Spiritual Gifts in the Church
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
In the book of Romans seven spiritual gifts are proclaimed to be in the body of the church. They are as follows: the gift of prophecy, the gift of ministry, the gift of teaching, the gift of exhortation, the gift of giving, the gift of ruling, and the gift of showing mercy.
This study primarily focuses on the use of these spiritual gifts by each member of the church. Many times when spiritual gifts are mentioned in the Bible, people assume that they apply to the pastor, and they do. However, this particular list of spiritual gifts can be applied to each member of the church, including the pastor. These gifts can be exercised by the young as well as the old; the women as well as the men; the poor and the rich; the unlearned and the educated; the newly converted as well as the member with years of service. No member of the church is excluded from honoring Jesus Christ through the performance and practicing of these gifts from God.
Moreover, the members are said to have “gifts differing according to the grace that is given.” The fact that they are “gifts” and that they are “according to grace” proclaims that the seven things described are received from God. It is uncertain from the text the exact meaning of the word “differing.” It might be possible that different members each receive one gift according to God’s grace. Or each member could receive some or all gifts in differing proportions. This second possibility seems to more closely fit what is observed in the experiences of the church. As the gifts are studied, it will become apparent that individual members have varying degrees of abilities to practice each of the gifts in their service to God.
Perhaps, the most basic key to understanding this passage of scripture is the comprehension of word meanings. If the church is to properly apply and practice these gifts, it is essential to understand the definitions of the words used in the original Greek language. Without such a study, it is likely that the text will be misapplied and the church led astray. So the study of each gift begins with an examination of the original language, in order to determine the true message God has for the church and its members.
This is not an in-depth study of each of the gifts, but an overview of each. The hope is that the thoughts presented will stimulate the individual members of Christ’s church to examine themselves and discover ways in their lives to put these gifts to use to the honor of Jesus. Each of the gifts focuses on others and not on self. So, a degree of self-denial is required in order to exercise the gifts. Self-denial goes against human nature; thus, the help of the Spirit is needed to overcome the flesh. Prayer and faith are necessary ingredients for the proper use of the gifts. Even with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit it is a difficult work to incorporate these gifts into one’s lifestyle. But though the work is a hard work, it is a rewarding work and it is to the praise of the Lord Jesus Christ. May God help each church member to perfect the practice of these seven gifts.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
To begin, at the mention of prophecy one often thinks of foretelling the future. But according to Vine’s Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “prophecy is not necessarily, nor even primarily, foretelling. It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means.” And according to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word translated prophecy can mean foretelling or by analogy inspired speaking. The idea of foretelling future events could be a part of the gift of “inspired speaking” or “the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means.” But the gift, here described, involves much more than predicting the future.
Prophecy could be the pastor of the church proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the assembly. Moreover, prophecy might be the father and/or mother teaching the commandments of God to their children at home. A worker on the job can use the God given gift of prophecy to declare to his or her co-workers that God is sovereign. A teacher can prophesy to the classroom “creation” as opposed to “evolution.” Prophecy might occur in a hospital as a physician kneels to pray with his patient before surgery. Each of these and countless other possibilities exist for a member of the church to declare to others the things of God “which cannot be known by natural means.”
The Holy Spirit through Paul teaches much about the gift of prophecy. He proclaims the importance of the gift by declaring that the members of the church at Corinth should “desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” (I Cor 14:1) He proclaims the meaning of the gift, when he declares, “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (I Cor 14:3) And that by prophecy the “church may receive edifying.” (I Cor 14:5) He further declares God’s acceptable way of using the gift of prophecy “when the whole church be come together into one place.” (I Cor 14:23) Included in the instructions of God’s acceptable way of prophesying, when the church is assembled, is this command, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.” (I Cor 14:34) The chapter on prophecy ends with two admonitions: “brethren, covet to prophesy” and “let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Cor 14:39-40) The first of these admonitions teaches the importance of using the gift of prophecy, and the second displays the importance of using God’s gifts the way he intended them to be used.
