God's Gifts

Monday: A Diversity of Gifts

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.
A Diversity of Gifts

Last week we started to look at the doctrine of the Church as it is presented to us under the image of Christ’s body. This is a very rich image, and we saw two things it teaches. First, it teaches what it is to be a member of the church. To be a church member means to be a part of Christ’s body, and this means that a person who is a member of the church must be joined to Him. It is not a question of merely belonging to an organization, though that is also important in its place. It means to be united to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit so that we are no longer in Adam but “in Jesus.” It is a spiritual reality. 

The second thing we have seen about the Church presented under the image of Christ’s body is that it is a unity. That is, there is only one Church just as there is only one body. You can no more have multiple Churches than you can have multiple Christs or a multiple Godhead. 

But the image of the Church as Christ’s body also signifies something else, and that is diversity in unity. It is what Paul is chiefly talking about in Romans 12, for he has just written, “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” (vv. 4-5). Paul calls the parts of the body “members.” We are those members. So the image teaches that Christians have different gifts and are to function differently from others in the use of these gifts, while nevertheless being a part of the body and contributing to the body’s unity. 

Different gifts! It is hard for many of us to recognize this and accept it, because we are always wanting other Christians to be like ourselves and function like ourselves, or be cogs in our machine rather than contributing to another Christian work. Paul knew Christians who had this trouble too, but he tells everyone that we must accept this diversity if the church is to function as it should. 

This was important to Paul, which we can see by this fact. Charismata, the word translated “gifts,” occurs seventeen times in the New Testament, but sixteen occurrences, almost all, are in Paul’s writings. 

Charismata is based on the word “grace” (charis) and actually means “a grace gift.” It is something given to the people of God by God or, as can also be said, by Jesus Christ. Since grace is God’s unmerited favor, the word indicates that spiritual gifts are dispensed by God according to His pleasure and that the gifts will differ. Every Christian has at least one gift, like the people who received “talents” in Christ’s parables. Moreover, since these are given by God, they are to be used for His glory and according to His plans rather than to enhance our own glory or further our plans. This is where the thrust toward unity comes in. Each member of the body is to work toward the well-being of the whole, so that when one member does well, all the others do well; and when one member suffers, the entire body suffers. 

Another way of saying this is to say that we not only belong to Christ, we also belong to one another. John Murray says of Christians, “They have property in one another and therefore in one another’s gifts and graces.”1 It would be correct to add that you, as a Christian, have a right to the gifts the other members of the body have been given, and they have a right to your gift. You cheat them if you do not use it, and you are poorer if you do not depend on them. 

1John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968), vol. 2, 120.

Study Questions
  1. What does it mean to be part of the Church?
  2. Why is there only one Church instead of many?
  3. How do we have unity and diversity at the same time in the body of Christ?

Reflection: Spiritual gifts are given by God primarily to contribute to the building up of the body. How have you seen the people in your church use their gifts to help the body? Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) might be? How will you seek to use what God has given to you?

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.)

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