46. Romans 12:6-8
The Body of Christ
In this passage of Romans we find one of four places in the New Testament where the gifts of the Spirit are identified. The idea of every Christ-follower receiving specific spiritual gifts for the purpose of encouraging and building up the church is new in the new covenant. With the indwelling Holy Spirit bringing believers to new life, the very life of Jesus now manifests itself in the lives of His people. They personally carry the power and presence of Jesus in the world, and through them Jesus ministers to others.
In this passage of Romans we find a fairly large list of gifts: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing (or giving) to the needs of others, leading/governing, and showing mercy.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 27-31 repeats some of these gifts and also lists some others. In these passages Paul mentions the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous power, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits (discernment), speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, the gifts of being apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles; the gifts of healing, helping others, administration, and tongues.
Ephesians 4:11-13 contains a list of gifts God has given to the church. The emphasis here is on how God has equipped His body rather than on His individual equipping, and this list reflects some of Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31. To the church God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers so the body will be built up until the members reach maturity and unity in the faith.
Peter also refers to gifts of the Spirit but with less specificity. In 1 Peter 4:10-11 he admonishes believers to “use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” He mentions the gift of speaking and says anyone who speaks should “do it as one speaking the very words of God.” He also mentions the gift of service, saying anyone who serves “should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” Just prior to this mention of spiritual gifts Peter reminded his readers to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (v. 8), and to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (v. 9).
In every one of these passage, the point of Christ-followers having spiritual gifts is to serve and build each other up in the Lord Jesus.
Gift of prophecy
The first gift Paul mentions in this passage is prophecy. Much confusion has existed about this New Covenant gift. Some have seen it as a continuation of the Old Testament prophets. Some see this gift as the gift of foretelling the future. Others have seen it as a gift which interprets Scripture and brings “present truth” for today.
We will examine some other New Testament passages to see what they say about the gift of prophecy and summarize our findings at the end.
1 Corinthians 12 is another of the four primary passages describing the spiritual gifts for the church. In verses 7-11 Paul lists many of the gifts, including “the gift of prophecy”, and says, “all these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” One of the conclusions we can derive from this passage is that the gift of prophecy is not something all Christ-followers can expect to have. It, as with all the gifts, is given by God to those whom He wishes to receive it. The gift of prophecy—indeed, all the spiritual gifts—is not something we can attain. It is a gift given by God according to His sovereign will.
Ephesians 4:11-17 is another of the central passages describing spiritual gifts. This passage focuses not so much on the gifts as they are possessed by individuals, but it lists Spiritual gifts God has given to the church corporately for its growth. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”
This passages lists apostles and prophets first, then evangelists, pastors, and teachers. While today there may still be apostles—a term which means “sent one”—who go with the church’s blessing to carry the gospel to new regions, and while there are also prophets who speak for God, these two gifts in particular played a central role in the development of the embryonic church. In Ephesians 2:19-20 Paul explained that the Ephesians were “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
The apostles and prophets of the early church established the foundation upon which the past 2100 years of the Body of Christ have been built. The role of that first generation of apostles and prophets was unique; the church was a new phenomenon in the world. Because Jesus’ blood had never been shed before, He had never indwelt people through the Holy Spirit, writing His laws on their hearts, before Pentecost. Those first apostles and prophets had to instruct people how to live as Christ followers. They had to help the people establish the structure of the church and facilitate Jews and Gentiles seeing themselves as one people in the Lord, even though they had completely different cultural and religious backgrounds. They had to make plain the will of God to Jews who had to understand that Jesus had fulfilled the structure of their entire culture, that they could now trust Him and let go of the distinctives that had set them apart from the world. The apostles and prophets also had to instruct the Gentiles how to live as God-honoring Christ followers when their pagan backgrounds had given them license to behave in completely carnal, self-indulgent ways.
