The Study of Spiritual Gifts (Sermon 2 of 14)
July 19, 2001 | Andy Davis
This is the second sermon in the series about Spiritual Gifts.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Maybe someday we'll have dual preaching. We'll have two people standing up and kind of back and forth be one way to do it. Thank you so much. Why don't you join with me in prayer? Father, we thank you for this evening, for the time that we have to study your Word now. We thank you for the worship we've experienced in the fellowship already. Father, I just really enjoy these times of testimony, Lord, to hear what you're doing in the lives of the members of our church. Father, we thank you for your goodness to us. We thank you that you have not left us as orphans, but Lord, that you meet all of our needs. We thank you that you hear our prayers. We thank you that you see each of the issues of our lives. In fact you have even brought them to us, oh Lord, and that you use the trials and the struggles that we go through to help us to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ. Father, I pray that you would continue to sustain and strengthen those that are trusting you for things, Father, whether for healing, maybe there's chronic illness, maybe a job search as mentioned. Thank you that one was successfully completed but still waiting for others Lord. And we just pray for your faithfulness to be shown as we know you will. But Father, more than anything, our desire and our yearning is to glorify you in our lives in the way we walk with you Father. And we know that we can't do that unless we understand your Word. So I pray, Father, that you'd be with me tonight as I teach and all of us as we listen to your word and seek to put it into practice in our lives. Father, we pray that you'd be with us by the power of the Spirit and help us, oh Lord, to grow in this knowledge of this understanding of spiritual gifts so that we can grow to full maturity in Christ we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now last week as we began to look at spiritual gifts, what I did was I just went through a kind of survey of Ephesians 1, 2, and 3 to set the context for Ephesians 4. Everything should be taken in context, especially in Paul's epistles. Paul had a very logical mind and he unfolded his doctrines. There was a reason why this paragraph followed that one and why this statement followed that. And so we sought to set it in context and we saw that God was doing a great work in this world, namely building a spiritual temple which is rising little by little into full maturity, into full completion in Christ. And we also saw in the passage we're focusing on tonight, Ephesians 4, we saw this body image, namely that the church is a body. So these two great images of a spiritual temple rising to completion according to the blueprints and then the body rising up into full maturity according to the maturity that God gives. And this is what God is doing in us and through us and spiritual gifts part of that.
Tonight we're going to focus in more on Ephesians 4 and I'd like to just read Ephesians 4:1-16 and then begin to look a little more carefully at it. Beginning at verse 1, it says:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you've received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is overall and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth and love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So that last phrase, “as each part does its work.” that's so vital isn't it? As every part of the body does its work, the body will grow up into what? What does it say? What's the word? Maturity. As each part does its work, the body grows up into full maturity. And so we're looking at spiritual gifts. Now the idea that Ephesians 4 is addressing spiritual gifts comes right in this section in the middle, in verses 7-8. “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
Now, in order to understand the reason behind the spiritual gifts, we have to understand the two reasons, the two primary reasons that God has left the church on earth. Why has he left us here on earth? I think number one, that we might live in a manner worthy of the calling we have received. You look at verse 1, he says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you've received.” Another way to put it is that we may “grow in grace in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that's in 2 Peter, but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. So he's left the church on earth, that it might grow in grace and knowledge of Christ, that it might live a life worthy of the calling that it has received, that it might grow into full maturity in Christ. And so another verse that focuses on that is in Matthew 5:48 in which Jesus says "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." So that is a challenge, isn't it? As a matter of fact, it's somewhat of an infinite challenge that we might be in this world as Jesus was. That we might walk as he walked, that we might think as he thought that we might feel what he felt, that we might have his mind and his actions, that his motives would be ours. This is what we call sanctification, is it not? That we grow in godliness, that we grow into maturity. That is one of the reasons he's left you on earth. Now, along with that come all kinds of things, events and opportunities, good works that God has ordained, that we should walk in them as Jesus would, character traits, a whole slew of things that God is doing in your life. And it happens little by little. You're growing up, you're more like Christ now than you were 10 years ago. If you're a Christian, you're walking with Jesus and you're seeing the process of growth into maturity.
