Romans 12:6-8 Gifts of Grace (Rev. Erik Veerman
Rev. Erik Veerman
Gifts of Grace
This morning we will be focusing on Romans 12:6-8. That can be found on page 1126 in the pew Bible. These verses expand on verses 3-5. Last week was about unity in the body of Christ. We are many members. We don’t all have the same function or responsibilities, but we are one body in Christ.
And these verses, 6-8, go into different gifts and responsibilities that we’re given to serve one another in the church.
Let’s now turn our attention to God’s Word. Stand.
Reading of Romans 12:6-8
According to a 2020 study, 51% of Americans have unused gift cards sitting around their home. The total value is about 15 Billion dollars. That’s an average of $116 per person. Maybe we should go door to door in Tucker asking for gift card donations to help fund a new church building!
$15 billion dollars of gift card. And these are gifts given by friends and family for birthdays and holidays. The intention, of course, was for them to be used. But they just sit. We forget about them, or they get lost, or accidentally thrown away.
When we come here to Romans 12:6-8, we’re told about gifts that God has given to us. These gifts are to be used and not to sit idle. These gifts are to be a blessing to us and others. But often, these gifts, like unredeemed gift cards are not cashed in. They are not used or exercised.
In this passage, we’re given a description of these gifts. We’re given some examples. We’re commanded to use these gifts, and we’re given some explanations about how are to be used.
In fact, each of you, sitting here, has been given gifts like some of these. Your individual gifts serve a purpose, and collectively, all of our gifts work together for the welfare of the body.
We’ll spend a majority of our time identifying these gifts and talking about how to exercise them. But I think it would be helpful to first give a better definition of what these gifts are (and are not!), and then work through the particulars.
You can see a sermon outline on the back of the bulletin. Three points.
•The first is “gifts of grace given” – Why am I calling them “gifts of grace?”.
•Second, “gifts of grace identified.” In other words, what are these gifts? We’ll be looking at other scripture texts to get a better overall sense of them.
•And third, “gifts of grace exercised.” How are we called to use our gifts? In fact, how do you know what gifts God has given you?
1. Gifts of Grace Given
So, first, gifts of grace given. You may have noticed the redundancy in the phrase I’m using - Gifts of Grace. Grace itself means gift. I’m pulling that phrase right from verse 6. “having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”
Sometimes you’ll hear people describe these gifts as spiritual gifts. And I think that’s a fine title if we mean that they are given by the Holy Spirit. Really, these gifts are from God. Different texts in the Bible describe them as given from God the Father or God the Son or the Spirit. But it is the Holy Spirit who applies these gifts to each of us. And these gifts are like the abilities and skills and passions that God has given you to serve him in different ways.
We’re going to get specific but overall they are gifts from God.
And the word “gifts” right there, the second word of verse 6, is the plural form of the word for “grace.” It’s the Greek word Charisma. It’s where we get the word “charismatic.” That term describes the branch of Christianity that focuses on the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit - like speaking in tongues and supernatural healing. Some Pentecostal churches are charismatic.
And that word Xaris is used twice in verse 6. First the plural translated “gifts,” and second the word “grace” which is singular. So, gifts of grace. And if you didn’t catch it the first two times, these gifts are described as “given to us.” So, gifts, plural. Grace, same word which means a gift from God. And the word “given.”
From the redundancy, the overwhelming sense is that God has blessed you with them. They are his for you to use for his purposes. And that is really important to understand. Because if you don’t understand that it’s God’s gift, it would be easy to become prideful. You could think, “Oh, I’m important, I have the ability to do this or that, like maybe teach or lead.” That’s why the verses leading up emphasize humility. Verse 6 here continues that theme, by emphasizing that they are given as gifts.
The other part that is important to understand is that they are focused on the body of Christ, the church. That also goes back to the previous verses, specifically verses 4 and 5. We have different “functions,” but we are in total, “one body in Christ.”
So, these gifts of grace are not talents that you have that can be used wherever. No, they are specifically for the church and kingdom. They are gifts given you that are to be used to serve and bless the church, the body of Christ.