With the desire in mind to use the gift in the manner that would be pleasing to God, the question might be raised as to whether it is possible for the women in the church to possess and be expected to use the gift of prophecy. At first , these teachings to the church at Corinth might lead one to believe that the gift of prophecy is restricted only to the men of the church. However, further study reveals that oftentimes women of the New Testament declared to others “that which could not be known by natural means.” Or in other words, they prophesied.
On that wonderful day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 many great things occurred. Referring to this day, God had proclaimed through Joel “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and my handmaidens I will pour out in those days my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) Surely, it must have been according to the will of God and through his grace that these women prophesied.
Paul and his followers abode with Philip, the evangelist. The scriptures state that Philip “had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” (Acts 21:9) No information is given as to how they prophesied. It might be noted that there is no record of Paul correcting their behavior in this matter.
In Acts 18, the scriptures introduce us to a man of God named Apollos. He is “mighty in the scriptures” and “was instructed in the way of the Lord.” He was “fervent in the spirit” and “he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord.” Yet, there were things he did not completely understand. For after Aquilla and his wife, Priscilla, heard him preach, “they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:24-26)
The Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well “declared things that cannot be known by natural means.” She returned to her city and declared Jesus. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman.” (John 4:39) She had the gift of prophecy and glorified Jesus through the use of it.
Indeed, the first people to declare the gospel of the risen Savior were Mary and the other women. The angel commanded them to “go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.” (Matt 28:7) Then Jesus himself said unto them “Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” (Matt 28:10)
Were all these women who prophesied or “declared that which cannot be known by natural means” wrong in proclaiming their wonderful testimonies to the glory of Jesus Christ? Did they really have the gift of prophecy? Would God have been pleased with their silence?
Surely, God gave the handmaidens the ability to prophesy on that day of Pentecost. He had declared centuries before that he would pour out his Spirit and they would prophesy. Was he wrong in doing this?
Did the daughters of Philip sin when they prophesied? If so, Paul missed an opportunity to teach the correct way.
Was Priscilla wrong in expounding to Apollos the way of God more perfectly? Remember, she did not speak up in the midst of his sermon; but she and her husband, Aquilla, met with Apollos later. She and her husband privately taught Apollos the way of God.
Should the Samaritan woman have been silent when she declared the wonderful things regarding Jesus? Jesus reprimanded her for many things, but not for this.
Maybe Mary and her companions should have disregarded Jesus’ direct command to go and proclaim to the disciples that “Christ is risen.” It is apparent that they should have done exactly as they were told. And they did.
It is likewise apparent that the church should do exactly as she is told regarding the manner in which the service is conducted when “the whole church be come together into one place.” When the whole church is gathered for a worship service, God has clearly declared that this is not a time for women to prophesy. Some have questioned why it should be this way. The answer is simply, that God has declared it thus.
Outside the “formal” worship service men and women, young and old, anyone with the gift of prophecy, should look for opportunity to “declare that which cannot be known by natural means.” Surely, every church member must have at least some degree of this gift. Some may have the ability to go into the deep subject matter of the Bible and proclaim it to the world. Others might know only simple things. But there is a place for any and all to proclaim the praise of Jesus.
Even the youngest can declare, “Jesus loves me. And I love him, too.”
The vilest can proclaim, “I’m a big sinner; but, I have a big Savior.”
All can raise their voices in the singing of “Amazing Grace.”
In closing, these are but a few of the ways that a church member might exercise the gift of prophecy. May the church never introduce stumbling blocks that would hinder those with gifts. Yet, may the church ever be on guard to worship God, only in God’s way. And may each of God’s children search for ways to use the gift of prophecy to the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE GIFT OF MINISTRY
To many the idea of ministry portrays the work of a “minister of the gospel” or the occupation of a pastor. Ministry, as used here, refers to a much different concept. According to Strong’s Concordance, the English word ministry is translated from the Greek word diakonia. This word (as well as its root word diakonos and the verb form diakoneo) conveys the thought of one who waits tables or an attendant who serves others. Thus, ministry is not referring to a gift to preach, but a gift to be a servant. It is interesting to note the similarity of the first three syllables of the Greek word diakonia (dee-ak-on-ee-ah) to the English word deacon. There are several scriptural examples in which the various forms of the word are used. A study of these occurrences will help to convey the true meaning of this spiritual gift.
