A common feature of many churches is ‘one man ministry’, where one man provides the leadership and instruction. This can present dangers for both minister and congregation. In biblical Presbyterianism there is (or should be) corporate leadership which addresses some of these problems. But a fully biblical model of church recognises that all Christians have been given gifts to use. Continuing our Spiritual Check-up we ask: 7. Do you use your gifts?
1. The Giver of the gifts
All gifts come from the Triune God. In particular:
– Ephesians 4:7 tells us ‘to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it’. By his atoning work Christ has purchased all that his people need. Above all he has given the gift of the Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2).
– The distributor of the gifts is in particular the Holy Spirit. When Paul lists spiritual gifts he says, ‘All these are the work of one and the same Spirit and he gives them to each one just as he determines’ (1 Corinthians 12:11).
2. The diversity of the gifts
The New Testament gives several lists of the gifts of the Spirit – Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28, and Ephesians 4:11. All believers are gifted – ‘he gives them to each one’ (1 Corinthians 12:11). The diversity of gifts is striking. Some are clearly supernatural, whilst others are more ‘ordinary’ (encouraging, showing mercy). It seems the Spirit may enhance abilities already present as well as giving new gifts. We must beware of creating an unbiblical hierarchy of gifts – if a gift is from God, it is valuable. Some gifts are recognised by ordination, but all believers are to use their gifts (14:10).
3. The purpose of the gifts
(i) To equip the church to carry out its mission. Until Christ returns the church has work to do, and by giving gifts the Lord ensures that it is done. The outpouring of the Spirit is linked especially to witness (Acts 1:8). In providing those set aside for office, the Lord’s goal is ‘to prepare God’s people for works of service’ (Ephesians 4:12), to build up the church.
(ii) To provide a foretaste of the age to come. Already we experience something of the life to come, but its full enjoyment awaits the return of Christ. In our experience of the indwelling of the Spirit and the gifts he gives, we have a foretaste of final glory. Spiritual gifts indicate something of the quality of life that we will enjoy, in all its perfection.
4. The responsibility of the gifts
The great blessing of receiving gifts for service brings too great responsibility (Luke 12:48):
– There is an accounting for our use of gifts in the church under the oversight of elders.
– Chiefly at the last day we will give account (Matthew 25:31ff). True believers have served faithfully, often in mundane ways, and the Lord will reward them richly.