Romans 12:3-4 by Robert Dean
Me! Me! Gimme a gift! Who doesn't love to get a gift? Listen to this lesson to learn about an extraordinary gift, a spiritual gift, graciously bestowed on each of us by God when we trust in Christ as our Savior. See that the purpose of this gift is not for bragging rights or to make us look good in the eyes of others but to be used to benefit other believers in our local church. Learn the different words used to describe these gifts and how these gifts are for Church Age believers only. Understand that through spiritual growth and the transformation of our thinking we come to exercise our spiritual gift fully in service to God.

Spiritual Gifts – Part 1
Romans 12:3

Now many of us, at some point in our lives, I hope, have memorized the first two verses of chapter 12. These are foundational and it's a positive thing that we should memorize verses like that. It's one of the greatest statements in Scripture related to the spiritual life. To review, "Therefore I beseech…" The NASV translates that as urge. It could also be translated as exhort or challenge. "Therefore I challenge you by the mercies of God that you present your bodies…" By that we saw that Paul means the entire person.

That you "present" is a term often used with the presentation of a sacrifice in the temple or of an offering. "To present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service…" Some translations say your spiritual service of worship but the word there indicates reasonable or rational. It's a logical result of the premise that you have trusted Christ as Savior. That's the challenge that he presents.

Now that verse comes at the beginning of this final section in Romans, which is chapters 12, 13, 14. Why is this important? He's making a transition from the didactic section explaining the righteousness of God in relation to justification, in relation to sanctification and in relation to God's plan for Israel. Now he begins this next section as a conclusion, as a logical conclusion from the previous eleven chapters. What is he doing here? What is he saying that should capture our attention? He challenges us on the basis of everything seen in the first eleven chapters to present ourselves to God as a sacrifice. That's all of who we are, to be presented to God.

In contrast he says "and do not be conformed to this world." Now we studied verse 2 in the last couple of classes that the contrast here is to not to be conformed to the world. The word translated world here is not the one we might expect which is kosmos which often relates to the inhabitants or the organized thinking of the inhabitants of the earth but to this word, aion, which relates more to a time-based period. So it's emphasizing a way of thinking in certain time periods.

Every time period thinks a certain way. The Germans have a word for it called the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. Literally zeit is time; geist is ghost. So zeitgeist is the spirit of the time or the spirit of the age. So we're not to be conformed or pressed into the mold of the world but instead we're to be transformed. This is how we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, to go through the transformative process of not being pressed into mold of the world system and the way of the world in terms of thinking but to be transformed by the renovation of our minds. So we see that the emphasis here is on thinking.

That's going to be important for what we study in the coming chapters. Many people today just have a hard time thinking about … well, thinking at all. I could just stop right there and say amen and we'll all go home early. Those of you who want to see the Alabama game will be very happy. The point is that people today don't think. We live in an America today which is in such a cultural slide. We have almost hit avalanche speed in terms of deterioration and self-destruction. We operate on emotions.

People can't think if they're not educated. We've destroyed the ability of many people in this country to think critically because of the way they have been educated over the last fifty years. Many people in churches are the same way. We've dumbed-down the Bible. Now you have modern translations that come out that are geared for the fifth grade or sixth grade reading ability. I understand the importance of that because many people can't read beyond the fifth or sixth grade level. They do well if they can read at that level. That's what's happened.

Now if you can't read or think beyond that level you're not going to be a good citizen and you can't handle the kind of thinking needed to process what's going on culturally or if you're a believer to process it spiritually. Now we understand that we all have the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word of God. Anyone who walks in off the street, starts coming to Bible class, and not have much of an education at all and not have done very well in the education that they got can learn the Bible. These people knew there was something there about the Word of God so they stuck with it over a period of three or four or five years and they assimilated a tremendous amount of information. That's important since anyone can understand the Word of God and the principles and the doctrines because of the Holy Spirit.

