God's Gifts

Wednesday: Serving and Teaching

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.
Serving and Teaching

Today let’s look at two more of the gifts God gives us for the building up of His body of believers. 

Serving. This Greek word is sometimes also translated “ministry” and applied to the “ministry [that is, teaching] of the Word of God” (cf. Acts 6:4). But since teaching is mentioned next we should probably think of ministry more broadly here, that is, as embracing all kinds of ministry for the sake of Christ. 

What is important to note is that the Greek word (diakonian) is the root of our word “deacon.” So what is being spoken of here is a diaconal or service ministry. Does this refer to the specific office of a deacon or deaconess in the church, as in Acts 6:1-6? Yes, but not only that. In the church all are called to serve others, though some are given this gift in special measure in order to lead others in the work. We need to remember that even Jesus was a deacon in that, as He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). 

So let’s do it! That is what the text says. In the case of prophecy, we are told that the prophet is to prophesy according to the “analogy” of faith or “in proportion to his faith.” That is a qualification or directive. But that is not the case here. Here the text just says, “If it is serving, let him serve.” In other words, just do it! 

In Charles Colson’s book The Body, which I mentioned in the last study, there are three quotations that stress service. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, a great service organization, said to his missionaries to India: “Go to the Indian as a brother, which indeed you are, and show the love which none can doubt you feel… eat, drink and dress and live by his side. Speak his language, share his sorrow.” 

Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravians, told his missionaries: “Do not lord it over the unbelievers but simply live among them; preach not theology but the crucified Christ.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The church is herself only when she exists for humanity…. She must take her part in the social life of the world, not lording it over men, but helping and serving them. She must tell men, whatever their calling, what it means to live in Christ, to live for others.”1 In Life Together, a study of the meaning of Christian fellowship, Bonhoeffer has a whole chapter stressing the ministry of Christians to other Christians. It is, he says, a ministry of holding one’s tongue, meekness, listening, helping, bearing burdens, yes, and also speaking the truth when it is needed.2 Each of us has a service ministry to perform, because each of us is called to be like Jesus Christ. Where can you serve? Where can you serve that you are not serving now? 

Teaching. In one way or another, by one word or another, this gift occurs in each of the five New Testament lists. It is a critical gift, of course, all the more so today since the gifts of apostleship and prophecy have ceased. I am sure that many have this gift. Ray Stedman says that in his opinion probably a third of all Christians have it and should be using it. If you know anything about Jesus and the Gospel, you should teach what you know; formally, if you have the opportunity, but also informally, by a casual word or testimony. You will be surprised what you are able to teach others. 

I am a pastor. This is the preeminent gift of pastors, and this leads me to say to pastors that, having been called to teach, they must teach. No one has the opportunity a pastor has for carefully studying and faithfully expounding the Bible. What is more, if he does not do it, then in most churches it will not be done at all. Teaching is hard work, because we must learn ourselves before we teach. But what better calling can one have? So get on with it, be faithful in it, if that is your gift. I notice that Paul handles his admonition here exactly as he handled it when he spoke of serving earlier, and as he will speak of encouraging later. No fuss. No fanfare. Just do it. 

1Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: MacMillan, 1967), 11-12. 

2Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 90-109.

Study Questions
  1. What is serving?
  2. What is the ministry of the office of deacon?
  3. Who else shares the responsibility to serve?
  4. Why is the gift of teaching so important for today?

Application: What are some specific ways that you can serve others in your local church?

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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