Wisdom Calls – Proverbs 8

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In this passage Wisdom is calling out. A cry like this would usually indicate some sort of loss, hurt or danger. However, Wisdom doesn’t cry because of any danger she is facing, but because of the danger that we are in. Wisdom is calling to us for we are in danger and this danger could have eternal consequences if not addressed. Two questions we must consider then;

  1. Are we aware of the warning?
  2. Are we responding to the warning?

As Wisdom calls, it’s worth investigating the true identity of Wisdom, those that Wisdom addresses and finally the offer that Wisdom gives to those who listen.

  1. The Identity of Wisdom

If we look at the claims of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 we can get clues regarding the true identity of our speaker. Spoiler – it is Christ who calls. Some of the clues are:

  1. Wisdom is the authority of authorities. (vv. 15-16)
  2. Wisdom is eternal (v. 23)
  3. Wisdom witnessed creation and was an agent in creation (vv. 27 & 30)

These clues all align with what Colossians 1:16-17 says of Christ. Christ calls – are we listening?

2. Those Addressed by Wisdom

Wisdom calls to all mankind (v. 4). The call of Wisdom is addressed to us. It is a call from Christ to men, women and children – all mankind. If you look at where Wisdom calls then you can see even more of the width of Christ’s call. We see it is in the high places, along the pathways and at the gates to the city. Christ calls in the high and lofty places but also the common places. This call is for us and for us in all our areas of living, work and travel. This address from Christ is meant to meet us wherever we are – it is the most relevant address that we could hear. Christ is calling to us, wherever we are. It is tremendous condescension by him and we should take notice and listen to what he offers.

3. The Offer of Wisdom

Wisdom offers itself. Christ offers himself. It’s not just an offer of intelligence, but life (v. 35). He is the one who has walked the way of righteousness (v. 20) and so he can offer life to us. This is the work he was appointed to do and he delights in humanity and saving humanity (vv. 23, 31). Those receiving Christ receive life. If we seek him then we will find him as (v. 17) assures. Failure to take up this offer will do harm to us (v. 36). Those rejecting Christ’s offer are rejecting life and holding to their own wisdom which is foolishness. They cling to their sin instead of Christ.

If you are a believer then be encouraged, you have this life that is offered and favour from the Lord. The world may mock Christianity but taking up the offer of Christ is the wisest thing you can do. Keep enjoying that life offered, keep following that same wisdom and be like those who diligently wait upon Wisdom in (vv. 33-34). Hearing and obeying the words and example of Christ will have a sanctifying and encouraging effect upon us and will prepare us more for that final day.

Matthew Magee

Luke 2:41-52 In His Father’s house

The first 30 years of Jesus’ life are passed over almost in silence by the Gospels.  We would of course love to know more about those years, especially his family life.  Some were tempted in earlier times to fill in this gap with imagination and invention in various ‘apocryphal’ gospels.  In the NT only one event is recorded and so it must be particularly important.  We turn now to consider Luke 2:41-52 In His Father’s house

1. A godly family

We have here a precious glimpse of Jesus’ early family life.  ‘Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover’ (v41) – these are people of faith, like the psalmist in Psalm 122, a pilgrim psalm for those going up for such occasions.  These are people who delight in the presence of God and the worship he prescribes.  It was in such a family that the Messiah was placed, with the godly example of his parents.  He was raised in a context of living faith.  It is significant that this is the Feast of the Passover (instituted by God in Exodus 12-13), celebrating the deliverance of his people by the shedding of the blood of the lamb, and now the fulfilment of Passover has come, with ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) present in the temple.

2. A unique Son

On the return journey to Nazareth – disaster – they discover Jesus is not with them.  When 3 days have passed, they find him ‘in the temple courts’ (v46).  Note regarding Jesus:

            (i). He is a learner.  ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (v46).  We see the growing boy is a learner – there is no suggestion he is disputing with the teachers.  His human mind needs to be nurtured and educated – only his divine mind knows all things.  It is evident that there is something different about him – ‘amazed at his understanding and his answers’ (v47), but not such that any thought of him as more than a 12-year-old child of striking ability.