Examples of Prophets
The book of Acts gives some glimpses into the role of prophets in the early church. Acts 11:27-30 records the time in Antioch when “some prophets” came from Jerusalem, the headquarters of the church. One of them, named Agabus, foretold “through the Spirit” a famine coming that would affect the whole Roman world. Because of this foreknowledge, the disciples there decided to provide for their brothers in Judea, “each according to his ability.” Agabus appears again in Acts 21:10 where he arrives at Ceasarea, where Paul was staying with Philip the evangelist, from Judea. There Agabus prophesied Paul’s death. Although the brothers wanted Paul not to go to Jerusalem because of this prophecy, Paul told them he was ready to die in Jerusalem “for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Acts 13:1-3 mentions prophets again. The prophets and teachers were worshiping God in Antioch, and while they were fasting and worshiping, the Holy Spirit instructed them to set aside Barnabas and Saul for the work to which God had called them. The assembled prophets and teachers fasted, prayed, and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul, commissioning them for God’s appointed work for them.
Acts 15:30-32 shows another practical way prophets functioned in the church. The brothers in Jerusalem sent a letter to Antioch instructing the Gentiles that they were not to adopt the law but were expected merely to observe four restriction: eat no blood, eat no strangled animals, eat no meat offered to idols, and engage in sexual immorality. When the letter was read, “Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.”
These passages in Acts illustrate the foundational job description for New Testament prophets found in 1 Corinthians 14:3: “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” Verse 1 admonishes Christ-followers to “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts—especially prophecy. In Acts 12:28-29 Paul lists several of the spiritual gifts God has given people in His body. In this passage he lists apostles, prophets, and teachers as the three foundational gifts needed for the establishment and health of the church.
He puts this and the other gifts into perspective, however, in 1 Corinthian 13:2 where he writes that if he has the gift of prophecy and “can fathom all mysteries and knowledge” but doesn’t have love, he is nothing. He then gives us an eternal glimpse at the gift of prophecy in verses 8-10; all other spiritual gifts including prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will cease when “perfection comes”. The “imperfect”, the spiritual gifts given to us in this mortal, physical life, will disappear because they will no longer be needed in the presence of Jesus. Even faith and hope will be fulfilled in our being glorified with Jesus. Love, however, will not fail; it will last eternally, and it will be the fulfillment and the end of all spiritual gifts including prophecy.
Paul also explains how prophecy is to be used in worship. First, he is clear that women as well as men can have the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:4-5). Second, in a worship service, no more than two or three people should prophesy. The rest of those present should consider carefully what the prophets say, and if someone has new insight, the first speaker should sit down and allow the next one to speak. Paul warns against feeling entitled or arrogant about the prophetic gift and reminds the Corinthians that the word of God does not originate with them but comes to other people, too. The spirit of the prophet, he says, is under the person’s own control. He has the ability to be orderly, to speak in turn, to be quiet, and to allow others to speak (see 1 Corinthians 14:29-32, 36-42).
The gift of prophecy has never been to deliver new information about God or salvation. Prophecy has always served the function of reminding God’s people of truth, calling them to obedience and repentance, and speaking words of encouragement and instruction. At times God has sent prophets, such as Agabus, to reveal that there would be imminent hardship in order to allow his people to prepare, but the gift of prophecy has never been to give “new light” not included in God’s direct revelation of Himself and His plans.
The New Testament gift of prophecy is primarily for the building and encouragement of the body. A prophet speaks forth the word of God, and he or she clarifies God’s revealed will. A prophet will always speak under the authority of Scripture and will not lead people away from the gospel as revealed in the Bible.
A prophet uses his gift “in proportion to his faith”. A person’s individual level of faith and trust deepens his ability to hear and understand God’s will. He becomes more established in his own faith, he becomes more able to speak God’s words to other people.
Gifts of Service
In Romans 12:7, Paul gives the brief instruction, if a person’s gift ‘is serving, let him serve.” This command doesn’t explain the gift of service with any detail, however. Throughout the New Testament, though, the concept of serving is explained more fully.
Galatians 5:13 details that we are not to use our freedom in Christ “to indulge the sinful nature.” Rather, we are to serve one another in love. Here Paul establishes self-indulgence as the opposite of loving service. All Christ-followers are to serve one another in love, but the gift of service especially equips one to come alongside others and support them in their work.
