Romans 12:6-21 Spiritual Gifts
This is a short chapter on spiritual gifts. How did Paul explain the spiritual gifts? I’m not asking how people, churches, or modern society describes spiritual gifts. What was Paul inspired to write about spiritual gifts? How did Paul describe each of those spiritual gifts? What are spiritual gifts supposed to be used for? How are people trained to use spiritual gifts? Who trains people to use spiritual gifts? The answers shouldn’t surprise you. A list of those spiritual gifts is found in that we refer to Romans chapter 12. That is near the end of Paul’s letter. Common sense should tell us where to look for answers. Paul used 11 chapters to build his audience up to the introduction of spiritual gifts. Before listing the spiritual gifts, Paul had to be confident people reading about spiritual gifts knew how to serve God. People had to know who Jesus was. People had to know how the Holy Spirit communicated with them. People had to know how to interact with the world. And people had the know the difference between a message from this world and one from Heaven. All of that and more had to be in place before any of those spiritual gifts could be used.
Romans 12:6-21 NLTse In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. (7) If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. (8) If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (9) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. (10) Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (11) Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. (12) Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. (13) When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. (14) Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (15) Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. (16) Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! (17) Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. (18) Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (19) Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. (20) Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” (21) Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
When we read Romans chapter 12 in its entirety, it makes more sense than what the world has been teaching about spiritual gifts. Paul intentionally introduced spiritual gifts by telling us, we need to give ourselves up. We have to put everything the world has taught us aside, prepare to listen to God’s Spirit, learn to follow directions, and get ready to learn details we have never seen or considered before. Paul referred to that as a living sacrifice. What else would you call a complete change in your life?
Paul gave Christianity the best advice this world could imagine. Pert near anything we could think of crept into the Hebrew religion and somehow filtered its way into Christianity from the beginning. It was like trying to make a soup from a wide variety of vegetables pulled from the ground and thrown into a pot before they were cleaned. What kind of soup would you get from vegetables covered with dirt? It wouldn’t be a very healthy or tasty mixture. No matter what you added, it would still have that dirty look, smell, and taste.
Some churches think it is their role to clean those vegetables before throwing them into the pot of soup. We term that indoctrination. You have to learn and memorize a certain set of rules and standards before you can be baptized into the church, stand up front, deliver a prayer, or assist in any capacity. In other words, you have to become like the cult before being granted special privileges. Most people never stop long enough to consider the fact, all of those church privileges are spiritual gifts. Those churches are exercising their control over God’s Spiritual Gifts. Why? There are a number of reasons. Men have a need to take control. Men need to feel like they are in control. Woman have that same drive when it comes to religious issues. Even though Paul told this world to be a living sacrifice, place your life in God’s hands, and let the original manufacturer transform you, people had to think of new ways of getting their hands in the mix, and attempt to do God’s work to the best of their ability. Which can never be up to God’s standards.
The names may have changed, but teaching is still a spiritual gift. Today teaching may be referred to as a church role, office, or other term, but it is still a Spiritual Gift. When people teach inside of a church, wouldn’t the students want a teacher with the spiritual gift of teaching? Doesn’t that make sense? Then why not call it a Spiritual Gift, and go over the standards of the spiritual gift of teaching? Why does this world measure the spiritual gift of teaching by worldly standards? How long have they been teaching? What institution did they graduate from? What books have they read, and a series of other questions have replaced Paul’s simple letter to the Romans. God’s simple plan has been replaced by an ever increasing set of human standards designed to reach God’s level. In a sense, that is building a spiritual tower of Babel. And that has happened to all the spiritual gifts.
The sad part about how churches handle and what churches teach about spiritual gifts is the fact, a lot of people walk away thinking those gifts are used only inside the church structure, and are shared with only Christians like themselves. That has spread into the thought that God only listens to people in a particular structure, or series of structures people loosely term a church. That has spread into the concept, God only accepts people who belong to a particular church. Which spread its own roots into the belief that to be saved, you have to belong to a particular church. That crept into the belief that all you need to do to be saved is join the right church. In other words, those concepts have been attacking and trampling the simple concept of spiritual gifts Paul, John, and other apostles recorded at Jesus’ command. Why are those spiritual gifts such a target?
When we look at the original Greek meaning of each spiritual gift, we find that each gift requires our presence in front of God’s throne. That is what needs to be taught about spiritual gifts. Our classroom is in Heaven, not a meeting room inside a church. Our Teacher should be Jesus, the One who came to this planet to leave a lasting impression, and put us on the proper path. Those things should never changed, altered, or tinkered with. What happens when we take one little detail or lesson out of God’s hands and try to place it in human hands? It gets mixed up with who knows what, then leads to who knows where. The only certain path for any spiritual gift placed in human hands and taught by human standards is that new concept will lead souls away from God.
Paul pointed out a very important aspect of spiritual gifts. “God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” Not to our standards, but the standards in Heaven. We can’t hope to learn the depth of those standards based on worldly concepts, and what we’ve learned from this world. Paul went onto explain how the ability to share each gift comes from God.