            (ii). He is the Son.  Mary, relieved and stressed, rebukes him (v48).  Jesus’ response (v49) indicates he expected them to know where to find him.  The crucial statement is in v49b ‘Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house? (less likely – ‘about my Father’s business’).  Joseph fills the role of father, but Jesus has another, greater ‘Father’.  Even at this early stage in his life Jesus has a profound awareness of:

            a relationship that he bears to God.  We glimpse his unique relationship to the Father.

            a task that he is to perform.  He has a mission to fulfil – the Father’s plan (John 4:34).

3. An abundant blessing

We have a brief glimpse of family life at home in v51-52.  The focus is on Jesus – both parents fade from the record, Joseph probably dying soon and Mary mentioned again by Luke only in 8:19-21.  His brothers did not believe until after the resurrection.  We have a significant description of Jesus’ human development – he ‘grew in wisdom and stature’ – true humanity evident.  Also ‘in favour with God and man’ – like Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26) and see also Proverbs 3:4.  The Messiah is grace filled for the work he has been sent to do.

Luke 2:21-40 The Messiah has come

The Lord does not work according to the standards of the world.  We might expect that the long-expected Messiah would be found in a palace (as the Magi did – Matthew 2), mixing with the rich and powerful, but in fact he was born in humble circumstances.  That is how God works.  We turn now to consider Luke 2:21-40 The Messiah has come

1. The presentation

2 events are described in v21-24.  The circumcision on the 8th day was a sign of God’s covenant with his people.  The name ‘Jesus’ is full of meaning – ‘he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21).  The presentation in the Temple was the time of the mother’s purification.  The offering (v24) was for the less well-off, the Messiah’s lowly birth being part of his humiliation (see Philippians 2:8).  Incarnation involves the Son’s self-humbling.  Note:

            (i). He fulfils prophecy.  See e.g. Malachi 3:1 ‘Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple’.  Throughout his life Jesus fulfilled the sovereign plan of God.

            (ii). He fulfils the Law.  Both events described here are prescribed by the Law.  Circumcision is the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17) and presentation honours God’s claim to every firstborn male (Exodus 13:23).  Jesus was ‘born under law’ (Galatians 4:4) and kept God’s law perfectly on behalf of his people, as our representative (Hebrews 2:17).

2. The prophet

Simeon (v25) is a man of deep faith – ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, waiting for the Messiah.  He speaks prophetically (v27 ‘Moved by the Spirit’), recognizing the child as ‘the Lord’s Christ’ (v26).  In language steeped in the Old Testament Simeon ‘praised God’ (v28) – it is his mighty work of salvation, with significance for ‘all people’ (v31).  Both the Gentiles (as in Isaiah 42:6) and Israel are included.  His work involves judgment (‘the falling’, v34) but chiefly salvation (‘the rising of many’).  It will be at a cost, and Mary herself will know ‘a sword’, but only the Messiah’s suffering will be redemptive.

3. The prophetess

Anna is a ‘prophetess’ (v36) – a channel of God’s word.  She had known sorrow – ‘a widow until she was 84’, but this is a day of good news – ‘she spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem’ (v38).  God’s great work of redemption has taken a major step forward, in fulfilment of OT prophecies about the restoration of Jerusalem (e.g. Jeremiah 33).  There were other believing people to share her joy and praise (v38).

4. The progress

With the requirements of the Law fulfilled, the family ‘returned to Galilee (v39).  At this stage the visit of the magi and the flight to Egypt must have taken place (Matthew 2).  The statement of v40 is significant – ‘the child grew and became strong’ – he fully shared our human nature.  The Father’s blessing ensures he is equipped for his redeeming work – ‘he was filled with wisdom and the grace (or ‘favour’ ESV) of God was upon him’.