But you have to think. You have to learn to think. It can't be done on the basis of emotion or feeling or mysticism or intuition, which is what's popular in the culture as a whole. People want to respond emotionally to images. This is what has driven a lot of the culture the last forty or fifty years, whether it's film, television, or commercials. Commercials have basically framed and taught people to react to certain kinds of music, images, certain things that are presented instead of thinking about it critically they just react to it as if they're trained that way. They're just like animals reacting to certain stimuli but the Bible emphasizes that Christianity is for thinking people.

The world is going to try to portray all Christians as if they're some sort of backwoods, Appalachian snake-handlers. They say no Christians have brain cells that can recognize each other. But the opposite is true. Many Christians throughout the ages have been tremendous thinkers. If you study the great men of science up through the middle of the 19th century when they were perverted by Darwin, the great scientists who laid the foundation for modern science were all deeply committed Christians. Isaac Newton wrote more about theology, more commentaries on Scripture than he did on science. Yet those kinds of facts are easily and quickly ignored by science teachers today because they can't assimilate the fact that these committed Christians were the scientists who made it possible for them to do what they do today.

Christianity is based on thinking, it's based on thoughtful reflection. The Old Testament calls it meditation which is thoughtful reflection upon God's Word. In the Bible Study Methods class that we have on Sunday night we emphasize the importance of thinking and observation. Right now we're in the middle of interpretation. But it takes a lot of time and effort. You have to learn to really read. Anything that's written well is written in a logical manner. Reading means you have to follow the logical development of the thought of the writer that's been put down in writing. So Christianity more than anything else and more than any other "religion" is based on thought.

It's based on the fact that God has revealed Himself to us in propositional truth. Propositional truth is a technical term that means that God expresses Himself in propositions. A proposition is like a declarative statement. The term proposition is a technical term that means a statement that can either be verified or falsified. It's not just sayings. A question asking what the weather's doing outside can't be proved true of false. A command telling someone to go to the store can't be proved true or false. Only a declarative statement or proposition can be declared to be true or false.

Now in order to demonstrate whether it can be true or false a person has to think through all the issues involved in that sentence. They have to understand the vocabulary, the logical structure that's laid down in that sentence and when it comes to the sentences of Scripture, that's not always easy. Sometimes the Apostle Paul uses what would appear in an English Bible to be seven, eight, nine, or ten verses, even as much as thirteen verses, to express one sentence. Now in English they've often broken that down into sentences but in the original Greek it was often one sentence. Often we see a sentence of the Apostle Paul that's several verses long but that's a long statement. To understand it you really have to stop and think.

It used to drive me nuts when I was in high school I spent many summers on the work crew at Camp Peniel. The founder's son, David Whitelock, has just graduated from Dallas Seminary at that time. He had an hour long Bible study every day and one of the things he had us do is to take two or three verses in English and paraphrase it, writing that out so we could understand it in our own words. Now this was before the New American Standard Version. We had to wrestle with the old King James Version. That was a real challenge for anyone with a public school education. We were never taught to think that way.

Look at any two or three verses of Scripture. Go home tonight and paraphrase it so your eight year old kid or your ten year old grandkid can understand it and you'll realize that it's not that easy to do. You really have to understand what the author is saying. Those were incredibly difficult exercises. As a ninth grader, that was the first time I realized that when you're talking about the Bible, you have to think. That's what Paul is getting at in verse 2.

We have to renew our thinking for a purpose. We saw this last time. The purpose is for "demonstrating" which is a Greek word meaning testing something. So we're proving with our life that God's will is good, acceptable, and sufficient. Many translations take that last word and translate it as perfect. It's teleios. We're going to get into a passage that I've always struggled with but I think I'm getting a grip on it right now which is in Matthew 5 or 6 where it says, "Be ye perfect as God is perfect." That's the only place where it appears that the word has the sense of perfection or flawlessness but we can never be flawless as God is flawless. Whatever it appears that the Lord is teaching there, He's not teaching us to be totally perfect or morally perfect or spiritually perfect as God is.

This word group always indicates something related to sufficiency or completion so when we get there in Sunday morning study we'll figure out where I've come in my understanding of that particular verse. The idea here is clearly sufficiency. God's will is sufficient for us but we only get there if we study it and we make that exchange in our thinking between God's way of thinking, not only the content of the thinking, but how God thinks. Also, how God wants us to think, and it's not based on anything other than accepting the truth of His authority as the foundation for our thinking.

