The Ministry of Spiritual Gifts- Prophecy; Ro. 12:6b

If prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

The first spiritual gift in this list is prophecy. In 1 Corinthians 12:10 this gift is linked to other sign gifts and was considered both supernatural and revelatory in nature. In Romans (and remember, Romans was written 4 years later than 1 Corinthians) it is connected to serving and speaking gifts.

So, there are, it seems, both revelatory and non-revelatory aspects to prophecy. However, MacArthur accurately notes the following: “Some interpreters believe this was a special revelatory gift that belonged only to the apostles and, like the sign gifts, ceased after those men died,” (Mac. Commentary p. 169).

He comments further, “The gift of prophecy does not pertain to the content but rather to the means of proclamation. In our day it is active enablement to proclaim God’s Word already written in Scripture. Paul gives no distinction to this gift among the other six [listed in this passage], which are clearly ongoing gifts in the church, thus not limiting it to revelation” [that is, the uncovering of new truth].

Prophecy (Propheteia) literally means to speak forth. The term simply means to put forth the Word of God, either by preaching or teaching or exhortation. One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation, (1 Cor. 14:3). Further, Peter says in 1 Peter 4:11: Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God…so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.”

William Barclay, writing his commentary on Romans, observed the following: “There is the gift of prophecy. It is only rarely that prophecy in the New Testament has to do with foretelling the future; it usually has to do with forthtelling the word of God. The prophet is the man who can announce the Christian message with the authority of one who knows. To announce Christ to others a man must first know Him himself. “What this parish needs,” said Carlyle’s father, “is a man who knows Christ other than at second-hand.”

Barnes adds this: “This word [Prophecy] properly means to predict future events, but it also means to declare the divine will; to interpret the purposes of God; or to make known in any way the truth of God, which is designed to influence people. Its first meaning is to predict or foretell future events; but as those who did this were messengers of God, and as they commonly connected with such predictions, instructions, and exhortations in regard to the sins, and dangers, and duties of people, the word came to denote any who warned, or threatened, or in any way communicated the will of God; and even those who uttered devotional sentiments or praise. The name in the New Testament is commonly connected with teachers; Acts 13:1, “There were in the church at Antioch certain prophets, and teachers, as Barnabas, etc.;” Acts 15:32, “and Judas and Silas, being prophets themselves, etc.;” Acts 21:10, “a certain prophet named Agabus.” In 1 Corinthians 12:28-29, prophets are mentioned as a class of teachers immediately after apostles, “And God hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets; thirdly teachers, etc.” (Barnes Notes on the Bible)

J. Vernon McGee is quoted as teaching this: “Prophecy here does not refer to prediction but to any message from God. Notice that prophecy is to be done in ‘proportion’ (this is a mathematical term) to God’s provision of the faith and the power to match the gift,” (Romans Commentary chapt. 9-16).

The gift of prophecy is to be used as God’s public spokesman, to teach, exhort, counsel, and minister the oracles of God primarily to God’s people. Mac says we are to “instruct, admonish, warn, rebuke, correct, challenge, comfort, and encourage.” (Mac p. 170)

To exercise this gift successfully the man so entrusted must enjoy an intimate relationship with the Lord and His Spirit as well as His Holy Word. Paul’s words carried such weight because he was living what he was preaching. Many times the Lord will let the teacher experience what he is to teach. Hence, his message will be all the more powerful!

John Calvin believed that prophesying was not first foretelling, but rather forth-telling Scripture by way of interpreting Scripture, so that a prophet is an interpreter of God’s will (Calvin’s Commentaries, Romans).

The book of Acts, which documents a time not only of growth but of transition for the church, has prophets functioning in both revelatory and non-revelatory aspects. Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem and part of a larger prophetic group, predicted a famine which would plague Judea during the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:27-28); in contrast, Judas and Silas were also prophets but gave no predictions or revelations. They rather encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message (Acts 15:32).

Realize as noted in our last study that the church was transitioning away from the sign gifts as the New Testament letters were being written and eventually the Scriptures completed. The Holy Scriptures are God’s complete revelation of Himself to man. No new revelations are needed. In fact there is a stern warning in the book of Revelation against either adding to or taking away from completed Biblical canon.

Since the Greek includes the definite article, as Mac notes, according to the proportion of his faith could refer to the faith, that is, the full gospel message, so that the prophet would be careful to preach in accordance with the gospel revealed through the apostles- the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Mac 171; Jude 3). Or it could be talking about the believer’s own subjective but experiential understanding of what God is saying to us through His Word according to the individual proportion of…faith that God has sovereignly assigned to him for the operation of his gift, (Mac).

