Sermons

Summary: Gifts given for the benefit of the Church.

A MIND FOR SERVICE.

Romans 12:3-8.

Romans 12:3. “For” connects with the immediately preceding two verses, in which it has been made clear that, as an act of gratitude for God's mercy (outlined in the whole of the preceding 11 chapters), we should submit our bodies to Him as a ‘living sacrifice.’ This involves the ‘renewing of our minds’ (see my sermon entitled ‘Whole Life Worship’ on Romans 12:1-2).

“I say through the grace which is given to me” has all the marks of apostolic authority. Yet at the same time, and pertinent to the discussion of the gifts which follows (Romans 12:6-8), the Apostle emphasises that even his apostolic authority is a ‘gift’ of “grace.”

“I say,” he says, “to every one that is among you.” To whom? ‘To those who are beloved of God, called saints’ (Romans 1:7). To those whom he is addressing as ‘brethren’, who are ‘presenting their bodies’ and ‘renewing their minds’ (Romans 12:1-2), as all true Christians do.

To these he says, quite literally, “be not high-minded above what is proper to be minded; but be minded so as to be sober-minded.” Very often these multiple references to the ‘mind’ are lost in translation. Yet it is all about our mind-set (Romans 8:5)!

“To each as God divided a measure of faith.” This gives us the permission to self-evaluate, but not according to man’s measure, or comparing ourselves with others, but according to the measure of faith which we have each received. We measure ourselves ultimately by the gospel, by what is later called (literally) “the analogy of the faith” (Romans 12:6). The result may vary according to the level of our individual maturity, or in accordance with whether we have that distinctive ‘gift of faith’ mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:9 (which is different from ‘saving faith’, which all true believers have.)

Romans 12:4-5. Just as we have individual bodies, each with their “members”, so we are individual “members” of the body of Christ. In the church, the body parts are “each one members of each other.” The church, in other words, is an organism, not just an organisation. This is worked out more fully in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

Romans 12:6. Within the church, and for the church, we each have “gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7). These are to be used for the benefit of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

“Whether prophecy, according to the analogy of THE faith.” Note the definite article. If somebody seems to have a direct word from the Lord into a particular situation, this must be weighed against the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 John 4:1).

Romans 12:7-8. The rest of this short list is written in short sharp statements:

“Or service, in service; or he that teaches, in teaching; or that exhorts, in exhortation; he that imparts, in simplicity; he that takes the lead, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

“Service” or “ministry” is the same word both for the new order of deacons, and for the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:1-4; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:5).

“Teaching” requires study and preparation, learning how to expound the Word, etc.

“Exhortation” may involve public speaking, but also one-to-one counselling or encouraging, etc. Barnabas was known as ‘the son of consolation’ (Acts 4:36; Acts 9:26-27).

“He that imparts” refers to a giver. This must be done with “simplicity” (cf. Matthew 6:2-4), with generosity, without grudging (2 Corinthians 9:7), and without an ulterior motive.

“He that takes the lead, with diligence” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17). Those who are appointed to positions of leadership in the Church should have already displayed that ability within the home (1 Timothy 3:4-5; 1 Timothy 3:12).

“He that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” The face says it all. The Lord is not patronising, or grudging in His mercy towards us, so we should not be like that with others.

In other words, whatever you do, do it well, and do it wholeheartedly as to the Lord.

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