Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.



May 2021



Gifts for the Journey

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One of the great promises of God is that he will never leave or forsake his blood-bought people. This promise was fulfilled in part by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God’s presence is in us and with us…always.

The New Testament presents many times over the importance of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the life of the church. Beginning with regeneration, believers are baptized by the Spirit.[1] We are command to walk by the Spirit in our pursuit of an obedient life before God.[2] Believers are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit which is commanded in a tense that communicates a continual being carried along by the Spirit.[3]  In Galatians 5, the fruit of the spirit is presented by the apostle Paul as the fragrance that should come from the believer’s life as opposed to the deeds of the flesh.[4]

In addition to these different aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, the apostle Paul spent considerable effort to instruct the church on spiritual gifts.  The New Testament records five instances in which spiritual gifts are listed.[5]  The lists are varied with nineteen gifts mentioned in all, and sometimes different words are used to describe the same gift as with serving and helping.  We come to one of the lists of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, the text reads:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Paul wrote to challenge believers to use their spiritual gifts with urgency and purpose.  Sadly, many are like the disciples in Acts 19 who responded to Paul’s question about the Holy Spirit by saying, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”[6]  Their ignorance was honest as they were experiencing the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant without the aid of the New Testament. They needed to be taught what God had done through Christ and Pentecost. Twenty-one centuries removed we are living at a time, to quote Martin Luther, where “the Spirit and the gifts are ours.” Life on the altar is lived in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit as we use the gifts and talents God has given to us.  This is an informed spirituality.  God wants us to know how he has gifted us for his kingdom work. The bestowal of spiritual gifts are divine enablements for the task at hand. They are gifts for the journey.

In our look at altar life, several truths emerge from Romans 12 regarding spiritual gifts:

-God Has Given a Great Diversity of Gifts in the Body

In this passage, Paul emphasizes the unity and diversity of the body of Christ, For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”[7]  God’s plan for his church is for the many members to be equipped for a showcasing of spiritual gifts used for the glory of God.

-Every believer has a spiritual gift

Implied as we read Romans 12:3-8 is that every believer has at least one gift. There should never be a diminishing of spiritual giftings among the people of God. No member is unnecessary. One of the important pursuits as a Christian is to identify how God has gifted us to make eternal impact. This is similar to our earlier discussion about discerning God’s will. I stated then that desire and guidance play an important part in discerning God’s will, and the same is true in identifying how God has gifted us.

In our FBCG family, we often ask our covenant members in the course of our shared ministry, “What do you have a desire to do?” 

“What do you have a passion to do?”

“Do you have joy and feel God’s pleasure when you are serving in this way?”

Answering these basic questions can lead to pursuing ministry that will be fruitful because it is done with a heart for the work. This leads to a final thought on giving our best.

-Give It All You’ve Got—Urgency to Serve

I am taken by how Paul underscores how we are to use our spiritual gifts. In vv. 7-8, Paul comments particularly on the spiritual gifts of giving, leading, and mercy. Commentators have discussed why Paul would stress “the manner in which the gift should be exercised.”[8] Perhaps the strongest reason is that these gifts can suffer from lethargy and half-hearted efforts.

For those who have the gift of giving, the charge is to give sacrificially. Give for maximum impact for the cause of Christ! For those who have leadership gifts, for the Lord’s sake lead! For those who may be weary from exercising mercy gifts, do so with cheerfulness for the glory of Christ. Whatever gift God has given to you, take your place among the people of God and give it all you’ve got!

[1] I Corinthians 12:12-13; John 3:3-8, Jesus referred to the work of the Spirit in regenerationas being “born again.”

[2] Galatians 5:16

[3] Ephesians 5:18-21, The apostle Paul describes the Spirit-filled life as a life marked by a deep fellowship with God; joy, thanksgiving, and submissive heart. Using similar language in Colossians 3:16, Paul urges believers to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” which seems to provide understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to let the word of Christ dwell with in us in such a way that it brings the fruit of obedience in the moment-by-moment demands of life.

[4] Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit includes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

[5] Four of these lists were written by Paul: Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11; and one abbreviated list by Peter in I Peter 4:11.

[6] Acts 19:2

[7]Romans 12:4-5 

[8] Schreiner, T. R. (1998). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 659). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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