“Whether it relates to revelation, prediction, declaration, instruction, encouragement, or anything else, all prophecy was always to proclaim the Word of God and exalt the Son of God, because the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, (Rev. 19:10). Paul’s specific charge to Timothy applies to all proclaimers of God’s Word, including prophets: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction,” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Next time, by God’s grace, we’ll look at other gifts in the Romans list. Until then, pray over your gift to find the most effective way in which the Lord wants you to exercise it…your servant, mike. 

 

Service is Not an Option; Titus 2:11-15

Hello, everyone. Today I want to take an excerpt from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Ministry Daily Readings for February, 2017. The following wisdom from Dr. Stanley ties in beautifully with the spiritual gifts section we are studying in Romans.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works, (Titus 2:11-14)

Now, from Dr. Stanley: Who is a servant of God? Ask average churchgoers that question, and they will most likely point to their pastor or some Christian celebrity. They almost certainly will not say, “We are God’s servants.” The church has a mixed-up idea that believers are separated into servants- that is, individuals in full-time ministry- and laypeople. The Bible contains no such distinction. Instead, Paul reminds the Ephesians that believers [all believers] are saved so that they might serve, (Eph. 2:10).

If there were no other reason to serve God besides gratitude for salvation, that would be cause enough. We are rescued from torment and given eternal life with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. Our service is but a small acknowledgment of the Father sending His Son to be sacrificed in payment of the sin-debt we owed. We have no right to withhold our gifts or time.

Many people, believers included, serve the big “I.” What satisfies and pleases “I”? What is convenient for “I”? What makes “I” happy and prosperous? When a pastor appeals for help, most of his parishioners are sure he is speaking to someone else because “I” has insufficient training or a busy schedule. Here is a harsh reality: if “I” is our master, we are committing “I”-dolatry. Anything given first place over God- including selfish desires- is an idol.

Service isn’t an option. God calls us to be servants so we can invest our lives in an eternally valuable purpose: the salvation of unbelievers and their subsequent discipleship for His glory. Our job may seem insignificant or our limitations great, but we are vessels of Christ with a role in the kingdom.

[See 2 Corinthians 11:22-31] …the Apostle Paul’s description of his suffering [for his faith] is remarkable in two ways. First of all, he had obviously faced considerable torment for his faith. Second, he refused to whine or seek pity- if this was the price for passionately serving Christ, Paul was willing to pay. In our own faith walk, we can learn from the apostle’s commitment.

We serve according to God’s will, not our own. On the road to Damascus, Jesus said to Paul, It will be told you what you must do, (Acts 9:6). We are to seek the Lord’s direction and timing instead of choosing the ministry that seems best to us. Committing to do whatever He asks requires courage, but anything less amounts to putting limitations on our obedience.

We serve according to our gifts, not our talents. A spiritual gift is a special endowment God gives us to serve where He calls. Talents may be useful in His work, but His gifts equip us for success. Natural skill wasn’t what made Paul a powerful preacher. In fact, he spoke of the uselessness of his abilities and pedigree in comparison with knowing and serving Christ (Phil. 3:4-9).

We are to serve with a focus on God, not on the work. Paul excelled at remaining Christ-centered, but this is where many people fall short. We get caught up in scheduling, responsibility, and accolades, which can make us lose sight of the true purpose: reaching the needy and those who need Christ.

Doing “church work” can stroke the ego but drain the body. If we keep focused and serve out of our gifts, service will be satisfying, even when it is hard or painful.

(End Charles Stanley quote)

So the work of God is there for we lay people just as much as it is for professional clergy. This should be tremendously exciting to the willing, energized believer. God has work for us too. We count, we matter, and the Lord cares so much for our success in blessing and edifying His body with the proper use of our gift(s). But the responsibility is on us to get to the work while it is still day. As Jesus warned, the night is coming when no man can work.

Be refreshed, be hopeful. God is with us! As we develop and strengthen our relationship with Christ Jesus we cannot fail! Blessings to all in Christ Jesus…your servant, mike.

 

 

The Ministry of Spiritual Gifts- part 2; Ro. 12:6-8

And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly; if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

According to the grace – “That is, the favor, the mercy that is bestowed on us. As all that we have is a matter of grace, it should keep us from pride; and it should make us willing to occupy our appropriate place in the church. True honor consists not in splendid endowments, or great wealth and function. It consists in rightly discharging the duties which God requires of us in our appropriate sphere. If all people held their talents as the gift of God; if all would find and occupy in society the place for which God designed them, it would prevent no small part of the uneasiness, the restlessness, the ambition, and misery of the world,” (Albert Barnes Notes on the Whole Bible).