First of all, in the early church “there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. (diakonia) Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve (diakoneo) tables.” The solution to the problem was to select seven men of the church and appoint them to be over the business of serving tables and tending to the needs of the widows. Thus began the office of deacon in the church. The apostles would now be free to give themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry (diakonia) of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4) It can be noted that both groups now had a ministry. The newly appointed deacons were to minister to the natural needs of the people in the church. The apostles could now devote their full efforts to the ministry of the spiritual needs of the people of the church. Each apostle and deacon was a servant to others, and thus, used the gift of ministry. Each had the gift of ministry, but the gifts differed according to the grace that was given. One gift is no more important than the other. Both come from the Lord and are to be used to his glory.
Next, it can be seen that the deacons and pastors are not the only ones with the gift of ministry. “Certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered (diakoneo) unto him of their substance.” (Luke 8:2-3) Thus, the gift of ministry is not confined to certain men but is a gift that God gives to women also. This is not to say that women should hold the office of deacon, but they certainly can be ministers to others. It surely would have been a great blessing to have had the opportunity to have ministered to Jesus as these women did. Ah, but a Christian has that opportunity daily. For Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt 25:40) As his people serve others, they are serving him.
Yet, the practice of this gift goes against the proud nature of men. The apostles experienced difficulty in accepting their God given roles as servants. (Church members today are similar.) Luke proclaimed, “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he (Jesus) said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (diakoneo) For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? (diakoneo) is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.(diakoneo)” (Luke 22:24-27) Surely, if Jesus the King was willing to become a servant, the members of his church should deny their selfish nature and put to use the gift of ministering to others.
Finally, concerning the gift of ministry Paul declared “let us wait on our ministering.” (Rom 12:7) Jesus himself proclaimed, “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve (diakoneo) them.” (Luke 12:37) It is not exactly clear when or where Jesus will serve his servants. But the thought of King Jesus girding himself and waiting at the table where sinners are feasting is an humbling as well as an exciting concept. These words of Christ are both an example and a motivation for his people to “wait on our ministering,” or to watch for occasions to serve others.
Oh, may his people follow Jesus’ perfect example of being the humble servant. And may the members of his church be found watching for opportunities to serve others. Every member has the ability to serve to some degree. Let each serve Christ by serving others.
THE GIFT OF TEACHING
Unlike the previous two gifts, there should be no confusion in the definitions of words involved in the gift of teaching. Teacheth is translated from the Greek word didasko, and simply means “to teach.” Teaching is from the Greek word didaskalia which means “teaching.” The noun form of this same Greek word didaskalos means “teacher.” So the concept of the gift of teaching is the God given ability to teach or to be a teacher.
As in all Christian endeavors, Christ is the perfect example. Jesus taught in two ways: by word and by example. He seldom missed an opportunity to teach others by the words that he spoke. The Master taught by the seaside, from a boat, and even standing on the water. The Master taught from the mountain and in the plain. The Master taught from his youth and into adulthood. The Master taught while he sat, while he stood, while he walked, while he ate, and even while he slept. (He taught faith and trust in God as he slept during the storm.) The Master taught the multitudes and he taught individuals. The Savior even taught as he agonized on the cross.
Jesus likewise taught by example. John declared that Jesus rose from supper, laid aside his garments, girded himself with a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed his disciples’ feet. After he had completed this, he spoke these words. “Ye call me Master (didaskalos or teacher) and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done.” (John 13:4-15) Jesus’ entire life, all that he said and all that he did, is a lesson to his disciples from the greatest of teachers.
An interesting statement is found in Acts 1:1-2. “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up.” The text says that Jesus began to do and teach, but then he departed. If he began the task and then left, who is to continue it? Surely, the members of his church to whom he has given the gift of teaching are to continue what he began. They, like Jesus, are to teach by word and example.
God has given a specific gift called “pastors and teachers” to some men. The pastor/teacher is to be especially apt to teach. It is imperative that his words and lifestyle be above reproach, so that he might teach others by his example to the flock and to the world. It is likewise important that he study God’s word diligently, so that he may be ready always to give answer. Yet, the gift of teaching is by no means limited to the pastors.
