Using Our Gifts, Part 2
Good morning. Today we are going to continue to look at Romans 12. Just as a reminder if you hear me say anything that is not according to scripture please let me know and we can look at it together. In general I will be using the New King James or the King James Version for reference. This morning I would like to continue in our study of this chapter beginning at verse three and continuing through verse 8. Please turn there with me now.
Romans 12:3-8 – “3. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5. so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7. or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8. he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
In our last lesson we looked closely at the first part of these verses and talked about Paul’s admonition to humility. We cannot think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. True humility is the environment for serving one another and for serving God. That was the lesson last week, to have a proper attitude for service.
In the continuation of our study I want to look two other aspects of service that are contained in these verses. First is the proper relationship of serving. We will talk about that this morning. God has placed us in a relationship with Him and with one another. That's the perfect environment in which we can serve Him and each other. Second we will look at the activity of serving. Paul gives us a list here that talks about different activities which are to be involved in serving one another and serving God. These activities flow from the attitude and the relationship that he just discussed.
I. The Proper Relationship of Serving: As I thought about that I wondered, what is the proper relationship of serving? I believe it may be found in the verse where he said we have many members in one body. Earlier in this chapter the apostle used the term body in the literal sense when he said we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. He was talking about the use of our physical bodies in such a way as they are consecrated to God. In verses 4 and 5 he uses the term body in a different way, a symbolic way, illustrating the spiritual sense. He says; For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
A. The term body here is referring to the body of disciples, the assembly of individuals. The analogy is easy for us to see. In the physical reality we have one body, one physical body. In the spiritual reality there is one body of God’s people, one body of disciples. That tells us some things about the body of Christ, about the singular nature of the body of Christ, or as we refer to it, the church. In the Bible the church is not a conglomeration of various denominated congregations. The Bible does not teach that the church in the universal sense is made up of different denominations or even of different congregations.
1. The Bible describes the universal body of disciples as made up of individuals who are individually consecrated and given to God. Who individually belong to Him in the same way that the members of your physical body belong to you. Those members, in the strictest aspect of the analogy, all submit to the leadership of the single head.
2. I don't believe we can possibly understand the Biblical use, and particularly Paul’s use of the terminology “body”, without looking closely at what it refers to in the analogy.
i. That is, the physical organism that you and I live in—the physical body.
ii. In these verses Paul is not using physical body in an institutional sense. He is not talking about a body in the sense of being an institution or an organization, but in an anatomical sense—in the aspect of an organism or a living thing as our bodies are living things.
3. Paul identified the church as the body of Christ. We can use that analogy to further understand the spiritual relationship that we have with God, and the spiritual relationship we have with one another. Now there are several times in scripture where Paul talks about the body as being the body of disciples. He identifies the body of Christ as the church in Ephesians 1:22-23 – “22. ... He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23. which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”. Also Colossians 1:24 – “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,”
i. Paul uses this illustration in several different ways to help us understand that the body is the universal group of God's people. It is the church. I think that in many ways we can recognize that this destroys the idea of the denominated church such as exists today. In this country we seem to have the view it is ok that there are many churches with different beliefs and different creeds, different confessions, and with different congregations. I’ll talk more about that in another lesson.
ii. In our text in Romans chapter 12 that's not really the way Paul uses that particular terminology or at least that's not the main point when Paul says that we are members of one body.
iii. The only head of the church as His is body, is Christ. That concept can never be divorced from the Biblical use of the terminology that the church is the body of Christ. When Christ is referred to as the head of the body it’s referring to this aspect of the mind or the spirit of the body—the control of the body.
iv. Jesus is the head of the church in the sense in which you and I submit to His leadership we submit to the mind of Christ. We submit to His desires and it is Christ that animates the church in the same way that the mind animates the body in the physical realm.
v. When a body loses its mind or loses its spirit it becomes dead, it is nothing more than a corpse. If a group of individuals, or if a congregation of the church of Christ loses its connection with the head, if it fails to follow the mind of Christ, it is nothing but a dead corpse of individuals, spiritually. That concept is important for us to recognize. The church may be properly organized may have an institutional reference to being a church of Christ, but if it does not follow spiritually the head it is certainly not the body that belongs to Christ.
