What Part Do You Play?

Lesson 47: Romans 12:6-8

What Part Do You Play?

by Bob Burridge ©2012

I was always the little agile guy who could wiggle and squeeze into small tight places where my bigger friends could not go. This was in the days when there were no computer game consoles. It was even before to old original Atari. When we played soldiers we had to put together the battle plans, and do all the running and crawling on our own. There were no computer generated characters to do it for us. We had to fall down and grimace when we were shot. Thankfully, by our own rules, the medics could heal anything and we would immediately be back in action.

Living in the steel plant community of South Buffalo, we were not rich. We had to improvise and use our imaginations when we waged pretend war. We did not have all the plastic weapons, walkie talkies, and toy helmets that were on the market for kids back then. However, that did not bother us much. So what if our combat sidearms were silver and had the name “Roy Rodgers” stamped on the side, or that our combat helmets strongly resembled the hats we wore playing baseball, or even that our grenades looked suspiciously like clumps of hardened mud (a fact not so much appreciated by our parents after a battle in the basement or attic).

When our guns fired, the most skilled of us could do a reasonable sound effect with our mouths. We even got grenade sounds down fairly well. This was done way before the time of George Lucas and his Industrial Light and Magic Company.

Being the size I was, I was always the one who had to crawl through the small basement window into enemy territory, then stumble my way through the coal bin to make a surprise attack while the rest of my larger buddies made a much easier assault down the basement steps.

In such times my smallness and bendability was appreciated, and I became a daring hero. We all had our talents and we were glad to use and develop them in our back yards, alley ways, basements, attics, and along the streets to help our side win the war. We were a team, and everyone had an important role.

God also uses even the least of us as important parts in the work of his Kingdom. When talking about all the different kinds of people in the church, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:22 “… those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”

In our previous study of verses 3-5 we saw that every Christian needs to maintain a healthy view of how he fits into the whole family of God. Paul used the example of the human body. Every part has a purpose so that together they make one whole functioning person.

Christians organized in to a spiritual family called the Church are like the members of a body. When a believer becomes centered upon himself instead of upon the Lord he develops a destructive attitude. If he esteems his own abilities too highly he forgets how all that he accomplishes is a gift of grace, and he tends to be less considerate of the work of others in God’s plan. If he tends to always pity himself, or put himself down, he fails to respect the promises of the God who calls him to his particular place. These wrong attitudes produce depression, discouragement, and crippling self-injury.

Instead, the Christian should learn to love his own calling in life. He must pursue that calling with the diligence of thankful obedience and humble gratitude toward his Savior. He needs to appreciate his own duties, and the uniqueness of every member in the church.

Paul then listed some of the gifts God was giving the church at that time:

Romans 12:6-8, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

This list is just a sampling to illustrate the principles he had just explained. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list. The Apostle gave us other lists when he wrote to other churches too. When he listed some of the gifts for the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 12 he even made the same comparison between the human body and the church as here in Romans 12. In Ephesians 4:11 he listed still other special duties from God for specially called individuals in the church at that time.

Keep a few ideas in mind as we look at this list of seven abilities God puts into his church.

  1. Since these gifts, abilities, and opportunities are given by God’s grace, there is no cause for self-glory.
  2. They are to be used together for the benefit of the whole family of God.
  3. They are for the church as a whole body, and apply to every area of life, not just in the areas of worship and acts of mercy. Our gifts are to be used in our homes, at school, at work, in the community, and with friends.
  4. It is the gifts that are spoken of in this list, not just specially gifted individuals. Sometimes the same gift appears in the same person, or many gifts are needed in one situation.

We each have gifts that differ. Each must be used responsibly for the good of the whole body

1. God had given to some the gift of prophesy.

When Paul wrote this book to the Romans the Bible was not yet complete. God was still speaking by special revelation directly to his Apostles and prophets. This special gift to the church was necessary until God completed his written word.

In Ephesians 4 he listed more of these special gifts. In verse eleven he said, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,”

We do not have apostles and prophets in the church today. Their unique job of receiving new revelation from God for the church is now ended.

The work of evangelism, pastoring and teaching continues primarily in the office of Elder. This is the office of overseeing the application of what God had already revealed. In every age of the church, the Elder embodies these last three duties. Though some Elders may be more gifted than others in one of these skills or another, they do not represent three different offices of the church.

These are special callings, not things in which every believer engages. Even the special gifts were for the benefit of the whole family of God.

In Ephesians 4:12-13 he explained the purpose of these special callings, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Today God’s revelation is complete, and is available to us all in our Bibles. We do not have Apostles and Prophets to add to it. We do have specially called Elders to promote the gospel, shepherd and teach God’s people. These spiritual leaders are enabled to more competently understand and report God’s truth to the church.

There is a sense in which all believers carry out the work of the prophet. We each ought to be ready and able to give an answer for the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15). We need to be ready to tell what God has said to others when the opportunity comes. We tell about the prophetic word in the Bible.

So the warning and admonition for the prophetic work applies to us all too. The prophetic work is to be done according to the proportion of faith God has given us. The biblical faith must be presented in confidence for what it is, the very word of God. If God puts you in a situation where you can help a person find out what God says, do not imagine you are incompetent. God gifts us for the jobs he brings our way.

Do your humble best to help the person find out what God has said in his word. You do not have to be an expert. The Samaritan woman at the well was no trained expert. She just invited the people of the city to where they could hear the word of Christ. If you do nothing more than invite the person to church, to hear the word taught you have done a wonderful service for the kingdom.