Now Paul starts this next section with those two verses. How do we think that the rest of Romans 12-16 relate to that? This is the topical preface to the next four chapters. Why has Paul done this? That's an important question to ask. What he is stating here is a framework for understanding the basic issue in the Christian life is to get rid of all the garbage in our soul, all the human viewpoint, all the wrong ways of thinking that put rationalism or empiricism or mysticism first, and to replace that with a way of thinking grounded in revelational authority and building upon the Scriptures as the foremost presupposition in our soul. That calls for a radical overhaul of the way we think.

The first thing that Paul does is state this challenge that we need to present our whole life as a sacrifice to God. That just means we're going to give our life over to serving Him and that this is primarily done by first exchanging the wrong way of thinking in our soul for the right way, the wrong content with the right content. And then look at verse three. Verse three says, "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith."

One of the things we have noted many times in Bible class and one of the things we've noted in our Bible Study Methods class are those little connective words, those conjunctions we find at the beginning of verses, words like "therefore", "wherefore", "because", and "for" are very important. When we see that first word "for" it tells us that Paul is starting to explain the implications of what he's said before. He giving a reason for why he has said what he has said and he's developing it. What that means is this shift of topic that occurs in verses 3–8 which gets into the topic of spiritual gifts and the topic of the relationship of every individual believer to one another and the body of Christ is fundamental to the application of the command in verses 1 and 2.

I would bet that most of you have never thought about that, that when we think about spiritual gift often in our self-absorbed culture we start wondering what spiritual gift God gave us. Spiritual gifts connect to these first two verses because spiritual gifts are enablements or spiritual enhancements that God has given us to serve God within the body of Christ. There's important.

Now we're going to start an introduction here so that will answer a lot of questions that come up initially about spiritual gifts but that's the first thing Paul goes to when he is going to cover areas related to how we present ourselves as a living sacrifice and how we flush out the human viewpoint and exchange it for divine viewpoint. It's going to start in terms of how we think about the body of Christ.

It really doesn't matter whether you're an ancient Greek rationalist/Platonist, Aristotelian/empiricist or a Neo-Platonist or a modern rationalist, evolutionist, nihilistic secularist post-modernist, there's one thing that every one of these systems have in common. It's the product of a sin nature. What have I been putting in the middle of the sin nature for the last several times I've used it? The whole concept of self-absorption.

From the instant of Adam's fall the human race has been absorbed with itself. The whole human race. It's all about me. That's the orientation of the sin nature. You may think it's all about you but it's really all about me, me, me. That's the only one we care about: me, me, me. Just think about some of the wonderful popular magazines we have today. First of all remember we started off with People. Then it wasn't long, less than a decade in fact, that it was about US. Then it wasn't long before it was about Self. So it's all about each individual. So when we come to understanding the body of Christ there is something revolutionary and radical about the body of Christ. That is, it's no longer about each of us as an individual.

Arrogance is supposed to be flushed out as part of that process of renovating the mind. It's about one another. It's about the body of Christ ministering or serving God by ministering to one another. There are things that are said here in these coming verses that just come categorically opposite of our natural instinct. It's important if we're going to function as a church, as a body of believers, to understand these principles. So he's going to talk about it first of all how this radical transformation impacts our relationship to others in the body of Christ. Then it's going to go on and develop that further in verses 9 -20 in terms of how we handle different circumstances and different problems with different people. We're going to see some things indicated there that aren't too different from what we're studying in the Beatitudes on Sunday morning.

Then in chapter 13 he relates it to government. We think differently about government from a terrible government, even a tyrannical government like Nero Caesar. Then he goes on talking about other believers in chapter 14 and 15 so this is very important from the standpoint of the doctrine that we learn, how the teaching and the instruction that we learn is to replace the self-absorbed orientation of our fallen soul to the regenerate nature which is now supposed to be a slave to righteousness according to Romans 6 and not a slave to the sin nature.