Ephesians 6:5-8 takes service to a place many of us would rather not go. Paul is addressing slaves and their relationships to their masters. Slaves in the Roman empire, however, were more like indentured servants than like the slaves we think of in our American past. Our modern parallel for understanding this passage would be employees with employers.
Paul’s primary concern was not whether or not a system of slavery should exist; his instruction to slaves was not an affirmation of slavery. Rather, he was telling people who came to know the Lord while enslaved how they should honor the Lord in their circumstances. Paul is unequivocal: slaves were to serve their masters as they would obey Christ—with respect, fear, and sincerity of heart. They were not to honor their masters in order to gain personal favor but to do the will of God. Their service to their masters was to be done as if serving the Lord, and they were to know that God would reward everyone for the good that they do, whether slave or free.
Paul was telling slaves—and today he tells us—that we are to do our work well, honoring and respecting our employers as acts of service to God. We are to remember that whatever we do is for the Lord, not other people, and God Himself is our boss.
In 1 Timothy as well, Paul tells “all under a yoke of slavery” to consider their masters worthy of respect “so God’s name will not be slandered.” Those with masters who are brothers in Christ should be no less respectful than those whose masters are not believers. In fact, they should serve them even better, because the masters are dear to them (1 Tim. 6:1-2).
Just to balance Paul’s instructions in Ephesians and 1 Timothy, it’s significant that in the book of Philemon, Paul writes to a brother in Christ to whom he is returning a runaway slave, Onesimus, who has become a believer during his absence from his master Philemon. Paul urges Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother, and he even asks Philemon to release Onesimus from his service and allow him to return to Paul. Nevertheless, he leaves the final decision with Philemon, urging him to forgive Onesimus’ defection and receive him with the same affection with which he would receive Paul himself.
Peter also addresses spiritual gifts including the gift of service. “The end of all things is near,” he wrote in 1 Peter 4:7; “therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. In verse 10 he admonishes to use whatever gift a person has received “to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” Later, in 5:1-4, Peter addresses the elders who serve as overseers of God’s flock under their care. They are to serve as shepherds, not because they must but because they are willing; not greedy but eager to serve; not lording it over the flock but being examples to them.
The gift of service takes many different forms, and all Christ-followers serve in some way. The important thing to remember is that God calls us to love and serve one another, bearing each other’s burdens and sharing in the load of suffering and fatigue as our brothers and sisters obey God’s calls on their lives. God designs the opportunities we have for service, and He imbues us with His wisdom and compassion and strength to carry out what He commissions us to do.
Gift of teaching
Paul has much to say about the responsibility and accountability that accompanies the gift of teaching. In 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, Paul lists teaching among the gifts of the Spirit. He enlarges on the responsibilities of those with spiritual gifts as they meet to worship together. Each person is to come with something to share: a hymn or word of instruction or an interpretation of a tongue—each person has something to share with the corporate body as a result of God’s gift to him (1 Cor. 14:26).
In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul lists the corporate gifts given to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These gifts are given “to prepare God’s people for works of service” so the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith, in the knowledge of the Son of God, and “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In this passage, Paul includes the gift of teaching as part of God’s equipping His body to become mature Christ-followers, knowing His word, living lives of service, and being filled with Jesus.
In Acts 13:1 is the account of Simon, Lucius, and Saul, and Manaen, prophets and teachers, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, set apart Barnabas and Saul for their apostolic work.
Paul also stresses the responsibilities of those who have the gift of teaching. He chastises the Jews in Romans 2:18-21 for believing they have superior knowledge because of the law, but they didn’t practice what they taught. Paul admonished Timothy to stay in Ephesus to command “certain men” not to teach false doctrine or to devote themselves to genealogies and myths which promote controversies. Love from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith is to be the substance of true teaching. Those who have wandered from these principles want to be teachers of the law, but they don’t know what they’re talking about (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
Paul gave similar advice to Titus when he told him to teach what’s in accordance with sound doctrine. Older men are to be worthy of respect and are to teach younger men to be self-controlled. Older men are to set examples for the younger men. Similarly, older women are to be reverent, not slanderers, and not addicted to wine. They are to teach younger women how to love their children and husbands “so no one will malign the word of God”. When a person teaches, he or she is to show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so opponents may be ashamed. (Titus 1:2-7; 2:1-5).