So that's one of the two great reasons that God's left us here. What is the other? Well, it's that we help others to do the same. That we make disciples of all nations, that we bring them into the church, that we see them grow up into maturity. It's not just that we make converts, but that we make mature disciples. That we continue to teach them to obey everything that he has commanded. We don't want to stop short of having people pray a prayer or become a convert. That's not the great commission. The great commission is make disciples, baptizing as we spoke about this morning, but also teaching them to obey everything, not just teaching but teaching them to obey everything. And so you see how the two really do fit together, don't they? In one case, we are seeking to obey everything that God has commanded and in another sense we're seeking to help others to obey everything that Christ has commanded and the two go together. Another name for these are evangelism and discipleship. Are they not? And I've found in the Christian life and in the church, the two are totally meshed together, aren't they? You can't separate them. You can't say, “Well, we're going to be an evangelistic church. Our desire is to do evangelism. That's all we care about. We're not interested in discipleship, but there's just such an urgent need to get people saved so that they would not go to hell. There's such an urgent need that we might see people justified.” Is that God's way? Not at all. First of all, it's not in Christ's command. We are to make disciples, so we can just be seeking to get people to prayer, but that's not the fact. The fact of the matter is: if we're going to be maximally effective evangelistically, we're going to have to be mature disciples, aren't we? Who is it that has the courage to go across the room at the office and to share the gospel with a coworker or with a boss, let's say even more, or with just somebody else there or who will speak up in the neighborhood or at the supermarket will witness, who's going to do that? It's going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, isn't it? And we're going to do it all the more as we grow up in maturity. Now on the other hand, could we be completely focused on discipleship and not care whatsoever whether people come to faith in Christ? Could we say, “Well, we just want to get all our doctrinal Ps and Qs and Ts and everything lined up and what happens outside the walls is really of no concern to us.” Can we do that? Well, no. We'd be violating the commands of God again. We are to continue to reach out, to continue to move out.
I mentioned this morning the Anabaptists and there's some of my great heroes in the faith. These people suffered greatly. But then there's started to be certain groups of Anabaptists and some of them I think because of the persecution just focused inward and sought to be pure in an ungodly world. They wanted nothing from the world and they wanted the world just to leave them alone. Perhaps you've driven through some of the counties in Pennsylvania and seen some of these groups. They are the descendants of the Anabaptists and they have no evangelistic concern. Those groups, not all of them, they're some that really have a lovely concern and a great outreach. But some of these groups have just become inward focused and they had no interest whatsoever. They have no world vision. They just want to get through the world and then go to heaven having maintained their doctrinal purity, so they believe. But it becomes inward focused and it really withers, doesn't it at that point? It really becomes irrelevant in the world and it's off to the side. The two really go together. So God has left us for these two great purposes: to grow into maturity and Christ-likeness, godliness, holiness, and the second that we should reach out with the gospel and seek to make disciples of all nations.
Now, spiritual gifts enables both of those things to go on. As a matter of fact, it is the key to the whole thing. It is as the church is using its spiritual gifts that both of them occur. It is as teachers teach, it is as encouragers encourage, as administrators do their work of administration, as people with the gifts of generosity give generously, as people with the gift of faith, use that vision to challenge the body that the church grows up into full maturity as each part does its work. But that's why they're given. They're given for those two great works and we're going to continue on them. They are a challenge are they not? "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, make disciples of all nations." Jesus said, we're not finished, are we not by a long shot? Look inward at the truth, look outward and you can see it also. There's still work to be done and therefore we need to grow in our understanding of these spiritual gifts. We need to know what God is calling us to do.