So Romans 12:3 continues to carry forth this theme of thinking. This theme where we are to have our mind renewed. The word for mind in verse 2 was the Greek word nous which is the thinking part, the mentality of the soul. That is referring to that part of the soul that performs a certain action. That action is what we see talked about in verse 3. We see the introduction of four words built upon the root verb phroneo. The first word is huperphroneo. The root verb phroneo basically means to be wise or to think or to cogitate or any kind of mental activity as opposed to emotive activity.

Paul uses four words that tells us that what Paul is talking about here in this whole issue of thinking which goes right back to what he's talking about in verse 2 of renewing our mind. He starts this out by saying, "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." The phrase "through the grace given to me" is parallel to the words used in 12:1. The only difference is that in 12:1 we read "by the mercies of God" and here it's by the "grace given to me". It's the same construction, dia plus the genitive in the Greek so it should be translated the same way with the same English preposition. Translators don't do that but that's the point the Holy Spirit is making. Romans 12:1 should read, "I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God…" If you're going to use "by" in verse 3 you should use "by the grace given to me". If you want to translate it with the English preposition "through" it should be the same thing in both places because the phrase is the same in the Greek. It's indicating the intermediate means by which something is accomplished.

Paul is talking about the mercy of God which is explained in chapters 1–11. In all that God has supplied us through His righteousness, justification, sanctification, all of this has been supplied to us and what he's really saying is on the basis of this and our understanding of what God has done for us in mercy and grace we should be motivated. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace emphasizes more the principle whereas the word mercy indicates its personal application to individuals in difficult circumstances. So they represent the opposite sides of the same coin. So "I say through or by the grace given to me to everyone who is among you…" In other words he's applying it to every single believer. You can't opt out. This isn't an elective class. This is essential to spirituality and spiritual growth.

"I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly…" Now there are two English infinitives here, "not to think" and later in the verse "ought to think". Those two verbs are the root verb phroneo. The word translated "more highly" is the word huperphroneo. Huper is a preposition that often indicates "in the place of" or "beyond" or "more" and here when it's added to phroneo it has various ideas such as to despise or to hold an opinion of one's self that is too high, to overthink, to think too highly of one's self, to be in a state of fantasy about one's own capability rather than thinking honestly and objectively about who we are and our weaknesses and our failures and our strengths. It's having an over-inflated view of one's self.

So what Paul says here is a warning that we're not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. That's part of what it means to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We have to quit being so self-absorbed. We have to quit thinking that church is all about my spiritual life and my spiritual growth. Part of our spiritual life is to serve one another and to serve one another within the framework within the local church ministry.

Now we have to think about how serving one another that we often find in many churches is a little superficial. As soon as you hear a sermon on serving the Lord in the local church it's followed up by an announcement that we need more prep school teachers or we need helpers with the Five-Day Club or we need ushers or we need something like that. Those kind of things might be true and there's nothing wrong in a sense with that but this is going a lot deeper in terms of our spiritual life. This is impacting who we are as individuals and how we're relating to one another in the local church. We're here to serve each other. We're to care about each other. We're to support each other. We're to encourage each other.

Now we can't do that equally to everyone in a local church. We all have circles of friends. We have five or six people with whom we're a little more intimate. We have five or six or seven more than that we might be a little acquainted with and we might have spent some time with them socially. Then we have others that we know because we can sit in the congregation and look across the congregation and at least we know their name. That's one of the things that's important in a local church and one of the reasons why we have some of these social events we do is just so we can get to know one another and not just sit there and know that's so-and-so over on the other side of the church that I've seen them a lot but don't have a clue who they are. We're not that large.

It's different if you're a congregation of five hundred or a thousand or fifteen hundred. Often you have some people who come to large churches because they seek anonymity. They don't want to be known. Some people are very shy. They really don't want to be known. They just want to come in the back door, sit down, and learn the Word and go home. One of the areas where God has to work on them is that they need to realize that's a form of arrogance just like the person who is too exuberant and too hyper about getting to know everybody in the congregation. It's just another form of self-absorption. Some people are more private. Other people are less private and we have to recognize those personality differences. That runs counter to a lot of stuff that I think goes on in the practice of church in a lot of places.