Paul also instructed Titus not merely teach; he, like all Christ-followers, was taught by God. His grace teaches us to say no to worldly passions and ungodliness. It teaches us to be self-controlled, upright, to live godly lives. Teachers are then to pass on these things to others. Paul told Titus not only to teach these things but to encourage and rebuke “with all authority, allowing no one to despise him (Titus 1:11-15).
In his instructions regarding the qualifications for overseers, or elders, Paul included the statement that an overseer must be able to teach, to be gentle and not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:2-3). Further, the Lord’s servants must not quarrel; they must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. They must gently instruct others in the hope that God will lead them to repentance and a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:23).
The gift of encouragement is mentioned many times in the New Testament. Barnabas is one of the best known encouragers; Acts 11:22-24 records his going to Antioch where he saw the grace of God active among the fledgling church there. He was glad and “encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” This passage describes Barnabas as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, who brought great numbers of people to the Lord. In this passage, encouragement is connected to building up the body of Christ with the goal of remaining true to the Lord. Barnabas’ encouragement was marked by great faith and the power of the Holy Spirit in him.
In Acts 13:13-40 is the account of Paul and Barnabas going to Pisidian Antioch. They went to the synagogue on Sabbath, and they were asked to give a message of encouragement. In response, Paul preached the gospel, beginning with a history of Israel and telling about Jesus. He explained that the gospel had come to them. The people wanted them to return and preach more, but the Pharisees turned on them. In this passage, encouragement is equated with the news of Jesus. The hope of forgiveness and eternity that Paul and Barnabas gave that Jewish congregation was the greatest encouragement of their lives. Those that responded found new meaning, hope, peace, and grace.
Acts 15 also tells the story of the gospel being a message of encouragement. After the Council of Jerusalem when the leaders of the church in Jerusalem met, prayed, and decided not to require the law of Gentile converts, they sent a letter to the Gentile churches informing them that they didn’t have to be circumcised and obey the requirements of the law. Acts 15:22-35 records that the Gentiles were glad for the encouraging message that they didn’t have to adhere to the law.
Romans 15:4-5 describes Scripture as being for our encouragement. Everything written in the past, Paul said, is written to teach us so through endurance and the encouragement of Scripture, we might have hope. Then Paul invokes a blessing: may God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the spirit of unity as you follow Christ. In this passage, endurance and encouragement are linked. God provides us with encouragement in order to strengthen us to endure.
2 Corinthians 7:8-14 records a disciplinary event between Paul and the Corinthian church. He has sent them a previous letter admonishing them to “clean up” a persistent sin among them. In this 2 Corinthians passage, he alludes to the previous letter and then says that they responded willingly when they realized they were doing wrong. Their willing response to change, Paul said, showed them their own devotion to God. Further, Paul says he is encouraged by their response and also by seeing how happy Titus is after meeting with them. The willing response to the Holy Spirit by those to whom Paul is ministering is a great source of encouragement to him.
In his letter to the Colossians Paul wants them to know how much he is struggling for them and for those at Laodicea and those who haven’t met him. His purpose in telling them them of his struggles for them is to encourage their hearts and also so they will be united in love and have the full riches of complete understanding. Once again, encouragement is associated with having the persistence and strength to stand firmly together, united by the Spirit. It’s all a matter or living for the cause of the gospel.
2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 records Paul telling this church to stand firm and to hold to the teachings he passed on to them. Then he invokes Jesus and the Father, “who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and hope,” to encourage their hearts and strengthen them in every good deed. To Philemon, the slave owner to whom Paul was returning the runaway Onesimus, he wrote, “Your love has given me joy and encouragement because you have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” In other words, Philemon’s ministry to the church members was an encouragement to Paul.