Now, so the church we desire to see grow in spiritual maturity. We desire also that the church would grow in numbers. The church is immature and the church is too small, isn't it? The church is immature. It's not like Christ the way it should be. We're not where we need to be. And so we need to grow up. We need to grow up doctrinally; we need to grow up in our understanding of Christ. We need to grow in the way we live our Christian faith, right? We need to grow up. But the church isn't where it needs to be numerically either, is it? We want to see more and more and more people saved. Why? Because God wants to see that. As a matter of fact, if you look in the book of Acts, we're not overly concerned with numbers, but you look at Acts 2:47 for example, it says, “The Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved.” Daily. Wouldn't you like to be part of a church like that? “The Lord added to their number daily.” I think as we start really by the power of the Spirit using our gifts, we may see something just like that. If God blesses, it's up to the Lord, but he may lavish that kind of thing. I want to be part of a church like that. The Lord adding to their number daily, those who are being saved or Acts 4:4, “The number of men grew to about 5,000,” keeps getting bigger and bigger. I don't know the timeframe, but I think the fact is that these accountings are in the book of Acts so that we can see there's an interest in this, a concern because those aren't numbers, are they? Those are people. Those are people that Christ has won by his blood. And then Acts 6:1, it says, "The word of God spread and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly." And I love this. "And a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." Isn't that interesting? Acts 6:1. I'd like to talk to one of those priests; maybe they gave some insight into the book of Hebrews into how Jesus fulfilled all of the temple regulations and all that. I don't really know, I’m speculating, but it's just beautiful to see and it's exciting, isn't it, to see people come to Christ. Layton Ford said that, “Evangelism is the fizz in the Coca-Cola of the Christian life.” Have you ever drunk flat coke? You know what I'm talking about? I don't care how cold it is, it's just flat. And so also is a church that's not reaching out with the gospel. There's just a flatness to it. But conversely, how exciting is it when we hear testimonies about this or that or the other person coming to Christ or the baptism of the different things that are happening? Boy that's thrilling and I want to be part of that. So spiritual gifts are given to accomplish both types of growth.
Now, what is a spiritual gift? What are we talking about in this evening series? Well, here's a definition, it's not biblical, but as I put the doctrines together this is what I think a spiritual gift is: A spiritual gift is a special ability given by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to an individual Christian for the purpose of building up the church, which is the body of Christ. Let me read that again, spiritual gift is a special ability, a special ability given by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to an individual Christian for the purpose of building up the church, which is the body of Christ. Now as we use our spiritual gifts, we're going to see that growth occurring and there's a lot of joy in that, isn't there? I want to get to the point where you all know what your gifts are and you just are regularly using them and you receive joy from it. There's just a delight in using that gift or that gift package. And you also, meanwhile you're going to be getting the benefits from other people's gifts, aren't you? Don’t you just love the people with the gift of encouragement? Isn't that great to be around people like that? Barnabas, the son of encouragement come alongside and say, just give you the word that keeps you growing in your Christian life. That's just wonderful. Or somebody that hears that you're going on a mission trip and comes alongside and contributes financially because they've got that gift and that yearning, they're just generous, they're lavish with their money. All of us should be generous with our money, but there's some just with that gift, you know what I'm saying? And they use it and the church benefits and there are other people that just have the gift of prayer. Have you ever prayed with somebody like that? They just seem to be able to just coast in the power of the Spirit. And I just love to listen to people like that pray. And then there are the people that I love maybe the most in my church work here, the gift of administration, the people that can figure out all the nuts and bolts and details of a ministry and how it's all going to work out and plan it and see how it works. And then the people with the gift of faith, which I think is a gift of vision where you're able to see things that God is doing and to kind of step in and say, “I believe that God's leading us to do this,” and we come to respect that and take it serious when an individual like that speaks and we to make it a matter of prayer, but they've already seen something that others didn't see and the church moves out. Boy that's exciting. And all of these things help to build the spiritual gifts. But the thing that primes the pump that gets the whole thing going is good, solid biblical teaching on the issue. That's what gets the whole thing started is for somebody with a gift of teaching to just unfold what the texts say, in Ephesians 4, in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14. So we understand what they are and that's our purpose tonight.
"A spiritual gift is a special ability given by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to an individual Christian for the purpose of building up the church, which is the body of Christ."
Now we've already looked at God's passion for his glory and his desire to see the church grow. As we zero in on Ephesians 4:7-16 there are some principles that flow out of here concerning spiritual gifts, the first is that each Christian has been spiritually gifted, but not all in the same way. Everybody's got a gift, but not everybody's got the same gift. All right? Number two: spiritual gifts are gracious gifts so they're given by God's grace. Number three: Jesus Christ does the gifting according to his own will, through the Holy Spirit. We get that out of Ephesians 4. And also gifts are given to build the body of Christ. So if we're going to put this whole thing together, gifting is universal, but not uniform. Universal but not uniform, gracious, Christ given and body building, let me say those again: gifting is universal but not uniform, it is gracious, it is Christ given, and it is body building.