And by the way, there’s not a one-to-one correspondence between someone skills and talents (which are used in the marketplace) and their service in the church. For example, someone may be a great teacher as a job, but may not have the gift of teaching – meaning teaching what the Scriptures teach. Someone else may be a leader in his or her company, but not called to leadership in the church, but may be instead called to serve. Maybe given a passion for mercy and able to lovingly serve in that way, caring for different mercy needs in the church.
I’m not saying that someone who has skills and experience to teach or lead does not have the corresponding gifts. Rather, I’m saying they don’t always correspond. Do you see that difference?
The bottom line is that the gifts of the Spirit are for the church. They are a grace that God gives each of us to support the body of Christ.
Gifts of grace given.
2. Gifts of Grace Identified
That brings us to point number 2. Gifts of grace identified.
Just what are these gifts, you ask? Or another question that comes to mind: how many gifts are there? I know I’ve mentioned some examples, already, but we’re given a list here. Seven gifts are listed. And let me say this is not a comprehensive list. We’re given other examples in other parts of Scripture.
But notice what it says at the beginning of verse 6. “having gifts that differ according to the grace given us.” Like we talked about last week, just as a body has different parts, so the body of Christ is made up of people with different gifts and responsibilities. And the point is that we all work together with our different gifts to serve the church.
The question for you is, what gifts of grace has God given you? As I work through this list, I want you to be thinking about that question. What has God given you or how has he equipped you to contribute to the body of Christ? By the way, when we get to point 3, we’ll talk about how to know which gifts you’ve been given.
OK, f you look at the list of gifts mentioned here, I’m guessing you have the most questions about the gift of prophecy. Right? I think of all the gifts listed here, that one brings with it the most questions.
When we think of prophecy, we think of an Old Testament prophet. Prophets directly spoke a new revelation from God. Our responsive reading earlier in the service was from Ephesians 2. We read together that we are “members of the household of God.” And it says, which is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” It’s speaking of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. Both had a unique role in redemptive history to directly speak God’s Word. They were part of the foundation.
In the New Testament, that word prophet and prophecy is used, but with a different sense about them.
For example, 1 Corinthians 14 speaks about the gift of prophecy. But it’s very interesting because it’s different from what an Old Testament prophet did. I Corinthians 14 verse 3 says: “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” And a little bit later in the chapter, it says that when the church comes together, “let two or three prophets speak, but let the others weigh what is said.” In other words, the gift of prophecy in the New Testament should be evaluated based on God’s Word. That’s different than an Old Testament prophet who spoke new revelation. Do you see that difference? Prophecy in the Old Testament was the very Word of God. Prophecy in the New Testament is a Spirit led application of God’s Word.
The word prophecy in the Greek has a narrow and a broader definition. The use here in Romans 12 seems to be broader. It’s the gift where God’s Word is not just explained, but it is applied to a specific situation for a specific people. It sounds a little bit like preaching, doesn’t it?
Let me add one more thing. At the end of Romans 12 verse 6, it says that the one who has the gift of prophecy should use it “in proportion to our faith.” That word “proportion” is also the word for analogy or ratio or comparison. I think the clearest understanding is that someone with the gift of prophecy should make sure that his prophecy is aligned with our faith - an objective understanding of faith. In other words, it should line up with what the Scriptures teach about the faith, meaning Christianity. To use the words of 1 Corinthians 14, is the “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” of the prophecy consistent with what the Bible teaches about faith?
I hope that give you a better understanding of prophecy.
The other gifts listed are much more straight forward.
If you look back at the sermon outline, you’ll see a list of Scriptures under point #2. Those are the other places in Scripture which present different lists gifts. In fact, 1 Peter 4:11 says that there are two general kinds of gifts, speaking gifts and serving gifts. That’s helpful to think about.
SO let’s consider some of the other gifts listed in Romans 12. I’ll also pull in some of the other gifts from other Scripture. We only have time to briefly consider each… but in our adult class on the Holy Spirit, later this fall, we’ll be spending more time on these gifts.
•First, the gift of serving – someone who helps in ways that support the work of the church. That could be setting up the communion trays each week or helping manage the finances or safety of the church. That word serving is the same root as the word for deacon. Do you have the gift of serving?