Luke 2:1-20 The Saviour born

The birth of Jesus is often romanticised and sentimentalised, a scene of warmth and cleanliness, free from pain and dirt.  The reality was quite different, with a relatively poor mother giving birth in a stable (or a cave) with none of the modern aids or pain relief.  This, however, was also one of the most important events in world history.  We turn now to consider Luke 2:1-20 The Saviour born

1. The Lord’s providence

Everything in these events depends on the providence of God.  The historical information of v1-2 is very specific.  Luke writes of a God who acts in history to fulfil his purpose.  He overrules the actions of the Roman emperor so that Jesus is born in Bethlehem (v4), underlining his Davidic ancestry and fulfilling prophecies such as 2 Samuel 7.  We see his providence also in relation to this humble family (v4-5) – for the incarnation of the Son, the birth of the Messiah, God has chosen an obscure couple and has brought them to a small town for a birth in poor circumstances.  This is the Messiah who ‘for your sakes became poor’ (2 Corinthians 8:9).  God reverses human expectations to fulfil his will.

2. The angel’s message

The announcement of the Messiah’s birth is given by an ‘angel of the Lord’ (v9, probably Gabriel) to ‘shepherds living out in the fields nearby’ (v8).  The message is astounding – ‘good news of great joy’ with worldwide significance – ‘that will be for all the people’ (v10).  The Gentiles too are involved.  Central is the Messiah, described in the most exalted terms – ‘a Saviour…he is Christ the Lord’ (v11).  He is God, come to perform a redemptive work.  The response of ‘the heavenly host’ (v13) is to give ‘glory to God in the highest’ (v14).  The peace the Messiah gives is reconciliation to God for ‘those on whom his favour rests’.

3. The shepherds’ praise

The reversal of expectations continues.  Shepherds were ritually unclean and generally had a bad reputation for thieving.  God chooses outcasts on the fringes of society to hear ‘good news’ (v10).  The Messiah has ‘not come to call the righteous, but sinners to salvation’ (Luke 5:32).  The flocks may have been for sacrifice in the Temple, reminding us of the sacrificial work of the Messiah which brings forgiveness.  There is an urgency in their response as they ‘spread the word’ (v17).  All who trust in the Messiah have a duty and privilege to witness.

4. The mother’s thoughts

These are events of world significance.  It is therefore not surprising to read of Mary’s response: she ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (v19).  Mary was a woman of profound faith, as 1:46-55 shows.  She has an understanding of the significance of the work of her Son but has much to learn.  No doubt the Holy Spirit instructs her as she ponders.  It must have been a great comfort to her to grasp gradually how the Lord was working through her.

Luke 1:57-80 A prophet of the Most High

The Israelites had a powerful messianic hope, nurtured by the prophets.  For centuries Israel waited but the Messiah did not appear.  After Malachi the voice of prophecy fell silent.  God, however, was working out his plan.  He promised in Malachi 4:5 ‘I will send you the prophet Elijah’ to be the forerunner of the Messiah, and with the birth of John the Baptist, one in the mould of Elijah, the voice of prophecy was again heard and the time of fulfilment had arrived.  We turn now to consider Luke 1:57-80 A prophet of the Most High

1. The birth of John

God’s promise through the angel (v13) is now fulfilled – v57.  God’s word never fails.  All is set in the context of an awareness of God’s hand in events: ‘heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy’ (v58).  The Lord’s mercy is key: God is a God of mercy to those in hardship, especially the misery of sin.  The Lord has ‘shown…great mercy’ to Elizabeth in bringing her through the dangers of childbirth and providing her son to play a significant role in the unfolding of his plan of salvation.  The naming of the child puts the spotlight on Zechariah.  In obedience to the angel’s message (v13), Zechariah states, ‘His name is John’ – there will be no argument.  After 9 months of silence imposed on him by the Lord because of his unbelief (v20), Zechariah is chastened, as we often are by hard experiences.  With renewed faith Zechariah responds in obedience to the Lord’s command regarding the child’s name.  The Lord in turn responds graciously – ‘Immediately his mouth was opened’ (v64) and his first act is to praise the Lord.  A deep impression is made on family and neighbours: ‘Fear cam upon all their neighbours’ (v65 ESV), spiritual awe, and ‘all who heard them laid them up in their hearts’ (v66 ESV) pondering what the Lord may do through this child.  Note v66 ‘the Lord’s hand was with him’, in fulfilment of the promise of the filling of the Holy Spirit (v15).  John is fully equipped to do the Lord’s work.