Let's look at the first one: gifting is universal but not uniform. Each Christian has been specifically pondered by Christ and had a gift package; I think is the best way to put it, measured out by Jesus Christ and handed to you. We touched on this last week, but it's so remarkable that it bears repeating. “But to each one of us,” verse 7, “grace has been given according to the measure of Christ as Christ measures it out.” Boy, that's something I think it's marvelous that Jesus knows us by name. Isn't that something? We read this morning, the resurrection account in John 20. Now it was after the account in which Jesus appears to Mary. But you remember how Mary didn't recognize him at first? She didn't know who it was. She thought he was what? Yeah, the gardener. She thought the resurrected Lord was the gardener and she's weeping and weeping on the happiest day in the history of the world. Isn't that funny? Aren't our emotions just like unruly children sometimes, just out of whack or out of step with reality? And so her emotions are just... And both the angels and Jesus ask her the same question, "Woman, why are you crying?" What is going on? This is resurrection day. Mary, if you could realize how many generations of Christians after you would wish they could be here on resurrection day and you get to be here and you're crying. You get to be here and you- you're crying, why are you crying? Well, what is it that pierces the fog? It is when Jesus says her name, “Mary,” and she just knows it's the Lord. Well I think what's so powerful there is just that personal knowledge isn't it? It's that our Savior knows us, he knows us well. “My sheep know my voice and I know their names. I call them by name and they follow me and they're not going to follow another.” There's this intimate, passionate relationship between us and our master, our shepherd. He's our good shepherd. We know him. Well, this spiritual gift teaching kind of adds to that, doesn't it? That not only does he know our name, but he knows our capabilities. He knows who we are, who he's put us together to be. And he's put us together in a special way with this spiritual gift package. He's thought about you personally and he's given you this gift arrangement straight from Jesus Christ. And I think it's marvelous.
So every Christian gets a gift, but they're not all the same gift. We get that out of one word in verse 7, the word “but,” you remember we talked about that. Verses 1-6 talk about the unity of the church, “There's one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all who's over all and through all and in all.” so there's all this oneness. But to each one of us, grace has been given. So the point is that it's not a unity issue there. The gifts are given to build unity, yes, but we don't all get the same thing. So I would say that the gifts are universal, but they're not uniform. Now what I mean uniform, I mean all the same. Now we live in a kind of mass-producing age don't we? I mean I guess we can thank Henry Ford for that. He was the one that perceived that things work better if you had everyone specialized and kind of at a certain place on the assembly line and you're just dealing with the same parts over and over, putting them in the same place over and over, so that the car can be built in maximum speed. And the goal of that approach is that every single car be identical to every other car. And in which situations that they're not identical, there's inevitably problems. When this part is not like that it doesn't fit where it's supposed to, that's uniformity. Every single part like every other part, and you're on the assembly line and you're just cranking out. That is not the case with spiritual gifts. So we all have gifts of some sort, but they're all different, aren't they? There's variety involved here. They're universal but they're not uniform.