Having gone through seminary I saw a lot of professors that are expecting everybody to sort of be the same. But the whole point of this passage is that everybody's different. They're gifted in different ways. Some people are extroverts; some people are introverts; some people are more private; some people are less private. We have to respect those differences but don't let those differences become an excuse or crutch for your not being involved in the local body of Christ. The principles we see in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 is that we're supposed to be involved in each other's lives but the reality is we can't be involved equally in everybody's life. That is often lost in the way this is presented in some churches and we have to be careful because this can also become an excuse for gossip. It can become an excuse for people violating the principle of privacy and getting involved in other people's lives in ways that they shouldn't but it's based on a genuine Biblical love and care for one another.

So the fundamental principle here is that first of all we have to get rid of the self-absorption. We're not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think but in contrast we are to think soberly. The word translated soberly here is the word sophroneo. We have phroneo again repeated but we also have the word sophroneo, which means to be in a right mind, reasonable, objective, self-controlled or prudent. It's not thinking soberly in contrast to being drunk. It is thinking in an objective, balanced, temperate manner. It is understanding the issues calmly and objectively.

We are to think on the basis of truth, which means we have to know truth. In order to think objectively you have to understand the issues and we have to know truth so we're to think objectively and then Paul says, "As God has allotted to each a measure of faith." In this last phrase we have to be a little careful. This seems to indicate that God has apportioned faith differently from one person to another. We have to make some important observations here. First of all this is not a section dealing with saving faith. There are different types of faith or different categories of faith discussed in the Scripture. There is saving faith. There is faith in relationship to our ongoing spiritual life or spiritual development, which we might call sanctifying faith. I use the phrase faith-rest drill because that describes the process of mixing our faith with the promises of God, trusting God in the midst of a difficult situation and so we're going to put our faith in the promises in His Word and we're going to trust or relax in terms of God's control, God's provision for the situation or circumstances.

Faith is also listed in 1 Corinthians 12 as a spiritual gift. That would be a further enhancement of everyone's ability to trust God. One of the things that we see here is that the context is in terms of spiritual gifts. We know that this isn't saving faith so he's taking about faith in relation to something. The context tells us this is faith in relation to the spiritual gifts that God has given us. Faith in relation to using the spiritual gifts that God has given us. Look at verse 6 which says, "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…" That indicates that people have different degrees of giftedness.

Some people have the gift of pastor-teacher to a large measure; some people have it to a smaller measure. Some people have it to a small measure and maybe in where they use that is in a Sunday School class, or something of that nature. I know I have pastored many churches and most of the churches I have been involved in have had 200 or less people in them. I had a high school Sunday School teacher that some of you knew by the name of Dick Seman who went to First Baptist and taught a Sunday school class of about 600 to 800 people. It was broadcast on KHCB here in Houston every Sunday morning. He had a Sunday school class that was larger than many churches and congregations of pastors I know. He wasn't the pastor of the church but he functioned as a teacher, which he certainly had the gift of. If you know Dick, he had the gift of gab. He was quite humorous and had a great ability to communicate.

Everybody has a different spiritual gift to a different measure. Some people have a great degree of mercy. Some people not so much. Back in the 70s they started applying psychology to Christian life. That's not valid in my opinion, but they were always coming out with these little tests which said to answer these 50 questions and you could figure out what your spiritual gift is. You'd find out that one or two gifts are probably your major area of giftedness and one or two aren't. Of course, those things are flawed because they reflect what you're thinking about yourself at the time. But people do have different gifts, different abilities to different degrees and the issue in verse 6 is that we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.

It goes on, "{each of us is to exercise them accordingly:} if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith." So this says we are to apply or utilize our spiritual gift in relation to the proportion of our faith which if you're a baby Christian that's going to be a baby or small portion of faith. If you're more mature then you grow in your faith and in your knowledge of doctrine and in your ability and you'll use your gift in a greater way. That's the idea here, to serve Christ in proportion to your faith. So God has given each one a gift and we use that in proportion to our faith.