4. The same picture, I think, of the body of Christ is utilized by Paul in his discussion of miraculous gifts in I Corinthians chapter 12. I would like to look at a couple of passages from that as well to help us understand the point. First Corinthians Chapter 12:12-14 – “12. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” Here Paul again utilizes this aspect of the body to make a point about the diversity of spiritual gifts that existed in Corinth, how they were misusing those gifts and how their attitude towards those gifts was certainly not indicative of the spirit in which they were given.
i. In this discussion Paul makes it clear that the unity of God's church is based upon their common obedience to a single head, the Lord. In this passage he mentions this aspect of the single nature of God himself. One Spirit. There is one God. As there is one God, there is one body. In verse 13 he says “have all been made to drink into one Spirit”. The singular nature of God, the singular nature of the spirit, singular nature of the revelation makes it clear that there can’t be many different bodies. There must be one body because there is one head, because there is one mind, because there is one spirit.
ii. That tells us something. That the unity of God's people in the church is based upon the unity or the singular nature of the objective message of the Spirit of God. It's contained in the written word. We become the church that belongs to Christ when we obey the word, the revelation of the mind and the spirit of God.
iii. When we as members of a body submit to the head, we become the church that belongs to Christ. The physical body has many members but one mind. That one mind tells each part of the body what it is best suited or fitted or equipped to do. The members of that body work in conjunction with the other members of the body and they make the decisions they do and actions that they take based upon what's good for the body as a whole. All of that is orchestrated. All of that is made possible because there is a will, because there is a mind, because there is a head.
iv. In Ephesians chapter 4 Paul says that we are not to create the unity of the spirit that we are to maintain the unity of the spirit because the unity of the spirit, the unity that is created by the spirit of God, is already in place, by the written divine Spirit given by God.
5. What makes the church one? It's not me saying it or you saying it. It’s not by putting it on a banner or making it a mantra of the church that we are one. What makes the church one is the singular nature of the mind of God revealed through scripture. God had given His body one direction, one mind.
B. In Romans Chapter 12 Paul uses the term one body. In this context Paul is showing that there is one body and there is a diversity of members of that body. How obvious that is to us in the physical sense. There is only one of us, but there is one body that works together, we just have different members.
1. The implication of that is what Paul is able to show here. He makes a point about using the gifts that we have for the benefit of the church as a whole. He says this one body has many members, just as we do in a physical sense. What does that mean? As I mentioned, I think, there are implications.
i. One of the most basic implications of that statement is that God's church is not a homogenized group of spiritual clones; we are not all exactly the same. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different races, different social classes, different nationalities, we come from different places.
ii. Ultimately our backgrounds contribute to make us who we are. It is an arrogant mistake, I think, to see Christians or to visualize Christians as being American, white, middle class Northerners, who sing 4 part harmony. That may, in some way, describe some of us, but in no means describes all of us and certainly does not describe who all Christians are. Even in a local group of individuals there are different people from different cultures from different backgrounds who have ultimately different thoughts and ideas. Maybe even to the point they have different convictions on what God has said in his word, and are very likely at different points in their spiritual growth.
2. Paul deals with that in the book of Romans and again in the book of First Corinthians. Individuals are at different levels. Some are more knowledgeable and some are not as knowledgeable, and some are strong, some are weak. All those individuals make up a single body—many members making up a single body.
i. God demands within that body, even with all of that diversity, He demands that there be what we might call “practical unity” among the group. As God has established unity on a spiritual level so He demands unity on a practical level. By that He means we’ve got to get along as God’s people. The way that we get along as God's people in this context, is that we recognize that we have a job to do, that we have tools to be used, and that God has made possible practical unity among His people even in diversity, through the use of their gifts.
3. What we recognize in this is the individual diversity is consistent with practical unity. The fact that we are all different and come from different backgrounds does not mean that unity is not possible, nor is that individual diversity inconsistent with the fact that God demands unity. It is as big a mistake to force unity by trying to make everyone alike, a clone, as it is to elevate diversity to the extent that each individual member looses contact with the mind and unity becomes impossible. There's diversity in God's body but that body works together because the single mind has given each individual member a function to perform and as it performs that function—the body has benefited as a whole.
i. The body is like unto a football team, you've got 40/50 guys on the roster. What happens if all of them want to be the quarterback? How about if there are just a couple of guys that want to be quarterback, and who have the skills to be quarterback? You know what has to happen; one has to be selected as the quarterback. He will operate as quarterback and nobody else on the team can be him. They have to be somebody else. Everybody on the team has a job to do and as those individuals work together—the team functions.