2. The song of Zechariah

Note v67 ‘Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied’ – his focus is on ‘the Lord, the God of Israel’, with no mention of John until v76.  We see:

            (i) The Lord redeems: v68.  It is the language of release from bondage.  The reference to ‘the house of his servant David’ (v69) shows this is messianic (as in Psalm 132:17).  In view is spiritual salvation, the goal being ‘to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness’ (v74-75).  The work of Christ is to set sinners free from the bondage of sin and transform them into his likeness.

            (ii) The Lord remembers: The Messiah’s work is set in the context of the unfolding of God’s eternal plan of salvation (v70).  He will ‘remember his holy covenant’, traced right back to Abraham (Genesis 17).  He rescues his people for service (v74).  The covenant is sealed with the atoning blood of Christ (Luke 22:20).

            (iii) The Lord reveals: Finally, in v76 Zechariah mentions John.  His mission – ‘a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him’, fulfilling Isaiah 40:3-5.  John will be a channel of revelation, pointing to the Messiah, not himself (John 1:8).  It is Christ who is the light – v78-79, the Saviour John exalts.

Luke 1:46-56 Mary praises her Saviour

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We learn much about people from the songs they sing – what they think and how they feel.  Songs reveal the truth of the heart.  This is evident in the response of Mary to the great events leading up to the birth of the Messiah by the miraculous working of the Lord.  As she visits Elizabeth, by the Holy Spirit’s working Mary sings an inspired song.  As we return to Luke’s Gospel, we consider Luke 1:46-56 Mary praises her Saviour

1. God’s grace to Mary

Notice how full of biblical language Mary’s song is.  It is very reminiscent of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1ff.  Here is a woman whose mind is steeped in Scripture.  Note:

            (i) Praise (v46-48).  It is significant that, when Elizabeth has just described her as ‘the mother of my Lord’ (v43), Mary’s focus is on the Lord and not herself.  She is filled with praise because of his work (v46).  She uses the covenant name of God – ‘the Lord’ – the God who in grace and love binds sinners to himself in a saving relationship.  Note Mary rejoices ‘in God my Saviour (v47) she is a sinner saved by grace, like all the Lord’s people.  Literally she says, ‘my spirit rejoiced’ – she most likely has in view the annunciation by Gabriel of the conception and birth of the Messiah (v31-33), wonderful news for one conscious of ‘the humble state of his servant’ (v48).

            (ii) Contemplation (v49-50).  As Mary thinks of what the Lord has done for her, several of the Lord’s perfections stand out to her:

            God’s power: ‘the Mighty One’ (v49).  The virgin conception shows that creation is in the palm of God’s hand and he is sovereign in all things – Ephesians 1:11.

            God’s holiness: ‘holy is his name’ (v49).  The ‘name’ is who God is.  Holiness is always at the forefront of revelation – Isaiah 6:3.  He is separate from all created things.

            God’s mercy: ‘His mercy extends…’ (v50).  In mercy he responds to our misery with the provision of a Saviour.  Our response is to ‘fear him’, as we receive salvation by faith.

2. God’s grace to multitudes

Mary’s vision widens out (v51ff) to embrace the big picture of God’s saving work:

            (i) Grace effects deliverance (v51-53).  God has done ‘mighty deeds’.  He acts on behalf of ‘the humble…the hungry’, reversing the values of the world, bringing down ‘the proud…rulers…the rich’.  This has a physical application, but is primarily spiritual.  All of life is transformed.  God has acted thus in the past, but in view above all is the saving work of the Messiah that will soon begin.  He saves the spiritually destitute and his work cannot fail.