In verse 4 we read, "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." We're different. We're not all supposed to be the same. What's interesting we all have a tendency to a little hero worship and personality worship but what God's emphasizing is that we're all different. We don't imitate one another in gifts; we imitate in terms of character but not in terms of personality or giftedness. We're each different and we need to function as God has intended each of us to function within the body of Christ.

In verse 5 he says, "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another." That's a challenge for people in a culture that has valued rugged individualism, which is an American character value. We appreciate that. We flaunt it but when it comes to the body of Christ that is not a primary virtue. The primary virtue is that we're to serve one another and we're one in the body of Christ. It's not about each individual. It's about the body of Christ, serving one another. So Paul says we're one body and then he makes a difficult statement, "and individually members one of another." There's an interdependency among believers in the body of Christ. We're not all running out on our own, depending on our own strengths and our own abilities exalting ourselves. We're not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We have a mutual dependency in the body of Christ because some people can't teach. They're dependent on those who do teach to come to a better understanding of the Word. Some people don't have the gift of mercy so they're dependent on others who have the gift of mercy to serve in terms of areas of visiting homes where people are shut-ins, where people are in tough health situations, visiting the hospital. That's where they exercise their spiritual gift and where it's important for them to exercise.

Some people have the gift of giving. It's very important to them to utilize that gift of giving. Whatever the spiritual gift you can find passages where everyone has that same responsibility. Every believer is supposed to give but we can really learn about giving by watching someone who has the spiritual gift of giving. Or someone who's teaching and really has the gift of teaching, we can learn from them and it challenges us to improve the quality of our own teaching whenever we're called upon to teach. Just because you don't have the gift of teaching doesn't mean you shouldn't teach. Just because you don't have the gift of giving doesn't mean you shouldn't give. None of us would say they weren't going to witness to anyone because they don't have the gift of evangelism. We know how absurd that is but functionally many of us act like if it's not our spiritual gift we don't do it. No, we learn in the body of Christ from those who have those gifts so that we can improve in our own application in those areas.

So that brings us to what the Scripture teaches about spiritual gifts. We'll start this this evening. First of all, let's get a definition of a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is a talent, an ability, or an aptitude that is sovereignly bestowed on every believer in the Church Age by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. It's not something you get later on. In the early church they got it at the instant of salvation. It's related to the Baptism by the Holy Spirit as Paul defines it in 1 Corinthians 12. So it's different from natural talents.

Now I have a theory that God often uses or enhances our natural talents with a spiritual giftedness. There are men and women who are gifted teachers and they were gifted teachers before they were ever saved. But now after they're saved they have a spiritual enhancement to that gift that functions in the spiritual realm. Same thing can be said about other areas of service, such as administration, management, and these kinds of things. It may be that your spiritual gift is different from your natural talent but somehow God takes our natural talents and abilities and when we're saved he gives us these spiritual enhancements that work and intersect with our natural talent. So the manifestation of these gifts are going to be different from person to person.

If you think about it, the gift you're most exposed to and see regularly are pastor-teachers. You see a lot of different personalities. I have a colleague who's a pastor of a Bible church out in Katy. When he was in his early to mid-thirties, his wife had a series of strokes. It was an extremely difficult situation. It lasted about twelve or thirteen years. They were very dependent upon many members of the congregation helping to be caregivers but if you had a problem in your life and you started talking to him about it, it was just like every pore in his body oozed compassion. You knew this guy really had walked the walk in your tough shoes. You knew that he understood. Some people you talk to about your problems and it's like they have a machine gun of five doctrines they throw at you and they've never truly gone through difficult times, it seems, and they don't really have a genuine Biblical identification to come alongside someone who's going through difficult times. Some people get the wrong idea of compassion. It doesn't mean you legitimize their weaknesses when they're going through a hard time but you knew with him that was true. He was a good teacher but his teaching came across in an extremely compassionate manner.

