What's Your Function?
(Fair warning: this post will be lengthier than usual
because it’s two Sundays messages combined into one.)
We are all gifted & we need all the Gifts.
One of the positive aspects of aging is the whole gift giving and receiving thing becomes less and less important. Whether we’re talking about Christmas or birthday, it just feels like too much trouble to go out and buy a gift for somebody else and after years of receiving crummy gifts, you give up on ever getting something you want. So - eventually - you say, “Ah, who cares?”
A way to breathe some life into stale gifting is to give “joke” gifts. That’s always fun, right? I found a website that offered 42 “hilarious gag gifts” and after weeding out the stuff that’s not church-appropriate, here are my top ten.
#10 = Bacon Bandages. Band-aids that look like strips of bacon. If you combine this with bacon hand soap, you will become irresistible to dogs and hygienic too!
#9 = An Emergency Clown Nose. Because no one wants to be caught without a clown nose when you really need one.
#8 = Inflatable Unicorn Horn for Cats. Only for cats who deserve to be ridiculed.
#7 = The Bathe & Brew Coffee Maker. The box appears to contain a coffee maker with an attached shower head, to allow you to make coffee as you clean up. However, the whole thing is a prank as the note inside informs the recipient.
#6 = Screaming Goat Figure. For what-ever set of reasons, screaming goats are an internet thing. This little goat figure will scream every time you push the button. Fun at home or at the office!
#5 = Edible Insects Bag of Edible Bugs. Trust me; no one will care if the expiration date is passed!
#4 = Yodeling Pickle. You will likely be the first on your block to be the proud owner of a battery-powered plastic pickle that yodels. It’s all the rage is Switzerland!
#3 = A Chia Pet Donald Trump. Here’s a nostalgic return to the 80s that will appeal to friends in either party.
#2 = Dynamite Fire Starter Sticks. Enliven a boring old camp fire when you take out a box labeled “dynamite” and light it up!
#1 = Spam Can Diversion Safe. As the average thief spends less than 6 minutes in a place he’s burgling, it seems unlikely he will waste a second look at this authentic-looking SPAM can. But will it keep your valuables safe from a hungry thief. (See https://dodoburd.com/gag-gifts.)
OK, let’s get serious about gifts. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus promised that our heavenly father knows how to give good gifts to His children. His most important gift is salvation through Jesus Christ. After that gift is accepted, the Father gives Spiritual Gifts to His children to enable each and every one of us to serve Him through the Church and in the world. It is this set of Gifts we will examine in this message.
1. We all have different Gifts. (Romans 12:4-6a)
In verse four Paul used the human body to illustrate how God intends the Church to function. Science tells us that a human body is made up of cells, organs, and systems. These “members” work together to give life to a person.
Similarly, the Body of Christ (the Church) has many members with different functions (5).
Each local church needs all its members on hand to maintain the life of the church and cause it to grow. This teaching is intended to counter the ego, pride, and individualism that is typical to human nature. The Bible emphasizes the gathered and united people of God.
Here and in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul used this symbolism to teach 3 things about Church.
- Its diversity = a diverse set of Gifts and personalities are required.
- Its unity = all the people working toward the same goal - making disciples - while using their diverse Gifts.
- Its mutuality = EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS.
The church is not meant to be a loose association of those who hold similar views, who merely put up with one another. Instead, a church is a set of people who are bound together in a deep and spiritual way; we’ve got to be devoted to each other and devoted to Jesus.
God’s GRACE determines which Gifts each individual member is given (v. 6a). Let us first observe that Paul launched into this section with the words BY THE GRACE GIVEN ME I SAY TO YOU: this is a reference to Paul’s apostleship. He means to say, “By God’s grace I have the authority to tell you the following things about Spiritual Gifts.”
The other understanding of GRACE is that it is the means by which we receive these Gifts. Every time he wrote about Spiritual Gifts Paul wanted to make that clear. The Gifts are not to be confused with “talents.” or “skills.” On the contrary, all the Gifts are “Spiritual” in the sense that they are given by means of the Holy Spirit, not by our choice. While some of the Gifts are more clearly supernatural and some feel more ordinary or natural, all of them are not something the Gifted person could do on their own.