MacArthur notes that no gift given by God through the Holy Spirit is of any value unless it is used. There was a man in Saskatchewan, Canada who had a great collection of rare and valuable violins. Put in the right hands those instruments would literally sing to the world, but kept in his private vault they were of value to no one. Our spiritual gifts are like that. With humble use they become of great value in the church. It is tragic that so many Christians keep their gifts carefully packed away, with all the untapped potential for divine beauty locked within.

Many American mothers keep their child’s first baby shoes to later have them bronzed as a remembrance and a symbol of freedom and independence. Japanese mothers, on the other hand, keep a small section of the umbilical cord as a symbol of dependence and loyalty, which is a beautiful picture of our relationship to our Father in Heaven and the interrelationship the Lord desires for the members of His Body, the church, (Mac commentary on Romans II, p. 168).

Between the time of Christ living on the earth and the completion of the writings of the New Testament there was , as Mac states, “…no standard for judging the truthfulness of someone who preached, taught, or witnessed in the name of Christ. The sign gifts authenticated the teaching of the Apostles- which was the measure of all other teaching- and therefore ceased after the Apostles died, probably even earlier. (Mac p. 168)

Paul explains to the Corinthian church: The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

Following John MacArthur’s thought line, as we read Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and other texts describing spiritual gifts and their use, we see that there are three categories of gifts: sign, speaking, and serving.

In Hebrews 2:3-4, there is further explanation: After [the gospel] was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

As MacArthur further points out, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, the apostles went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed, (Mark 16:20).

Mac observes the following: “1 Corinthians was written in A.D. 54; Romans was written about four years later. It is important to note that none of the sign gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:9-10- namely the gifts of healing, miracles, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues- is found in Romans 12. The other two New Testament passages that mention spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:7, 11; 1 Peter 4:10-11) were written several years after Romans and, like that epistle, make no mention of sign gifts. Peter specifically mentions the categories of speaking and serving gifts (v. 11), but neither the category nor an example of the sign gifts.

“It seems evident, therefore, that Paul did not mention the sign gifts in Romans because their place in the church was already coming to an end. They belonged to a unique era in the church’s life and would have no permanent place in its ongoing ministry. It is significant, therefore, that the seven gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8 are all within the category of speaking and serving,” (Mac p. 168).

In this passage Paul is speaking to those who have trusted Christ as their personal Savior. Of course, our salvation and our newly sanctified lives are lived out by the grace given to us. This grace is not earned or deserved any more than our salvation is. It is, rather, given to us by our redeemer God. These gifts differ according to the Lord’s sovereign choice for equipping each of us individually. We are like pieces of a many-colored puzzle, which, when fitted together, form an unimaginably beautiful whole!

Differ refers to diversity, and grace speaks of the unity we enjoy as God’s people while exercising our unique giftedness within and for the body of believers.

“Grace,” John MacArthur observes, “is God’s favor, unmerited kindness on His part, which is the only source of spiritual enablements. They are not earned or deserved, or they would not be grace. And the grace is sovereign, in that God alone makes the choice as to what gift each of His children receives. Each believer, therefore, is to exercise his gifts accordingly,”(Mac commentary II, p. 169).

Lord willing, next time we will look at the gifts listed one by one. Until then, may the Lord give you grace and boldness in the faithful administration of your God-ordained gifts…your servant, mike.

 

The Proper Relationship: Unity in Diversity; Romans 12:4-5

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of other.

Paul began chapter twelve by calling Christians as individuals to give their own bodies as a living sacrifice in the service of their God. Beginning in verse 4 he begins to use the metaphor of Christ’s church as His own body. As touched on in previous studies, the attitude we enter into the Lord’s service with is of primary importance. The noted commentator, William Barclay, gives an overview of this in the following passages:

“One of Paul’s favorite thoughts is of the Christian Church as a body (compare 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). The members of the body neither argue with each other nor envy each other nor dispute about their relative importance. Each part of the body carries out its own function, however prominent or however humbly unseen that function may be. It was Paul’s conviction that the Christian Church should be like that. Each member has a task to do; and it is only when each contributes the help of his own task that the body of the Church functions as it ought.

“Beneath this passage lie very important rules for life.

“(i) First of all, it urges us to know ourselves. One of the first basic commandments of the Greek wise men was: “Man, know thyself.” We do not get very far in this world until we know what we can and what we cannot do. An honest assessment of our own capabilities, without conceit and without false modesty, is one of the first essentials of a useful life.