One of the most important uses of the gift of teaching is the bringing up of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. All parents need to be teachers in the home. Children are a gift from the Lord, but with the gift comes a tremendous responsibility. Moses declared the urgency of teaching one’s children the things of God with these words: “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut 11:18-19) It is to be a full time job requiring much dedication and diligence.
The teaching of children can also be accomplished by the grandparents. “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them to thy sons, and thy son’s sons.” (Deut 4:9) Timothy was taught by his mother and his grandmother. Perhaps, many grandparents miss God given opportunities to teach their grandchildren about God.
There are numerous ways that each individual church member can teach others about Jesus Christ. Surely, in every life there is a testimony. One may feel to have been a vile sinner, but now understands the forgiveness of Christ. If so, tell somebody. Another may have been delivered from a hopeless situation by the grace of God. If so, tell somebody. Yet another may be a converted rebel with a new Spirit. If so, tell somebody.
Yet, one might declare that he or she is not good with words. (Neither was Moses, but look at what God accomplished through him.) But even if a church member did not have the ability to utter a single word, he or she can still teach the ways of Jesus Christ by a Christian lifestyle. If, as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words;” then a Christian act of love and kindness might be worth a thousand sermons.
May each member of every church use the gift of teaching to God’s glory. The words of a Christian and the deeds of a Christian teach the world about Christ. A church member can teach the ways of Christ even when the conversation is not specifically about Christ. A Christian can teach the lifestyle of Christ by the way he performs on the job, treats his neighbor, cares for his family, serves his Lord, reacts to situations, etc. There are many means by which the gift of teaching may be used to declare to the world the ways of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught by word and deed. So can all his followers through the gift of teaching.
THE GIFT OF EXHORTING
Again, in order to understand the gift, the child of God must understand the word exhort. The word exhorteth is translated from the Greek word parakaleo. The word exhortation is from the Greek word paraklesis. Parakaleo is a combination of two Greek words: para (which means near or beside) and kaleo ( which means to call). Thus, parakaleo is to call near. Paraklesis means comfort. So, the combination of the two Greek words implies to call near or to call another to one’s side in order to comfort.
Paul refers to our heavenly Father as “the God of all comfort. (paraklesis) who comforteth (parakaleo) us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort (parakaleo) them which are in any trouble.” (II Cor 1:3-4) It is important to note that these two Greek words which describe God, also describe the gift God gives to his children. It is also interesting that “the Comforter,” a name for the Holy Spirit, is translated from the Greek word parakletos. (a derivative of paraklesis) Thus, when the Father’s children practice the gift of exhortation, they are conforming themselves (through God’s grace) to be like him. He often calls his children to his side and comforts them, and his children are to do this to each other.
The book of Acts gives a beautiful example of a man with the gift of exhorting. His name was originally Joses, but the apostles gave him the name Barnabus. The name Barnabus means “son of consolation.” The word consolation and the word exhortation are both translated from the Greek word paraklesis. A study of the life of Barnabus shows that he called others near in order to comfort and encourage them.
There are at least three characteristics about exhortation that can be learned by examining Barnabus. Firstly, to comfort others requires self-denial. Secondly, bringing God’s children into closer fellowship results in their increased comfort. Thirdly, a true friend brings much comfort.
First of all, to comfort others requires self-denial. An exhorter is concerned about the comfort of others. Human nature is concerned about self. It has been said that the most difficult instrument for an accomplished musician to play is “second fiddle.” Human nature demands to be “first fiddle” and to be called upon to stand and play the solos. The so-called “second fiddler” sits in the background and softly harmonizes while the spotlight is on another. Barnabus, like all exhorters, had to deny self. He was willing to support and encourage Paul. As Paul’s fame increased, Barnabus’ fame decreased. In Acts 13, the church sent Barnabus and Paul to preach, but it quickly became apparent that Barnabus played “second fiddle” behind Paul. The group soon became known as “Paul and his company.” Paul’s sermons were left on record, but none from Barnabus. And the people even declared Paul to be the “chief speaker.” From all indications Barnabus was true to his name. He was contented to comfort and encourage another at the expense of himself. So is anyone who practices the gift of exhortation.
