GIFTS AND MINISTRIES

    

GIFTS AND MINISTRIES Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

It is time now to build up the members of the Body of Christ to maturity, as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ. According to the Scripture, the Body is built up by that which every part supplies. This being the case, we who are leaders must do all in our power to assist each believer in learning what his gifts and ministries are and how and when to use them.

GIFTS AND MINISTRIES

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (Romans 12:6)

Every member of the Body of Christ has been given one or more gifts or ministries by which he or she is to build up himself or herself as well as the other members, as the Holy Spirit directs.

No member is excluded. All have a service to perform to the Body, just as every part of the human body has a service to perform.

As far as I can see in the Scripture, a gift or ministry is not given to a local church but to the universal Body of Christ.

But how many Christians know what their gifts are? How many are truly obeying the Holy Spirit in the use of their gifts? I expect, very few. And this is why we do not come to maturity. The members of the Body of Christ can come to the stature of the fullness of Christ only as each part is operating.

It is evident that God is going to have to make some changes in the churches of the United States, perhaps forcing us to adopt communal patterns of living and economics, if we are to see widespread participation by all the members of the Body of Christ.

I have heard glorious prophecies go over people as members of a presbytery have laid hands on them. Yet these individuals have grown old and have died without the promises being fulfilled. Were the prophecies not of God? I do not believe this was the reason they did not come to pass.

Why, then, are so few members of the Body of Christ effectively functioning in the ministry they have been given? Probably several reasons.

Many believers do not present their body a living sacrifice, as we all have been commanded to do.

Many believers do not set aside their own interests, take up their cross, and follow the Lord Jesus.

Many believers do not understand they have been called to be a saint, a person set apart for God’s special use; and that once an individual has been called to be a saint he or she has no other calling. Whatever work he may do to support his family, the work is not his calling. His calling is to be a holy one of God, a member of the royal priesthood.

Many believers do not understand they have a gift and are required to use it diligently, or face having the gift removed and they themselves thrown into the outer darkness. The role of Divine grace (forgiveness) has been emphasized at the expense of the duties enjoined on every believer.

The pastor-congregation form of organization tends to work against the widespread operation of ministries and gifts on the part of the believers. In America, it seems we have to have pastors who rule over the local churches. In a sophisticated culture the pastors serve as chief executive officers of the legally established organizations, which the churches are. But far too often the pastors take on also the role of priest. They receive the spiritual proxy of the members and stand between them and God. In such a system of role expectations the believers can hardly be expected to pursue their own gifts and ministries with the required fervency.

The pastor is viewed as holier than the people. How can this be, seeing he and the members of the congregation are integral parts of one body?

Another factor that militates against the widespread use of gifts and ministries is the unscriptural emphasis placed on evangelism. It is as though evangelism is the only gift and ministry given to the members of the Body of Christ. The Scripture does not support this extreme emphasis. The result is the great majority of Christians, whose gifts and ministries are other than evangelism, have no idea of the unique calling the Holy Spirit has placed on them. Since they do not have the grace to evangelize, they give up the idea of having a significant ministry.

The above may be a few of the current reasons for the lack of the widespread functioning of the gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ. They may be explanations, but they are not excuses. If each saint is to grow to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ, then every believer must recognize his or her calling as a saint; find out what God expects of him or her; and make the Lord’s calling on him or her the number one priority of his or her life. This is an absolute imperative today, as America is being submerged in a cesspool of moral horrors.

Let’s go back to the first reason for the lack of the operation of gifts and ministries in the churches: many believers do not present their body a living sacrifice, as we all have been commanded to do.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2)

Now, I do not know how many Christians take the above passage seriously. One thing is certain, however. The only way we ever are going to find out God’s will for ourselves is by presenting our body a living sacrifice.

What does it mean to present our body a living sacrifice? It means to obey the Lord strictly, even though the body usually rebels against God’s standards.