“(ii) Second, it urges us to accept ourselves and to use the gift God has given us. We are not to envy someone else’s gift and regret that some other gift has not been given to us. We are to accept ourselves as we are, and use the gift we have. The result may be that we have to accept the fact that service for us means some humble sphere and some almost unseen part. The efficiency of the life of the universe depends on the humblest creatures.

“Paul is here saying that a man must accept himself; and, even if he finds that the contribution he has to offer will be unseen, without praise and without prominence, he must make it, certain that it is essential and that without it the world and the Church can never be what they are meant to be.

“(iii) Third, Paul is really saying that whatever gift a man has comes from God. He calls gifts charismata. In the New Testament a charisma is something given to a man by God which the man himself could not have acquired or attained

“(iv) Fourth, whatever gift a man has, he must use it and the motive of use must be, not his personal prestige, but the conviction that it is at one and the same time his duty and his privilege to make his own contribution to the common good.” (William Barclay’s Commentary on the Book of Romans, chapter 12)

MacArthur notes that while the church is one body, it is a body made up of many members. But these members do not have the same function. Therefore, we have unity in our diversity. We don’t necessarily do the same functions, but believers are all part of the same body, the same church universal, and we seek a common goal: to please and glorify our Lord and Master.

As Barclay noted above, we must humbly accept the gift God has blessed us with. Even the most lowly tasks are highly necessary for the proper function of Christ’s church. And God always notices and never forgets.

John MacArthur notes the following: “In the spiritual organism that is Christ’s church, every constituent part- whether obvious and important, such as the arm, or hidden and unnoticed, such as the small blood vessels and glands- is critical to its proper functioning as a whole. It is diversity working in unity and in harmony that enables Christ’s body to be and to do what He directs it to be and to do,” (Mac Commentary on Romans, book two, p. 164).

Dr. Paul Brand wrote an amazing book called, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, which speaks of the human body in comparison to the Church body. I have included an excerpt here:

“I am first struck by their variety. Chemically my cells are almost alike, but visually and functionally they are as different as the animals in a zoo. Red blood cells, discs resembling Lifesaver candies, voyage through my blood loaded with oxygen to feed the other cells. Muscle cells, which absorb so much of that nourishment, are sleek and supple, full of coiled energy. Cartilage cells with shiny black nuclei look like bunches of black-eyed peas glued tightly together for strength. Fat cells seem lazy and leaden, like bulging white plastic garbage bags jammed together.

“Bone cells live in rigid structures that exude strength. Cut in cross section, bones resemble tree rings, overlapping strength with strength, offering impliability and sturdiness. In contrast, skin cells form undulating patterns of softness and texture that rise and dip, giving shape and beauty to our bodies. They curve and jut at unpredictable angles so that every person’s fingerprint- not to mention his or her face- is unique.

“The aristocrats of the cellular world are the sex cells and the nerve cells. A woman’s contribution, the egg, is one of the largest cells in the human body, its ovoid shape just visible to the unaided eye. It seems fitting that all the other cells in the body should derive from this elegant and primordial structure. In great contrast to the egg’s quiet repose, the male’s tiny sperm cells are furiously flagellating tadpoles with distended heads and skinny tails. They scramble for position as if completely aware that only one of billions will gain the honor of fertilization.

“The king of cells, the one I have devoted much of my life to studying, is the nerve cell. It has an aura of wisdom and complexity about it. Spider-like, it branches out and unites the body with a computer network of dazzling sophistication. Its axons, “wires” carrying distant messages to and from the human brain, can reach a yard in length.

“My body employs a bewildering zoo of cells, none of which individually resembles the larger body. Just so, Christ’s Body comprises an unlikely assortment of humans. Unlikely is precisely the right word, for we are decidedly unlike one another or the One we follow. From whose design come these comical human shapes which so faintly reflect the ideals of the Body as a whole?

“The Body of Christ, like our own bodies, is composed of individual, unlike cells that are knit together to form one Body. He [Christ] is the whole thing, and the joy of the Body increases as individual cells realize they can be diverse without becoming isolated outposts.” (Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”)

There are also selfish cells in the church Body, those individuals whose only interest is to absorb from the church and Christ without ever giving back. These are spiritual gluttons, growing indolent and fat by feeding off the labors of others while refusing the responsibility  the Lord lays upon them to actively contribute. They are a drain on the righteous and cause the overwork and burnout of many good believers.