Secondly, bringing God’s children into closer fellowship results in their increased comfort. From the beginning of their relationship, Barnabus had been Paul’s encourager. In Acts 9, Paul (then known as Saul of Tarsus) was a man with nowhere to turn. His old friends, the Jews, were trying to kill him; and the church, through fear, hesitated to accept him. But Barnabus took Paul and brought him to the apostles and defended him. On Barnabus’ testimony the church received Paul. Surely, this fellowship with the church must have been a comfort to Paul. And likewise, Paul’s membership must have strengthened and encouraged the entire church.
In addition to bringing individuals into fellowship with the church, Barnabus brought entire churches into a closer fellowship with each other resulting in much comfort to all involved. After having preached at Antioch for about a year, Barnabus received word that there was a lack of food among the members of the church at Jerusalem. He took a collection from the members at Antioch and personally delivered it to the impoverished church at Jerusalem. Both churches would have been encouraged by this effort. The hungry were fed and thus comforted by the food and the love shown to them. The givers were comforted by the blessing of giving. A closeness of fellowship between the two churches surely resulted. However, a disagreement over a point of doctrine later developed between the two churches. Barnabus was instrumental in resolving the difference and thus fellowship was maintained. Surely, fellowship is more comforting than division. Barnabus drew individuals into closer relationships. Thereby, he comforted them. Barnabus likewise drew churches closer together, thus, comforting those involved. Truly he lived up to his name.
Finally, for a person to be an exhorter he must be a loyal friend. Barnabus was a true friend. In Acts 15, Paul had given up on John Mark. John Mark had previously deserted Paul and Barnabus in the midst of a preaching trip and Paul had no confidence in him. However, Barnabus took John Mark to be near unto him and journeyed with him. He was a friend to John Mark when others had considered him of no use. Moreover, Barnabus’ exhortation must been successful. For near the end of Paul’s life he wrote a letter to Timothy and declared that Mark was profitable for the ministry. The loyal friendship of Barnabus and his practice of gentle exhortation of a weaker brother, perhaps, made a great difference in the life of John Mark.
As our Father is the God of all comfort, may his children be willing to give comfort to others. In order to do this, one needs to follow the example of Barnabus, the son of consolation. Church members desiring to be exhorters must be willing to deny self and focus on the concerns of others. They must have a desire to promote fellowship among brethren. And they must be loyal friends to others. May each of God’s children put into use the God given gift of exhorting; for the comfort of others in the church and to the glory of God.
THE GIFT OF GIVING
The text reads, “he that giveth let him do it with simplicity.” According to Strong’s Concordance, the word giveth (translated from the Greek word metadidomi) means “to give over or to share.” Likewise according to Strong’s Concordance, the word simplicity is translated from the Greek word, haplotes. Haplotes has two meanings. Firstly, it means generosity or liberality. Secondly, it means singleness (without hypocrisy or self-seeking). Thus, the gift is sharing with others in a generous, liberal manner and with the unselfish, pure and single motive to help others.
Surely, God is an unselfish and generous giver. “He gave his only begotten son.” (John 3:16) Jesus proclaimed, “I give unto them eternal life.” (John 10:28) The promise is, “he shall give you another Comforter.” (John 14:16) Jesus declared, “My peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27) Paul repeatedly speaks of “the grace given unto us.” (Rom 12:6 et al.) God “giveth us the victory.” (I Cor 15:57) Indeed, God “giveth us richly all things.” (I Tim 6:17) And, as this study shows, he “gave gifts unto men.” (Eph 4:8) Without question, God is a bountiful giver of good and perfect gifts. Although he has given to his children so abundantly and has given to them the gift of “giving,” many times his children are selfish and stingy toward others.
God’s word proclaims much about the principles of giving. The word “first” is often used in teachings about giving. Abel gave to God the “firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof.” (Gen 4:4) Note that the first and best were acceptable to God. Human nature desires to first take care of self and then give to others, including giving to God. However, the Bible teaches differently. The first thing Noah did upon leaving the ark was to give to God a sacrifice, though he might have selfishly desired to wait and see if he would need the animal. Moses commanded the people to “offer the first of thy ripe fruits.” (Ex 22:29) Further, “every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord’s.” (Ex 13:12) Moreover, Moses taught that the firstborn child of a woman belonged to the Lord and should be redeemed by giving money to the priest. Solomon teaches to “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase.” (Prov 3:9) Human nature desires to first consider self. God demands to give to him first. Paul teaches, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay up by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (I Cor 16:2) God teaches to give to him first. He deserves more than the leftovers.
