God's Gifts

Friday: Leadership and Mercy

Romans 12:6-8 In this week’s study, we see that God gives us different gifts, and along with them comes the responsibility to use them to serve the body of Christ.
Leadership and Mercy

I want to end this week’s study on spiritual gifts by looking at the remaining two gifts in the listing of Romans 12:6-8. 

Leadership. Isn’t it interesting that Paul includes leadership in his list of Christian gifts? The word actually means government or good administration, and it includes the task of management. This is an important quality to look for in elders, since they need to “manage” or “take care of God’s church” (1 Tim. 3:5). 

Bible commentator F. Godet points out how important this must have been in the early church, when so many of the institutions we take for granted were lacking:

Think of the numerous works of private charity which believers then had to found and maintain! Pagan society had neither hospitals nor orphanages, free schools or refuges [rescue missions], like those of our day. The church impelled by the instinct of Christian charity, had to introduce all these institutions into the world; hence no doubt, in every community, spontaneous gatherings of devout men and women who, like our present Christian committees, took up one or other of these needful objects, and had of course at their head directors charged with the responsibility of the work. Such are the persons certainly whom the apostle has in view in our passage.1 

I am not sure that this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote this. But it is certainly one way this gift functions in the church, and it points to a similar and continuing need today. All the organizations we have require management. Those who manage well deserve honor. 

Showing mercy. The final gift is showing mercy, and Paul’s point is that this should be done “cheerfully” and not with a long face or begrudgingly. The word is hilaroteti, which gives us our word “hilarious.” How much we need a cheerful, hilarious spirit in the church! Too often our faces are grim, and there is no spirit of joy to be found anywhere. 

I close with a paragraph from Ray Stedman, who has written on spiritual gifts in a more helpful way than anyone I know. He asks in his study of Romans 12, “Who are you anyway?” It is a good question for us to ask. Stedman answers:

I am a son of God among the sons of men. I am equipped with the power of God to labor today. In the very work given me today God will be with me, doing it through me. I am gifted with special abilities to help people in various areas, and I don’t have to wait until Sunday to use these gifts. I can use them anywhere. I can exercise the gift God has given me as soon as I find out what it is, by taking note of my desires and by asking others what they see in me and by trying out various things. I am going to set myself to the lifelong task of keeping that gift busy.2

I think that is well said. Paul told Timothy, “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6), and that is exactly what you should do. You have a gift. The rest of the body needs it. You will be accountable for what you do with it. Use it so that one day you will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21, 23). 

1F. Godet, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, trans. A. Cusin (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1892), vol. 2, 293. 

2Ray C. Stedman, From Guilt to Glory, vol. 2, Reveling in God’s Salvation (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1978), 118.

Study Questions
  1. How does the gift of leadership function?
  2. What should be our attitude when we are showing mercy?
  3. Why should we find out what our gifts are?
  4. How should we use our gifts?

Reflection: List the spiritual gifts discussed this week, with an example of how each is used for the good of the body.

Application: Are you aware of any needs in your church for which you believe you are suited to be able to serve the Lord and His people?

For Further Study: Download for free and read James Boice’s booklet, “How to Identify and Use Your Spiritual Gifts.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.) 

For Further Study: As we have seen, the opening two verses of Romans 12 provide the foundation for the rest of this chapter. James Boice’s careful and practical teaching on Romans 12:1-2 is available in paperback.  Order your copy of Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World, and receive 20% off the regular price.

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