The Apostle Paul wrote to us concerning the manner in which we are to treat our body:

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Corinthians 9:27)

Perhaps you have found that your body has a mind of its own. If you permit it to do so, it will bring itself down to destruction.

The body is remarkably shortsighted. It cares little for consequences. It lives for the moment. Therefore it is ready to eat and drink itself to death, to smoke cigarettes, to take drugs, to drive while drunk, to indulge in immorality, without regard for the consequences of such actions.

Fortunately your body is a coward. If you stand up to its desires and order it to serve God, it will do so. But if you permit your body to govern you, you will suffer for it.

Your body does not belong to you but to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You were placed in your animal body by the Lord in order to test you. In order to inherit a spiritual body like that of the Lord Jesus, a body capable of awesome exploits, you first must prove yourself worthy in your present body. If you cannot govern your present body you have no hope whatever of receiving, in the day of resurrection, a body like that of Christ.

Grace and mercy will not interfere, in the Day of Resurrection, with the inviolable Kingdom law of sowing and reaping. You and I are going to reap precisely what we have sown.

Remember, we are discussing why people do not discover their place in the Body of Christ.

If we are to know God’s will we have to be careful to not conform to the world. This is difficult, given the tremendous amount of information to which we are being subjected. We have to make sure we are reading our Bible and praying each day, even if it means there is no time left for the television, radio, or Internet. There is no way we are going to survive throughout the age of moral horrors if we have not made a practice of daily prayer and Bible reading.

If we are presenting our body a living sacrifice, if we are being transformed by the renewing of our mind, then we are able to test and approve God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for our life. There is but one will of God for us, and it is good, pleasing and perfect.

How many believers of our day are setting aside their own interests, taking up their personal cross, and following Jesus? There are some, no doubt; but this is not a popular doctrine.

Yet it is utterly impossible to discover and appropriately use our gift and ministry until we deny ourselves for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.

There are some who are doing great works in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ but are pursuing their own selfish ambitions. Such will hear in the Day of Christ: "Depart from me, you evildoers. I never knew you." It is not enough just to make our contribution; we also must live a righteous life, being sternly obedient to God, if we expect to receive the reward.

Many believers do not understand they have been called to be a saint, that they have no other calling. Therefore they view Christianity as a religion they are to observe faithfully while they live their life after the manner of everyone else in the world. They do not grasp the total demands the Lord makes on each member of the royal priesthood.

As long as a believer perceives himself as nothing more than the faithful adherent of a religion he will never use the gifts that have been given to him. For one thing, he has no time for anything except making a living. He is not a disciple, he is a churchgoer—nothing more. He or she is not a functioning member of the Body of Christ.

How many Christian people realize they already have been given a role in the Body by the Holy Spirit, and that their most important responsibility in life is to find that role and to be faithful in exercising it? We know from the parable of the talents that if we bury that which has been given to us, not using it in the Kingdom, our talents will be taken from us and given to another. We ourselves shall be thrown into the outer darkness.

Has the role of Divine grace been so overemphasized that we are unaware of the severe demands and responsibilities that the New Testament places on every member of the Body of Christ?

We have mentioned that the pastor-congregation (priest-people) pattern of Christian services works against the widespread functioning of gifts and ministries in the local church.

We have pointed toward the fact that the unscriptural emphasis on evangelism and adding people to the assembly tends to depress the emerging of gifts and ministries in the local church. Even if there is a team effort in the church in which several people join in prayer and effort, if the objective is primarily to add numbers of people, there probably will be little increase in the operations of gifts and ministries.

Because of the great emphasis placed on adding more people to the assembly (church growth), the purpose of the operation of gifts and ministries becomes unclear. The gifts and ministries actually are given to bring the believers to spiritual maturity, not ordinarily to add members to the assembly.

The return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth is for the purpose of establishing His Kingdom here. Christ is going to accomplish this with and through a great host of saints. This we know.