God’s word gives examples to help his children know how much to give. Abraham gave to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God, one tenth of all that God had blessed him to receive. Jacob promised to God, “of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” (Gen 28:22) Both of these men voluntarily gave to God one tenth. Later, God commanded through the law given to Moses that one tenth of their increase (which God gave to them) be returned to the Lord. Malachi accused God’s people of robbing God by refusing to give one tenth to the Lord. He further promised great blessings from God if his children would give God his due.
Since Jesus has fulfilled the law, what should his children do in this age? The question is difficult to answer. The New Testament does not plainly and specifically teach tithing. However, the New Testament teaches much about giving. Paul proclaimed, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Cor 9:7) If one assumes that the members of the New Testament church are not under law to tithe, then what principle now applies? Two questions might be asked. First of all, can a child of God give too much to God? Jesus observed the poor widow give “all that she had.” He did not reprimand her, but instead, used her as an example. About the members of the early church, it is said, “as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:34-35) Jesus told the rich man, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor.” (Mt 19:21) Thus, to give all that one has is not too much. Secondly, can a child of God give too little? The answer must be “yes.” To give with simplicity means to give generously and unselfishly. When the giver is concerned more about self than God and others, he is in error and will either give too little or give grudgingly. Also, remember the principle of “first give to God.” When a person thinks first of self and delays to give to God, he is giving too little. Are church members required to give all their possessions to God or to his church? Not specifically, but Jesus admired the woman who did. Are God’s people required to give one tenth to God and his church? Not specifically, but Abraham and Jacob voluntarily gave this much. Furthermore, the law required this much. Should not God’s people in this day, who understand his amazing grace and the extent of what he gave on the cross, gladly give at least this much? But to be specific, the giver is to give with simplicity (generously, liberally and unselfishly). Furthermore, one is to give “not of necessity” (as if forced to give); nor “grudgingly” (with regret); but “cheerfully.” God has given to his children without necessity, nor in a grudging manner, but cheerfully. May his children ever follow his example.
If the givers give generously and unselfishly to the church (and thus to God), the church in turn is able to give as the Bible describes. Firstly, the church is to give to the preacher. “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things in the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel would live of the gospel.” (I Cor 9:13-14) “Let him that is taught in the word communicate (share with) unto him that teacheth in all good things.” (Gal 6:6) Paul further declared, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things.” (I Cor 9:11) These and other passages declare that it is God’s instruction to financially support the preacher. Next, giving to the poor is taught. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Eph 4:28) Moreover, one church giving to another is taught. (I Cor 16)
Giving members result in a giving church. A giving church gives glory to Christ. Christ has given all. May his children be generous givers; and thus give him glory.
THE GIFT OF RULING
The passage reads, “he that ruleth, with diligence.” The word ruleth is translated from the Greek word proistemi. According to Strong’s Concordance, proistemi means, first of all, “to stand before or to preside.” It also means “to practice or maintain.” Other places that proistemi is used in the Bible will help show its meaning. First Timothy 3:4, 3:12, and 5:17 speak of bishops, deacons and elders ruling (proistemi) their houses well. A role of leadership or presiding is here indicated. Titus 3:8 proclaims, “that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain (proistemi) good works.” Also, Titus 3:14 declares, “And let ours also learn to maintain (proistemi) good works.” The additional meaning of practicing or maintaining good works is seen from these scriptures. The combining of these two concepts gives a broader meaning of the gift of ruling. It is to “lead in the practice of good works.” This leadership in practicing good works is to be done with diligence (earnestness or eagerness).
Oftentimes, the pastor of a church is considered to be the leader of the church. The pastor must practice the gift of ruling, but not as the word, rule, is often used. He is to be a ruler, but not make the rules. He is never directed to be the dictator; but instead, the servant. How then is he to be the ruler? He is to be the example. He is to “lead in the practice of good works.”