So in 1 Corinthians 12 it says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, the body is a unit though it is made up of many parts and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” So that's talking about a diversity within the body. And then in Romans 12 it says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.” So unity in Christ does not mean uniformity. There is specialization. So some of you have a different role than others in the body. Now one thing that we've really got to stress, we've talked about this before, but it's important: your function in the body is completely unrelated to your value and worth in God's sight. In other words, if you have this or that or the other function or role, he does not think of this or that or the other as more or less important than the others. Paul very much stresses this. And when we get to 1 Corinthians, we'll talk about this, but that no part of the body can say to the other, “I have no need of you.” And all the more that basically I think what God is looking for is that you take your gift package and be maximally fruitful with it. It's on the basis of what you do with what you're given, that you are assessed and judged in terms of your works on judgment day. It's not because you have this gift, you are therefore thought of more highly than someone else. It just doesn't work that way. And folks, as Americans, we really need to hear that don’t we? We really tend to be resume type people. I think it's especially true of men, but I think it's also increasingly true of women that men, two men will get together and you say, “So, what do you do?” Well, what do you ask them when you say, “what do you do?” How do you earn your money? And if you're unemployed, it makes you feel like you're less of a person or something like that, you're less valuable. That couldn't be farther from the truth. But that's the way we tend to be. “Tell me things you've accomplished, I want to know what you've done,” kind of thing. And I understand why that is. We are a nation of independent pioneer achiever types. We're able to clear the land and make a harvest field work and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. And that's the American dream and ideal. And we like to talk about what we've accomplished. It's what we call a meritocracy. It's ruled by those who deserve to rule by their accomplishments. And there's some things to be said for that, but one of the things that it tends to do is it tends to lead to this resume mentality where you think, “my value and worth in God's sight is equal to what I am able to accomplish or what my role is in the body.” And nothing could be further from the truth. We really got to get that figured out because if we don't understand that, then we're going to have certain gift packages thought of more highly than others and people will be jealous for those and maybe seek them, those particular gifts and maybe not do the gifts they really were given. But all of them are needed, aren't they? Every single one of them. So I guess basically if you're an ear, rejoice in being an ear. If you're an eye, be glad you're an eye don't wish you were something else. Be delighted in what God's made you to be. Each of us should know what that is.
"So some of you have a different role than others in the body. …Your function in the body is completely unrelated to your value and worth in God's sight. "
So gifts are not uniform, but they are universally distributed. Ephesians 4:7, “to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned.” 1 Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:11, “All these are the work of one in the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines.” And then 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others faithfully, administering God's grace in its various forms.” Now in those four verses, we get a repeated phrase. Each one, don't we? I mean four times God said each one, each one, each one, each one. You can't escape. That's four verses. You only need one. God's word is sufficient, just one is enough. But he's given us four verses that say each one, all of you who are believers sitting in front of me tonight, all of you have a gift package. You all do. Each one has received something from God. So no Christian can say, “I have no ministry,” no Christian can say, “I have no place in the body.” Now, it may be literally true that some Christians have no ministry, but there's no need for that. As a matter of fact, they will regret that they had no ministry because this is a matter of stewardship. We have to give an account for these gifts. So we have to have a ministry. But what I'm saying just from the outset is you do have a ministry, you have a gift, a spiritually gifted ministry waiting for you. You may already be doing it in full. Praise God for that. But I don't think so. I don't think all of you are, because I think we need to grow in this area and we see each one using their gifts.
Now as we're using these gifts, we're going to see the temple rising in the Lord. I love that image, don't you? The idea that we are a spiritual temple. I would really like to have you think of that when you come in here on Sunday mornings, to have you think of that when you come in. Let me read Ephesians 2:21-22 again. It says, "In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." And then a parallel passage, 1 Peter 2:4-5, "As you come to him, the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him, you also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Now if you put these two together, you get actually a very complicated image, don't you? In one sense, we are living stones in the walls of a spiritual temple aren’t we? So we are the building, we are the temple and it's rising to completion. But in the 1 Peter 2 passage we're also the royal priesthood doing ministry in the temple. Isn't that interesting? So you're kind of both a living stone in the wall and a priest down on the floor doing ministry and everyone's like that. It is out of that passage I believe that Luther and others got this idea of the priesthood of all believers. Also in Revelation where it says we are a kingdom of priests. What that means is each one of us has a priestly gift to offer. And so I think every single Christian should look at their spiritual gift as kind of an offering to God. You're really offering it up to Christ, you're offering it up to God, you're using it in glory to him. And the beauty of it is as you use it and as that, you can imagine the smoke rising from the sacrifice, a fragrant offering to God, it kind of wafts and then next thing you know, there's more living stones around up at the top. It's a beautiful image, isn't it? And so as you're using your gift, guess what? The temple just got bigger. People are coming to Christ, people are growing up, the body is growing in maturity. It's happening and it's exciting as you use your gifts.
