Sunday, 10 November 2013
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; Romans 12:6
Paul now takes what he has said concerning the body and he breaks it down into individual “gifts according to the grace that is given us.” Before reviewing the verse, a general analysis of gifts as given in the New Testament should be listed. The reason for this is that each list is given from a different outlook.
The first is this list found in Romans 12:6-8. Seven specific gifts are noted and these are simply a wide range of gifts which are given as either a calling on the believer’s life or a temporary impartation, but the are not assigned to any specific person.
The second list is seen in 1 Corinthians 12. They are not specifically gifts of Christ as noted in the coming Ephesians list, but are manifestations of the Spirit. In other words, they are not necessarily a calling for life-work, but are temporary occurrences for the edification of the body. However, towards the end of the chapter offices such as that of the apostle and the teacher are seen.
The third list is recorded in Ephesians 4. This list is that of individuals in their specific calling.
Seeing the difference can help us from a breakdown in doctrine. The purpose of the list needs to be considered and the gift itself needs to be viewed in that context. Gifts, regardless of whether they are general callings, manifestations, or specific offices are “according to the grace that is given us.” It needs to be noted that the “calling” gifts overlap in a great way with non-Christian vocations. In both Christian and non-Christian venues there are speakers, there are those who do administration, there are teachers, there are exhorters, etc.
Therefore, these gifts are formed from the makeup of the individual, whether Christian or not. Because of this, the use of the gift for the body is what makes it of value to the body. There are teachers all over the world, but they don’t use their God-given gift for the body. There are even teachers who are Christians who don’t use their gift for the body. Paul’s list here is speaking of those who take their God-given gift and apply it for Christian use.
On the other hand, there are the “manifestation” gifts such as healings and tongues. These are not callings, but are temporary impartations to meet particular needs or situations. Once again, it should be noted that there are those who claim such gifts in a variety of other religions. Some eastern religions, for example, speak in “tongues” in the same way modern Charismatic groups do – with garbled, nonsensical noises. There are only three logical explanations for these type of “tongues” in churches then. They are faked by the speaker, they are inspired of Christ, or they are of other-than divine origin. The same is true with faith healers. There are charlatans within and without the body, fooling and deceiving for notoriety or profit.
The subject of “manifestation” gifts needs to be very carefully handled and all such gifts must be taken in the context of prescriptive passages in the Bible. Using descriptive verses from Acts to justify such gifts will inevitably lead to confused theology and the misuse of these same “gifts.” In the coming list in Romans, because of the nature of the gift, mentally inserting the term “let us use” prior to reading each gift will help keep that gift in the intended context. Paul’s list now begins with “prophecy.”
Prophecy is the uttering forth of God’s word. It can be in writing or verbal. No true prophecy will ever contradict Scripture. Prophecy can be reasonably divided into “foretelling” and “forth-telling.” Foretelling involves speaking forth God’s word under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit and which reveals God’s intent for a situation, insights previously unknown, the revelation of future events, etc. It is God directly speaking through a person in the communication of His word. This type of prophecy ended with the word “Amen” at the close of the book of Revelation. It was something used up to and through the apostolic age and which ended after that; God has spoken.
Forth-telling prophecy is the speaking of God’s word as it has been revealed. It is preaching, teaching, and exhortation in what has been received from God as revealed in the pages of Scripture. As noted above, like foretelling, forth-telling will never contradict the written word. Extreme care must be taken by preachers and teachers to carefully and competently explain God’s word to His people. Doctrine does matter. In the end, the gifts listed in the Bible must have the ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ. This includes the forth-telling of God’s word.
Life application: One of the most sensitive matters found in the church is the subject of “gifts.” The reason for the sensitive nature isn’t because it is confusing, but because believers are confused. Context and right-evaluation concerning gifts will lead to the sound interpretation of what gifts apply, when they apply, and to whom they apply.
Heavenly Father, You have granted me certain gifts and abilities in this life. I can use them for my own gain or for the glory of Christ. May Your Spirit guide me in my walk and be revealed through my gifts and abilities for His honor and not for my personal gain. I know that if this happens, in the end I will be the recipient of many more blessings in that life which is truly Life. Thank You for the honor of serving and the hope of future glory. Amen.