And then there are the tares, cancerous cells out to destroy. MacArthur states this fact: “The church has “cells” that are mutinous to the point of destruction. Through outright heresy and flagrant immorality, these malignant members openly attack the rest of the body, eating away at its very life, (Mac p. 166)

“28 Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29)

As we faithfully endeavor to follow the Lord with all our strength we can be sure that He will lead us away from being destructive cells and will insert us into His church exactly where He wants us so that we can build up and edify the brethren and bring glory to His holy name. Until next time, God bless all my readers…mike.

 

 

 

 

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The Proper Attitude: True Humility, pt. 4

“For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

We discussed last time the five wrong attitudes toward spiritual gifts. Review the last study if you have not seen them. Of course there are certain right attitudes toward spiritual gifts. First, as alluded to in the previous discussion, humility would lead us to conclude that the Lord God knows what He is doing; He knows what He wants to accomplish and how to do it. He could easily do it Himself, but He has chosen fallible human beings to help Him reach His divine goals.

“…we must acknowledge that the Lord Himself provides exactly what He wants for us and everything we need to serve Him according to His will, just ‘as He has allotted to each a measure of faith.’” (Mac. p. 161) Each believer has his own set of operating capabilities. To try to manipulate or change this, for whatever reason, and to do what we were never meant to do will only produce “frustration, discouragement, guilt feelings, mediocrity, and ultimate defeat. We fulfill our calling when we function according to God’s sovereign design for us,” (Mac. P. 161).

Mac lists 9 Scriptural guidelines to help us to fulfill our calling regarding spiritual gifts. We should give ourselves as a living sacrifice (Ro. 12:1); recognize that all believers are gifted, ourselves included (Ro. 12:3); pray for wisdom, seek for nothing (humility) (Acts 8:18,24); examine our heart’s desire (1 Tim. 3:1); seek conformation; look for the blessing of God; wholeheartedly serve Him; and cultivate the gift as it becomes obvious, (Mac. P. 162).

Even after all of this it can become an easy temptation to regiment this whole thing. Relax. Let God lead you. The New Testament does not precisely identify the gift of any believer. It doesn’t come in a box with nice wrapping. We live by faith, so we must use faith eyes and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. It requires a close and healthy relationship with the Spirit of Christ, who comes along side us and helps us find our way.

There are many combinations and degrees of giftedness. MacArthur uses the idea of  an artist painting with a full palette of colors to mix any way he chooses to arrive at an unnumbered array of tones and colors. The Holy Spirit, who is God, does the same thing with us. Be open to however He chooses to lead you. Don’t be dogmatic or stubborn. Let the Artist work through your unique life to edify the church and glorify the Lord!

1 Peter 4:10a says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it…” As noted, each believer is given at least one gift, and that gift is unique in the individual person because that person is already unique. It is some combination of…” the manifold and multicolored categories of speaking and serving giftedness (vv. 10b-11) from which the Spirit colors the believer, and which are then blended with the uniqueness of the mind, the training, the experience, and the effort of the individual- the result being that every Christian is like a snowflake, with no other having the same pattern,” (Mac. P. 163).

Romans 12 and 1 Corinthian 12 are the two central passages in Scripture concerning spiritual gifts. Important to note: “…it is not on a believer’s precisely identifying his gifts but on his faithfully using them,” (Mac. P. 163).

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose,” (Phil. 2:13). The Lord has given believers the wonderful opportunity to work in partnership with Him to complete His body, to build up and edify that for which Christ died.

 In our next study, our good Lord willing, we will discuss proper relationships in the body: unity in diversity. Until then, God bless you all richly with His manifest love…your brother, mike.

 

 

The Proper Attitude: True Humility, pt. three

Before we look at passages teaching about spiritual gifts we need to regard in depth how crucial humility is to the proper use and exercise of our God-given gifts and their use in the body of Christ. In a general sense there are five wrong attitudes Christians can stumble into if we are not careful regarding spiritual gifts.

First, a gift can be used in a boastful manner. Many people are naturally competitive; they love to win and excel. Believers, if not careful, can bring that into the church, where it has no place. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21), “which is what a Christian does when he boasts of his own gifts and accomplishments,” (Mac vol. 2, p. 160).

Second, we must not devalue our God-given gift. See 1 Cor. 12:11-12, 19. This belittles what God has sovereignly given for the church’s edification and His glory. All spiritual gifts, from the greatest to the least, are necessary. One is just as important as another for the proper functioning of the church body.