•Teaching is the gift of clearly explaining what the Scriptures teach. Do you have the gift of teaching?
•The gift of exhortation is like focused encouragement or admonition in a specific personal situation. Someone with the gift of exhortation may not have the gift of prophecy or teaching - it’s not about being in front of a group of people, it’s more one-on-one. Do you have the gift of exhortation?
•Giving or contributing is a gift. Financial giving. It’s someone who recognizes that he or she is a steward of the financial resources that God has entrusted to them. And they love to contribute to meet the needs of the church. Do you have the gift of contributing?
•The gift of mercy is helping a member in the church with a need. The Scriptures often speak about widows and orphans. Those are two examples. Mercy could be coming alongside someone in an acute situation in matters of health or shelter. Do you have the gift of mercy?
•Leadership is about overseeing. That could be overseeing the spiritual needs of the church, like what elders do. That could be overseeing the different gifts that relate to serving, like what deacons do. It could be overseeing a ministry area. Do you have the gift of leadership?
•That’s different from the gift of administration. Administration is being able to navigate how to best fulfill the calling of the church in the specific situation or context. He or she is not the captain of the ship but is the chief navigator, coordinating and communicating behind the scenes. It’s not clerical administration but coordinating administration. Do you have the gift of administration?
•Next, the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. They are different. Knowledge is the gift of having a mind that can consume a lot of information and being able to recall that. In regard to the church, that could be church history or Bible knowledge. Wisdom, on the other hand, is applying that knowledge in the church. Do you have the gift of knowledge or wisdom?
•Evangelism is the gift of calling someone to faith in Christ. It’s speaking into someone’s specific situation with the Gospel of Jesus, having Spirit-filled discernment on how to call someone to faith and repentance. Do you have the gift of evangelism? And I should say, not having the gift of evangelism doesn’t mean you are not called to share your faith. No, that is a calling for all of us. It’s just that a person with the gift of evangelism plays a unique role in bringing many people to faith. And we could say something similar about serving and mercy and contributing. It’s in part a call for all of us.
•Hospitality is the gift of welcoming others in the name of Christ. Someone with this gift has the ability to get to know someone and make them sense the love of Christ for them through the church. It’s different from southern hospitality or “entertaining” in that Biblical hospitality involves more than an external hosting. It involves getting below the surface and caring for someone. Do you have the gift of hospitality?
Those are many of the gifts mentioned in Scripture. It’s not comprehensive list. You may have noticed I didn’t mention what we call the extraordinary gifts, like healing, tongues, and miracles. I’m not trying to avoid discussing them. It would take a lot more time to unpack whether or not those gifts are still given today. But, for the adults, we will discuss them in the Sunday morning class later this fall.
Broadly speaking, the gifts I did mention are the gifts of grace that God gives his people for the discipleship, the organizing, the serving, and the caring of the flock of God – his church.
Full disclosure – the reason I picked Romans 12 for a short series is because we’re a new church, just like the church in Rome. And we need that encouragement (1) to be renewed and transformed, verses 1-2; (2) to be humble and unified, verses 3-5, and (3) to work together with the different gifts that God has given each of us, verses 6-8.
3. Gifts of Grace Exercised
Moving on to point #3. Point #1 was gifts of grace given. Point #2 was gifts of grace identified, and now #3, gifts of grace exercised, meaning used. To say it again, every single one of you in the church has been given gifts, different gifts, and God calls you to use them. Do you see that phrase there in the middle of 6? “let us use them.” They are not to sit in a drawer like unredeemed gift cards. Rather, they are to be deployed for use in the church and kingdom. That’s really the main emphasis of this short passage, isn’t it. The apostle Paul doesn’t just list these gifts of grace. No, after each gift, he exhorts the church to use them.
That begs the question, how do I know which gifts God has given me? That’s an important question. Or, how can I confirm the gifts that I think the Lord has given me?
Let me give you two ways that will help identify your specific gifts.