It must always be remembered that the Lord Jesus Christ is head of the church. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Col 1:18) The church is not under the authority of the pastor, nor the deacons, nor the men, nor the women, nor the children, nor any other creature; but is submissive to the Creator and King, Jesus Christ. However, in the sense of the word proistemi the pastor, the deacons, the men, the women, and the children can and should be “leaders in the practicing of good works.”
Isaiah proclaims “and a little child shall lead them.” (Is 11:6) One might be tempted to question how a little child can lead the church. The Bible says it like this. “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. And said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples were looking to be leaders with authority, power and prestige. They desired to rule, but not as described by the word proistemi. What did the child have that the disciples lacked? The child had humility. The child was the true ruler (proistemi). He was the example to “lead (the apostles) in the practice of good works.”
Moreover, much can be learned from the children of the Bible. Two examples are David and Daniel. Firstly, David in his battle with Goliath illustrates the faith of a child. One might declare, “David was not wise enough to know any better than to attack Goliath. He was young and foolish.” David was young but he was not foolish. He was wiser than most adults. In child-like faith he trusted in a caring and protecting Father. Children are the ones with wisdom. As Jesus said, “be converted and become as little children.”
Secondly, Daniel and his refusal to eat the unlawful food of the king portrays the obedience of a child. As humble children, the most important thing to Daniel and his three companions was obedience. Even at the risk of their lives, they trusted the instruction of their heavenly Father. Many times adults seem to become wiser than God (in their own minds). Though God has clearly declared a certain way of behavior, they refuse to heed his teachings. Instead of following God’s instructions specifically, people twist his words to excuse their courses of action.
Surely, David and Daniel have led by their practice of good works. So can the children in the church today. It is truly an inspiration for the adults in the church to observe a faithful young person. Older members realize all the temptations and distractions that a young person faces. Thus the faithfulness of the young person inspires older disciples to a more dedicated practice of good works.
The practice of this gift is by no means limited to the children. In the near stoning of the adulterous woman, Jesus declared, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Beginning at the eldest, they turned and walked away. The eldest (and probably the most respected) man in the crowd led the whole group in the practice of good works. Sometimes leading in the practice of good works involves a conviction of conscience, a repentance, a swallowing of pride and a turning to the Lord. Truly, the effective old leaders in the church are the humble old leaders.
Let him that ruleth, rule with diligence. From the young child to the old sister, many have the ability to eagerly and earnestly lead others in the practice of good works. Some might rule by faithfully visiting the sick. Others might rule by charitably helping the poor. Some might rule by diligently maintaining the church building. Others might rule by eagerly studying God’s word. There are countless possibilities of ruling in God’s church. Each member needs to lead by his example in the practice of good works.
The practice of the gift of ruling can lead to much glory for the Lord Jesus Christ. First of all, the eager ruler faithfully practices the good work. Next, the Lord will bless others to begin to follow the ruler’s example. After patience and the Lord’s continued blessing many will have followed. Finally, the whole church will have been led into the practice of this good work by the ruler who has ruled diligently. And Christ is glorified.
May the Lord bless his children to use God’s gift of ruling to his honor. May each member of his church be a leader in the practice of good works. And as each leads, may others be humble followers.
THE GIFT OF SHOWING MERCY
The text in Romans reads, “he that sheweth mercy with cheerfulness.” For a proper understanding of the text, the words, mercy and cheerfulness, need to be defined. First of all, according to Strong’s Concordance, the word mercy is translated from the Greek word eleeo and means to have compassion, pity, or mercy on. In addition, according to Vine’s Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, mercy means “to feel sympathy with the misery of another, and especially sympathy manifested in act… It is the outward manifestation of pity.” In other words, the one showing mercy feels compassion or pity toward another who is in distress; and then acts to relieve the distress of the other person.
Secondly, according to Strong’s Concordance, the word cheerfulness is from the Greek word hilarotes (derived from hilaros), and simply means “cheerfulness.” Furthermore, according to Vine’s Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, it “signifies that readiness of mind, that joyousness, which is prompt to do anything.” In order to ascertain the extent of cheer or joy associated with showing mercy, one might note the similarity of the Greek word hilaros to the English word hilarious. It seems that showing mercy is not to be a drudgery, but an opportunity of extreme pleasure for the child of God who practices this gift.
