A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
We began this series from the perspective that our time is short and we should make sure we’re ordering what’s left of it around the Lord’s priorities for our lives. In the first 8 chapters we saw again that the only way into the Kingdom is absolute reliance on the Lord and His atoning sacrifice. Trusting our destiny to Him and Him alone is our perfect security. Chapters 9-11 detailed the clear distinction between the Church and Israel in terms of origin and destiny.
Now we’ll turn our attention to the specific things we should be doing to prepare for the day when we’re called heavenward. Our objective is neither to earn nor keep our salvation, things we can’t do anyway, but to express our gratitude for having been given it, and to store up treasure in Heaven. It won’t be long before the life we’ve worked so hard to build for ourselves here will be left behind. All that will remain is the treasure we’ve stored up for ourselves there.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
In some parts of the world today, becoming a Christian is such a dangerous thing to do that the only way to survive is to put oneself totally in the hands of God. But in most places that’s not the case. Putting ourselves in God’s hands is not a matter of survival for most of us, so it has to become a matter of choice. And the best motivation for that choice is gratitude.
Do you fully comprehended all that He’s done for you? That He not only died so that you can live forever, but also created an eternity for you that’s beyond your wildest imagination? Now more than ever, those of us with one foot in the Kingdom and one in the world need to ponder Elijah’s question to Israel, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21) As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt. 6:24)
This may be our last chance to properly express our gratitude for all the Lord has done for us by devoting our remaining time to Him. The world could certainly benefit from our undivided effort on His behalf. If you don’t feel like you’re called to drop everything else to serve Him alone, how about at least making Him your legitimate first priority?
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 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. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)
Each one of us has been given special gifts that uniquely equip us for service. One of the truly exciting treasure hunts of the Christian life lies in discovering the area of our giftedness. The gifts He gave to us may be different from those He gave to others around us so that when we all work together everyone makes a meaningful contribution to something none of us could have done alone.
Some assert that every human alive has one or more of these gifts from God, that they’ve been passed down to us from our first father, Adam, who possessed them all. They say it explains why some unbelievers demonstrate such remarkable abilities in these areas. Many of the greatest statesmen, philanthropists, professors, business leaders, scientists and public servants don’t give evidence of any commitment to faith and yet by all accounts they’ve been gifted. And is it surprising to learn that in all these fields some of the most outstanding practitioners throughout the Age of Man have been Jewish? After all they’re the ones with the unbroken line to Adam. (Luke 3:21-38)
But this is only one of three lists of gifts in the New Testament. There are also the gifts (sometimes called offices) in the Church, found in Ephesians 4:11. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. A case can be made that all born again believers show tendencies in at least one of these areas, given by the Lord Jesus to build up His body.
And finally there are the Gifts of the Spirit, described in detail in 1 Cor. 12. The Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to each believer as He sees fit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). Most people don’t realize that Paul separated believers into three general groupings in explaining the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One group consists of those who are given gifts of knowledge and wisdom. Another group gets extraordinary faith, healing, miraculous power, prophecy and discernment. And the third group gets tongues and interpretation.
You have to read 1 Cor. 12 in the Greek to see this, but when you do it’s clearly there. This grouping of believers is derived from two different Greek words that are both translated “another” in English. One of them, allos, actually means “another of the same kind” and the other, heteros, means “another of a different kind.”
Look it up and see for yourself. The word that means “another of a different kind” is found at the beginning of verse 9 and is the 4th word translated “another” in verse 10. The only reason for Paul to use these two different words as he did was to divide the gifts and their recipients into three groups as I detailed above.
Think Of It This Way
Say you’re a Greek person living in Biblical times and have just eaten a chicken sandwich. Someone asks you (in Greek of course) “Would you like another sandwich?” If he or she uses the word allos it means you are being offered another chicken sandwich. But if the word heteros is used it means that you are being offered a different kind of sandwich and would have to ask, “What kind?” before making up your mind. In both cases you’re being offered another sandwich, but in one case it’s another of the same kind, and in the other it’s another of a different kind.
So it is with our Spiritual Gifts. They’re all given to believers, but some gifts are given to believers of one kind, while other gifts are given to another kind. We’re not told what criteria are used in assigning believers to these groups. But the fact that we are assigned offers proof that it’s unscriptural to expect all believers to manifest the same gift, as the balance of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 12 clearly states.
As is always the case in such important matters, the entire Trinity is involved in equipping us, with gifts from the Father (Romans 12), the Son (Ephesians 4), and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12). And it’s also generally true that our particular gifts will emerge as we draw close to the Lord and prepare ourselves for service, because our gifts are designed to help us accomplish His will for our lives.
If you’re like most Christians, you haven’t been prepared very well, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not equipped. You’re like a piece of precision machinery, capable of great things but lacking the hand of a skilled operator. Start preparing yourself for service, and watch the Lord go to work with you to cause your gifts to blossom.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. [Deut. 32:35]
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” [Prov. 25:21-22]
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
This simple list of exhortations at the end of chapter 12, along with the ones in the chapters to come, explains how we accomplish the commands at its beginning. By doing these things, we’re presenting our whole beings as living sacrifices. By doing them, we’re no longer conforming to the ways of the world but are being transformed by the renewing of our minds. For this list of actions, if sincerely followed, will change us from the self-centered, self-promoting, self-serving people we’ve naturally become, and make us a channel for the Lord’s love. As we become so, the area of our giftedness will begin to emerge. And just as you’d expect from the Lord, moving fully into the area of our giftedness brings blessings impossible to experience in an ordinary life. Selah 03-17-07