Now before I list out the spiritual gifts, I want to talk about the connection between grace and gifts.
In v3, we read — 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
The Greek word for grace is “charis” and this common grace that all believers receive when we were saved and this is the “measure of faith” that we are to keep in mind when we consider ourselves with sober judgment in relation to others. We are all sinners forgiven by the blood of Jesus so that is why we should never exalt ourselves over others or elevate human leaders. That is why keeping in mind this common grace or this common measure of faith is important.
Then, in v6, we read — 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
Again, there is mention of that common grace or “charis” given to all believers for our salvation and this is the basis for the gifts or the Greek word “charismata.” So there is a connection even lexically between grace, or charis, and the gifts, or charismata. And of course, this is where we get the Charismatic Movement or Pentecostalism. We were saved and brought under the headship of Christ to form one body by the grace of God or charis. Christ ascended on high and this is a reference to His resurrection and in the process He gifted His church so that we can display the fullness of Christ since Christ is no longer visible and living among us. And we do our part to display the fullness of Christ when each member exercises his or her gift to its full.
Now onto the gifts themselves. There are 3 passages that discuss the spiritual gifts: Romans 12, 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4.
Here is a broad stroke of all the spiritual gifts listed across these 3 passages. And within the 3 passages, I’ve noted how many times these individual gifts were listed. Obviously, if a spiritual gift is listed only once, then it could be considered less important, but if it were listed in all 3 passages, then it must be really important.
Depending on how you categorize and group the gifts, there are anywhere between 16-20 spiritual gifts. For the purposes of this study, I have narrowed it down to 16. If you want to have this list later, I can email it to you —
- Apostles (2 occurences) – 1 Cor 12:28, Eph 4:11
- *Prophecy (3) – Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:7-10, 1 Cor 12:28, Eph 4:11
- Evangelists (1) – Eph 4:11
- Ability to distinguish between spirits (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10
- Utterance of wisdom (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10
- *Teaching/utterance of knowledge/shepherds and teachers (3) – Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:7-10, 1 Cor 12:28, Eph 4:11
- Encouraging/Exhorting (1) – Rom 12:6-8
- Working of miracles (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10, 1 Cor 12:28
- Gifts of healing (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10, 1 Cor 12:28
- Service/helping (2) – Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:28
- Leading/administering (2) – Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:28
- Various kinds of tongues (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10, 1 Cor 12:28
- Interpretation of tongues (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10
- Giving (1) – Rom 12:6-8
- Faith (1) – 1 Cor 12:7-10
- Mercy (1) – Rom 12:6-8
There are many interesting observations that you can make by studying this list, like among all the gifts, why are there only 2 gifts that appear in all 3 passages? And those gifts are prophecy and teaching. Teaching, I get. But prophecy? I have never met a prophet in my life. Should our church have a prophet? I don’t know. And the gifts that we might be uncomfortable with like speaking in tongues or the ability to distinguish between spirits or healing are only mentioned in one of the passages so those seem less important.
So the really important gifts are present in all 3 churches — the church at Rome, the Corinthian church and the church at Ephesus. If the particular gifts are so important, then why wouldn’t there be identical lists in each of those churches? Some gifts overlap, some don’t overlap. I think this clues us into the fact that this is not an exhaustive list. There are important things like teaching that every ekklesia or assembly ought to have. But some like the speaking in tongues, a few will have and many won’t. Or apostles. If you take the strict definition of apostle being an eyewitness to Christ’s resurrection, then no church today will have an apostle. But if you use the broader definition of apostle as one who does ground-breaking work in preaching the gospel and laying new foundation where the gospel has never preached, then some churches have members with the gift of apostleship and they are highly evangelistic. And some churches without the gift of apostleship just maintain and care for their existing members.
Paul seems to keep things a bit open-ended. Things are left a bit fluid and no single church will be a cookie cutter replica of another church. Because the church is about people. And if God has brought together a group of people who are committed to one another, those same people by definition cannot be part of another church. That means there is a unique gift mix within LBC Pasadena that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I actially believe that God in His sovereignty looks at the needs of each church, and he gathers the right people with all the necessary gifts so that we can do our part here at LBC to display the fullness of Christ the best that we can.
Jackie has the ability when she is eating food to make mediocre food sound like it is the best dish she ever ate. If you’ve eaten with my wife, you know what I am talking about. Maybe that is a gift because if you are the cook, you appreciate someone like Jackie enjoying your food. But, I digress…
Now, let’s look closer at the gifts listed in Romans 12, starting from v6 —
Rom 12:6-8 – 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b] faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Here, Paul lists 7 gifts: 1) prophesying, 2) service/ministry, 3) teaching, 4) encouraging/exhorting, 5) contributing to the needs of others, 6) leadership, and 7) showing mercy.
One observation and two practical applications and I’ll speak more about the practical implications next week. v7 mentions the gift of service and this has a connotation of waiting on tables and ministry. And I like that connection. We are servant ministers. We are here to serve those we are ministering to. And in a church context, this has the office of deacon or deaconness in view, but it can be applied to all believers who wish to serve and wait on the needs of our members and community as ministers of the gospel.
Every time we gather to worship, someone serves by buying the food, someone is arranging rides, someone is preparing the songs and setting up the gym, somebody is printing out the bulletin, someone is collecting the offering, someone is writing reimbursement checks and another person is performing accounting duties. There are so many people that are working behind the scenes and sacrificing their time just so the rest of us can gather for this worship service. And again, I thank all the servant ministers who work to serve the people.
We are human. We work hard and no one seems to appreciate what we are doing, we don’t receive a thank you from anyone. And usually we can take it because we are filled with the grace of God. But we have our bad days — our patience runs thin and we want to say, forget it. I am tired of serving. When you’re having that kind of day, let’s remember what Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Every Christian, our posture should be, how can I serve? Because Jesus set the model for us and He came to serve us, to the point of laying down his life for our sins. And He never received a thank you, but He was rejected, scorned and ridiculed.
Practically, this means that God may be speaking to you this morning and you may not know your spiritual gift yet, but you want to serve others in this body of Christ. If that is you, I encourage you to please talk to one of our staff and we will meet with you and discuss opportunities to serve and help you discern what your spiritual gifts are in the process. I am thankful that this spirit or service has already begun and I pray that it would continue to grow among us.
I also encourage you to join our weekly prayer meetings because that’s where we bring all the needs of this body of Christ before the Lord. And there is a world of difference between just hearing about answered prayer on Sundays and actually being an active part of the day to day needs and struggles of our members and experiencing the process leading up to the answered prayer. For ones who joined us to pray over impossible situations and we saw how God answered those prayers after months or even years, there is such a joy when God comes through. Even unanswered prayers, there is a connection that we are building with the member who asked us to pray as we enter that person’s suffering. Prayer is one very practical way that you can move from being a spectator who attends this church and a member who belongs to this church.