What may not be as well known is that only mature saints will return with the Lord. There can be no disobedient, lukewarm, spiritually stunted, immature, carnal believers in the army of the Lord. One such individual would jeopardize the entire effort.

Therefore the emphasis of the Holy Spirit today is that each of us find, develop, and use his or her ministry faithfully and diligently. Only then can the army of Christ be prepared for the Day of the Lord.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)

The Lord is not requiring that we attempt to go forth and "do big things for God." He asks only that we judge ourselves soberly according to the measure of faith God has given us.

It is difficult, but necessary, to find that perfect balance where we neither are "stepping out in faith" (presumption) or involving ourselves so heavily in the world spirit that we are neglecting to hold ourselves before the Lord as a priest.

Sometimes people believe and express that "if God wants to use me I am willing." The Lord ordinarily will not come down and force a person into ministry. We have to hold ourselves in readiness so the minute God speaks we can obey.

Of course, to disobey the Lord when He makes His will clear to us is absolutely unthinkable! We are the slaves of Jesus Christ. Let us remember that, for the only free individual is he or she who is a slave of Christ.

A Christian who disobeys Christ in the present hour, when the drums of Hell are beating to the attack, can count on experiencing unbearable torment and remorse in the future.

God is our Father and He loves us dearly. But a disobedient, rebellious son will be chastised very severely, and may lose altogether his place in the Kingdom of God. Let no one deceive you—it is just this serious. We have lost the fear of God in America, and the wise among us will pray until God restores His fear to them.

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, (Romans 12:4)

The human body has many members. Each part of the body serves a vital purpose. So it is with the Body of the Christ. There is no part without a vital purpose. The Holy Spirit has given to each of us a contribution to make. If we do not make our contribution we shall suffer in the Day of Christ for our laziness and carelessness.

So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5)

That the Messiah of the Jews consists of the great Head and also a Body is a major part of the revelation given to the Apostle Paul. We are fragmented in the present hour by local churches and denominations. But there is only the one Body of Christ.

The members belong to each other. This relationship is stronger than flesh and blood. Remember, as the Lord taught us by example, our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, are those who do the will of God.

It may help us to become serious about our gifts and ministries when we realize the ones whom we build up in Christ are as members of our own bodies, of our own selves.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (Romans 12:6)

The first gift and ministry Paul mentions is that of prophecy. Before we emphasize prophecy, let’s leave Romans, Chapter Twelve for now and go over to the twelfth chapter of the Book of First Corinthians.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (I Corinthians 12:4-6)

The Holy Spirit gives the gifts. The Lord Jesus Christ administrates the gifts. The Father is the One who empowers the gifts and sees that His will through Jesus Christ is carried out.

All gifts and ministries given to the believer are under the control of that believer and subject to him or her. But the believer himself or herself is to remain in the rest of God, that is, to seek continually the will of Jesus so the gifts and ministries are operated correctly.

Right here we find one of the major problems of our day. We are being told by various teachers and preachers that we are to take our gifts and go forth to minister to a "lost and dying world." This is not true. We are not to take anything or go forth anywhere except as the Lord Jesus directs us. Never! Never! Never!

We even have ministers praying to the Holy Spirit, or trying to direct the Holy Spirit or the angels. This is the False Prophet.

There is no Bible basis for praying to the Holy Spirit, directing the Holy Spirit, worshiping the Holy Spirit, or singing to the Holy Spirit. Why are we doing that which has no scriptural support?

We are to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, worship the Father and Jesus, and sing to the Father and Jesus. Then we are to permit the Lord Jesus to direct us, for He is the Administrator of the Kingdom of God.

When we obey Christ He will give us as much of the Holy Spirit as we need. It is time for self-willed people to get off the throne and start being the slaves of Jesus Christ!

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,~ and to still another the interpretation of tongues.~ All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (I Corinthians 12:8-11)

Notice that the accent is on diversity.

Sometimes the four (or five) ministries mentioned in the fourth chapter of Ephesians are regarded as superior offices in the Body of Christ. The Scripture will not support this viewpoint.