A third wrong attitude toward spiritual gifts is claiming a gift we don’t have. This is a form of stealing from God. In doing so we crowd out those who have that gift and also denigrate the gift or gifts God has given us, thereby casting insult upon God’s wisdom and sovereign choice in placing us where He wills in the body.

Paul asks the Corinthian church, “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?” (1 Cor. 12:29-30) John MacArthur says: “”If God has not chosen to give us any of the more notable gifts, we should neither feign nor covet them.”

A fourth wrong attitude is to refuse to use an inconspicuous spiritual gift out of shame or jealousy or resentment. This again disrespects the Lord and His church, which we are called to serve in with humility and grace. “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body,” (1 Cor. 12:15-16).

It is not what our station in life is that matters; rather it is our faithful execution of the responsibilities the Lord has given uniquely to us that matters to God and that will cause Him to sing your praises in heaven! It was not the rich, who gave large amounts to the temple treasury, who garnered Jesus’ attention and praise, but rather the poor widow who gave two mites, because it was all she owned, (Luke 21:1-4). She gave what she had, and that is all the Lord expects from us.

Number five is failing to use the gift(s) we have been given at all, to simply neglect them. Whatever the reason- jealousy, shame, neglect, bitterness, or indifference- this is a wrong and destructive attitude toward God’s grace and intentions.

“Every spiritual gift of God is to be used to its fullest, because every gift is divinely ordained and meant to be divinely empowered and employed. Certainly Paul is concerned with this issue when, in verses 6-8, he urges that all gifts be used.

“The humility that God requires and honors does not overestimate or underestimate Hs gifts but estimates them rightly and uses them rightly. Every Christian can attest, ‘God has gifted me. He has gifted me graciously and lovingly and will give me everything I need to use my gifts effectively to His glory. I thank Him and bless His name.’” (Mac commentary, vol. 2, p. 160)

Next time, Lord willing, we will look at correct attitudes toward spiritual gifts. Until then, God bless you all…mike:)

 

 

 

The Proper Attitude: True Humility, part 2 ; Romans 12:3

To have sound judgment…

From the Greek this means to think with a sound mind, to think soberly. It is to recognize that in and of ourselves, on our own strength, by our own morality and intellect, we can do nothing that advances the kingdom of God. We can only be effectively used to the glory of God by the Spirit of God, bestowed on every Christian at the new birth. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, (Eph. 2:10).

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s, (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Pride is the essential attitude of a fallen human race. Sin always involves pride. Somehow we think we have a right to go against our God and Creator. The very statement, “I’ll do it my way”, so popular in culture, shows how the unsaved truly live: “My way, not God’s.”

But, as MacArthur points out, it is not to be so with God’s children. “To be useful to our Lord, we must honestly recognize our limits as fallen men and women as well as our abilities as new creations in Christ, keeping both in proper perspective.”

The great reformer, John Calvin, wrote on this: “For so blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love that everyone thinks he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison…There is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most noxious pests, self-love and love of victory. This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us to remember that the endowments which God has bestowed on us are not our own, but His free gifts, and that those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude,” (Institutes of the Christian Religion).

Says John MacArthur: “No matter how well grounded we may be in God’s Word, how theologically sound we may be, or how vigorously we may seek to serve Him, our gifts will not operate so that our lives will be spiritually productive until self is set aside.” (Commentary, vol. 2, p. 157).

During New Testament times some churches were characterized by members desiring the more public or showy gifts, such as prophecy, teaching, and tongues, to the exclusion of others. The Corinthian church was a chief offender. But Paul admonished that we should desire a more excellent way, the way of humble love, (1 Cor. 12:31; cf. 13;1-13).

In the third epistle of John, vs. 9, the apostle identifies a man named Diotrephes, who loves to be first. Unfortunately this speaks of many across our churches who want attention and relish the spotlight. The spotlight should be reserved for One only, the Lord Jesus Christ!

The world we live in looks down on humility as weakness. Self-glory, to them, is strength, and meekness and generosity are for the “losers.” Faithless, selfish living “is…characterized by brash, and even exalted, self-centeredness, ego building, pampering the body, and striving to fulfill every personal lust and ambition, with little regard to who may be harmed. It is small wonder that depression and emotional chaos are so prevalent.” (Mac vol. 2, p. 159).

Professor William K. Kilpatrick, in his book, Psychological Seduction, the Failure of Modern Psychology, writes: “Extreme forms of mental illness are always extreme forms of self-absorption….The distinctive quality, the thing that literally sets paranoid people apart is hyper-self-consciousness. And the thing they prize most about themselves is autonomy. Their constant fear is that someone else is interfering with their will or trying to direct their lives.”