This list in Romans 12 is not meant to mention every Spiritual Gift. We need to compare Paul’s lists, note the similarity of some Gifts, and list the unique ones separately. I have done that and come up with 14 Gifts.
2. Here are some of the Gifts. (Romans 12:6b-8)
The definition of this Gift is also based on 1 Corinthians 14 and Ephesians 4 where it is listed. Prophecy may take either of 2 forms:
- “Foretelling” (supernatural accurate prediction of the future).
- “Forth-telling” (relating God’s word to His people in ways similar to preaching and teaching). This is the most common form of prophesying in the Bible.
Here in Romans 12, Paul explained that the Gift of Prophesying is to be exercised IN PROPORTION TO the FAITH of the Gifted. This means that true prophecy springs from FAITH, not from emotion (1 Corinthians 14:32) and presents itself in an orderly fashion (1 Corinthians 14:30). Persons using this Gift speak for God and obviously always tell the truth. Since they are not speaking to please themselves or their hearers, prophets don’t pull punches.
PROPORTION was a mathematical term, so this phrase could also mean that the prophet needs to speak only the messages that come by faith; it would violate the trust of the people if he/she were to speak out of self-interest, wishful thinking or outright falsehood.
Examples of ways this Gift might be put to use in a local church include Supply Preacher, Worship Leadership, giving Testimony, and Deacon.
This Gift is not well-defined; to distinguish it from the other Gifts, we might say it is sensitivity to need and insight on how to support others. It is based on the Greek word diakonia, which was used in Acts 6 to refer to the newly-created officers called “deacons” who waited on tables. They were both administrators and workers in the program of feeding widows. Examples of ways this Gift may be used in a local church include church and community service programs and social action agencies.
Identified as a Message of Knowledge in 1 Corinthians 12 and with the office of Teacher in Ephesians 4, this Gift enables knowledge of the Bible and an ability to communicate it effectively. A difference between Prophesy and Teaching is that prophets relate truths that come to them personally from God. Teachers use the already-existing word of God; the Scriptures. In a typical church, this Gift is needed in all programs of Christian Education.
Identified as a Message of Wisdom in 1 Corinthians 12 or Pastors Ephesians 4, this Gift enables the Gifted to help other believers grow in spiritual maturity. The Greed word for “encourage” can also be translated as “comfort” or “exhort”. This opens up a range of emotional approaches, all of them valid in the scope of this one word.
- On one end of the spectrum, the word “exhort” has an assertive feeling
- On the other end, the word “comfort” has a passive feeling to it.
- “Encourage” is somewhere in the middle, demanding change or affirming as the situation demands.
Examples of use in a typical church includes Christian Education, Mentoring, Discipleship, Small Groups, and Visitation.
Sometimes called “Giving,” this Gift provides the means and motive to use God-given resources to meet human needs and do ministry in a way that is timely, generous, and strategic; all to God’s glory. In Romans 12, Paul qualified the Gift as being directed at THE NEEDS OF OTHERS. His qualification of the Gift is that it should be exercised GENEROUSLY. This refers to giving that is done without mixed motives. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira made a generous gift to the church, but they did so with the motives of pride and greed. They paid the ultimate price for their deception. There are many ways in which the Gift of Contributing might be useful in a church: Tithing, Stewardship Ministries, Financial Officers, Trustee.
Also known as Apostles (Ephesians 4), this Gift enables management of God-given resources to achieve His will. The Greek word for “leadership” literally means “to stand before others.” Paul called on Gifted leaders to work DILIGENTLY. They are to serve with purity of motive, not abusing the benefits of office and/or neglecting the responsibilities. They are to govern with integrity. Any Church Office or Ministry Team or Committee would provide opportunity to use the Gift of Leadership.
The command associated with this gift is cheerfulness; it may be a “contagious kindness” that lifts up the virtue of patience and the practice of forgiveness. This word is associated with helping the sick and needy. Help should be offered CHEERFULLY so it does not impart a sense of obligation or insult upon the people being helped. In a local church, this Gift would be useful in small groups, auxiliary organizations, and in all kinds of Visitation.
3. Here are the rest of the Gifts.
There are five Gifts that are unique to 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. All five of them are the most supernatural of the fourteen Spiritual Gifts we will identify.