            (ii) Grace brings fulfilment (v54-55).  This is the language of the Old Testament promises.  Note ‘his servant Israel’ – where Israel failed, the perfect Israelite, the Messiah, triumphs (Isaiah 42:1).  His blood seals the covenant (Genesis 17:7), the Covenant of Grace that brings salvation.  In Christ it can be said of believers that we are ‘Abraham’s seed’ (Galatians 3:29).  The grace of God triumphs over the sin of his people, fulfilling his promises.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Reconciled to God

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It is always difficult when a relationship breaks down.  In place of warmth and affection there maybe alienation and hostility.  There is then a need for reconciliation – the restoration of the relationship.  The Bible uses the language of reconciliation to describe a vital aspect of salvation.  Sinners are alienated from God and need a means of having that relationship restored.  Consider 2 Corinthians 5:20  Reconciled to God.

1. The need for reconciliation

(i). Our sins make us God’s enemies.  Note Romans 8:7 ‘hostile to God’.  Sinners are in rebellion against our Creator and his laws.  Sin infects every aspect of life, as Romans 1:21 reminds us.  We are naturally God’s enemies and that enmity needs to be dealt with.

(ii). God’s holiness makes him our enemy.  This is the heart of our predicament.  A holy God must respond to sin with righteous wrath (see Romans 1:18).  God would not be holy if he were indifferent to sin.  His wrath is not an irrational outburst but a settled, proportionate opposition to the sin of man.  We are naturally ‘children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3).  This holy God is our enemy.

2. The provision of reconciliation

We are ‘dead in…transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1) and so reconciliation must be God’s work.  Note v18 ‘God who reconciled us to himself’.  The wrath of God must be dealt with first, and in a way that upholds his holiness.  Reconciliation has been provided by God on the basis of the work of Christ on behalf of his people.  Paul gets to the heart of the matter in v21.  Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s law culminated at the cross where he took the sin and wrath that separate us from God and bore them in the place of all who put their trust in him – ‘one died for all’ (v15).  Christ’s satisfying God’s wrath is termed ‘propitiation’ (1 John 4:10).  God’s holy wrath is fully satisfied, and it is accomplished by God himself in Christ.  Thus God’s alienation is removed.

3. The enjoyment of reconciliation

Reconciliation is received by faith (John 3:16) so we will ‘be reconciled to God’.  Note:

(i). Sin forgiven.  The full penalty has been paid (v19).  The entire sentence has been served.  As a result, ‘there is now no condemnation’ for believers (Romans 8:1).

(ii). Sin forgiven.  The full penalty has been paid (v19).  The entire sentence has been served.  As a result, ‘there is now no condemnation’ for believers (Romans 8:1).

(iii). Sin forgiven.  The full penalty has been paid (v19).  The entire sentence has been served.  As a result, ‘there is now no condemnation’ for believers (Romans 8:1).

9. Do you look forward to glory?

When a time of hardship or trial is experienced, what above all keeps us going is hope.  Some of the hopes that people cling to are illusions and often in a crisis such hopes fail.  Christians are people of hope, one that is not fragile or based in anything in them, but is based on the Lord.  Completing our Spiritual Check-up we ask: 9. Do you look forward to glory?

1. The sure purpose

When we think of the ‘last things’ (‘eschatology’) our chief focus must be on God.  Our concern is above all with what he has purposed to do.  The biblical descriptions of God’s purpose emphasise its certainty (Ephesians 1:11).  He is sovereign and his will cannot change or be frustrated.  Note Daniel 4:35 ‘he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand (ESV).  This applies equally to believers’ salvation.  Paul is full of confidence that the Lord will preserve believers by his grace (Philippians 1:6).  He will not let his people fall finally from grace. We can look forward to glory because of who God is – that is the ground of our hope.