Each spiritual gift is supposed to be given or delivered with super human effort. Where do you suppose we receive those supper human effort, skills, and abilities from? Only from Heaven. That is what we are reaching people for. To join the ranks of Heaven, not to conform to one human club, group, or society.
Paul listed love as a spiritual gift. Isn’t that proof enough, or at least a hint, we have to approach the feet of Jesus for instructions? Has the world experienced any other love like Jesus? Has any book been written to capture the essence of that love? There have been millions of books written about how to love in this world, how to get along with others, and how to get ahead in love. None of them have achieved anything close to what Jesus achieved. Not one of those books has been able to explain love like prophets in the Bible have been to explain messages, warnings, explain gifts, or let this world know how much, how long, and in how many ways God has been trying to reach out to this world. That only touched the tip of the iceberg in the subject of love. The majority of that information and feeling lies deep below the surface. And can only be experienced by a one on one relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual gifts bring genuine love, which brings peace, confidence, patients, endurance, enthusiasm, hope, awareness, and affection. With all those benefits only a prayer away, why would anyone settle for a counterfeit?
Honor, blessings, harmony, and victory are also a package deal included with spiritual gifts. Why are so many people wallowing in fear, mistrust, anguish, and pain in this world? Have we forgotten the spiritual gifts, or has the world been misled into a less than stellar explanation of those spiritual gifts? What do you know about those spiritual gifts? Where did you gather your information from? When was the last time you talked to God about your spiritual gifts? When was the last time God told you to correct this or that error in your life so you can get to the next level in your spiritual journey, or receive a spiritual gift someone near you, or a stranger you will meet by chance needs? How many lives can you change, after Jesus spends a little time changing your life when you commit yourself to being a spiritual sacrifice?
When Paul quotes scripture, we need to look it up. Paul pointed people to scripture to get a clearer view on what he was writing about. That was one of the spiritual gifts Paul was given, and we need to respect that gift if we expect to perfect any of the gifts we are given. Here Paul sends us back to the Old testament to find out what that day of vengeance is all about.
Who is this who comes from Edom, from the city of Bozrah, with his clothing stained red? Who is this in royal robes, marching in his great strength? “It is I, the LORD, announcing your salvation! It is I, the LORD, who has the power to save!” Why are your clothes so red, as if you have been treading out grapes? “I have been treading the winepress alone; no one was there to help me. In my anger I have trampled my enemies as if they were grapes. In my fury I have trampled my foes. Their blood has stained my clothes. For the time has come for me to avenge my people, to ransom them from their oppressors. I was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm, and my wrath sustained me. I crushed the nations in my anger and made them stagger and fall to the ground, spilling their blood upon the earth.” I will tell of the LORD’s unfailing love. I will praise the LORD for all he has done. I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel, which he has granted according to his mercy and love. He said, “They are my very own people. Surely they will not betray me again.” And he became their Savior. In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years. But they rebelled against him and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he became their enemy and fought against them. (Isaiah 63:1-10 NLTse).
It’s not by accident Paul sent us back to another prophecy about Jesus. This reminded the Jews in Rome how the priests goofed up every single one of those prophecies, had no idea who the Messiah was, and actually killed God’s Son. The track record for the Levitical priesthood was stained in blood, misunderstanding, deceit, and a reckless way of looking at scripture. The last thing Paul wanted to see was those new Christians following the same path, or trying to invent a new man made path to God’s throne. There has always been only one path. Few have been able to find or follow that path. Jesus came to explain that path. After His resurrection, Jesus earned the right to oversee spiritual gifts, pay the redemption price, call and hold His flock, teach, and protect them. No one else on earth has earned that right. No one on earth has gathered enough knowledge or wisdom to guide anyone along that path. Much less themselves. With all the evidence in the world. All those stories in the Old Testament, and all the New Testament explanations, people still want to adopt bits and pieces of the old Levitical priesthood, claim a higher understanding, and forge new concepts that may appear to parallel God’s plan, but in essence, veer off course as men add more and more rules, ideas, concepts, instructions, and cliches to the mix. Where will all this stop?
Paul wanted Isaiah to emphasize the point he made in his own letter. People will stray from God’s concept on spiritual gifts. People will prefer man made concepts over Paul’s inspired instructions. It will get to the point, Jesus will have a difficult time finding anyone with any real understanding. When Jesus looks down from Heaven in the last days, He will see a world much like the world of darkness He witnessed just before the Holy Spirit transferred Jesus to this planet in the form of a few human cells. Jesus grew in the security of the womb during some of the darkest days this planet has seen. Jesus is the expert on being reborn. Why would we trust that transformation to inexperienced human hands?
When we look at Isaiah chapter 63, we can see two distinct time lines. One at Jesus’ birth and ministry here on earth. We can also see a time line aligning with the closing days of this planet. Both times are dark. Jesus was rejected in both time frames. Very few people knew anything about the Messiah, and very few people know anything about Jesus. Who the real person is, who their real King is, what His role in Heaven is, His role in the judgment process, the plan of salvation, redemption, sanctification, and the spiritual gifts. This world may have been spoon fed a little on each subject, but one line verses from scripture, and a long winded earth based explanation will never cut it.