ii. Practical unity of the body is based upon individual function. Individual function does not destroy unity it creates unity. Certainly that's true from a spiritual sense. Paul addresses that Ephesians 4:13-16 “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;”. There’s the body, there’s the measure. “14. that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, 15. but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head Christ 16. from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. ” Paul tells us in using the analogy of a physical body, that all parts have to function together and it is the head that directs. We all grow up under a single head and if every part does its share then the body grows. A body that is unified grows stronger.
iii. A body where the parts rebel and the members don't do their job is a body that will die. Think about that in the spiritual sense.
C. Now turn back to Roman chapter 12 and a further description of the unity of diversity. Paul says in Romans 12:5 that we are individually members of one another. What does that mean—individually members of one another? I suggest to you that is the biblical picture of interdependence. Not independence but the opposite, interdependence. What Paul's telling us is that we cannot in the spiritual sense function in isolation from each other any more than a member of the physical body can say to the rest of the body I'm not connected. I don't have anything to do with you.
1. The members of my body cannot exist nor function in isolation from other members of my body and we are the same way in the spiritual sense. There is no independence in the body of Christ. There is interdependence in the body of Christ. Again go back to first Corinthians chapter 12. First Corinthians 12:21-24 - “21. ... the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you''; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you.'' 22. No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24. but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25. that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”
2. Paul compares again the spiritual parts of the body of Christ to our human body. He says there are different kinds of parts to your physical body.
i. I'm not well versed on anatomy and all there is to know about parts of my body, but I think what Paul says here is obviously true of our physical bodies. There are parts that are more visible, that are more prominent, that are out in front, that everybody notices.
ii. If a person walks up to you and they don't have a nose you're going to notice that right off. It's a presentable part in the middle of a face that should be there and if it's not, you notice. There are parts of our body that are up front and prominent such as our eyes and our hands and our arms and our legs or our ears.
iii. There are those members which by the way they are placed on the body would seem to be more important or stronger than other parts of the body. We know that's not so. There are members of our body that are in that sense less strong, more vulnerable, yet are more important in terms of the life of the body itself.
iv. In terms of Paul's discussion here think about the physical body and ask, what are our vital organs? Is your ear a vital organ? If you lose it, it's a bad thing or if you lose an eye, it's a bad thing, but you can live without it. There are people who have no eyes or no ears who live. If however someone were to lose their heart or their lungs or one of their vital organs that are on the inside of the body they cannot survive.
v. Isn’t it interesting in terms of the physical body those organs we consider to be vital, organs that need to be protected, in the physical sense they are protected. The lungs and heart are skeletally protected in your body away from the view of others and away from that which might harm them, so that they can be vital to life. They are weaker but they're more important.
vi. We can lose an eye or an ear or a leg and still live. Certainly the work of your hands is more prominent, what do you do with your hands is seen by all, the work of your heart that goes unseen almost unnoticed—yet is absolutely essential. I lose my hands and I can't work where everybody can see what I do, that's bad. But if my heart stops working--that's critical. Just because a member is weaker does not mean that the member of the body is less important to the body as a whole. In fact the natural aspect of it is that the body itself protects those members that are more vulnerable because those members that are more vulnerable are sometimes and in many ways more important than those that are not as vulnerable.
vii. Think about that on the spiritual level. We all have different vulnerabilities spiritually before us and we could use the term weaker and stronger to apply to ourselves as members of the body of Christ. If there are weaker and stronger members of the body of Christ, which of those members are more important to the body as a whole. Which of them are more vital?
viii. Could it be that sometimes the members who appear the weakest, who are less prominent, are the most vital to the life of the body itself? Could that possibly be what Paul’s telling us? We have to recognize that we are members one of another. I cannot stand in isolation from others and say “well you know they are just not that important”. I can not say “it doesn't matter about them and that I can overlook them, I can neglect them”; when they are members of the same body.