Now, before the reformation, the laity really had no role. Actually before Vatican two in the Roman Catholic Church you wouldn't understand a word that was said. It was all in Latin. And that's why I studied Latin in high school. I remember, and I'm glad I did, but there was just a holdover, there was a need to study it if you wanted to understand a word that was said in Catholic mass. And the idea was you don't need to understand. You just need to come. We'll do the ministry. That's our job. And so the priest would actually turn his back to the people and minister between the people up to God. And so he was doing the spiritual offerings and all that, and the people were just being ministered on behalf of kind of thing. But that's not a biblical image is it? All of us have that priestly ministry to offer. And it is, as we do these things, we're going to see the temple rising in Christ.
Now the first thing, therefore we've looked at is that gifting is universal but not uniform. The second aspect is that gifting is gracious or called grace from God. And this is a beautiful truth. Now we touched on it, but what I'm saying here is that every single one of these gifts that we've given have been given to us directly by God's grace. They're manifestations of the grace of God. Now, what is God's grace? Well, we've talked about this before, but I think it's wonderful to talk about it as much as we can. God's grace is more than just God's riches at Christ's expense. G-R-A-C-E. Don't you love those acronyms? God’s riches at Christ's expense, every time you do an acronym, you leave something important out. I've noticed that. Okay, what's missing from that? It's our lack of merit. It's who we really are. That's what's missing from that definition. It is God's riches at Christ expense. It's rich gifts lavished on us. But the thing about grace is kind of, it's not just that, but also who we are as we receive it. That we are sinners, that we are lost. Apart from him, we deserve nothing. But in the face of all that he's given us every spiritual gift in the heavenly realms. Isn't that incredible? And so every one of us that's received these gifts, we have received them by God's grace. It's grace from God that you have the gifts you do and it's not just grace to you, but it's grace to others. Therefore, you can't lobby for a gift. You can't hope to get a better one or something like that. They're given to you by God's grace it. It's not like he looked at you and because you deserve this, you got this gift, but others didn't deserve as much and they got a different gift. We get them simply as a result of God's grace. Look again with me if you would, at Ephesians 3 Ephesians 3:2, 7-8 touches on this. Verse 2, it says, "Surely you have heard of the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you." Do you see that? "The administration of the stewardship of God's grace was given to me for you." That's the first time he says it, "The administration of God's grace that was given to me for you. That is a mystery made known to me by revelation. As I've already written briefly in reading this, then you'll be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ." Skipping down a little bit, it says, "I became a servant of this gospel" What does it say? "By a gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power." So what Paul's saying is that you've heard about my administration of God's grace, okay, because of God's grace, I have this stewardship, this task, this responsibility as apostle to the Gentiles. And then he says later, "I became a servant of this gospel as a gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me." You see how Paul talked about his lack of merit? "I don't deserve this." he said, "I don't know why he chose me. I mean, based on my own merits, I did not deserve this. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me, namely to preach to the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone, the administration of this mystery." So Paul's call was apostle to the Gentiles. His attitude concerning that was that he is a steward of God's grace. His ministry was called grace, and he talks about it a lot. Turn, if you will, to Romans chapter 12, and we're going to talk at a later time about Romans 12. It's a very important passage on spiritual gifts. But I just want to make this point about grace, that Paul considered his ministry to be a gift of God's grace. Romans 12:1-2, you know that, don't you? "Therefore, I urge you in view of God's mercy to present your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you'll be able to test and approve a God's will as his good, pleasing and perfect will. For" read verse 3, "For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you, do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought." But he goes on into teaching about spiritual gifts.
Now, what does he mean, “by the grace given to me, I say to every one of you”? He's talking about his spiritual gift package. “This is my stewardship, my job, the thing I get to do in the body. And by that grace, I'm going to tell you some things.” Turn to Romans 15:15. Romans 15:15 picks up on this as well, Paul says there, “I have written to you quite boldly on some points as if to remind you of them again [why?] because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty." Isn't that beautiful? “The priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God.” He sees himself as a priest in a temple doing a work, right? Isn't that the same thing we were talking about earlier? Paul saw his spiritual call as apostle to the Gentiles that he had a priestly duty of ministering to the Gentiles. But look what he says. He says, "I've written you quite boldly on some points as if to remind you of them again because of the grace God gave me to be a minister to you." So he repeatedly talks this way. His role in the body was given to him by grace. It was a gift of God's grace given to him for them. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:10. 1 Corinthians 3:10; there Paul is talking about, that's the famous wood, hay and straw passage, gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay and straw. The thing that's so amazing about that passage, and I just am so excited about this, one of the beauties of the Christian life is that God has given us a work of eternal value.
