22.5 Romans – Gifts of the Spirit

Now we come to the object of our warnings, preparation and training, the power tool itself: gifts of the Spirit.  In the job that we have been given to perform in being given the opportunity to be part of the construction of God’s body of believers, we are also equipped with special power tools.  Depending on the job we are assigned, we need and are given a different tool.

Paul’s message first and foremost is, whatever tool you have been given, use it.  The tool is not a decoration.  It isn’t something to put on a shelf.  It is a tool and tools are to be used in building.  He gives examples of some of the tools: prophesying, teaching, serving, etc.  This is not an all-encompassing list, but only a few examples and admonishes to go with them.  The job of any craftsman is to fully execute the use of their tools in their craft.

In 1 Corinthians 12, these are called the Gifts of the Spirit.  We need to pay close attention to that title.  They are not the gifts from the Spirit, they are the gifts of the Spirit.  The gifts belong to the Spirit.  The Spirit resides in us, as believers, and He brings gifts into our life.  All of our talents and interests are from God, but talents and interests are not the same as the Gifts of the Spirit.  I may be 7 feet tall and have a talent of reaching high things.  I may be very petite and nimble and able to move through a crowd with natural grace.  Those talents and everything about me are from God, but they are different.

The gifts of the Spirit are the tools that God gives me to perform the work that He calls me to do.  When He calls me into new work, it may require new tools.  Just as there are seasons of the year, they may be seasons in my life that I am called into different areas of work and God may supply different tools of and through the Holy Spirit.  God may also use the talents He has given me, but more often than not, the areas of highest impact into which we are called to serve are those completely outside of our natural strengths and areas of comfort.  Remember that Moses argued with God that he was not a gifted speaker for God to use him as the mouthpiece to Pharaoh.  But, over and over again, we see that God uses the small, the weak, the few, the outcasts, the misfits, the sinners, even coming as the son of a carpenter to a couple from Bethlehem.  It is in all of these ways that God is glorified.  The mighty things accomplished are not from those we would expect with their innate abilities.  The lasting things come from those who rely fully on the power in the tools of the Spirit.

I don’t have an issue with gifts assessments that are used in some of our churches, but I think we need to keep in mind that they are only a snapshot of a single frame in the movie of our life.  If it reveals that I have a Gift of the Spirit present in my life at this time, then, as Paul says, I need to be using that gift diligently, cheerfully and fully.  But that does not mean that the Holy Spirit, alive and powerful in me, is limited to only that gift/tool.

My Answers:

12.
1C7: Each has their own gift from God
1C12: Different gifts, all from the Spirit, different service, one Lord, different working, same God
E4: Believers’ gifts from Christ to build up the body until all reach unity in faith and maturity
1P4: Do all things through the gift and power of God for His Glory

13.
Prophesying, In accordance with your faith
Serving, then serve
Teaching, then teach
Encouraging,then give encouragement
Giving, then give generously
Leading, do it diligently
Mercy, do it cheerfully

14.
Giving, Teaching and Encouraging.

Advertisements

22.4 Romans – Unity and Maturity

In today’s lesson we venture outside of Romans into another of Paul’s letters to the Ephesians.  He picks up the theme in this letter about the body of Christ, but focuses on how to maintain unity.  This is along the lines of the difference between a body and a healthy, toned body.  In the overall function of the body we look for balance and unity.

I thought it was very interesting how Paul prescribes to accomplish this unity: Start with Yourself!

  1. Me: live a life worthy of the calling you have received
  2. Me: be completely humble and gentle
  3. Me: be patient
  4. Me: bear with one another in love
  5. Me: make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit

Did you notice that nothing in his prescription of unity and maturity was about fixing other people or getting them to change?  This isn’t in contrast to supporting others and encouraging them and holding them accountable to the commitments they have made, but the focus of unity always starts with me.

How quickly we are, particularly in our interactions with other believers, to start with them instead of me.  The pastor needs to do this or say this.  The elders should have…  The music leader needs to… The teacher was not… They said… She did… He didn’t…  Them, them, they, they, others.

