Vol. IX — No. 5 February 4, 1968
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortations he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
In Christ Jesus, the Body of which we are members, Fellow Redeemed:
In this twelfth chapter of his letter to the Romans St. Paul tells us in part how we are to reflect the Light of the Lord in our lives. The mercies of the Lord have shined down upon us in His Word. We have learned to know ourselves for what we are—sinnersd guilty and doomed to eternal punishment unless rescued by God Himself. We have learned to know of God’s rescue operation in history, as it was carried out by His Son. We have been brought to faith in Christ Jesus and so we have been changed from children of wrath to sons of God, from prisoners of death to heirs of eternal life. We have been changed from victims of dark ness to lights shining in this darkened world. We are now to let our lights shine so that others will be attracted not to us, but through us to the God of bur salvation.
In the first part of this chapter, which we considered last Sunday, Paul instructed us in the way by which we can let our lights shine before men. We are to present our bodies daily unto the Lord as a living sacrifice. We are to take our lives and consecrate them unto the Lord. This calls for a daily inner transformation as a new creature who sees, judges and evaluates all things according to divine principles. This also calls for action.
The first sphere of relationships in which we are to become active is the Church, which Paul speaks of as a living organism. He speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ and each individual believer as a member of that Body. The daily sacrificing of ourselves is to be done as members of the Body of Christ. Then Paul continues by outlining in detail just how this is to be done. Let us follow him in detail as he carries out this general exhortation:
St. Paul lists seven gifts or charisms which the Lord distributes to members of His Body, the Church. The distribution is unequal, but each member of the Body is to use whatever gift is given to him in whatever measure it is given for the good and benefit of all the other members of the Body. Let us briefly examine these gifts or charisms.
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” So frequently we tend to think of the gift of prophecy in the narrow sense of foretelling future events in the Kingdom, as Isaiah foretold the virgin birth and Micah the birthplace of the Savior. The gift of prophecy is broader. It’s the gift of understanding, interpreting and imparting to others the word and will of the Lord. It’s the gift of understanding and helping others to understand past events in the history of the Kingdom, present applications of Kingdom truths and events yet to come. It’s the gift of helping sinners to see themselves as their God sees them and then to present unto them the full and complete salvation that their God has worked out for them. He that has these gifts is to use them for the benefit of all—whether he be a professor at a theological seminary, a preacher in a pulpit, a Sunday School teacher in his class, a parent instructing his children. Prophesy, that is, preach or teach, but always according to the norm or guide of faith. All preaching and teaching, interpretating and applying divine truth in the Church must be according to the Word of the Lord.
“Or ministry, let us wait on our ministry.” The first Christian Church elected seven men to take care of the poor in its midst. In our circumstances the government has to a great extent taken over this function. But there are many services of all kinds to be done in the congregation. Whoever has been entrusted with some function or service or job—however insignificant it may appear to be—he is to take care of that responsibility. He or she is to do that not in the hope of gaining recognition or even acknowledgment, but with the aim and purpose of serving others in the congregation.
“He that teacheth—let him teach!” One who has the gift of prophecy also teaches, but frequently he is entrusted with the teaching of teachers. There are many pastors and teachers in the Church who have little of the gift of prophecy, but who must teach. They depend frequently on books written by men, like Luther, who had the gift of prophecy in a great degree. Such teachers learn from those who expound and apply the Word of God and then transmit what they have learned to students who are entrusted to them. Many Sunday School teachers belong in this class. They are transmitters of divine knowledge to children. In so doing they are assistants to the parents. What they do is in the special interest of and benefit for their students, but also for the greater good of the entire congregation. In doing a good job of your teaching you teachers are sacrificing your time, your energy, your talents for the good of the Body of Christ.
“He that exhorteth, let him exhort!” All of us are afflicted with the virus of sin. All of us need exhortation. Parents need to correct, admonish, exhort their children, sometimes children their parents. The church council is entrusted with maintaining Christian discipline in the congregation. The pastor has the chief responsibility for doing this most difficult work in the congregation, but others dare not shirk that responsibility. It’s difficult to tell another that he has sinned, that what he is doing or planning to do is wrong, that he needs to repent and ask his Lord for forgiveness and strength to amend his ways. But this work is necessary. If it falls to your lot to do it, do it to the best of your ability for the good of all.