We are free from working on stuff that will be lost forever on judgment day. Isn't that great? You're not in your Christian life building a sandcastle that the incoming waves of time will sweep out to sea and no trace left. But rather, God has by his grace, given you work to do that's going to last for eternity. Isn't that incredible? The things we do for Christ by the power of the Spirit, they're going to last forever. I'd like to have as many of them as possible. And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:10, "By the grace given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder. Now someone else's building on it." What is he saying there? Well, we're starting to learn what he's saying there. He's saying, “By the role I have in the body of Christ to be a teacher of the word, a preacher, an apostle to the Gentiles. By that grace I laid a foundation in your minds Corinthians, that foundation is Jesus Christ. I preached the gospel to you. I laid a foundation, but I did it by the grace God gave me to do that job.” And look at finally 1 Corinthians 15:9. 1 Corinthians 15:9, I love this passage, so powerful. 1 Corinthians 15:9 and following says, "For I am the least of the apostles." again, that sense of personal unworthiness. “I don't deserve this. I don't deserve what I have.” "I am the least of the apostles. And I do not even deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am." Boy, it just brings goose bumps. “By the grace of God, I get to be an apostle. I sure don't deserve it. But God chose me and he gave me this role.” “By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God, which was in me." Boy, that's a deep passage. The grace of God gave Paul his ministry, the grace of God empowered and energized Paul in his ministry, and yet the grace of God did not make Paul sit in a rocking chair and let God do his ministry. The grace of God actually energized him in his ministry. He was not in a rocking chair letting the sovereign God do what he would by his grace. He got active, he was energetic, he was involved. He used his gift by the grace of God. "By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect." Can I stop right for a minute and just out of context tell you, God's grace is never without effect. God's grace always has the effect he intends always. And so he gives us this grace. And so the grace was given to him. There are some other passages, Galatians 2:9, James, Peter, and John. It says, "Those reputed to be pillars gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognize" what? "The grace given to me." In context, what he's talking about that he would be ministered to the Gentiles just like Peter was to the Jews. And then 1 Peter 4:10, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” How many times do we need it? We've got about 10 different verses that say that these spiritual gifts should be called grace from God and they are so every one of you has a special gift package and you've received it the same way Paul did. By grace. We don't deserve it and it brings us joy and delight to use it. All of God's grace is a delightful thing, something that produces fruit and good things. It produces hard work and energy. It produces fruit for eternity.
So, so far we have seen two points. Spiritual gifts are universal but not uniform. Everybody has one, but they're not all the same. And number two, they are called grace from God. Aren't they? Gracious or given to us by God's grace. I think that's enough for this evening. Continue to seek and ask. And if you're not really sure what your gifts may be, if you don't know what they are, I would urge you to get active in ministry. Begin to ask God, say, “Lord, I'm not sure what my gifts are,” but I think the best way to determine what your gifts are, I'll use this in this illustration again so that you can understand it, but it's like that airplane that's set up, that balsa wood airplane that's set up to do a loop the loop or a left turn or a right turn, remember those 99 cent airplanes with a clip in the front? I've used this analogy before with the red... Some of them were biplanes and some of them single… Did you ever play with those or was it was just me. All right. Anyway, so you set them up. If you arrange the wings a certain way, they will do this or that or the other. You have been arranged a certain way by God, but you don't know what the plane could do until what? You flew it through the air. Once it gets moving and gets some wind under its wings, then it starts to do what it's programmed or designed to do. You can't determine your spiritual gift by sitting, you know, down on a... I think you're all where you need to be right now, but I mean just by sitting and doing nothing you can't determine. So you have to get up and act and move and do your ministry. And as you do, you're going to see how God's put you together and you're going to feel that wind in your wings. You're going to feel that moving and you're going to say, “Praise God. I have the gift of administration or the gift of generosity,” or something. And it's exciting. Why don't you close with me in prayer?