t live independent lives. We can’t come and go as we please. Elders lead the family into the light of the once for all delivered faith, the deacons lead us into mercy and service, Women lead us into the goodness of God’s family blessings, and with our spiritual gifts we all minister to each other toward a stronger faith.
May God bless us all to be active within the family of God. For Jesus sake. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.