If you will notice the following:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11)

But notice:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:27,28)

Do you see my point?

These so-called major ministries, the apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor- teacher, are listed in the same category along with gifts of healing, helps, administration, and tongues.

We are all members of the one Body of Christ. There are no outstanding ministries or gifts that are to lord it over the other members.

One interesting point is as follows:

But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (I Corinthians 12:31)

No doubt we could speculate endlessly concerning which are the greater gifts. I think the point is we should desire gifts and ministries eagerly.

I maintained previously that the Holy Spirit has given gifts and ministries to each member of the Body. Why, then, are we commanded to eagerly desire them if we already have our appointed gifts?

The answer to this question has to do with the adventure of the life of faith. We, whether we know our gifts or not, are to fervently desire gifts and ministries that appeal to us. The balconies of Heaven are filled with wondrous treasures, just waiting for someone to care enough to ask for them.

But we have to ask, seek, and knock persistently—not just once, but many times. We do not try to force the spirit realm, we just keep letting the Lord know what it is we desire.

Meanwhile we diligently apply the gifts we now have with the faith we have been given. The Lord loves the diligent worker. When He sees you using what you have He very well may add to your equipment.

Don’t limit the Holy One of Israel.

Many years ago I asked the Lord to enable me to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere people breathe the air. I certainly am a lot closer to doing that today with the development of the Internet. Only believe! All things are possible. Only believe!

Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you.

The Scripture cannot be broken!

We will return now to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (Romans 12:6)

Why don’t we think about prophecy for a moment, as being representative of all the endowments the Lord is prepared to give to us.

Concerning prophecy, one does not have to start off like Isaiah. It is perfectly proper for the novice to say, "I think the Lord is saying . . ." However, "Thus saith the Lord" is more suitable for someone with an established record as a prophet.

In these days, when the Lord is so close to us, numerous Christians are discovering if they will listen they can hear what the Lord is saying to them personally. You may have heard of "journaling," in which believers sit down with a pencil and notebook and listen for a word from the Lord.

I have not heard of problems arising from this practice, but I think a believer who practices journaling should check from time to time with a respected elder some of the words he or she is recording. The journalings I have seen seem to be coming from the Lord.

So we see that prophetic words can be directed to a single believer.

Then we have the primary use of all the gifts and ministries of the Spirit, which is to build up the members of the assembly into spiritual maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Finally, there are prophecies which are a testimony to the world, as often was true of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." (Revelation 10:11)

Do you know, the current emphasis on "getting souls saved" has obscured what may be a major role of the Christian in his capacity as a member of the royal priesthood.

Oftentimes we Christians meet someone of the world who is in a crisis. He or she may look to us for help. I cannot see anything wrong with telling him that God loves him, to look to God for help, to believe God will help him and that his future is not helpless, without trying to "lead him to Christ."

I see nothing wrong with this.

I see no need for trying to "lead them to Christ." As Oswald Chambers said somewhere, "People smell the gunpowder and are repulsed."

What is wrong with telling people to look to God for help? Perhaps some will disagree with me at this point, but my experience over the last half-century tells me that the Christian churches have a spirit of proselyting that comes across as forced, stilted, and contrived. How about telling people that God will help them if they pray, or just being a friend to them, a listening ear, without trying to force them to "take the four steps of salvation"?

I am not, of course, suggesting that people can come to God apart from Christ. I am referring only to a contrived approach that may not prove to be as fruitful as we might wish.

Perhaps the role of the royal priesthood is to bring God’s help and comfort to the people of the world, but only as the Spirit leads. Enough of this "going forth to save a lost and dying world," which in my opinion is not of the Lord at all.

Maybe the Lord wants us to be a friend to people, and a gate to Christ, instead of trying to "win our community for Christ."

Do whatever you will with this.