The writer of Hebrews associates encouragement with God’s discipline. He reminds his Jewish readers that they have not yet suffered to the point of “shedding blood”. Furthermore, he says, they’ve “forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.” The Lord, the writer continues, disciplines those He loves and punishes those accepted as sons.
The pervasive undercurrent of meaning associated with the word “encouragement” in the New Testament is the reassurance and confidence of love and God’s mercy that will sustain Christ-followers as they live and suffer for Jesus. Paul receives encouragement in the midst of imprisonment and suffering when he hears that those for whom he has labored are responding to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and turning from sin. Barnabas delivered encouragement to the early Christ-followers, rejoicing as he saw God’s power at work and encouraging them to keep on persevering for the sake of the gospel. God Himself encourages His people by assuring us of His love and acceptance when we suffer and undergo hardship for His sake. His discipline should encourage us with the certainty of God’s acceptance of us. Further, the Father’s love and grace give us “eternal encouragement and hope” (2 Thess. 2:15-17). Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead is the source of eternal encouragement. The love of the Father which lavished this grace and redemption upon us is the source of eternal encouragement and hope.
Biblical encouragement builds up the strength and endurance of God’s people. The commitment and integrity of the church is encouraging to all those who spend their lives in ministry, and the word of encouragement from one Christ-follower to another is the source of hope and strength to continue to persevere.
Gift of generosity
The New Testament changes the paradigm of giving from the concept of tithe as a requirement to the idea of submitting all one has to God, being willing to give whatever He asks. Generosity, furthermore, is listed as a specific spiritual gift. Paul commended the Macedonian churches for their “rich generosity” which welled up even in their extreme poverty, resulting in gifts for the famine-plagued church in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:1-5). He challenged the Corinthians to emulate the Macedonians and complete the collection of gifts they had promised to take. Their faithfulness to give would show the sincerity of their love, he said (2 Cor 8:7-9). Furthermore, God, who supplies all things, will supply His people’s needs and increase their store so they can be generous. 2 Cor. 8:10-15 says that God will “enlarge the harvest of your righteousness” and His people will be “made rich in every way” so they can be generous on every occasion, and their generosity will result in thanks to God.
When we give to the cause of the gospel, God increases our ability to give. His math doesn’t always make sense on paper, but it is powerful and adequate for all our needs.
God’s generosity with us extends to the rewards He will give when we finally stand before Him. The Lord Jesus will give us what is due us for the things we did while in our bodies (2 Cor 5:4-11). Because He died for all, those who live should no longer live for themselves. We are to be compelled by His love and live for Him who died for us (2 Cor. 5:12-15). This living for Him involves being generous with our money, our tkime, ourselves. Those who “sow sparingly,” Paul explains, will reap sparingly. But those who sow generously will reap generously. Whatever a person decides to give to God’s cause, he should give it—not reluctantly or “under compulsion”. We are to give cheerfully, knowing that God’s grace abounds and that He will make sure we have all we need in all things (2 Cor 9:6-8).
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he commended them for remembering to send a gift for his need while he was under house arrest in Rome. He reminded them, too, that “at the first preaching of the gospel”, they were the only church who participated with him “in the matter of giving and receiving.” He thanks them for the gift he has just received from Epaphroditus and calls it “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice to God” who would “supply all [their] needs through His riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:14-19).
Jesus said that if we give, God will give to us. Whatever measure we use to give, it will be given to us (Luke 6:38). Furthermore, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
God gifts people for the purpose of giving generously to support the work of the gospel. As we trust Him with our possessions and with our money, He supplies what we need and makes it possible for us to participate with Him in promoting His work.
Another spiritual gift God gives is leadership. We will look at two aspects of leadership: our response to leaders, and the work of governing diligently. Each of us, whether or not we have the gift of leadership, must relate to the leaders in our lives. God places us under the authority of people who teach us His word and provide spiritual guidance and direction, both personally and corporately within the congregation and the church at large.
