Grace as the basis for Gifts
In Romans 12, Paul again gives us a basis for gifts. In verse 1, he tells us that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. This verse is a little cryptic. What does Paul mean by “sacrifice” here? What does he mean by suggesting that this is our worship? Let’s look at this closer.
In order to worship God, which is a sacrifice in and of itself to us; we are to put away our self-interest in whatever we are doing. I used to attend a church where the people were pretty intent on having what they called worship, and what most would call music, be attractive to those in attendance. I believe this is the opposite of worship. I see this as putting self-first and God last. When I come to God with an agenda of my own, when I have to be pleased with the way I am worshipping God, then I am not worshipping God; I am worshipping my own preference. Our own way is what God wants us to sacrifice. We are to come saying, “God, here I am, use me.” Whatever YOU want, God, not my will but thy will be done, sound familiar?
Paul goes on to tell us that we are not to be conformed to the pattern of the world. We should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, during testing, that we may discern what the will of God truly is and what is good and acceptable to Him. To do this we must be prepared to face things that are not pleasant, and learn from them. Your suffering is not a lack of faith; it is the means to faith.
Another thing that this sacrificing will do is let us experience God’s grace more acutely. It will teach us who we really are, or are not. We should each consider the “other” more important than we are, which is something we don’t do easily. Our measure of faith is used to assess our situation. As we start to become more like Jesus, our faith grows and changes.
In this context, Paul begins to talk about gifts. Each of us has been given certain gifts to accommodate the situation we find ourselves in. No one is a superstar; no one is a hero. Each of us has gifts that are in proportion to our faith and are used for the good of the body, not for us. (1Cor 12:10) (Acts 13:1) (v3-6)
In Verses 7-8, he names particular gifts as examples of how Christians should be working together and not competing for “show” gifts. Whatever the gift, it should work in harmony with the other gifts that are present in the church. There is room for everyone. If there is competition, someone is being selfish and not using their gifts for the good of others, but for the good of themselves.
In verses 9-21, Paul gives rules that will reveal whether or not the gifts are being used correctly. Love, as we saw in 1Cor. 13, is the primary and underlying principle which drives all gifts. Here in Romans, Paul tells us that the love exhibited must be genuine. There is nothing worse than a person who thinks they are exhibiting love when everyone around them knows it is fake. Real gifts should be exercised with the behaviors outlined in verses 9-21. Otherwise, there is no point to the gifts.
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Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, a Living Truth Ministry, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference. www.abovenbeyonddiscipleship.com