Getting back to the idea of letting the Holy Spirit run the program, consider the following:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2)

I love the above verse because it reveals that the Holy Spirit is God.

Sometimes we of the Pentecostal persuasion regard the Holy Spirit as some kind of blessing. The Holy Spirit is not merely a blessing, He is a member of the Godhead and is to be obeyed.

We are baptized into the name of the Holy Spirit.

We are not to try to direct the Holy Spirit, or to get Him to help us with our idea of how the world ought to be evangelized.

Hear the thunder of the authority and power of the command: "SET APART FOR ME BARNABAS AND SAUL FOR THE WORK TO WHICH I HAVE CALLED THEM."

You may notice that the prophets and teachers were not developing schemes to save the neighborhood or the world. They were worshiping the Lord and fasting.

God, the Holy Spirit, commanded the assembled prophets and teachers to set aside Barnabas and Saul as apostles. The Spirit is the one who called them to this work.

We understand, therefore, that the Spirit of God gives gifts and directs their use.

For two thousand years people have sought to build the Kingdom of God by means of their own wisdom, strength, and talents. It shall not be so in the last days. The powers of Hell will be unleashed to such an extent that man no longer will be able to function successfully in building the Kingdom of God. The watchword shall be: "Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit."

It is time now for us to follow the Spirit of God and not attempt to persuade the Spirit of God to follow us. This is true of prophecy as well as of all the other gifts and ministries of the Spirit of God.

When we consider the numerous kinds of gifts and ministries that are available, the input of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the uniqueness of the human being, we gain some idea of the great variety of expressions that can be available to the individual, to the Body of Christ, and to the world as Christians are willing to lay down their own plans and follow the Spirit of God.

It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is able at any time to bring forth wisdom, or knowledge, or miracles, or healings, or languages, through any believer at any time, if the believer is living in the Spirit.

Yet we know some believers are especially gifted with wisdom, or knowledge, or miracles, or healings, or languages. All may prophesy, and yet some are distinguished as prophets.

To conclude: for a number of reasons, most Christians of today do not understand their role in the Body of Christ. They do not understand the importance of their calling as a saint.

They do not realize the Holy Spirit has given them supernatural enablements for which they will be held responsible in the Day of Christ.

They look to the priest or pastor as being an intermediary between them and God, as being especially holy, as being responsible to live before God in a special way. This is not to be true of any member of the Body of Christ. We have one Master, one intermediary between us and God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, there are billions of people in the world whom God loves who do not know their left hand from their right as far as God is concerned. It is our role as a Christian to bring the Presence, help, love, and sometimes judgment of God to them. Every Christian is a priest and king, although the scope of our authority and power is limited at the present.

All of us are to think soberly according to the faith that has been given to us. We are not to get ahead of the Lord or fall behind the Lord. We always are to pray, meditate in the Word of God, and worship. This is our role as a royal priest.

No natural ability of ours will serve to form Christ in an individual or to bring the witness of God to the world. The Spirit may touch a natural gift that we possess, anoint it, and bless it. Then our gift will serve to build up Christ in ourselves and in others, and be a witness to the world.

All Kingdom work of eternal significance is done only by the Holy Spirit of God. In our day, in which the hosts of demons are swarming to the attack, we can no longer play our church games. We must hear from God. We must place our body on the altar of God as a living sacrifice. We must cry out "not my will but Yours be done" concerning every issue, every decision, of every day and night of our life.

The Judge has drawn near to the world, and especially to His Church. He is intent on developing saints who have been delivered from worldliness, lust, and self-will, who have had Christ formed in them, who are filled with the Person of God and His will, who have been proven faithful. Only these are qualified and competent to return with Him in the clouds of glory.

The members of the Body of Christ cannot possibly come to maturity apart from that which every part supplies. Therefore those of us who are leaders and elders must seek the Lord constantly until the believers know their gifts and ministries and are serving in their respective roles.

Such is the burden of the Spirit today, as we are aware of it. May God empower us to work His will in the present hour.