Everyone needs faith to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior to be saved. This cannot be that kind of faith. Instead, this Gift is a boldness and confidence to express one’s faith and live by faith. The Gift of Faith provides an ability to perceive God and His will (“vision”) and trust Him even “common sense” may disagree. This is a degree of faith that accomplishes more supernatural things. In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul referred to a FAITH THAT CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS. This echoes the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 17:20 where He promised that a faith no bigger than a mustard seed could move a mountain.
In 1 Corinthians 12:7, the Apostle Paul noted the manifestations of the Spirit are GIVEN FOR THE COMMON GOOD. This reminds us that all the Gifts are designed to benefit everyone when they are used. In this case, it is the exercise of the Gift of Faith that calls God’s people to a vision of God and what He is doing among us. In a local church, the Gift of Faith might be exercised in groups setting forth a vision and/or writing a Mission Statement, in prayer meetings and groups, and in all leadership positions.
This Gift provides miraculous deliverance from illness, injury, even death. This Gift cures all aspects of illness; physical, mental, and spiritual. Paul listed this as GIFTS (plural) OF HEALING. It seems likely he chose the plural form to indicate the multifaceted aspects of healing we have just mentioned. In other words, Healing is not just for the body, but for the mind and spirit as well.
We see numerous examples of healings in the book of Acts; chapters 19+20 highlight Paul’s healings. Examples of the uses for a Gift of Healing include Hospital, Hospice, and Homebound Visitation.
Miraculous Powers (10).
Miracles are acts accomplished outside normal human power or the laws of nature. In the Greek, this expression is literally translated as “acts of power.” I see it as a general term that covers supernatural phenomena not expressly covered under the other Gifts. Biblically, miracles are a means of validating the testimony of a person or church, that they truly represent God. This was true of Jesus’ ministry as well (see John 14:11). Given the broad definition of this Gift, examples of use are a little difficult to nail down, but I would love to have someone with this Gift leading service ministries and prayer ministries.
Distinguishing Between Spirits (10).
Also called “discernment,” this Gift allows a person to sense the true nature of persons and things, identifying their source and purpose as spiritual good or spiritual evil. The Gifted is given insight into the true moral and spiritual nature of people and things. All believers are commanded to exercise good judgment and not accept claims of being in Christ at face value (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21; 1 John 4:1).
This Gift would be useful in examining expression of the other Gifts, making certain they genuinely come from God and are not counterfeits. Other uses of this Gift could include advocacy on social Issues and spiritual leadership in a church, such as Deacon or Elder.
Tongues (see also 1 Corinthians 14:1-25).
Another word for TONGUES is “languages.” As he did with Healing (GIFTS OF HEALING), Paul listed this Gift in plural form too; DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES. I believe he was thinking of two KINDS of this Gift: the public kind, appearing in worship and the private kind, appearing in prayer.
Paul observed two sides to this Gift. First, “Speaking in Tongues” is the supernatural use of a language the Gifted does not know, done in a public or private context. The first instance of Speaking in Tongues was in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, the very first time the Holy Spirit was given to all God’s people. On that occasion, the worshipers spoke in known human languages that were recognized as such by bystanders. Other instances are recorded in Acts 10:46 and 19:6, where we are not told what specific language was used. In 13:1 he referred to THE TONGUES OF MEN AND ANGELS; these two kinds of languages may be the KINDS to which Paul referred in verse ten.
Second, “Interpretation of Tongues” is a supernatural ability to translate a language not known by the speaker and the interpreter. In 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, Paul set a limit on speakers (2 or 3 at a time) and required an immediate interpretation. When an interpretation was lacking, Paul required the speaker to be silent.
The Gifts of Tongues (Speaking and Interpreting) became a fixation and source of division in the Corinthian church and that’s why Paul devoted more of his writing to these Gifts than to all the others combined. Paul attempted to curtail their use in worship in two ways (1 Corinthians 14:27-28); he set a limit on the number of speaker (no more than 2 or 3 at one time) and required an immediate interpretation or the speaker should be silenced.