“He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” Some have been given a greater portion of this world’s goods than others. Some have a greater earning power than others. Those to whom the Lord gives more He expects to give more for His work here on earth. But the giving is to be done in simplicity—not with fanfare, not with ostentation, not in the hope of gaining special commendation and recognition. The Lord knows what He has given us and what we return unto Him. Our giving is to be a private returning unto the Lord of a portion of that which He has given us. That is why our envelopes have numbers, not names. Your weekly offering is anonymous as far as the rest of the congregation is concerned. Your Lord knows what you give. Each of us is to give for the benefit of all, but in simplicity and privately as unto the Lord.
“He that ruleth, with diligence.” In the congregation, as we are organized, the church council is elected to carry on the affairs of the congregation. They are to rule, make decisions and carry out decisions in the interest and for the benefit of the congregation. Each man entrusted with a position of rule may have his own ideas and pet projects, but his business is to fulfill his office in the general good, not to satisfy his own wishes. Diligence is to characterize his ruling—not half-heartedness, disinterest, unconcern, but diligence.
“He that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.” When we visit the sick, help the needy, comfort the bereaved or whatever act of mercy we find occasion to do, it is to be done with cheerfulness. We are not to show mercy just because we feel compelled to do it. We are not to do our deeds of mercy with a long face, for that would be adding misery to those in need of mercy. Cheerfulness is to characterize our every act of mercy.
Each of us has been given a special gift or gifts in some measure—to prophesy, to minister, to teach, to exhort, to give, to rule, to show mercy. Let each one exercise that gift for the benefit of all. That is sacrificing yourself daily as a member of the Body of Christ. Paul continues by picturing in detail the spiritual atmosphere in which this self-sacrificing is to be done, that is—
Paul exhorts that all exercising of gifts should be done in love and humility. “Let love be without dissimulation. Let not your love be hypocritical! That is the basic admonition. We are to serve one another in love. But that is contrary to our natures, for by nature we love ourselves first and foremost. Because of this it is so easy to pretend that we love the other person. It is so easy to be nice to a per son in his presence, but quite the opposite when he is absent. Our flesh would make hypocrites of us all. That is why we need to be reminded and urged and exhorted? Let your love be genuine, pure—not hypocritical.
“Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Isn’t it true that we can become so accustomed to murder, rape, violence, civic disobedience, lying, cheating and so on and on that we just take all this for granted, lie aren’t even shocked any more. We just consider this all part of the scene. We must ever stimulate our consciences and our sense of right and wrong so that we genuinely abhor the evil. But that is not enough! We are to adhere to, literally be glued to, the good. We are always to be for, to be champions of whatever is good in the sight of our God.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” Usually relatives are closer than friends or neighbors or acquaintances. This closeness of nature as it is seen in a family is to characterize a congregation. We have something thicker than blood to bind us together. We have a common faith in our Lord and His Word, This is the basis for our brotherly love. That brotherly love can be destroyed by pride, by one exalting himself over the other. That is why we are exhorted to give way to the other, to stand back, to sit while the other stands.
“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” Our mutual work in the Lord demands our best. Not a lazy, half-hearted effort, but a dedicated determined effort. We are not to be hot, then cold, but always seething, boiling. Whatever we under take, we are to realize that it is done as unto the Lord,
“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer,” However black the moment is, there is always hope, for our God is in charge. We are to rejoice in that hope. Burdens we have to carry, We are to be patient as we carry them. We are to use our hidden source of power—prayer by which we can take all things to our Lord,
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality,” We’ve become more and more an impersonal society. Each one for himself, seems to be the modern motto. It’s so much easier to give a few dollars to a charitable cause than to open one’s house in love to someone who needs the warmth of human kindness,
“Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not,” How natural it is to do just the opposite—to curse those that persecute us. That isn’t the way of a member of the Body of Christ, Christ didn’t curse; He blessed. He suffered persecution, even unto death, He tells all of His members to take up His cross and follow Him. We should expect to be persecuted in one way or another. We should be conditioned by the mercies of God to react as did our Lord—by returning blessing for persecutions.
“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” It is easier for us to sympathize with someone who has suffered personal loss or misfortune than it is for us to rejoice with someone over his good fortune. If some friend or relative gets a promotion or scores some economic or political or social victory, we may congratulate the person, for that’s the thing that is expected. But often that congratulation is just a cover for jealousy and envy. The exhortation is “Rejoice with them that do rejoice.” Let’s work at it!
“Be of the same mind one toward another. Hind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” We began with love; we end with humility. Pride, conceit, despising others are sure and certain ways of disrupting a group. Such things should not be allowed to disturb the Body of Christ. In humility and love we are to serve one another in the exercise of the gifts given us, and that for the benefit of all. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.