I had another pastor friend of mine who was in business for about fifteen years, was an investment banker. He thought in a very cold, calculated manner and his personality someone once described as trying to "snuggle up to a porcupine." He was very much different from the other. Both were excellent teachers but because of their personalities and other talents how that gift was utilized was very different. No two believers are going to express themselves the same way because of different measures of the gift as well as different personalities and different backgrounds.

Every believer is given a talent, ability, or aptitude at the instant of salvation by God the Holy Spirit and it's for the purpose of serving one another in the body of Christ. I had someone tell me that he just went to church and left, that he was using his spiritual gift at work or with others in the family. No, you're to use your spiritual gift for its purpose, to minister to the body of Christ in the local church you're in. Not your family. Not your co-workers. Not the people in your neighborhood. It's for service within the body of Christ. That's the emphasis in passages such as Romans 12: 6-8 which we'll go through. Also 1 Corinthians12, Ephesians 4:11-12, and Hebrews 2:4.

In terms of Biblical terminology there are a couple of terms we'll use. The term pneumatikos emphasizes the source and the nature of the gifts, that they're related to the Holy Spirit who gives this and its related to our spiritual life, our spiritual relationship with God and it related to the spiritual life of the believer. Another term that's used is charisma which emphasizes the grace nature of the gift. The root is charis which is the Greek word for grace, that God in His sovereignty freely bestows these abilities on us. It's not based on any merit. We haven't earned these things. They're given at the instance of salvation. As I pointed out already, in some believers it may enhance a natural ability or inclination. In others it might not.

Then we have a third term, merismos which emphasizes a distribution or an apportionment so that it's not all the same. Your spiritual gift may not be the same or to the same degree as someone else. For example, in Hebrews 4:2 we read, "God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will." The Greek word for gifts there is merismos. It's understood to relate to spiritual gifts but it's not pneumatikos or charisma which is what you normally expect for gifts. It means distinctions of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit makes distinctions among members of the body of Christ according to His own will. So spiritual gifts are distributed on the basis of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

The third point is that spiritual gifts are unique to the Church Age. We didn't have spiritual gifts in the Old Testament. You had giftedness in terms of God giving some the ability to prophesy. You had some who had the ability to lead but they're never called spiritual gifts. This is something that is distinct to the body of Christ. So don't take something in the body of Christ and read it over into something else. Where this is important is that no gifts are given prior to the Day of Pentecost. Why? There's no Baptism of the Holy Spirit prior to the Day of Pentecost so you didn't have any spiritual gifts. There won't be any spiritual gifts given after the Rapture of the Church. Now why is this important? Whenever I talk about the cessation of the sign gifts, the cessation of prophecy, knowledge, and tongues in 1 Corinthians 13 it's very clear it's talking about two periods in the Church Age. Before the canon of Scripture is completed the Church, the body of Christ, was dependent upon people who had these revelational type spiritual gifts for new revelation because they didn't have the New Testament yet.

When you think about it, up until the period of about A.D. 60 only a little over or less than half of the New Testament was written. That's thirty years from the death of Christ. They were dependent upon new revelation from God through the apostles, the prophets, and others who had these kinds of revelatory gifts. But once the canon of Scripture was given it was no longer necessary for God to communicate that way. At the end of 1 Corinthians 13 you have this contrast between "now" and "then". Now is that transitional period up through A.D. 70 to A.D. 90 when these gifts ended. After that there was a completed canon of Scripture so those gifts were no longer needed.

Whenever I teach that and it happened this last year in Pennsylvania someone always says, "Well, what about the tribulational period? There are prophets in the tribulational period. How can you say the gift of prophecy ended?" I answer, "Wait a minute. The tribulation period is not part of the Church Age." By definition that's not a spiritual gift any more than the gift of prophecy in the Old Testament was a spiritual gift. We're talking about Church Age gifts and we have to restrict it that way. So spiritual gifts are unique to the Church Age. No spiritual gifts after the Rapture. No spiritual gifts before the Day of Pentecost. We're going to stop there. We'll come back and continue this next time as a prelude to understanding what's going on in Romans 12:3–8.