As in all Christian endeavors, Jesus is the perfect example. Jesus practiced this gift many times. In Acts 10, blind Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy (eleeo) on me.” Jesus relieved his distress by giving him sight. In Luke 17, ten lepers “stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy (eleeo) on us.” Jesus cleansed all ten. In Matthew 17, a desperate man cried, “Lord, have mercy (eleeo) on my son.” Jesus healed his son. In Matthew 15, a woman “cried unto him, saying, Have mercy (eleeo) on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed.” Jesus relieved her misery by healing the daughter. Jesus was continually full of compassion and pity. Moreover, he took action to relieve the distress and misery of those he encountered.
Even today, as his children reach the point of desperation and come to their wit’s end; they cry unto him, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” And he still “sheweth mercy with cheerfulness.” David proclaimed, “he is their strength in the time of trouble.” Solomon professed about Jesus, “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Peter declared, “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Elihu announced “he heareth the cry of the afflicted.” Many, many passages assure God’s children that he still shows mercy to those in distress.
Without doubt, the ultimate act of mercy of all time occurred on a hill called Golgotha nearly 2000 years ago. Jesus voluntarily and willfully allowed men to crucify him in the absolute act of compassion. His people were in a miserable state of sin. Their distressed condition was hopeless and desperate. There was one chance for salvation from their distress–JESUS. The angel had proclaimed, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” In his wonderful act of mercy he did just that: He saved his people from their sins.
Did Jesus accomplish his act of mercy with cheerfulness? His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane showed that he dreaded the event. The rejection of men led him to sorrow and grief. The severe pain and suffering endured on the cross were not joyful. But the author of Hebrews proclaimed about Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus cheerfully looked to the end result and endured the painful sacrifice of the moment.
His followers can learn much from his example. Many times it requires a self-sacrifice to show mercy. It often demands money, resources, and time to alleviate the distress of others. Jesus described a certain Samaritan who paused to help a man that was in distress. This Samaritan had compassion and helped the wounded, injured, half-dead man. In this case, the showing of mercy required: bandages, oil, wine, the transportation of the injured, money for a room at the inn, and a return trip to pay any possible future debts at the inn. Beyond expense, showing mercy always takes time. Frequently, people do not seem to have time to help others. The selfish human nature may lead one to turn away from the distressed of this world. Jesus never turned away. He showed mercy. He said for his children to “Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10)
What better way can God’s children show their love for him than to be like him? May his followers show mercy to others: not grudgingly or of necessity, but cheerfully. The cheerful showing of mercy results in three things. Firstly, the distressed person is relieved of his misery. Secondly, the extender of mercy is proved to be a faithful follower of his Savior. And finally, Jesus Christ is glorified through the prayers of thankfulness of the relieved and the obedience of the merciful disciple. Surely, there is no greater achievement than the glory of Jesus Christ. Let every member of every church look for opportunities to show mercy with cheerfulness to his glory.
In conclusion, God is a most gracious God. He has given so many wonderful gifts to his children throughout the ages. The unspeakable gift of his only begotten Son is beyond human comprehension. The gift of eternal life far exceeds man’s dreams. No person can imagine the extent of the glorious wonders God has prepared for his children in the world to come.
But even today in this world, Jesus has given to his disciples a most wonderful gift. It is his church. He established his church as a place of refuge for his children; a visible, lively body that would effect the world; and a glorious assembly to God’s honor.
Furthermore, beyond the gift of the church, Christ gives the gift of Spiritual gifts to each member of his church. For the church as a whole to be glorious, each individual member must use his or her gifts to the edifying of the church and the praise of its head, Jesus Christ. If each person in the church will earnestly strive to use the God given gifts he or she has received, the church collectively will accomplish its mission. It will truly be a light to the world, a city on a hill, and a glory to God.
May Christ bless the words of this study. May these words inspire God’s children in his church to a more diligent service. May Jesus be glorified and his servants be humble. In Jesus name. Amen.