2. The glorious prospects

The hope of believers is centred on the Lord and all we look forward to relates to him.  At the heart of our hope is the person of the Lord and our being with him.  This has two elements:

            (i) In heaven.  Immediately upon death the believer enters the presence of the Lord.  Note Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43 ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’.  Paul’s expectation was that he would ‘depart and be with Christ’ (Philippians 1:23) – to depart is to be with Christ, which is ‘better by far’.  Much about heaven is beyond our understanding, but we know we will be with ‘the spirits of righteous men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23).  Such fellowship will be a wonderful part of our blessing.  Above all we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with the Lord, with no sin to spoil it.  According to 2 Corinthians 5:8 we will be ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’.  That is the prospect for every believer.

            (ii) In the new creation.  Our hope embraces body and soul, and so Christian hope is for a glorious resurrection (Philippians 3:21).  When the Lord returns, he will transform the entire creation – it will be brought into ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21).  The creation itself will undergo transformation to provide a suitable home for the Lord’s people.  The ‘new heaven and the new earth’ (2 Peter 2:13) will fully reflect the glory of the Creator, surpassing Eden.  That is the ultimate goal of Christian hope.

3. The transformed present

These great prospects are to have 2 practical effects, as seen in 2 Peter 3:14:

            ‘looking forward to this’ – to final glory and also to the immediate glory of heaven.  This should stir hope and anticipation, giving strength for present trials.

            ‘make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him’ – a powerful stimulus to live ‘holy and godly lives’ (v11), giving faithful service here on earth.

8. Do you grieve over sin?

Christians are painfully aware of the prevalence of sin in the world.  Everywhere we look we see ample evidence of the sinful heart of man.  Worse is the awareness of sin in our own hearts.  The danger is that we become accustomed to sin and do not grieve over it as we should.  Continuing our Spiritual Check-up we ask: 8. Do you grieve over sin?

1. The holiness of God

Fundamental to God’s self-revelation in Scripture is his holiness.  The call of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 is ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’ – the 3-fold repetition indicates the perfection of that holiness.  ‘Holy’ in the Bible has the root meaning of ‘separation’.  As Creator, God is separate from all created things.  This involves his moral separation from all that is contrary to his holy nature (Habakkuk 1:13).  That holiness has been made visible in Christ (1 Peter 1:19).  As image-bearers of God we are to be holy people.  The goal of salvation is the restoration of the image of God lost in Adam.  Holiness is crucial for us.

2. The process of sanctification

Notice the goal of Christ’s redeeming work according to Titus 2:14.  Thus holiness is central for Christians.  We speak of ‘sanctification’, which in Scripture has 2 dimensions:

            (i) Definitive sanctification.  When we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, the dominion of sin is broken for ever.  That is the significance of ‘you were sanctified’ (1 Corinthians 6:11), and Romans 6:14 gives a great promise – ‘sin shall not be your master’.

            (ii) Progressive sanctification.  Building on the victory of definitive sanctification, the Spirit gradually remakes us in heart and life in the likeness of the Saviour (2 Corinthians 3:18).  We are called to be active in this work – ‘be holy in all you do’ (1 Peter 1:15).  As we use the means of grace, the Spirit blesses them to us and we grow in holiness.  The secret is always ‘it is God who works in you’ (Philippians 2:13).

3. The seriousness of sin

We must not allow the attitudes of the world to blunt our perception of the seriousness of sin.  We must see it as God sees it.  A mark of grace is a holy hatred of sin, reflecting God’s attitude (Habakkuk 1:13).  The psalmist’s words should be ours – Psalm 97:10, 119:104.  We should grieve over the sin we see in the world (Psalm 119:136) and in fellow believers Chiefly we are to grieve over our own sin, but not in despair.  We need the ‘godly sorrow’ of 2 Corinthians 7:10) which leads to repentance and forgiveness.  The solution to our grief over sin is always ready to hand.

4. The prospect of perfection

We long for freedom from sin and that longing for perfection will be satisfied at the last day when sanctification will be complete (Philippians 1:6).  We ‘shall be like him’ (1 John 3:2).

7. Do you use your gifts?

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.