We are to respect those who “work hard” among us, who are over us in the Lord and who admonish us. We are to hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work, living in peace with each other (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Paul also said that the elders who direct the affairs of the church are “worthy of double honor”, especially those whose work is preaching or teaching. A worker deserves his wages. Furthermore, no one is to entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought to the church by two or three witnesses. If an elder does fall into sin, he is to be rebuked publicly so others may take warning (1 Timothy 5:17-20).
As part of the body of Christ, we are obligated to honor those whom God has appointed as teachers, preachers, pastors, and elders. On the one hand, God holds them to a stricter standard because of the responsibility involved in teaching people the word of God and the principles of godly living (see James 3:1). On the other hand, because leadership in the body of Christ is authority given by God, we are to respect and honor our leaders in the Lord. Leaders are not more holy or righteous or important than any other person, but their authority to lead and teach is given by God, and we are to honor their authority as coming to us from God.
Because elders’ and pastors’/teachers’ authority is from God, they will be targeted for criticism, and people will tend either to rally around certain leaders or denigrate others. This behavior is no respectful of God’s appointments, and the church is not even to consider complaints against elders unless two ore three different people have the same complaint. If an elder is found to be in sin, his rebuke must be public because his influence is public.
The point, however, is not to fear God’s appointment to leadership. The point is that God Himself equips those He calls, and we, as members of His body, have the power to help the leaders do their jobs well, supporting them, praying for them, honoring them and shielding them from having to deal with pettiness, gossip, rumors, and other ungodly behaviors on our parts.
The author of Hebrews admonishes us to remember the leaders who spoke the word of God to us. We are to consider the outcome of their way of life—the fruit their lives yield, including ourselves—and imitate their faith. Godly teachers and mentors reflect Jesus and His wisdom and righteousness. God gives us godly mentors so we will have tangible examples of faithful living, and we are intended to emulate their lives of faith (Hebrews 13:7-8). Later in the same chapter the author tells us to obey our leaders and submit to their authority. “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” We are to obey them so their work is a joy, not a burden (Hebrews 13:17).
The job of a leader is God-given, and our job as people under their authority is to make their burdens lighter by submitting and honoring them. They are held accountable by God Himself to be godly leaders and to lead with His wisdom and discernment. We can trust Him to deal with them, and we must respect them and refuse to engage in backbiting or gossip about them. Submitting to the authority of God’s appointed leaders is part of our own submitting to Jesus’ authority over us as the Head of the church.
A leader’s responsibility
Leaders have the serious task of shepherding “the church of God”, protecting it from the savage wolves who come and speak perverse things to draw disciples to follow them (Acts 20:27-30). Paul uses himself as an example of a good shepherd; for three years during his time in Ephesus, he did “not cease to admonish each one”.
Being an elder in the church is a noble task, Paul wrote to Timothy. One who aspires to be an elder must fit a long list of characteristics; he must be the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to each, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must be able to manage his own family well, seeing that his children obey with respect. He must not be a recent convert to avoid becoming conceited; he must have a good reputation with outsiders so he won’t fall into disgrace (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
Paul’s letter to Titus reflects many of the same points he made to Timothy. He is to be blameless, not overbearing or quick-tempered or drunken. He is not be violent nor is he to pursue dishonest gain. He must be hospitable and love what is good, be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message of the gospel as he has been taught so he can encourage others with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:7-9). Paul goes on to say that there are many talkers, deceivers, and rebellious people—especially “of the circumcision group”—who must be silenced because they are ruining whole households for the sake of dishonest gain. They are liars, brutes, and lazy gluttons. Titus was to rebuke these people sharply so the people wouldn’t adhere to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject truth (Titus 1:10-14).
Paul’s advice to Christ-followers in 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1 is to be careful not to cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church. Those who influence others must seek their good, not their own good. They are to follow Christ’s example so people can safely follow their examples.
Peter also has a word for church leaders. They are to be shepherds “not because [they] must” but because they are willing. They must not be greedy but must be eager to serve, not lording if over the people, but must be good examples (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Leaders have a serious responsibility and must live committed, godly lives that are true examples of what it means to be a Christ-follower. They must be warm, hospitable, able to teach, and rooted in the gospel. They are accountable for representing Jesus to those they serve.
