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Forming (in) Community – Practice of Servant Gifts (3)

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Recap and Intro: Paul’s earliest teaching (54 AD), on what I called ‘The Manifestations Gifts’ of the indwelling Holy Spirit, is in 1 Cor 12. Though he lists nine such gifts in vv.8-10, it’s clear from vv.28-30 that it was not a fixed and final list of spiritual gifts. Let us look at some of those other gifts that he mentions, from Rom 12:1-8 (‘The Motivation Gifts’ in the Body of Christ) and Eph 4:7-13 (‘The Ministry Gifts’ of the ascended Christ). Once again, they’re ALL servant gifts, given by God via each member of Christ’s Body, to heal, form and grow us to maturity. The gifts represent THE ministry (service) of Jesus Christ: it’s not ‘my ministry’; we’re doing HIS ministry! Each of these texts teaches the key of relational inter-dependence and unity for the gifts to function effectively – next week’s teaching.

Motivational Gifts of the Body of Christ in Rom 12:1-8 (written in 57 AD)

The context: Rom 1–11 is Paul’s ‘theology’, his breathtaking vision of God’s plan and work of salvation. Rom 12–16 is his ‘praxis’, his practical application: how THEN do we live and behave for God’s sake? He begins with, “Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God… which is your spiritual act of worship” (12:1). The rest that follows – all that we obediently do in our bodies – is our worship of God.

vv.3-8, The Body of Christ: Paul’s first ‘praxis’ is life in God’s covenant community. He teaches on the relational attitudes and behaviors (vv.3-5, see also 9-13) in which the God-given grace-gifts operate (vv.6-8). Both the relationships and the gifts determine the life and health of the local Body of Christ – or lack thereof if there’s disunity/dysfunction!

Scholars note that Paul teaches these seven gifts as key ‘motivations’, both natural inclinations and spiritual enablings. I.e. they are gifts “according to the grace given” (v.6) to each member to motivate the core areas of service in the local Body. Some people have more than one such gifting, a ‘gift-mix’, but one is always primary. To minister within your gifting is best; it gives life to you and those around you. At times we’re called to fulfill a role in service (ministry) that’s not our gift-motivation – to fill a ‘gap’ that needs to be done. Blessed are those who simply serve for the good of the Body, even if it’s not your primary gifting. BUT Paul says (vv.6-8) we should serve in our gifting, and more so, that we must develop our gifting, our level of skill, and do it diligently and faithfully to the best of our ability – because for God and his people. No slap-dash service!

Prophesying: those motivated to reveal God’s will/truth and confront untruth ought to do it in keeping with the pattern of ‘the faith’ revealed in scripture, and within their faith in God – to overstretch your faith is presumption, which causes damage!

Serving: those inclined to practically get things done in the church (the “helps” of 1 Cor 12:28?) ought to get on with it, and do it well, as their joyful gift to God.

Teaching: those oriented to instruct how things work, to give knowledge of truth in God’s Word and way of living, ought to do it diligently and patiently.

Encouraging: those enabled by God’s Spirit to regularly comfort (paraklesis), exhort, uplift and strengthen people ought to do it faithfully within their measure of faith.

Giving: those motivated to contribute materially to meet needs beyond what we call regular ‘tithes and offerings’ ought to do it with generosity as their gift to God.

Leadership: the Greek word means to ‘stand before or ahead of others, leading and guiding them’ to God’s vision of life. Leadership is a gift… to initiate and oversee. Those gifted in this must govern diligently as they will account to God (Heb 13:17)! They are responsible for the healthy co-ordination of the other gifts – herein lies the pain (suffering love) of servant leadership: to guide, instruct, correct and admonish people for the health of the Body (see 1 Thess 5:12-13, 1 Tim 3:4-5, 5:17, 2 Tim 4:1-5).

Mercy: those motivated to show mercy to the poor, sick, broken, aged, etc, caring for them in their need, ought to do it cheerfully! (Is it because some do it with ‘a long face’?)

Ministry Gifts of the Ascended Christ in Eph 4:7-13 (written in 60 AD)

The context: Eph 1–3 is Paul’s ‘theology’; Eph 4–6 is his ‘praxis’, which (again) begins with Christ’s Body and its relational health and unity (4:1-6), the basis of the gifts.

vv.7-11. The Ascended Christ gives the gifts mentioned in v.11; i.e. Jesus pours his heavenly authority into his earthly church by his Spirit in and through these ministries. They exercise HIS rule in/through his Body, advancing his Kingdom in the world. Thus these gifts: 1) carry leadership (as above), 2) are for The Church – though local they’re translocal, 3) are for some, not all, members of Christ’s Body (v.11), and 4) are ministry-functions and not office-titles, as sadly is common in today’s church (see Matt 23:5-12).

Apostles: the apostolic ministry-function is the ‘sent-forth-ones’ (missionaries) who pioneer the work of God’s Kingdom by founding and overseeing churches.

Prophets: the prophetic ministry-function is the ‘Spirit-revelatory-power-ones’ who proclaim God’s truth and confront untruth, as revealed in scripture.

Evangelists: the evangelistic ministry-function is the ‘gospel-proclaiming-ones’ out there in the world, crossing barriers, advancing God’s Kingdom by gossiping the gospel, leading people to the faith and following of Jesus Christ.

Pastors and teachers: ‘and’ in the Greek is a conjunctive, coupling the two; i.e. technically this ministry-function is pastoring-teachers or teaching-pastors. Pastor (poimen, literally shepherd) is used together with elders (presbuteros) and overseers (episkopos) in the New Testament (Acts 20:17, 28, 1 Pet 5:1-4). I.e. they make up the ‘eldership’ that leads and governs the local church, with (probably) the ‘pastoring teacher’ as the team leader.

vv.12-13. The Purpose of these Gift-Ministries: “to prepare God’s people for works of service” (v.12), equipping the saints to do their ministries – The Ministry of Jesus – “so that the Body of Christ may be built up… reach unity in the faith…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v.13, what an astounding vision!)

For personal reflection and home group discussion: 

Read Rom 12:1-8 and Eph 4:7-13. Then discuss these gifts as Paul teaches them. Identify what gifts God has given you, in the home group, and in our church. How we can encourage their effective functioning? End by praying for the operation of these graces.

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