Combining all the teaching in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, we emerge with an understanding that Tongues is a Gift to be used in worship but in a controlled way, so as not to bring disorder or disunity (see 14:33+40). Paul preferred the Gift of Prophecy to the Gift of Tongues (14: 1, 5)because intelligible speech has an obviously greater value in communicating truth. Whether the Speaker speaks in a human language or an angelic one, an Interpreter must understand what was said and translate it for the benefit of the worshipers. Speaking in Tongues is also manifest in private prayer (14:4) and in that context requires no interpretation.
The Gift of Evangelist is found in Ephesians 4:11-13.
All believers are called to be witnesses to their faith. Our Christianity is not something to be kept “private,” but it is to be on display in everyday actions and conversations. Persons gifted to be Evangelists are better equipped and enjoy more success in making new disciples. In Ephesians 4 passage Paul developed a teaching about the unity of the Church by listing some of the officers of the Church. The diversity of Spiritual Gifts demonstrated unity because they had all the officers were appropriately Gifted and they had received their equipping from Christ. It is their shared job was to build up the Church into maturity. Echoing the language of Romans 12 which linked grace and the Gifts, verse seven says that GRACE has been APPORTIONED to each of us by Christ. The Gift of Evangelist would be useful in positions of ministry in outreach and service-oriented witness.
The fourteenth Gift is Workmanship, found in Exodus 31:1-6.
This Gift empowers the use of one’s mind and hands for the creation and maintenance of physical items and the house of worship. This is for the glory of God and the benefit of God’s people. Take note of God’s words in verse three: “I HAVE FILLED HIM WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WITH SKILL, ABILITY AND KNOWLEDGE IN ALL KINDS OF CRAFTS.” The crafting ability that Bezalel demonstrated in creating the tabernacle and all its furnishings was based on the filling of the Spirit. By means of the Filling of the Spirit, God endowed this man with the knowledge and ability to create items with ALL KINDS OF CRAFTS. This kind of language is unique in the Old Testament but fits with what we’ve studied about the Gifts of the Spirit in the New Testament. For this reason I have chosen to list Workmanship among the Gifts even though it is the only Gift not included in Paul’s lists. This Gift may also be the most practical; it is useful in maintenance and improvement of a church’s facilities; a Gifted person could also perform acts of service outside the church building, doing good work for the needy.
We are all gifted & we need all the Gifts.
(The following story is from an article entitled “Living Our Spiritual Gifts: The Challenge of Carl” by Dan R. Dick, director of connectional ministries for the Wisconsin Annual Conference, UMC. What appears below is an abridged version. The unabridged version may be found at http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/living-our-spiritual-gifts-the-challenge-of-carl.)
“Once in a great while God grants us the opportunity not only to hear the gospel, but also to meet it incarnate. For me, one such experience materialized in the form of a huge, lovable, mountain of a man named Carl. Carl stood fully seven-foot tall, wide as a doorway, with a bushy beard — reminiscent of Bluto from the old Popeye comic strip.
“Over time, this small congregation embraced Carl in spite of itself. He was so friendly, kind, generous, and lovable that he was met, first with tolerance, but soon with real affection.
“Through our time together, we determined that Carl's gifts were evangelism, exhortation, and shepherding. He once said, ‘God gave me a car with four seats in it, so it would be poor stewardship to show up at church with one of the seats empty.’
“Longtime members were often distressed about the people Carl invited. They saw disruptions to their comfort where Carl saw children of God.
“[It came to a head one Sunday when Carl entered the sanctuary] followed by seventeen inmates and four armed guards from a nearby correctional facility. The prisoners were in prison uniforms and leg irons.
“Carl's ‘prison ministry’ brought everything to a head. I fielded dozens of phone calls and visits in the first twenty-four hours after the service. Carl himself came by on Wednesday and said, with tears in his eyes, saying that might be a good idea for him to look for another church. Twisting a baseball cap in both his mammoth hands, Carl looked me in the eye and asked, ‘What did I do wrong?’ I received word a few years ago that Carl had passed away. Rarely a week goes by that there wasn't a place for Carl in a church I pastored.”
Expositor’s Bible Commentary #10, Everett F. Harrison
The Communicator’s Commentary #6NT, D. Stuart Briscoe
Thru the Bible #4, J. Vernon McGee
Zondervan Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce, Gen. Editor
Zondervan Bible Commentary, Paul W. Marsh