Gift of Mercy
The last gift Paul mentions in this passage is that of mercy. The definition of “mercy” includes the giving of kindness or forgiveness to an offender or to someone over whom one has power. It is also a disposition to be compassionate or forgiving, comforting and relieving of others’ pain. “Mercy” can also be an event or situation that provides relief or prevents something unpleasant from happening.
To understand the spiritual gift of mercy, we will look at some other New Testament passages that describe situations in which mercy is present. First, Paul speaks of God’s mercy to him as the foremost among sinners. 1 Timothy 1:13-14 says, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is describing God’s forgiveness of him when he was overtly hurting Him and His followers. He describes God’s mercy, however, as being poured out on him because he acted ignorantly in unbelief. It is important to note that Paul was not persecuting the church with the attitude of the Pharisees, who looked into Jesus’ face and rejected Him anyway. Paul was unbelieving and violent in a framework of ignorance. The Pharisees received the condemnation of Jesus “woes” in Mathew 23 because they knew who Jesus was but chose to not believe in Him. When Paul was confronted with the reality of Jesus, he repented.
After his statement that God showed him mercy even though he was the foremost among sinners, Paul explains God’s underlying purpose in his life. In 1 Timothy 1:15-17 he says that because of his being the worst of sinners, Paul became God’s example of how He redeems us all. In Paul, the blasphemer and persecutor, Jesus demonstrated His perfect patience as an example to all who would believe in Him for eternal life. God’s mercy to Paul was an example of His mercy to us all.
Peter also discusses God’s mercy to us. In 1 Peter 2:9-10 he explains that Gentile Christ-followers are God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation called out of darkness. Once we Gentile believers were “not a people”, but now we are the people of God. “Once you had not received mercy,” he writes, “but now you have received the mercy of God.” The result of God’s mercy is that we receive a secure identity. Once we were not a people; now we are God’s people. Once were lost and adrift in darkness; now we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation. God’s mercy has transferred us from being lost and adrift to having a royal and holy identity in Him. His mercy has given us “belonging” and a holy work to do. We have meaning and a reason to live.
In the third chapter of 1 Peter we read more about the results of God’s mercy. In His mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. This new birth, brought about entirely by God through the resurrection and victory of Jesus over sin and death, is the fruit of God’s mercy. We pass from death to life in Christ Jesus (John 5:24). We are made alive in Christ, and when we become alive in Him, we also receive an eternal inheritance with Him that is being kept for us by God’s power until His return (v. 15-17).
James comments on God’s mercy as well. In James 2:12-13 he admonishes his readers to speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to all those who are not merciful. The law that gives freedom to which he refers is the “royal law” found in verse 8 and in Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are to show mercy to one another because God has been merciful to us. If we are not merciful, we are flaunting and refusing God’s mercy in saving us, and we will be judged mercilessly. In James 3:17-18 James further describes the wisdom that comes to us from heaven. It is first pure, then peaceful, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. The ability to be merciful is not intrinsic within us; it is a component of God’s wisdom which He gives us. The ability to be merciful is accompanied by purity, being peaceable, considerate, submissive to one another, impartial with each other, sincere, and by bearing good fruit. Mercy is not a normal human attribute; it can only come from God.
Jude commends the saints to build themselves up in faith, keeping themselves in love as they wait for the mercy of God to bring them to eternal life physically. They are to be merciful to those who doubt. They are to snatch others who are flirting with sin or unbelief from the fire, and they are to show mercy mixed with fear, hating to be in contact with corruption. In other words, James is showing that mercy involves calling people to repentance and not being silent about sin. We have an obligation to one another as parts of the body of Christ and to unbelievers. Our purpose must be to call people to the Lord Jesus and to help them become Jesus’ disciples.
The spiritual gift of mercy reflects God’s mercy to us. It primarily seeks the salvation and rescue of those stumbling in sin. It gives us the ability to love and to hold others accountable while also offering hope instead of deadly shame and condemnation.