My Answers:

9.
Believers. Christ and each other – united through the calling each has received

10.
Live a life worthy of the calling you have 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

11.
Contributing financially and in service, mostly in teaching and volunteering. When called saying, “here I am”. I erode unity when I don’t reach out to others but focus on my own needs and thoughts after worship. By not being bold and reaching out.

22.3 Romans – Where and How to Stand

Having given the safety warnings in Romans 12:3, Paul begins the training.  He starts with the most important step in operating most high power tools: where and how to stand and to be aware of your surroundings.

We are not a worker in building this edifice alone.  There are many workers and many tasks.  What we do affects others and it affects the project.  If we do not stand and operate correctly not only can we get hurt, but we are working in very close proximity to others and they also can be injured by our inattention.  We need to do our job.  We are part of something big and amazing and if we don’t do our part, the entire thing suffers.

What are we constructing?  God has allowed us to be workers in building His Kingdom.  He provides the materials.  He provides the plans.  He provides the tools.  He provides the nourishment.  He provides everything, but we are blessed by grace and mercy to be able to be a part, an artist and a craftsman, in the construction of the temple of God.  This temple instead of being made of tents or of stone is made of souls brought to Christ.  It is every bit as real as the other physical buildings.

As workers, we are like part of the body of Christ.  We each have unique tasks, work to do, and we need to do it.  We shouldn’t hang limp or be lazy.  We should be diligent, support others, and focus on the activity of the body as a whole.  If we collectively trip or stumble, we should work to catch ourselves, not blame the toe for not doing its part.

My Answers:

7.
A body. As members of the body of christ as an arm to a toe or hand to a foot.

8.
We are joined together and must function together as a whole living being

22.2 Romans – Safety Warnings

Have you have ever purchased an electrical tool like a saw?  When you get it home and open the box the first thing you notice and are confronted with are the safety warnings.  Wear proper safety attire.  Use caution.  Do not operate under the influence.  Never be careless.

As we move in to Romans 12:3, Paul is bestowing much of the same safety warnings in regard to what he is going to discuss in the following verses.  He starts like a shop teacher might start a class teaching how to use a table saw.  He holds up both hands and shows that he has all ten fingers.  This is not because he has magical fingers or that they are made out of stone or metal.  No, it is by grace that he was properly taught how to use the tools and by grace that he continued to practice them in accordance with that teaching.

Paul continues: do not get careless.  As soon as you start thinking you are better than you are, injuries happen.  You get cocky.  You get sloppy.  To take shortcuts.  You also need to not be too timid or too cautious.  The tools are to be used boldly and timid use can also cause mishaps.

Most importantly, Paul warns, do not use these tools under the influence of sin.  Paul calls this, “sober judgment”.  This is a really big deal because, at heart, temptation is another word for distraction.  Distraction and safety never go hand in hand and temptation always is a direction off the correct and proper path.

This teaching is not from Paul.  Paul received his training and certification as an instructor by God and it is through God and for God that he gives it freely “to every one of you.”  We receive it also from, through and for God, with faith that was distributed to God so that we might be able to learn and receive the tools that are to follow.

My Answers:

3.
by the grace given to him. Paul can relate. He has learned this lesson through the grace of God and is, in turn, passing it forward to his brothers in Rome

4.
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. We can think God needs us or needs something from us. We can tell ourselves I’m doing this for God or I don’t want to let God down. Everything came from God to begin with, including all earthly wealth and time. Also, we aren’t holding God up that we could let Him down.

5.
Even faith in God is a gift from God. We don’t earn it, we didn’t achieve it on our own, it has been distributed to each believer by God. Like any other living thing, we are tasked to nurture it and grow it, but we didn’t create it.

6.
Our evaluation of ourself is based on our relationship with God. We recognize the equalizer of our collective position in reference to God, whereas, if we set the benchmark only in others we may feel superior.