As we look at the texts I’ve mentioned that deal with Christian ministry and spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-7; Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11; and 1 Corinthians 12), I think we need to see how our preconceived notions about the meaning of “gift” affect our reading of the passage. Taking the hypothesis that the gift being discussed is the gift of a ministry (not the ability to do that ministry), note how the passages actually make more sense. Let’s replace “gift” with “ministry” in these texts to see what I’m talking about.
Romans 12:3 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. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different ministries, according to the grace given us. If a man’s ministry is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 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.
Ephesians 4 doesn’t actually use the word “gift”! Paul does use the word “grace,” a term he used in Romans 15:15-16 to describe his ministry to the Gentiles.
1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever ministry he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? In my next post, we’ll look at 1 Corinthians 12.