The gift of mercy in the church is the living out of the same mercy God gave us when He sent Jesus to take our sin and to be our sin offering and also to be our life and our mediator for eternity.
God has brought you to life in Jesus through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a biblical promise that God gives spiritual gifts to every one of His adopted sons and daughters, including you. Your gift(s) are specifically given to you according to God’s will for His glory and for the good of His body.
Ask God to humble your heart, making you willing to know His will and to do what He asks of you. Ask Him to help you to offer yourself to Him as a willing, living sacrifice through which He will glorify Himself. Ask God to take away your ego, arrogance, and pride and to help you know as He knows, love as He loves, and understand what He wants you to understand. Ask Him to teach you the truth.
Also, pray that God will keep your heart anchored in Jesus and that you will not be envious of nor distracted by other fellow body members. Thank Him for the gifts He chose to give you, and ask Him to manifest Himself to the world through His gifting of you.
Ask Jesus to be all you need, and submit yourself in obedience to His love to be and to do what He has prepared in advance for you (Ephesians 2:10).
The spiritual gift(s) God has given you are for you to use for the building up of the body, and they are also for the body to use in the larger sense of representing the Lord Jesus in this dark world. God is faithful; He completes what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6), and he glorifies Himself in and through us.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Paul now moves into enumerating various gifts which Christ gives to those in His body. This is one of four chapters in the New Testament that lists spiritual gifts; the others are 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.
1. Paul now explains that while each Christ-follower is a member of one body, each member receives different gifts from God. Compile a list of the spiritual gifts specifically listed in the New Testament. Refer to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 27-31; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11.
2.What is the New Testament gift of prophecy? (See 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:4-6; 4:11-17; Acts 11:27-30; 13:1-3; 15:30-32; 1 Corinthians 11:4-5; 12:28-29; 13:2; 8-10; 14:1-5; 29-32; 36-40)
3. What is the gift of “serving”? (see Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 6:5-8; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 1 Peter 4:7-10; 5:1-4)
4.What is the purpose of the gift of teaching? (see Ephesians 4:11-13; Acts 13:1; Romans 2:18-21; 1 Corinthians 12:27-28; 14:26; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; James 3:1; Titus 2:1-5; 11-15; 1 Timothy 3:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:23-26)
5. Describe the gift of encouragement and its purpose. How is it related to teaching? (see Acts 11:22-24;13:13-20, 23, 26, 32, 36-40; 15:22-35; Romans 15:4-5; 2 Corinthians 7:8:14; Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2L15-17; Philemon :6-7; Hebrews 12:4-5)
6. Paul enjoins all Christ-followers to give generously, but in this passage he is clear that giving generously is also a specific spiritual gift given to some people in a way not given to others. How is the spiritual gift of generosity different from the generosity God asks of all Christ-followers, and, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, what is the purpose of generosity? (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 7-9; 10-15; 5:4-11; 12-15; 9:6-8; Philippians 4:14-19; Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35)
7. ”Leadership”in verse 8 may refer to the office of elder and certainly includes pastors and other leaders within the body of Christ. How are we to relate to leadership within the body of Christ? (see 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17-20; Hebrews 13:7-8, 17)
8. What is the role of leaders within the church? (see Acts 20:27-31; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9; 10-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4)
9. What is the gift of mercy, and how is this gift similar to God’s mercy to us? (see James 2:12-13; 3:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:13-14; 15-17; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2:9-10; Jude :20-23)
10. What gifts has the Holy Spirit given you which are not primarily founded in your natural talents and education?
11. To what gifts in others is God asking you to submit, strengthening each other instead of being threatened by or jealous of the other?
12. Ask God to humble you, making you willing to allow Him to work in you in the way He chooses. Ask Him for strength from the Holy Spirit to stay anchored in Jesus and not to become distracted or jealous of your fellow body members. Ask Him to reveal His will for you and to glorify Himself in you.
Copyright 1999-2012 Graphics Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised September 11, 2012. Use of this site and forum signifies your acceptance of the Terms and Conditions. Send comments and questions to email@example.com