The great Christian writer, Augustine, wrote The City of God. In it he says this: “Two cities have been formed by two loves; the earthly by the love of self even to the contempt of God, the heavenly by the love of God even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord.”

John the Baptist, upon hearing of the success of Jesus’ ministry, said, He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30). He was saying that his ministry was decreasing in size and importance, but Christ’s was growing. John humbly and gladly accepted that. For believers, on the throne of our hearts, ego and self must decrease as our recognition of Jesus’ rule and authority over every facet of our lives increases. Paul said, I die daily. A big part of that was dying to self and becoming increasingly alive to Christ. This is growing and it is essential to sanctification and maturity in the faith.

The writer of Hebrews said this: Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near, (Heb. 10:24-25)

…. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at
the right time he will lift you up in honor. … (1 Peter 5:6).

Until next time God’s praise and blessing be upon all!…mike.

 

 

Wood & Nails

God led Noah to build an ark in order to carry one family safely upon the waters of the great Flood and deliver mankind from utter destruction . Wood and nails said He; build Me an ark of wood and nails.

God’s Son Jesus was a carpenter. He fashioned many things for many people. He made them happy, using His skilled hands- and wood and nails, wood and nails.

One windy, cruel day, on Golgotha, the place of the skull, the Lord lay back upon a wooden cross, to which His enemies nailed Him. He did not resist or curse against the agony and torture. He was not surprised. This, after all, was His plan, His mission all along:

To win eternal salvation for all those who would believe in Him, as He lay a-dying against wood and nails, wood and nails!

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive, and had been seen by her, they did not believe. 

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,” (Mark 16:9-16).

Oh, blessed wood and nails; blessed wood and nails, which braced that sacred form, which bore the Savior of the world!

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself, (John 12:32).

Wood and nails; wood and nails. Amen.

 

The Proper Attitude: True Humility; Romans 12:3

For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

The Apostle Paul has just given us 11 chapters filled with why we should consecrate our lives to God: because of God’s great mercies toward us!

In the first two verses of chapter 12 he shows us what we are consecrating. Now in verse 3 he illustrates how we are to approach our Christian lives in order to be able to get out of the way and let the Lord effectively work through us.

The first word, For, is a word of connection, pointing back to what he has just said. “It ties spiritual service to spiritual dedication, the bridge between them being spiritual attitude,” (Mac) The proper attitude for any and all believers is humility.

Humility is a virtue hard-fought for. It is easy to let it slip through our fingers without even realizing it has escaped us. The harder we struggle against pride and try to stay humble the wider the crack in the door becomes for pride to slither through. We may become self-conscious, try too hard, or, worse, become proud of our humility.

We may be tempted to be self-deprecating. If I put myself down enough I’ll be humble, we might think. If I declare that I am truly worthless and therefore of no good use to God, then I’m not only humble, but I don’t have to lift a finger to serve the Lord. This, of course, is not humility, but rather laziness, self-indulgence, and hypocrisy, as well as prideful.

Not with-standing, the proper Christian attitude of true humility can be attained, but only with divine help, and we must take that fact seriously. Otherwise, we will miss the boat and fail to ever successfully serve the Lord in a way that brings Him glory. We must realize it isn’t about us, but about Him.

By grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is a gift of God and not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them, (Eph. 2: 8-10). God gets the glory, the honor, the praise, not me or you.

Do you understand the difference. Instead of me working for God, God works through me and you to accomplish His will. The glory and praise are His. Always! We are vessels, He is the Master, using the vessel how He will.

Our attitude toward humility is not to think more highly of [ourselves] than [we] ought to think. Paul can say these things with authority because it is by the grace given to me (that is, Paul). No believer can do anything worthwhile without God’s help. On our own we would be hopeless, but He is our help, and we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.

“No matter how well-grounded we may be in God’s Word, how theologically sound we may be, or how vigorously we may seek to serve Him, our gifts will not operate so that our lives can be spiritually productive until self is set aside,” (Mac commentary p. 157).

Humility is the most basic human virtue, only truly achieved through Christ, and it opens the door to love, power, and unity in the common faith.

In verse 3 Paul uses a form of the Greek word, phroneo, four times. It means not to overestimate oneself, but to think of ourselves as we really are. We are to ask God for wisdom and seek the truth about our gifts, talents, character, and so on. Paul warns, If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself, (Gal. 6:3). Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves, (2 Cor. 13:5).