1.) First, ask yourself, which gifts excite me? Which gifts, when you think about them, stir your passion. Notice verse 8. The final three gifts mentioned included heart responses to the gifts. “the one who contributes, in generosity!” Next, “the one who leads, with zeal!” It ends with “the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness!” The gifts you’ve been given should not be a burden to you. You should have joy in exercising them. I’m not saying that every single moment using your gift will be exciting. No, there will be times when it feels like hard work, but overall you should have that internal desire to serve with the gift you’ve been given. Think about the gifts I mentioned. Which ones did you perk up and take notice of?
2.) Ok, the second way to help identify your gifts, is to try them… to exercise them. That’s what the call here is about. In order to use your gifts, you need to use your gifts. For example, if you sense a heart for mercy, sit in on one of the mercy team meetings. If there’s a practical mercy need that has come up, volunteer to help. Or, if you are part of a small group and the leader is going to be out of town for the next meeting, if you think you may have the gift of teaching, try it out one time. That’s what happened with me. 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a home group. I had never done anything like that before, but I had the internal sense. Low and behold I enjoyed not just the teaching but the preparation. Many people affirmed that gift. Which, by the way, is another confirmation: external affirmation by others.
Don’t be shy to test whether you have a gift. Try it out. Sometimes we have paralysis by analysis. We think, “what if it doesn’t go well? I’ll be embarrassed.” Yeah, you may be, but that is part of the process. And even if it doesn’t go well the first time, if you still have that burden, try again.
At the age of 18, Billy Graham, the well-known evangelist, was asked to preach for the first time. He was so nervous but he agreed. His first sermon lasted 8 minutes. He wrote in his autobiography how poorly it went! It was so bad, that afterward, a man came up to him and said, “boy, you better go back to school…. you’re not going to make it.” The point is it often takes time to grow and mature in the gifts.
So, exercise your gifts, be patient, evaluate your desires and interests, listen to others, while continuing to learn and grow in them. Evaluate all of that as you seek to be a blessing to build up the body of Christ. And that necessarily means you need to be a part of the body of Christ. At a minimum that means being here for worship, but it also implies participating in the ministry life of the church to exercise those gifts.
It’s a beautiful thing when the believers in the church exercise their gifts… when they work together to serve and disciple and minister to the community in the name of Christ. I think one of the blessings of our church family has been how so many of you are serving and utilizing your gifts to that end.
1. Gifts of grace given – the Lord has given each of us gifts of the Spirt. They are truly gifts of grace from God, and they are for the explicit purpose of serving and supporting the work of the church.
2. Gifts of grace identified – there are many different gifts: teaching, exhorting, serving, mercy, giving, hospitality, knowledge, wisdom, prophecy or preaching, leading, evangelism, administrating, and more. They each have a purpose and they work together.
and 3. gifts of grace exercised. Our gifts are not to sit idle, but we’re to use them since God has given them to build up his church.
As we wrap things up, it’s important to remind ourselves of the grace behind the grace. The gifts are a grace. They are described that way, but the grace behind the gifts of grace is the grace of salvation in Jesus. It is the ministry of Christ, who calls each of us into fellowship with him and with each other which makes the gifts of grace possible.
To say it in another way, your gifts are a grace because of the grace of the Gospel. It would not be possible to have these gifts of grace without the love of God in Christ, which he gives us. And even more than that, our gifts are a mechanism through which grace is given. Think about this:
•…when we exercise our gifts together in the body of Christ, we are a ministry of grace.
•…when God’s Word is taught, his grace is given.
•…when we exhort or encourage each other, God’s grace is made known.
•…when we serve each other in the name of Christ, that grace is demonstrated.
•…when we evangelize, the grace of God is offered.
•…when we show hospitality and mercy, the grace of God in Christ is displayed.
So, it is the grace of God in Christ, which is the foundation. It is through that grace of Christ, that the gifts of grace are given by the Holy Spirit to believers… and the very grace that is received in Christ and in the gifts, is grace that is taught, demonstrated, and offered. It’s all grace, from beginning to end.
May each of us see the gifts of grace that we’re given, may we use them individually and together, so that the bride of Christ, the church, may be built up, and may the grace of God in Jesus be furthered for God’s glory and our good. Amen