And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11, 12 KJV)

What is “the work of the ministry?” It must be important since the risen Christ gave gifts to the Church to enable its members to carry it out. All service to the Lord is a form of ministry. The risen Son of God is a good pattern for us to follow. Not only did He become the “Servant of man” while He was in the flesh, but even after He rose, He continues to minister to the the Church as our great Intercessor, at the Father’s right hand.

As we are about to see, “the work of the ministry” involves the proper use of an important ingredient: love.

1. Humility in grace, Romans 12:3—8

Using your renewed mind, verse 3

The first eleven chapters of Romans concern Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. Beginning with chapter 12, Paul follows his established pattern of applying great Gospel truths to everyday living.

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. (12:3)

Verse 3 should be understood within a broader context of Christian separation from the world; that is, the idea that Christians are to be live differently than unbelievers.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (vs. 2a)

Paul, always aware of the consequences of pride in believers, cautioned his Roman friends not to get prideful. If one idea jumps of the page as we read verse 3, it must be perspective. Christians must see themselves with the proper perspective. The transformed thinking spoken of in verse 2 should help us see ourselves as God sees us. None of us is as good or as bad as we may naturally think. Barrett offers a helpful observation at this point:

Men’s opinions of themselves should be in proportion not to their natural capacities but to God’s gifts; if this is so, they will never (even though God calls them to be apostles) be boastful, for the will remember that they have nothing they have not received.

Your place in the Body of Christ, verses 4—8

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (vs. 6a)

To help head off pride and out-of-control individualism, Paul uses his “human body metaphor” so common to we who read the Bible. Each member of the Roman church God had been given a certain amount of faith. Remember what the apostle wrote elsewhere:

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)

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (Epheians 4:7)

Just as God has given faith to believers, so He has placed them within the Church as members, and the various members of the Church are to function as members of a body: in unity. The theme of these verses could well be “unity in diversity,” because the gifts God gives members are so diverse, and yet they are all meant to work together for the good of the whole congregation.

Why is unity and harmony so important in the Church? It’s because the Christian faith is a corporate experience. While it is true that God saves individuals individually as an act of their individual faith, believers live out their Christian experience in fellowship with each other.

All believers have “different gifts,” and these are not natural talents or skills, but gifts from God. Paul’s stress is that no matter what your particular gifts or gifts may be, you should use them the fullest, without regard to the gifts that you don’t have. God has given you what you need to minister to other believers, so glorify God and use your particular gift or gifts to their fullest.

2. Always remember to serve, 1 Peter 4:7—11

Serve in view of the end, verse 7—9

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Part of “the work of the ministry” is patterning our lives after Christ’s, and He was servant. Peter encouraged his readers to view life in light of the nearness of the end. Because the end is near, we ought be of sound mind. It’s important to be clear-headed so that we can pray effectively. Of all people, the Christian should be able to see life with clarity and perspective, given that our minds are renewing all the time. We should never let our minds be dulled by drowsiness, discouragement, anger, depression, or drink.

Individual believers are not victims! They are in complete control of their minds and a proper perspective on life is not an option. Without it, prayers will go awry. Not only that, but if we live in light of Christ’s coming, or our going, we should always be willing to be hospitable. This is a ministry. As we “love each other deeply,” we will love and respect each other continuously and strenuously. When Peter wrote that “love covers over a multitude of sins,” he is not suggesting that love can excuse or cover up sins. He is suggesting that the Christian who is genuinely trying love as Christ loved will be willing to forgive an erring brother or sister. Recall that Peter learned this lesson right from Christ Himself in Matthew 12:21, 22—

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Stewards of God’s gifts, verses 10, 11

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (vs. 10)

The first thing that strikes us with verse 10 is that all believers have a gift. No believer is exempt; each member of Christ’s Body has been given a special gift from God, and the proper use of that gift is part of Christian stewardship. If we fail to use our gift or gifts properly, the whole Body of Christ will suffer unless or until another member picks up the slack.

The other thing that we notice is that these are God’s gifts: He owns the gifts He has given us to use. The gifts God gives are not for our enrichment or enjoyment. They are given to benefit the entire Body.

3. Let love motive you!, 1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13

The true nature of love, 12:31—13:6

In chapter 12, Paul discussed the various gifts of Spirit. Exercising those gifts takes faith, and sometimes the one who exercises them can lose perspective. Interestingly, it seems like all the gifts can be used in two ways: with or without love. So, the important thing is not so much that we use our gifts, but that we use them in love.

How important is love? Well, it’s important enough that if, for example, I exercise my particular gift without it, my gift will benefit no one. It seems that the Corinthians had a real problem with this issue, and we suspect many churches today have the same problem: they want the Spiritual gifts for the wrong reasons. Those reasons may not be bad or selfish reasons, just not the right reason. The whole reason for chapter 13 is not to extol the virtues of love per se, but to show how the gifts are meant to be used.

The nature of love is described in verses 4—7, and Paul uses a number words to help us “see” what love looks like. All these wonderful virtues are possible when God is at work in an individual. When we have a transformed mind, we can do this!

Love endures, verses 7—13

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (vs. 13)

The first seven verses showed how important love is in our daily lives. In verses 8—13 love is seen light of eternity. We learn that love is eternal, but the gifts of the Spirit are not. This is not a weakness of the gifts, for they are given provisionally, to be used only until the Lord returns. But, love will always remain throughout all eternity. This really put things in perspective for the Corinthians! Here they were, clamouring after things that would eventually disappear. What they should have been doing is exercising their gifts in light of eternity, in love.

But why will the gifts eventually cease? It’s because they are imperfect (verse 10); they are “in part” (verse 9) and “partial” (verse 10). The Corinthians didn’t see this. They thought the gifts were IT. As wonderful and as essential Spiritual gifts may be, they are not IT. Christ is IT, and when He returns, the gifts will no longer be necessary. Only immature believers fail to realize this. They are immature because they see things from a warped perspective. In other words, their minds have not been transformed. They are immature.

Paul uses some figures of speech to help us understand this. Looking in a mirror was for “now”; but “then” we would see “face to face.” “Now” we are like children who see things in the mirror dimly. This is why we need the gifts of the Spirit. But we won’t be children forever! At some point, when Christ returns, we will be full grown; we will be completely mature, seeing things clearly, face to face, and the gifts won’t be necessary any more.

In contrast to the temporary gifts that the Corinthians were so concerned with, the permanence of three cardinal Christian graces is stressed: faith, hope, and love. Faith is essential to salvation, but nobody can live without hope, for when hope fades so does the spirit. But as important these two graces are, love is supreme.

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