You need to be careful not to say things if you are not sure what God has said. Do not guess or go by your feelings about what is right and true. Stay with what you know the Bible says. Beyond that, help the person find answers as you learn along with them. Ask your Pastor or Elder for some direction as to where to get good help. This is what it means today to limit the prophetic work according to the proportion of faith. Stay within what God has made you sure of by his written word. The teller of God’s word must love the truth, and trust its promises.

2. God sometimes gifts us for the work of ministry.

This is the work of a servant, humbly helping others, particularly the needy. When there is a need among those in the church, God calls his people to meet that need.

Our lost world sees no value of the work of being a servant. Their goal is to be served. Humble service is a most “Christ-like” and honorable duty. In Luke 22:25-27 Jesus said to his disciples, “… The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”

The word used here for “ministry” is the same as the root word for Deacon. These specially called officers lead the church in being humble servants of Christ. They do the kinds of daily jobs that are often not highly rewarded or appreciated. However, without such things the church of Christ would be crippled and hampered.

Under that leadership, all believers are called to this work of service. When you have an opportunity to serve others for the glory of Christ, do it. Follow the lead of those specially gifted in this way. Learn from them as they follow the lead of Jesus Christ. Do not wish your job was something else, something more honorable, with more authority. Humble service is a wonderful, Christ like behavior, and gift of God to his church.

3. God sometimes gifts his people to be teachers.

The prophets were those who received the word of God. Teachers apply what God has said and help others to learn and obey.

Again, all believers must tell God’s truth and present his gospel at every opportunity. God has called some to set aside other things in their lives and become teachers. God is not just concerned with teaching about Bible stories and salvation. His word also has guidelines for how we view history, science, politics, and every other area of life. There are principles that effect us every day. Parents are specially called to teach their children. It is a special and holy calling. Elders are specially called to be the teachers in the church and to oversee all its educational work.

In using these talents, we must communicate God’s truth clearly. Our goal is to make it understood to the best of our ability to all of God’s children. If you have the opportunity, be doing it. Teach, and teach well.

4. God sometimes gifts his people for the work of exhortation.

This is the job of exciting believers to their duties, and dissuading them from sin. Pastors, parents, publishers, writers, artists, Sunday School teachers, and youth workers all need to be diligent to use every opportunity, every ability, to encourage believers zealously to apply God’s revealed truth in their daily living. When you can be an encouragement to godly living, do it.

5. God sometimes gifts us for the work of giving.

God gives us many things. What we have is entrusted to us to use for God’s glory. The first 10% of what we earn is the Lord’s for his church. That is what the word tithe means. That giving ought to be done obediently before we look at our own expenses and desires. The work of the church requires physical means to operate and to care for its people. That would not be done if we keep for ourselves, or give to charities, what belongs to God.

What remains ours is to be managed to provide for our needs and those of others. Sometimes we give thank offerings to the church to show God our gratitude. Sometimes we use our means to help family, friends or neighbors in times of need.

In all of our management, we ought to try to be able to give as it says here, “with liberality”. That means freely, not grudgingly or holding back. The word here literally means “with simplicity”. We give without qualifications, excuses, or grumbling. Giving must be done with devotion and joy for the work of Christ. There must be no “ulterior motives” or “giving for personal honor or reward”.

This is a work to which some are better suited than others. By the gifting of God, some are able to do much more than others. Being a godly and successful businessman or investor is a gift of God. Without such the body of Christ would be lame.

Our goal should be to have enough to help out with our giving as God enables us. Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

6. God sometimes gifts his people for the work of leadership.

There is a broad principle of headship in Scripture. Some are called to rule. Husbands are called specially to manage the homes, and parents to manage their children. Bosses are to responsibly oversee their businesses and workers. Governors of various sorts are to rule in society for God’s glory. Elders are to rule in the church representing God’s principles of operation.

Where God has given the authority to rule it must be done with diligence. Leaders must be faithful to their duty and submissive to God’s moral law. They my use the talents of others, but they are not to pass off their responsibility. It is their duty to see that the work they oversee is not done poorly. Those in charge must put forth a good effort, relying on God’s enablement. Godly leadership, conducted in love, is a wonderful gift to develop at every level.

7. God sometimes gifts us to do the work of mercy.

This is the compassionate and personal care of those in need. In some ways this is a job for all of us. Every believer should want to care for the sick and the sad. The office of a deacon is specially a calling to the work of mercy. They lead the rest of the congregation in this service too.

All who are called to show mercy, must do it with cheerfulness, not as a chore. Attitude is very important in our obedience to Christ. John Calvin, showing his pastor’s heart, wrote, “nothing gives more solace to the sick or to anyone otherwise distressed, than to see those cheerful and prompt in assisting them …” And he warned of what happens to the needy when cheerfulness is lacking, “… so to observe sadness in the countenance of those by whom assistance is given makes them feel themselves despised”

Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”

What part do you play?

Do you serve faithfully and gladly, however God calls you to serve in his family? Do you serve according to the faith God gives you? according to your confidence in what he says in his word? with obedience to your calling at the moment? with singleness of mind? with diligence? with cheerfulness?

Love for God and his mercy, sincere gratitude, is what drives us as we function as a body. There are no unimportant jobs in the church, no dispensable members. The simple acts of praying for needs, inviting people to worship, and encouraging the discouraged are each a part of how God works in us to promote the health of the whole body of his church.

As a good, faithful and humble member of the body of Christ never despair your own inadequacy as if God might have made a mistake in putting you there at that time. On the other hand, never become puffed up as if God should be thankful to you for your own skills.

Use every skill and opportunity as a wonderful opportunity to show your love to God. He will be glorified in your life.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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