The basis of pride is the belief that we have accomplished something in and of ourselves that is worthy of attention, even adulation. The truth is that we can’t do anything good by ourselves. The Scripture tells us there is none righteous, no, not even one! The reason for pride is a sense that we have a right to call glory to ourselves. But we don’t; it’s a lie. Paul asks the Corinthian church: And what do you have that you did not receive [from God]? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Cor. 4:6-7; cf 1-5).

By God’s sweet grace we’ll continue next time. May the Lord bless all with abundant mercy…mike.

The Ministry of Spirtual Gifts; Romans 12:3-5

For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

When Jesus left this earth after His resurrection, He made it clear to His disciples that He was giving the church into their hands. He would be with them by way of His Holy Spirit indwelling them. But they and those they converted would now be in a literal sense His hands and feet and arms and legs to carry on the mission.

Once one has consecrated his body, soul, and spirit to the ownership and authority of God, the logical next step is to be put into the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus commissioned His followers to, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, (Matt. 28:19-20).

“His present ministers to the world in His name are those described in the previous eleven chapters of Romans, who have been freed from the bondage of sin and become children of God and bond-servants of Jesus Christ. On the human side it is upon their faithfulness, obedience, and usefulness that the work of His kingdom now depends.” (MacArthur commentary, p. 154)

God’s order of being obedient to Him is first worship, and then service. The believer who has not first consecrated his body, soul, and spirit to God as an act of spiritual worship, cannot truly and effectively serve God or Christ. Only as a living sacrifice can we be what He wants us to be.

“That act of spiritual worship marks the Christian’s entrance into divine usefulness.” (Mac) That usefulness manifests itself most effectively within the parameters of the Church, through the use of spiritual gifts, which every Christian has. We have a common commission to serve Him, but it is through edification with widely diverse spiritual gifts.

We will see that devotion to the Lord (worship) and work for the Lord (service) are inseparable. They are two sides of the same coin. Mac puts it this way: “We cannot be truly sacrificed to Him and be inactive in His work. And on the other hand, we cannot be truly successful in His work without being genuinely devoted to Him. True worship cannot be divorced from service,” (p. 154).

There is no true Godly commitment without Godly service, and no service to God prevails without a true and deep love for Him. Jesus commended the Ephesian church for their works, but He also warned them they had lost their first love (passionate devotion to Him), and unless they returned to that first love they could lose their church (see Rev. 2:1-5).

There is a balance here that only God’s Holy Spirit can help us keep. The Church has always had members who claim intimacy with our Lord, but who are lacking the works and service to show any natural fruit-bearing. On the other hand, there are always those who are very busy in the church, and yet show no spiritual growth or love for the Lord of the church. We must be neither of these, but rather, true and complete disciples, loving the Lord with great passion and serving Him with great zeal!

So then, we must also realize this: although we have a common ground of commitment to and unity of message about Jesus Christ, our spiritual gifts are unique and varying, leading to diversity in service. Now our gifts are diverse, but our responsibility to use them is not.

As we will study in more depth later, Paul states that we have many members but only one body, and all the members do not have the same function. We have gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, (12:4-6). If the eye does not guide the feet the body will walk into a wall. If the hand just quits, the other hand and all the body will suffer, and so on.

As we will study in more depth, Paul states that we have many members but only one body, and all the members do not have the same function. We have gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, (12:4-6). If the eye does not guide the feet the body will walk into a wall. If the hand just quits the other hand and all the body will suffer, and so on.

Let’s also note that every gift, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is equally important to the health and function of the body: And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again, the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary, (1 Cor. 12: 21-22).

“Total surrender to the Lord is also foundational to Christian service in another way. Without genuine, selfless, commitment to Him, we not only will lose the desire and forfeit the power needed to serve Him effectively but also will never experience what God has intended for us to do when our gifts and calling are used to the fullest,” (Mac commentary p. 155).

Much has been made and said about how to identify our spiritual gifts. It doesn’t have to be that difficult. Pray to God about it. Talk to other Christians who know you about where they think you shine. Listen to your own heart, guided by the Holy Spirit and God’s word. Keep drawing closer to God and be active in the church and in good works, and your gift or gifts will come to light. The Lord does not want you to be confused!

Mac says this: “Therefore, if we are not sure of our gifts from God, it is most likely because we are not close to God. We come to know our gifts more fully as, through worship in spiritual truth, we come to know Him more fully. When our lives are on the altar of sacrifice, we will have no problem discovering or using our spiritual gifts,” (p. 156).

Lord willing, next time we will look at verse three more fully. Until then, God bless you all through Jesus Christ our Lord…mike.