3. Paul's using this analogy to get us to recognize that we have a mutual responsibility. In Verse 25 and 26 he gives two necessary admonitions that flow from the illustration. He said but the members should have the same care for one another. I Corinthians 12:25. Mentally underline the word same there because while we are willing to say “I care about everybody”, that’s not all the Paul’s saying. He's saying you have the same care for every member of the body of Christ. If this person is hurting and this person has spiritual problems and this person's marriage on the rocks... that is just as important as this member over here, when they suffer.
i. We have the same care for one another, that we value each person in the body, and sincerely care about them as well as the others in the physical and social and spiritual sense. We are all members of one another in the body of Christ.
ii. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it or if one member is honored all the members rejoice with it. That’s true physically isn’t it?
iii. Sometimes members that are seemingly insignificant in our physical body when they start hurting, everybody else hurts too. I never even gave my thyroid a thought through most of my life, but when things started to go wrong with it believe me the whole body felt the effect! When one member suffers all suffer and there is no insignificant suffering going on in the body of Christ. Because there is no insignificance part.
iv. There's also no insignificant honoring going on. If there is an occasion for rejoicing among seemingly the most insignificant member of the body of Christ, members of the body need to rejoice over that. They need to be happy about it. We need to be willing to honor one another.
4. What this tells me is that in the whole body of Christ there is no place, there can be no place for competition and for envy among God’s people. Envy destroys the ability in us to rejoice about something good that happened to somebody else—in somebody else's life. It's the very antithesis to this aspect that Paul’s talking about here. When envy is there honor doesn't happen it simply doesn't happen.
D. Turn to Romans chapter 12 Verse 4 again. In verse four he says; “we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,”. Not every member has the same function. Again that's one of those ideas when you apply it to the physical body that’s easy to see. In fact we diagnose problems depending upon the function of a particular member of our body. If we're having trouble hearing we don't examine the big toe because we know that we don't hear through our big toe. There's a place to look if we can’t hear and there's a place to look if we can’t see because there are members of our body that are distinguished by their function.
1. Paul uses the words function in this particular passage of the NKJV and the King James uses the word office which I think is probably one of those unfortunate translations of the original word. The word here is praxis which means a doing, an act or a function or a deed. It is best rendered I think as function. When we talk about a doctor and say: Does he have a practice? We might mean does he have an office somewhere but we may mean more. Does he have a place for his patients to come? We mean does he have a function of serving as a doctor. The term office in the 1600’s did indeed carry that meaning though not so much here today.
2. That's the aspect here. Not all members have the same function in the body of Christ. Paul is not talking about position or rank, which is what we might get from the word office today. That's not the thought. There are many in the church who do not have an office so to speak, but they all have a function to perform. That's what Paul's saying here.
3. The question that comes to mind, what is your function? What is your practice? That's an important question to our discussion unfortunately we're low on time. We're not going to discuss all that this morning. Lord willing next week this is where we're going to pick up at this particular passage and talk about how we function as an individual, diverse members of the body of Christ.
E. But let me give an overall answer to the question before we close. We're going to try to answer it to some extent from the scriptures in a particular sense by looking at the things that Paul mentioned here. What’s my function? What’s my job? What is important for me in terms of the overall working of the body of Christ?
1. Think about this on a local level as this body of Christ exists today. I believe the answer is found in verse six. My function is to use the gifts that God gave me. That's my function. That takes some spiritual discernment, not only does it take courage and faith to exercise the gifts God gives me but before that—I have to find out what the gifts are!
2. What is it that God has given me to do, for which I am equipped and which I am able to perform in such a way that benefits the body as a whole? Never be mistaken or deceived into thinking that each one of us does not have a function for the performance of the body as a whole. That's exactly what Paul’s saying here. You and I, each one of us have a function. We all have a gift if we use that terminology as Paul does.
i. We all have a gift given to us by the grace of God that we need to utilize to benefit the body of Christ and for our own salvation. In fact, if I'm not mistaken Paul's making it an absolute criterion of my own salvation in Romans chapter 12, that I learn to exercise my spiritual gifts. Don't be thrown off by the word spiritual there because sometimes we take the word spiritual and apply it to the word gift and immediately assume we're talking about miraculous activity. There are times the Bible where the term spiritual gifts, particularly in First Corinthians 12, where it’s talking about that which came in miraculous measure in the first century by the Spirit of God.
ii. The word spiritual in the general sense applies to those things that come as a result of the working of the Spirit of God in my life. God expects me to be a spiritual person not in some miraculous measure but with the spirit of God influencing my life to the point that I would do and think and act in ways that I have never acted before. That are contrary to the carnal way, the natural way that I might act. God would turn me around and make me a spiritual person.
iii. There are spiritual gifts that all of us have. There are things that God could create within us through the power of the His Spirit to get us to do things that we wouldn't ordinarily do. Some of them we've already mentioned in the passage such as; to be able to have the same care and concern for people that are not like us; to be unprejudiced and open minded towards the lives of others; to be compassionate towards those who are suffering things that you and I have never suffered. Where do we get the ability to do that? We get it from the Spirit of God. That does not come naturally.
3. I have to say this, naturally men divide. They divide on the borders of nationality and culture and thinking. They are carnal by their very nature. There is not a natural unity among people today. There is a natural disunity. When God's people, diverse as they are, come together to work together, coming from different backgrounds all for the purpose of doing what is right, that's a spiritual thing that comes from the Spirit of God.
i. Paul tells us be filled with the spirit of God not with dissipation. Learn to love your enemy, give to those who do not give to you, that is doing things that are unnatural. In this society that applauds self-sufficiency, that applauds independence; it is easy for us to fall prey to the notion that we don't need each other. It's easy for us to fall prey to the thought that we can stand alone in our relationship to God.
ii. Paul dispels that forever here in these passages. You and I are a body. We are not only members of the body but more specifically and particularly we are members of one another. God redeemed us and called us not only for Himself, He's called us and redeemed us for each other so we could benefit each other in the quest to live for God.
4. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the writer says; “... let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” I wonder about the overall emphasis of what the writer is exhorting here.
i. These verses are not simply to be used to encourage people to attend an assembly. As important as attending an assembly is and as absolutely essential as it is that we not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, he prefaces this aspect of the necessity of the assembly by saying; we must first consider one another. We first have to care about one another.
ii. We first have to really be involved in one another's lives to stir up love and good works. We can't do that by forsaking the assembling of ourselves together! It’s the coming together that provides the arena and the environment in which the true stirring up can take place. Let us recognize that without the care and concern the assembly loses meaning. We have to care as members one to another and to serve one another.
Let me close with this thought.
You cannot fulfill your responsibility of being a member of another individual in the body of Christ if you are outside the body, if you’re not under the head. Paul told the Corinthians in the passage we just studied that they had been baptized into one body by the Spirit of God. He makes known to them the time at which they became a member of that body because that's an important consideration in terms of their responsibility.
They can't simply stand aloof from the responsibly when they become a Christian and just say oh that's nice. There are a lot of people that take that approach to religion. They want to ignore the clear indication of what it means to become a Christian and do things in obedience, to come into the body of Christ. Yet they want to extol the aspect of unity and interdependence and mutuality among us.
We all ought to love one another. Of course the concept of love is portrayed more clearly in the body of Christ than anyplace else. That is the true and proper relationship of service that you be a part of the body of Christ. You cannot serve God apart from being a part of the body of Christ. That doesn't make the body an institution to save you. It makes it the environment and certainly the organism that you must be a part of to ever be saved.
Certainly the Bible describes the body of Christ as those that are saved. We submit ourselves to the headship of Christ. That's the question we end on this morning because that's the question that's most related to our understanding of the body of Christ as the Bible describes.
Are you willing to submit to the headship of Jesus Christ? That was the call of the Gospel from the first century. In the very first gospel sermon the thing that Peter made known to them was that this Jesus they had crucified is both Lord and Christ. The question was What must we do. What can we do to submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus Christ? The answer to that question was You must repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is head over all things to church the fullness of Him who filleth all in all. Do you believe that Jesus died for you and rose again on the third day and by that He has all authority in heaven and on earth? You as a creation of God must submit yourself to Him before you can ever be pleasing to Him. If you believe that and are not part of the body, come and be baptized this morning. When you repent of sins and you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior and are baptized for the forgiveness of your sins you are baptized into a body.
That's not a local congregation; you're baptized into the universal body that belongs to Jesus Christ because you in the exercise of that faith have submitted yourself to the head of that body. He alone is the one who directs you. You've all been made to drink of one Spirit and are of one body. We invite anyone who has that need or any other need to come forward while we stand and while we sing.
Invitation song: ???
Reference sermon: David SchmidtPrint
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